New Month, New Goals

First day of August, and I’m thinking about all the things I would like to get accomplished between now and the end of time. I would like to finish revising my novel, of course. I think that’s probably more than a month’s worth of work, but “By the End of October” would maybe be do-able, and it would get me out of the project in time to do NaNoWriMo. Before next summer would still enable me to say “we met briefly at Pike’s Peak last summer.”

And then, we have all those short stories I’ve been meaning to write. **sigh** It seems like every time I finish one, it pops up on the website, or someone calls dibs on it, and that’s that. Or, you know… 20,000 words later, I just have to admit that it’s pole vaulted over “short” story.  I may not be programmed to be a short story writer.

As usual, I guess the goal is 4 short stories in August. One per week, or maybe all in a rush at the end.

I’m still on the fitness=better sleep thing, and working my way toward… well, sleep. I like sleep. I want sleep. I’m working on that.

Shall we add “podcast” to the list? I’m still up in the air on that. I don’t have a clear idea of what I’d talk about for half an hour, but read some stories, announce some random trivia, crack a few jokes… maybe drag a friend or two in with me? I’m fiddling with the idea. Maybe I’ll hit that “buy” button and have a microphone sent to me.

Get a haircut, look like a civilized human being, track down the next day job, which with luck will be somewhere else, doing something else entirely. I’m running out of steam.

So, podcast? Thoughts, suggestions? Somebody talk some sense into me!

StoryTime Blog Hop: Your Invitation

We’re a little less than a month out from the next StoryTime Blog Hop, and I’m actually getting the invitation out in time that everyone has an actual opportunity to write a short story. The deadline for links is July 20, this time around, and the Fabulous Juneta Key will be hosting (again. Because she’s amazing.)

StoryTime is a Speculative Fiction blog hop, so bring your Science Fiction, Fantasy, and anything else that has speculative elements, and join us.

The hop features speculative short stories, usually under 1000 words with a G or PG rating (No graphic sex or violence, and try to avoid the dirty filthy language you hear around here.) It is not specifically oriented toward children, although children’s stories are welcome and encouraged.

If you want examples of stories from previous hops, I have a (dismally out of date) list of links.

I hope you’ll join us as a writer, but if not, be sure to come back and read the stories on the 26th of July.

Staring Down the Third Week Slump: The Blogger Falls in a Hole

There are patterns in my blogging, in case you hadn’t noticed, and as a result, there are patterns in my website traffic. One of the biggest momentum killers is falling behind when I have a couple days off. I’m usually not all that far ahead, anyway, but there’s something about a good day off that will absolutely slaughter any momentum I did have built up.

The other big one I see is that the first week of a month–well, that’s pretty good. I have beginning of the month “events” and blog hops, and I’m starting with a fresh slate, so the first week or so is always good. The second week rarely hits that high, but it’s not bad.  And then, the third week… well, the third week is where the momentum starts to dwindle. Sleeping in starts to seem like a good idea, and I don’t get posts out as routinely, clock-work-ly at eight o’clock as I usually do.

Sleeping in beats the shit out of my Krebs’ Cycle–every single time, because I just can’t wrap my groggy head around the idea that sleeping until four or four thirty in the morning IS sleeping in. Nope. An extra couple of hours beyond that, and good-bye, mitochondria!

As weird as it sounds, I think the answer is probably scheduling posts for my days off.

We’ll see if my poor little brain can accept that. But the truth is, I’m falling out of rhythm on my days off from my day job, not the days when you’d think I’d have the least time to do this. No, really… I’ll just post a few pictures after I finish hiking in the tall grass.

The other thought that flutters through my head is that what I really need is something along the lines of a mid-month goal… or blog hop… or maybe both. Something to get people in here, and something that I’m going to do on a deadline.

So, what are your patterns and pitfalls? Any suggestions for that mid-month blog hop of my dreams?

IWSG: Did You Ever Just Quit?

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG will be JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

So, this month’s question is Did you ever just say “I quit” to writing? If so, what made you come back?

I’m not sure I ever quit quit. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or another, and writing regularly. There are highs and lows, of course, and there are moments when I think I should just make writing my secret hobby, and go sell insurance for a living, but quitting?

No. For me, the problem isn’t quitting, so much as starting.

I’ve always written. I don’t remember not writing. I have stacks of old journals in the basement, and files and files of hand-written, spiral bound stories. I entertain myself that way. Sometimes, I understand myself that way.

The problem for me, is getting to the point where I believe in my abilities enough to make this more than a hobby. Enough to do the heavy lifting that gets you from writing for your own amusement in the back of the classroom to writing professionally, with the intention of supporting yourself.

The trick isn’t–as far as I can tell–to keep writing. It’s to keep writing for others. Others who may not be cheering you on, yet, and who are definitely going to see that plot hole, and who are definitely not going to take “Well, it exists in my head” for an answer.

I’m getting there in baby steps.

There’s the first novel you write. And that revision nearly killed me. I kept going around in circles, and you know… since I’d only written ONE novel, and since I was having massive trouble getting it revised, and I was… probably having more fun writing for myself than working on this insurmountable, clean and polish until other people can read and enjoy it thing.

I’m not really to the place where I believe that I can revise quickly and efficiently, and not want to sell insurance. The write for others for a living thing just seems soooo far away.

But my version of quit would probably be start writing whatever suits my whim, without any professional intent, rather than actually giving up writing entirely.

Reusing Old Posts By Subject

One of the thoughts that flutters through my head from time to time is re-posting, or cross-posting content from the blog to other platforms. I’m always running into plugins that promise to do that for me. I use one, actually, to tweet each post, and maybe add it to Google Plus. (Because the integration was pretty easy.)

Now, the theme here–correct me if I’m wrong–is more or less whatever pops into my mind, sometimes with a writing bent. And let’s be honest… I post a lot. It’s a good warm up for the day, and why the hell wouldn’t someone care about what I ate for lunch yesterday? (It was a tomato caprese sandwich.)

The way a lot of these autoposters works is that you tell it which tags you would like posted to which networks. So, potentially, I could post one set of things to Medium, and a different set to Tumbler, and so on. Even if I keep posting exactly the way I have been here, the others would wind up taking on their own flavor, by virtue of all the sandwiches that are cut out, and the fact that the tags could be tailored to have–for instance–a fiction-only slant, or a “here are my views on education” slant.

I could use tags to turn Tumbler into a reader-oriented platform, and Medium into something more political-y activist-y. (Or, you know, off the wall views to piss everybody off-y)

So, the questions that I have, right now… are

  1. What flavor or slant do you think that various platforms have? What tags should I assign to which platform?
  2. Which platforms are the best for selling things on? Down the road, I’d probably like people to buy things, and it won’t help much, if my “reader” platform doesn’t allow sales. (I’m not just talking about books, of course. I could sell custom nose rings or something.)
  3. How do I (eventually) start to move people off of platforms that don’t belong to me and onto Reprobate Typewriter? Does this even matter?

Where to List Random Bits of Opinion, and Disastrous Art Projects

I don’t usually write for children, so I don’t usually blog about children, and I don’t usually blog about education. But, every now and then, an opinion slips out. I don’t even know why I should get to have an opinion. I did my turn teaching, substituting, and wearing the dog costume in the children’s section of the bookstore, but it’s not a calling.

Let’s be honest. Most of the things I do are not lifetime passions.

I don’t expect to be doing model rocketry at eighty. I won’t be making a career out of folding two-headed origami cranes. I’m not expected to do a Ted-Talk about painting or sculpture anytime soon.

But I do these things, and sometimes I blog about them.

And as I was applying tags to yesterday’s post–the kind of tags I never use, that have their own, separate, over-there audience–I started thinking about the kinds of cross-promotion that could be done with the little fringe interests I barely dip my toes in.

The thought of a list of subject-specific places to post that kind of post came to mind, and honestly, I’m not sure where to start.

It does sound like a great way of pulling in new audience members, though.

A good way to get past this is a writing blog, and move out in front of other interest groups.

Choosing Trust

A while back, I wound up trapped in a conversation with one of those I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good people. The topic was critique groups, and the woman was basically a stranger.

I know you’re bracing for a horror story.

So, here it is.

Someone she knew stole her title.

I won’t tell you what the title is, but I will say that it churns up nearly a thousand results on Amazon, and it has that vaguely familiar feel to it. It’s one of those deep and meaningful titles you find on literary fiction and questionable poetry. It ain’t Snakes on a Plane.

I’m sure you’ve heard something like this, before. The general idea is that when you take your writing to a critique group, it’s in horrible danger of being stolen, and people lie, and flatter you, and really, how do you know they aren’t just saying what you want to hear to make you happy. Or, you know… ripping into you for shits and giggles.

On the other end of the spectrum is the guy who says you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work. (Eventually.)

I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think the people who criticize my writing are doing it for their own amusement, and I believe that if someone says my work is good, they actually mean it. (Whether or not they’re objective is another thing.)

I post work on my blog from time to time, and even chunks of longer works. I blog my thoughts, and I’m choosing trust every time I push the publish button. I’m not sorry.

But I’m not good at trust, either. I password protect things. I keep my website–and sometimes my writing–a secret from my real-world acquaintances. I think about things like my rough draft being sold in Lebanon without so much as being told. I’m not the jump and trust the Universe to catch you type.

There’s that voice in the back of my mind that says things that are a lot like… I’m telling you this for your own good. And… This probably sucks, you know.

And there’s the real world stuff-the at what point is it published, and how much can I share before it turns the publishing industry off? A lot of that is fuzzy math, but I think I’ve stayed in the clear.

The other thing that occurs to me is that not every writers’ group has to be a deep and deadly serious critique group. I’ve gotten a lot out of groups that were mostly just social, and I’ve found critique partners there.

How far do you trust people with your work? Any hard limits? Any suggestions to avoid those critique group horror stories?

IWSG: Comparing Myself to Others

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG are Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone!
Back at the insecurities question… Well, I just got back from my first writers’ conference, so I’m still processing a lot of information. So, I think–right this second–the thought that’s fluttering through my head is the amount of time involved in getting to the point that I can actually sell a book.
On the one hand–and objectively, I think–I believe that I’m getting close. I know I’m getting better.
On the other hand, it’s been a long, long time.  I’m insanely impatient, right now. Well, anyhoo… you know that one over-achieving classmate we’re all damned to endure? The one who straddles six or seven of your pet insecurities? Or, maybe that’s just me. Mine happens to live at the busy intersection of More Successful and Give Up and Write Sasquatch Porn. With regular stops from the Gonna Die Alone and Obscure Trolley Line. (And I’d really be breaking out the Valium if they were a writer.)
Yup. I ran into one of Over Achieving Classmate’s fans… or at least someone who brought them up often enough to grate on my nerves. I should have a sign to hold up.
The weird part is that I’m actually not all that much older than fan girl. (I Googled.) She just made me feel–uhm, decrepit.
At a distance, Classmate is my ticking success-clock. Tick-tock, tick-tock. How long until I run out of steam, and break down without ever reaching my goal?

May 3 Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Right now, I’m writing (very, very soft) science fiction, which means that I don’t need to know that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 (in our timeline, anyway), or exactly what George Washington’s false teeth were made of. (eww.) Now and then, I wind up looking for more details on this or that, (or having the mind-bogglingly obvious pointed out to me) but more often than not, I pull information in mostly so that I can twist it, and then throw it into outer space.
Oh, wait… you’re talking about how to keep someone alive in a near-vacuum long enough that they can be eaten by giant space bugs, aren’t you? Well… yeah. There’s that.

On Blog Hops and Challenges

April is shaping up to be a slightly above average month. It’s not fabulous, and it’s not dismal… just slightly above average.

I’m doing the A-to-Z challenge this month, which, all things considered, is not all that much of a challenge, since I make blogging a part of my daily routine, anyway. My theme is the letter M. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. The general idea is that each day, there’s a post with a different letter of the alphabet, and also an M. It’s not a bad idea. It keeps me from settling into the familiar, and I’m learning new things, mostly by diving into wikipedia at the last moment and searching for something—anything–that fits the theme.

I started the month with a modest spike in traffic. Several days a little bit higher than I usually get. And now, that seems to have trailed off.

The past couple of days, I’ve actually been lower than usual. That may be that my readers don’t really want to hear about basketball or physics, and it may be the fact that tracking down those subjects took me longer, so the posts weren’t out anywhere close to my usual time. I’m not sure.

I’m expecting another spike at the end of the week, when I do the StoryTime blog hop. Which, by the way, I’ve worked out a way to fit into the A-to-Z challenge. (So much easier when you get to make things up! Thank you, fiction!)

So, all in all, April will wind up being slightly above average. I’m not knocking it.

The thing is… I’m not sure to what extent it’s the challenge or the hop, itself that drives the numbers. I’m starting to think it may be the interaction, the going out and meeting people. The enthusiasm for it. The sheer convenience of having people listed in one neat, orderly place.

I wind up with good results, whenever I’m out there, starting conversations. But when I do it on my own, I’m looking for people I have a lot in common with, instead of just working down a list.

And I’m usually working on my own blogging platform, so it’s easier for people to follow me and interact than it is when I’m on somebody else’s list. (No, I don’t know whether that’s a good thing in the long run. From time to time, I’ve thought about running a mirrored site, so that one or two of the other platforms get in on it. I don’t know.)

So, I’m thinking about what my next steps should be, and honestly, I think they’re going to be more seeking out people than blog hops or blogging challenges. I know I need to get out there more often.

What do you think? How have you grown your websites and blogs?

A-to-Z Challenge: Quantum Mechanics

So, my q for the day is yet another topic I know little to nothing about, but have happily twisted to support both this blog and various nifty plot developments in my novels. On the bright side, I’ve heard people say that if you think you understand Quantum Mechanics, you don’t. So, clearly, I’m right up there with the best and the brightest.

At least when I throw a party for time travelers, it’s wildly popular, they show up and bring space drugs. Anyway, that’s the way I remember it. And that one guy was a hell of a bongo player.

So, basically–and anyone who was ever a child will understand this–the rules for small things are different than the rules for large things.

Quantum Mechanics would be the set of rules that appear to–but might not–apply to very, very, very small objects. Yup. That does sound familiar.

It also sounds like a great name for a band–if you just added a little sex–something like the Quantum Tantric Mechanics–or for the guy who fixes your space ship or your time machine when you break your drive shaft somewhere in the horse head nebula.

The last book I picked up on the subject–a used copy– happened to be signed by a science-fiction writer who didn’t write the book.