Back at work today, everything feels surreal and wrong. It’s interesting to work in a job where a new year means a completely clean slate. It’s almost enough to bleed over into other parts of my life.
That being said, it’s been a productive year, so far. On new year’s day, despite being a bit more hungover than I would have liked, I finished a second draft of a story I wrote last month. It was such a thorough rewrite I might as well call it a second first draft – very very few things were retained, and many a darling were reluctantly murdered. It’s a better story for it, but I think it’s bit too heavy-handed now. I have a problem with subtlety that I’m trying to get over by being blatant in early drafts, then paring back. I have no idea whether or not this will work, but exploring the other end of the spectrum can’t hurt. I do think that having a draft I can work with where the meaning is screamed can help me focus during rewrites, because a lot of time, my problem with subtlety comes from not being completely sure what I want to say.
Last night, after all my book club peeps left, I pulled up a story I’ve been sitting on while waiting for the submission period for the Dark Faith 2 anthology to open. I tinkered a bit – fixed some awkward sentences (I am the QUEEN of awkward sentences), then said “fuck it” and sent it out. I thought about sitting on it for longer, for tinkering more, but it’s a bad habit. I need to stop tinkering with old shit. I need to write new things, finish them, rewrite them, then submit.
So far so good – all of last year, I finished two new stories (and one was a ridiculous noir flash piece about a pony detective). Since October, I’ve written half of the draft of a novel (and a very rough complete synopsis), two entirely new short stories, and I’ve got about 40% of another completely new story that I hope to finish in the next week or two. That’s not bad, considering I had about three weeks of burnout after NaNo where I caught up on my reading.
What is helping my productivity is this: as I write entirely new stories, I find myself paying closer attention to things that my reptile “just get it the fuck done!” brain didn’t before. I’m more conscious of my prose (avoiding clunky phrasing), of making sure the core character conflict is known to me BEFORE I start writing (it makes it much easier to finish, and plot derives from this conflict), of staying on task with theme, and making sure there’s as much beauty in the story as I can possibly cram in. It feels more disciplined, which makes it easier.
And with this latest draft, I tried out a more disciplined revision using my friend Nicole’s method. I sat down with a piece of scrap paper and wrote out answers to all of the checkpoints before I started the rewrite and I think it made a difference.
Focus is good. Focus is something I have a problem with a lot of the time.
In other news, I started slushing for Apex last week. I’ll probably blog about lessons I learn about my own writing and how my attitude changes about submitting based on this experience, but for now, there is something I can already say:
I’m a slush reader, and I’m JUST LIKE YOU, dear struggling writer-type friend. And because we are the same, I’m rooting for you. Ferrett hit it straight on the damn head with his Confessions of a Slush Reader post for Shimmer. I’ve noticed that I’ve opened each story with the hope that my mind will be blown, but at the end, it just… wasn’t.
That’s all I’m going to say about that for now. I’ll wait until I’ve been in the trenches a while longer before I say anything else.
Be Good. Blow minds.