Craft, Feedback, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Goals, Novel, Query, Rejection, Short story, Writing

A Year’s Worth of Writing

Have you reviewed your writing progress in 2010? In this and another post or two in the next two weeks, Ill take a look back at the highlights of mine. When I looked back at all the posts for this year, I was surprised at how many twists and turns I took.

At the beginning of the year, I thought I had a finished novel in query status, so I turned my attention to short stories. I wrote a post, Writing vs. Crafting, in which I vowed to not only read more short stories, but to write and submit for publication some of my own. Nothing to report on my stories, but I did read more of those written by others, including fabulous debut collections from Robin Black and Tracy Winn.

Next, I jumped out of the box and started my year of living dangerously. (Even though I lost sight of that along the way, it may explain the way my writing year will end. Stay tuned.) But back then, I dared myself again by trying a writing challenge: a micro flash story. And I wrote it from a prompt, which is something I hadn’t done for decades. It was so much fun I invited my readers to take the challenge too. 

And then, I fell apart. Rejection spawned dejection and in barged the Blue Muse. From the bottom there’s no way but up, so I went into warrior mode and wrote a new query letter and opening paragraph for my novel; entered two contests; and dissected a Flannery O’Connor story for a discussion group.

The decision to edit my novel again reminded me of a good beating and then, continuing with new experiences, my novel spoke aloud. I discovered frigid fiction, but soon I became blinded by the words. To my rescue came the fabulous Kayla Olson who volunteered to read and critique for me.

Again I needed to be reminded to wait for the words. Before long I had reason to panic over platform, but as the end of the first quarter of 2010 came to a close, I was riding the train of eternal optimism.

Your turn: Have you charted your writing progress this year? How did you fair?

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Blog Stuff, Feedback, Social Media, Writing

Dear blog readers, you are being used!

Confession of the day—I’m a vampire. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ve probably figured out I write many of my posts ad hoc—in essence they’re Tweets with no character limit. Often, not always, I write these posts because I need your help. I need you to help me sort out what I think.

We’ve all heard the purported Flannery O’Connor quote: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I’ll paraphrase that to say, “I post because I’m not sure what I think until I read what you say.” That’s why your comments are so important to me.

Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve written, you help me refine my thinking. Sometimes you give me affirmation. Sometimes you point out that I apparently have a screw loose. Sometimes you take my thoughts in an unexpected direction, inspiring and challenging me.

I’m not a teacher. I’m not an essayist. I don’t blog to give you something. I’m selfish. Oh sure, occasionally I share something I’ve learned by writing, or reading … or gardening, shopping, or cooking. Often I point you to another blogger who writes the lovely posts I wish I could write. But mostly I just blather on some topic or another and hope you’ll help me make some sense of it.

My husband doesn’t understand the point of social networking. He converses only face to face or by telephone. Then again, he’s not a writer. What comes out of my mouth is rarely what I spend most of my time thinking. My written words run far deeper than my spoken ones—blog posts excluded. I even find it hard to voice record notes to myself—my mind tends to go blank when I open my mouth. I express myself much easier in written word. Blogging is a natural for me.

Unfortunately, I mostly blog my half-formed thoughts, my questions, my theories, and expect your comments to complete the equation. Sometimes, even when I felt I’d formed a complete thought, your comments reveal another aspect I hadn’t considered.

So, yes, my friends, you’re being used … but I hope you don’t mind.

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Books, Fiction, Horror, Musings, Reading, Reflections

How I read from there to here!

Recently, I’ve been thinking of all the books I’ve read in my life … not that I can actually remember them all—or even a third. Specifically, I’ve thought of different categories of books and when I read them. While waiting for my first son to be born I read the likes of Updike, Angelou, and Bradbury. By the time my second son was born, less than two years after the first, I used my reading time mostly to escape with Holt, du Maurier, and Clark.

They looked like angels.

Fast forward a few years and two more sons. As I recall, at that time, my tastes in reading seemed to fall mainly in two categories: horror and humor. Hello, King and Bombeck. This probably makes perfect sense to any mothers reading this.

By that time, I was also heavily involved in the church and that’s when non-fiction began to outweigh fiction. For the next 20+ years, I read far less fiction. Oddly—or maybe not—my fiction choices during that time were almost exclusively horror. I ended that period with two large bookcases, one filled with religious books and the other with King, Straub, Rice, Harris, and non-fiction books on the supernatural.

They might kill me for this one, circa 1993!

Then, my sons were grown and I rediscovered fiction. I eased in with Auel, Binchy, Gabaldon and then, I discovered my true love—Southern fiction—in the likes of Tyler, Reynolds, Smith, Walker.  When one future daughter-in-law recommended I widen my reading scope, I discovered books most of you had probably read when they were on the bestsellers list: Marquez, Russo, Hijuelos, Proulx, McCullers, and short story collections by O’Connor and Munro. The floodgates open, it seems now I discover a new favorite fiction author every week.

How about you? Has your adult reading path meandered or or been straight and sure?

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Doubt, Motivation, Power, Writing

Warrior Woman

What a difference a week makes. This time last week, I had sunk the lowest I ever have in discouragement over my writing. Then a river of encouragement lifted me up and carried me away from that dark place. Since I blogged about that, I feel an update is in order.

Victorious!

So, yeah … I fought back against that Blue Muse. How? During this last week, I wrote a new synopsis, a new query letter, a new first paragraph, a one-paragraph pitch for a contest at agent Nephele Tempest’s blog, audio recorded and edited two novel chapters, and entered the Sandy Writing Contest.  I also attempted to dissect Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which wasn’t easy, considering I have very little practice.

I think that’s what you call a blitz attack. And it worked!


Craft, Fiction, Questions, Read, Short story, Tuesday Topic, Writing

Armed and bewildered …

During the second year of my marriage, I lived in Germany courtesy of the U.S. Army. We lived off-base, though, on the third floor of a German couple’s home. I do not speak German. I regularly encountered people who didn’t speak English. (Imagine that!) I dwelled in a fairly constant state of bewilderment … and fear that I would miss or misinterpret something. Now, I have the same feelings for a completely different reason.

Bad Hersfeld, my how you've grown!

Recently, Cynthia Newberry Martin blogged a five-part series on Reading Like a Writer. She ended by taking apart Alice Munro’s short story Dimensions. I read the story, but for the most part, I left the dissection up to Cynthia. She answered the question posed on the mechanics of the story and then, offered some excellent insights. Since she didn’t propose we deeply analyze the story, it’s not so much that I couldn’t answer most of the questions she posed for myself. It’s just that this kind of reading is a foreign land to me. I don’t really understand the language.

I’m used to reading fiction for escape. That’s not to say I never learn as I read. But as I read, I’m concerned with what the writing says to me, not whether that’s what the author meant for me to hear. Yet, as a writer, I often take a novel I enjoyed reading and study the writing for particular aspects. So, theoretically, I could take a story apart. But my mind rebels at the thought. With fingers in its ears, it sings la-la-la-la-la.

However, this is my year of living dangerously, so with a few other writers, I will attempt a similar exercise with a short story by Flannery O’Connor titled “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

Cover me, I’m going in.