Weekly Cafe update and a little Writing News

Another bunch of links for you. I’m finding it easier to squeeze these kind of posts in between writing and real life.

First, an update on Willow: going slow, but I expected that to happen. I want the first three chapters of this book to really pull readers in, so I’m taking my time to make sure that it’s right. I’m planning to workshop the 1st two chapters at the Wiscon writer’s workshop, so I need to get those done by April 1.

And speaking of Wiscon, yes, I’ll be there, albeit on Friday only, due to some scheduling snafus. But the scheduling looks very good indeed. After the workshop, there will be a Cultural Appropriation 101 class that looks to be very interesting in light of some very interesting discussions that’s been taking place on LiveJournal. (I’m still working on my own thoughts of the matter, but there are a couple of things I still need to do before I set those thoughts into words.) I also plan to go to Odyssey Con April 24-26. Hmm…from writing workshops to geekcons. I’m making my way up the networking ladder.

Other news: “She’s All Light”, the story I poured my heart and soul into for the past year, got Honorable Mention at the 1st Quarter Writers of the Future Contest. I was a little bummed about it, but overall a lot happier over it than I was making finalist at the Oddcon writing contest. It also means that I’m free to send it out, so I’m putting it out on the field. Wish me luck! I’ve already started on a new story for WOTF. I won’t make the 2nd Quarter deadline, seeing that April 1 is already reserved for Willow, but I do plan to take my time so that I can send it in time for the 3rd Quarter, which will be around June.

In other news, one of my favorite podcasts is being put on hiatus. Adventures in SciFi Publishing is not ending—there may be a couple more episodes put out, but it’s not known when it will go back to its regularly scheduled broadcast, if ever. Kudos to Shaun Farrell for putting it all together. I’ll miss his and Sam’s insight on the industry. Mr. Farrell, by the way, also placed as a semi-finalist in this quarter’s WOTF. I bet his was the one that got me knocked down to Honorable Mention. ;-). Mucho, mucho congratulations to him.

In light of that, I’m looking for a new podcast that deals with the fantasy/scifi genre in the writing community. I would love to hear suggestions from any writers out there (and I know you come to the Cafe. I keep needing to refill the coffee machine…)

Back to writing!

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When to write and when to polish (and when to wax poetic…)

So last week I was listening to the Adventures in Scifi Publishing episode where Shaun Ferrell interviews Neil Gaiman. Towards the end of the podcast, About 30 minutes in, to be exact, Neil said something that troubled me a little. It’s part of the advice every writer gets nowadays–to write, and write every day. That part, I have no trouble with. What Neil said next, though, did. He said, and I quote:

“It’s much, much better to go off and write 10,000 words filled with glorious mistakes than to think for three weeks and write a 1500 word little jewel, then polish that jewel for the next month or two until it glows, and you have one perfect little thing. While, someone else has written 30,000 words that probably won’t be usable, but they’re 30,000 words better now. They’ve made 30,000 words worth of cool mistakes that they won’t be making again.”

This bothered me because At first, I was pretty irate. Who does Neil think he is? How dare he–an established, well-known famous author with several books under his belt–tell me–a part-time secretary, full-time mother trying to juggle writing time with housework/preschooler’s naps–how to be a writer? It’s easy for him to say “write something every day”. He doesn’t have kids running through a tiny two-bedroom apartment throwing train tracks everywhere and complaining every five minutes, “I’m bored. This is boring. I’m boooooored.” (By the way, can you guess what Daniel’s new word of the day is?) Don’t he realize that I got to take whatever time I can get? I don’t have the luxury to pick and choose what I work on. Hey, if I was an established, full-time writer, I’d sit on my butt and churn out stories every day, revise a few more stories, find markets for them, send them out, and still have time to clean the house, cook dinner, read to my son, fly to the moon, solve crime, negotiate for peace in Sudan, stop global warming…

Mind you, now, these were the very first thoughts that came to mind when I heard Neil say that.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. At this very moment, I am juggling two revision projects–one of which I’ve been revising over and over since last November, trying to get it as perfect as possible before sending it to…well…actually I need to find a market for it. Granted, it’s not a 1500 little jewel–it’s more of a 12,000 honking big jewel I’ve been polishing for quite some time. And since I’ve been revising it, I’ve done little else in writing–just that and Willow, really. Haven’t worked on any new stories or essays. Haven’t sent anything new out. In fact, this Agony Booth recap I started a week ago is the first new anything I’ve done since…since…

What was the last story I worked on?

Of course, I can make excuses. I can say that I was so stressed out at the beginning of the year with preparing our house for sale that it sucked my creative juices dry. The only way I could stay sane was to edit my existing stories, and it helped me out to focus solely on them. Actually, I won’t make that an excuse. That stressful time really did help me focus better on my story.

But at the same time, one can only revise and revise and revise without getting worn down. I need to have that spontaneous feeling again of whipping up a story out of thin air. I need to get back to the delight of wondering what word I will put down next. And I’ve been taking steps in doing that. I’ve been pushing myself to do more freewriting. Actually, I’ve been attempting to ease myself into it since July, and so far, it’s been a bit better. I just need to figure out timing and all.

When I first started this post, I was going to dispute Mr. Gaiman’s statement by saying, “You can write, write, write all you want. But what use is it if all those words are sitting on your computer, never to be polished into a story?” However, now I have to admit; he’s right. I need to start writing again, and by writing, I mean writing new stuff. It’s in the new stories that you learn how to write better because you are constantly working with new material to play with.

But I would further add that writing should be balanced with revising. At some point, you do have to take a story and polish it. You don’t see editors asking for first drafts of stories. They want something that’s your very best. And to be really honest, I like my stories to be jewels. It’s how they stand out. At least, I like to think they do. And then you have to submit. Because after all that work, if it’s still sitting on your hard drive, what good does it do you?

Write. Revise. Submit. Finding the balance between the three. ‘Course, there will be times when you can do only one. You may get so drained out of a family crises that you may just want to just revise something. Or not work on anything at all. That’s the best thing about writing–it’s pretty flexible to whatever circumstances you’re in.

Now if the whole Obama/McCain election was just as flexible, we’d be in good shape.

Links of Interest: Keys to Publishing Contest & ARG News

I know the contest has already started, but I wanted to get this link up while the contest is still happening. There’s a contest that the people behind Adventures in SciFI Publishing and I Should Be Writing are collaborating on called “The Keys to Publishing”. You basically listen to their podcasts, starting with AISFP #56 and ISBW #94, listen for the key and write it down, and when you have all six, email them to adventuresinscifipublishing@gmail.com with “Keys” in the title. Two lucky winners will receive a set of books from publishers Tor and Pyr SF, featuring their latest titles.

So why should you care? Because each ‘key’ is given by a well-known author, as well as the reasoning behind that key’s title. Sean Williams, Jay Lake, Tobias S. Buckell, to name a few. And it’s fun to listen to, even if you don’t plan to enter the contest. Either way, aspiring authors will get a lot of it.

The only other link I have today is not a writing one, but a (surprise!) gaming one. After the experience of reading the Artificial Intelligience: A.I. ARG, I decided to take the plunge and try out an ARG for myself. There are many websites that speak about ARGs, but the ones that stood out to me was ARGnet, which blogs about the ongoing ARGs that are in play on the Net, and Unforum, a great forum for players to talk about the latest games as well as post rumors on new ones. Through the both of these, I’ve learned of a game that will be put on, by all places, the Smithsonian called “Luce’s Lover’s Eye”. (You can read an article about it here, and to see the actual entry point into the game, you can go to this page here and find the secret link on the upside down writing). I don’t know what’s going to happen when the game starts in about a month, but I’m sure it’s going to be quite an experience.

Contests and eye games, oh my! Looks like the rest is of my summer is going to be pretty busy. Oh yes, and I’ll be writing. Can’t forget about that. Yeah. Writing.

What’s on LaShawn’s iPod? Well, nothing since I don’t have an iPod…but I do have a reasonable enough facsimile…

So I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. It’s been an unexpected benefit of working part-time. That’s not to say that I haven’t been listening to podcasts before–in my SAHM life, it’s mainly what I did to keep from turning on the TV to, say, Oprah or The View. Cleaning time was done to podcasts. Playtime with Daniel was done to podcasts. Writing was not done to podcasts, because it distracts me. And besides, I got the Geico commercial for that…

But ever since I started working, I’ve been using my mp3 player a lot more than normal. I use it when I’m walking to work. I use it at work when I’m filing. I use it when I walk to Daniel’s daycare to pick him up. And I use it when I’m at the Circle M farm, pulling weeds or planting seeds.

It’s weird. Ever since I started working again, it’s freed up a lot of listening time. I like it, because it’s allowed me to catch up on a lot of writing podcasts that’s been building up in my iTunes. And I’ve even been able to add a couple of others I’ve been meaning to get to, but never had the time–such as short story podcasts and indie music. Having gotten around to start listening to novels, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, since I’ve been listening to so many podcasts as of late, I’ve decided to make it a weekly feature at the Cafe to give brief links to the ones I find interesting. I’m hoping to bring a bit more exposure to good stories and interesting topics. For instance, I just listened to a short story on Podcastle called “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” by John Schoffstall, a surrealistic tale of a woman receiving ‘notes’ from her ex-boyfriend. The woman comes across as rather pedantic (I’ve been dying to use this word all day) and bitchy, but the things her boyfriend sends her are hilarious and touching. I mean, what would you do if your ex sends you Spain to try to make up with you? It gets a little gory near the end, and that’s a lot from a surrealistic story, but I do have to say that the ending itself is a very nice touch.

I’ve also been catching up on my writing podcasts, which is awesome, because by the time I get home, I’m itching to write. Mostly good interviews: Mur Lafferty interviewed Matthew Wayne Selznick on “I Should Be Writing”. I just finished listening to the “Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing” interview with Kelly Link, and oooh! They just put an interview with Neil Gaiman in the feed! Better load that up!

So I’ll going to try to make this a regular feature at the Cafe. Gotta spread the love, man.