I wish that I could grab my life back.  I find myself working through the Sabbath, working through the Lord’s Day.  I have less than half of the patience I was once renowned for.

I struggle with the memory of dark deeds and even darker thoughts.  I can be simultaneously obsessive and lazy.  Worst of all, I have allowed material success to move ahead of family which moved ahead of God.  I will tell you right now, that is a recipe for disaster.

Nevertheless, I am not a preacher and if you have read my poetry collection, then you know my laundry list of sins so I digress.

***                                                   

I found out something that made me even more ambivalent about rejections.  The publisher that provided about half of mine just went under.

***

I had a dream last night.  I was able to capture a good deal of it, but it reminded me of an amusing truth.  The reason that dreams are so incredible is that they do not have to follow any rules.  They work through a patchwork of images and emotion.

I was thinking the other day about the two to four minute stories that we call songs on the radio.  They have the added benefit of music, but the other reason the best ones are so effective is that they target emotion.  Read one of your rejected stories and ask yourself this question with every sentence.  “How does that make me feel?”

If you find your words do not evoke emotion then perhaps you need to think about what mood you were trying to set when you wrote them.  Let us not throw words at a page just to use them.  Make every word count!  By using them wisely we too can create a patchwork of imagery and emotion that may inspire others the way our dreams to us.

 
Friday is my day to relax.  I do not push the writing.  If it comes, then I let it flow, but I will not force it.  Yesterday was good enough anyway.  I finished one piece and wrote two more.  I’m giving myself a pat on the back.

For those of you writers who are more obsessed than unmotivated, what do you do when you need to relax?  I take the noisy car home on Friday with the friends that inspired many of my stories to begin with.  It feels good just to relax.  Saturday and Sunday are full of chores and family obligations that allow me to dream but not to write.  Here is looking forward to Monday.  Who knows what we will come up with by then?

Oh and for those of you not in the Authonomy community, I bring you another installment from That Girl Tyson that I am always mentioning (Caution: Her conversations are not always rated G).

 
Alright

Because

Cheating

Didn't

Ever

Feel

Good

Here

I'll

Just

Keep

Laying

My

Neck

Out

Performing

Quaint

Routines

So

Twelve

Usual

Viewers

Will

Xerox

Yesterday's

Zaniness

 

Sometimes you will find that the silliest exercises will clear your mind and allow you to write as you first intended.  My latest opus, Full Moon City, is finally proofed, signed, sealed and delivered.  I am starting on a sword and sorcery tale and I read a few chapters of Robert E. Howard's "The Phoenix on the Sword" an early Conan story and I have to admit I was blown away.  There are a lot of books and short stories from the pulp era that just make me laugh but I was schooled and reminded how many great writers came before me.

 

If you are interested in writing short stories, I recommend you read Joyce Carol Oates anthology "The Oxford Book of American Short Stories".  Like any anthology it is incomplete, but from Irving to Charlotte Perkins Gilman from Langston Hughes to Amy Tan, the book is a study in the range and breadth of voices in the American Short Story.

 

Alright, enough chit-chat, get back to writing my friends!

 
I think that one of the best things about writing is the opportunity to get to know yourself a little better.  I’ve decided to force myself into genres that I am not comfortable with because I want to see what I am missing, and what a ride it has been.  I expected to spend most of my time writing stories for children and personal and religious essays.  As I have pushed into mystery, horror, science fiction and more I have found rhythms and room to express ideas that I didn’t know I was even holding on to.

I am now 3000+ words into a story that I was afraid wouldn’t be 2500 words long and I’m just getting to the most exciting part.  Writing allows us to create not just people, but entirely new worlds to play with.  What started as the backdrop for a straightforward serial-killer-is-actually-a-monster story blossomed into Full Moon City a place where the unusual isn’t.

Review the blogs and publication summaries like Duotrope Digest.  Pick whatever grabs your attention.  I am limiting myself to paying publications just to raise the challenge level.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with submitting to a non-profit journal.  In fact, depending on your goals and what you like to write about, non-profits may be your primary target.  Just because a magazine doesn’t pay, doesn’t mean it isn’t an accomplishment to get published.  Even the casual literary blogs don’t have a %100 acceptance rate.

***

By the way, I have a new feature on the site for your amusement.  Random poetry, come back each day and you will get a different poem or if you’ve been naughty you might not. ;)

http://wakefieldmahon.weebly.com/random-poetry.html

 
Yesterday was rough, but I managed to pull myself together and channel my negative emotions into a new horror mystery.  I am now about a third of the way done with a 4000 word story.  A month ago I had difficulty getting down 600 words in a whole day.  Here is what I’ve learned.  Obviously, this is what works for me and suits my way of thinking, it may not work for everyone.

Get a sense of your genre.  Browse a few examples of work previously published by your target, just enough to get a feel for the tone.  Decide on your main characters and the general plot. Remember this is a framework. You can change things as the story becomes more solid in your mind.

Here is the most important thing.  Write the way you think.  If your mind is dialogue driven, then write out the dialog first and fill in the background as needed.  If you are more of a visual person, write out your descriptions and fill in the dialog as appropriate.  If you have divided your story into a dozen plot points that are well outlined then you can jump around if you get stuck.  This process is for less than 5000 words, if you jump around in a novella or novel, you may find yourself spending a lot of time rewriting.  (Of course, I still write that way.)

Don’t be afraid to tinker with the process, find out what works best for you.  The worst feeling is staring at a page agonizing over the next word in a sentence.  Write the parts that are clearest in your mind first and fill in the rest as you go.  Often when you get the dialog or description flowing, the rest will come to you.  That is what makes short stories fun.

Have fun, if you enjoy writing, your joy will eventually shine through and spread to your readers.  Find what works for you and, no matter what, keep writing.

 
I am in a particularly sour mood today, so I don’t have much in the way of edifying things to say.

One thing that does calm my nerves is good music.  Do you remember that first time you went to a college pub and heard that band?  You know the one that was better than most of what’s on the radio but a few years later, you never heard from them again?    I found that kind of music in an unexpected place.  A fellow writer, Shalini Boland used to roll with the big boys in the music industry, but these days she is blessing us with her Mark Twain-like prose.  Her sweet voice was one of the highlights of my weekend.  Take a listen on her “Songs” page and see if you don’t agree.

Speaking of singing, you’ve heard me sing the praises before of Ms T L Tyson.  She is a talented writer, an entertaining personality and not too hard on the eyes.  She released her second video blog, or vlog, as you young pups are calling them, these days.  It’s quite a bit of fun.  Check her out and see what you think.

See?  Just thinking about them made me less grumpy.  I hope they brighten your day as well.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 
I thought I would try to get some writing done this morning.  I usually rise a few hours before my wife so I can start laundry, do bills and have a few moments to myself.  I woke at the same time I normally do, but the animals were causing a ruckus all morning and my wife awoke an hour early motivated to get a tone of work done.

Last night I went to sleep trying to dream my next few stories, but the Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl vehicle “The Killers” translated into a post-apocalyptic nightmare.  This would be useful if I were starting that genre today but I wanted to finish a few more children’s stories.

So rather than work on those far off projects I decided to force my mind and while I was able to pull a story together, it was much harder than going with the flow.  Some days are just like that.  Some days you can build a dam, but others you should go with the flow.  I guess the trick is knowing yourself and what works best for you.

Anyway, that is all I have time for today.  I wish you all success.  Let me know how you are doing.

By the way, if you want to see a horror movie of a completely different sort, check out “The Joneses” with Demi Moore and David Duchovny.  If you think of it as a horror story, I think you will find a new appreciation for the morality tale offered.

Edit:
I forgot to mention that one of my friends has a new website.  You might want to check it out:  http://www.wix.com/JaenWirefly/Jaen-Wirefly
 
My wife has been very practical with regard to my writing.  Provided it does not significantly affect family activities, she is very understanding and frequently encouraging.

Last night, at dinner, she said the most encouraging thing yet.  I was talking about an upcoming deadline.  Bless her she has been so patient with my excitement over every little short story that I write.  I noted that the publisher was in Canada and the due date was the 15th.  She suggested that I work on the story last night and overnight it today.

 I decided that, rather than rush a good story, I would let this particular deadline pass.  The fact that my wife believed in me enough to put money above regular postage and ink towards my ambitions gave me an encouraging boost that I simply was not expecting.

Today, while I was mowing the yard, I told her of another idea that came to me.  She gave me more words of encouragement, inspiring me not to let the idea go to waste.  Neither of us is under the delusion that tomorrow I will wake up and be the most famous author in the world, but her support helps.  

I hope that you have in your life someone who encourages you to continue even on days when the pen feels heavy and those words taunt you, just out of reach.  But if not, let me just remind you.  It is worth it.  You have something special to say.  You have a story and a unique voice and if you keep working at it, you will find your audience.

***

I'd like to offer a quick prayer of thanks, as well, that the pastor in Florida finally came to his senses.  This memory of nine years ago is still fresh in many memories.  In this time we need healing and unity. 
As Americans we can express ourselves in many ways, but as citizens it is our responsibility to exercise our rights responsibly.

 

 
In three easy steps, you can stop being invisible and finally get the attention that you deserve.

No, this isn’t a self-help seminar.  I just wanted to illustrate a few points.  You’ve heard it said that “first impressions are last impressions”.  The fact is that first impressions are often the ONLY impressions.

The first “simple” step is to select a title for your story, essay or presentation that succinctly tells the reader what to expect.  You may have noticed that I like to use song titles or familiar sayings for my blog titles.  One way to connect with readers is to give them a starting point that they are already familiar with.  Whatever source you draw from, make sure that your title is both interesting and relevant to your work.

Next is your first paragraph.  You can find studies floating around about attention span and how long it takes a reader to lose focus. The exact numbers aren’t really our concern here.  The point is, if you don’t tell the audience why they are paying attention in the first few minutes, then they probably won’t.  Setting the mood is an important part of building tone, but is that fact that it was a cold and rainy night relevant to the story?  Is the number of freckles on her face going to make us care more about what happens to her?  In a short story or an oral presentation, even in a novel it is important to get to the point.  After all, unless you’ve advertised a literary novel, your audience is expecting to a story or to gain information not to find out how many pretty words you know.

There is no third step have a good day. 

That would tend to annoy you wouldn’t it?  The third “simple” step is the most important.  Follow through on your promise.  It’s fine to start with an exciting chase scene but make sure the user doesn’t feel ripped off in the next section when you start a narrative that doesn’t seem at all related.  Don’t introduce some fascinating character and then say “he left, but who I really want to talk about is…” People don’t like it when unprincipled salesmen do it and they won’t appreciate it from you.

There we have it then, Think about what you want to say then summarize it in your title, add a hook that is relevant to the whole story to your opening paragraph and follow through on whatever you advertise.  It’s “simple”, but not necessarily easy.   Good luck.

 

***

I just finished a space version of “And Then There Were None”.  It was dark and delightfully fun.  I also finished a submission for a children’s magazine.  Changing gears can be challenging, but the payoff is more than worth the investment.  I currently have eighteen irons on the fire.  I don’t expect any replies for a few weeks, so I can concentrate on better writing and making my deadlines rather than when payday is coming.  ;)

Good luck to you all.  Feel free to drop a line and let me know how you are doing in your writing regimen.

 
Rosh Hashanah is upon us.  The High Holy Holidays have begun for those of the Jewish Tradition.  It is a time of both celebration and reflection.  It is a chance to start over.  But whether your New Year’s is this Week, January 1, Easter or Lunar New Year it doesn’t matter.  Every day is a chance for you to start over. 

Take a few minutes today.  Reflect on what you’ve done, on what you want to do.   Reevaluate your goals.  Embrace those items that you have the power to change?  Let go of those things that are out of your control?  Mediate. Pray. Focus.  No really, before you finish reading this, at the very least take a deep cleansing breath and let go of the one thing that is giving you the most stress today.

We are now one month into the program.  Hopefully a few of you have had some successes in that time.  Remember the turnaround for most publishers is at least thirty days, so don’t get frustrated if you haven’t heard back.  A friend of mine asked how the program was going and I told him that I am getting excellent practice in receiving rejection.  Once I explained the facts, that fewer than 1 in 50 works are accepted at most publications, less than 1 in one thousand at many of them, he marveled that I must have a monumental ego to survive all of the ego-bruising.  I just had to laugh.

Remember we are working on realistic goals with the understanding that it is not going to happen overnight.  The best that we can do is pay attention, learn from our mistakes and plan accordingly. 

And don’t underestimate the joy of the journey.  If I write fifty short stories in the next three months and don’t publish a single one of them, at least I can collate my favorites into an anthology.  By the program year’s end, I will have something like two hundred stories to draw from.  I have stretched myself into places I didn’t think I could.  I’ve created a cast of characters and new worlds that I can draw from in the future.  I’ve found my silly and my scary, my sad and my sweet, a legion of voices now at my command.  After all, isn’t that what writing is all about?

So, your last story didn’t come out quite the way you wanted it to.  You have a couple (or couple dozen) rejection letters in your inbox.  Shrug it off and start over again.  After all, today is a brand new day!