Progress Report: Let’s Keep It at Two

Happy 2018, everyone! It feels like it’s later in the year than it is. I always want January to go pretty quickly, as it’s cold and grey and makes me feel like a sad hibernator. I like to be out and about, enjoying my walks to the Metro or late evenings out with my husband. Enjoying my time out helps me feel happier indoors, where I do my writing.

But alas, I cannot change the seasons. I can, however, keep up with the writing. I am still working on multiple projects, but have gotten into a better balancing act of a) keeping it at two active ones, and b) working on one at a time.

I am making more progress on Without Condition, my second novel. I’ve outlined several sections and written out a few. I like having notes not just to help me remember things to write later, but to see how far the story’s come since my initial ideas. I save all my notes, even ones I know won’t be used, as keepsakes throughout the process. Like my old drafts, I find it fun and amusing to revisit them — especially once the final version is out in the world.

I also find the notes useful in focusing my efforts on other projects that need to be done first. I am at a point in Wretched Heroesthe graphic novel I’m working on with Doug Puller — where I need to just focus on finishing a first draft of the current script, rather than switch between projects. I reached this point in part by forcing myself to write through unknowns, putting me on a better-known path towards finishing. I still have ideas for the book, though; and writing down the notes helps me feel better about putting it aside for a week or two while I finish the first draft of the next Wretched Heroes script.

So, I’m currently in full-on script mode. It’s a very different experience writing a script for a graphic novel, even with my fondness for dialogue in my books. Among other things, I’m learning to divide scenes into panels as opposed to just moving through them with motions and words. I need to account for scenes happening in blocks as I write — something that takes practice.

Both projects give me something exciting to work on when I’m stuck inside on a cold day. I look forward to sharing both with you later in the year! Stay warm, everyone.

When It’s Hard to Stay Positive

I am, in general, a positive person. In situations where I don’t know what could happen, I try my best to think that the good outcome will happen. This is especially helpful in writing. Writing is a deeply personal endeavor that many of us want to share and put out in the world. I think that writers have to maintain some positivity to do that, because otherwise, it’s an endeavor that feels less personal and more lonely.

But I also think it can be hard to look at thoughts from other writers and see nothing but blinding positivity. Oh, keep going! It’s all for you! Don’t worry what people think. You do you! It’s all a step forward! Granted, that line of thinking is much more helpful than the other end of the spectrum, the slew of negativity that makes you wonder why anyone writes in the first place. This is one of the reasons I try to stay positive online. I want to add a hopeful voice, to encourage others and myself to keep doing what we love.

But to all things there is balance. I know on the days I’m feeling down — not angry, not petulant, but down and discouraged — that reading nothing but positivity can almost make me feel worse. It makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong, that I must be a failure because I’m not harnessing the power of positive thinking. I forget that feeling blue is not only okay, it’s part of the process — and it’s also part of being human. It’s easy to forget that, though, when I’m trying to cheer myself up; and even harder to remember in the face of relentless positivity — especially from myself.

So, for myself and for anyone reading: despite my general positive feelings towards writing, there are days when it is hard. There are days when I click “Submit” and feel like my work is going into a void where once someone reads it, they’ll reject it. There are days I check in on Submittable and see entries I sent several months ago still listed as “Received,” telling me they didn’t even open it; and I wonder why I even bothered. There are days I write and feel like every word is crap, that the stories only make sense to me and maybe should be kept to myself. There are times I look at the rejections in my binder and think they’ll be all I ever see. There are days that the sadness is so deep that it takes every ounce of energy to open my drafts and type one word, two words, one sentence. Sometimes I don’t write anything at all.

It’s normal to feel this way, and it’s okay. It’s okay to want to cry sometimes, or to sometimes worry that writing is a dream that will only be dreamt. Everyone does this, and as a writer, I appreciate seeing a writer at any stage, aspiring or successful, admit to the days that they feel that sadness, when they feel discouraged and limited. Because we also see that they keep going.

I won’t end this entry with a jolt of positivity, as I think a little melancholy is okay and even necessary. But I will say this: keep going, any way you can. Feeling sad is normal, and when I feel that way and still try to do what I love, it helps me along through the fog.

Progress Report: Wrapping Up 2017

The end of the year is upon us! And what a year it’s been. I both wrote and published pieces this year, and it’s been an experience doing both.

I am readying another short story collection for publication in 2018. It is currently called Wither and Other Tales, and will feature five short stories. Four of them are with my editor, and the fifth is going through one more pass with me before I send it along to her. I look forward to sharing them with you once they’re complete. I anticipate publishing the collection in mid to late 2018.

While those stories are being edited, I’ve begun steady work on what I hope will be my second novel. I got the idea over the summer, a time when I was swimming through lots of ideas and trying to form them into their own pieces. I got some short stories, the beginning of a novella, and some “just for me” writing out of that time; but during early fall, pieces of the ideas from the novels I began combined with the one big idea I got over the summer. All are slowly but surely shaping into my next book. I will reveal more of the plot as I write more of it down. But, in the interest of not strictly speaking in vague terms, I will say that it’s currently called Without Condition, and more similar in tone to my darker short stories.

I am also working on a bigger project with Doug Puller, who drew the covers for The Crow’s Gift and Please Give. I am working with him on a graphic novel called Wretched Heroes, currently a four-volume work. Volume 1, The Man in Rags, is set to come out in mid to late 2018. You can learn more about it on Facebook, where you can like and follow the page for more updates (and also see some of Doug’s amazing artwork for the series).

2018 promises to be busy, but busy with something I love to do. Thank you all for reading and following along this past year. Happy New Year!

Also, a reminder that both Please Give and The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales are available to purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

My Favorite Books of 2017

It’s been a year. Some parts were good, others not so good. But the year has come and gone, and I am looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings.

I am an avid reader, but noticed the voraciousness ebbed a little as I worked on Please Give, and readied both that and The Crow’s Gift for publication. Still, I read; and close to 30 books this year. I liked most of what I read, and wanted to highlight my favorites that I read this year (even if they weren’t written this year). Here are my favorite books of 2017, in alphabetical order.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman — I had never heard of this book until I saw the preview for the movie earlier this summer. Once I realized the movie was an adaptation, I got a copy from the library and sped through it in less than a week. It tells the story of Elio, a young man who falls in lust (and perhaps love) with his father’s research assistant over the course of the summer. The book is told from Elio’s perspective, and his scattered thinking — scattered by the sudden onslaught of lust and love at once — is perfectly captured in Aciman’s prose. I recommend both the book and the film.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — Roxane Gay released two books this year, Difficult Women and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. I loved Hunger, but was struck by Gay’s beautiful short stories in Difficult Women. Months later, I still hear passages and see scenes in my head. My favorite stories were “Water, All Its Weight” and “La Negra Blanca.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — Thomas’ story of Starr, a teenage girl who witnesses her friend being killed by a cop, is a haunting, timely story. It does a deft job of exploring both the personal toll on Starr and the far-reaching ramifications on her family, her friends, her school, and her neighborhood. I highly recommend it.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977 – 2002) by David Sedaris — this is as-advertised: a collection of Sedaris’ diary entries from 1977 up until 2002. Other than the introduction, they’re presented as-is. I really liked this, as the reader is able to fill in context of current events of the time, where Sedaris was in his career, and other items not necessarily told in each entry. I also read this book during a stressful time in my personal life, and found the picaresque mundane of daily diary entries very comforting to read. Make no mistake, though — Sedaris’ wit and talent as a writer are still present in each entry.

Honorable mention: “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian — like seemingly most everyone in the second week of December, I read and enjoyed “Cat Person.” It was a good story — it didn’t bowl me over or beg for a reread, but it was a good story with some great passages. I give it an honorable mention because I was so struck by how it took off online, especially on Twitter. It speaks to Roupenian’s talent that so many people thought it was an essay or a true, personal story. I recommend giving it a read (the full story is available in the linked title) if you haven’t read it already.

What were some of your favorite books of 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year, everyone.

Let’s Get Social: Instagram

I am on a select few social media sites. Twitter and Goodreads take up a good chunk of my time, Twitter moreso than Goodreads. However, I’ve recently given in to another platform and joined Instagram.

Given its visual focus, my posts there are less about my writing; but I invite you all to follow me there all the same. Writing-wise, I’ll be sharing book covers, illustrations, and who knows, maybe seemingly random pictures that inspire me. I’ll definitely share pictures of the outdoors, food, beer, and my view for the day at Capitals games.

You can find and follow my Instagram profile here — and if you have any recommendations for accounts I should follow, writing or otherwise, please let me know.

Also, a reminder that my first novel, Please Give, is available now on Kindle and Nook. Thank you for reading!

Out Now: “Please Give”

I’m happy to announce that my first novel, Please Give, is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

please give by sonora taylor
Cover Art by Doug Puller

“Please Give” takes place in Washington, D.C. It tells the story of 28-year-old Beth Harmon, who has made her professional home at the anti-hunger nonprofit Safety Net following an extended job hunt. When Beth is offered a larger role in Safety Net’s biggest fundraiser of the year, she dives headfirst into the new challenge. But such a dive means working against her own anxieties. As Beth navigates challenges both in and out of the office, she must confront the prospect of losing predictable constants in her life — and must decide which ones she wants to save, and which are worth walking away from. You can read more about the book here.

The book features covert art by Doug Puller, and was edited by Evelyn Duffy. Both of them were vital in bringing the final version together, and I thank them for their work on this.

“Please Give” has come a long way from my original idea that came to me last fall. It’s been a long, eye-opening, and enjoyable process. I’m excited to share the book with all of you, and hope you like it! I also hope you’ll provide an honest review after you’ve read it.

“Please Give” is available to purchase on Kindle and Nook. Thank you for reading!

Holiday Gift Idea: The Gift of Editing

Give the Gift if Editing from Open Boat Editing

When we think of what to get for writers in our life, we often think of things like books, a typewriter (if they’re old-fashioned), or maybe enrollment in classes or seminars. Another idea, though — especially for self-published writers — is to give them the gift of editing.

I will extol the merits of getting an editor — not just a beta reader or a proofreader, but a full-fledged copy-editor — until the end of time. A proper edit has done so much to bring my stories together into completion. All of my published and yet-to-be published work has been edited, and it’s been edited by the very talented Evelyn Duffy.

For the holiday season, or any special occasion, Evelyn is selling gift certificates for editing work. The certificates offer hourly increments of editing time — so, while not enough for a book-length manuscript, the gift will buy time to review the beginning of a short story, CVs, websites, and more. I highly recommend this as a gift for any writer you know, but especially one looking to get started on writing fiction more frequently and with plans to publish. It’s also a great way for writers who are nervous, unsure, or otherwise hesitant to reach out to a copy editor to not only see how not scary a round of edits is, but to see how great it is for one’s final piece.

More information from Open Boat Editing:

Give a practical gift this holiday season — give the gift of editing! Open Boat Editing gift certificates are useful for getting a loved one started on publishing that short story they’re always working on, giving a friend’s business website a thorough review, or lending a helping hand with a family member’s resume and cover letter.

Evelyn Duffy of Open Boat Editing and The Proofread Bride will apply her editing and critiquing skills to any small project in one-hour increments at a discounted rate.

Editing gift certificates are an especially thoughtful gift for the newly engaged or those writing their applications to grad school. Contact Evelyn to personalize your gift certificate today.

You can learn more, and purchase personalized gift certificates, at Open Boat Editing.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for an interview between Evelyn and myself. We talk writing, editing, publishing, and watching sitcoms; amongst other things.

Finally, a quick reminder that I will be publishing my debut novel, Please Give, next Tuesday, Dec. 19, on Kindle and Nook.

Happy Holidays, everyone!