Do you ever think as humans we’re just afraid to get our hands dirty? That we’ve engineered our lives to be as perfect, pristine, and efficient as possible? And that maybe, if we aren’t perfect, then we’re failures?
I’m trying to abolish this idea from my creative life. The idea of perfection.
Read the full article here . . .
December NaNoWriMo Special
I'm offering $150 manuscript reviews in the month of December only for NaNoWriMo participants. Here's what you get:
The normal cost for this kind of consultation is upwards of $500-1,000, so this is an utterly mad deal (and I sometimes feel utterly mad for offering it!)
Finishing NaNoWriMo can feel really like a letdown sometimes. It's like the day after Christmas. But getting a second set of eyes on your manuscript can help you approach revision.
How To Sign Up:
To sign up, send me an email to hlwalrath (at) gmail (dot) com in the month of December with the following:
I am a freelance editor with 5+ years of experience helping writers level up their words. I am based out of Houston, Texas. I am a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Codex, SFPA, and Writespace, a local literary non-profit where I regularly teach writing workshops. I love working with writers of all genres, experiences, and backgrounds, but I love new writers best. I have won NaNoWriMo once(!) but I always participate because it's my favorite writing event of the year.
Around November, Writing Twitter starts talking about the end of the year. It’s NaNoWriMo, so people are often talking about writing anyway. But also, it’s the time of the year when, if you’re a writer in science fiction or fantasy, you should be posting your “What I Published This Year,” or “Awards Eligibility” post.
A lot of writers use this time to celebrate the works they’ve published over the year and encourage others to nominate them for best of lists and prize consideration, like the Pushcart Prize or Hugo Awards. Journal editors on the literary side announce their nominations for the Pushcart around this time. 2019 is also the end of a decade, so now people are also posting encouraging writers to share what they accomplished in the last decade. We’re sharing pics of ourselves in 2009 and 2019 to show the passage of time.
But I know that a lot of creatives struggle with all this.
Read the whole post here . . .
Tricking Yourself into Writing
I love the above image. It’s a photograph taken at Natural Bridge State Park, where someone has carved this quote from J.R.R. Tolkien into a walking path. J.R.R. Tolkien probably never imagined the life his work has taken on after his death — that someone would take the time to carve his words in a public space. In fact, I know he didn’t.
John Hendrix, an artist, recently posted a quote from Tolkien’s diary while he was writing Lord of the Rings. It reads:
Friday 14 April: ‘I managed to get an hour or two’s writing, and have brought Frodo nearly to the gates of Mordor. Afternoon lawn-mowing. Term begins next week, and proofs of Wales papers have come. Still I am going to continue “Ring” in every salvable moment.’
Read more here . . .
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an online community and yearly event where writers make the goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. This year, I’m encouraging you to burn the frigging thing down.
Read how here . . .
NaNoWriMo: The Headless Horsewoman
Here’s a bit from my #nanowrimo story #7, a retelling of the headless horseman. Poor unsuspecting Cleora! I am severely behind on my nano word count at 31,825 words today, but I’m having a lot of fun researching this story so I don’t quite mind.
Here's the original tale, one of my favorite American folk tales:
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
by Washington Irving
FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS
OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.
A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flushing round a summer sky.
CASTLE OF INDOLENCE.
In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.
NaNoWriMo Story #6: Willow Wife
My #6 story for #nanowrimo is after the Japanese fairytale “Willow Wife.” I’ve adapted it into a near-future story of friendship and the challenges of our worldwide climate change.
Here is the original story:
In a certain Japanese village there grew a great willow tree. For many generations the people loved it. In the summer it was a resting place, a place where the villagers might meet after the work and heat of the day were over, and there talk till the moonlight streamed through the branches. In winter it was like a great half-opened umbrella covered with sparkling snow.
Day 11 of #NaNoWriMo and I’m on to my fourth fairy tale retelling. This one is quite dark. It imagines a world where fairies have been eradicated as part of a holocaust and fled underground. But a fairy anthropologist wants to find them to offer help.
Here are two tales that this idea stemmed from:
Origin of the Hidden People
Two Legends from Iceland
Once upon a time, God Almighty came to visit Adam and Eve. They received him with joy, and showed him everything they had in the house. They also brought their children to him, to show him, and these He found promising and full of hope.
An excerpt from my fairytale retelling of "The Country Where Death is Not." In my version, a young man hunts for a place to bring his dying mother. He is seeking a place to call home, a utopia, you might say. But what he finds is much darker than he expected.
This is the original tale, from Sudan:
The Country Where Death Is Not
There was a man with his mother. The mother was much afraid of dying, therefore she wished to go into a country where there is no death. The son said, "Where is a country without death?"
NaNoWriMo Day 8
Day 8 of #nanowrimo, 2,300 words. Finished up my Beauty and the Beast (with lady Beast, set in the Scottish moors) retelling and on to a lesser-known fairytale, “The Town Where Death Is Not.” If you haven’t read this gory little tale, I highly recommend googling it. 😈
NaNoWriMo Day 3 + 4
I got a bit behind on updating my website and trackers because of house maintenance stuff yesterday, but here are the excerpts from day 3 (the ending of Mrs. Winkle - a take on Rip Van Winkle from a woman's POV) and day 4 (Beauty and the Beast):
NaNoWriMo Day 1: Rip Van Winkle
I have 1793 words so far on my first NaNoWriMo story, a retelling of Rip Van Winkle from a woman’s POV. Here’s today’s excerpt:
“The city was harsh and dirty, and sometimes beautiful, but those days were few and far between. She’d never known anything different than the city, with its staggering heat, pulsing voice of music falling out of cars, and tremble of planes passing low overhead late at night. The city was progress and destruction and rebuilding and progress. It wasn’t a place for daydreams.”
This #NaNoWriMo, I'm writing 10 short stories, all fairytale retellings!
The fairytale genre has always fascinated me, even from a very young age. This is probably the case with most speculative writers, and also with people of my age who grew up in the golden age of Disney. Drawing inspiration from authors like Carmen Maria Machado, Shirley Jackson, Naomi Novik, Helen Oyeyemi, and Gregory Maguire, this November I'm focusing my short story writing on fairytales. As the month goes on, I'll update here with the list of fairytales I'm retelling. To begin with, I've focused on fairytale tropes as story seeds.
1. Rip Van Winkle
2. Beauty & the Beast
3. The Country Where Death is Not
4. Origins of the Hidden People
5. The Girl without Hands
6. The Willow Wife
Check back for more updates as my month of writing progresses. I usually try to post excerpts from my stories as the month goes on, both on my blog, Twitter, and Instagram.
If you want to add me on the NaNoWriMo website, my username is Hwally.
NaNoWriMo Day 30: Winning At Writing
Well, I've done it folks. I won NaNoWriMo! This morning I copy + pasted all ten of my short stories (including a flash fiction I threw in for fun) into the NaNo website and verified my 50,941 words written in November.
NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. It's exhausting. I can feel the tired in my bones y'all. I have read barely anything this month because I've spent all my mornings writing. I wrote during World Fantasy Con, which was an adventure, I wrote while sad and unmotivated, I wrote with exhilaration today as I pushed myself past the finish line.
I don't know if I will do NaNoWriMo again next year, but I have gotten a lot out of doing short stories instead of novels. There's something really fun in knowing that you only have to live with that story in your head for three days and then you get to let it go, even if it's unfinished or imperfect.
Here's a last excerpt from my dino story, just for you:
I hike myself up onto Darla’s back and kick her into a run. My eyes are burning with dust, my heart is a stone jostling in my chest. Faster, faster. We break the second field, planted with new corn. There’s the gate. In the distance I can see the uncultivated lands of what was once the border. Dissected plains, dark, loamy soil. I swear, urging Darla on. I try not to hear the sounds behind me, creaking wood, the roars and battle screams of dinosaurs on a rampage. I keep on, keep pushing Darla on. My flock needs me. I’ll have to find a way for us to survive until the dinosaurs are past. We’ll need food, grass is a rare commodity. We’ll rebuild. That’s what we do, humans. We survive. We’ll come back and put up more walls, I’ll breed stronger dinos.
And then I’ll go after Ambrose and put a bullet in his head myself.
I interrupt your regularly scheduled NaNoWriMo updates to bring you this interview I did with The Daily Author podcast over at Wooden Pants Network. I had a good time chatting about writing outside the box during NaNoWriMo and my writing process.
We know NaNoWriMo as a month for novel writers, but I'm here to say that you can break the rules and write anything in November, as long as you're meeting word count goals.
NaNoWriMo Day 28
It's day 28 of NaNoWriMo! My word count for today was 2104. I'm trying to boost my word count in these last few days so I can make my goal. I'm about 5k away, but I think that's doable!
I've been enjoying NaNoWriMo a lot more this year since I've been writing short stories. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever have the gumption to finish a complete novel. Working at a fast pace like this has it's limits but in the end it's been terribly enjoyable.
Here's an excerpt of Story #10:
I’m not concerned with all that though. The past is in the past. Right now I’m concerned with a hot cup of chicory and washing the green blood of a just-hatched Riojasaurus off my hands. I leave the baby to her mother and walk back up to the house. The girl, Carmen, is sitting in the little storefront I concocted by building out the porch, thrumming her fingers.
“Girl, stop that thrumming,” I snap. I can’t stand idle hands, not in this time we’re living in. Going to the little sink and little camp stove, I bring a pot to boil and drop two chicory roots in. They look a bit like the wilted teeth of a dino. I’ve got lizard on the brain.
NaNoWriMo Day 21
Day 21 of NaNoWriMo and I'm on Story #7 with 1624 words today. I need to play catchup this week but I keep hitting a wall. However, I will persevere!
NaNoWriMo Day 20
Day 20 of NaNoWriMo and I've broken 30k! Woohoo! I'm on Story #7 now, which is about personality transplants. It's a nice change to work on a solidly SF story for a while after my rather difficult historical fiction short story.
1925 words today!
He blinks, looks down at the wood. “I don’t know,” he murmurs, and brushes the soft strands away from the knife edge. “If you hadn’t come in I don’t know if I’d even have known what I was doing. I came in here because I needed to get out of the house—to smell the air. And the wood was just sitting there and I got the idea then that there was something in the wood—an animal. So I decided to cut it out.” He smooths the knife over the wood and I can see the beginnings of a snout there.
NaNoWriMo Day 19
Day 19 of NaNoWriMo and I've written 1189 words on Story #6. I'm technically supposed to be working on Story #7 but I am behind because this is another historical story with a lot of research to be done. Spent most of the day studying the letters and journals of Virginia Woolf in an attempt to get caught up.
Here's an excerpt:
Inside that strange reflection there was something else with her—the ghost of herself. Ghost Virginia moved behind her, smiling with a comfortable ease. Ghost Virginia is beastlike, furry-faced, with great wings. The real girl went from room to room, finding Ghost Virginia in the windows, in the glass, in the pools of water from a fresh rain in the morning. Ghost Virginia would not have let herself be caught in bed in the morning. Ghost Virginia would not have let herself be lifted onto the slab outside the dining room door. Ghost Virginia would have slapped away his wriggling fingers, like snakes under her ghostly shroud, she would have bit off their heads.
NaNoWriMo Day 18
Day 18 of NaNoWriMo. I'm working on Story #6, which is a historical fiction about Virginia Woolf. Only 733 words so far today. I'm not sure if I'll be able to come back and add more, but I did some good research too so that's fine.
Here's a snippet for you:
We are seeking a barrel grinder. Not the ornate, decorated kind. That would not do. For our love we require a squinty-eyed man with a skinny girl doing the work of drawing in a crowd, the man’s long fingers wrapping around the handle and cranking away, the girl with a too-bright smile and her hands flung open to the sky. We require the music of London—street criers and a man selling vegetables and another hawking sandwiches.
NaNoWriMo Day 17
I took a brief break from updating for a week or so to clear my head, but I'm going to try to get my posts updated, if only for my own sake :) Today I managed 2,476 words.
Here's an excerpt:
I don’t say that Zara suffered from migraines and hyper-stimulation syndrome. She gained forty pounds in mere weeks. She lost hair, chunks of her glorious hair clogging up the drain and I’d clean it out, on my hands and knees next to the shower, convincing myself this is what I wanted in life. She was constantly thirsty, I’d bring her tap water with no ice, because anything made her feel full, and she’d vomit it up, just pure water and stomach acid. Zara’s skin went hard and dry, and once she cracked a joke about how now she was turning to rock. That’s when I knew it was time to give up trying.
NaNoWriMo Day 9 + 10
Oh November, you cursed month. It's day 10 of NaNoWriMo and here's my update! I wrote 1984 words today and 1631 yesterday. Look at me, all keeping on track. Yesterday I got home from working in Houston with a sore throat and sent myself to bed early. This morning I managed to pull myself back out of bed and knock out my words before doing an interview for a podcast. Tomorrow I will be working at the Writer's Family Reunion at Writespace and I have to drive in with my husband in the early early morn, so we'll see how long this lasts, ha.
Here's some pretty words for you to enjoy from my WIP story #4:
At the head of the group is one man who doesn’t look like he belongs. He’s got gold hands. About one in a hundred people on the train wear some kind of burn-wear. It’s not that uncommon, just feared, especially when it’s like this man’s wear. The gold hands are luscious, liquid gold seeping up his fingers and ending in seeping rivulets at the top of his forearms. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking himself, with sharp blue eyes and dark hair that’s shaved beneath its long locks.
NaNoWriMo Day 7 + 8
It's day 8 of NaNoWriMo and I'm still (mostly) on track. My story is definitely trickier than the previous two (sex, drugs, and mood rings, anyone?), but I think I'll figure it out. Yesterday I hit 1327 words and today 1642 words. A bit short of my goal, but I hope to catch up over the weekend.
Here's an excerpt of Story #3:
“You can create nightmares?” I ask, starting to get the point. I step back to the case. The nightmare ring is a slim black band. The ring Jonas pointed out as death is pale white and set with a single pearl. “What are the space and time rings for?”
About the Author
Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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