The Cost of Inspiration

If your writing goals are become easier to reach, it might be time to raise them. I was able to consistently write 1000 words a day and raised it just recently. It happens to coincide with my desire to send more stories out to literary magazines. I’ve watched over the past few months as my husband was cranking out submissions one after the other, all across the country and, in fact, all across the English speaking world.

He inspired me to start sending my stories out again. Additionally, I get inspired is through music and photographs. I can take them as sensory prompts and write for quite a while.

Normally, I don’t talk about music on a writing blog and maybe you’re one of those who prefers total silence in order to work. I love music. I’ve listened to all of my personal collection so much, I’m pretty tired of it. So something like Pandora, where the station constantly updates is pretty cool. I hear favorites and fresh sounds quite a lot.

I don’t get anything tangible from Pandora except inspiration. They don’t pay me to say I love this or that track, or even tell you that you can get hours of uninterrupted music all day every day for the low price of 49.98. One really good piece of writing will pay for that. Actually, that must sound like a deal. The truth is they just endured a price hike and I wasn’t very happy about it. That motivated me to look into some other streaming music sources.

I discovered I’ve become quite a snob about all of this music stuff. I don’t like commercials butting in (at twice the volume–how jarring!) and I despise short play lists that want me to keep picking what mood I’m in now after 5 or 10 songs, or pick another song… I priced some other venues only to discover that they want nearly double per year what I currently shell out.

I listen, on average, to 8 hours of music a day (which I assure you is conservative!) nearly 3000 hours a year. Rounding up to 50.00$ a year dividing by 3000 hours, I end up paying about one penny per hour. Suddenly, their prices didn’t seem so bad. Plus, no annoying interruptions. I can click the songs I don’t like up to three per hour or change stations anytime. A paid account lets me have up to 100 stations. That’s access to every genre and millions of songs.

Since listening to Pandora, I’ve completed my first two books, dozens of blog posts, countless short story starts, four that are finished and won two Nano Awards. I’ve published in half a dozen magazines.  I’m feeling a little happier about my music investment.

How are you investing in your inspiration sources? What inspires you?

Posted in Encouragement for Writers, music, paid inspiration, Ratchet up your writing, sending out your work, Story writing, Writing Process | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Reaching Your Goals

snoopy the writerSome people in my circle of influence think I’m a prolific writer. If 2000 words a day is the mark, I reach it most days. But, that  wasn’t always the case. I’ve written for years, with no consistency. I wanted to be more disciplined. That required setting measurable goals. When I set up my first blog eight years ago, I forgot about it for nearly a year.  What would I talk about? Who would read it What was my platform?

Eventually, I set a goal of writing 300 words a day, that is, approximately  half a page. When that became consistently attainable,  I stretched it to 500. At the end of six months, I had a pile of writings. Now what?

Some of it turned out to be good writing. With a little attention, some tweaking and polish, it became a decent essay. At the end of that year, I had a stack of essays. What could I do with them?

I set a new goal. I wanted to send my pieces out to various literary magazines, contests and anthologies. I researched and studied, (Long Ridge Writers Group article writing class proved invaluable!) learned how to format work so that it would be acceptable and my new goal was sending out 5 pieces a week.  I didn’t achieve that goal, but at least two went out per week with some regular consistency.  My secondary goal was to get 100 rejection slips.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I wanted 100 rejections? Getting any kind of feedback  reminded me that I was working toward my goal. Every writer who became noteworthy said they had enough rejection slips to paper their walls. It goes with the territory. I expected to get 100 before I finally got published.

After my fourth submission, an anthology accepted my writing. I was published! I kept sending out work and fun things happened. More people accepted my work.

This is where I am right now. Remember those photos from last week? I wrote a story (6300 words!!) and found a place to send it to. You can do it too! Just begin with a few goals and never give up until you reach them. Did you write anything this week? I’d love to hear from you.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, below you will find an excerpt from the story I sent out:

     Then, something tapped my bare foot. In the sand by my toes lay a shell. Wait, a shiny, pink and white Queen Conch shell washed up on the shore of Lake Michigan? It seemed highly unlikely. Had the dolphins somehow delivered it? I bent to my haunches and picked it up. The shell over filled my two hands and felt heavy as a brick. It looked like something from the tropics, sold from souvenir shops.

As I held it, I noticed something protruding from the opening and I quickly set it down. It looked almost like a snail head. It touched the sand, slowly lengthening, as if pulling itself from its shell. Then there were two. As I watched, mystified, then saw that it was really two fingers. I pulled out my cell phone. In my rush to leave, I’d forgotten to charge the battery. The icon on the screen was blinking, as if it was gasping for breath. I snapped two pictures before the phone’s battery officially died. The being continued to emerge until a whole hand had formed, then an arm. I backed away.

This was the strangest occurrence I had ever witnessed on the Chicago shore. I stood up and turned away to see if there were other onlookers, to call attention to this weird event unfolding, right here, just off 78th on Rainbow Beach. A mother and her child were a ways up, and I waved frantically, shouting to get their attention. The child saw me and pointed. The mother looked in my direction, clutched her kid tighter and hurried back to her car, looking over her shoulder to make sure I wasn’t following them. I felt like a nut.

There was no one left. Not even a dog. When I returned my gaze to the shell, I noticed the decidedly female form had become a head, two arms and a torso. Her head faced the water, with me behind, and I backed farther away.

I gazed in complete wonder at the woman lying on her back, wriggling herself free of that shell…

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How Creative Are You?

I’ve been working on new short stories and feel excited about writing with photo prompts. In one of the literary magazines I read a while back, they had a cool idea called, Bridge the Gap, where they took two images and the asked their readership to contribute stories around the pictures.

What a genius idea. I wonder how many creative people I have out there? Can you write a song, or a poem or a short story with the two images below? I’d be curious to see what you come up with. I will also write one this week.

mer hand in shellmermaid

Posted in Encouragement for Writers, getting your name out there, sending out your work, Story writing, Writing Process | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome Interruptions

typewriter-skip-huntI had been working on two novels simultaneously for a long time. When I need a break, thirty day challenges are what I look for. If I can’t find a good one, I make up my own. Once, I did a post every day for a year—photos, quotes, stories anything. I just had to post. It helps me to do things that are related to my field. Buying one caramel macchiato every day for a month wouldn’t be appropriate, but something writing related is.

The most recent challenge issued was to write 30 short stories for 30 days. One thousand to 20,000 words. Obviously, some of them will be real stinko stories, but the idea was to spark my imagination and see what I could come up with every day. It caused me to be more observant, eavesdrop on conversations (who knows, maybe I was listening to you!) and watching the reaction of people to various circumstances.

It’s better to try and fail than not try. You don’t know what you’re capable of if you don’t make the effort. I allowed myself 3 extra days due to standing appointments, and took advantage of those days where I wrote more than one story in a day. I’m happy to announce I managed to get 30 in 30. My husband and I celebrated the accomplishment.

They’re not all highly polished stories ready to send out (yet) but I’ve got seedlings to grow. Because they’re designed to be brief, this kick starts my goal of sending out short stories this year. It’s only March. By December, I plan to have all the good ones out in the world being read by someone, and maybe attempt another 30 day challenge. Who knows, maybe you will join me!

How are you challenging yourself in your writing?

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Keepers of the Flame

candle in windIt is possible for others to minimize your relationship with writing especially if they are not writers. It’s more than a little frustrating when someone who says they care about you, yet try to invalidate your passion. Quite often, they’re disinterested or—surprise, surprise—jealous of your ability, tenacity and determination to pursue a dream.
I would venture to guess that every writer has endured the cutting remarks about their writing whether they wrote longhand with a pen on paper or had the newest computer set up on the market.

Learn to recognize when someone isn’t interested in your writing and stop talking to them about it. It may sound like, What makes you think you’re a writer? Have you ever been published? Have you ever been paid? Your writing is just a hobby. What makes you think anyone wants to hear what you have to say?  You’re still working on that same book?

I was once married to one who refused encourage my writing. It’s disheartening when the people we are closest to can’t or won’t support us. It’s discouraging when they disparage your efforts or even worse, try to sabotage them and make you feel guilty for pursuing your craft.

Do not share your work or your victories with these toxic people. Spare yourself from feeling and being discouraged. You don’t have to ditch them as friends (or relatives) but they’re not part of your tribe. Develop an inner circle of writer friends to share those exciting moments with, when you get a contract for your piece or you get published in a magazine, when you complete your book.

I can’t imagine a life without writing. I don’t view it as a hobby. If you’re comfortable with the term, that’s completely fine, I am not and my intent is to make writing my full time job; until then, I view it as a sort of hands on apprenticeship. You can’t be a writer unless you write (and read a lot!) I treat it like a job; I come home, get into the office and write a set number of words (1000 to 2500), or for a set amount of time. By the end of a year that’s a lot of words.

Remember that not all people share our enthusiasm, but their remarks don’t make you any less a writer. It’s always disappointing and it says more about where those friends and relatives stand, not you. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to find like- minded people.

If you don’t have a cheerleader in your corner, comment below. I will cheer you on. If you’re writing a blog, share the link, I will follow and encourage you. If this is your dream, guard it like a candle flame. Too many people are willing to be the wind and blow it out for you. And if someone tries to put out your fire, even if you’re barely a smoking ember, come back here and let your passion be reignited. No one on this earth will ever see or say things the way you do. Your voice is unique and important. Keep on writing. Never ever give up.

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Tea Time With Mr. Winter (an excerpt)

Winter park_iphone _new years eve_christmas_santa_wallpaper_1Remember last post we talked about my writing shorties? Here is an excerpt of one of them. I don’t know how you feel about the amount of snow you’ve had in your neck of the woods, but here, it’s caused us to miss a friend’s play, a day of work, untold errands and several trips to the tanning bed. :) At any rate, it spawned another shorty for my collection.

“Isn’t it glorious?” he asked. He didn’t need an answer, he was so enamored by the twinkling and sparkling and dazzling white. Not bleach white, but halogen purity on display straight from heaven. I took a deep breath and decided to be honest.

“Frankly, I’m sick of it, Mr. Winter. We’re all sick of it.”

“Ingrate!” he gasped. I served him a plate of egg whites with sautéed white mushrooms and white onions, sprinkled with white pepper. His white gloved hand took the plate and his fork poked at the eggs in search of offending yolk. He found none, and satisfied, took a bite. With his mouth full, he asked, “Do you have white toast?”

I handed him the breadbasket filled with unbuttered toast halves, practically raw toast; it didn’t look as much like toast as dry bread.

“Even Boston and Buffalo are weary.”

“Bite your tongue!” he rarely looked at me, so enamored was he with the snow-globe effect beyond the glass.

“Face it, you’re getting lazy and sloppy. Seven feet in one day? We all know that you normally dole it out in inches and maybe a foot plus in the higher altitudes. Seven feet in Boston? That’s just pure unadulterated laziness.”

Please let me hear from you if you would like to see more excerpts!

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The Long and The Short: A Truce

Buchler_ShortStories-Cambs47c93Most days I lock myself in my little writing closet and I don’t come out until I’ve made significant headway on something, usually the book I’m working on. Currently, I split my time between two books in a series. I had finished the first draft of book number one and really didn’t like it much. The majority of my read-through tribe had a really tough time getting past the first few chapters. I knew something was seriously wrong and I had to admit, the beginning of the book was as dull as watching cats sleep.

In order to have a sharper story, some great scenes would have to be cut, story holes correctly filled and extraneous rabbit trails eliminated. Some points of the story, if I’m brutally honest, were not the least believable. While pruning, rewriting and revising, it occurred to me how long it could take to get my name out there by writing books alone. It takes me about a year to write a rough draft between working, family time and other obligations. Another six months to get it to the editing stage. Even though I write every day, no one sees much of it until a full length book is completed.

Hey, what about all those story ideas I’ve been stockpiling? What if I wrote short stories too?? At times it has been helpful to have another, completely different story to work on while I noodle through a scene in the book that is problematic. This line of thinking triggered The Great Divide, A Novelette. It was how I managed to get Until Rodanthe published.

Lately I have more ideas that just refuse to be shelved and I find myself working on them in my head. Then, I have to write down what I know of it on any given day. I try to keep them short and sharp. I started a file specifically for story ideas I want to explore.

Maybe, as an experiment, I’ll start sending them out. I like the idea of sending out stories. Who knows, maybe something great will happen. Who knows, maybe I will even get paid!

What are you doing with the story ideas you have floating around in your mind?

Posted in Encouragement for Writers, getting your name out there, sending out your work, Story writing, Writing Process | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments