Tag Archives: deadlines

The Byline

You may be unaware of this, but when I started this blog six years ago, I wanted it to be a writing blog. As a matter of fact, the blog’s byline is “From writer to published author . . . and the long, winding road between.”

Over the years, though, I’ve written less about writing and more about pretty much everything else. That is for two distinct reasons:

First, my writing life hasn’t been all that interesting. I’ve written a handful of short stories here and there, and I’ve made progress in outlining a few novels. Outside of that, though, there really hasn’t been much to tell. I’ve been writing this entire time, but I haven’t done a thing with any of it. And that’s mostly because of the next reason.

Second, my non-writing life got a little too interesting. My family and I spent years living in crisis mode. First, there was Liam’s birth and its many complications. Then there was the time that it looked like our marriage might come to an early and unexpected end. We made it through, but we were anything but unscathed. We thought that escape was our only option, so I packed up my family and moved us all to Nashville to chase a job opportunity and a fresh start.

While we were there, I continued writing, determined to use the extra time I had to really make something of it. That didn’t happen. It wasn’t the happiest of times for us. I was constantly stressed about money, and the addition of Dexter meant we were adjusting to having a new baby again. Almost all of our weekends were spent traveling to visit friends and family, leaving little time for anything else.

There were times when we felt like we were drowning. Still, we kept on. 

It wasn’t all bad memories and longing, though; that’s just how I remember it most days. I am nothing if not an unreliable narrator.

I started writing about Rory’s birth on this blog last year, and I intend to complete that story, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Nevertheless, he brought us home.

Becoming a published author just wasn’t the priority it once was for me. I was too busy surviving. I was taking things day by day.

One of my many faults is that I tend to be a short term thinker. I make plans for here and now without much regard for the future. I solve the problems that are in front of me, not the ones that could potentially come up months or years from now. This kind of thinking has both caused me problems and served me well. It’s not that I don’t acknowledge that I should plan for the future; it’s more that I trust in my ability to solve problems as they arise rather than work them out with a detailed plan ahead of time. This is funny to me because I am also someone who relies on routines and checklists to keep my daily life straight. In addition to being an unreliable narrator, it seems I am also a walking contradiction. Surprise, surprise.

But we are in a comfortable place now. We’re back home in the city we love. I have a job that is both reassuring and fulfilling. We aren’t in the financial straits of yesteryear.

Things are good. The pendulum swung back.

So now it’s time for me to get serious about this whole “published author” thing.

A little over a year ago, I started submitting short stories to literary journals and fiction magazines. The first one I submitted, a novella titled “It Starts and Ends with You,” was rejected by the first lit journal I submitted it to. (And the second. And the third. But that’s another story.) The thing is, it took almost six months to get that rejection. If I was going to be published some time in the next thirty years, I was going to have to change my submission strategy.

A year later, I am still an as-yet-to-published author. But now I have no less than five short stories out for submission at a time while I work on something a little larger. Plus, I always keep an eye out for short story contests and calls for submissions to serve as writing prompts. Even if I don’t make the deadlines, I still end up with the story.

My byline suggests that I am on my way to becoming a published author. After a long sabbatical, I can finally say that is true again.


Catching Up With The Criminals.

Recently, I began a web serial about a group of supervillains who actually managed to triumph over (read: kill) their collective superhero nemesis. The first chapter, which was written as a comic script nearly four years ago and then adapted into prose for the project, was published online on December 12, 2012. On the landing site for the series, I announced that the next chapter would be released on January 21, 2013.

Yeah . . . that didn’t happen. Why do I even bother setting deadlines?

Originally, this was going to be a monthly series. And it probably could have been, provided I didn’t have a rather demanding job and a handful of other writing projects I like to spend time working on. Not to mention things like family, friends, and, you know, life. With those factors in mind, One Less Hero will probably become a bi-monthly to whenever-the-hell-I-can-publish-it series. Good thing I already have the whole thing outlined, or it would probably take even longer.

But here’s the good news: it is happening. I’m almost finished with my initial draft of the second chapter, and I’ll soon be subjecting it to my harsh and unforgiving red pen for edits. It’s amazing what kind of things you don’t notice when you’re writing that you can’t help but notice when you’re reading. After that, I’ll probably be submitting it to The Reader, since her wealth of reading experience and remarkable literary taste make her pretty much the best editor an author could possibly have. Sure, this type of story isn’t really her thing, but I figure if I can keep her attention for a superhero story, it’s good enough to let out into the world.

So mark your calendars—here’s the next release date for me to potentially miss: March 30, 2013.

Will I make it? There’s only one way to find out.

First lines and deadlines.

I have begun a new project. Inspired by a writer friend of mine, I have decided to churn out a full novel-length manuscript in 60 days. He did it in 30, but I know I couldn’t possibly meet that goal.

I have decided that the focus of it should be the story I’ve had brewing in my head for over five years now—the one M. fell in love with when I first told it to her. It has already undergone four separate attempts at a start and numerous rewrites on each draft. Even if I’m not satisfied with it, I’ve only wasted two months, and I can always try again.

So, as daunting as it seems, I am excited about it. However, I have come to a problem.

I want to completely start over from scratch, not using anything from my previous drafts of the story. This is supposed to make it easier, allowing me to write without restraint and without trying to shoehorn in previous ideas that will end up taking away from the narrative as a whole. But, in completely starting fresh, I’ve run into a predicament. Sometimes the hardest thing about starting a new story, whether short or novel-length, is writing that perfect first line.

There are numerous methods to writing first lines. You can set the scene. You can introduce the characters. You can start with dialogue. You can start with a message to the audience, explaining what they will soon be reading. I have looked at all of these, and still, the first line eludes me.

The first lines of a work are, in my opinion, the most important in the entire story. A reader not hooked by the first few sentences usually ends up being a reader lost, and then not a reader at all.

Some of my favorites:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye

Howard Roark laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff.
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
(This one was brought to my attention by M., who says she put the book down after reading these first lines, convinced the book could only go downhill from there.)

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell, 1984

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
William Gibson, Neuromancer

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

All this happened, more or less.
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

All children, except one, grow up.
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This is the story that M. thinks will be my defining moment; therefore, it has to have a good opening. Right now, I am at a loss. I wouldn’t call this a block, necessarily—more like a speed bump in the writing process. Her advice was to skip the first sentence and start with the second; however, it just isn’t that easy for me. When I climb a set of steps, I always start with my left foot. If I start with my right, the whole process just feels . . . off. My writing process is the same way. I have to start in order. After that, I can jump around all I want . . . but I have to have that opening.

Once I have the perfect opening, my project will be underway. Wish me luck.

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