“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Back in California, the Indian summer is just beginning, but here, summer is finally winding down. It’s leaving us with massive thunderstorms and the first signs of typhoon season, but since that’s my favorite kind of weather, I don’t mind it at all.
This summer was an important one for me. At the beginning of this year, I made the decision to pursue my dream of becoming a writer more actively. I joined several online writing groups (of which I am now only active in one), became a beta reader, wrote a few short stories and began researching the industry.
In May, I published my first short story in Writers’ Anarchy, and then I self-published another LGBT short story on Amazon. (I’ve gotten 639 downloads total from Amazon and 365 from Smashwords to date, most of Amazon’s downloads coming from KDP; I’ve learned a lot and will probably be sticking with Amazon from here on out.)
The months are a blur now, but August has felt really long. I attempted to write 40k for Camp NaNo, but failed, burning out at 25k. I’d tried NaNoWriMo for a different project in November, 2012, and completed 50k, but I was so burned out by the end that I haven’t even opened the file for that story since November 30th. I’m learning, gradually, what works and what doesn’t for me, and that’s an improvement. Now I know that I don’t perform well under conditions like NaNo, because I am pretty competitive, but also stress out too easily when I see other peoples’ progress. That’s not how I want to write. I want to be in the moment, writing because I want to, and not because some ticker says I need to get another 800 words in today. I think that’s also why having a ‘Write every day!” mentality won’t work for me unless I keep word counts out of the equation.
In addition to that, I signed up for a really fun flash fiction workshop run by Carrie Cuinn–if you don’t know who she is, I really recommend checking her out. She’s really down-to-earth as a person, and her short fiction is quite good. I recently finished reading her short fiction anthology Women and Other Constructs, and I really enjoyed it.
Speaking of, I’ve been reading a lot more. I don’t know why, but after 9th grade, I just stopped reading for pleasure for the longest time. I’d read whatever the teacher assigned me, love it usually, but it just never occurred to me to read more than that. So many books I have missed out on… so much time I will never be able to make up. I’ve been regretting it so much lately, particularly because I’ve been finding and reading so many amazing books. Reading has helped me improve so much in so short a time. There is a quote by Laura Lippman:
“There’s always time to read. Don’t trust a writer who doesn’t read. It’s like eating food prepared by a cook who doesn’t eat.”
I couldn’t agree more. It is so important not just to read, but to examine how other authors craft their fiction. But I would add to that, since I’ve been reading a lot of self-published work for an indie review site (Shameless plug for Pankhearst Reviews!), that it’s important to read more than just one genre, and more than just one style of publishing. I try to keep a mix between indie, self-published and traditional, with books ranging from non-fiction, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and smaller, stranger genres. Since May, I’ve finished reading twenty novels, and given up on about seven (sad face for poorly edited, all-exposition narratives, usually told by a wooden narrator). I want to keep reading more, and that’s how it should be!
Finally, perhaps one of the most important things that happened to me this summer was that I became an admin over at Fiction Writers, the only writing community I am still active in. It’s grown a lot since I joined back in February. In May, we only had 1400 members. Now, we’re well over 3,000. I’m meeting new people all the time, and the position has opened so many doors for me. I was able to build a wonderful new website for the group (writersanarchy.com), which also allowed me to get access to a more custom template for my own site (the one you’re on). I’m in love with the new design, and I’ve really been enjoying my new pet-project, Illustrious. Since those interviews are the posts that have been getting the most hits on my blog, I’m assuming other people do too.
In addition to the techno goodies, I’ve been landing editing jobs without even asking. That’s been a huge pat-on-the-back for me. Right now, I volunteer-edit all of the Writers’ Anarchy short story anthologies (which has been helping me discover all the fun parts of Scrivener, and decode the Kindle MOBI creation process), and have been hired on as a staff editor for Chupa Cabra House‘s “Growing Concerns” anthology. I’m pretty stoked. The quality of work I’ve been looking over has just been stupendous. There are a few other people requesting personal projects get a look-over, so I’m confident that pretty soon my resume will start reflecting more of what I want to be, rather than what I’ve been.
There were a few weeks last month that were not so fun; I suffered a pretty terrible crash in self-esteem that seemed to have no end in sight for a time. I felt inadequate at everything. But, it’s passed now. I’m still dealing with some health issues, but I’ve started eating right, and exercising. Right now, my body can’t keep pace with my brain, and I want to spend the fall specifically targeting my health and well-being, so that I don’t have those sorts of things distracting me from my writing anymore.
All in all, it’s been a good summer. A great one, really. I feel like I have drive again, and I’m heading towards something. Ever since college finished, I feel like I’ve been missing that. It’s important to me to always be ‘moving’, improving. I don’t want to be stagnant.
What are your goals for the fall?