Obligatory 2017 Review

Yet Another 2017 Review… but I think it’s important to both express success to one’s self as well as share with others.
I have this ritual I go through at the first of the year. I learned it LONG ago and have faithfully followed it for many years. I create an “Annual Goal” sheet of things I want to do throughout the upcoming year. I break it into categories – Professional, Personal Growth, Financial, Physical, Social/Family, Hobbies, House/Cars, etc. I then list the major items I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming year. I use that as a springboard for monthly goals sheets with the same categories. From there I create a weekly To Do, which gets broken into a daily To Do. Sounds tedious when spelled out like this, I suppose, but it’s really not. At the end of each year I review my goals to see how I did and remind myself of the great things I accomplished. It’s very invigorating and inspirational. My wife has done something similar for the last two years and we have had a lot of laughs over the memories of the previous year.

Writing did not appear on my 2017 Annual Goal list at all.

Weird, eh? My primary hobby the last few years has been guitar playing. I’m in a small informal band playing mostly 80’s rock. I’ve only played guitar for about 6 years now and I’m really not very good, but I have a lot of fun at it. That was my main recreational goal this year – improving my music. For those interested, I did!

About September I began to realize that I was obsessing too much on guitars. Buying gear, researching gear, talking guitars, cruising guitar stores. It was just too much and I began to look for a different distraction. Enter writing.

I’ve messed with writing off and on for decades. In fact I found a cache of stories I’d written for a 1991 college Creative Writing course and used several of those as seeds for new stories. In mid October I saw something about NaNoWriMo and decided on about the 27th of the month that I’d give it a go.

NaNoWriMo2017 was very successful for me. I “won,” regained some discipline and awoke a passion to share stories with the world. My main interest is flash fiction (1000 word pieces) and my fantasy novel. The novel centers on a world I intend to develop through several books, short stories, flashes, etc. I’m very excited about that.

So let’s see how 2017 went:

  • NaNoWriMo2017 – 50,000+ words
  • three flash fiction pieces good enough for submission queries
  • received a variety of Declines for my pieces – these are teaching me patience and perseverance (and temper control!)
  • major development of my WIP novel (some during NaNoWriMo and some since then)
  • gained knowledge of the writing process by reading Gerke’s “Hack Your Reader’s Brain”
  • received “The Twelve Key Pillars of Novel Construction” by C.S. Lakin and “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler for Christmas, and they’ll be ready for next year’s reading
  • pitched a possible essay about writing influences to a major journal and am waiting to hear back
  • discovered Submittable and The Grinder for both tracking and sources of potential publishers
  • created a social media presence for my writing that includes this blog and my twitter identity “dmgwrites” which is currently at almost 1300 followers. Joining this community has been wonderful for ideas, information and support
  • joined a local writer’s group and I’ve already learned a ton from them
  • attended an online class for Short Story writing, which did not turn out to be particularly helpful at all, but was worth a shot

In two months I guess that’s not bad!

So 2018 will include an expansion of my writing interests. I’d like to win NaNoWriMo2018, get at least one flash or short piece published, make major progress on the structure of my first novel, write 5-10 flash pieces, follow up on the essay pitch, and generally strengthen my writing abilities. More on all that in a future blog.

I can only hope that writing 2018 is as productive, fulfilling and fun as it was in 2017!

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1000 Followers!

Wow I hit 1000 followers on Twitter earlier this morning! I only joined in late October in order to get more exposure to NaNoWriMo advice (I learned a lot from NaNoWriMo). That’s when I started this blog site as well. I’ve slowly expanded the site, adding a section on Submission sites. Later tonight or over the weekend I intend to add a new section on songwriting.

I’ve learned a lot about Twitter and from Twitter. In no particular order:

  • Twitter is a world-class waste of time! And it’s a reasonably fun way to spend that time. There are many self-deprecating jokes from authors on Twitter being a distraction from writing and it certainly has been for me. Honestly – I’m not sorry.
  • Twitter has some great resources. I’ve Tweeted a couple of things and gotten good information back. One of my most successful Tweets was about how to find beta readers and it did great. I am going to be chasing down the ideas and info in that thread tonight.
  • Hash Tags matter. Yeah, I know, that’s not news. It is, however, something to keep in mind to make your posts more searchable. For me, however, it was a matter of getting in the habit of searching via the hashtags for the ones that pertained to whatever I was looking for at the time.
  • Tweet and retweet often to keep your name exposed out there. Same with blogs – I’m trying to put something out here weekly at a minimum and more if I can.
  • Lots of great folks link their blog sites to Twitter. I’ve probably stumbled across 5-10 sites that were really useful to me. For example, this one was today’s find: 7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand   which prompted this blog post.
  • Be selective about who you follow. I’ve tried very carefully to follow folks that are authors specifically, or publishing sites that I might submit to. There have been other tempting folks to follow, but I’m trying to keep my scope narrow and focused. I guess I’m saying be deliberate in who you follow.
  • Retweet what you think will help others, Like what you like and Reply for things that you have comments for. Participate!

So those are my brief thoughts as my account passes the 1000 follower mark. For those how have many thousands of followers, it’s probably not very impressive. For me, I’m happy. Those those under 1000, keep at it!

7 Steps to let Flash Fiction improve your writing

When I decided to commit myself to writing a few months ago, I came across references to flash fiction. There are several forms: flash itself (about 1000 words depending on the definition), drabble (100 words), Twit-Lit (140 characters on Twitter), etc. I was especially interested in flash and immediately worked on a piece that I’ve since submitted to various places. I then focused entirely on NaNoWriMo for November and left flash behind. I learned a lot from the NaNoWriMo exercise (see my post here about that!).

Now I’m reinvigorated by flash fiction and last night a story just fell out of my fingers and into my Mac. I am really happy with it and will be spending the next few days polishing it. As I began editing and trimming, I thought about how this editing process and word choice analysis would apply to my 100,000+ word novel draft. In flash I have to be very careful and considerate of word choice, trying to get the most power out of each word or phrase. In novel writing I can be more lazy because a few words here or there won’t make a difference to the count.

What I’m suggesting is that careful choices made during my flash editing will make me a better short story / novel writer and self-editor in the long run.

So for those of you who haven’t tried flash fiction writing, I challenge you to do the following:

  1. Think of a story that would reasonably fit in the 1000 word boundary.
  2. Write out that story, being aware but not obsessive about word count during your writing. Both my flash pieces started around 1800 words and got trimmed.
  3. Edit, edit, edit. Then trim some words. Then rearrange words to shorten the count. Strive to get the most mileage out of every word in your flash piece and get it to 1000 words.
  4. Through this entire process, ensure you have a coherent story regardless of how many words you’ve trimmed.
  5. (optional) Submit your flash fiction piece for publication. Why not? You worked this hard.
  6. (and this is the important part) Take this same flash editing mindset and edit a chapter or scene of your current work in progress, carefully ensuring that every word lends itself to the end goal of the section. Whether you retain the newly-editing section or not, the act of thinking like a flash author will be educational.
  7. Post your thoughts, results, experiences, frustrations below!

I’m excited to get this new piece ready for submission. I really like it and feel that it is much more mature than the first piece I wrote. That one has been rejected by a few publishers and is still being considered by others. I think this next piece will be much stronger!