Category Archives: Writing

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

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.

 

Writing Update No. Whatever

A few years ago I attended a writers’ conference at Sac State. There were editors and agents present, and I got to meet with one of them. I had submitted the first chapter of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster (you know, the one with the laser cows). She read it and said she really enjoyed it (except for one or two minor flaws) and asked me to send her more. Sadly, that was the only chapter of that uncompleted novel that I felt confident in.

I’ve since lost that agent’s card, phone number, and email address, and I never did send her more. Insert sad face here.

Over the years I’ve attempted several times to rewrite The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, but without any success. But now I’m determined to tackle it and finalize a draft that I can be proud of should I ever encounter that agent again. And I’m determined to have that done by December 31, 2018 (I also plan to have a worthy draft of Padma done by June).


Meanwhile, I had a great deal of fun over the past week or so having our web host install Let’s Encrypt on our server so that I could secure our various websites. Like this one. Look up in the address bar and you’ll see a little padlock icon, and the URL is now prefaced with https instead of plain old http. This is pretty cool.

What’s not cool is all the hacking that happened on my Jennifer’s website. I spent days tracking down rogue JavaScript, PHP, and other stuff, including code that had been inserted into the database itself. Fortunately, that’s all fixed, and a recent scan by Google indicates that the site is, once more, clean and safe and secure. A dozen password changes later, I’m confident that this won’t happen again.

That’s all that’s going on for me right now (aside from the permanent wheezing and cough but that’s a whine for another day). How are you?

Writing Goals for the New Year

I believe in accountability, in goal-setting, and in a proper fusion of the two. To that end, I’m hereby putting out into the world my writing goals for 2018.

  • First: I plan to write six original short stories this year (including the current one, “How the Old Ones Saved Christmas”).
  • Second: I plan to revise six stories that need heavy revision before heading into the wilds. For example, “Burying Uncle Albert” requires a heavy restructuring to rebuild its central theme and a major subplot.
  • Third: I plan to write three non-fiction science articles to publish on my science blog, The Penguin Scientific. That’s an average of one article every four months. Surely in a four-month period I can put together a well-researched science story accessible by humans.
  • Fourth: Finish up the first draft of Padma. Due by June 15.
  • Fifth: Finish outlining another novel. Don’t know which one yet. Possibly due by November 1, depending on whether I participate in National Novel-Writing Month 2018, which isn’t guaranteed at this point.
  • Finally: I have a goal to hit 100 submissions for the year. I had 69 submissions for 2017, none of which ended in a sale. But I have a good feeling about 2018!

That’s it. Those are my writing goals for 2018. What are yours?

On Quitting and When It’s Good for the Soul

Last Saturday night, with just under a week of November left, I decided to quit NaNoWriMo this year. This means that I won’t be finishing up And the Devil Will Drag You Under, and that for the first time in sixteen years of participating, I won’t “win” NaNoWriMo (meaning, I won’t reach that 50,000 word goal).

This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I did it after much soul searching and pondering. After all, after participating for sixteen years, it feels like a matter of honor to cross the finish line and reach that word count goal. I’d like to see that little purple bar in my profile on the NaNoWriMo website, but it’s not going to happen this year. And as a Municipal Liaison, it sort of behooves me to do my best to participate for the entire month, and quitting it feels like a dereliction of duty.

So why would I do such a thing?

Mainly, I just wasn’t into the novel. While I think that And the Devil Will Drag You Under has some interesting elements to it, on the whole I wasn’t enjoying it. Working on it had become a chore, and no fun at all; and by Saturday, when the word count goal was supposedly 41,675, I had only reached 13,962. And every moment that I was working on Devil, I was actually fantasizing about other works in progress that I want to work on. Padma, for example. And the five short stories that I’m working on to get ready to market. But no, I couldn’t work on those while NaNoWriMo was going on, which meant that I was beginning to resent Devil, and NaNoWriMo itself. I didn’t want to go into that psychic space. I’m not burned out on NaNoWriMo, but I could feel myself getting there. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get all the way there.

So over the past sixteen years, I’ve written fourteen novels for NaNoWriMo (years 2012 and 2013 were two parts of the same novel). In my opinion, that’s nothing to sneeze at or scoff. Some of them are good and deserve further work and development. Some of them are bad and don’t. Padma (2016) is a good one. #M For Murder (2015) probably isn’t. Fred Again (2005) has a lot of potential, but also needs a lot of work. And while Code Monkey (2009) was a lot of fun to write, its issues are daunting.

So the plan now is to choose two novels out of those fourteen, and develop them to a point where I feel really good about them. I want two novels that I can pitch to editors and agents at WorldCon next August.

I’m not sure what all this means for NaNoWriMo 2018, honestly. Will I participate again? Am I burned out on the whole thing after all? It’s certainly possible (likely, in fact) that when November 2018 rolls around I’ll have another idea that I want to develop, and I’ll sign up again. But it’s also possible that I won’t. Details are unclear.

But whether or not I choose to go forward with NaNoWriMo in the future, a few things are clear: First, I have a few novels with potential that I can develop further. Second, I’ve learned a lot about writing and the writing process (especially my own). And third, I’ve made a lot of great friends, even if I only see some of them in November.

So yeah. Quitting NaNoWriMo was a good idea this year. It’s good for my writing. It’s good for my soul.

And to all those who are continuing forward: Good luck!

Fear of Distraction

It’s midway through National Novel Writing Month, and things aren’t looking good for me this year. At this point, one should be at about 25,000 words… and I’m at, oh, 7,000 or so. This may be the year that I don’t win this thing. I’m sort of upset about that, because it breaks my winning streak of having won every year that I’ve participated (which is every year since 2001, though I skipped 2002 — or did you know that already?).

So I figure it’s time to dust off the blog and get to pondering things. Like why I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for fourteen consecutive years, but don’t really have anything that I would consider ready to show off for publication. I’m pretty sure it’s not a fear of failure that’s holding me back, or the complementary fear of success. I can pursue a short story to (near) completion, but novels are another thing.

I’m pretty sure that what holds me back is a fear of distraction.

By which I mean that I have a hard time committing to a novel of mine if I fear that something else better might come along and hey, I can’t work on it because I’m already stuck working on this thing. And therefore I’m afraid of committing to a novel. And the irony is palpable, because if I had been able to commit to, say, The Outer Darkness (in 2004), I may have finished that novel completely, and gotten others completed as well. But no, I had to dither and go through angst and worry that if I focused on that one, then other brilliant ideas would go unwritten.

And what if I finish a novel, get it all the way done, and find it was a waste of time? What if I find, at that point, that I should have written something else?

I suspect these are questions that just about every writer faces. But when does that fear of distraction/wasted time get to the point that it’s pathological, and interferes with your ability to get anything done?

I don’t know.

Suggestions, anyone?