Progress Report: Northward Bound

August has been a little quieter on the blog. As I’ve worked at my day job, worked on my next writing projects, and worked on preparing The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales for publication, I’ve had a little less time for blog updates. I anticipate a return to my normal twice-weekly schedule in the coming weeks.

I wanted to drop in with a quick hello, and a quicker progress report. My novella is still moving along. It’s moving very slowly, and I think it’s because it’s more serious than most of what I write. I always feel like I’m taking a deep dive when I write it, and hitting Save is like resurfacing and taking a big gulp of air. I can only write like that for so long a stretch.

On the lighter side, I have started working on Suds, which I first mentioned when I attended the Craft Brewers Conference back in March. It took me awhile to get going on it, as I was having trouble connecting to the characters and getting into their story the way I’d connected to the characters in Please Give. I’m still not quite there, but I find myself wanting to write, and subsequently learn, more about Kim and Laurel, and how their brewery road trip will go.

It’s fitting, as I myself am about to go on a trip. I’ll be in Halifax and Price Edward Island for the next few days. I’ve never been, and look forward to spending time on the water, drinking some Canadian craft beer, and spending time with my friends. If you have any recommendations for things to do there, please leave them in the comments!

Have a good week, everyone.

Progress Report: Hello, August

July just seemed to vanish, didn’t it? Time has flown this summer, but that time has been filled with good things overall.

I’m still working away on the projects I mentioned before. Most of the work has been what is getting closer and closer to being my next novel. It’s over 60,000 words now, and still doesn’t include half of what I think should be in there. That’s where self-editing comes in, of course — as well as the knowledge that something can always be cut.

The hardest thing for me to remember is to wait to do that cutting until after the writing’s done. I’ve made some cuts, but true to advice I see all over the writing universe, bogging myself down in cuts, edits, and perfection while still writing only makes it more difficult to finish. I find myself having to repeat this mantra: Don’t let perfect get in the way of good. 

It’s a good mantra for both writing and publishing. As I prepare to publish my short stories, I find myself getting bogged down in the details, proofing over and over and trying to account for every way it could be viewed so that it will only look perfect. However, as most articles on self-publishing will tell you, there’s only so much that can be done, especially once the file is in an individual e-reader. I suppose this is why writers prefer to let their pieces go once published. They can’t think about all those details if they want to accomplish their main goal: writing and sharing a good story.

I do look forward to sharing stories with you, especially The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales. It’s still on track to be published on September 5th. I leave you with a picture of a fitting group that has taken up residence near my apartment complex over the past summer. I hear them every morning, and while they’re simply looking for shelter and food, I use their presence as a reminder to keep moving forward on The Crow’s Gift.

Progress Report: Short Stories on the Way!

It’s been a hot and busy week. The humidity makes me want to sit inside with the AC, listen to music, and type all day. Good thing a writing hobby is conducive to all those things!

The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales is getting all the closer to publication. Right now it’s getting formatted, and there are pieces being added that make the collection feel so much more real than it did in Microsoft Word, like a table of contents and a title page. Check out the illustration that will go on the title page:

The Crow's Gift and Other Tales. Art by Doug Puller
Art by Doug Puller

Like the cover for The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, the artwork was done by artist and friend Doug Puller. You’ll also see his work on the covers for Please Give and All the Pieces Coming Together in the coming weeks.

On that note, I’m excited to announce that All the Pieces Coming Together will be released as a standalone short story. I anticipate having it ready by the beginning of August. You’ll be the first to know when it’s available. I look forward to sharing it, and hope you all enjoy it!

Have a good weekend, everyone. Stay cool — and if writing, stay productive!

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

It’s a busy week at my day job, and most of my writing over the past week has been pieces that will eventually become a story. That’s always the goal, but I prefer writing more about them on the blog when they’ve settled into a proper groove. Right now they’re in the Sporadic Paragraph Stage, hanging out in random Word docs or the notebook I keep in my purse.

I may not be writing enough to post story updates on the blog today, but I am writing in a few other places. I wanted to take some time to invite you to join me there.

My Twitter page (also linked to in this site’s banner) is quite active. While I do talk about writing, it’s also a space where I talk hockey (Go Caps), television+movies (expect short versions of this post when I’m watching something), beer (drinking and writing about it), politics (no rants but plenty of thoughts), and work grievances. Work grievances are especially fun and loaded with GIFs – and some of my thoughts on boring meetings provided the blueprint for passages in the book. If any or all of these sound up your alley, or even if you just want to connect on Twitter, give me a follow – I’d love to hear from you.

I also blog semi-regularly for Stouts and Stilettos, a women’s beer blog. Most of my posts are beer reviews, conference/event reviews, and beercation guides (beercations are totally a thing). You can find my articles here, but I encourage you to visit the whole blog – there are some excellent pieces there from many talented women.

Those are my main non-writing blog residencies. Related to the blog, I wanted to remind you all that The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales has a page on Facebook. If you’re interested in getting more updates down the road – especially as it gets closer to publication – then please like and follow the collection’s page.

See you all across the Internet!

Cover: The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales

I’ve been putting together The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales. All four stories have been edited, and I’ve sent them and other pieces — acknowledgments, etc. — to be formatted and prepped for publishing on Kindle. I plan to publish the collection on September 5, 2017, just ahead of the Fall/Halloween season.

One of the pieces that’s done, though, is the cover. Check it out:

the crow's gift and other tales by sonora taylor
Art by Doug Puller

The cover was illustrated by Doug Puller, who is an excellent graphic designer and artist. I love the cover, particularly the look of the crow, and the colors of dusk behind the trees. He completed this work as I was finishing up my revisions, and seeing the cover made the collection feel real to me in a way that writing and reading the text alone did not.

I’ve also created a page on Facebook for the collection. Feel free to like, follow, and share the page if you wish. While I will continue to post updates here, the Facebook page will strictly focus on the collection, including when it’s published, and when a story from the collection will be available for download ahead of publication.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing the full collection soon!

When She Was Sloppy

All pieces start with a first draft, and with rare exception, all first drafts are bad. Aspiring writers — myself included — often forget that all great pieces came from bad first drafts, because we only get to see these pieces after they’ve gone through revisions, professional edits, and other polishes to make them less sloppy. I always appreciate it when my favorite authors share their early drafts to prove this point (though I say early, and not first, because I’m convinced that most first drafts will never see the light of day if their authors have anything to say about it).

I’ve discovered that the forgotten first draft experience can happen with my own writing. Over the past few months, I’ve engaged the most with second and third (and ninth and tenth) drafts of my pieces. The earliest drafts of Please Give ceased around New Year’s, with the first pages written getting heavily revised or completely rewritten; and any following pages being buoyed by those revisions. The new pages weren’t perfect by any means, but they were better than first drafts because I was more familiar with the story and where it was going.

Between chapters of Please Give, I worked on revising the short stories set to appear in The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales — reading them, getting feedback from readers, incorporating edits from Evelyn, and reading through them again. The first drafts of these stories were even more buried than the first words of Please Give, going back to the spring and summer of 2016.

Despite writing every day in 2017, new writing — brand new stories, with no drafts whatsoever to guide them and no revisions to shape them — didn’t happen at all until May, when the full draft of Please Give was done. At last, I had the time and mental space to start the new projects that were simply ideas. I cracked my knuckles, opened a brand new Word document, and let the words flow from my fingers.

Words that, as they I typed them, landed rather sloppily on the page.

I found myself looking curiously at these drafts. Why are these sentences so clunky? Why can’t I come up with a good transition from this scene to the next? Why did I use three adverbs in one sentence? Why am I using so many parentheses, and writing asides and exclamations instead of narration?

It’s because I’m writing a first draft — and even after writing several pieces to satisfactory completion, I still felt daunted by that, stuck on the fact that the ideal sentence wasn’t what was currently on paper. No matter how much I write, and no matter how pleased I am with the final versions of my stories, I still have to contend with sloppy first drafts. There’s simply no avoiding them.

They also shouldn’t be avoided. First drafts are where all stories begin, after all. And even with some clunky stumbles on the way, practice does make better. I find myself able to write more in one sitting, and making less of the mistakes (both style and technical) that I made almost by default not one year ago. A first draft is a first draft, though; and even with all the practice in the world, first drafts will always be rough.

Still, I appreciate reminders of when I was sloppy, and I’d rather get those reminders through writing sloppy first drafts than simply remembering them (or rereading them, though that can be fun when looking for a reminder of how far a piece has come). Remembering them means I’m not writing them. And like many writers say, writing a bad first draft — which everyone does — is better than writing nothing at all.