Cyborgs, Soldiers, And Gunslingers: A Year In The Word Mines

amy Whale, breaching, Stellwagen Bank National...

This is what it’s going to look like when I go back to the gym tomorrow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time of year, I always find myself doing a little thinking. Maybe it’s the scrolling down of the Gregorian calendar. Maybe it’s because I’m stranded on the couch like a beached whale until that last holiday meal digests.* Whatever the reason, this is the time of year for taking stock.

Those of you who are long-term readers probably remember my goal for this year: thirteen rejection letters. Well, that goal was accomplished, just barely. There was also an acceptance in there, so bonus.

Writing-wise, this was a fucking busy year**. I started rewriting a novel, cranked out a half a dozen new short stories, laid down the foundations for another novel, and posted three days a week here. Blogging alone, that works out to….*does quick math*…around 80,000 new words. Plus maybe another 25,000 words of short stories. And another 50,000 from the Sandbox and World-Building files. I have no idea how much is new on the novel because that’s the nature of rewrites: too much cutting and backfilling and general re-jiggering. But, however you slice it, this was a productive year.

Now the question becomes: what next?

Honestly? I’m not sure. This year—the year of the short story—was fun. Gave me a chance to try some new ideas and new places, at least one of which is on its way to developing into a full-blown world. But, at the same time, my energy felt scattered. I was jumping from project to project, one step ahead of the deadlines, and every story was different. Cyborg magic. Military horror. Post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Alternate world fantasy. Storybook horror. I ran the fucking genre mash-up gauntlet this year, and came up with some really interesting stuff. But, because I was focusing on all those, my novel rewrite isn’t even close to bloody finished and I didn’t start the other novel that I was planning on writing.

So, here’s the question for 2014: focus on the novels exclusively, or try to do both again***?

I’m going to mull this over while eating my way through the rest of the Christmas candy between now and New Year’s. In the meantime, keep me in the loop, word monkeys: how do you feel about your writing year in review, and what are your plans for 2014?

*Fasting sounds like a better and better idea this time of year.

**You know, for me. For some of you this output might be slack; for others it might seem unattainable. Your mileage may vary.

***Better this time, obviously.

“You Using That Flamethrower?”: Borrowing Tools

English: Reciprocating saw

Looks like a laser gun instead of a saw. Pew pew! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s the combination of meds that I’m on for a couple of Bodily Horrors*, but this seems like a great day to try re-outlining my novel.

Again. Actually, again again. I’ve already tried to re-outline this fucker a few times, using a couple of different methods. It is resisting me. I do not like this.

All the methods I’ve tried so far are tried and true. I’ve done them before, for more than one project, and they’ve worked. But not this time.

Open your eyes to my words, children, and let the truth of the creative life be written: sometimes the shit you always do with great results will stop working and you will have no fucking idea why. Why did it work for that project but not for this one? Why can’t I get my head around this? Why are you no longer working?

No. Idea.

But it is not the end. Oh no. If the old methods are no longer working—and I have the piles of scrap paper and half-finished notes to say that they’re not—then it’s time to find a new method.

Let this be the lesson of the day: if the tools that you usually use for the job aren’t working, then throw them back in the fucking toolbox and get something else. The hammer not working? Get the chisel. Or the Phillips head screwdriver. Or the reciprocating saw.

My new tool? Script-writing methods. My friend Kat was kind enough to bring me a stack of paper big enough to have been a giant redwood in a former life, all containing course notes and exercises from her screenwriting courses. It has colonized my coffee table and will not give it back. The only way to defeat it is by reading it. With a notebook and a stack of index cards.

I’ll be back with my findings next week. Until then: keep your stick on the ice.

*Hint: one of them is not ebola. So at least I’ve got that going for me.