So fishing on the Davidson River was a blast. The Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is really beautiful, especially on the river. Imagine glassy clear water that's shallow enough to wade, flowing over round stones. You could actually see the trout in the water. I'm from the Chesapeake Bay, where the water is dark and murky and you almost never see a fish unless it's jumping, so it was a totally foreign experience for me.
There were quite a few fisherman on the river, but still plenty of open spots to fish. Funny enough, though, I didn't actually see anyone catching anything. I hooked a fish at one point, but it got away. It was honestly the hardest fishing I've ever tried. I'd cast and cast my fly right over the fish and they'd either ignore it or nibble and spit it out. They say if you can catch a fish on the Davidson River, you can catch a fish just about anywhere. Apparently the trout have gotten quite savvy about the difference between true and tied flies.
Ladies and gentleman, my husband caught three. The picture above is the smallest of the bunch he caught. The other two were so big he couldn't get his camera out. He's very careful about making sure to release them back in the water as quickly as possible.
Boy, did he ever have a great time :)
I was just happy to almost catch one.
We stayed in a nearby Airbnb, called the Cove Camping Cottage, which was so cool. The lovely host, Vinnie, converted her mountainside land into beautiful landscaped grounds, with a stream and a waterfall, and a flock of ducks and geese! The cottage we stayed in was like a glamping tent, but with its own foundation, and sturdy roof and walls. We wanted somewhere dry to sleep because it looked like the weekend was supposed to be rainy. It was extremely comfortable, with a good bed and gas grill for cooking dinner. Given that it was only $40 a night and is just about a half-hour from the Davidson River and Asheville, I think we might try staying there again in the future. Vinnie also rents out a suite in the main house too.
Anyway, just a lovely time. My husband wants to go back again this weekend, but I told him I thought we had too much to do at home (weeding the garden mostly). Then I realized that it might actually be a great idea. If he goes fishing this weekend, then that would give me lots of time alone to finish editing my practice novel. I've read completely through it once and now I'm doing the second and final read through. To get that finished would be awesome.
So yeah, I think I'm going suggest my husband do a little more fishing this weekend. I suspect he will be pleased.
Hello stranger, sorry things went radio silent around here. I finished my last dissertation editing job on Friday to cap off one of the more intense two and a half weeks of my life, and then spent the weekend catching up on some sleep and non-writing related activity (i.e. planting the garden).
The editing itself was fine. The problem was trying to do two full-time jobs at once. I still had to go to the lab and do research. And then on top of that I spent 20 hours editing student's honor's thesis (MLA format, which is simple and lovely), plus another 50 hours editing an APA format doctoral thesis in a partially overlapping interval of time. 50 hours! APA format is no joke! And then there were a smattering of smaller jobs, which were much easier, but they complicated my deadlines.
Anyway, now that's done and I'm glad it's over.
The semester is basically finished for college students, so there won't be any more dissertation jobs for a while, which is good. I need to spend my time building more working relationships with research professors. The problem with editing dissertations is that it's one and done. That person is probably not going to hire me again since they're unlikely to be writing more academic documents in the future. Research professors, however, publish a few papers a year and submit a couple of proposals as well. That's the clientele I need to target if I want to establish a good repeat customer-base. Plus, I think I'll die if I have to put any more 200 page dissertations into APA format again. My hat's off to social scientists. In the physical sciences, we just pretend there's no such thing as style guidelines or formatting beyond the reference list.
Outside of the academic editing, I also need to edit my practice novel. The first draft is complete, but I'd like to finish a second draft before May. Once I feel like it's not a total embarrassment, I'll look for someone to help me proof-read it and then hopefully I can get in onto Amazon kindle direct by June. Does that sound like a crazy plan? I have no idea. We'll see.
And finally, I need to outline some story ideas I've been kicking around for a while. One thing I'm going to try is handwriting them instead of using the computer. I have this theory that I tend to overwrite and get too descriptive because it's physically very easy to type all that b.s. on a keyboard. I can only hand write for so long and for so many words. I'm curious to see if this will help me adapt my prose into something a little cleaner and more direct. That's the kind of writing I like to read. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do it myself.
So that's the plan, Stan: network with research professors to build my clientele base; edit/publish my practice novel; and write out my more serious book in long form. Should be fun :)
Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo. I was super motivated. I thought this could be the thing that finally pushed me to finish an idea I'd been kicking around in my head for several years. But then some personal stuff cropped up that caused me to abandon the novel after I'd only written about 15,000 words.
But if I'm being brutally honest with you, I put that book on hold not just because I was hurting (my husband and I very nearly divorced), but because I couldn't handle my own story's complexity. It needed so much world building and I'd never written a novel before, much less invented an entire universe within the framework of one. I've written before about how much I enjoy simple stories, but mine was anything but.
So I set my book aside and promised myself that I would come back to it again one day. I still liked my idea. I just didn't know how to write it.
In the meantime, I worked on my marriage. For the first time in what had been over two years (pretty much since we moved to North Carolina), we got on the same page again. The things we wanted and how we wanted to get there started to re-align. It was a relief to us both. With the worst of that behind us, some normalcy returned and I started to read and write again.
According to my records, I began writing a new book on January 2. This one was going to be different. I'd thought about it and I'd decided that my NaNoWriMo project had failed because it had been far too complex when I still hadn't learned basic story writing techniques, like how to build plot and move characters quickly from conflict to conflict without getting bogged down in excessive scene setting. How to build tension and give characters motivation that caused them to act in believable ways. If you can't write these basic components of a story, it doesn't matter how good an idea you might have.
So on January 2, I made a conscious decision. This next book would be my practice novel. I had no literary aspirations for it. In fact, I aspired to just the opposite. I wanted to write what amounted to a paperback book you'd buy at the grocery store. It would be a simple romance story, nothing more.
Why romance? I don't know. I was originally trying to write a science fantasy epic for NaNoWriMo and it was so hard for me. Romance seemed easier. Everyone likes love and sex; that made it simpler to develop characters. The genre helped define their motivation.
I set it in modern day D.C. because I know the city and its neighborhoods. I know exactly how the characters could move from location to location, the kind of people they could expect to meet, and what kinds of jobs they'd have. Not that I wanted to spend any time at all on the background, just that I knew enough concrete details about the city to set the story without getting lost in establishing that kind of information. The opposite of world building, basically.
I limited the number of characters to five main players. There were a few supporting characters here and there, but most of the action was tied up between these five people, with three of them really pushing the action.
And I had an idea, a little twist, that kept the whole thing from being too generic.
I did my usual writing routine; getting up early each morning to clock in ~1000 words a day. And I just kept writing. I never stopped or reread anything more than a few paragraphs back to help me get restarted each day. I tried to end each writing session on a hanging note, so I'd feel motivated the next morning to finish the scene. I never stopped writing unless I knew exactly what was going to happen next and made my notes accordingly. I left blanks to later fill with details I couldn't at that moment visualize. I just refused to let dumb shit bog me down. Forward and onward, that was my motto.
End result? I finished my novel yesterday. My first, honest to god novel, done. It's a practice novel to be sure. It's rough as hell and will need a lot of editing. There's at least one chapter that I think is going to need a decent rewrite. But I did it. 54,256 words. It took me three months instead of one, but I never thought NaNoWriMo was that realistic anyway (see NaNoWriMo - you are drunk).
I'm really proud of myself. For years, I thought I couldn't do it and I'm happy to have proved myself wrong. I can write long stories. If I've done it once, I could do it again.
The only people who know about my book include my husband, my therapist, and now you kids. My therapist asked if I would try and publish it. I told her, yeah, I'd probably stick it on Amazon Kindle with no other ambitions for it than that. She asked if I'd publish it under my name, and that question got a resounding NO. No way. Sorry. I was raised by literary snobs. I am a literary snob. Even if I love all kinds of genre stories, there's no way I'd ever publish a silly little romance novel under my own name.
Plus, I didn't write this for anyone but me. I don't need my friends' or family's approval. I just wanted proof that I could write a coherent novel-length story and I did. Now I'm going to edit it and see if I can get it into readable shape. And if it passes my BS test, then I'll publish it on Amazon for fun. We'll see.
Anyway. The practice novel. I'm a fan.
Have you written a practice novel?
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!
I feel like I vague-blog a lot about my "projects." I've always felt conflicted about "leaning in" to a high-powered job because I've never wanted my career to interfere with all the side-work I do for myself. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm spreading myself too thin. I have too many ideas; too many things I want to work on, and never enough time. Here's a list of what I've been up to lately:
That's a hefty load and I'm wondering how sustainable it is to attempt all of these projects even if I enjoy them. Writing the blog itself is a major time commitment, but I like the discipline of daily writing (well, four times a week plus a Friday link-roundup). The slush reading is also fun and helpful for my writing, so that's also something I'm not willing to give up. I've reigned back the science editing to just my long-term clients, because my time is really worth more to me than the money right now, but I don't want to give that up completely in case I do eventually start a full-time business.
You might notice that I've marked a few items on that list with asterisks. That's to indicate which projects I think have any chance to make money (with more asterisks indicating greater earning potential). The science editing already does make me a little money. I also used to sell paintings when I was younger. I started painting again recently and I think I've still have the knack for it, so I may try selling those on Etsy or at a local bar or something to see if there's any interest.
But one thing I haven't talked about at all on this blog is my Organic Chemistry Primer (**). For a while, I've thought there's a need for a very simple, "electron-pushing" guide to prepare pre-med students for organic chemistry. Just a slim book you'd read the week or day before you take your first orgo class. College courses do a terrible job of explaining the most basic concepts behind organic chemistry, because there's such a large volume of mechanisms to learn. Professors tend to rush ahead and leave students totally confused and struggling to understand what's going on.
So I've started writing a very simple, "how-to" kind of book on organic chemistry based on all the things professors should be teaching their students in the first week of class, but don't because of time constraints. My idea is to sell this book as a kindle-single, fairly inexpensively, and then market it on pre-med forums. Originally, I was going to go through all the trouble of preparing a book proposal and attempt the traditional publishing route, but then I thought, why bother? Why not just get it out there now?
Ideally, I'm looking for a source of income that will help support me so I can spend more time writing and improving my fiction (which I know, will probably never be a full-time job). Maybe my organic primer book could help me do that? Or at least be an additional source of income that shouldn't require too much time once I've finished it. Again, that's the ideal case. I have no idea how much time it would realistically take to market and promote it.
Even though I prefer working on my novel every morning during my daily writing session, I think I'm going to have to switch that time over to finishing my Organic Chemistry Primer. That's the logical order, right? Start on the items that have a chance to make money first, then move on to less commercial projects.
So here's my goal: I want to finish my Organic Chemistry book during the remaining days of October instead of working on my novel. The Primer isn't meant to be long, so I think I can do it. Then I'll be free to work on my novel during NaNoWriMo, when I intend to finish the first draft. Then in December, I'll edit and hopefully publish the Organic Chemistry Primer on Amazon, followed by editing my novel in the subsequent months.
There. It's out there. That's my promise to myself. That's what I'll aim for.
Am I crazy?
Yesterday, I posted a short story (flash fiction?) onto the blog. I was happy to finish another little story, but it brought up an old debate I’ve been having with myself for the last year or so: Is it better to focus what limited time I have to work on my book-in-progress? Or should I be writing and submitting short stories to hopefully build a publishing record that might help get my book picked up somewhere? It’s that darn chicken or the egg problem again.
I never used to write short stories. Once I got into the habit of writing, I focused exclusively on my book. But after several months, I needed a little break from it. I was struggling with some plot issues that weren’t resolving themselves by writing the same chapters over and over. Fortunately, that was right around the same time that we got our puppy and the decision to take a break from my book was more or less made for me. Instead of writing, I was getting up in the middle of the night to let the dog out, playing with her, and taking her for long, long walks in the afternoon. (It was exhausting but totally worth it. She’s a great dog.)
The long walks solved the plot issues and the puppy grew up and needed not quite so much constant supervision. I was able to get writing again. But instead of jumping back into the book, I found I had a few short story ideas that seemed to come out of nowhere. Again, it was probably the walks. Nothing like movement to get the brain working.
I tried splitting my time between the book and the short stories. The result was hyper-slow progress on each. Then I worked on just the short stories for a few weeks, one at a time, and finished a couple, but never made the time to polish them. So now I have four or five short stories in the bag, and maybe one of them has enough potential to work on a little harder – but of course, I’m driven instead to work on the book! I want to finish a few chapters that I’m actually happy with!
So, anyway, that’s the dilemma. I mean, how do you know when to submit the short stories and when to work on the book? My boss gets on my case for this; telling me I just have to work on more than one thing at a time. He’s right, but I still struggle to make progress in anything if I’m not totally focused.
I think I understand part of the attraction to flash fiction now. Less words to edit and polish. I’ll try and submit that story somewhere soon and get that first rejection letter under my belt. But, that’s another thing: it takes time just to figure out where to submit your fiction! It’s a hard job, trying to be a writer. Good thing it’s fun.
What do you think? Is it better to work on short stories if you're not an established writer? Or should you double-down on the book, if that’s your real goal?
Writer, editor, scientist.