My flash fiction piece “Memory” (fantasy, of sorts) will be appearing in The Flash Fiction Press on 21 September. I’ll post a link when it’s up!
After a bit of a fallow period during my all-too-busy summer, I’ve been increasing my fiction & poetry submission volume during the past couple of weeks. I’ve also got a lot of new – and some old – stories brewing, including a sequel to Moss. In fact, since I just spent the past hour and a half trawling through my notebooks and typing down ideas into a file for later consultation, I actually feel a bit overwhelmed by ideas. 😀 Always more ideas than time to write! And so many projects I’m working on/want to work on! (I really need to revise my poetry collection and actually send it out. I’ve been sitting on it for far too long…)
However, now out for a walk to brainstorm one of those story ideas.
Coming up later today: Sunday recs! I’ve been reading SO MUCH good stuff this week.
Tonight I’m feeling inspired by Rose Lemberg’s great essay (originally published as tweets) on perseverance and the editorial process.
Rose talks about the importance of not self-rejecting your work, and of daring to submit, and re-submit to a publication that’s rejected your work before. The whole essay is very much worth a read for any (aspiring or published) writer! Especially if you (like me) suffer from some form of perfectionism and self-doubt.
It was such a huge leap for me to start submitting my poems in 2012. I’ve been writing (both prose and poetry) since forever, and my poetic voice has been getting stronger since 2009, but it took me so long to dare to submit my work. I was really afraid of rejection, of not being “good enough”. And those first rejections really hurt. I hadn’t developed a tougher skin yet; I felt like the magazines I submitted to were rejecting my whole self, all of my writing forever, &c. &c.
As time’s gone by, it’s got easier. I still feel a sting when I get a rejection, especially if it’s been a long time since an acceptance. But I understand better now that rejections a) are just one person’s (editor’s) opinion, b) can happen for any number of reasons, c) do not mean I’m a terrible writer. I’ve learnt to feel happy about personalised rejections, and the ones that actually give a snippet of feedback on my work make me feel good. I try to believe the editors when they say “please submit to us again”.
It’s been harder with stories. Quantity-wise, I produce far less of them than poems, which flow out at a much quicker pace. Story rejections still sting more, and make me doubt my skills (“oh noes I am the WORST AT PLOTTING FOREVER”). But how will those skills develop if I don’t keep writing and submitting? They won’t. So I have to keep trying.
Because after all, my perseverance so far has got me a long way from where I was three years ago. I’ve been published in a lot of amazing magazines – and I still feel giddy when I think that my story is going to be in An Alphabet of Embers. I just have to keep on daring, even when I feel afraid.
In a moment I’m going to get down to some actual writing – there has to be proper writing on the first day of a new year! But first, a round-up of 2013 and some writing goals/wishes for 2014.
I thought I’d do a list of the writing I’ve done this year. It’s difficult to quantify this stuff, really, because a lot of things are in some stage of unfinishedness, but here’s an estimate:
- 69 poem drafts (not all of them edited or reworked, and some never will be; many have been submitted, and a few of them have got published too!)
- 5 flash fiction pieces (4 finished, 1 still in draft phase)
- 3 stories of <5,000 words (should send a couple of them out; one still needs editing)
- two novelettes (still need final edits before can be sent out)
- one failed attempt at reworking my novel Dim Vanities
- several writing exercises with potential to become more
- 32 poems
- 1 flash fiction piece
- 1 short story
- –> As you can see, I didn’t submit too many stories in 2013!
So, that’s the numbers. Now for some more words:
What pleased me writing-wise:
- The writers’ group I’m in – Helsinki Writers’ Group, for people in this area who write in English – has been really great. It’s been amazing to actually share my stuff live with other writers, and to get to talk about writing with people who get it. It’s brilliant to have a group where constructive criticism actually works. I’ve been able to radically improve so many of my pieces from feedback I’ve got from the group. And of course it’s heartening to have people laugh out loud at the funny bits. 🙂 We’ve got a really good, supportive atmosphere, I think. Looking forward to our first meeting of the year this Friday.
- I wrote a surprising amount considering I was quite stressed out for much of the year and had too much on my plate. Extreme yay!
- I got some poems published that are very special to me. The fact that ‘Orthography: A Personal History’ is out there makes me especially happy.
What I was disappointed in:
- As I have mentioned previously, I was disappointed in failing to get a proper edit started for Dim Vanities despite the reasons for my failure being completely understandable.
Now for the 2014 part of this post: the forward-looking, hopeful part. 😀
What are my writing goals for 2014?
My major non-writing goal this year is to apply for a PhD position in my field of English historical linguistics and manuscript studies. However, my freer schedules this spring will hopefully result in more creative writing time too, despite my intended focus on academia. And even if (when!) busyness ensues, writing will always be high on the priority list. Hence, goals – which I may or may not achieve, but it’s better to have some nonetheless, methinks!
Some goals writing-wise (aim high!):
- Get a story published! I’d like to get more than just my poetry out there, since, you know, I am not exclusively a poet. Achieving this goal – in addition to luck and writing well – means getting more stories (especially shorter ones) edited, finished and actually submitted.
- Get more poems published.
- Work on a poetry collection. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and I’ve already got a lot of ideas and some preliminary work done.
- Increase writing output – get back into the groove of writing, preferably every day.
- Rework Dim Vanities and decide what to do with it (whether to continue editing it smaller-scale, or do a total reboot, or just stick it in the trunk).
- Improve my plotting skills.
- Finish more stuff and edit previous work to a submittable point.
I could probably think of tons more goals if I really got to it – there’s always room for improvement and there are plenty of things in my writing that I want to work on. But these are the major goals. I will also work on not stressing out if I don’t manage to fulfil them. With Ye Olde Perfeccionisme, that’s going to be the greatest challenge of all!
Tonight, after my work day followed by two hours of volunteer work for a folk music organisation whose board I’m in, I’ve been doing poetry stuff. Submitted a few poems; edited a poem from February that I came across in my notebook; decided to read that and another short poem at tomorrow’s writers’ group meeting. This is one of the reasons I like writing my poems’ first drafts mainly by hand – by riffling through my notebook, I sometimes come across stuff I’ve totally forgotten but which is worth editing and sending off into the wide world.
In my poetry-related meanderings on the interwebs, I discovered that Issue 25 of Niteblade has got enough funding, so now the whole issue is free to read online. Read my poem ‘Bitter Mnemosyne’ in full here!
Also, I tinkered around with my publications page (with valuable input from a friend), trying to figure out ways to present the information logically and consistently. Yes, I really need to get back into academia…
I edited and sent off a short story today. Exciting! I should really write more shorts. The trouble is, I often tend to go for expansive stuff rather than the knife-sharp and short stuff…
I’ve been thinking I should practise writing flash fiction to hone my short-writing skills. Was inspired by this piece in The Guardian; I love the notion of “stories in your pocket”.
Related to short stories, a while ago I read David B. Coe’s post on Magical Words comparing novels vs short fiction in terms of the writing process. I wish I could learn to do this well:
This is the essence of writing a compelling short story: taking a situation, a moment in time, and giving it narrative structure so that it becomes something greater and more meaningful, something that feels complete. It is what I strive to do with my short fiction. When writing a short piece, I know that I can’t explain everything about my world or my characters or even my magic system. So I tell my readers the bare minimum of what they need to know and I try to allow my story to exist on its own terms.
Today I also wrote a poem draft during my walk to work and did some daydreaming for a potential fantasy trilogy (shhhh), so it’s been a surprisingly good writing day, all in all.
I just finished a poem I’ve been working on for the past month – at least, I think I finished it, because you never know. I might want to tweak it. I might get brilliant comments from someone that make me want to change it.
But soon it’ll have to be ready, because I mean to submit it to Interfictions tomorrow. HA.
It was wonderful to work on it today – to write, and to have written. I’ve been writing very, very little during the past couple of weeks, because I’ve been suffering from a nasty prolonged flu that flared into an ear infection last week. I’m on antibiotics now, though, and feeling much better. Fingers crossed that the flu doesn’t sneak up on me again. I’ve had enough of being sick and not getting to go to dance class, thanks very much!
But, poetry! Words again! Feels good. And feels especially good to have pretty much finished a long poem project – possibly my longest ever so far, and with my self, my soul, my history crafted into it. No matter if I never get it published anywhere; for me, this was an important thing to write.
Happy Sunday, everyone. It’s a grey, mushy one over here, with something unpleasant falling from the sky (ugh, sleet, whyyyy) and the lovely snow turning to slush. I have to go out in a moment, into that mess, but before that – here are some recs again.
First, the fairytale: Houdini’s Sister by Christine Hamm. A lovely prose poem, a praise of fairytale heroines.
Now for the science fiction.
Dysphonia in D Minor by Damien Walters Grintalis. A bittersweet love story about people who sing bridges and buildings into being. I really enjoyed this, especially the structure.
And then, oh, then. Gravity by Erzebet Yellowboy. Earth is covered in ice; a group of people set off towards the sun. This story made me ache so much by the end. Gorgeous, devastating. And such language! Of Mercury: “A dead god has scrawled its name there in a language we have forgotten.” And: “We become Ouroboros in twenty-five days, when the head of our orbit eats its tail.” Brilliant stuff.
I edited 10 pages of an old novelette yesterday and did sundry other useful things. Today’s mostly for social activities. Which is lovely, but oh, I just wish I had more time! I have so many things I want to write – stories, poems, an academic article – but time slips through my grasping fingers and February rushes onwards.
I really need to finish one poem project soon, though, because submissions to Interfictions end on the 28th. Will have to set aside time for that.
Lately I’ve been remembering my dreams quite vividly. They’ve been strange and powerful dreams, too, some of them. Those often tend to turn into poetry or inspire stories, if they’re adventure dreams. My latest dreams have been poetry inspiration. I’ll have to see if I can get the very latest (today’s) into a good enough shape to be able to read it at Friday’s writers’ group meeting. Vast landscapes, black sand, robots striding across the remote planet’s surface with giant’s legs… Powerful visual impressions and a feeling of desolation. How to convey these things in a poem?
One day I’ll get round to posting a couple of posts that I got the idea for many moons ago – posts that properly deal with writing, instead of random babble – but it is not this day. This day… is approaching tomorrow too fast. I should start preparing for bed, since tomorrow is really not a good day for feeling zombietastic at work. Tomorrow evening, though, I plan to make time for writing. More poetry submissions, perhaps (did some yesterday), or then continuing work on an old story that itches to be finished.
I hope everyone has had a lovely relaxing holiday! I had a nice time: plenty of alone time combined with family. Alone time was spent eating leisurely breakfasts and writing my Finnish short story.
…My short story which I’ve now sent off to the competition! I’m so pleased that I managed to get a story written in Finnish, and that I submitted it to the competition. Never done such a thing in Finnish before! I suspect it won’t be a winning story, but finishing it was a personal win, so I’m happy even now. Perhaps I’ll be less scared of embracing Finnish as an additional fictional language in the future. 🙂
I’m going to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy New Year! Going to be interesting to see what 2013 brings with it. 2012 has been a full year, what with writing and finishing my MA thesis; graduating; being unemployed; finishing a proper novel draft; Nanowrimo; getting a job; and most pleasingly, getting some of my poetry published.
Here’s to a new year of writing!
Today has so far not included Nano-ing. I’m going to try to get a little bit written now, but doubt will catch up today (yesterday was not a good word count day). I hope to catch up during the weekend!
Anyway, in my defence, I’ve had rather useful ways of procrastinating from Nanowrimo today. First, I worked on some bureaucratic stuff for the folk dance group I’m in. And second, an even worthier reason to procrastinate from novelling: I submitted some poems. Haven’t done that for a while, so it felt good. Wishing my wee poems the best of luck 🙂
Now! for some writing. And then bed. Have I mentioned my difficulties with attaining a sensible sleep rhythm now that I’m working full-time? Well, er, difficulties, I can has them. And Nanowrimo, obviously, is not helping. *shakes head at self for attempting silly things during first weeks of new job*