Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Couch and Nyquil Comas

Life has been busy the past week.  Unfortunately, not in a writing busy way, in a life busy way.  First of all, we got a new couch and chair set!  It’s the first big girl furniture purchase I have ever made.  I’m pretty happy with it, it’s purple.  Then I worked overtime two days in a row, and then I was blessed with the flu for two days.  Yuck.  Nyquil induced comas are not the ideal state of mind for writing. 
So now I’m back.  I’ve got a lot of writing to do to make up for the time I spent doing other things.  I never finished my beauty story for the Tin House deadline, but I’m still going to finish the story.  It’s an awesome idea and deserves to be finished. 
Does anybody else get that depressed feeling when they miss out on a deadline?  I know I can’t help being sick, and we needed a new couch, but I feel defeated.  It’s a horrible feeling to have.  I’m hoping an entire weekend of writing will cure this.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Toy, IF

The Doll

                "Tackle her.  Grab the doll.  Rip it to shreds."
                Emma halted.  She could run, but she wouldn't get far before they caught her.
                "Go away."  Her voice wobbled.
                The three of them laughed and pounced.  They snatched Emma's doll, which was nestled in her backpack pocket.  Amber, their ringleader, lifted Marbles above her head.
                "Poor dolly," she said, ripping the arm off.                                                                               
                The sound of Amber's arm breaking was as loud as her scream.  Terrified, the bullies scattered.
                Emma picked her doll of the cement.  Marbles showed no sign of damage.  Smiling, Emma returned the toy to her backpack pocket.   

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Rulez

I am a little less than a year into taking my writing career seriously.   I have about twelve stories that I consider marketable, two of which have been published already.  Although my goals and ambitions change daily, I have slowly developed my own writing system. 

My rules for writing:

-          My goal is 1,000 words a day, which I achieve about fifty percent of the time.
-          If I start a short story, I must finish it in seven days (this includes editing, research, corrections, and re-writes).
-          I submit my work about every two weeks.  More if possible.
-          Do something every day that will help my writing career.  Writing is the obvious thing.  But if I can’t write I read books, research markets, glance at writers’ magazines, make outlines, work on blog, etc.
-          Always be nice to the people at the post office.  You will be spending a lot of time and money there.  It never hurts to have friends.
-          Always type out mailing labels for your submission envelopes.  It just looks professional.  And that’s how you want to be seen—as a professional. 

At this point, I feel like my rules suit my needs.  Everyone is different, and you have to discover your own way to get your stories out.  I hate it when people say there is only one way to do something.  A perfect example of this is comments concerning the time of day people write.  Many people claim “real writers” write during the day.  Or get up at 5 AM and write for two hours before work.  Ugh, that ain’t going to happen my friends!  I have a day job.  Besides, I really, really like to sleep.  I can only write at night.  After the kids go to bed is my magic time.  Sometimes on weekends, when my daughter is napping, I can get some great paragraphs, but not much.   I’m a night person.  My best work comes out with the moon.
On this note, it is time to go.  The moon is out and I need to form paragraphs that will turn into stories.  Although this post is about 380 words long, I still need to pound out 620 more to get my daily quota.  How many more words do you have to write?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Title Goes Here)

How do you title your work?  Do you pick a key phrase from the story?  Do you use one word or two?  Does your title start with the word the?  Do you pick a word that relates to the idea of the story, but has nothing really to do with the body of work?
In one light, I love titles.  I could spend hours making up titles.  In my writer’s notebook I have an entire page devoted to scribbling down titles.  “The Tomorrow Turkeys” is one I came up with about six months ago.  It sounds great; it has a bit of a Thanksgiving sound.  There’s just one problem with the title.  It doesn’t have a story to go with it!  Sometimes, when I want to make myself feel really overwhelmed, I will turn to that page in my notebook.  I stare down at the list of twenty or so titles and think, Gee, girl.  You have a lot of work to do.  All these stories need to written.  Why haven’t you started any of these stories?  The titles are RIGHT HERE FOR YOU!!!!
Usually by then, I start to cry.  I know this is a self destructive behavior, but it feels good.  It gives me hope there is many, many, many stories inside of me.  I know I will never run out of ideas.
Then there is the other side of titles—the dark side.  When you have to title a piece of work you just finished.  You know the kind of story: the one you worked on all night.  It’s awesome.  The dialog is great and the descriptions are creative and you know it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done.  But what to call the darn thing! 
I hate titles that start with “the,” but I am totally guilty of doing it.  Some selected titles from my work:  “The Green Flannel Napkin.”  “The Autumn Rock.”  “The Danger of Knowing Your Name.”  The, the, the…  To me, it sounds like the work of an immature writer.   I’m starting to get better:  “Tahiti Sandal.”  “Two keys and the Timberlands.”  “Bracelet in the Bush.” 
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  It’s because I am working on my first novel/ saga.  “Two Keys and the Timberlands” is a short novelette I wrote for a contest.  It didn’t win, but the judge of the contest told me it was good and would be worth the investment to make it a novel.  When he said that, the story’s universe totally opened up.   So now I’ve planned two more books and a book of poetry dealing with their world.  I just don’t have a title for the saga!   I want to title it as fast I can, but I don’t want to just pick anything.  In the past, I have been put off from reading prose because of bad titles.  I don’t want that to happen to my work.  My story is worth it to wait for a great title.  I just wish it didn’t have to wait so long.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

cultivate, IF

"The last thing Sam needed to cultivate his spell was the goldfish."

This is a color pencil drawing made for double duty, Illustration Friday and to illustrate a short short I published here. Reading the story will help understanding the drawing (come on, it's only 99 words).  I love feedback, please leave for both the drawing and the fiction.  Thanks!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Short short, based on my up coming novel.

I found an incredible blog on the Internet called Rach Writes.  I think the reason I enjoyed it so much is because she had a writing prompt for a short short that involved goldfish.  I LOVE goldfish!  Maybe because they are orange?  Anyway, here is my take on that writing prompt (99 words, not counting title).

The characters in this short short, Sam and Mr. Bigalow, are from a novel I am currently writing.  I thought it would be neat to show an isolated moment of the two of them interacting.  This short short gave me a chance to see another side of Sam.  I am proud of him.  He can be kinda wussy sometimes.  Anyhow, here is my story.  BTW, I love feedback.

Escape!  The Magician and His Pet
The goldfish bowl teetered on the edge of the work bench.  Sam grasped the bowl and plunged his hand into the water.  The goldfish felt slimy in his hand.  Quickly, he dropped it into the potion.
Fireworks exploded.  Sam fell to the floor in a heap.
Mr. Bigalow heard the noise and ran into the room.  He kneeled by Sam’s side.
“Did you try another escape spell?  You do realize your spells will never work.  I’ll never let you leave me.”
Mr. Bigalow cast an enchantment and fixed everything.  Sam looked up.  The goldfish was back in the bowl. 
Update:  See the illustration for this story here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


(verb) to procrastinate, to screw around on the Internet.  example: Rebecca is avoiding writing the story that should already be finished by now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

List of things to do today:

1.  Edit short, romantic story I finished on Thursday.  Sigh.  According to editor in chief, it was horrible.
2.  Work on beauty story.  Seriously.  This needs to get done.
3.  Order from Amazon (novels, childrens, writing books).  I might start including book reviews on this site. 
4.  Clean the house. 

The only two things listed make me excited--working on the new story and buying books.  The other two NEED to be done.  We will see what gets done first, or at all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was going to write a nifty little holiday story that has been floating around in my head, but I didn't have an extra moment today.  I worked overtime and between piano and wrestling lessons I did not have a spare second. 
But, on a productive note, I finished a story I started a week or so ago, titled "Eleven."  It's pretty short, but it's a sweet romantic story. 
Going out to dinner.  Nobody feels like cooking tonight. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rejection is like a bee

                It stings.  Last night I was checking my e-mail and I was super excited to see I had a reply from one of the magazines I submitted my work to.  My excitement lasted about four seconds.  Rejected!
                As I said before, rejection stings.  The worse kind is the dreaded form letter.  When someone adds a hand written message or a personal comment, I actually feel ok.  I take it as a chance to learn about my work.  It’s the form letter that bugs me.  You couldn’t even put a scribble on it?  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  A rejection is a rejection, and once you read it, it’s over. 
For some people, I guess, rejection is extremely painful.  I read about how people cry and devour pints of Ben and Jerry’s, and lose hope.   They vow never to submit again.  To me, that reaction is extreme. 
                Rejection isn’t personal.  The editors just can’t use the piece for whatever reason.  There are hundreds of reasons, several which have nothing to do with you or your writing.  It’s not personal, it’s a business.  I think writers tend to forget this.  Just because we are marketing something that is close to our heart, we forget, in a sense, we are still selling a product.  The product just happens to be part of our soul and took us hours to create. 
                After I read the e-mail I did what I always do when I get rejected.  I printed the message, hole punched it, and put it in my binder.  (At a later post, I will explain this binder.  It’s my system of keeping track of submissions and rejections.)  And now I will forget about it. 
                I’ve heard all different opinions about rejection letters.  Should you save them?  Should you throw them out?  The funniest advice on rejection letters I ever read was “have someone else in your house open all letters from editors.  If it is a rejection, have the person throw it out and never mention it to you.”  I actually spit out my drink when I read that.  I’m sorry.  If you are not tough enough to open your own mail, you will never make it in the business (or in life).  Rejection is part of the game.  It makes you stronger to open all those letters that bring disappointment. 
                I save mine.  It is a paper trail of all the hard work and effort that I put into my writing career.  Besides, I follow a long line of great authors who saved their rejection slips.  Stephen King put his rejections on a spike in his bedroom.  I put mine in a binder.  I’m not going to be dramatic about rejection.  I’m not going to cry or hide or raid the freezer.
                Besides, I eat too much ice cream anyway.  I don’t need an excuse to eat any more. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The most important thing is persistence

         This weekend was quite productive.  I completed my ghost story for this contest.  In all honesty, it is such a process to do the final edit.  But when it is finished I feel so amazing!  Two weekends ago, I wrote the story.  When I finish a piece, my husband (editor) looks at it and gives me feedback.  After that first reading, we let it sit for a week.  It needs time to rest, similar to letting bread dough rise. 
When that week is over, I re-read my story.  First I usually visit the areas in need of improvement.  Second, I do an entire read through and clean up anything I need to, plus delete any extra words and sentences that don’t fit with the flow of the story.   Then it’s back to the editor, then it’s back to me, and then one final read through with both of us, and then, finally, into the envelope to be sent off.
Needless to say, I was excited about submitting it.  I couldn’t wait to get to the post office.  When I finished work, I raced to get it there.  I arrived and… I forgot the dollar amount of the money order I needed.  (Many contests have reading fees or entry fees.  This is normal.  This is how they can afford to give out prize money.)  I had to drive home and check the amount off the contest web page. 
I get home, check the amount, and leave again.  I drive down to the post office and… grrr… I left my manuscript at home!  I drive back home and grab it, then drive all the way back to the post office.  It’s a good thing I only live a half mile away. 
I’m finally there.  I buy my money order and fill it out.  I’m super excited.  I glance down at my manuscript.  I notice I typed the zip code wrong.  I can’t win.  Luckily, my post master is awesome and amazing, and looked the zip code up for me. 
When I win this contest, it will be worth it. 
So now that this project is finished, it is time to look forward.  I have already started a story for this next deadline.  I picked to write on the subject of beauty.  If all goes right, I can send this story out on Saturday or Monday of next week.  This should be a good one.  I am inspired and ready to write.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What makes a writer?

I am taking time today to reflect on what makes a writer.  “WRITER” Even the word sounds powerful.  When is it appropriate to claim this title?  Can you call yourself a writer only after you have become published?  Is the name connected to the ability to write?  Can you call yourself a writer even if you just have the desire to write? 
I used to be wishy-washy on the issue.  In public, I would never call myself a writer.  It sounded too pretentious.  In private, hanging around my friends, was another matter entirely. I would run my mouth—I was a writer.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t written a story in over a year.  I had the desire to write and when I did do it, I was pretty good at it.  In my eyes, that should have been enough to call myself a writer.
But… I was wrong!  It wasn’t enough.  You have to put in the work to claim the title. 
I realized this one night when I was with my husband.  We were talking about writing.  I said I wanted to a published author.  My husband remarked, “No, you don’t.  If you wanted to write, you would be doing it.” 
Needless to say, that was the kick I needed.  The next day I was at the computer, typing up a story.  The day after that, I started submitting my older short stories to magazines.  Four months later, I was scheduled for publication. 
I understand that it’s not always that easy.  Life gets in the way.  We get sick, go to college, have kids, take care of grandparents and parents, work 60+ hours a week and have all other sorts of distractions.  I know this because I’ve lived it!  I have three kids, work overtime and earned a masters degree.  I know there is only 24 hours in the day.  But the important thing is to decide.  Am I a writer?  If you are, you should take the time to write.  Correction: you must take the time to write.  It’s not so much about publication.  It’s about words on paper. 
So now, I have a much stronger identity as a writer.  I can say it to friends, colleagues, job applications and strangers: I am a writer.  I have no qualms about saying it because I put in the effort to be one.  I insist on doing 1,000 words a day.  It is my profession (well, one of them) and I make it a top priority.  I lay down words, do the market research, and send out the submissions.  My conclusion is I don’t believe you can call yourself a writer unless you actually produce sweat and tears to do it.   My friend Maria has a painting over her desk that says, “Writers Write.”  I couldn’t say it better myself. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Post

The idea of blogging intrigues me.  I think it is a really nifty way of communicating with the world.  I enjoy watching the process of thoughts and emotions developing over a period of time.  Even before blogs were the “in” thing to do, I loved journals and diaries.  I have worn out two copies of Anne Frank since 5th grade.  Well, today I am taking action.  I took the advice of all the writing magazines and publishing websites.  Here is my blog devoted to my writing career and publishing journey. 
Who am I, you ask?  I am a 28 year old writer living in New York State.  I have been writing stories pretty much all my life, but without any purpose or direction.  A little less than a year ago I had a terrible disappointment, which wasn’t so terrible after all, it kick started my butt into becoming serious about my writing career.   
Outside my writing career I have an extremely busy life.  I have a husband, three kiddos, two dogs and a cat.  My career is in the Arts, and I also work closely with teenagers.  I am an artist, although my husband claims I am a better writer than an artist.  I tend to believe him. 
My goals for this blog?  First, to connect with others in the writing/publishing world.  Second, to build a web presence around my craft.  Third, well, um… when I have a third goal, I’ll let you know!