Category Archives: Writing

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

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?

Award Eligibility Post 2018

I got nothing.

But I hope to have something published and eligible for various awards by this time next year.

Carry on.

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?

So, the votes are in!

Twenty people voted on what I should write for National Novel Writing Month this year, more than I expected. More than half of you voted for And the Devil Will Drag You Under1, a novel about devils at war with each other in a modern city. Amusingly, this is actually the novel I was planning on writing last year during NaNoWriMo until my friend  Andrea Stewart talked me into writing Padma, a novel I’d been planning on writing for years. I have no regrets there.

If you want to have chapters of And the Devil Will Drag You Underr emailed to you, go click on my contact page and fill out the contact form there. I’ll know what to do.

Speaking of Padma, I’m still revising that one. I had hoped to have the second draft ready for my critique group in October, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’ve been taking an online class in writing inclusive fiction (by Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford of Writing the Other), and learning that there is a lot of work to do in order to properly flesh out my main character, who is a woman of half-Indian descent. That’s not to say that I’m not going to finish it, just that I have more work to do than I had originally anticipated. I’ve been working on it daily for about a month now.

My kaiju short story “Anamet” is progressing slowly. Again, I need to do some research in order to do the main character justice. This is another story I’d intended to have completed earlier; by mid-August, in fact. I tend to be very optimistic when estimating how long it’s going to write a story.

Other writing-related news: My short story “The B.I.M.” is with my critique group right now; and “A Pine Romance” is with a beta reader. We’ll see how they both go over.

How’s your day going?


 

HELP! What should I write?

Earlier I was firmly committed to my kaiju novel for NaNoWriMo this year. But now I’m wavering. I have three ideas, all of them equally attractive. So I’m throwing the question out to you, faithful readers:

What should Richard write for NaNoWriMo 2017?

  • And the Devil Will Drag You Under: Devils at war with each other in a modern city! (55%, 11 Votes)
  • The X of Doom: Pirates, sorcery, and time travel! (20%, 4 Votes)
  • The Wind Walker: A giant monster from Antarctica wreaks havoc on the Earth! (20%, 4 Votes)
  • Other: Please elucidate in a comment on this blog post. (5%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 20

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Of course, I won’t be posting my novel online this year for Reasons, but you’ll be able to request that chapters be mailed to you as I write them. I’ll work on a mechanism for that.