Short Story or Novel Opening?

This is something I’ve struggled with a while. It probably leads to the idea that so many of us are novelists or short story writers, because a few of us are always starting with what feels like novel openings.

The real trick, I suppose, is figuring out the difference to make that short story shine. Maybe upping my short game will also improve my novels. I do think I’m improving, though. I included enough world building to make it feel like the beginning, rather than ch 3. Chapter 3 beginnings feel like they’re in the middle of something much bigger but not enough to give the reader the feel for all those beginning definitions to really ground someone in the story.

Still, I appreciate the opportunity to turn over this story and try again. Are you with me on the idea that we always find a few ways to improve a story once we ask someone else to look at it? I often find I do. I’m going to find a placebo reader who will just let it sit three days for me to rewrite it again. It may not be enough. Writers seem to need muses that make everything urgent and life-threatening, or they end up doing housework or something less filled with blank pages.

I’ll admit to my NaNo project, and today I woke up at 5 (accidentally) but I got in a good sprint this morning before going back to bed. The novel is progressing, and my time bomb is still ticking. The main character just got hit with an idea that makes her think uncomfortably about her future.

Finger crossed.

Leveling Up, Writer Style

Often, I attribute these things to research. There’s so much to learn, and so many ways to apply that knowledge. I’m also staying on my writer’s track, though, and part of that means learning about self-publishing, marketing, and sales of books. It’s a lot to figure out all at once.

So since I’ve been working so hard on an outline (I’m not even sure what comes up in your mind for outline, but it’s not the one we learned in school) and I’m learning to convert that into a pitch. I know the basic information, and I can keep rewriting my book while I consider what to add to make that into a pitch for a book people definitely want to read.

Some people are naturally gifted at how to make things sell with their words. Mom was great at that, keeping the truth to the words but making it sounds more employable for the context. (She made a good living as a technical recruiter.) I think often writers like me are so focused on creating our worlds and making that narrative flow that we don’t spend as much time with things like how to sell it others. That weak writing muscle then becomes something we’d rather farm out than practice.

Maybe that’s just me. Except I’m pushing myself to learn. I’m going to tell myself they’re like push-ups; they bring strength to a bunch of different parts through working together and if I practice I’ll learn to nail it.

Writing Life

I’m not sure anyone knows what to expect when we dreamed as kids to grow up to be writers. I had ideas but no deadlines except schoolwork, and writing (and reading) filled up a great deal of my free time. Adults seem to have a lot of extra responsibilities and a whole lot less free time, so what does that life look like?

Creative scheduling helps. I know I’m brilliant at picking up part-time jobs. I have three besides writing at the moment, plus the full-time job of herding children everywhere. The good news is that ties down part of my week (Mondays and Tuesdays) so it isn’t a long mess of days without much change in what happens. I’ve also learned to use timers and lists of what needs to get done, though somehow the laundry is always trying to take over my to-dos.

I’m currently 13.3k into a novel rewrite, with a bunch of work on untangling that plot from book 2, as well as finding the details of book 3. It’s going to feel amazing to get that trilogy together, though I’m not exactly sure how long it’ll take. Rewrites are apparently easier for me than major edits, and that’s a very interesting realization for me. It has helped me shake off that major edit dread, and I’m starting to see where i get lost in the words while I’m doing it differently.

On the horizon- self-publishing, a press, and an anthology for Paradise ICON to support the con. The first two are here and here. I’m really excited to bring another one into existence. Also, to learn the book making process and all the fun parts of marketing.

Don’t worry- I’m still writing. Make that 41 days!

Writing Season

ICON is this weekend, and I’m excited to go. I also got out that long-term novel series project, and I’m excited where this rewrite is taking me. It is something I’ve never quite tried before. More short story ideas come to me, too, and I’m still unsure of what will happen with the project I sent to my Paradise ICON group.

I know I’m always excited when writing season comes, but on my rewrite – I have chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 finished since October 1st. Of course I messed with my timeline and I haven’t gone over (Ch 2 and 4) again except to change obvious number of days in travel. The point is to get the story readable and to only include Book 1. Currently my draft has so many different notes it can be very difficult to read. There’s a heading for every chapter on whether I put it in Book 1 or Book 2 or what part needed to be in which book.

Also loving that I’ve been spending most of the time the kids are at school with my stories. I’ve also been reading some middle-grade speculative fiction lately, as well as adult versions of it. Watching a few space westerns, too, to round it all out well.

A chapter a day keeps me too busy to worry about what I might not be doing. Though I do worry when my son says he dreamed up monsters and he’s afraid he made them real. It sounds like he needs to write things down, too. More to come, I’m certain.

Fluorescent Cats and Other Writer Madness

I made one deadline and I need to finish up a thing for another deadline this week. I’m excited to be close to making these deadlines. I’m also starting a new story, and it started with a thought experiment a month ago or so and it lit my brain on fire. While catching up with a few panels that had been recorded at WorldCon, I remember why I love being around creatives so much. There’s no limit to what comes out of us.

So while talking about destroying things, someone had an idea that fluorescent cats might be a good idea at Chernobyl to keep people away, and I am just pretty positive that there’s a significant portion of the population that would simply yell KITTY and want one of those cats. (Okay, it’s not just me and my son, I swear.)

The point was about finding something that would be available for the next ten thousand years to keep people out of places that aren’t healthy for them – and I’m not sure there’s a universal thing that would do that. However, Fluorescent Cats in Chernobyl is the best band you’ve never heard with their breakout album of Disaster.

It doesn’t even work with my current random obsession with fungi. I hope someone will read that story soon.


I love WorldCon.Technically it is ChiCon8. It’s also the first Con where I had roommates, and that was a lot of fun, except I like to talk instead of sleep. (Like, we know we’re tired, and yet we still have more to discuss.)

Among the panels and finding old friends, we make new connections, visit the dealer’s room, and find parties. I’m watching and listening to some of those panels that I missed this week, since a friend had the brilliant idea of mostly going to panels that weren’t recorded to get more out of the experience. (Thanks, Athena!)

Lisa became my new breathing buddy – so when you read this sit down and do some diaphragmatic breathing. (Everyone should. It’s really good for you, I promise.)

Doug swears I can talk to anybody, and I find this really difficult to disprove. It can be a bad habit to chat people up in elevators and outside the escalators, but waiting around for my people to get out of their panels and back to the meetup spot can be difficult to keep quiet with all the conversations around me. I hear this is an ADHD trait, but I’m just accustomed to it from a lifetime of friendly conversations…

How do you figure out how to disprove that? Honestly he should bear the burden of proof, but I’m sure he’ll stick to his introvert excuse. Instead, I’ll show you some of my fun moments (because half the time I just forget to take pictures).

I’m excited to get back to writing- but if you’re the fun couple I chatted up by the escalators when the elves and dwarves came down- please comment. I love finding new people who read!

When Streaks Break

Today is the last day in August, and I have missed only 4 days writing this month. I’m proud of myself, because in July I think I missed more days than I wrote. As of today, I have a 13 day streak! I know that’s a lot different from when I was in the thousands of days, but this year is different.

Mom’s house is on the market. I’m slowly integrating the things that are hers into my house, which I’d only moved into last November. I’m not exactly sure where everything goes that we brought then, so I’ve had to go through things a few times this summer just getting my head around things. Finally I left it all in piles because I just couldn’t.

Story ideas are still popping in around the edges, but I haven’t been writing them all out yet. School starts tomorrow, and I also leave for WorldCon tomorrow.

The hardest part of breaking a streak can be getting it back together. I wrote only one day in March, and I gave myself permission for that. Today is 13 days and counting, and more ideas for things to write out soon.

Plot Twist

I’ve been reading one of my novel drafts. Usually I put it into online format for the zero draft. I find it acceptable for a read-through and markups since I don’t do line edits at that stage.

Imagine my surprise on page 161.

The last 60 pages are true single spaced. Could be worse, but still going to see if i can finish the draft within a week or so. Wish me luck. Good thing my notes are in another notebook…


My aunt gave me book plates as a child. They had a little sketch of a bear with “I can’t bear to be without my books.” Of course, that’s always been true. Yet there’s another facet of that – when I can’t bear more, I surround myself with my books.

My family moved into the house in November, a week later I hit a deer. I had previously been in physical therapy, and then I went in for another issue. Living in the car a month to spend all the possible time with my mom before she was gone compounded those issues.

The issues are different now, but they keep coming. I turned to my books – I’ve been organizing them on the shelves when they had simply been tossed up there. I know by now the movers lost at least one of the boxes they put my books in. Somehow it’s easier to deal with an entire missing series than the trilogies where I have only book 3 of 3 and other holes. That’s not the kind of book owner I am – I find them and I read them and I do my best to give those books I love a good home.

I’m almost done organizing what I can, trying to put the rest in storage in the garage until I have enough shelves (yeah, movers broke those, too). It feels so good to be able to find them again, rather than searching fruitlessly among all of the shelves for the single book I’ve been hoping to find.

This isn’t an all-at-once occurrence. When it was one thing, I did the fiction. The next issue brought on the switching from the garage storage to shelves and back. It’s almost like I can’t leave well enough alone, and passing the books around brings me back to all of those manuscripts that are currently floating around on my office floor (or again, storage). Good thing I have them printed out, so that I’ll be ready to tackle them when things slow down, right?

It’s never going to slow down, though. It’s never going to go back to how it used to be. The difference is learning to juggle with the new things that have gotten thrown into the mix. The older I get the more I wonder why we’re looking for a new normal when there was never a normal before, just a slower shifting of changing ground around us.

I’ve been told I am doing an active grieving, but I think that’s just how I’m built. I do not stay in one place too long and I do not wait for anything to go back to how it was. Yet I’m very grateful for a gift of the book Tear Soup – it has helped me understand a bit more for my own process of grieving and the grieving of others.

Am I writing again? Sometimes. I wish it was every day, but I’ll get back to that – or maybe I’ll move forward into that again. Our language is accustomed to being used in certain ways by most of the people, and those cliches at times litter our thinking.

I’m moving forward. I will write again. It doesn’t have to be the way I have written at any other time in my life, because this is different and that is the way I am built: I change. I reminded my cousin this week that I was raised by the woman who wrote “The Getaway Car.” It’s an essay about part of my mother’s relationships with her vehicles. As my mother often wrote, it’s poignant and funny and leaves the reader thinking about her words long after it’s over.

So many of her friends think I am like my mother, and I can only hope that is true. Neither of us is perfect, but we do the best we can with what cards we were dealt.

New Year – New Goals

Starting a new year is always an interesting concept. Did we set resolutions? Did we start over with all of the things we really want to accomplish and create?

There’s something odd about trying to start things and putting a bunch of pressure on yourself to get through it all. Many times we do not consider what it will do to our normal routine in order to change the areas we want to change?

If I want to make dinner every night, I need a plan. Also, I’m going to need to do it before evening- because we have activities on different nights that make it difficult to find time. If I wanted to spend an extra amount of time at the gym, too, what kind of things would go undone that I thought I was doing before?

Resolutions always bring out the deep thoughts for me. We only have so much time and also that we’re managing to do so much and yet so little with it. We need time to adjust to the changes and also to figure out how we’re going to juggle the new stuff.

So do you figure out how to do the new schedule and change from your old schedule? Do you hold yourself to higher standards? Or do you let the other things go to create that new time for the new goals that create the new you?

Ideas are all there to do these things. But time doesn’t go slower as we age. Goals are able to be made at any time, but somehow these are the ones we try – every New Year. Sometimes I wonder if we just have a lot to learn. We don’t just wake up every day and say, how can we make ourselves and the world better? What would happen if we did?