A Weekend of Cons and I’m Stuck at Home

I’ve been following tweets and blogs from people attending DragonCon and Worldcon. Both are happening this weekend. I cannot begin to say how much I want to be at either of them this weekend. But the job that is paying the bills at the moment doesn’t easily allow me to attend anything 1.) on the other side of the county from me and 2.) during the first ten days of the month. So I’m stuck here, trying to plot how to get to DragonCon next year and making plans for the local conventions I’ll be attending.  Worldcon’s location for 2014 of London, unfortunately, puts it extremely out of reach unless I win the lottery.*

Right now those plans are focused on if I want to participate in the Writer’s Workshops offered for Convolution 2013 and BayCon 2014. I attended my first one last year at BayCon. The session I attended was structured as a group of eight—four professionals and four submitters. I submitted the first 7,000 word of my novel and a 500 word synopsis about a month ahead of the workshop. The professionals and submitters review your work and make comments on your manuscript. Those comments are discussed in the workshop itself. If you go to a convention offering a workshop, I recommend that you participate. I learned where I needed to focus on in terms of plot, characterization, and grammar. (No matter how many times I read the rules, the proper usage of dashes and hyphens remains a mystery to me.)

The other reason I like to attend conventions is a chance to be surrounded by people who share the same passion. At work I have friends and co-workers who watch and read the same things I do. But they don’t have the same energy as when you’re admiring the work someone put into their costume, discussing with an author their latest work as you’re having it signed, or in a gathering watching the episode of the hot show that happens to be on while you’re at the convention. That is the reason that I go.

*Which assumes I play the lottery.  I don’t.  Adjust my odds of winning accordingly.

What It Means To Me

I’ve been kicking around my ideas of how to know when I’ve “made it” as a writer, that glorious moment I will no longer feel like a pretender among the professionals. The big problem is that “making it” seems to be a moving target when I put some thought about it. I have a sneaking suspicion that when I achieve one of these items, I will move the bar.

So here’s my lists of things I would love to have happen someday in no particular order.

1. Win an award for my writing.
2. Be at a table at a convention.
3. Be invited to be on a panel about writing at a convention I’m attending.
4. Be invited to a convention as a guest.
5. Be invited to a convention as the guest of honor.
6. Participate in a writer’s workshop as a professional critiquing stories.
7. Have a fan recognize me from reading my books/blog.
8. Have another author recognize me from reading my books/blog.
9. Be retweeted by one of my favorite authors.
10. Have my blogged referenced by one of my favorite authors.

You might have noticed that I don’t have anything like “get an agent” or “get published with the Big Six.” I’ve definitely considered those. However, I haven’t made a definite decision that I will be submitting my novel to an agent or publisher. At this point I am keeping my options open.

For me, it’s not about becoming the next Laurel K. Hamilton, or Jim Butcher, or J. K. Rowling. It’s not about making the New York Times Bestsellers List. It’s not about making certain amount of dollars or selling a certain amount of copies. It’s about gaining respect, which when it comes down to it, is what I really want.

Not that I wouldn’t mind any of those happening.

What’s In A Name?

One of the challenges I’m having while writing is coming up with names. Not only do I have difficulty naming my characters, but I had difficulty naming myself.

I write under a pseudonym for several reasons. One if them is that my legal name is highly unusual. After a lifetime of having it mispronounced and misspelled by teacher, co-workers, friends, and even family, I embraced the idea of taking a new name.

So I came up with what I thought would be my pen name – Jordan Abbey. Then I dove into developing other characters. Thorn was based on a character I role-played. Montgomery Cooper came from a nickname Thorn insisted on calling him. But the character giving me the most problem was my heroine. Nothing stuck until I looked at my pen name. So the female lead became Jordan Abbey, and I was off in search of a new name.

As I continued on with my story and my search for a pen name, I noticed a trend. Despite keeping a list of what I named who, I was came up with similar sounding names. Several characters have had two different names, and poor Rhys had three. Now if I have to name a background character, I am very careful to consult that list. I’ve also discovered Scrivener’s name generator function, which has helped immensely pick names at random.

I finally chose Sheryl R. Hayes as my pen name for two reasons. It’s close enough to my legal name that I will respond. Plus, I feel that it fits me better than other names I considered. Now if I could only come up with the final title for my book and series.

Challenges and a Fortune Cookie

This week has been a challenge.

I wasn’t joking last week when I said I thought my writing was absolute crap. I’ve been forcing myself forward out of a sense of discipline, but the joy is not there. I’m not sure if I just want to be done with this story, if it’s the fact that this week was a high stress time at work, or the pain from the flaring up of an old injury has me distracted. It’s probably some combination of all three. Even writing this entry has been difficult. On the plus side, I have about three future posts started for the next few weeks.

It’s not a lack of ideas. I have plenty of those. It is more a lack of motivation. The ideas and words are racing around in my head. When I start to type, they do not appear to be as interesting once they hit the screen. Who would want to read this? Who would find this interesting? Why can’t I produce more words quickly like Famous Author does? Yes, if you haven’t guessed by now I do suffer from self-esteem issues.

Unlike in the past, when I would have given up entirely and deleted the document because I was certain no one would ever be interested in it, I have continued forward. I’m currently at 55,000 words written. Given how fast I’m able to edit given my circumstances, I will be done in about a month. I gently remind myself that as much as I would like it to be, writing is not my full time job. I am not under a deadline other than those I impose on myself.

After writing this, I took my mother out to dinner. We went to a Mongolian restaurant and enjoyed ourselves. Normally we mock the predictions we find in our fortune cookies. Tonight I couldn’t quite find it in me to mock it. “Your project will soon gain momentum.”

Think the universe is trying to tell me something?

Writing at “Summer Camp”

I admit it.  I’m not the most disciplined of writers.  It’s hard to get me motivated.  I’ll finish a scene or a draft and let it sit while I’m paralyzed with indecision about what to do next.  So I finally decided to do something about it.

I spent the last month participating in Camp NaNoWriMo.  It’s NaNoWriMo’s younger sibling with a few differences.  Its two sessions start the first of April and July, so you can pick which one is a better time for you to participate in.  You can set your word count, although they do encourage the 50,000 word goal.  The social aspects of it are summer camp themed.  I have mixed feelings about the social parts, since if I’m writing this intensely, I don’t have time to chitchat.*

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo before with mixed results.  Since November is a crazy month because of holidays, conventions, birthdays, a family anniversary that can be emotionally rocky, not to mention my full time job, I always feel my odds of completing 50,000 words are iffy at best.  So this year I decided I would give the July session a whirl and use it to work on the third draft of my book, tentatively titled Black Oaks.  I set my goal for 25,000 words and dove in.

It’s gone surprisingly well.  Based on feedback I had been given at a Baycon’s Writer’s Workshop (I got a lot of helpful information from this two hour session.  Do it if you’re in the Bay Area.) I restructured and rewrote the first quarter of the book, paying attention to tone and a nasty overuse of the word “and” at the beginning of sentences.  And (see what I mean?) I tried to stick to a goal of 1000 words a day, figuring if I failed at that, I’d still be close enough to make the 25,000 goal.

I have hit a point in the editing stage I’ve heard a lot of novelists discuss, but never understood.  I am, despite reassurances to the contrary, certain that I am writing absolute crap.  But it’s my absolute crap, and I will continue slogging my way through it.  I wrote about 34,000 words of it during the month of July, and I’m motivated to continue onwards.

As for publishing my crap, I keep reminding myself that the phrase “You can’t polish a turd” has been busted.

*Except with a few friends through IM services.  And occasionally Twitter.  And an email that comes in… oh dear.  When did I get a virtual social life that’s more active than my real one?

Thoughts About Outlining Vs. Discovery Writing

Or as Melissa Snark put it, Writing with a plan or flying by the seat of your pants. Plotters vs. Pantsers. It’s an interesting piece that echoed some thoughts I’ve had recently.

I hear mostly about these two types of writers. One type develops outlines, knowing what events are happening when. Everything is meticulously crafted ahead of time, so that once the act of writing has begun, it moves forward without concern or worry about what is supposed to come next. Then there are those who look at a blank page, apply fingers to keyboard, and see where the words take them.

I’ve discovered that I’m evolving into something between the two, a discovery outliner. I’ve been using an outline, but I’m not a slave to it. I am using it as a guide to follow the major plot points of my story, but within the framework of that scene I leave myself free to explore. It’s led me to make some very interesting discoveries about my characters’s motivations that I hadn’t considered when I was writing the outline. If I feel the discovery I made is significant enough, I will adapt the outline.

Would I write an entire novel that way? No. I have attempted and quickly realized that I needed some sort of structure to keep it from becoming a tangled mess. Once I started putting some structure into the story, it was easier to keep things moving forward without discovering I was constantly repeating myself. Would I write strictly by outline? No, because sometimes my ideas evolve in such a way that they will not fit the outline. The trick, which I’m still learning, is to tell when to keep to the outline, and when to ignore it.

Hello World

Welcome to my blog.

My name is Sheryl Renee Hayes. I’m a writer.

What do I mean by a writer? I am someone who writes. I am not a published author, yet. I am currently working on my first novel in an urban fantasy series yet to be named. I also have several short stories rattling around in my head, although they haven’t shaken loose through my fingers yet.

I also work full time for a private utility and take care of a family member with several medical issues. When I’m not writing, I’m knitting, crocheting, or reading.

My current plan is to post once a week something relating to my writing in some way or another. It may be talking about what I am currently working on. It may be talking about who and what inspired me into writing. It may be about the various technologies I use like my computer, my tablet, or pen and paper. It may be about self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Maybe some hopefully insightful information about the convention I’ve attended. Or I may go onto a tangent about my hobby, knitting. Most likely it will be something related to my cat Xena.

I’m looking forward to talking with you.