Tag Archives: challenges

Choosing to write- obstacles and overcoming them

Every day, I work on my writing confidence. One wants to be open to criticism and suggestion but not left raw by it. Like a lot of aspiring writers, I lack a support network, such as I have in the sciences. I don’t have many readers, I lack feedback, I lack editors. These aren’t complaints but a recognition of the challenges I overcome every day I choose to write.

I maintain two continuous goals — to finish projects and to hone my writing skills through reading and exercises. I have four e-books up on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks (three posted within the last year) and I’m in a writing class through writers.com. The posts on this website combine both goals.

I get excited about every visit to this webpage, and every download on Kindle or Amazon. I was ecstatic to receive a five-star review on “The Domestic Cat.” My downloads picked up. It was validation on a story I believed in, that made it to the final rounds with several science fiction magazines but was rejected for being conventional. (It is — it’s about a scientifically-enhanced cat. But it’s super fun!) Then I got a three-star review. It wasn’t intensely critical, and said my story felt like the start of a novel. “Doesn’t that mean you felt like reading more?” I said to myself. My downloads sank like a rock. I was pretty bummed.

When I read my friend Stephanie Hunter’s delightful supernatural book, Scary Mary, I decided to look at her negative comments. Two of the one-star comments clearly meant to give five stars. Several others harangued upon grammar and nit-picky details that were not problems. Several said they don’t like supernatural books. Suddenly I felt grateful for my middling three-star review. (But seriously, go check out Scary Mary. The author just got accepted into the Science Fiction Writers of America, and she’s awesome.)

I considered additional stories I could tell with Peppercorn and his captor. The ideas flowed. I love these characters, and I easily see a wide variety of stories. I could practice some of the techniques from my writing class and explore longer works with Peppercorn.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. An ambivalent kindle review and new writing tools have launched me into a new project. One that can satisfy both my goals. I’m proud of making lemonade from lemons. And I’m having a blast writing more about Peppercorn.

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Why I’m doing National Novel Writing Month

This year I am doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time, in which you write 50,000 words in a month. I am also writing my PhD thesis (137 pages so far!), which must be done before the end of the month. I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about figures and citations. On top of that, I am TA-ing for 20 hours a week. So that sounds like I have enough to do–why I am I doing NaNoWriMo?

I was reluctant about scheduling away so much time at first. I really hate being busy. If I’m busy with work, I tend to see people less, just so I can maintain a little autonomy in my schedule. However, lately I’ve worked so hard on technical writing that I feel guilty doing fun stuff. In the last month, I’ve barely written fiction, I’ve barely been outside, I’ve barely seen friends, and I’ve barely worked on other hobbies. Whenever I picked up a book to read or a pen to draw, a little voice said “shouldn’t you be working on your dissertation?” I don’t work on my dissertation all the time, but it always weighs on me.

I still waste time. Everyone does. I still watch TV, I still read pointless websites. I decided that fun has to happen too. If fun won’t happen spontaneously, then scheduling something makes sense.

So– NaNoWriMo. I went to the kickoff event here Friday. Everybody was really friendly and energized. Several of my friends from my science fiction writing group do it. It’s fun to talk about writing when most of the time you sit and stare at it. It’s fun to feel an external incentive to write, when professional obligations push the other way. I’m not writing a novel, because I still have an unedited novel draft waiting for my attentions. I decided to write a few novellas, which are longer than short stories and shorter than novels. I look forward to what the rest of the month holds. Three days in, and I’m having fun writing. I might fail to reach 50,000, but I’ve already written 7200 words that I probably wouldn’t have without this challenge.