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Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 4

15 Minute Tweet TalesWow!  I can't believe I made it through an entire month of writing 15 Minute Tweet Tales without skipping a single day.  I’m actually very proud of myself, since that means I’ve done something writing related every day of 2012 - that’s a pretty big deal for a procrastinator like me.  

Isn’t it supposed to take something like a month for an action to become a habit?  My friend Google tells me that both 21 and 28 days are the supposed magic number.  Either way, I’ve hit the milestone, and that’s pretty exciting.  Writing the tweet tales has become part of my routine; and while some days are easier than others, and some words are more fun to write about, it’s hard to imagine missing a day.  

Here are the tweet tales for the last week of January:

1/25 – Her boyfriends were a mélange of ethnicities and personalities - eHarmony imploded trying to find her type. She met Sarah on her own.

1/26 – The vox populi was that her husband was a monster, so when the media exposed the crime, she was able to slip away with all the money.

1/27 – Trash can chaos. 3 innocent looking dogs. Amy played hawkshaw by sniffing their snouts. No surprise when Trouble had garbage breath.

1/28 – Before killing his wife, he consulted his mistress – a true Philadelphia lawyer notorious for keeping vile criminals out of jail.

1/29 – Tired of being a nerdy boffin, he hit the gym. Soon the women at work were drooling over him, but he only wanted his cube mate, Jim.

1/30 – She swore she’d only eat a salad, but the lasagna at the trattoria was too tempting. A trip to the toilet & a mint fixed everything.

1/31 – His wife’s eidetic memory drove him crazy, but when he needed to dump her body, it would have been useful for finding the car keys.

The toughest word this week was Philadelphia lawyer – soooo boring and soooo many characters.  But I’ve always been a fan of the word mélange, so that was fun.  

Play along and craft tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. 

 

A Highlighted Goal

#writemotivationOn this last Monday of #writemotivation month, I only have a quick update since I’m frantically trying to meet one of my goals.  Update for last week: I wrote a 15 Minute Tweet Tale every day (hooray!), and I had two blog posts (double hooray!).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to rewrite one of my NYCM flash pieces for the Glimmer Train contest (sad face), but I think I’m going to be able to submit a new story for the Highlights Fiction contest (tentative hooray).    
 
Last week I reported that after several false starts, I was abandoning my squirrel idea in favor of an elephant idea.  Well, I spent the rest of the week writing and discarding openings for the elephant idea.  The main problem was too much back story to fit into the 750 word limit.  So I chucked the elephant idea.
 
I had actually decided to put another #writemotivation goal into the fail column by skipping this year’s Highlights contest when I woke up yesterday with new inspiration for the squirrel idea.  After some initial bickering with my muse, I pounded out a rough draft and felt pretty victorious.  Then I read it.  Ugh!  I was immediately back to skipping this year.  But just to be sure, I sent it to my family members (always my first readers) to get their opinions.  And while I know they are all incredibly biased, they all swore up and down there was a kernel of a cute story buried in there.  
 
So I have spent all night filing away at those rough edges, and I think I finally have something that doesn’t suck too much.  Now I just need to polish it until it shines.  Unfortunately, I only have about 24 hours of polishing time left, so off I go!
 
How are your resolutions going?  Any victories?  Any goals you regret dropping?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 3

15 Minute Tweet TalesThis week I had to “cheat” several times to make the stories fit by using shorthand.  I know using abbreviations and numbers is typical for tweet speak, but it always reads choppier to me (‘cause I’m old!).  And while it doesn’t bother me in regular tweets, I think it kind of interrupts the flow in story tweets.  But when you have a tale to tell in only 140 characters, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  So here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the third week:

1/18 – His lips curve into a smile just 4 me, sending my heart into a staccato dance. His wife tugs his hand. He follows her out of my life.

1/19 – Fran proudly entered the Westminster ring with her pug, but his sudden diarrhea brought an infra dig end to her quest for greatness.

1/20 – He told her she’d always be his queen, now shards of glass form a bloody diadem on the head he grew bored of hitting with his fists.

1/21 – His wife blew in like a williwaw shrieking about toilet seats, but her soaked outrage was so sexy, he planned to “forget” again soon.

1/22 – He spent years perfecting his manuscript, never spotting the solecism in the 1st sentence that made editors dismiss him with a laugh.

1/23 – It started with meditation to better control his rage, but he was soon buried in a mountain of self-help books and pompous solipsism.

1/24 – She thought “Leave me alone!” was a univocal statement, but he heard “I want to be with you forever” & decided death was the only way.

My favorite word from this week is williwaw – I just love the way it rolls off the tongue.  Not a meaning I’d use in everyday conversation, but now I'm going to look for ways to work it into random sentences.

Play along and craft tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.   

ABNA Loves Me, ABNA Loves Me Not

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardSince today is January 23rd, according to my original resolutions I should be done rewriting my WIP in order to submit it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition.  But since I wised up (or depending on how you look at it, sunk to new depths of procrastination) last week, I decided not to rush the rewrite.  However, that doesn’t mean I decided not to enter.  So I gathered together my pitch, excerpt, and manuscript, and I’m now officially submitted to the 2012 ABNA.  

This is the fourth time I’ve entered this novel, and it’s a true testament to my powers of procrastination that the last three times have been with the exact same manuscript.  The first year, I didn’t make it past the pitch round, which was like a punch to the gut of my writerly ego; but I didn’t know much about writing query letters back then, which is what the first round (i.e. the pitch round) is all about.  And it was probably a blessing I didn’t advance any further, since my manuscript was very rough, and I’d have ended up embarrassed that anyone (not related to me) read it.
 
By the time the second year rolled around, I’d rewritten my manuscript and learned more about the fine art of pitching.  I waited on pins and needle until the first round results were released, and I was so excited when I made it past the pitch round – whoo hoo!  So then there was more waiting while the excerpts (first 3000-5000 words of the novel) of the advancing pitches were evaluated.  When the list was released, I whooped and screamed and even cried a little to see that my novel was advancing to the quarterfinals.  That meant it was time for the scary part – someone from Publishers Weekly was going to read and review my entire manuscript.  Gulp!  So I fretted through more agonizing waiting until the day the list of semi-finalists came out.  Sadly, I couldn’t find my name on that list, no matter how many times I looked or used Ctrl+F on various spelling of my name ‘just in case.’  I was bummed, although not really surprised because deep down, I knew it wasn’t truly ready.  
 
As the ‘prize’ for being quarterfinalists, we got our manuscript reviews from Publishers Weekly whether we were moving on or not.  Since I didn’t advance, I was sure my review was scathing, so I didn’t want to read it when it came, but I put on my big girl panties and read it anyway.  Then came more whooping and dancing around the room because it was a great review - one I’d be darn proud to have if it were the real thing.  The only negative thing the reviewer said was that my supporting characters were too stereotypical, which is true, since I wrote them that way on purpose.  And that has been what’s been giving me so much trouble with the rewrite.  The supporting characters are stereotypical because the story is written from the first person POV of a shallow teen who sees people that way.  So my challenge is to give them depth that’s obvious to the reader even if it’s not to the narrator.  I’m still struggling with the best way to do that.
 
Anyway, fast forward a year to my third attempt at ABNA.  I’d been so busy with Saying Goodbye, I hadn’t rewritten anything, but I decided to enter again anyway thinking different judges would mean a different outcome, and boy was I right!  Since my pitch worked so well the previous year, I didn’t change a word; and to my utter shock and dismay, I didn’t make it past the pitch round this time.  I was definitely taken aback by that, but it really does show how subjective this business is.  
 
So that brings me to this year.  While I’m entering the same manuscript as the previous two years, I’m going with a different pitch.  During WriteOnCon this year, I participated in their critique forums, and I got a lot of very helpful feedback on my query.  I’m using the final version of that query as the basis for my pitch.  I really hope to make it past the pitch stage this year to give me confidence in my query, but I’m taking a much more relaxed approach to it this time.  I didn’t get all spun up about formatting or enter the second the clock ticked over to midnight like I have in previous years.  And while I’m hoping for the best, in the meantime, I’ll be working on the rewrite so I can get started querying agents.
 

As for the rest of my #writemotivation goals, I’ve been keeping up with my 15 Minute Tweet Tales and blog posts, so a tiny victory first pump on that front.  And after four different horrible false starts trying to make a story about a squirrel work for my Highlights fiction contest entry, I’ve now moved on to a story about an elephant, so at least there’s forward momentum there.
 
How are you doing with your writing goals?  Have you entered or thought about entering ABNA?  

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 2

I’ve surprised myself a little by making it through another week of successfully writing tweet tales.  Just like with NaNoWriMo, the second week was a lot tougher than the first because the ‘fun newness’ is wearing off.  And then on the 13th the word ‘pork barrel’ almost had me skipping my first day.  Not only was it a boring word (two actually!) to write about, it took up a lot of characters making it even more challenging.  But I muddled through, so here are the 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the second week: 

1/11 – When the alien landed, shock made me tutoyer it. “Yo, dude, wassup?” Requiring a more respectful greeting, it declared formal war.
 
1/12 – The director recoiled at her rugose outfit. How dare she audition for the Martha Stewart biopic looking like she didn’t own an iron?
 
1/13 – The senator initiated pork barrel projects to distract reporters from the intern who’d disappeared after a month of morning puking.
 
1/14 – She thought it was cool to have a boyfriend who sparkled… until she found out he and her grandpa were coeval. Then it was gross.
 
1/15 – Notes scribbled on her shoes were the true ancilla to passing Latin, not the tutor her mom had worked so many extra shifts to afford.
 
1/16 – “I reckon you better hare off down the road to fetch the sheriff.” “Why, Papa?” “Cause your mama’s ‘bout to have a fatal accident.”
 
1/17 – It took him months to write, but he smiled imagining the euphony of his self-penned eulogy being read aloud. Then he loaded the gun.
 
I think my favorite for the week is the vampire one for ‘coeval.’  I’ve been on the vampire adoration train since I was twelve, but when you really think about what it means, it is more than a little gross.
 
I hope you’re feeling inspired to play along on some of the days, and you can still craft tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.   

Shifting Goals

#writemotivationGood grief, how can another week of 2012 already have flown by?  But here we are at another #writemotivation check in.  I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained my resolution of writing a tweet tale every day.  And since we’re halfway through January, I think this might possibly be the longest I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution.  I even had two personal blog posts this week, so whoo hoo to exceeding expectations!  And even though it’s not part of my #writemotivation goals, I also wrote a bunch of very overdue posts for my movie blog, which lifted a big weight off my shoulders.  So that brings up the big question…have I done any work on my novel WIP?

After last week’s post where I got more honest than I anticipated about my fear of failure, I was bolstered by the support of old and new writer friends and finally read through my WIP again.  It was great for reminding me how much I love my characters and story, but it also showed me there’s more to be fixed than I can squeeze into the time before the Amazon novel contest.  So I decided I’m not going to try to rush a rewrite for the contest.  I’m going to really dig in and identify what’s not working and the best way to fix it.  I made a few notes on my initial read, but now I need to dive back in with the red pen and really go to town.

But since I won’t be frantically pushing myself toward the Amazon deadline, some of my creative bandwidth has been freed up.  So I’m adding two new items to my #writemotivation goals for January: entering the Highlights fiction contest and a Glimmer Train contest.  For the Highlights contest, I’ll need to write a new story based on a newspaper headline; and for the Glimmer Train contest, I’m going to rewrite one of my NYCM flash pieces.  The deadline for both is January 31st.

Part of me worries that turning my attention to these two short stories is just another way to procrastinate revising my novel.  But I love writing short stories, and I have a better chance at doing well in these two contests than I do rushing my novel through a rewrite for Amazon.  And writing is writing, so I've decided that any I do is a very good thing . . . even if the underlying motive is procrastination!

Hope you all are making great progress with your 2012 goals!

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  Have your goals shifted after these first two weeks?  Am I cheating by changing my goals or is it good strategy to keep things realistic?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 1

15 Minute Tweet TalesI had a lot of fun with the first week of 15 Minute Tweet Tales.  It’s a rush trying to create such small stories in a short time frame.  I think some of them are pretty good, while others… well, at least they use the assigned word.  :-)

I ran into my first stumbling block on the 4th with the word flack.  In the rules for the NYCM contests, you have to use the word exactly as it’s assigned – no changing tenses or making it plural.  But trying to use flack without changes was leading to some really awkward attempts at first person present tense.  So as my precious time dribbled away, I made the executive decision that since this is a challenge I’m doing for myself, I can make up any rules I want!  With only fifteen minutes to write a story using an uncommon word, I think it’s fair to tweak the tense/part of speech/whatever as long as the word is used according to its definition.
 
There are a few extra tweet tales this time, since the New Year started before Tuesday, so without further ado, here they are:
 
1/1 - Tina jokingly used fortune cookies as her lodestar until the night one led her to a tall, dark stranger… with a proclivity for knives.
 
1/2 - Locked inside the CDC, they watched the news in horror, wishing they’d explained how the virus spread in a more exoteric way.
 
1/3 - Dad was an unreconstructed under-er, while Mom believed in over. The divorce lawyers rolled their eyes @ the toilet paper shenanigans. 
 
1/4 - Weary of flacking for talentless reality bimbos, the publicist bought implants, released a sex tape, and vaulted herself to stardom. 
 
1/5 - The dirt permanently etched into his agrarian hands: a badge of honor for him; a promise broken for his wife who longed for the city. 
 
1/6 - The way the dog looked at me gave me the jimjams, so I gave him his owner’s femur to keep him happy while I cleaned up the blood. 
 
1/7 – “One road bifurcates in a green forest…” Robert Frost crumples up the page and starts again. And that has made all the difference.  
 
1/8 – He plucked a mint from the kickshaw on the hospice counter. Stale, just like his grandmother. So weary of waiting for his inheritance. 
 
1/9 – “Yo, oldster, you got the time?” Al opened his pocket watch to find the hands had finally stopped. A smile of relief. “Not anymore.”
 
1/10 – Janice felt shame that she needed subvention to help feed her children, but watching soaps was so addicting she couldn’t go to work.
 
Two other people contributed tweet tales this past week, which was fun to see, and I hope more people play along in the future.  You don’t have to commit to every day, just jump in on days you need a creative jolt.  And you can still craft tweet tales for the above words - if you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments so I get the chance to read them.  
 
So do you think it’s fair to tweak the assigned words or is that cheating?  Do you think you might try your hand at some tweet tales?  Should I post the definitions for the words in the weekly Tweet Tales Tuesday roundup? 

Fear is Not an Option

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for a #writemotivation check in.  It also means it’s been a week since I posted my New Year’s resolutions.  So how am I doing?  Well, this blog post means I have successfully posted once a week for the first two weeks of 2012.  I have also written a tweet tale every day and am having lots of fun with it.  Hooray for small victories!  

The bad news is I STILL have not started the rewrite of The Hunt, so now it’s only two weeks until the Amazon contest deadline.  But that’s not really the bad part because I can always submit it as is.  The bad part is WHY I can’t make myself start.  I have friends and family encouraging me.  I’ve met incredible new people through #writemotivation who are waving their pom poms furiously.  And I WANT to rewrite it.  I love this little story, and I think it has shot, but I know it needs a bit of spit and polish before it’s ready.  But I just can’t start the rewrite.
 
It almost feels like there is a physical wall blocking me.  I open my laptop and stare at the screen, but I can’t make myself double click on the document.  I also have a printed version sitting on my desk, which I look at multiple times a day, but I can’t make myself pick it up.  It’s frustrating.
 
I was a psych major, and I’ve had enough heart-to-hearts with the people in my life to know what the problem is: fear of failure.  I’ve rewritten The Hunt several times already, so I know this last rewrite will be THE ONE.  Once it’s done, I’ll have no more excuses not to start querying.  And we’ve all heard the stories about J.K. Rowling and Kathryn Stockett – even bestsellers are rejected a heart-numbing number of times.  So as long as I have a manuscript that needs “just one last rewrite” then I can’t be rejected.  I can’t be unsuccessful. I can’t fail.
 
But the truth is, this limbo of not finishing is the worst kind of failure.  To not be willing to take the chance . . . to have taken these characters so far and then abandon them this close to the finish line is a betrayal: of my story, of my craft, of myself.  I recently saw a quote from James Cameron that said, “Failure is an option, but fear is not,” and I need to always keep this at the front of my mind.  Since I’ve finally reached the point where I am beyond disgusted with myself, I’m hoping it’s the breakthrough I need to make myself start.  It will only take rewriting one sentence to get the editing ball rolling.  So please excuse me while I go open a certain word document. . . .
 
What challenges do you face when it’s time to rewrite a novel?  Do you struggle with fear of failure?  If so, how do you deal with it? 

My ‘Do More Writing in 2012’ Resolutions

When I look back at 2011, I accomplished some pretty big things.  I finished my first short film Saying Goodbye, which is screening at film festivals around the country and has won several awards.  I won another grant to make a new short film called High Heels and Hoodoo, which we’ve almost completed.  And I had a childhood dream come true when my story "Seeking a Hidden Hive" was published in Highlights magazine.  I am so grateful for these things, and my face goes into automatic grin mode when I think about them.  

The only problem is I didn’t actually do much writing in 2011.  Those accomplishments were set in motion with writing I did in 2010 or even earlier.  While I did adapt High Heels and Hoodoo into a screenplay in early 2011, I wrote the short story it was based on in 2010, so I’m not sure that even counts.  I did plenty of other things that needed to get done, including finally starting this blog after dilly-dallying for far too long, but it’s now time to get serious about my fiction writing.  

I hereby declare 2012 my year for prolific writing!  

However, I attended enough management seminars during my years in the corporate world to know a vague objective like write more isn’t going to cut it (in fact, the procrastination imp camped out inside me is currently doubled over in hysterical laughter).  I need specific goals to keep me accountable, so here they are:

  • Write one blog post each week.  Ideally I’d like to blog more often, but I want to keep these goals attainable so I don’t fail the very first week.
  • Each month rewrite at least one short story I wrote for NYCM contests, research appropriate places for publication, and submit them.  It’s an affront to my muse to leave those stories sitting on my hard drive, and she’s moody enough as it is.
  • Submit The Hunt to betas, collect feedback, and do a final rewrite to be ready to query agents by June.
  • Rewrite The Spirits Within (my current WIP screenplay) in time for the PAGE screenwriting contest on March 31st. 
Too much to do!These goals might end up being too aggressive, since we’ll have a lot going on with both movies in terms of film festivals and marketing, but I need to push myself.  And fortunately I’ll have cheerleaders in my corner for the month of January.  I met K.T. Hanna during the last platform building campaign, and she is a generous spirit – always the first to offer fellow writers much needed encouragement.  So it’s no surprise she started #writemotivation month for a group of writers to cheer each other on toward our January goals.  I’m looking forward to meeting everyone, and I’ve pulled out my fluffiest pom poms.  
 
And since today is the first check-in Monday for #writemotivation progress, I’m happy to report I wrote tweet tales for the first two days, and this post meets my blog post a week goal.  Hooray!  The bad news is I have yet to crack open the novel WIP.  I’m not sure where to start (yeah, I know, at the beginning), but hopefully I’ll venture into the void tonight.
 
I hope 2012 is off to a great start for everyone, and I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year!
 
What are your resolutions for 2012?  What writing projects are you excited about?  Any tips for a rewrite that just doesn’t want to happen?

15 Minute Tweet Tales

I’ve mentioned before how much fun I have with the Tweet Me a Story contests run by NYC Midnight.  The challenge of creating a complete story in such a small space gives me a writer’s high (which thankfully involves much less sweat than a runner’s high).  In a seemingly random segue, the other day I unearthed a 2011 Merriam-Webster’s word-a-day calendar I bought last year and promptly forgot about as soon as the sparkly ball dropped.  Not wanting to waste those 365 treasured words, I’ve decided to use the old calendar for a daily tweet story challenge.  

Each day a new year-old word will be the prompt for a tale told in less than 140 characters.  But since I tend to obsess over and tweak my stories to death, I’m giving myself a time limit for each one.  Once I tear off the calendar page to reveal the new word, I'll only have fifteen minutes to craft my masterpiece, and then I’ll tweet the story, no matter how much it makes me cringe.  

This daily exercise will be helpful in many ways.  The most important being that by challenging myself to do this every day, I’ll exercise my writing muscles even if I don’t have time to work on my longer pieces. Also, the theory is the new words will actually stick in my forgetful brain once I’ve created a story using them (and an arsenal of big words is always better, right?).
 
I hope other people will participate, since my favorite part of the NYCM contests is reading the variety of stories everyone else produces using the same word.  Maybe you can’t commit to a tweet tale every day, but if you have a few minutes to kill, join the fun and stretch yourself creatively.  I’ll use the hashtag #15tt (for fifteen minute tweet tales) when tweeting the word of the day and my resulting tale.  And even though it uses up five of the precious 140 characters, I hope others also use the #15tt hashtag if they play along, so we can easily find and read their tweet tales.
15 Minute Tweet Tales #15tt
Each Tuesday I’ll bundle my tweet tales from the previous week in a post on the blog and invite others to share their tweet tales in the comments.  Yeah, I know Tuesday is a random day for a round-up post, but I just love the alliteration of Tweet Tales Tuesday.  
 
And while I’m not an expert at writing micro-fiction, here are a few of my tweet stories from past NYCM contests as examples (I've bolded the assigned word from NYCM):
 
She caressed the sway back of her dying horse, overwhelmed by childhood memories. Sobbing, she loaded him on a trailer bound to nowhere.
 
Comrades lost to roadside bombs. Buddies sent home draped in flags. The numb marine didn’t shed a tear until he left his Baghdad pup behind.
 
The dusty dolls stuffed in the closet mourn silently as their no-longer-little girl tries on outfits for a less innocent game of pretend.  
 
I pretend we’re driving to the dog park. He knows I’m lying, but wags his tail through the pain. It will all be over soon. 
 
Deep below the frigid water, Jack finally finds his treasure - the sun sparkling like gold on waves too far to reach with an empty tank.
 
I’m looking forward to creating and reading new tweet tales throughout the year!  
 
Have you ever written any micro-fiction?  Are you going to craft some tweet tales this year?  Don't forget to use the hashtag #15tt if you post your tales on twitter.
 
Read my 15 Minute Tweet Tales: Week 1  Week 2  Week 3  Week 4  Week 5