Writing on the Job

My daily work and life schedule is both a heavy and hectic one that leaves me little time in the day for writing. I start work at 7:30, and get home anywhere between 4:30 and 6:30. Once I’m home I’m spending every free moment with my son, feeding him dinner and getting dinner for myself too. Then he gets put down between 7:30 and 8. Come 10:30, I need to start getting things ready for next day with work, prepping my lunch and stuff.

So that leaves me a two and a half hour window to watch TV, catch up on email, prep Bookbanter posts, and get any writing done. Therefore, I have a very loose schedule that I’ve adapted throughout this year to make it easier and easier on myself because otherwise I just don’t get any writing done. But it’s not easy.

Thankfully, lately I’ve been able to do some “writing” while doing my job of delivering people’s mail. There’s two ways a mail carrier delivers mail: by vehicle (known as the LLV) or by foot. When driving, there’s too much I need to be focused on to think about writing at all, but when walking house to house delivering mail, especially on routes I know well, it’s become pretty automatic and routine for me. And lately I’ve discovered I can do some writing in my head while walking and delivering mail.

Now by writing I basically mean doing all the parts of writing other than actually writing with the pen or typing on the computer, laptop or tablet. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been able to plot scenes, develop storylines, subplots and ideas, create complex characters and just think about pieces I want to be working on and where I want it to go. It’s been a wonderfully freeing and yet distracting experience, as it can get a little repetitive delivering mail house to house by foot, and being able to get lost in my imagination at the same time is a lot of fun.

What I have found though is that I need to make sure once I’m done with work and home for the day is I need to take the time to write up all the thoughts, ideas and notes that I’ve generated that day otherwise it’ll just disappear into the ether. But it’s nice to know I’ve found another outlet for getting some writing done, albeit mentally, with my heavy schedule.

There’s Nothing Short About This Short Story

Sometimes when you’re writing stories can get away from you; other times you just follow along and let it take you wherever it’s going . . . aaaaaaand sometimes its both.  About six weeks ago I started a story I’ve had fluttering around in my head for a while. I’d tried to write the short story last year, but wasn’t happy with where it was starting off. It just wasn’t coming out right, so I scrapped it and waited to see if the story would come to me again in some other form I’d be happier with. And it did.

I made time when I could to write what I could of the story and it kept telling its tale as stories do. I wasn’t sure where it would go at first and then it got its shape and I had a vague idea where it was headed and was able to pick this hazy thing in the not too far distance that was the ending. I figured it would end up being about 5000 words, a decent, pretty standard length for a short story.

And then the thing started happening that writers will tell you about that you can’t really teach or even explain when writing. The characters not only start to feel real, they start to act like real people and do things, make decisions, carry out actions you had no clear idea they were able or going to do. In your mind you had a vague concept of where a certain conversation might be headed, and then one of the characters says something totally surprising that actually shocks you as the writer, because you had not clue not only that they wouldn’t say it, but that they couldn’t say it. You didn’t think it was in them, but once it’s out there on the page you realize it’s totally part of their character and it’s just made your story a whole lot better. The same can happen in any sort of action scene where you have the vague idea of the moves and steps the scene will take and then something totally strange happens that just surprises you, so you follow it along and are shocked by it as you realize why it happened and how your story just got a lot better and became more realistic.

So there I was working on the story in the time I could make available, and it was doing its surprising twists and turns making it cooler and more interesting by the page, and I just watched it tear on past that 5K mark and keep on going without slowing. I figured, well maybe it’ll end up being kind of a longish story, plus I could always edit it down a bit if need be, no problems there. And then it going on and on and on, passing 8K and carrying merrily on it’s way to 10,000 words.

Now, there are two ways you can write a story. You can force it, making it go where you want it to, jamming out the dialog you want your characters to use, and carve out the exact ending you want and demand. But you’ll end up with something that will feel artificial, stunted and a complete lie to you the writer. Or you can have a nebulous idea of what you want to write and then let the words and characters do what they want to do and be happy to tag along for the ride and see where it takes you. Sometimes it doesn’t pan out, sometimes it becomes something truly unique and amazing that you never could’ve “forced” into being.

So there the story was zooming pass 10K and I could still see the hazy ending it was aiming towards and we were finally starting to circulate it and then one night I was able to get it all out and put the last sentence on the story ending it at 12,780 words.

Yeah, a little lengthy for a “short” story. I expect when I come back to edit it I’ll be able to get it down under 12K and the good news is TOR.com accepts fiction up to that length.

So you never really know where a story is going to take you and the important thing is not to hold back and try to control your imagination, but just let it take you to new and exciting places.

Writing Goals for 2015

So for 2015, here are the projects and goals I’m hoping to get started and/or completed.

  1. Olague: Complete some beginning writing with my novel Olague. I’m still working on research, plotting and characterization, but my goal is to have some piece of writing to start off the novel completed by the end of the year, whether it’s the start of the first chapter, or the prologue, or something to kick off the novel. Ideally, I’d love to work on Olague for Nanowrimo, but with how busy my life is these days with a taxing job and a toddler, that isn’t very likely. But I hope to have most of the planning side of the novel done and some writing begun by the time the year is out, and then to get stuck into some heavy writing come 2016.
  2. Ostium: I’ve had this podcast series project that I’ve been kicking around for the last six months. The first draft of the first episode is written and needs to get finished up and polished and then I’d love to get the first episode recorded and released by the end of the year.
  3. Write Stories: My goal for the year is to get two short stories written. I got one started late last year that I want to get completed and maybe edited and start submitting by the end of the year. And then I’ve got another story idea I’ve been wanting to get down for the last couple of years and I feel 2015 is the year I’m actually going to write the sucker. Here’s hoping.
  4. Submit Stories: Continue submitting stories all around and lets see if we can get another one published somewhere.
  5. Bookbanter: It’s time the Bookbanter page had a bit of a face-lift and a new look. I’ve had the same theme on there since I started the WordPress page, so it’s time for a new look and to present access to my writing first and foremost, and then my reviews and interviewing, and make it all around more user friendly.
  6. Facebook: It’s time for a schism of sorts. I need to separate all the writing stuff from my actual personal Facebook page. So at some point I’ll be creating a professional page on Facebook for all my writing and Bookbanter stuff and then just have my personal Facebook account for, you know, personal stuff, like pics and videos of my kid; the usual.
  7. Et. Al.: Anything else I get done in relation to my writing is all pure bonus baby!

Review of 2014 Writing Goals

Since we’re working our way steadily through 2015 now, with January approaching its end, it’s time to look at my writing goals for 2014 and see how I did. And then next week I’ll be putting up my writing goals for 2015. The goals from last year are listed below with commentary in blue.

1. A new edit/copyedit of Kyra: The First Book of EnchantusThe book is currently on Amazon, but CreateSpace has opened up further distribution channels, and before I make my book available through these new channels, I want to do another run through and catch any typos, etc. And the good news is I’ve already gotten a start on this.

This goal was achieved relatively early on in the year, much to my delight, and the new revised edition, the second edition essentially, is up and available on Amazon and through further distribution channels.

2. Self-publish Erotica story. I have an erotica story I wrote that I want to get up on Amazon. It will be published under a pseudonym. At the moment I’m having a friend work on the cover.

This goal was also achieved in the first half of the year with a fantastic cover and it’s now up on Amazon and Smashwords. If you’re interested, shoot me an email at alex@bookbanter.net.

3. Edit “The Innkeeper’s Wife.” This is a short story I wrote last year, and I want to get it edited and finished through another draft or two and then start submitting it for publication.

This goal was completed and I was really happy with how the final edit turned out. I submitted it to the New Yorker, because you always have to start at the top – right? – and haven’t heard anything back, so will be submitting it to other publications through 2015.

4. Submit stories. Continue submitting stories for publication.

This I did do throughout the year and had one particular story get accepted which I will explain under goal #5. I also started a new story late in the year which I need to get back to soon.

5. Write stories. I’ve get a couple of story ideas up my sleeve that I’d like to get written down this year.

Early on in the year I’d submitted an old vampire story I wrote to an anthology seeking vampire stories, which was rejected, so I’d decided to write another vampire story to submit to the anthology, which I managed to get written and edited through a couple of drafts and submitted before the deadline. Then later on in the year I was delighted to hear that the story had been accepted for the anthology, These Vampires Still Don’t Sparkle, which was released in December and is now available in ebook and print and can be found here

6. Start the book. By “the book” I mean the novel idea that jumped into my head last year and wouldn’t let go. I need to do some more research and work on it, but I’d like to get that close to completion and hopefully get some start on the book, even if it’s just the first line or first page.

This goal was not achieved, however I wasn’t too hopeful that it would be and that is mainly because just as in 2013 I had a big change in my life with the birth of my son, I started a new job midway through 2014 working for the United States Post Office as a letter carrier. It took a lot of time and energy learning the job and once the holiday season hit I had to basically shut down my writing as I was often working 12-hour days. Nevertheless, I did get some further research and plotting and planning done, as well as creating my map for my made-up town and filling in a lot of details, so in a way the goal was a completed.

Overall, I think this might be my most successful year yet for setting reasonable goals for 2014 and pretty much achieving them all. I think the key was knowing how much I could set myself to actually achieve, and will need to apply the same rubric for my 2015 goals.

“These Vampires Still Don’t Sparkle” Out Today!

The anthology These Vampires Still Don’t Sparkle is out today featuring 22 short stories, one of them entitled “My Dark Genesis” written by me, Alex C. Telander. It is my first published story!

Here’s the blurb on the anthology:

Sparkly Vampires? Oh Pluuueeeaasse!

Since when have there been sparkling vampires? Are they a new brand of champagne or what?

Vampires are supposed to be wily, tricky, and even evil. And they never, ever sparkle. In this book, you’ll find stories with some refreshing takes on vampires: vampire heroes, vampire villains, humorous vampires, among others. Check out 22 stories with the most bite by Carol Hightshoe, Lee Pletzers, J.A. Campbell, T. Fox Dunham, Stephanie Ellis, and other exceptional authors. Grab some garlic, wooden stakes, and crucifixes, and get ready to party, because these vampires don’t sparkle.

And it’s priced at just $4.99. You can get your ebook download at Amazon, Kobo or Barnes & Noble.

2014 Writing Goals Update

We’re a quarter of the way through the year, with three months down and I thought wouldn’t this be a great time to take a look at the writing goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year and see what sort of headway I’m making. And yes, this may be one of the first times I’ve ever done a “writing goals update” during the year and perhaps the reason is because I know I’ve already made some decent headway, but the fact that I have made some headway I believe it cause for celebration. Here’s the original post with my goals. So . . .

1) A new edit/copyedit of Kyra: The First Book of Enchantus. I finished this edit/copyedit a couple of days ago, after setting myself the goal of getting a chapter done each night, I was able to get this completed in decent time. And the new version is in the process of being uploaded to the Amazon Kindle program right now. So goal number one is done!

2) Self-publish Erotica story. This is currently in process and I hope to have it ready to go by early May.

3) Edit “The Innkeeper’s Wife.” This is now next on my list.

4) Submit stories. This has been done and I recently received some delightful news that my first story had been accepted for an anthology. Though I do of course have other stories to submit which I will continue with during the year, including, hopefully, the one in item 3.

5) Write stories. And this relates with my news in the previous item as a recently wrote a story that ended up being the one that was accepted. Though I also plan to write more stories during the year.

6) Start the book. This is definitely going to be  a second half or last third of the year project that won’t get started for a while yet, but one never knows, and it’s certainly something I’m looking forward to.

Writing Goals for 2014

Now we look at what I hope to achieve writing-wise for 2014. Again, I’m going to set the bar low for myself as for the last couple of years I’ve found myself falling short of my annual goals, and as previously mentioned, because of BABY.

1. A new edit/copyedit of Kyra: The First Book of Enchantus. The book is currently on Amazon, but CreateSpace has opened up further distribution channels, and before I make my book available through these new channels, I want to do another run through and catch any typos, etc. And the good news is I’ve already gotten a start on this.

2. Self-publish Erotica story. I have an erotica story I wrote that I want to get up on Amazon. It will be published under a pseudonym. At the moment I’m having a friend work on the cover.

3. Edit “The Innkeeper’s Wife.” This is a short story I wrote last year, and I want to get it edited and finished through another draft or two and then start submitting it for publication.

4. Submit stories. Continue submitting stories for publication.

5. Write stories. I’ve get a couple of story ideas up my sleeve that I’d like to get written down this year.

6. Start the book. By “the book” I mean the novel idea that jumped into my head last year and wouldn’t let go. I need to do some more research and work on it, but I’d like to get that close to completion and hopefully get some start on the book, even if it’s just the first line or first page.

Now, let’s see how 2014 goes with writing.