Doing the To Dos

This has been a getting-stuff-done kind of week.

I finished and submitted a story I wrote specifically for one magazine. They had a call out on a topic that said a lot to me. I started months ago, but it got a bit lost while I tried to beat my fiction piece into shape. The deadline was January 31st, so I made the push to get it done. I cut about 700 words going into the last draft, and it really did make the piece stronger. I submitted it earlier this week.

Today I’m sending out an older story to try and find it a new home. I got the last rejection letter for this one more than two months ago, now, but never actually sat down to revise it and find it somewhere else to go. I finally made the changes I had in mind, and I’m quite pleased with them. It’s all printed up now, and I will mail it on the way to my writing group later this evening.

Next up on the horizon is the 10th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. A friend of mine from my writers’ group sent through the link, and we’ve decided that everyone in the group is going to write an entry and we’ll look at them at our next meeting, which is right before the deadline (Feb 1st, in case you’re interested). I moped around for two days, convinced I’d never come up with an interesting idea, wallowing in defeatist thoughts. And then I sat down and wrote a whole draft of the story in one night. I spent some time in the Wikimedia Commons, and one of the images jumped out at me. The story came from there.

I’m also debating submitting something to this: http://michaelmatheson.wordpress.com/start-a-revolution/ I’m not really a revolutionary kind of girl, so I did the same defeatist do-see-do in my head for this one, but I’ve come up with at least half of an idea. I’m having trouble forcing myself to sit down and actually start it, but I’m hoping that completing the Postcard story might boost my confidence. The deadline on this one is March 31st, which is a reasonable amount of time. I’ll see how things go.

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It’s a new dawn, a new day…

I don’t do new year’s resolutions. I’m still me, even when the calendar ticks over. It doesn’t seem worth starting out a new year by setting myself up to fail. Instead, I decided to spend new year’s day actually doing the things that I want to continue doing through the year. Starting off as I mean to go on.

So instead of putting the TV on, I picked up a book. And I spent a chunk of the afternoon writing as well. Step one.

I completely failed to accomplish my own little NaNoWriMo. I had set myself the goal of finishing a draft of my current fictional short story (novella?) by the end of November. I ended up stuck in the same scene for nearly two months. I have rewritten it countless times and it’s still not right. I have, I think, finally isolated why. I’ve been trying to push forward and get to the end, create a draft that I can then fix. But in not addressing some of the problems early in the story, I have created a house with a shoddy foundation, and when I hit this particular scene the whole wall fell down.

Yesterday I sat down and began to address the problems at the beginning of the story. We’ll see how I go from here.

I also wrote a new draft of a piece of creative non-fiction I’ve been working on. It was designed for a particular lit magazine and the deadline is January 31st. I workshopped it with my writers’ group this evening, and I think it’s pretty close to being done. I’ll do some final tweaking and hopefully send it out in the next week or so.

So the new year is going well so far. Step by step.

My own little NaNo

I did participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) once. I was between contracts that particular November, so I had the time. And I did write my 50,000 words, so in a way I feel I’ve ticked that particular accomplishment off my list and I don’t have a lot of need to do it again.

That said, there are some wonderful things about NaNo. It sets a deadline, for one, and I am a writer desperately in need of deadlines. It also makes you declare your goals in public, and creates a community that will hold you accountable for those goals, as well as encouraging you along the way.

So I think I’m going to have my own mini-Nano. The big, bad fiction story I’m wrestling with is going to be my goal. I’m not going to make this about word counts like NaNo does. I’m guessing the final story will be somewhere in the 15,000-20,000 word region – too short for an official NaNo – but length isn’t really an issue. So I’m just going to make it about finishing.

I’m going to finish a draft of my fiction story by the end of November. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be ‘right.’ (Yet.) It just has to be a completed draft.

There. I’ve declared myself out loud. Anyone else want to play?

Signs of Dedication

I am not a morning person. And, in particular, I am not creative in the morning. When my schedule is flexible, my peak writing time is between 9pm and 2am. I’m not sure why, but that has been true since I was a teenager. Maybe it just takes a whole day of stimulus to wear my inner editor into submission, I don’t know.

Early yesterday morning, I got some notes back from my writing buddy about a piece I’m struggling with. This is a story I’m very fond of. And it’s not so much my beautiful prose that I’m attached to, but rather the fact that I’m writing about a time in my life that involved a whole soup kettle of emotions, and about a person at that time who was very important to me. My buddy’s comments were spot on, as well as being an exact echo of the comments I gave him on his current piece. So, clearly I should know better. Still, I was resistant. Because this is a story I’m very fond of.

My schedule had me running around all day yesterday, so the notes were left to percolate at the back of my brain. By the end of the day, when I sat down with a cup of hot chocolate and my laptop, I realised that I’ve received the same comments from three different people, now. That’s a clear sign that something isn’t working, so I sat down, determined to finally address the problem.

The hardest thing to let go of was the tone. There was a certain melancholy to the piece, a nostalgia, that I loved. It’s a feeling that permeates my memories of that time, and I worked hard to capture that in my writing. It was hard to accept that it was actually creating distance between the audience and the story.

So last night I sat down and shifted the whole thing into the present tense, something I had avoided on purpose in the previous draft. I rewrote or rearranged almost every section, and along the way I had a couple of revelatory moments – small fixes that addressed bigger problems.

I flamed out at midnight with two sections left to go. I knew I had to be at work today, so I couldn’t keep writing into the night, and my eyes were closing on me anyway. But. Today was the deadline to get stories in to be workshopped at my writers’ group this Wednesday. And I want the others to read this. I need to know whether I’m on the right track now.

So this morning, still in my pyjamas, I plunked myself back down in front of the laptop, bashed out the last two sections and mailed it off. All before breakfast.

I killed one of my darlings and I met my deadline. I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate this small triumph. It’s not easy in a busy world, so it’s worth crowing when we can.

Do you have a small triumph to crow about? Or a big one? Let’s congratulate each other, shall we?