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?

Blogging Ahead

So, in order to get some blog posts queued up and ready to go on the days when I’ll be at the Fabulous Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference, I’m taking a quick peek at the A-to-Z Challenge schedule, and I find that if I include travel time, I’ll need posts V-Z while I’m there, and also one more post for the 1st of May.

April 26th also happens to be the StoryTime Blog hop, which means that letter V will have to be a short story in a sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction vein. It doesn’t necessarily have to be aimed at children, but it probably does have to avoid sex, violence, and language.

And I believe the theme for my alphabet challenge would be the letter M.

I don’t have the faintest idea what I was thinking.

Oh, well. Too late for buyer’s remorse, now.

The thing is, If I start early and stay ahead of it, I may be able to cram just about anything into my letter M theme.  If I slip behind, it’s going to take more and more time to find today’s appropriate letter. (As opposed to “hey, I can throw that over here.”)

The process might get me ahead of schedule for good.

The Great Theme Reveal

Anybody who’s read this blog for long knows I’m not much of a “theme” person. I have to drag themes kicking and screaming out of my novels, and most of the time, I have no particular desire to build or work with a theme. I’m not someone your tenth-grade English teacher would like. My tenth-grade English teacher(s) spent the entire year hinting about ways to do drugs in class, on the premise that stoned might be an improvement, and ultimately wound up being sainted for not killing me in my sleep.

At any rate, my theme for last year’s A-to-Z Challenge was a Fly-By-The-Seat-of-Your-Pants stroke of brilliance: Whatever the hell happens to pop into my head. It worked well enough. I made it through.

This year, I thought about doing an upbeat complicated relationships thing, because that always seems to work its way into my stories, but let’s be honest, I’m not really sure all my readers are up for a recitation of A-to-Z relationships, and quite frankly, it would almost certainly devolve into a list of rare and exotic paraphilias. Why no… I just needed something that started with the letter U. Why do you ask?

That could sure get thorny fast.

Do I really need a theme?

Okay, so the one that finally popped into my head was…

Words that begin with the letter M.

That doesn’t seem so unreasonable. I’ll need to add words that don’t begin with the letter M to make it fit the challenge, but with some effort, I think I can make it work.

Words that begin with the letter M it is, then.

If you want to join in the challenge, all the details are here.  Let me know if you’re playing along.

Revision In Rhythm

A while back, I made a list of twenty-three scenes that are either missing or completely fouled up that my novel needs to survive. I’m starting with the ones that don’t exist at all, and working my way back to the ones where there’s some material already done.

I’m writing longhand, and then typing into a project in my novel writing software.

I have three more scenes than I did at the beginning, and they’re running a little long. I have to figure out how much wiggle room I’m willing to eat up.

At this moment, the novel is scattered out across at least three projects; there’s one for the material I’m already more or less comfortable with, there’s one for the not-even close to finished scenes that I’m salvaging from my first draft, and there’s one for the shiny new scenes I’m writing right now.

Well, it cuts down on distractions, and it keeps me from looking at tens of thousands of words and being overwhelmed.  Other than that, no, I’m not sure it serves a purpose.

I also have some short-story excitement to type up.

And some short stories to write. I am slipping behind on the 52 week challenge. I’m trying to convince myself that it IS a priority.

 

I’m So Healthy I Can Hardly Stand It

I am in the midst of a give-up soda and (some) other sugars and cling to a set schedule lifestyle shift for health. It’s actually working incredibly well for me. I feel great, I’m being productive. I’ve nearly reached the point that I’m saying “iced tea” when I order in restaurants, as opposed to “Coke” and then correcting myself. Nearly.

I’m not exactly used to all my new sugar alcohol friends. I’m not used to having a limit on sweets that is so ruthlessly enforced. If I’m not paying attention to what I’m eating, well… that laxative effect catches up with me. And that happens well before I get to the point that I would like to stop eating those sugar-free goodies.

Well, it will take time.

I do actually feel better, and I’m fairly sure that paying attention to what I’m eating probably means I’m actually healthier. Ordering a little thing instead of a big thing, too. I have a way of letting things pile up on me.

More nifty vitamins. Maybe a little more exercise.

Maybe not. After all, baby steps.

I’m getting there.

My writing teacher–Holly Lisle–actually suggests a revision diet. It’s something somewhat similar to what I’m doing, and is supposed to result in the mental clarity and stamina required to actually revise a novel.

As far as losing weight… well, I don’t really know yet. Maybe my pants are a little looser. I don’t do scales. I don’t believe in them, and haven’t since I stopped dancing and lost weight (muscle mass), But I feel better, and that’s more or less the point, isn’t it?

That Morning Non-Routine

I am awake and staring at a blinking cursor. I’ve had breakfast, and I’ve remembered to put my laundry in the clothes dryer so it will be dry in time for me to go to work. I have checked in on the giraffe that is supposed to be having a baby, live-streamed from the whichever zoo it is. (No baby.)

This is what happens, by the way, when people inform the older generation about live streaming video… hundreds of hours of giraffe. Now live in a computer near me.

I have checked in on the forum where I’m a moderator, and answered a couple of questions. This is one of my bigger morning activities. Something I really do need to do on a regular basis. It’s a good forum. One of the best I’ve seen for writers.

And I have checked the news, the email, and a couple of ads, featuring things I didn’t know existed, but now desperately want. Especially at the fabulous prices listed. Closing and deleting.

Part of this is, of course, that I get up early. It was before 3 this morning, when I finally decided it was time to give up on that last chunk of sleep. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that, or to the idea that sleeping til 5 is “sleeping in.” I’m sitting under an electric light, pretending that it is not completely dark outside, and more or less bracing for the day.

If I had my creative, write when I feel like it choice, I’d probably be writing all night, and then going to bed… well, right about now. Last night, I wrote until that MUST be in bed moment, and then finally did go to sleep.

Choosing A Book

I spent most of the night up reading a couple of nights ago. I haven’t done that in a long, long time. You know how it is. Grown-up responsibilities, and the need for a job mean that most of the time, I have to actually wake up. At a predictable hour. And function.

Being quite honest, I’m not sure I’m on my “ideal” creative schedule, either. Given a choice, I’d probably be up all night reading or writing or something on a regular basis, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten into the Zone as easily in say the mid-afternoon or evening. Even when I was a kid, it’s into bed… one more chapter… and then, seven or eight hours later… I’m blinking at the sunlight.

Writing can work the same way, too… maybe it’s supposed to, and maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s my excuse for lack of discipline. Maybe I really do focus better at some times of the day or night than at others.

Let me start by confessing… the book I was reading wasn’t on the list of Hugo/Nebula winning books that I intend to be reading. I got caught up in a sample of an e-book, and then, I bought the e-book, and after that, I read the e-book.

All of it.

In one sitting.

And now, I’ve purchased the next part of the series, and I’m probably going to wind up reading that, too.

I was up all night reading, and by the end of it, I was crying my eyes out. It’s been a while since the last time, there, too. Partly the book, and partly my own losses… I have no idea the size of the parts.

So, now… I am reading All of the Books That Have Won Both The Hugo and the Nebula And also Sandman. The weird part of it is that I don’t really feel as though the list has grown… not that much, anyway.

If I’m very, very good, and if I don’t wander off into the omni-present internet bookstore too many more times, I might be able to get through the list in a year. The list is growing. I’m assured, for instance, that Blackout and All Clear will only make sense as a pair, and only if read in that order. So one more book to the list. And there are a couple of others that are not the first ones in their series.

I’ll make it through, eventually. After all, what are the odds that they’ll hand those awards out to the same book again, this year?

The Short Stories I Didn’t Intend to Write

I’m working on a short story. It’s the kind of thing that’s only very, very vaguely science-fiction, and it’s longer than most of the things I’ve done for the blog. It also has a very different tone.

It’s the kind of year when everything connects to everything else, whether you want it to, or not. Whether you expected it to, or not. I started out with a nice story about llamas eating ice cream, and I wound up with a story about immigrants. What I’m working on now started as a not-so-nice alternate future history… alternate future? Whatever you call it, when it’s a future talking about a history that is past in the future, but still future in the present? And that’s probably about the environment and pipelines.

Maybe if I wrote something unpleasant about politics, I’d wind up with something fanciful and delightful, involving talking frogs, and possibly a dancing unicorn. I don’t know.

Having just updated my progress report for the 52 week challenge, I realize that I am, in fact, only one short-story behind. (plus or minus some editing.) I feel much more behind than that. It is still very possible that I will manage to catch up.

So, I have short stories, and I’m beginning to think about looking for a home for them. I would like to pull in some writing credits–they’re always so shiny–and frankly, I’d like to get paid. So, I’m looking at things that look good on a resume (or query letter) and things that would let me into the professional associations of my dreams. (well, my ego. My dreams are much more interesting than that.)

I’ll post something, when I sell one. You don’t have to read that post; you’ll probably have heard me jumping up and down screaming, anyway. No matter where you live.

 

Celebrating the Little Things

I made it to the end of my pre-revision revision today, and now I have a fairly chronological version of my story with something resembling plot and a hundred thousand (ish) fewer words than the previous version. Yes, I still have word count issues, but they are so much smaller than the ones I was expecting.

Some of those words are things that will go into the next book (if there is one) and some of them are just plain cuts. Some of them are strange new versions of things I already wrote, and some of them don’t fit in with the timeline I finally decided on.

One of my main characters gets arrested–surprise–and that more or less wipes out a whole series of scenes that would happen… if she weren’t in prison. And I cut out a whole lot of love scenes that are… well, mostly just mushy. That’s the biggest area where I’m overwriting. They tend to be a strange combination of “let’s cuddle” and “so, tell me about yourself.” That would be basically me talking to myself, and working out different chunks of story.

I also removed a fairly sizable chunk where I’m working on a different story. Like, contemporary murder mystery popping up right in the middle of my scifi manuscript. Don’t know how that got there.

So, now I’m debating what the next step is. I think it probably involves going over each of my main characters’ timelines, and making sure that everything is there. I have plot-grid dreams. Something to keep everything together and on track.

In the meantime, I think I’ll just celebrate being done with this part.

 

IWSG: So, Do I Still Fit In?

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

The Insecure Writers’ Support Group posts on the first Wednesday of the month. More information and the sign-up can be found here.

The awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting of the IWSG will be Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy and Joylene Buter!

When I was working on my first novel–the one in my bottom desk drawer–I was working at a bookstore. I was in a writers’ group, and even though my novel wasn’t up everybody’s alley, we all got along. We had fun. It was a community, and I felt like I belonged.

Now, I’m drifting. I’m in a more mundane job, and my real-life creative community? Well, it lacks cohesion. Here and there, I run into people who write. We have a coke, we talk… the structure and routine are missing. And progress? I really don’t know. I guess you can talk about writing whether you’re getting words or not.

I’ve started thinking of going to a writers’ conference. I’m finally at a place where I might be able to afford it, and where it might actually be worth the money. And let’s be honest, the idea of going out and spending a weekend with my own kind doesn’t sound bad, either.

Hello, insecurities!

Absolutely everything, from finishing my revision (I’m not counting it out.) to what I’ll wear, and the general–and terrifying–fact that I won’t know anyone, I’ll get lost on the way to class, and I’ll probably forget my locker combination.

It’s been a long time, and I’m jittery abut the whole thought.

Anybody else in the same boat? When you’ve been away from other creatives for a while, how do you get back in?  Just close your eyes and jump, or wade in carefully? Any tips?