Wrestling with a Toddler

About a month ago, when it still felt that winter would last forever, I set a deadline for myself. I would have the draft of my second collection of short stories finished by summer.

It is now Memorial Weekend, 80 degrees outside and I’m wearing shorts. Let’s amend that to say I’ll have the draft done by the END of summer.


Drafts of stories.

For some reason, I was holding off putting the collection together until I published more of the stories separately. Just a habit – finish a story, send it out for publication. Then, maybe I was hit on the head with a coconut, I remembered that I don’t need all the stories to be published first.

In fact, I’ve already published six of the stories and hopefully a couple more before the collection is ready to publish. What am I waiting for?

Well, truthfully, I’ve been working on one of my novels and want to be done with the stories. The easiest way to be done with them is to ignore them with the excuse that I don’t have enough published for a collection.

See how convoluted my mind is? It’s mental gymnastics to make sure I get in my own way. Because what if I do finish the collection? What if no one wants to publish it? What if the sum isn’t greater than the parts? What if I then work on my novel and that sucks, too?

It’s like my mind is a toddler – throwing a tantrum for no discernible reason – and I have to wrestle it to the ground to show that, if it just stopped for a moment, it would see that nothing is wrong. We just have to get going.

So consider the toddler calm for the moment as I tackle the rest of the stories.

Not Exactly Writer’s Block

I’ve always been proud that I don’t get “writer’s block.” No fear of the blank page for me.

It’s not been a problem, I think, because since I actually began writing (as opposed to thinking about it), I’ve always had so much inside waiting to get out and on to the page. And if I get stuck at something in one story, I just go on to another. Never a dull moment.


But now, as I feel my attention turning away from short stories and to longer narrative forms, I’m hesitant. Afraid to dive into them.

As difficult as it is to write, edit and publish short stories, over the years it has become easier for me.

I trust that I have something to say, that I can write it well, and more likely than not, someone will publish the story, and people will read it.

I’ve not had the same luck with novels and screenplays. I have three completed novels and two completed screenplays.

My first novel was turned down by an agent ten years ago and has since been tucked away in a drawer. Not only because it was rejected but because it read like a first novel. I had something to say, I just didn’t write it well.

I’ve had my screenplays reviewed and judged on The Blacklist. You won’t be seeing them on the big screen any time soon.

When I began really writing in 1996 (twenty years ago!), I thought of myself solely as a novelist. I hadn’t even read a short story since college. But that has been my main form for twenty years, and where I’ve found success publishing.

What if I don’t find success in publishing a novel or selling a screenplay? Then am I “just” a short story writer? Is that a bad thing? You can see where this is going in my head – the merry-go-round of self-doubt, second guessing and “what’s the point.”

The result has been very little writing in the past few months.

I’m sending a few stories out and finishing up the last two I’ve started.

Then to get out of my head, put on my writing sweatshirt, and get going.

I’ve Ruined Another Story

What began as a great idea has devolved into an utter mess.


I had a good draft of a story – first written about a year ago – and I’ve ruined it.

I’ve re-written it too many times and listened to too many opinions of other people. I smoothed out the edges and the story has lost its life.

It reminds me of a Spongebob Squarepants episode where he is urged to become “normal.” Eventually all his edges are smoothed away and his holes are gone and he is devoid of personality. He is completely dull.

That’s what my story feels like now. It doesn’t feel like me.

I’ll have to go back and look at my original draft and basically begin over. I need to recapture the impulse I first had to write the story.

This has happened before and all has turned out well, it’s just a frustrating way to get there.

Poetry: Not for the Faint of Heart

When I think about finishing a new book, I envision another book of stories or a novel. I don’t see a book of poetry.

Mused1I don’t think I could write enough poems to fill up a book. Or least, if I wrote that many, I’m not sure I’d survive the process.

The few poems that I have written feel too close to the bone. Not enough fiction in between me and what I’m writing.

With my stories, they usually – but not always – begin with a nugget from my life.

An incident. A feeling. A broken heart.

But by the time I’ve finished the story, it’s no longer really connected to me. The plot, characters, location, outcome…everything has probably changed. Except for that original nugget.

With stories, I can step away from myself and let the stories float out there on their own.

But the poems – they stick to me. As painful as it is to write them, it’s even more painful to see them in the world, knowing that’s me on the page for all to see. No fiction to hide behind.

I’m thrilled, and scared, to have my most recent poem, Love Court, included in the Spring Equinox 2015 issue of Mused Literary Review.

Where Stories Come From

BLRAt my day job, I’m very organized.

I have my list of projects, which I can juggle expertly. I don’t get distracted easily.

I almost always have a game plan.

With my writing, I try to have a game plan but creativity just doesn’t behave like that. For me anyway.

I keep trying, or wanting to try, to write a novel (see my post from November). But the stories keep coming.

And I love them.

One of the most recent stories I’ve written, American Gothic Getaway, was inspired by a story I heard on the radio while driving to work one morning.

I wasn’t planning on writing a new story. I was supposed to be working on the novel and I was already distracted by another story in progress.

But the Muse wants what the Muse wants, and she gave me this story.

I couldn’t be happier to have it included in the most recent issue of Blue Lotus Review.

Take a gander: Blue Lotus Review

I’ve Figured it Out, for Today

I don’t particularly like covers, as in cover songs. Maybe because I don’t like change (who does?).


A hint of what this novel is about.

But the idea is appealing and I can see why so many artists do them. It’s intriguing to do you own take on something else – usually someone else’s work.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m going to cover my own work.

I’ve always had trouble figuring out how to ‘fix’ one (really, all) of my novels. Unfortunately I write novels the way I think novels should be written. But they don’t turn out well. They read as if the author tried to hard to sound writerly.

So I’ve taken the last draft of one of my novels and am pretending that it was written by someone else.

This way, I can rewrite the novel – from scratch – the way “I,” as a short story writer, would tell the story.

I’ve got 4,000 words so far (a little behind pace) and am quite happy with the way this method is working.

Fingers crossed.

To NaNoWriMo or Not to NaNoWriMo

Last year I worked on a draft of my memoir, Inland Empire Girl, for the month of November, aka NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.

NaNo014I love the idea of NaNoWriMo. Just get it down – 50,000 words in a month. No editing. Just writing, spewing, vomiting on the page.

The problem is that I am a short story writer. There, I said it.

I am a short story writer.

I’ve even published two poems. What I haven’t published is a novel, though I would very much like to.

I’ve written four novels but they each are missing something. Or have too much of something else. The problem, at its core, is that I am trying to write novels, not tell stories.

Unfortunately, when I write my novels, I disassociate from my storytelling instincts and try to write like a Great American Novelist.

My challenge, and one I keep putting off, is to tell my stories, just in novel length.

Luckily, my procrastination has been filled up with other stories.

I am on vacation this week and I have finished two new stories, and submitted three for publication. I’ve also drafted another new story.

I’ve done everything but crack open the binder of the novel I brought halfway across the country.

Okay, fine. You’ve guilted me into it. I’ll do NaNoWriMo.

Now with the World Series over (go Giants!!) and the darkness of winter descending, why not spend my evenings re-writing my novel into a short-story-collection-disguised-as-a-novel?