FRIDAY FX: Getting Down to Business

Happy Friday!

I pulled the trigger and submitted a short story at the top of the week with a couple more to go (hopefully) before the weekend’s over. With the submission calls, deadlines, agents open for querying, and all other writerly endeavours out there, I realized I needed to get organized before all the details piled up.

A lil’ spreadsheet goes a long way.

I created a handy-dandy file in Google Sheets and currently have three sheets in the works.

The first sheet is for Submission Call Outs that include paid gigs or contests. Currently, because of financial constraints, I’m focusing my attention primarily on no-fee to submit calls. I’m reserving the submission fees for projects that really speak to me or that come with feedback from the publication or event. That way, I’m getting more bang for my buck. Once I have locked in a steady income from these or other writing jobs, I’ll branch out further to the places that have submission fees, because I know that there are reputable places out there that I shouldn’t ignore. Speaking of, I’m also keeping track of scam contests and publications. It would do me little good bragging in a query letter about being published in ABC literary mag or winning a top prize with XYZ, if they aren’t on the up and up in the literary world. The fields I created are the submission window (open and close dates), URL, details (theme, word count, etc.), fee, and the link or email address of where to submit. I currently have it sorted in order of deadline, but I like to organize it based on word count, as well.

The next sheet is for literary agents. I’ve organized it with their name, whether they’re open for queries, their wishlist (what stories/genres they’re seeking), their website, social media links, and where to submit (Query Tracker, email address, etc.). This sheet is easily organized by the agent’s wishlist and reading windows.

And, of course, we have the Submission Tracker. This sheet includes date of submission, submission link/email link, if they received it (via form email or confirmation email), and current status. I can also add details such as date to follow-up on, or whether the piece had been simultaneously submitted elsewhere.

This has kept me more organized, and it’s helped me take a step further into the business mindset of my writing journey. Sure, writing is my passion, but as I’ve learned recently through various websites, webinars, and dialogue with fellow writers, agents, and editors on social media, it’s important to treat my writing like a business.

The word authorpreneur has also come up a lot. It makes sense. This is a scary, but exciting time transitioning from writing because it’s your passion to writing for your future because it’s your legacy. You become your own boss and you’re solely responsible to ensure if your business thrives or not.

How do you keep track of your submissions? Do you prefer high tech with apps and software programs, or do you like to keep things old school, as many still do, with planners and notebooks? There are also those who do a bit of both. Everyone has their own approach. These are definitely scary and exciting times, but I’m looking forward to a new month with plenty of opportunities, now all neatly organized for my perusal and reference.

Scared.

Excited.

Motivated.

Let’s go.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FRIDAY FX: “Hey, What’s the Big Idea!?”

TGIF, fellow writers!

This generation has got it good. We’re living in an amazing era of technological advancement and innovation. <cue curmudgeonly mentor voice> Why, back in my day, we didn’t have this, this Google, you speak of. Ever hear of a library catalogue? Familiar with the Dewey Decimal System?

Between that and waxing poetic on walking 15 miles to school through three foot snow drifts uphill–BOTH WAYS–in the dead of an extended Indian Summer, you get the idea, right? Information, these days, is truly at our fingertips.

So when we’re not typing various questionable entries into our trusty search engine, or bombarding Siri or Alexa with weather updates or what to make for dinner, what other methods do you resort to for information gathering?

BG (Before Google)

We didn’t always have the world at our fingertips. We literally had to do our own legwork. Libraries were, and still are, our brick and mortar haven for knowledge. Speaking of legwork, as long as we’re social distancing, there are benefits of going to the library for research or leisurely reading. Writing challenges and other literary enthusiasts will tell you to get butt in chair and write. However, we need to take breaks to stretch because the sedentary lifestyle isn’t doing us any favors.

That’s not to say that libraries are there just for research purposes. They have activities, events, and rooms to rent for private use, group chats (book clubs, writing clubs, etc.) I used to tutor students at the library, conducted business meetings, and even had documentary screenings with college organizations. There’s way more to a library than its book aisles. It’s like the world is at your fingertips–AND you’re amongst likeminded creatives. Libraries are among my most favorite places to visit.

Eavesdropping/Peoplewatching

I’ve experienced the most intriguing, and sometimes intensely WTF moments, by being adjacent to, or in the vicinity of the strange and otherworldly conversations that happen around me. Thanks for the (sometimes mind-boggling) entertainment, humanity.

Start off small. Coffeehouses, on the bus, at the mall, during a walk in the park. You name it, there are seeds of a story waiting to grow once the idea reaches the earshot of a writer. You’re surrounded by diverse groups of people from every age group, or a combination thereof. Many of my story ideas have begun this way. However, set the bar low. It might be strange, at times, but never boring. There’s plenty to hear, but some situations aren’t worth repeating. But, boy, when you do find that nugget, it’s hard not to run with it.

And who knows? On the way to the library, that walk/commute/drive might provide you with the much needed insight you’d been looking for. Or, you might find inspiration in the change of scenery, versus staring at a screen most of the day.

Writing Groups

I may look to Google for an initial query, but oftentimes, when I know my topic could be tossed in a group post in a writing group, I look forward to that method of brainstorming. Give or take a few hours, to account for international time zone differences, there’s active real-time discussion that you couldn’t get from search engines or online wikis that are edited, at will. These discussions are shared amongst people with experience in that subject and who can add nuances to your topic based on their particular background and geographic location. Of late, my writing groups are online, but when it’s safe to do so again, in-person writing groups are fun and motivating, especially when you’re in exciting conversations or revved up to do writing sprints. Online or in-person, find your tribe.

Social Media

Whether you go to Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram. Ideas are everywhere. There’s tumblr, Reddit, random memes. I use these as story prompts all the time, and they’re fun. Heck, you’ve seen a cornucopia of memes that I’ve included in my posts since I returned to my blog. They. Are. Everywhere. Ideas a-plenty. If not for a story prompt, use the visuals as inspiration for settings or actor pics as your character inspo.

Of course, we’ve got the ol’ standbys of books, television, and film. There are great (and not so great) stories out in the universe. As the reader/viewer, that perception is, of course, subjective. As a writer, however, these are extremely effective tools, because you can see final products out there in the world. You have the ability, along with the rest of the world, to determine what worked and what didn’t.

Just because an idea has been done before, that a story’s been done before, that shouldn’t deter you. Your idea, your story hasn’t been told yet because that’s uniquely you. You add the flavor and nuances from your own life experiences and knowledge that another writer can’t offer. You bring something new to the table. Remember, the majority of plot lines found in books, television, and film are also found in the bible. Brother against brother, massive calamity, plague, public persecution and discrimination. It’s all been brought up before. How will you take these ideas, some old, some outlandish, and create a fantastic read to share with the world?

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: This One Time at NaNo Camp…

And a Happy Camp NaNoWriMo Eve to one and all!

After some self-reflection (read: tumultuous debate with myself, dry erase markers, and my mirrored closet doors that ended up looking like a scene from A Beautiful Mind), I’ve come up with a strategy for April.

Since Camp NaNo doesn’t have the strict 50,000 minimum word count to stick to, I’ve decided to track time versus words. They’re still working on the tech behind the tracker variations now that they’ve merged the Camp NaNo site with the original NaNo site, so in the meantime, I’m using their math to convert the word counter to represent time spent working on the project(s).

Reminding myself that this is a flexible plan, that wiggle room is allowed, accounting for wind chill, and carrying the one, I’ve set my sights on a minimum of six hours a day devoted to my writing projects which by conversion standards comes out to a 10,800 word (or minute of time) goal. I certainly intend exceed this goal, but I wanted to give myself something realistic to work with.

So, how am I divvying up the time? There’s a submission call out that interests me with a deadline for April 30. It’s a 5,000 word max short story submission, no fee (yay!), and I have the option of submitting up to two stories. I will begin with one, for now, see how that feels and go from there.

Here’s my tentative working schedule for Camp NaNo:

Week 1: Submission Call out entry, due April 30. Getting it done sooner will afford me more time for revisions.

Week 2: Read through/revision of a MG Fantasy WIP

Week 3: Read through/revision of a Grounded Sci-Fi Thriller WIP

Week 4: Buffer week for any of the projects.

Experience has shown me that taking time away from the drafting to the re-reading of my work can offer more insight than barrelling through each stage without pause. I’ve seen the evolution in my writing. I have the opportunity to adapt new techniques I’ve learned and improve the overall flow of the story. There are a lot of considerations now that involve current global events that might effect how my story is received, especially since some of them were first drafted more than a decade ago.

I still have my awesome writing groups that are always buzzing with daily activity, as well as some upcoming writing craft webinars I’m excited for, so those will be interspersed in the schedule.

If April goes according to plan, I intend to continue this method throughout the year in hopes that I’ll have a handful of polished manuscripts ready for the next stage of review, edits, beta reads, and *gasp* the foray into querying for a literary agent, mayhaps?

A lot of great apps and services are available to Camp NaNo participants at a discounted price. Winners often get an even bigger discount. What’s great about these offers is that some companies extend their usual free-trials so you can explore the product in depth during Camp, a few extend a couple weeks beyond, as well. This is the best time to try these products and it’s unlikely you’d get a better deal outside of this. Many NaNos ago, I bought Scrivener at 50% off it’s already reasonable price. It’s a robust writing software program that seems to be the go-to one stop shop for writers these days. I still haven’t explored its full potential. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but what it does, it does well.

But don’t wait too long, or even wait until the next NaNo comes along. I could’ve gotten a lifetime license of Campfire Pro with the World Building module free at a lower price point. I heard they were working on something called Campfire Blaze and it purported to be better than its predecessors. I took the gamble and held off on the purchase only to discover that Blaze was subscription based and they no longer offered the version I wanted at the price point I could’ve gotten it beforehand. They do have some discounts available during Camp, however, and I’ll do more research before forking over the dollars.

Last NaNo, I took advantage of their discount offer and finally joined Sisters in Crime. There was a discount for ProWritingAid and World Anvil, but I held off on those, at the time. I’m looking to explore these programs further. YouTube vids are helpful, too, both with reviews and tutorials. I’m tempted to get ProWritingAid. I’ve never seen a lower price than this. And let me tell ya, these prices are in American dollars and when you convert that to Canadian… I American’t sometimes, you feel me? It’s important to grab these opportunities before the prices go back up. For us struggling artists in the world, every penny counts.

Here’s a quick reference with links to NaNo Offers I recommend and that I’m also interested in (These are non-affiliate links and taken from the NaNo site itself.):

  • Scrivener – 20% off for all Camp NaNo Participants; 50% off for all Winners. CODE: HAPPYCAMPER (EXP: 05/07)
  • Sisters in Crime – 20% off the first annual membership (for new members). CODE: SINCCAMP21 (EXP: 08/01)
  • ProWritingAid – Save $200 on a Premium lifetime licence (pay $199 instead of $399). (EXP: 04/30)
  • World Anvil – 30% off 12-month memberships of Master Tier and above. CODE: CAMPNANO2021 (EXP: 06/01)
  • Campfire Blaze – 30% off lifetime purchases of modules (Pro excluded). CODE: CAMPNANO2021 (EXP: 08/01)

There are other offers available and they may still add more before Camp is through. When I first checked a few weeks ago, World Anvil had not yet been included in the offers, so be sure to have a look around and see what might interest you.

Whatever your plans for April, I hope it’s filled with writerly goodness. I’ll be checking in each week with the highs, lows, lefts, and rights, that I’ll be trekking through in hopes that this will be my best Camp NaNo experience yet.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: A Little Not So Light Reading

I’ve amassed plenty of writing resources, be it digital or physical. In preparation forĀ CampĀ NaNoWriMo, I’ve curated an initial selection, keeping in mind some aspects I want to focus on in my writing project.

I’ve been a long time fan of K.M. Weiland. She’s an amazing author who’s active on social media and her website, Helping Writers Become Authors, is a treasure trove of information from story structure to character arcs. I recommend any of her books. I bought Outlining Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel Workbook years ago and last year purchased the software version of the workbook, as well.

I’ve been reading up on Deep Point of View. It’s a technique I’d already been doing, was eager to learn more about, but had no idea there was a name for it, as what I’d been doing is a sub-category of the more widely known Third Person Point of View. I read some articles by other writers on the subject, but still had questions. I decided to google “K.M. Weiland Deep Point of View” and wasn’t surprised that she had written on the topic. Reading through her explanations, examples, as well as the exchanges she has with writers in the comments section, was like I’d been sitting in a writing masterclass. Such a great writer and teacher.

Word choice for maximum impact can be a challenge, at times, especially if you find that you’re starting to sound repetitive as the story rolls on. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi wrote the immensely popular The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. I’m looking forward to adding more of their books to my collection soon. In the meantime, their website, Writers Helping Writers, is another writing resource gold mine.

Sometimes you need answers in real time. If a Google search turns up empty, I’ve discovered a game changer in research and it’s currently the primary reason I’m even on Facebook anymore. I can’t believe I never knew about these groups before, but once I started following along in a few writing groups I’m in, some fellow writers suggested the following groups, all of which I’m now a member of and I’m thoroughly fascinated by each post I read, and the comment threads that follow. I even had some of my own questions answered already in the short time I’ve been a member in these groups, and it’s remarkable and encouraging to know that my people are out there and they get me!

The members are comprised of writers and professionals in their respective fields that volunteer their time to help ensure scenes and situations are accurately depicted in our writing. You have to apply for membership and answer some questions prior to being approved, in order for them to weed out spammers and such. Here are just a few of the groups and the descriptions as written on their respective pages:

Trauma Fiction – Trauma Fiction is your resource for finding medical, trauma and illness information for your characters, plot and scenarios. Hosted by Emergency Medical Technician veteran, author Elizabeth Otto.

Legal Fiction – Legal Fiction is your resource for finding information about attorneys, the law, and the courtroom for your characters, plot, and scenarios. Hosted by attorney/author/editor at Twitching Pen Editing Jennifer Severino.

Cops and Writers – This group is dedicated to answering authors and screenwriters police related questions. Police procedure, equipment, police culture, and investigations are all fair game.

Authors Fire/Rescue – The Group is set up to help those write realistic fire/rescue and arson scenes.

I know there are so many more writing groups out there, especially on different platforms such as tumblr, reddit, and Discord, but with the high rate of activity I’m already getting with these ones, it’s better if I ease into these new communities.

I’ve gained insight into improving my writing, that’s always an ongoing process. There are such impassioned discussions, truly helpful approaches to tackling sensitive topics, and a dynamic group of talented people with common interests. You know how much I love infotainment.

What resources do you turn to when writing? Have you had a chance to immerse yourself in these various group threads? If you haven’t heard of these resources yet, do check them out and join in the conversation.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Pandora’s Box of Plotting Prep

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #1

It’s been an interesting week, so far. Having a shiny new story idea is both a blessing and a curse. I started with a one teeny tiny lil’ magic bean and it didn’t take long for that to sprout and shoot up to the clouds where I’m now dodging the footfalls of giants as I navigate where this idea will take me.

It began with an idea for the impact x SKYDANCE Premium Drama prompt that quickly evolved into so many scenarios that took twists and turns I hadn’t even considered. All of this because I kept asking questions and raising the stakes for my main character. I posed such questions to some of my writing groups and got some amazing results. It also led me to a writing community that specializes in medical guidance for more accurate depictions in fiction.

You know how people often joke about their internet search history? It’s even become a meme where the punch line is something like “It’s for a book. Honest.” or “Having to explain you’re a writer when someone sees your search history.” I have to say, once you go into a deep dive to develop a story idea, having the world at your fingertips is also a blessing and a curse. Before the majority of the world was blessed with wifi and access to the interwebs, research, as a whole, was a more cumbersome ordeal. Don’t get me wrong, back in the day, the tactile experience of digging through books and microfiche to do research really put me in ‘detective mode’ and got the creative juices flowing. However, sometimes, research was stalled because I had to return the books to the library or someone else had already checked out the book I needed. Then, I’d have to lug home half a dozen or more books–which, I guess counted as my workout for the day, right?

I will always love libraries and bookstores. However, there are so many advantages to researching in the digital world. The obvious and most important one for a writer is the speed at which we can acquire the information. No more rifling through indices or cross-referencing multiple sources. Now, search engines do the heavy lifting and we find what we’re looking for much faster. Another bonus is not having to worry about storage space, even though, one day, my dream house will have a most spectacular library in it. Currently, surface area comes at a premium, so I need to be selective with what I have in such a confined space.

Back to speed of knowledge acquisition. I’ve spent the last several days learning a plethora of information including but not limited to body decomposition, how many minutes after a lack of oxygen until brain death, along with a handy infographic of gunshot wound diameters upon entry and exit–and these weren’t even for questions I asked about my own WIP! This is where the curse part comes in after the blessing. It seems that answering one question leads to another, reading about other writers’ questions leads to further story ideas and more questions about those potential plot points. It’s a deliciously vicious cycle.

So far, this has been a fruitful information expedition. I should keep all the newfound knowledge in a reserve file, as I’ve stumbled upon a treasure trove. However, I need to stay on track because I only have a few weeks to submit this fully-formed story idea–times two because there’s the Grounded, Elevated Sci-Fi prompt I’m also working on. There’s still a lot more to be done but I’m hoping by the next update, I’ll have everything plotted out. While, they’re only asking for the story idea, I’d like to have drafted the pilot episodes and maybe one or two episodes after those within the next few months. It’s good practice and I’m excited for where these story ideas and questions will take me next. Thanks, Pandora.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.