Writer in Motion

So I decided to scratch my itch and silently returned to my writing about 7 months ago. Those of you who drop in from time to time might remember that I started a novel a few years back and then stopped at around 30k words. Well, since returning to writing late last year I finished the novel at around 113k words and I’m now close to finishing my first round of edits.

It’s been an awesome experience and getting across the first full manuscript finish line felt amazing. I then put it aside for a few weeks and returned to do the first pass of simple edits, checking for plot holes, flow, etc. I’ve discovered a few gaps in my writing skills along the way that I’ll blog about in the future.

Some of the things I’ve been trying to do as I approach the finish line with my first novel was:

  1. Meet my fellow writers and find a community
  2. Work on refining my craft so I can iteratively improve this novel and future writing
  3. Learn from others what needs to be done to publish this thing successfully.

In the search to find a community, I came upon this great Slack writing community called the Writers’ Craft Room. It’s a fun group of people that help each other with feedback, critique partners, Twitter pitches, etc.

While finding my way around the Slack I stumbled upon this cool channel called #writerinmotion. The channel was about a new project the community was kicking off. It’s described as:

“Create a space where readers can see how a writer moves through the drafting, feedback and editing process to create a polished work.”

I was fortunate that they hadn’t yet started so after I begged (not really, I just asked) if they could use a newbie like me and just like that they welcomed me into the launch crew. WOOT!

So here I am, a Writer in Motion!

This will be a week-by-week process where the 12 of us will draft a short story, revise, rewrite, digest feedback, and blog about our process as we move from start to finish. The goal of the journey is to both document and share the process of writing and refining so people can appreciate and fully understand the creative process of storytelling.

If you’d like to follow any of us on our journey you can find my writer cohorts blogs here:

  1. K. J. Harrowick (http://blog.halon-chronicles.com/ & http://kjharrowick.wordpress.com/)
  2. Jen Karner (http://www.SyllablesandSass.com/)
  3. H.M. Braverman (http://hmbraverman.com/)
  4. J.M. Jinks (www.authorjmjinks.com/)
  5. Melissa Bergum (will be posting via KJ’s site)
  6. Thuy Nguyen (http://www.tmnstories.com/)
  7. Kristen Howe (https://kristenswritingendeavors.wordpress.com/)
  8. Kathryn Hewitt (https://spinningmyyarns.wordpress.com/)
  9. Sean Willson (me)
  10. Paulette Wiles (http://www.paulettewiles.com/)
  11. Talynn (http://inkinthebook.blogspot.com/)
  12. Ellen Mulholland (http://www.ellenmulholland.com/)

Look for my first posting the week of June 1st with subsequent postings at least once per week thereafter.

Inner Ring Supply Run

Captain Monroe stood at attention just like she'd done countless times before. Today was no different than the previous inspections, at least that was what she'd been telling herself for the last hour. These inspections usually last half this time. She'd hoped the rumors of tightened Inner Ring security were just that, rumors.

All of the manifests were in order, all of the seals on the shipments were unbroken and had been resealed perfectly, and the transponders were reprogrammed and working. Every step she'd been trained to follow had been followed meticulously. In the vacuum of space she had nothing but time to engage her inner obsessive compulsive disorder to follow orders. Everything had been reviewed several times over.

Her mind was doing circles now and her heart was beating erratically. Nervously looking around the room, she briefly made eye contact with the guard they'd left with her in engineering while they did inspections. She instantly regretted it. She had to focus and get herself under control. Any sign of weakness of nervousness would certainly give her away. She closed her eyes for a second and started to center herself. Breathing in and out in a controlled manner like all good Outer Ringers learned at birth. Air is precious, air is life … air is precious, air is life. Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out.

She often wondered if the ability that the Outer Ring people had to quickly center themselves and control their emotions gave them an edge. Her academic friends certainly thought so but right about now she didn't feel like she had any advantages. Under the stress of looting while at the same time delivering a supply run she wasn't sure she had any sort of upper hand.

A loud noise jarred her out of her focusing routine as she stumbled slightly to catch her balance. The noise of a docking port attaching to a ship is very distinct and unnerving for any captain. It was usually accompanied by the relief of a voyage finally ending or the stress of a random inspection or repair.

One could usually discern the nature of the attachment by the noise it made. The louder the clang the worse the pilot, the worse the pilot the more stress to come. Her flight instructor would have scored that docking job as a first run freshman from a gravity well. It was only when the blast charges went off that she realized this wasn't another freshman inner ring inspection force. It was something far worse, pirates!

Without a thought she leapt across the room and broke open one of the supply lockers. The last thing she wanted to do today was die from exposure. Inside she grabbed two helmets and slammed the door closed. Turning around she was greeted to a gun pressing into her temple.

"Don't move!" shouted the guard. She swore she could hear the firearms capacitor charging as he nervously pressed the gun to her head. He was clearly freaking out as he was trying to unsuccessfully subvocally communicate with his crew mates.

"Are you going to shoot me before or after I save you from exposure?" she asked looking down at the helmets in her hand. Slowly she raised one and held it up to the guard. He hesitated, unsure if this was a ruse to throw him off.

"How about I make this easy for you," she said carefully lowering the helmet. "I'll set it on the ground slowly and back away. Then you can pick it up and safely put it on."

"Ok, yea … that … that sounds good," he stammered.

As she bent down to set the helmet on the ground she could hear it. The distinct sound of feet quickly shuffling toward engineering. That shuffling sound a space born crew would make living in irregular gravity, never fully trusting physics. She only had a few seconds to act.

"Do you hear that?" she asked trying to draw his attention to the aft door.

"Nice try. I'm not falling for…"

Before he could finish his sentence she tossed his helmet toward an aft storage locker to draw his attention. At the same time she tucked hers into her stomach and rolled toward the bow. Just as she stopped rolling in front of the exit the door slid open, sensing her approach. She'd gambled successfully that the security overrides the inspection crew had on her computer would be preempted by the prevailing emergency.

The guard however wasn't quite as green as she'd hoped. While he was initially distracted, he'd quickly seen through her ploy and had crouched preparing to fire on her from a better position. He was however greeted to a loud clank outside the aft engineering door. The distinct sound of a blast charge being placed on a 4 inch thick pressurized door meant to prevent cascading depressurization of a ship. Rather than fire he turned slowly and began subvocalizing something, she assumed to his crew.

That was all the distraction she needed. She shoved her helmet on and launched herself through the bow door. As she cleared it she subvocalized a command to her ship to both lock down engineering and cut the ships gravity. Even though everyone involved was trained in zero-g maneuvers she knew most of them would be caught off guard giving her she hoped a few seconds advantage.

Expanding Into Long Form Writing

I’m sitting here on the morning train frozen from head to toe waiting for these heaters to work their thermal magic. Even with the freeze I’m still lost in thought. Yes, I’m wondering when my body is going to regain some feeling from standing in the unusually cold weather waiting on this bloody train but I still have other things on my mind as well.

I’ve really been enjoying writing here and the more I write the more I want to write, it’s a vicious cycle. I find myself wanting to continue writing more each on of the stories I start. It’s difficult at times to wrap up my thoughts into around 750 words. I know that isn’t the point of writing, to just do 750 words. I do however want to tell a story, control the narrative, and do it within a controlled time period. I want to use it to improve my writing while at the same time complete something. To me the deadline of 750 words is doable and fits my work life balance for now.

If you’re like most people, myself included, you enjoy the thrill of finishing something as much as you enjoy starting something anew. Each leads into the other, a continuum of past goals met and future goals set. That rush you feel when you wrap up something you’ve been working on is both sad and rewarding on many levels.

It’s sad because you put so much energy into the writing. You worked hard to ensure it’s perfect (within reason) and that it’ll stand on its own. You’ll miss the comfort of it, the flow of it. Even though it’s only 750 words it’s still your creation, your spark, your idea that flowed into those words. Those words that created a new world, a new future, a conspiracy to unravel and now it’s done. I guess it’s called a “short story” for a reason.

It’s rewarding because the draw of that clean slate spurs the creative juices. Anything is possible starting fresh and you long to just put it all out there in its raw glory. The polish isn’t yet necessary, just lay down the foundation and build up from there. The skies the limit!

So what’s a writer to do? Well first and foremost I’m going to write because without that I’m just spamming nonsense. I am however going to take a few of the stories I’ve already started, and some I haven’t yet, and expand on them over the coming months. I’ll fill in some of blanks and attempt to build on the story lines.

I’m doing this for multiple reasons. First and foremost because I’ve enjoyed the characters I developed and I found myself wanting to write about them again the next day. I forced myself not to however because I wanted get comfortable redirecting the mental juices into new places. I don’t want to get stuck in a mental rut beating an already dead narrative.

The second reason I want to continue these stories is because while I do enjoy writing short form fiction I’d also like to learn how to write more long form. It’s a different creative process that requires you to keep more pieces moving together. A balancing act of building the characters, moving the storyline forward, and keeping it interesting.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve never written anything long form in my life. College term papers for literature class don’t count as long form sorry. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but as I mentioned in my opening posting it’s not something I ever thought was practical let alone possible. After writing these last few weeks I now know that it’s not just possible, it’s definitely something I can do.

I’m not making any leaps here, I know that I have much to learn and that I’m just starting to get my footing here. I’m just excited and felt like pouring some of my energy into a writing to explain why you might see some faces and story lines a little more often. I’ll try to link back to other parts of the story when appropriate. I’m also planning on adding each of the story lines to categories for quick access.

My challenge going forward is how to continue hitting my daily goal of at least 750 words while at the same time moving a story line forward without butchering it. Remember, I’m not spending as much time editing my daily writing because the goal with this site is to just write however imperfectly.

Word Count: 763

750 Word Update

I’ve made it to my ninth writing on this journey. With a mixture of stories, opinions, and introductions I feel like it’s been a success thus far. I’ve easily hit my 750 daily word count with yesterday’s piece going over 1,000 words. The key is that I’m writing which if I’m not makes it impossible to improve.

Yesterday I wrote my first story where I included character dialog. My first few stories were more point of view story telling pieces and weren’t about dialog. While I’ve read dialog thousands of times from a variety of authors it’s been years since I’ve written it myself. It was far smoother for me to write background story lines rather than dialog but once I got into the flow it went fairly well.

I know it was a bit rough around the edges but this blog isn’t about taking the time to perfect each and every piece. It’s about writing every day and improving each and every time. It may small improvement that aren’t obvious at first but the more I write and the more I read about writing the more fluid my writing should become.

Because I haven’t had the opportunity to read as much since I’m not writing more I haven’t studied as much as I’d like. I have a few books on my short list though that if you have opinions or better options I’d love to hear about them.

  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • The Elements of Style
  • How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
  • Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
  • On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

I’m still on the lookout for a good reference and practical book on grammar and sentence structure. Ideally it’d be in electronic form if possible which limits most textbooks. If you can recommend anything please drop me a comment.

My process thus far has been to write in the evenings after the kids are down. I haven’t yet been back on the train so I haven’t had the opportunity to test my writing there. In the evening I often start around 8 pm and don’t finish until 10 or 11 pm. This is usually a mixture of random conversations with my wife and writing so it’s not exactly uninterrupted time. I’m hoping the dedicated time on the train will open some free evening time to read and study more.

Finally I thought I’d write a bit about the stories and other random topics I’ve chosen. I don’t have any long running story lines planned yet. At some point I think it would be fun to have one or two moving story lines but I don’t want to put that pressure on myself yet. I’d rather write what comes to mind each time I pull up iA Writer and just let the words flow.

As you’ve likely already noticed I’m a huge fan of science fiction and most of my stories will likely come from that or a fantasy angle. I went through a period where I read some modern day survival fiction and I’ve recently been reading WOOL which is a futuristic post apocalyptic series of books, similar but different. I find it easier to write about modern survival topics but enjoy futuristic ones more. I think the future fiction requires much more planning and character development to pull the reader in and make them feel like part of the story. The modern fiction stories can be build from more relevant and relatable everyday topics and locations which while easier to write about can also be a bit tedious.

Since this is my first writing blog I don’t really know what to expect in terms of readership. My prior blogs had several hundred regular readers but the topics were quite different. A number of my readers come from a tight knit group of fellow bloggers linking to or commenting on my blog. I also have a lot of twitter and Facebook followers as well. On this blog I’m starting from ground zero but my goal isn’t to get a huge number of readers. I would however like a few readers who can give feedback on my writing or share ideas with me. Because of this I recently joined the Goodreads forums and have shared a few links to my blog there. If anyone can recommend any other good literary forums to join I’d appreciate it.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Word Count: 750