Writing for Smiles

letter-mail-box

This has been a year of writing for me. For the first couple months of this year, I was writing a short story a week. One of my short stories won second place in San Diego Writer’s Ink‘s Fahrenheit 451 contest. The story, “Paper Heart” was then read on stage by a professional actress from Write Out Loud. Just this month, I participated in San Diego Writer’s Ink’s fundraising event, Blazing Laptops Write-a-thon where I wrote four short stories about my grandfather’s life in nine hours AND raised $300 for the organization.

As this year’s track record seems to indicate (as well as the successes of some of my previous projects like my “What I Learned Today…” series and  NaNoWriMo), I tend to accomplish more in small doses with small goals. I’m still a vegetarian after two years after challenging myself to try it for one week. So I have set myself yet another goal for this year. In July, I will be writing and sending at least one letter or postcard a day to friends and family.

I have always enjoyed writing letters. In middle school, high school, and even college I had various pen pals. Sometimes I would write quick stories, other times I just write what comes to mind. I truthfully miss it. Plus there was the added bonus that sometimes people would write  back.

What I really want to do is build habits and bring smiles to others. If you want me to send you something, send me an email, DM, PM, leave a comment below, or even send me a letter. Like all my other projects, I will continue as long as I don’t get distracted, but I will for sure last the month. Based on my number of contacts, I could probably continue for almost a year before having to repeat. Yeesh!

Short Story: Instincts

This year is starting out great in terms of writing. Thanks to a writing class from San Diego Writer’s Ink, I’ve been keeping up a pace of one story per week so far. I plan to submit my more polished stories, so many of the great ones you won’t be seeing here. But some of the shorter ones, I will post, as there is not much of a market for them. So here is a shortie that I hope you enjoy!

Instincts

She saw the car coming from 100 feet away. Following the path hundreds of people made each day across the asphalt divide, today she crossed alone. The cars will stop, they always do. Her strides kept on pace as she reached the halfway point.

Her eyes stayed on the car as it made the turn in her direction. “The driver has to see me now.” she thought as the blue sedan careered toward her. Mere feet from her, the car maintained its speed. Instincts took hold. Rather than sprinting the 4 feet left to the curb, her brain gave her the next logical choice. Crouched down in attempt to save her fur, she managed to cry out as the car continued along its path.

Feeling a bump, the driver looked back in the rear view mirror to see a small carcass flattened in his wake. Remorse hit him for a moment, until he realized he was late for work.

37,021 is far from losing

November was a month of growing facial hair, walking 60 miles over 3 days and writing novels. I’m personally glad to have participated in one of these feats. You are crazy and pretty amazing if you did all three.

37,021 words in a month equates to 1,234 words per day or 75 printed pages, single spaced with 11 point Arial font. Here is how all of that panned out over the course of the month:

I love graphs. This chart helped me keep moving. I enjoyed watching the bar creep upwards each day as I input the word count.

Over all, this was an incredible learning experience. Over the span of the month, I found:

  • I work well with a timer. After attending a Write In at the Ink Spot, an awesome writers workshop space in East Village, I learn I was the most productive and focused when I set a timer and had a goal in mind. 50 minutes for 500 words.
  • I mostly averaged 10 words per minute (see above goal for calculation). That seems low, but referring to plot and character details, getting stuck on a word or changing scenes all cause delays.
  • Writing at a quiet coffee-house, good. Writing at a noisy bar, not very productive. All seemingly obvious. I tried out various places to write including Rebecca’s in South Park, Lestat’s on Adam’s Ave, Claire de Lune in North Park, Whistle Stop in South Park, El Zarape in University Heights, in my bed,  the couch, at work,  and of course, in Balboa Park.
  • Typing on a netbook can be hazardous to your health. I ended up going to the chiropractor weekly to adjust the kinks out of my neck from looking down at the computer.
  • Characters can take over your story. On more than one occasion, my characters defied my predetermined plot. Sometimes I had to make corrective actions to ensure late parts weren’t compromised, but mostly, I just let them win.
  • You have to just keep going. I like to word smith and edit as I go. I learned that to get the word count up, you  have to just let it go and just know that you will have to come back to it later. The main thing is to get the concept on paper.

And by no means am I done. I’m about three-fourth complete according to my outline. I plan to continue writing everyday until the first draft of my story is done. Then there is the editing, reviewing and all of the work it takes to actually get it published.  I don’t even want to start thinking about any of that until I at least have a completed first draft. I have started a list of people who want to help with editing, so if you are interested, please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Since this is all new to me, I appreciate any help offered.

Lastly, I want to thank my husband. I couldn’t have done any of this without his support, including spending extra time playing with our son allowing me more time to write. For this, I am truly thankful.

Fiction 101

City Beat’s Fiction 101 contest just posted it’s winners for 2011. Again not a winner, but not disheartened or concerned. My submissions were so-so at best this year, as I have been preoccupied with about twenty other things. At any rate, I thought I should give them the chance to see the light of day. So here they are for your viewing and critique.

Neighborhood Watch

Old man Murphy meticulously reread the notice found tacked to his front.

Dear Neighbor,
By now you must be aware of the problem our neighborhood is having with vandalism. Youth have targeted our community as a practical joke. We cannot let them get the best of us. Please inform the authorities immediately if you see anything. Together, we can put an end to this problem.

Regards,
John Moore
President, Homeowners Association

After scanning the letter one more time, he unceremoniously grabbed a new pack of toilet paper and headed towards John Moore’s house, chuckling softly to himself.

I love the thought of a crotchety old man going out to vandalize his stuffy neighbor’s home with a teenage style vendetta.

Cravings
Trying to work, her head felt fuzzy, her brain processes stifled. She imagined possible causes: the flu, start of her period, or a hang-over from what? After a couple hours, her stomach grumbled, but the only thing that sounded good was liver. “What?” she asked herself, “that’s ridiculous.” She finally settled on a steak burrito and diet coke. Unsatisfied and a little crazed, she decided to leave work. Heading home, her mouth watered for brains. Sitting there waiting was her new kitten who she faintly remembered pawing her head as she slept. “Damn,” she thought, “Who’s my little zombie cat?”

This story came to me within 20 minutes of my kitten gnawing on my head and the subsequent headache I had. Related or pure coincidence?

Am Writing

The bug has bite me and my husband has just gone with it. I’m six days and 10,266 words into a novel I hinted at over a month ago. I know very few people actually believe it until they see it, neither do I for that matter. But this feels different than all other projects I have started and then put down. There is no magical day like an event that approaches then passes whether you chose to do anything or not. I decided to use the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to forage ahead and actually write a novel that has been on my brain for half a year. And after having a fifth of it down on paper, I feel like this is actually doable.

For those who are curious and haven’t yet asked, I’m writing a historical fiction novel on the 1935 California Pacific Exposition in Balboa Park, specifically on the nudest colony, Zoro Gardens. “Nudests?” you say.  Yes, there were naked people living (well, sort of) in Balboa Park for two years in the small canyon between the Reuben H. Fleet and the Casa de Balboa (where the San Diego History Center, Model Railroad Museum and MoPA reside). There was a lot of interesting thing going on at that time as well.

So with that I leave you because the 267 words I just typed here, stalled me the same number of words I could have written towards that novel. So wish me luck and we’ll hang in December, or when my eyes are fried from staring at the computer for so long.