February up and left

Where did February go? Time for a retrospective.

I started off freshly unemployed, and at the beginning of the month I was still riding the high of putting my foot down and making a decision for the sake of my own good. I had tons of free time, perfect for getting lots of writing done!

I feel like I wasted a lot of that time loafing around, but my calendar begs to differ.

I had my first meeting with a new writer’s group, this one comprised entirely of queer men. Since I make up the entire gay section of my previous writing group, I felt the need to seek the opinions of folk who are a bit more familiar with my subject matter. This isn’t to say I’m leaving my first group! I need as much feedback as I can get!

I slayed at my last Shut Up & Write, managing over 4,300 words in two and a half hours. I was buzzing and eager to get home and print up the new chapters and add them to the manuscript pile. I submitted one of them to the queer writing group, with a specific question of how much sexual detail is too much? This rough draft is extra steamy, I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of it.

Then I pitched for next month’s Confabulation, a special challenge as the stories are only two minutes long. My rough draft was shorter than usual, but still clocked in at nearly five minutes. Oops. It’s fun to make big cuts, though, so now it’s under the time limit and I’m ready to rehearse. Not too much, though; I aim to tell a story, not recite a bit of nonfiction.

I also started a new job, so my income woes will soon be over! I want to lament having less time to write, but my chequing account is sobbing, so it seems silly to complain. I’ll just have to include writing time in my schedule, maybe bring my laptop to work and set up in a café for an hour or two once a week. Or come home, fix myself a nice tea, and hole up in the office. There are options.

In fact, I’m off to Vermont next week for work, and my laptop is definitely coming with. Job by day, writing by night. Both of my writing groups meet the week after, though, so I’d best print up the pieces I’ll be critiquing and get to work on them.

I hit a bit of a wall with my French story: I got excellent feedback, then realised that I made the all-too-common error of losing myself in time while telling a story. I wrote out a reminder for the corkboard: what happens in the story is in present tense, what comes before is past, and anything beyond the scope of the story has to be in future. The me who is sitting at the keys and writing now gets confused about that, though.

I got overwhelmed by all of my spelling errors and the daunting task of changing tense for a couple pages of French text, so I abandoned it for the moment and did other things. It’s still there, I know I can tackle it, I just had a bit of a freak out in that moment. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Waffling

I keep going back and forth with this blog.

On the one hand, there’s my unfortunate preoccupation with what other people think. “Oh, he has a blog? Who does he think he is?” and similar variations. Well, maybe he’s just like every other millennial who pours their every thought all over the internet, hoping someone else will recognize how clever and unique it is. By posting here, I am subjecting myself to the opinions of others, nevermind the fact that I will never know what most of those opinions may be.

Then we come to the other hand, which I make into a fist, and I proclaim myself a writer. Writers have blogs. They’re usually more for informing those who care to know what the writer is up to. I don’t estimate there is anyone who doesn’t hear my news from me personally, but hey, maybe that can change.

There is also the issue of posterity. When I journal, I often write about writing, but I tend to focus on the emotion of it. Here, I could be more goal-focused, and celebrate my achievements as they come. I’ll probably also share the weird, intense, and unexpected emotions I encounter along the way. Why the hell not.

Well, that’s two pros to one con, good enough for me.

So ever since shaming myself into accelerating my writing life, I have been quite busy with projects. There was the queer short story where I had already started to explore some feelings, then I started working on an old idea I had for a vampyre (yes, with a Y) story. Both of these had ticking clocks on them, and I found the deadlines extremely motivating.

The trouble is, I underestimated the time I would need for the vampyre story, and how big the story actually was. To give the events proper emotional impact and get to know the characters at a more meaningful depth, I’d probably have to turn this 10,000 word story into a novel. I might even try that later, but for now it’s stuck in a virtual drawer. I haven’t looked at it since I printed it, stuck it in an envelope, and dropped it in a mailbox to submit.

(Holy fuck, my first submission!)

Then it was time to come back to the queer story. I had already written something with more truth in it than I thought I could do. I was still uncertain about editing that out and going with something a bit less real. In conversations with friends (and my therapist, of course), I came to understand that using these raw feelings felt cathartic and they might resonate with readers. So, the feelings stayed, and I put more of them into subsequent drafts, until I finally arrived at a place where I felt comfortable sharing it.

A thought on digital versus paper submissions:

Paper submissions involve many more steps between the moment you stop writing and the moment your writing is irretrievably out of your hands. There’s the printing, the putting into the envelope, the getting dressed, the walking to the postbox.

Once I stopped typing and looked over my second submission, there were far fewer steps to take. Write a cover letter, draft an e-mail, and hit SEND.

The moment before clicking that button dragged on for an hour as I thought of all the things I could go back and change. This scene could be longer, that description could be better, was that line of dialogue really necessary? I may have even closed my eyes, like when I was much younger and told a guy via instant message that I liked him.

(Holy fuck, my second submission!)

In two moves, I have further solidified my identity as a writer in my head. I have shared my writing in a significant way; even if it does not get published, I have taken a huge step. I am involved in a writing workshop where I regularly share my work and critique the work of others. I am working on a novel, and looking out for more opportunities to submit pieces for publication.

And the one thing I keep forgetting to give myself credit for: I wrote a book. I haven’t finished revising it, because I have come to learn that editing is the terrifying flipside to writing, and I am woefully inexperienced. Getting these short stories ready has given me a new appreciation for it, and a better idea of the journey involved in turning a roughdraft into a novel.

Practicing also gives me a better idea of what sort of process works best for me. The most important lesson I learned from my vampyre story is that I need time to put a piece away so that I can come to it with fresh eyes. I ended up marathon editing over the course of a weekend. I was miserable, lacking in confidence, and my work doubtless suffered. I gave myself more time for my second submission, and I am much happier with the piece I submitted as a result.

So, that’s my latest. Except I’m also working on a novel that is a fictionalization of my life and the gravity of that horrifies and thrills me. I have no idea if I can actually do this, but I’m going to keep going until I make my decision. After all, so much of it is a story I’ve already told time and again.