Category Archives: Writing

Entries where I talk about my writing: stories, novels, general creativity.

2018: A Year in Writing

Writers of the Future Contest Honorable Mention

Received for my short story “Burying Uncle Albert”.

So here’s what I did in 2018 with regards to writing.

I finished the first draft of Padma, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2016, and submitted it to my critique group. I won’t hear back from them about it until later this month, and I expect their comments will be pretty brutal. That’s okay. I can take it.

I didn’t write very many short stories. In fact, I really only wrote one, “Sauromancy”, and it’s still in rough draft mode.

I started (re-started?) to rewrite The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, a novel which began life as Fred Again, which I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2005. I revisit this one every couple of years because I think there’s a solid story there, if only I can get it dug out of the marble in which it resides.

I submitted thirty-eight short stories, and received rejections on thirty-seven of them. Ten of those rejections were personal, and a couple of those were of the “Not quite, but please send us more” variety, which is always pleasant.

I also submitted my short story “Burying Uncle Albert” to the Writers of the Future contest. It received honorable mention, which is actually quite better than I was expecting. If you want to read that story, let me know; I’ve squirreled it away in a tiny little corner of my website, hidden behind a password.

I only sort of participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2018, choosing to revise Padma instead of writing something new. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for sixteen years, and I have something like twelve completed rough drafts out of it. I think maybe five of them are worth pursuing. But as long as I committed to writing something new each November, I wasn’t going to finish any of them. So I feel like I’ve gotten everything out of NaNoWriMo that I’m going to get that’s of value to my creative career. I still like hanging out with other writers, though. That’s always fun.

Moving forward, I want to:

  • Finish revising The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.
  • Finish up several short stories, including “The BEM”, “A Pine Romance”, “Sauromancy”, “Anamet”, and “Magnificent”.
  • Write a rough draft of my historical science fiction novel Shine.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Back I go now into the word mines.

Haven’t done one of these for awhile

It’s a writing update! Yay!

I must admit that one of the first thoughts I had when I was laid off was not, “How are we going to make ends meet?” but, “Oooh, lots of time to write now!”

But the reality is that hunting for work has taken up more time than I intended or expected, whether it’s wandering around the job hunting websites, updating resumes on these sites, responding to emails, sending out emails, making and receiving phone calls, and, of course, going to interviews. Although I schedule time in the afternoons to get some writing done, it just usually doesn’t happen.

The words are still getting out, though.

It’s November, which, of course, means it’s National Novel Writing Month. I decided to be a “rebel” this years; in other words, instead of writing an original 50,000 word novel this month, I’m instead revising Padma, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2016. I’m finding it’s difficult to do so, though. While I’m comfortable with the mythological and cosmological elements I’ve included, there’s a lot of medical information — specifically, hospital procedures and what it’s like to be a medical student — that I don’t know anything about. So I need to do more research than I had originally done. Fortunately I have some resources — and people I know who either work or have worked in hospitals — who can give me some tips and pointers.

I am stalled on a couple of short stories I’d hoped to get written. “Sauromancy” needs to be revised. And I need to finish “Mossroot”. I’m particularly annoyed by “Mossroot” since I’d hoped to finish that one before November so I could submit it to the Unlocking the Magic anthology. Alas, I did not. I think it’s a good idea, though, so I’m going to keep working on it.

Oh! And The Solitude of the Tentacles Space Monster continues apace. Though I’m getting fewer words in on that than I’d like, it’s still happening. I hope to have a draft done by January.

My really spiffy news is that my short story “Burying Uncle Albert” received Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest. Yay! I’m aware of the controversies surrounding that particular contest, but I still think this is cool. This honor is for the Fourth Quarter contest, so it won’t actually show up on the website until January, I think, but still. Neat-o.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I probably won’t post again until after Thanksgiving, so I hope you have a splendid holiday!

More adventures in spam

About a week ago, I received an email in my spam folder that had the subject line “rscrawford: XXXXXXXXXXXX” where that long line of Xs was the deprecated password of a website I rarely visit and which I knew had been compromised at one point. The email was wordy and poorly written, but the gist of it was something along the lines of, “I know what you did and I recorded it and I’ll send it out to every person in your contacts list unless you pay me $7,000 in BitCoin currency,” along with a link were I could send that currency.

This amused me, since, really, I have nothing to hide. I thought about writing back with a message to that effect — “Go on, do your worst!” — but I know it’s never a good idea to engage with these kinds of people. I mean, I know President Trump is doing his best to end unfair and unjust discrimination against the idiotic criminal class, but, still.

Meanwhile, I’ve had bronchitis for something like two weeks now. The breathing is better now, though the cough remains. The Prednisone remains fun stuff to take. When I get sick for this long, I tend to get emotional. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa runs away and Homer holds her saxophone? Yeah, that one did me in.

And yesterday while working I had Young Frankenstein playing in the background. And when it came to the scene where the creature, having just performed “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, panicked at the sight of a flame and was dragged away by the police… Yeah, I started crying at that as well.

A co-worker of mine tells me that their reaction to Prednisone is exactly the opposite of mine: for them, the drug causes euphoria, energy, and hyperactivity. This is unfair. I’m going to file a complaint somewhere.

We’re still fostering kittens. After Delilah and Fern were adopted, the fostering agency sent us eight (8) to foster. That was about a month ago, I guess, and now we’re down to one. Mouse is a feisty orange and white kitten, lots of love and lots of energy and personality. I was sure she’d be adopted her first week at placement, but that didn’t happen.

The writing is continuing. I’ve finished the Evil Barf Draft of my fantasy story involving fossil hunters in America’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century. I am going to be pushing it to get The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster and Padma done by their due dates, but that’s okay. Last minute panic is a great motivator.

I’m also drafting a contemporary (well, set in the 1930s) fantasy involving jazz music and baseball, and I’m in the early stages of putting together a “noblebright” (as opposed to “grimdark”) fantasy story for an anthology that I’d love to be published in. All that, on top of my goal of keeping six active submissions going all at the same time, is keeping me mighty busy. Good for me.

What’s on your plate or your mind?

 

Sundry

I’m not sure why this is happening to me, but by my estimate I’ve now received five spam emails over the course of a year advertising “quick and easy” sex changes. This is not something I’ve pondered. This is not something I’ve ever hunted for online. I’ve never inquired into the possibility with my physician, nor mentioned in passing to any of my friends. I doubt I’ve ever clicked on an ad that would send me these messages.

I’m starting to become curious in spite of myself…


Writing continues, though I’ve fallen pretty far behind in both Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster and “Sauromancy”, my two current projects. I had a good conversation with my friend Michael recently who helped me gain some much-needed perspective on my career as a writer, and who has been encouraging me to have at least two novels (or at least their outlines) ready by WorldCon in August. STSM (or at least a first draft thereof) will definitely be done by then and I’ll have a solid outline of Padma by then as well.

Have I mentioned that Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster is basically a rewrite of my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel, Fred Again? Because it is.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, two weeks ago I officially submitted the form to not be a Municipal Liaison for our region this year. I started MLing in 2007, which means I’ve got eleven years of it under my belt. I still haven’t decided whether I’m even going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I like the camaraderie and company that I get during November, but I also feel like I’ve gotten all I’m going to get from it, after having participated for sixteen (!) years.

This seems like a good place to mention that I’ve moved things around and added a couple of pieces to my Writing site (linked to above).


Weight Loss is coming along, slower than I would like, but it’s happening. I’ve set up some non-food rewards for myself for every ten pounds that I lose. The rewards are mostly DVDs of the classic Universal horror monster movies; last week I purchased The Creature from the Black Lagoon, because I loved that movie when I was a kid and because I have a story idea that involves the Creature.

I also bought a FitBit Alta, one of the models that fits around your wrist, because my Zip, the one that slips into your pocket, cracked and stopped working and new ones are on back order, shipping within two to three weeks. Which is a lot for someone like me, who grew up in the 80s and its instant gratification culture.

am eating healthier foods, at least. And I’ve got some special tasks in Habitica to help me keep on track.


So that’s what I’ve got going on in my life right now. What about you?

Writing and Depression, Part Two

So, here I am, over a month later, and feeling pretty much the same way: Struggling with my depression and struggling with my writing.

According to the National Novel Writing Month website, I’ve written 772,303 words in various NaNoWriMo projects. Add to that the number of words I’ve written on short stories, aborted novels that I never bothered finishing, and so on, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve written around about one million words of fiction, and that’s in this century alone, when I decided I was going to take this writing thing really seriously.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo sixteen times; in 2012, the novel I wrote was merely a continuation of what I wrote in 2011, so I guess I’ve written fifteen novels during that time. Only a few of those I feel were “completed”, in that they had the words THE END on the last page. And even so, I have not revisited most of those novels, to revise or rewrite them. The only exceptions are the Fred Again, which I wrote in 2005, and which I’m rewriting now as The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster; and Padma, which I wrote in 2016 and which I’m rewriting as well. Still, though, shouldn’t I have at least one completed novel by now?

In short, through writing those million or so words, I’ve accomplished very little.

I don’t think this is imposter syndrome; I see imposter syndrome as being the sort of thing you contract when you achieve some sort of accolade or accomplishment, and feel as though you don’t deserve it. No, this is just me feeling frustrated that I’ve come this far without having moved past the “early career writer” stage, and feeling like I never will.

New story online!

Sort of.

I put “Burying Uncle Albert” here on my website. However, it’s got a secret URL, and is password-protected. If you want to read it, let me know.

Edit March 26, 2018: This story is no longer available.

On Being a Writer with Depression

I’m probably not the most authoritative person to write about this topic, since (a) while I write, I’ve published very little; and (b) my depression isn’t actually that bad, thanks to medicine, a very supportive network of friends and family, and years of therapy. So I can only speak to my own experience.

Hi. My name is Richard, and I am a writer with depression.

That probably describes a lot of writers, honestly. I don’t know a single one of us who suffers from a surfeit of self-confidence. Heck, one writer friend of mine says that one of the most important ingredients to being a writer is self-loathing.

I have wanted to be a writer all my life. I admit that I’ve taken breaks from actually writing for years at a time, though. I didn’t do much creative writing in college (unless you count philosophy papers), and for years afterward I concentrated on developing a career as a web developer. Around 2001 I decided to pick up writing again and make a serious go of it. I’ve worked during that time to improve my craft, to write stories that matter to me, and so on. Seventeen years later, I’ve published a few stories here and there, but I’m still waiting for my “breakout” story. I maintain six active submissions at all times, using The Submissions Grinder to track them. I feel like I’m doing everything “right”, but I’m getting nowhere.

Part of this current funk is a rejection I received yesterday afternoon1. The story is, I believe, a good one. My crit group loved it, and I got good feedback on it from a professional writer who agreed to critique it (Not for free, it was because they offered critique services to a certain level of support on their Patreon account). I sent it to a market that seemed like a perfect fit, but, of course, received a rejection. The rejection contained language that said they looked forward to seeing more from me, but that language is, I believe, form language that most editors send with their rejection slips. I certainly did when I was editing Daikaijuzine. Some editors honestly do include that language only when they really mean it, but I have gotten a number of actual form rejections that added, “We hope you keep us in mind for future submissions” or wording to that effect.

The depressive part of me, of course, is telling me that this is all hopeless, that it’s all a numbers game that’s stacked against me. When you see the same names come up on the market listings, it’s hard to not convince yourself that being published is not so much how well you write but by how well you know the right people. Note that this is objectively not true, but it’s hard not to think it when you’re in the throes of this kind of funk.

I enjoy writing. I wish I hadn’t taken such a long break from it. And I’m vain enough to want my stories read by as many people as possible. Still though. Today my mind is saying, “Why bother?”

Why bother indeed.

Beta… Gamma… Whatever… Readers Requested

My comedic contemporary fantasy short story “A Pine Romance”, which features the Jersey Devil (pictured to the left), REALLY needs some love. I’ve revised it numerous times in the past 18 months, and I’ve had many people read it. I want to make this story marketable, because I think it’s a good one and has some great elements to it, even if it currently lacks what we writers like to call “cohesion”.

If you’re at all interested, please drop me your email address in the form below or using my “Contact Richard” page (or post a comment on FB or Twitter). Even if you’ve read it before, your additional input would be greatly appreciated. The story in its current incarnation is about 6,000 words long.

Thanks to all!

EDIT: This form was attracting a lot of spam (surprise!). So please indicate your favorite color in the line provided so as to make it clear that you’re a person.

A Brief Writing Update, Because I Can’t Think of Anything Else to Write

Submission Stats: So far in 2018 I’ve submitted fifteen pieces, of which four are still outstanding. I’ve collected ten form rejections and one personal rejection. I also have two submissions outstanding from 2017. Dammit, I NEED CLOSURE!

I’m not sure I’m on track to gather 100 rejections in 2018. I think I will have to up my game just a bit.

A Wee Change to My Plan: I spent a few hours over the past couple of days researching what life is like for ER doctors, and discovered that there’s a lot to learn. I found a book, Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine, which I think will be pretty useful in my research. I also did a little research into the “Big Rip” theory of the end of the Universe, and a little bit of research into Hindu mythology and life on the streets in Delhi in India.

All of which is to say, I am reminded of how much work I need to do in order to do justice to Padma. Have any of my writing friends felt like they were unworthy of an idea that they had? That’s sort of where I’m at.

At any rate, I had originally planned to have a good draft of Padma done by July 1, but that’s only four months away. So I think I’m going to swap things around, and have a good draft of Padma done by December 31, and a good draft of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster by July. Thoughts, anyone?

Short stories are progressing apace. I’m working on a new one, have an idea for another new one, and in the midst of revising a couple more.

Haven’t made any progress on any non-fiction articles, but I have an idea for one. My plan is to have something done and posted to my science blog by the end of next month.

And that’s all I’ve got right now. Have a great day, everyone.