Tag: writing career

Impressive Feats of Writing

I’ve mentioned how I am reading The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski. It is a delight and treat to read these 100 essays on baseball players, that tell a fascinating history of the game. It has quickly jumped toward the top of the list of best baseball books I have ever read. I’ve learned (or been reintroduced to) all kinds of incredible things that have happened in the sport over the last 150+ years.

But actually, the book itself is an impressive feat of writing. These essays originally appeared in The Athletic. As Posnanski writes in the introduction:

This book contains almost 300,000 words, just about all of them originally written over a 100-day stretch when this series first appeared on the web pages of “The Athletic.” I lived this book twenty-four hours a day during those weeks, writing, reading, learning, dreaming baseball.

Three hundred thousand words in 100 days. To put that in some perspective, that’s 3,000 words per day, fifty percent more than a prolific author like Stephen King aimed for in his prime. In the book, Posnanski discusses why getting 3,000 hits is such an achievement. It means consistently hitting the ball over a period more than a decade. That means playing as much as possible, staying healthy, and still managing to make enough regular contact to get those hits. I think of 3,000 words a day for a hundred days as a similar achievement. And when you couple that with the reading, learning, and dreaming that Posnanski refers to, it really boggles the mind to think that all of this was written in 100 days.

Consider, that as of this post, I’ve published post for 283 consecutive days, writing 345 posts so far in 2021. My average post length is about 650 words, and I’ve written, on average, 1.2 posts per day. Doing that math, that means I’m writing about 780 words per day. Generally, these posts require little or no research, so I don’t have that to worry about. So, 283 days into the year, I’ve written a grand total of 222,000 words here on the blog. Posnanski wrote 300,000 in 100 days. That is just mind-boggling.

What makes it even more amazing, to me, is that, like the best baseball writing, Posnanski’s essays are engaging, have a distinct voice, and are endlessly fascinating. One of the great pleasures of the book is not looking ahead to see who will the next essay be about? It is almost as if, as each player gets better as you move down the list, each essay rises to the level of that player. As one writer looking at another, I am in awe. It is as if I am in the minor leagues, watching a Hall of Fame work in his prime.

It is at time like these that I think back to that day when I decided I was too busy to work on the college newspaper. I think I could have been a decent sportswriter. No Joe Posnanski, but I would have a done alright. And just imagine having a job like that? I never could have played in the majors, or minors for that matter, but when it came to sportswriting, I could have been a contender.

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My Favorite Story I’ve Written (So Far)

Occasionally I am asked what my favorite story that I’ve written is. I assume this means my favorite story that I’ve sold and has been published. This is not an easy question for a writer. It is like asking a parent, which of your children is your favorite. A common response, and one that I’ve used often, is: “The one that I’m working on now.”

Since it has been several years since I sold my last piece of fiction, and since I think of that initial period of about a dozen stories as Phase 1 of my writing career, I think can now admit to a definite favorite.

My favorite story from Phase 1 of my writing career (2007-2015) is “Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown.” It is currently freely available at Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show and I urge you all to go read it, if you haven’t already done so. The story received my all-time favorite review in Tangent Online. There, reviewer Ryan Holmes wrote:

All the little strings by which Rubin weaves the characters to each other and to the game itself create a tapestry even a non-baseball fan would enjoy, but this story isn’t about baseball. It’s about loving something more than ourselves and sacrificing everything for that love. It’s about family, the distance that can separate us from our loved ones, and yes, it’s about how baseball can bring us together

This is one of those stories that wrote itself. All I had to do was sit down at the keyboard and take dictation. The science fiction is secondary–a vehicle to sell it to a science fiction magazine. It is a story that could be told without the science fictional element, something that was more and more common with my later stories.

It is the first time I ever received the cover of a magazine, and Eric Wilkerson’s artwork for the story just blew me away. It was better than I could have possibly imagined. He captured Gemma from my words and turned her into a living, breathing person that really brings her to life.

There is a reason this story is on my mind today. Back in 2005 (pre-blog days) I went on a road trip with my brother to Cooperstown. We spent a few days there, touring the National Baseball Hall of Fame. My brother played baseball in college, and then played semi-pro ball after graduating. It was such a fun trip. It was also the last time I was in Cooperstown. (I’d been there at least twice before that as a kid.) Today, I am returning to Cooperstown, this time with my family. It is the second stop on our summer road trip, and I’m probably the only one looking forward to this particular stop. Mainly, I’m looking forward to standing in the Hall, among all of the plaques of the greatest players of the last 150 years or so, and imagining Gemma’s plaque in that space.

I’ll have more to say about my visit to the Hall of Fame in the days to come, but at least now you know why “Gemma Barrows” is on my mind. If you read it, I think it’s pretty easy to see why it is my favorite story of those that I have written so far.

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Project Sunrise: Ten Years to Full-time Writing

Sunrise over a lake

Today is the first day of my creative new year. It is also the first official day of an effort that I have calling “Project Sunrise” for short. Project Sunrise is a plan to transition to a full-time writer ten years from now when I retire. It involves three key elements:

  1. Improving my writing. Seriously improving my writing.
  2. Improving my overall health and well-being. Because I want to be in good shape when I retire.
  3. Improving my overall effectiveness and how I manage my time. So that I can make good use of what I have left.

I can see a lot of hands up so let me take some questions.

What do you mean by “improve my writing”?

I hinted at this in an earlier post, but I do have a specific plan in mind. I’ve always wanted to write, and I’ve had small successes writing short fiction and nonfiction. That said, I am most proud of the writing I do here on the blog than any other writing I have done. When I retire from my day job, I’ll be 59 years old. That is still relatively young. I’d like to try my hand as a full time writer, and what better way to begin than with the writing I enjoy most: the writing I do here.

Writing well takes practice. It took me fourteen years of practice before I made my first sale. I’ve been writing on this blog for 16 years already, and while that seems like a lot of practice, I’d like to take it to the next level. I’d like to see if I can not only get this blog back to where it was in its heyday, but surpass it. There was a time when I was commissioned for other writing gigs because of the work I did on this blog. I want to see if I can get there again, and where it will lead.

Initially, my plan was to try to write 10 novels in ten years because I admire novelists. But the more I considered it, the more I realized that the writing I most enjoy doing is shorter form, be it articles for magazines, short stories, and especially what I write here. Writing 10 novels might be enough practice to allow me to write full time. But I just don’t enjoy it the way I do shorter writing. And I think I’m better in shorter doses anyway. So rather than attempt 10 novels in ten years, I decided to focus on different aspects of my craft, and building on them year after year so when retirement comes, I have the chance of writing full time, and have built up the experience, credits, and stamina to do so.

This first year, which begins today, July 1, is focused on my writing here on the blog. Subsequent years will continue to build on what I’ve done here, but also look toward branching out. My long-term plan is to use the blog as my personal university for improving the writing I most enjoy so that more and more readers enjoy it as well.

One of the key elements to this is finding ways to measure my improvement. This goes beyond standard metrics. The number of views isn’t worth much because it doesn’t tell you if people actually read it. I want to learn from each post I write, figure out what worked, what didn’t and why so that I can improve next time around. The nice thing about writing here is that each post is opportunity to learn and improve. What matters most (after my own enjoyment, of course), is what my readers think, and I’m counting on you to provide honest feedback. This is part of the reason why I re-opened the comments on all 6,700+ posts here on the blog. Over this first year, I’m hoping to develop a set of metrics that I find useful in measuring quality and improvement, and of course, I’ll pass long what I find to you.

At the end of ten years I should have a lot more focused experience. Who knows, maybe this blog will have more visibility than it does today? And I am hopeful that it will lead to opportunities that will allow me to work as a full-time writer once I retire from my day job. That is the sunrise that I look forward to. Worst case is that when I begin my full-time job as a writer, I’ll have is ten years of experience working consciously to improve my craft.

What do you mean by “improve my overall health and well-being?”

In order to have the stamina to spend a decade writing while working a full time job and raising kids, I need to be in better shape than I am today. I need more exercise. I need to eat better. I need to find ways of clearing my mind so that I sleep better and respond better to challenges that come up. I see this as a practice as well, just like writing, a slow and stead one that will improve my overall health and well-being hand in hand with my writing over the next ten years. The result, I hope, is a more healthy decade, but also, I look to coming at full-time writing health and in good shape.

Why the name “Project Sunrise”?

When I was fleshing out this idea, I kept referring it to my “ten novels in ten years” project. That was too long-winded, and it became moot when I reconsidered and refocused my goals. So I made a list of possibilities, something short and simple that I could refer to and know what it meant. I came up with Project Sunrise, because a sunrise is a new beginning. Each creative year is a new beginning. And at the end of these next ten years, there is a new beginning for me as well, retiring from my day job to become a full time writer.

What do you mean by a “creative new year”?

One problem I have found with beginning new habits is that the traditional new year is a terrible time for me to start them. It is cold and dark in December and January and that does something to both my motivation and mood. It’s much easier for me to begin something new when the sun rises early, and sets late, when the temperature is warm, when I don’t have to deal with the activities that come with kids in school. This is true for writing as well as habits. It seemed to me, therefore, that to being my creative year on July 1 meant I was beginning when the air is warm and the nights are long, and getting up early to exercise doesn’t mean freezing in darkness.

Of course, darkness and cold will come, but by then I hope that my new habits, health and writing, will be well-established and it won’t matter.

Do you really think you’ll make it as a full time writer? What happens if you don’t?

When I started out writing, I was pretty haphazard about things and didn’t look closely at how I worked or ways I could improve. I just moved on to the next thing. It was probably part of the reason it took so long to start selling stories. Now, I have the confidence of knowing that I can write well enough to sell what I write a short length. Approaching this with a focus on practice, craft, and continuous improvement is the best shot that I have.

And if I don’t make it? Well, I can still write. There’s this blog. It’s been around for 16 years so far, and I don’t see why it would have to go anywhere. Besides, I’ll be retired. There won’t be pressure to find a means of employment. Still, my attitude going in is that I will make it. I may not be a bestselling writer, but I think I’ve a better than even shot of being able to write full time if I really try. I can visualize it, the way I did when I was young and imagined I would sell a story to Analog or get my private pilot’s license. It was never a question of if, but when.

Of course, along the way I’ll provide progress reports and lessons-learned. Part of this involves really looking at the work I do and how I do it and see how I can make incremental improvements over time.

Okay, I don’t see any more hands at this point, but if you still have questions about this, come find me. I’ll be waiting in the comments below.

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Playing the Long Game

When I started writing with the idea of selling stories, I was 20 years old, going on 21. When I sold my first story, fourteen years had passed. I wrote intermittently during those years. Sometimes pouring out stories, other times going months without writing a single word. Funny thing is, from the very start, I felt as if I would sell each story I wrote. It was years before I began to think of writing as a practice, and more years before I began to realize that the only way to improve was through that practice. And believe me, I needed a lot of practice. The lesson I drew from that is the answer I’ve given to many writers just starting out who ask what the “secret” is to selling stories: Practice, I say. Lots of practice.

I’ve been thinking about this for three reasons:

  1. I’m re-reading Stephen King’s novel Bag of Bones the main character of which, Mike Noonan, is a writer. That has me thinking about writing, naturally.
  2. I’ve felt like I’ve had writer’s block for the last several years. Indeed, reading about the (fictional) Noonan’s own experience with writer’s block was helpful, because it reads so much like my own. I want to write, but I am afraid to do it.
  3. We are beginning to plan for retirement, and that has me thinking of the passage of time.

I turned 49 this past March. Our current plans will see me retired from my day job when I turn 59-1/2. Call it ten years from this coming September. Ten years is still a long time, but given that I’ve worked at my company for nearly three times that (27 years this fall), it is conceivable. If there are no big surprises between now and then (a big if, of course), I’ll retire after 37 years with my company. Not too shabby in a time when five years at a company is a lifetime for many people in tech. Add to that 4 years I worked in college, and 3 years I worked through high school. All told, that’s 44 years of work.

Once retired, what then? I’ll still be (relatively) young. The natural thing for someone in my line of work would be consulting. The idea of consulting, however, makes me shudder. When I began writing I was a junior in college. I had to write “in the margins”; that is, I wrote in whatever little gasps of time I could find. Once I graduated and got a job, it was the same. I worked all day, and wrote when I could. I’ve often dreamed of what it would be like to really have time to write. When I retire, I told myself, I could do that.

And that is, more or less, my plan. But I have also always been pragmatic about my writing. It’s something that I enjoy, but it is something that I am also paid for. The money I’ve made from my writing has never been much more than pin money. It bought me a laptop. But I couldn’t live for a month on the total money I’ve from my writing so far.

Maybe retirement can be different. Maybe I can actually supplement my retirement with writing income. Of course, to make more than pin money as a writer you have to write books–for a fiction writer, this means novels. I’ve written a single novel draft in my life, back in 2013. Moreover, your novels have to be good enough to sell. They don’t have a to sell particularly well–we wouldn’t be planning to retire at 59-1/2 if we couldn’t afford to–but it would be an added bonus if they did.

Thinking about all of this recently, I wondered how I could get to the point where I’d be able to write a novel well enough to have a decent chance of selling it. And I had a kind of epiphany, courtesy of Mike Noonan (or maybe, Stephen King). In Bag of Bones Noonan’s writer’s block is hidden from everyone for the first four years he has it thanks to a trick he had up his sleeve. Over the course of 10 years of writing novels, the fictional Noonan wrote 2 novels in 4 of those year and put them in a safe deposit box. He was playing a long game. It was these 4 novels that gave him breathing room when his writer’s block set in.

My epiphany came from the fact that Noonan was expected (as most mid-list writers are expected) to write a novel a year. And he did this for ten years. Ten years. That’s just about how much time I have before I retire. As in most of my own stories, one idea isn’t good enough. It has to collide with another idea before there is chemistry. The idea this collided with was my advice to new writers: the secret to selling stories is to practice.

I’ve always been a short story writer. It took me a while to get to the point where I felt I understood the form and could write a story that would sell. If I had to do it all over again, I’d practice more, trunk stories that I knew were junk after learning what I could from them, and then move on to the next one. Many writers I know had not only written many short stories before they began to sell, but many novels too. I’d never done that.

Looking at it now, maybe I am finally in a position to play the long game. I have a little over ten years between now and retirement: if I could write a novel a year for the next ten years, that should give me plenty of practice. Ten novels is a lot of practice by any standard. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this really may be a thing. Not only does it give me a target to write to, but it also:

  • Allows me to try things without much risk. For instance, I plan to experiment, writing different types of novels to get a feel at what works best for me. Maybe some s.f., maybe some mainstream. Maybe some mysteries. Maybe some thrillers or horror. Why not? I’ve got ten tries. I should explore, right?
  • Gives me a framework to figure out how best to organize my time. I don’t want to spend every waking moment in retirement writing. We have other plans, too, which includes travel and doing all of the things we didn’t do because we were saving for retirement. So figuring out when to write, how much is reasonable, etc. is the part of the practice.
  • May result in a novel manuscript ready to submit when I do retire. Assuming, of course, that with practice, I will improve somewhat each time around, maybe the 9th or 10th year will produce a story that I can actually sell, thus giving me a little head start when the clock rolls over into retirement time.

For some reason, this idea has caught fire with me over the last few days. For the first time in a long time, I actually feel like writing. I’m not quite ready to write. I’m still thinking through the overall logistics of my plan. And I do need a plan. That is one thing I’ve found that helps me focus. A novel is a big task. Breaking that task down into small steps makes it feel much more manageable to me.

Is it possible? It is possible that when I retire, I can write and begin to sell novels? I think it is. I’m not deluding myself into thinking I’ll be anything more than a minor writer, but I have two things in my favor that I think give me a big advantage: (1) I’m willing to work hard, and put in the practice necessary, even if it means throwing most of those drafts away; and (2) I’ve already proven that I can write fiction well enough to sell it in short form.

So when does all of this begin? Like I said, this is a new idea for me, and the plan is still germinating in my mind. (What does write a novel a year mean? Does it mean write a draft and throw it away? Does it mean write a draft, set it aside for a while, and then write a second draft–my usual practice for short fiction?) Right now, I’m thinking of trying to have a plan finalized before the end of the summer. That means I’d begin carrying it out sometime in September–just about exactly 10 years before my planned retirement date.

I am playing the long game here. A lot can happen in ten years. But I am exciting at the thought of attempting this. I am excited at the thought of actually trying to write again. And I have a fictional writer to thank for the inspiration. That seems almost poetic to me.

Five Years of Writer’s Block

First admit you have a problem

Of all of the stories I’ve written, my favorite thus far is “Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown.” The story was published as the lead story in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show in May 2015. I finished writing the final draft of the story on Friday, March 13, 2015, and submitted to the magazine’s editor, Edmund Schubert, that same day. Just under two weeks later, Ed emailed to let me know he was taking the story. I’ve never been a superstitious person. I never noted (until now) that I finished the story on Friday the 13th. And besides, what did it matter? I sold the story, and it ended up getting the cover of the magazine, and some nice reviews as well.

I haven’t finished writing a story since. 

“Gemma Barrows” was baseball fiction, and baseball fans love their stats. Friday, March 13, 2015 was 2,137 days ago (according to Alexa, who hadn’t yet been born at that time).

I’ve attempted to write stories during that time. But I’ve never finished one. I’ve never really gotten close to finishing one.

At the time I sold “Gemma” I was coming off of what, for me, was a hot streak. I was selling most of what I was writing at the time, fiction and nonfiction. I was also drifting away from what first got me writing: science fiction. More and more my stories were “science fiction” for the purpose of having convenient markets to sell them to. But the stories were less and less science fictional. For some reason, after “Gemma Barrows” my lifelong interest in science fiction waned dramatically. I mostly stopped reading science fiction. And the stories I attempted to write, while containing a fantastic element here or there, were not stories I’d consider to be science fiction.

Whatever the reason, after March 13, 2015, I found that I had problem: I could no longer finish writing a story.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat

That is not to say that I could no longer write. I had, and still have, no problem writing nonfiction pieces, including the pieces I write here on the blog, and elsewhere. I also had plenty of story ideas. My writers block is not for lack of ideas, it seems. And it is not to say that I stopped writing stories. I just couldn’t finish what I started.

In fact, in the nearly six years since that day in 2015, I have often felt like Phil Conners waking up morning after morning to find that it is still February 2. This began with a story that I started to write (so far as I can tell from my notes) way back in December 2013, but that I started on in earnest in 2014, even before I wrote “Gemma Barrows.” This was another baseball story, and was more or less straight fiction, with one small fantastical twist. I wrote and I wrote, and then I stopped. I didn’t like the pace of the story. I knew where it was going, as I do with most of my stories, but I felt wrong to me.

To get myself back on track, I created a new document, and retyped the opening paragraph, which I liked, and which I felt had a great hook. I then tried rewriting the story from there. But it still didn’t work. I tried this again, and again, always keeping the same opening but writing beyond it without looking at what I had done before. I made three attempts, six, twelve. Looking at that folder just now I see a total of 61 drafts between 2014, and my latest attempt on December 13, 2020.

I’d long since given up on the opening I was so committed to. I’d changed just about every aspect of the story, writing and rewriting, trying different things. But never getting past a certain point. I told myself that I just wasn’t experienced enough to tell this story, and I should wait, maybe write about something else.

I started another story, one that had been floating around in my head for a few years. I conceived it as a 3-part novella, and I wrote the first part quickly, and in style and voice different from what I normally write. I reallyliked it. I submitted the first part to my writers’ group—the first submission I’d made in a long time—and got positive feedback from them on the story. I setup a lot in the 4,400-word first part, and there would have to be a big payoff. But for some reason, I could never move on to the second part.

I’d sit down after days or weeks and tell myself that in order to get that voice back in my head, I’d need to rewrite the first part. Re-type it, really. I’d open the draft in one window, open a blank document beside it, and retype what I had written. All 4,400 words. I did this more times than I can recall. I switched word processors and did it again. I wrote out the 4,400 words long hand in a Leuchtturm notebook. This dragged on over several years. In moments of desperation, I’d wonder to myself if the first part wasn’t the entire story. Did I really need anything more?

Growing even more desperate, I decided to return to the draft of the one and only novel I’d ever written from back in 2013. Maybe it was finally time for me to turn that first draft into a second draft. I started reading the first draft, but no new writing ever came from it. Instead, I turned my attention to a fantasy story I’d written but never sold. Maybe I could rewrite it as a play. (A play? Seriously? I’d never written a play in my life, nor had I ever had the desire to write one. What was I thinking?) Or, if not a play, maybe I could expand it into an epic novel, a la Brandon Sanderson? Nothing came of that either, thank goodness.

I couldn’t move forward. That seemed to be the crux of the problem. I couldn’t finish what I started, and when I finally did decide to move onto something else, it was not onto something brand new, but something old that I felt I could make better. Six years of this cycle: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.


I still thought of myself as a writer. After all, I’d sold about a dozen stories, and three times as many nonfiction pieces, right? I filled the time I should have spent writing with writing-related tasks. I told myself the problem was that I didn’t have a good environment for writing. I should do everything in plain text with a simple text editor. When that didn’t change things, I told myself I needed more structure, and went back to Scrivener. When that didn’t help, I started using a Freewrite I’d gotten, thinking that writing on a device like that, completely offline and distraction-free would be the ticket. None of it worked, of course.

I distracted myself with other writerly tasks. I decided I would archive all of my previous writing as far back as I could manage to go (another journey into the past, instead of the future). I had Word files from 1992 including the very first story I’d written when I decided I wanted to try selling stories. I would get all of these files archived, and at least be able to look back over the hundreds of files and demonstrate to myself that I hadbeen able to write.

I distracted myself by writing a set of scripts that would look at the git commits I made of my writing each day to generate word counts, so that I could track my progress. The scripts worked surprisingly well, but scripts like these are really only useful when there are, you know, words to count.

I told myself that the enormous amount of reading I was doing was all laying the foundation that would make me a better writer.

The fiction we tell ourselves

When I was young, my grandfather would often quote Hamlet, saying, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” As I got older, he found what I always took to be an amusing and ironic corollary. He’d say to me, “There are only two people I never lie to: myself, and my doctor.”

I might not be able to finish writing a story, but I could still tell myself stories. Could I ever! Tall tales! Fish stories! I’d tell myself that I was a better nonfiction writer than a fiction writer, anyway, so don’t sweat the fiction. Focus on the nonfiction.

I’d tell myself that I had the perfect outlet for my nonfiction right here on the blog. I’d write posts about writing even while struggling with my own fiction writing. What I’d do, I’d tell myself, is not worry about the fiction and focus on the blog, make it into one of the premier blogs on the Internet.

I remind myself of all the times I’d read about other authors struggling with their own writing. I’d tell myself that quality meant much more to me than quantity. I’d always been a slow writer when it came to fiction. I could finish these stories if I wanted to. Heck, I’d been finishing stories since that first one in 1992. But I didn’t just want to finish, I wanted to write the best possible story I could write. I wanted to take it to the next level. I wasn’t writing stories for the science fiction magazines anymore, I told myself, I was writing for Harper’s—that was my new goal. I justified this by reminding myself that when I started out, I wanted my name on the byline of a story in Analog just like Isaac Asimov wanted to see his name on a byline in Analog’s earlier incarnation, Astounding. I wanted my name in Harper’s just like E. B. White had his name there. Even here I was fooling myself. The stories I was reading in the science fiction magazines, before I have it up were at least as good as the fiction I’ve read in Harper’s.

I kept (and still keep) my membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America active, telling myself it is yet another sign that I am a writer, proof-positive for anyone who needs evidence–namely me!

I’ve told myself all kinds of stories over the last six years. None of them were true. There’s the old adage that a fiction writer is a paid liar. By that definition, I’m up there with the best of them. Except, instead of lying to my audience, I’ve been lying to myself.

The next page

The truth is, I’ve been struggling with my writing for the last six years. I can’t finish a story. I can’t even move past one. I hesitate to admit this publicly because I fear it comes across as just another excuse, just another distraction, just another gimmick to fool myself into thinking that I am writing.

The first step is admitting you have a problem. But what if the problem has no solution? If I am being completely honest (this above all else), part of me hopes that by writing this post, my problem will go away, and I’ll find that I can write again.  I doubt that will be the case. Writing fiction is hard for me. That’s the way it should be. Why do it if it is easy?

I suspect that writer’s block is different for every writer who experiences it. No one piece of advice will get me over the wall, except, perhaps, stubborn persistence. Writing fiction isn’t about word counts, or word processors, or document formats or union memberships, or contracts. It’s about facing that blank page in whatever form it may take and turning it into a story that you are proud of. Right now, that blank page seems daunting to me in a way that it never has before. Right now, I feel intimidated by all the good writers that are out there who manage to fill that blank page, whatever their other day-to-day challenges might be. It is easy to say to myself, “just sit down and write a story.” It is even easy to begin to fill that blank page.

The hard part, for me, is filling the next page. And the one after that.

Two rejections before noon

I received two story rejections before noon today, and in some ways, they were oddly juxtaposed.  The first one was from a professional market to which I have never submitted before.  The rejection told me that the story made it past the first cut and went on to detail many of the good points of the story, but that in the end, they simply couldn’t put their finger on what was wrong with it.  In any event, it wasn’t quite right.  It was nice to get such detailed feedback from a pro market, and even though it wasn’t a sale, it was a confidence builder–especially since that story was written back in January.  It shows I am still improving.

Of course, some of that confidence was wiped away with the second rejection I received today.  It was from another professional market, one to which I have already sold a story, and in which my fiction has already appeared.  It was a form letter rejection slip.  In the past, I have received quite a bit of editorial feedback on stories I’ve submitted to this market, and so a form letter rejection felt like a step backward for me.

At the same time, it makes me want to try even harder to sell there again.  Rejections are always disappointing, but over time, you learn that you can’t dwell on them too much; you learn what you can from them and move on.  In that light, I’ve already submitted one of the rejected stories to another market.  For the other, I am making a few minor changes, based on what the editors pointed out as possible problems, before I sent it off tomorrow.

Writing update

With the first two months of 2010 in the record books, here is a brief update of my progress so far this year:

  Jan Feb YTD
Days worked  11  9  21
Words written  12,212  8,479  20,691
Stories completed  1  1  2
Stories submitted  2  1  3

Despite writing only 10 days in February, they were 9 consecutive days, the last 9 days of the month.  Then, too, when you look at overall hours spent on writing, or writing-related activities it breaks down to 16 hours in January (just shy of 1.5 hours for each day worked) and 17 hours in February (1.8 hours for each day worked).  As of this morning I have written for each of the last ten mornings, spending a total of about 2 hours each morning either writing or revising.

I’ve gotten myself back into a good schedule.  During the week, I get up at 5am and write until 7am, when Kelly and the baby are still asleep.  On the weekends, I write from 7-9 am.

I have completed 2 stories this year, one very short, the other, a good sized novelette.  This morning, I started my third story of the year, which I hope won’t exceed 6,000 words, and with luck, will be turned into a completed first draft by Saturday.  I didn’t write as much this morning, as I have been, because I am taking this story a bit more slowly, writing a little more deliberately, and not planning things out as well as I normally do.  I want to see where this one takes me.

At present, I’ve got two stories "out" at various markets, and a new one being reviewed by trusted critiquers and fellow-writers before sending it out.  My goal was 20 new stories this year.  I’m 10% of the way there with 16% of the year gone by.  With some shorter stories in the spring, I should be able to pick up the pace a bit.

Recent writing

For the last three days, I have been getting up early and writing, much like I did back in November for NaNoWriMo.  It has been working well for me.  I have averaged about 1,800 words each day, I spend a total of about 2 hours at the keyboard, and then I’m done for the day.  For me, this seems to be the best possible way to find the time to write and leave the rest of the day for work and the evenings for family time.  It is far better than how I was doing for most of February, where I wrote almost nothing.

The new story that I’m working on (no title yet) currently stands at about 8,600 words (nearly 6,000 of which have been written since Saturday) and I think I have around 3,000 words to go, putting the story at around 11,000 words.  I’m hoping to finish the first draft around Wednesday.  It’s a science fiction adventure story with what I hope is an increasingly rapid pace, a race against a critical deadline with life-altering consequences.  How’s that for vague?

This morning, after writing one scene, I skipped ahead toward the end and wrote a pivotal scene:  one that I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time (this story has been on my list for a few years), and it was a lot of fun to get to do that.  It is a very moving scene in my opinion, and one that can be difficult to write, but those challenging scenes are often the most rewarding.  It’s not perfect and needs work, but I’ve been very happy with what I have been producing the last 3 days.

Writers woes

I haven’t written at all this week.  It’s not because I lack the ideas.  I think there are 3 reasons for it:

  1. I am mentally reworking the story that I was writing.  This comes from some of the workshopping I did two summers ago.  I could see problems with the story as it was going, and I’m trying to redirect it in situ.  Actually, I think this is a good thing: a sign that I am recognizing these problems sooner.  But there is one plot point I can’t seem to make work and so I keep putting off writing, hoping it will come to me.  That, of course, is bad.
  2. I’m pretty tired in the evenings when I get home from work.  I also feel guilty that some of my writing time eats away at time with Zach and Kelly.  Clearly the solution to this is to go back to early morning writing, which worked so well in November.
  3. I’ve been doing a lot more reading.  I finished the massive and fascinating Kornbluth bio, and I’m more than halfway though and equally fascinating (for different reasons) Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson.  In addition I’ve been trying to stay on top of NEW SCIENTIST and SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.

Bottom line is that I keep putting it off in favor of other things.  I just have to sit down and do it.  I’ve been averaging something like 3000-4000 words a week when I could easily double that by writing every day.  Weekends end up being the worst.

Well, it’s late now.  I’m going to read for 20 minutes before heading off to bed.

Originally published at Jamie’s Blog. Please leave any comments there.

Book signing

Yesterday, I wandered over to a friend’s house–we’ll call him "Todd"–to borrow shovel.  While there, he told me he’d received his copy of DESCENDED FROM DARKNESS, the anthology of short fiction containing my story, "Hindsight, In Neon".  He asked me to sign it.  I think it was a fair trade, considering he was loaning me his shovel.  (I managed to break our shovel in the last snow storm.)

It marked the first time I was asked to sign something in which a story of mine appeared.

Weekly writing progress report for 2010, week #4

Here’s the status of the progress I’ve made toward my writing goals for 2010 for week #3:

  Week YTD
Total words written 3,159 12,212
# stories completed 0 1
# stories submitted 0 2
# stories sold 0 0
Summary:  Not as good as I hoped this week.  Busy with work and family stuff, but I am happy with what I have done thus far on the story and I think I will make a lot more progress on story #2 in the coming week.

Weekly writing progress report for 2010, week #3

Here’s the status of the progress I’ve made toward my writing goals for 2010 for week #3:

  Week YTD
Total words written 4,202 9,053
# stories completed 1 1
# stories submitted 2 2
# stories sold 0 0
Summary: Well, the best week so far, out of the first three weeks of the year.  I completed my first story of the year.  After struggling with the story, mostly in how to tell it, I opted to try for a short approach rather than the longer approach that I was heading for.  The final draft was about 950 words and I sent the story off to Flash Fiction Online.  It wasn’t the first piece of flash fiction I’d ever written, but it was certainly the first conscious piece.  This week I’m getting started on the next story, of which I’m hoping to have a completed draft by February 4.  This is a story I’ve been wanted to write for a long time, but which I haven’t been sure how to do it right.  I think I’ve got that figured out now and I’ve been plotting it out in my head.  I should get the first words down this evening.