Summer Writing+Reading

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of the week (and possibly the season) in the D.C. area. It’s always hot here in the summer, but having grown up in the southern Mid-Atlantic, I don’t really heed my fellow locals’ complaints about the purported oppressive heat of July and August. In North Carolina, you could barely go outside between 12 and 5 PM; and don’t get me started on the 24 hours we spent in Savannah in August one summer. I do concede that it’s easy to scoff at heat complaints while I sit in an air-conditioned room in a sundress.

Though I’ve been out of school for years, I still like taking part in summer reading. My local library has a summer reading program for all ages, and you can log your books and win prizes. Adults get the grand prize when they read six books in the designated time. Last summer, I completed and exceeded that by the beginning of July. This summer … I logged my fourth book yesterday.

My reading is still slow thanks to writing, but things like the summer reading challenge keep my bookworm fed. I just finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which was excellent. Now I’m reading The Girls by Emily Cline.

I’m also still writing away. Most of my focus has been on what is steadily becoming my second novel. I’m at 47,000+ words — a few days’ work away from a NaNoWriMo length! It’s still scattershot, and the plot is still coming together, but I’m both pleased and surprised at how it’s formed over the past several weeks — especially when for months, I didn’t think I had enough material for this story to turn into a novel. We’ll see where it goes!

What are you reading or writing this summer?

Writing Piece by Piece

Yesterday on Twitter, I was reminded of a good piece of writing advice:

The advice above, from Richard Rhodes, was a sentence that rang in my head last winter. I’ve been writing off and on for years, usually in ebbs and flows. In later years, that writing became fragments. I finished two short stories in college, but usually, if I picked up a pen in my twenties (or, let’s be real, tapped on a keyboard), it was always to write beginnings of stories or chapters that never became novels.

A lot of the work left unfinished was due to time, but a lot of it was also due to insecurity. I didn’t think I could write something if I didn’t have a clear, direct story in mind from beginning to end. And the times I had that, I found the story growing beyond my set outline’s control once I started typing. The forms these words took scared me, as they were going beyond what I’d planned in terms of thought and time to create. I set the pen aside (read: minimized the Word document and surfed the Internet).

Still, the desire to write never really left. I started doing daily writing about whatever crossed my mind, just to get something down. This was good practice, but I mostly wrote random thoughts about my day; and soon, I ran out of topics. I did a little story writing during that time, but once again, they stayed resigned to either outlines or something started but not finished.

Last winter, in 2016, I came across the quote at the top, about how a page a day would produce a book in one year. It was a simple thought, one so simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it. I thought of some of the stories I’d wanted to write, and written notes for over the years. Maybe I could write a page a day, a simple minimum, and see where those pages went.

A year and some change later, I came across that quote again, in the tweet I posted above. Since then, I’ve written a book. And eight short stories. And have both a novella and another novel in the works. I work on them every day, aiming for a page, but often going further. Even when I have to make myself type one sentence just to say I’ve written, I do it. Because each piece written is another step towards a whole story.

As they say: Keep Writing. Your story will form itself. Your words will find their place in a story. And any time spent forming that story is time both well-spent and, one day at a time, will be rewarded — be it a page, a paragraph, or a line. As the full quote goes:

If you’re afraid you can’t write, the answer is to write. Every sentence you construct adds weight to the balance pan. If you’re afraid of what other people will think of your efforts, don’t show them until you write your way beyond your fear. If writing a book is impossible, write a chapter. If writing a chapter is impossible, write a page. If writing a page is impossible, write a paragraph. If writing a paragraph is impossible, write a sentence. If writing even a sentence is impossible, write a word and teach yourself everything there is to know about that word and then write another, connected word and see where their connection leads. A page a day is a book a year. ~Richard Rhodes

Adding to the Binder

You may recall my Professional Clear Plastic Binder o’ Rejection. It sat stagnant after my first entry, even though I had a few stories out in the world, waiting to be turned down.

Well, the wait is over! I received three more rejections over the past two weeks — one from the same journal that made my first binder entry, one from a contest, and one from a different journal entirely. The collection is growing!

I swear I’m not being sarcastic. Yes, I type with my tongue in my cheek; but I’m also not typing with bitterness or anger. Rejection is part of the process, and getting a rejection letter means I tried putting my work out there, out for someone to read it. Yes, someone to read it and turn it down, but that’s better than no one reading it at all.

To anyone reading who’s afraid to submit your work for fear of rejection, I encourage you to face that fear and hit Submit. The worst that’ll happen is negligence, like the story I submitted almost four months ago and has remained unopened by the journal I sent it to (Submittable, which many journals use now for submissions, lets you see whether it was just received or if it’s in progress/being read); and even that’s not so bad.

At best, your work will be accepted!

But at somewhere between worst and best, it will probably be rejected, at least the first few times. That’s okay, that’s part of the process, and the rejection won’t be laden with insults or tell you to quit writing forever. Three submissions have been sent back to me with assertions they enjoyed reading each story, notes on the volume of submissions, a polite decline (usually in the form of “It wasn’t right for this journal”), and requests to send more work in the future. That’s it. No pain at all — just a drive to try, try again.

Keep writing, and keep submitting. Remember: every author you love was rejected at some point. Every single one. Getting rejected puts you in good company.

Now, I’m off to print another letter for the binder.

Progress Report: Summer Vacation Projects

I’m visiting my parents for the Fourth of July weekend. They live in NC, and even though Chapel Hill is not a small town by any means, it’s quite the change of pace from the hubbub of DC and Northern VA. It’s a nice change, though, especially when my husband and I drive across highways with little traffic and fall asleep with little noise outside the window.

It’s tough for me to write when I’m on vacation. I try to squeeze out at least a few words, but my daily devotion to my stories requires a little more discipline than usual. Still, there’s something to be said for taking a break sometimes. I make myself write a few words so I won’t get rusty, but where I usually aim for a high daily minimum (one section for a short story, 1000 words for a novel), I instead commit to a paragraph or two.

Right now I am working on something that may become my next novel. I want to see how far it gets before I talk more about it on here, but I’ve worked on it most every day for the past few weeks, and am up to 33,000+ words. Even with all that completed, its plot is still revealing itself to me; and the best I can say now is that each piece is a connected vignette. It’ll be interesting to see if it forms into a complete, concise novel as it goes along. One way to find out!

I started a longer short story, one that may become a novella, a couple months ago. I reached a stopping point, and wrote down where I want it to go. I normally try to finish stories before moving on to the next project, but I also believe in listening to what inspires me and trusting that a story worth finishing will be finished in due time. I may use my vacation to take a break from the potential next book and work on this one. It’s currently called Gods Into Demons, and follows a young girl whose new friend may give her unhealthy fixations.

I’ve also completed two short stories, Wither (which I mentioned earlier) and We Really Shouldn’t. We Really Shouldn’t was an idea I’ve had since last summer, and earlier this spring, it finally blossomed into a story. It follows a woman and man who, months after their break-up, meet by chance in a coffee shop. They wonder as they catch up, though, if they really should reconnect. That was the basic premise I had in the beginning, and I was excited to see where it turned from there – particularly the darker corners.

All these stories will find homes down the road. My publishing sights this year are on The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales (still set for September) and Please Give (tentatively set for mid-November or the beginning of December). Stay tuned for more information on all of these pieces. I hope you all have a good holiday weekend!

Let’s Get Social: Goodreads

A couple weeks ago, I shared some ways to connect apart from this blog. I wanted to add one space where I’m a recent dweller: Goodreads.

I’ve seen Goodreads pop up here and there, mostly through my friends updating their progress on books or my favorite authors promoting giveaways. I joined when two friends wanted to use it to discuss the books we read together.

Since then, I’ve used it pretty much for the activities I saw other people do — update on my reading progress and enter giveaways. I also write brief reviews of the books I finish and log on the site. I have yet to write retroactive reviews of stuff I read before joining, but that may come later.

With summer reading upon, us, and just with a love of reading in general, I invite you all to join me there. The URL will seem very familiar: https://www.goodreads.com/sonorawrites

Feel free to send me a friend request, or just follow along if you like. You all know I sometimes lose focus on reading, and it helps me keep up with it when I have friends to share that reading with.

Hope to see you on Goodreads!

More Motivation: Reveal by Doing

My desk calendar is on a roll this month with writing affirmations. You’ll recall its words of wisdom on perfection two weeks ago. It’s at it again today, this time with an adage I’ve found to be true of forming stories:


I think about my stories a lot. I think about them so much that I sometimes forget to write them. Other times, I choose to think instead of write because I don’t have all the answers ready to write down. I’ll procrastinate, write other things, anything to avoid the grave sin of writing something that isn’t 100% ready before placing finger to keyboard.

Still, I make myself write every day, even when I groan and sigh because pages of bracket notes await me. Can you guess how many times I’ve done this and written clunky sentences and stuff to fill in later? Every time.

Can you also guess how many times the story has answered my questions for me because I wrote it down — and answered it with clarity I never thought I’d have when the words were just in my thoughts?

Once again, every time.

Write it down, even if it’s not where you think it should be. It isn’t where it should be, but that’s because it’s in your head, and not on paper where it belongs. Put it there.

Summer Rain

Photo (c) Sonora Taylor

It’s almost the solstice. One of my favorite parts of summer is its rain, and how fast and strong it passes through. I wrote a quick poem during a quick downpour yesterday afternoon, and wanted to share it with all of you. Happy Summer, everyone.

**

Summer Rain

Rain upon the pavement
Sends steam into the air.
Clouds rush past,
The sun shines through,
The storm was never there.

6.19.17

Photo (c) Sonora Taylor