Creativity, Fiction, Life, Poetry, Self-Care, WIPpets

July update: High aspirations

Greetings, readers. I have several projects underway to share with you all.

One of them is a lofty goal I set, despite of my crazy busy life as a nurse and mother and grad student.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. 

Stephen King

I feel fortunate to be connected to several strong, productive online communities that help me to improve my writing process and stay accountable. Some of us made a commitment to write 100,000 words during the month of July.

It’s July 5th; I’ve accomplished 5% of the goal, with a little more than 5,000 words written thus far.

I’m well below the daily average I need to come anywhere close to achieving 100,000 words this month. But I’m still thrilled to have written 5,000 words that otherwise may not have been written. I am also finding new ways to write in order to better utilize my time–for instance, dictating into the voice recorder of my phone and uploading it to transcription software.

One of the projects that has been percolating in my brain for at least a year is a series of books for middle-schoolers centering around animals, especially with my 9 year old daughter in mind. I finally decided to apply myself to this project in a more intentional way.

Her enthusiasm is infectious; she has fallen in love with the characters and is constantly hounding me to find out what happens next. I suspect these books will be around 20,000-30,000 words each; I could feasibly finish drafts of three of these in a month. The first one is called Dolphins in the Driftwood.

I suspect there may be purists out there reading this who question whether a word count goal is beneficial to the creative process, and feel it somehow takes away from the creative power and purpose of writing.

But I’m learning so much. For instance:

  1. Fiction is my weakest writing style; by writing more of it, I improve. I know I am improving, as I am finding the process and the output to be more enjoyable to create and read. The only way that will continue to happen is to produce more of it.
  2. Planning the work is vital and good. In the past, I have minimally planned my fiction because it struck me as boring and unnecessarily time-consuming to outline something intended to be creative. Consequently, my fiction was boring, without any real plot or intentional sequence of events to move it along. To meet a daily writing goal of a high quantity, especially for someone like me with such a weak creative imagination, I have found that I have to plan. And when I plan, the writing happens quickly and easily.
  3. A first draft is only that: a first draft. So a high quantity of output is destined to be largely a diamond in the rough (if that…maybe just an ugly piece of coal), with a few glimmers of excellence. Regardless, it has to be created first before it can be refined

Another writing goal I set for this month is to write a poem a day. And guess what? I’ve already failed at this goal as well, but I still have three new poems thus far in July that otherwise might not exist. This September, I’m excited to release The Latent Tale of Conception, my first volume of poetry. A second volume is planned for release in 2018 entitled The Discovery & Consumption of Fruit.

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The poetic brain at work…pure joy in this process…a sense of being wholly present, seated in the fullness of an experience.

I’m scared to death about this series for middle-schoolers. I always envisioned, in all my writerly arrogance (thankfully confined largely to my twenties), that I’d someday publish a novel of epic proportions that fiercely impacts the reader or at least goes down as a great read posthumously.

In the meantime, I’m writing about dolphins and shipwrecks and hoping I don’t get laughed offstage by the grown-ups in the room. I confess that, while secretly hoping my heart still harbors a childlike place that can compellingly connect with that age group.

I have it on good authority that a certain 9-year-old loves the story, so my audience of one is pleased. Win!

Take care, everyone. Please share this blog with people you know who may be interested.

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Creativity, Fiction, Poetry, Writing

Writing fiction that doesn’t suck

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That title may be unceremonious but, in general, I continue to be largely bored by my fiction-writing attempts, and I’ve gained a few insights along the way.

  1. Back story is not the same as a good story. As I write on a daily basis for at least an hour each morning, I’m realizing that most of what makes it to the page is back story about the characters, not the actions in which they are engaged. Thus, my sense of boredom is very real…because they are not doing anything.  I am getting to know them better and that is entertaining, but as far as compiling a story with these people, not much has actually happened yet.
  2. A literary style is probably more my thing. One of my pieces from earlier this month is largely a string of consciousness with key events mentioned along the way, giving it structure. Poetry’s my girl. Can I just write poems in story form?
  3. A process has emerged that works for me. I think. Mostly, my first drafts are proving to be boring beyond boring. Going over them a second and then a third time, rewriting paragraphs and making the language more interesting, accurate, and descriptive along the way seems to be working for me. However, this only addresses the writing style, not the actual plotting of events. Any tips on plotting would be appreciated. I keep waiting for the characters to come alive in my mind and start doing things. I will give myself over to you and let you write yourselves into life, but for the love of all things, don’t make me do it for you.
  4. I need to read more. My life has revolved around textbooks for years. It’s no wonder my imagination is shit right now. A synthesis of interests and artistry will be good to have, eventually. Reading Toni Morrison these days is watering my brain in all the right ways.

So, one month in, there has been improvement, insight, and all that exciting personal growth stuff. (yikes!)

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Creativity, Editing, Fiction, Poetry, Self-Medicating, WIPpets, Writing

Update on the writing life: Month #1

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It has been one month today since undertaking the goal to complete 52 short stories in 52 weeks. I am nowhere near meeting it but I do feel encouraged by what has happened in the past 29 days.

  • 3 & 1/2 rough drafts of stories on their way to completion
  • 2 drafts of poetry
  • 1 submission of poetry to HOOT literary magazine
  • 1 sketch (a portrait)
  • 1 plan to self-publish my first manuscript of poetry, The Latent Talent of Conception
  • Participation for the first time in a “write-in,” six of us scrawling/typing a total of 8,114 words in each other’s company
  • Only one half of one book read: Sula by Toni Morrison
  • Subscription to Duotrope for manuscript submissions and tracking
  • Subscriptions to Glimmer Train and Alaska Quarterly Review
  • So many cups of coffee and Americanos. Black.

I continue to find fiction more challenging than enjoyable to write. However, a process is unfolding and it’s getting easier and even fun!

Last night, during four separate sprints in which we wrote continuously in chunks of 20 minutes, I hashed out about 400 words at a time and then returned to add layer upon layer of detail and interest until I could read it without dying of boredom.

As evidenced by my list above, I have a problem finishing stories. On a side note, I write boring plots and characters; I have little imagination.

However…it does seem to be getting a teeny bit easier and the writing has improved.

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Fiction, WIPpets

WIPpet Wednesday: A bit “off”

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Today’s work-in-progress (WIP) comes to you from my third short story attempt.

I am sure my late grandmother will grace many pages in the days to come. She was a very complicated person.

This snippet happens in the midst of the main character’s existential crisis. She has started to lose her mind but this goes largely unnoticed by her family who has always seen her as a bit “off.”

WIP = “work in progress.” This group of bloggers publishes a snippet of work each week that somehow relates to the date. Today is 11/16/2016, and 1+1+1+6 = 9. Here are 9 lines of the current WIP.

Today began the same as any other day. She looked around her fine home and wondered at the meaning of it all. An existential crisis had taken root in her mind, and she couldn’t shake the thought that there was something more she was supposed to be doing with her life.

Books had piled up on the table by her couch. The brain was her latest interest, and the Theory of Everything. Quantum physicists prized this idea the most of all. What is the underlying theory that accounted for everything in the entire known universe and its laws?

Jane was not a scientist and she had never gone to college, but she had begun to fancy herself as sort of the expert on these matters.

See you next week.

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Fiction, WIPpets

WIPpet Wednesday (one day late): Frog Prince

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WIP = “work in progress.” This group of bloggers publishes a snippet of work each week that somehow relates to the date. Your feedback is welcome so that I can become a better storyteller. I first heard about this concept through my dear friend ReGi McClain, so hopefully this shameless mention of her will successfully pressure her into participating next week. 😀

Yesterday was 11/9/2016 and 11+9=20, so I’m going to share 20 lines from my take on the “Frog Prince.” I hope you enjoy it.

Isadore occupied a unique position in the galaxy. As far as was known, theirs remained the only planet which hosted a life form known as kyrie, an unassuming, iridescent water organism which produced a secretion lethal to the deadly reptilian species. The kyrie were carefully cultivated in protected lakes, filtered not only to optimize the organisms’ happiness but to collect this precious byproduct which assured the Isadorians’ unexpected level of power in the galaxy. Their benefits had been found out rather unexpectedly when the banks of their rivers and lakes had become scattered with the corpses of dead reptilian warriors after their first albeit very successful invasion and slaughter.

Lily had only a vague memory of her sister being born to her mother almost immediately after their father’s death. That was the last birth of an Isadorian that was known in these parts. It was a very crude and almost totally deprogrammed experience. Her mother’s body had little interference with the task. She had no attendants other than Lily, who quietly observed, and the midwife whose face squinted like a prune.

She remembered her mother being very stoic in that undertaking. Her belly stretched taut and smooth like a ripe pear, her breasts pendulously resting atop, dark nipples readying to enter into an ancient rite wherein youngsters fed at the bodies of the females but without harming them. Lily occasionally pondered her own form, with its gentle initially budding curves that had since become more defined and more prominent, smooth apples that turned her body into the shape of a snake that she secretly found lovely.

On this particular day, the waters pulsated diligently along the river’s bank, whirling around boulders and capturing with it the falling leaves that floated at a slant through the air…

The election and my toddlers’ poor adjustment to Daylight Savings Time have made for some very tired days and not enough energy to wake up early to write, but this morning, I’m back to it and enjoying the idea that presented itself.

Have a good week,

Mindy

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Creativity, Fiction, Writing

52 short stories in 52 weeks

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Fiction has never come naturally for me; I think I’m afraid of it.

Baring my interior bones and guts has always seemed easier as an essay or poem, clearly or not so clearly structured, with details which start in a specific place and end not too far off in the distance.

My imagination is underdeveloped and underutilized. My thinking seldom wanders and tends toward black and white. It assesses, plans, implements.

Thus, when I see this quote by Ray Bradbury, I immediately view it as a challenge.

A friend recently suggested that Mr. Bradbury did not intend this statement as a challenge, and that’s true.

But the possibilities of this type of active, ongoing practice of writing can’t help but excite and motivate me.

What if one were to commit to this type of writing, a story each week, this frequent and consistent practice of the craft of short fiction?

Regardless of the outcome, I can’t help but appreciate the inevitable growth as a writer and person that might/must result. I hope my writing will improve. I hope my imagination will flourish more than it has. I hope all 52 stories aren’t crap. Mr. Bradbury reassures me there will be at least one good one.

Let’s find it.

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