Life update: I’ve been practicing my scoring techniques on some loaves and rolls. I’m getting better and spending a lot of time watching people score and design their loaves. It’s pretty fascinating, IMO. In no time, I’m sure I’ll be able to make beautiful bread artwork like some of my favorite loaves.
Author Life News
With June done, it’s officially been half a year, and as I move deeper into 2022 a fire builds in me. I’ve been working hard and building out my business with a lot of success. I’ve completed almost all of my writing goals for the year I could control and am steadily working on the rest.
It feels amazing.
But it also feels, wildly open, so I’ve been spending my time doing a lot of career planning and looking to the future. The question on my mind is: this time next year, where do I want to be? The answers I’ve been chewing on are the steps and moves I need to make to get to that dream writer-self by July 2023. I do this type of thinking/planning every year and whether or not I get the thing I want, I always end up in a better place than where I started with opportunities crawling out of the woodwork. But how do I build on that to make sure my career and craft are constantly growing?
I want the future to be fiction for me, at least creatively and in my author profession. Books, short stories, talks, teachings, groups, events. You name it, I want to work fiction into it. I’m comfortable with my status as an editor and nonfiction writer. It makes me smile every day. My work writing life or the business side of my writing is pointed toward other pursuits and building out my business brand.
One of the steps or moves I’m making to get to that fiction life is making sure all the stories I have ready to submit are actually out on submission (6 stories). If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know I used to have a wild submission policy. I needed to have a bare minimum of 20 stories out on submission at once to feel like I was successful and working as a writer. I’ve since wisened up and have stopped that type of mass send-out because while it felt good to have so many stories out on submission, I was spending more time submitting and writing than I was revising.
And revising for me is where I grow. It’s where I learn how to write a better, different story next time. Doing such a mass send-out had me focused on the wrong aspects of my craft. So, last year I pulled back and took all my stuff off the market to put each through month-long revision tracks. Once I did that, I started getting those top pub acceptances to places like Lightspeed Magazine and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’m still working through my stack of old stories and revising them, but I’m on track to finish editing all those stories by the end of this year.
Which is perfect because as some people may know, August is my big short fiction writing month. For people who don’t know, every August for the past 4-5 years, I use the month to do a Bradbury-esque writing challenge where I write a story a day for the month. In the past few years, I’ve written around 20-25 new stories during that month. (It Came Gently was actually one of those stories, along with a few other published stories!)
I’ve never actually been able to write a story each day, but anything more than 20 stories in a month is a win in my book. This August, I’m going to focus on using my writing time as a way to deepen my study of voice. This month, I’m putting together voice/character profiles I’ll base stories around throughout the month of August.
With all of my stories out on submission, I’m debating on whether to switch to submitting my back catalog of poetry. But because it doesn’t align with my intention of getting my fiction out there, I’m leaning toward focusing on other projects that will help my fiction.
I spent some of the last month editing up a science fiction horror story for an anthology open call. After having my critique group give me some very useful feedback, I was able to sharpen the story up and get it out just in time. I’ll hear back about it by the end of August. Even if it gets rejected, I’m still immensely proud of the work I did on the story and how much I changed it to bring out its heart.
My literary scifi thriller book has run its query route and is now just out in the world waiting for some takers. I sent it out to publishers last month, too. So, it’s really out there, but also at the end of its journey. Last year when I first went on query, I made a plan to only keep it out for a year and move on to other projects after that. I’m not totally abandoning the project, but shelving it for the time being while I work on other projects and elevate my craft more.
I know the book is good, there is an audience for it, and the writing is strong (based on agent and editorial feedback), so it could be that the timing is off or it’s just not good enough. The plan is to wait until this time next year to revisit the manuscript and decide if it needs a revamp or if it’s good to send back out to my second row of 1st pick agents.
For my horror novella, I finished my novel spreadsheet and card outlining that helped me pinpoint some structural, developmental, and content edits. Happy to say, I’ve done a lot of scene tweaks that have the story functioning a bit better. This weekend I’ll be adding in the new scenes and notes to spend time at the beginning of July writing in the changes. Then I’ll spend the rest of the month line and copy editing the story to get it ready to send out on query and submission in August.
Unlike my scifi book, I won’t be spending a full year querying it and will instead do a mass query and send out in August. My experience with querying my first book has helped me see how best to market this book to agents without doing all the tweaking I did with my scifi book. I have about 20 agents and 10 or so publishers picked out to send the manuscript to, and am excited to get it out of the gate. Since I’ll be querying the horror novella next month, I’ll also be spending July working on drafting the query letter and synopsis.
In June, I spent my voice studying time studying the voice of Jacques Mesrine’s autobiography The Death Instinct. The voice in that is sharp and immediate. Loud and very in your face. Paired with the craft books I’ve been reading on voice, it’s helped me drive through toward the heart of how to showcase characters on the page through their voice. Along with The Death Instinct, I read Lisa Zeidner’s Who Says?: Mastering Point of View. Another eye-opening book! I could see the lessons come out while I edited my scifi horror short story.
July will have me shifting toward short stories to study how to capture voice on such a small stage. I’ll be reading through my back issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and taking notes on how the writers used voice and the choices they made to showcase it on the page. Along with the short story studying, voice profile creations for short stories, I’m also moving on to reading the craft book Voice: The Secret Power of Great Writing by James Scott Bell. I’ve never read it and enjoy a lot of Bell’s books, so I’m excited to see what the book contains and how I can use it in my writing.
I know lots of writers read this blog and I am always curious on how other writers grow their craft beyond simply writing a new story. If you have a practice technique or exercises you swear by to help you become a better writer, please tell me about them! I love learning about other writers’ processes and how they get better.
Thanks for reading about my writing life and all the work I do to keep the lights on in my writing tower. Next week, I’ll get into my scene card outline technique and how I use it to test my story and write it without actually writing it. Any questions about my writing life are welcome—just drop a comment.
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