On Stumbling Upon Inspiration

You never know when you’re going to stumble upon inspiration, whether its for a story, a character, or even a setting. My most recent  stumble was in a place that I’ve visited half a dozen times over the years: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg is known for the famous Battle of Gettysburg, a three-day battle during the American Civil War that arguably turned the tide of the war. But it wasn’t the battlefields that caught my eye after I finished my breakfast at Friendly’s Restaurant. It was the partially torn-down motel behind it.



The first thought that popped into my mind was survivors during the zombie virus outbreak could hole up on the second floor. They’d be well out of the zombies’ reach and other survivors might think twice about entering the crumbling building.

Then I spotted the literal writing on the wall. Sale prices for desks and tables and chairs scribbled in black, and they made me think of an auction. A curious young woman might be attending that auction and discovers a mysterious object in the wall that happens to be the key to the underworld.



Will any of these ideas blossom into a story? Or will this motel show up as a setting in my fiction? I have no idea. Maybe. But I know for sure that I’ll be keeping my eyes pealed for other inspiration to stumble upon.

Have you been inspired by a location you’ve seen while traveling? Let me now in the comments below.

My Goals for June & July

June and July are going to be pretty hectic months for me. I’m moving to Charlotte, North Carolina halfway through July, and June is going to be spent handling all the odds and ends that need to be done before the actual move. Like getting renter’s insurance. And packing up my books and movies and everything else I’ve accumulated over the years.

But even while getting all those things done, I still want to get writing (and reading) accomplished before the move. Desiree over at InkyTavern wrote a pretty neat post outlining her Summer Goals as a way to keep herself accountable for working towards them. So I decided to write a similar post with my Goals for June and July.

1. Finish Bay View Outbreak, Part 2
I’ve divided the Bay View Outbreak novella into four parts and began Part 2 at the end of April. It’s about four scenes away from being done. But since I’ve been working on it for so long (and originally planned on finishing it by the end of May), I’m getting to the point in  the draft where I’m ready to be DONE. So my self-imposed deadline to finish it is July 4th.

2. Finish and Edit Chapter 1 of WolfsBane Moon  for the Collaborative Writing Challenge
In my infinite wisdom, I decided to sign up for the next round of the Collaborative Writing Challenge. That means I also thought it was a good idea to submit a potential Chapter 1 for consideration by the editors (and hopefully other writers). The first draft is about 2/3 done. It needs to be submitted by June 30th, so that’s my deadline.

3. Write Chapter 16 of The Map for the Collaborative Writing Challenge
My next assigned chapter for The Map is Chapter 16, and I get to write that next week (June 10-14). That means figuring out what’s happened in the plot so far, what questions need to be answered, and what should happen next. Then I need to write it. It’s going to be fun. And challenging.

4. Write, Edit, and Post 4 Blog Posts
Posts have come out pretty regularly on this blog since the beginning of the year, except for the last couple of weeks. My other blog, Boston to Charlotte, has been a bit neglected. So I want to give equal attention to both blogs over the coming months. That means publishing at least two blog posts for each one.

5. Finish Edits on The Shed
I wrote the first draft of The Shed last summer for a magazine’s call for submissions. It wasn’t ready to be submitted then, so I let it sit for a while before doing a complete rewrite. I’ve started (but not yet finished) the next rounds of edits. I’d like to get them done before the move so there’s one less stack of paper to keep track of between here and North Carolina.

Do you have anything that you’re hoping to get accomplished over the next few months? Let me know down in the comments.

On Not Having a Writing Routine

Right now, I’m lucky if I sit down once a week to work on fiction. I typically snag an hour or two of writing time on Thursday night depending on when I’m scheduled to work Friday morning. But then I’m constantly battling distractions like the television, family and dogs, and the internet, and I usually only get a few hundred words on the page.

This isn’t the most efficient way to write. I’ve been working on the same novelette project since the beginning of January, which theoretically should have been finished by the end of February.

What I need is a regular writing routine, where I sit down at a certain time each night and focus on writing for an hour. It worked during my senior year of college when I decided to stop waiting for time to write. Sure it was tough the first couple of sessions as I trained my brain and the muse to work on-demand. But after that, the words flowed. I regularly produced a thousand words each session.

I’d very much like to get back to that kind of a routine. However my current schedule is too variable for me to commit to writing every night at say 7 PM. Between my job in retail, my regular freelance writing deadlines, and being on-call to cover town government meetings twice a week, one day looks nothing like the next. And sometimes I don’t even know how a day is going to unfold until it’s already here.

This isn’t how my life is going to be forever. In fact, I only a have a few more months of this particular weird-as-butt schedule until I trade it for a new one when I move to North Carolina. So I’m just going to keep plugging away, stealing an hour whenever I can to sit down at the computer and write. And I’ll be daydreaming of a regular schedule that lends itself to a writing routine.


How to Write a Brilliant Blog Post (According to Sarah)

Step 1: Come up with a brilliant idea (typically last thing before bed) and decide not to write it down.

Step 2: Sit down the next day (or the day after) and write this brilliant blog post.

Step 3: Realize the brilliant blog post isn’t coming out as fantastic as I thought.

Step 4: Decide to scrap the brilliant blog post because it’s boring to write and will a snorefest for readers.

Step 5: Watch the weekdays tick past, and think that there’s no time to write an adequate post because of work commitments.

Step 6: Try to throw a passable post together about books only to realize I wrote a post about books recently.

Step 7: Panic.

Step 8: Write a post about writing blog posts.

Step 9: Include cute pictures of my dogs at the end.

Max, my first dog!

Where I Write

I’m always fascinated when writers post pictures of their writing space. Whether it’s a desk covered in big, green plants, a “writing shed” plopped in their back yard, or an empty table in the corner of Starbucks, that space is the magic area where which epic stories are fabricated.

So I decided to share where I write.

Writing Space

Those little figures sitting on the windowsill and on top of the desk are part of my ever-growing collection of Funko Pop figures. Those white pieces of paper featuring Hamilton lyrics (not that you can see them) are a pretty new addition. For my perpetually messy desk, it’s actually pretty clean at the moment. That’s not going to last long. It’s going to be covered in notebooks and legal pads and stuff-to-be-filed within a week.

What does your desk look like? If you can, share a picture in the comments or on your blog.

Writing (Or Not)

This has been a rough week. A really, really rough week personally and writing-wise. Writing-wise meaning that it seems like I’ve gotten almost nothing written.

So a quick recap: I’ve been trying to move from Massachusetts to Charlotte, North Carolina. However there have been a number of roadblocks: finding a job when I didn’t live in the city, apartment complexes disappearing off face of the internet, and saving up enough money to pay a whole lot of rent in advance. Then I found the perfect apartment complex and banked more than enough money to pay for a six month lease. This past Thursday, I learned that complex doesn’t lease to someone who doesn’t have a job in Charlotte.

It’s the whole “can’t find a job until I have an apartment but can’t get an apartment until I have a job” problem. Now I’m onto Plan C: apply, apply, apply to jobs until I find one not put off by me living so far away. Add that to the “what am I doing with my life?” panic about a career, and that’s a recipe for one very stressed Sarah.

Stressed Sarah does not write well, if at all.

It’s tough enough for me on a normal day to get my head into a story with the distractions of dogs and family. But when my mind is already crowded with worrying about jobs and moving and everything else, I can’t write. I can’t concentrate long enough to get the words down on the page, and I get frustrated when the word count isn’t rising fast enough. The end result is that I shut off the computer before walking away.

I’ve written my freelance articles this week. No fiction, though. At least no more than a few hundred words a session. It’s better than nothing, I know. That knowledge doesn’t do much to satisfy me.

My best guess is that there’s anxiety at play. Maybe a smattering of depression mixed-in, too. I’ve never been diagnosed with either, but there’s a history of it in my family. I’ll be seeing a doctor on Tuesday to talk about whatever’s going on. Hopefully she’ll an idea on how to get this all straightened out.

After I finish writing this post (the Friday before it goes up), I’m going to open up a short story on the computer and just start plugging away at it. I want five hundred words, but I’ll settle for half that.

Keeping Track of Accepted and Published Writing

I don’t know how much of the stuff that I’ve submitted to my regular freelance writing jobs has been published. This is bad. Not catastrophic, but it’s kind of like I’ve let my written children wander off to their friends’ house and never checked on those who didn’t make it there.

So now I’m updating my “Writing Inventory” spreadsheet to reflect that information. Here’s a screenshot of my spreadsheet:

Writing Tracker

It includes basic information like title, publication, and type of submission. Since I usually don’t know the permanent title until after something is published, quite a few “titles” are temporary.

All three date columns are important because they let me know not only when the publication accepted my work, but also how long after that it’s published and when I’m paid. *Knocks on wood* I’ve been lucky enough to work with companies that pay promptly and on a regular schedule. However if a publisher/company didn’t pay me on time, then I’d be able to look back and confirm the dates.

Those last columns are for whenever something is reprinted at a site other than the primary publication. Sometimes I know that it’s going to happen (such as with newspaper articles) while other times I happen to stumble across them (like Gizmodo).

My goal is to update this spreadsheet every time my stuff, freelance or not, is accepted. So I should theoretically be doing that at least twice a week based on my current schedule. Maybe over the summer I’ll do an update/revisit just to see how this is working.

How do you keep track of your writing once it’s been accepted? What works best for you?

The Collaborative Writing Challenge & Generating Story Ideas

Story ideas are a dime a dozen. They pop into my head accompanied by bright flashing lights and signs that read Write Me! Write Me! I’ve learned the hard way that giving in to the shininess of a new idea typically doesn’t end well. (There’s more than a couple of started-but-never-finished Word documents in my story graveyard).

For an idea to be worth writing, it has to stick in my brain for the long haul. I’m pretty sure the idea for my most recent NaNo project was rattling around inside my skull for six months. And that type of staying power almost always translates to a story with the potential for nuance and subplots that’ll carry me to 75,000 words.

So here’s the situation: I signed up for the Collaborative Writing Challenge. It’s a competition/writing exercise where writers from all over the world write a chapter (or three) of a novel. The challenge portion comes from writing a 2,000 word chapter without having written the previous chapter and competing against three other writers also assigned to write that chapter. All of the writers are invited to submit a “starter chapter” that will act as Chapter 1 if chosen. The only requirement is that it fits into the genre of romance/fantasy/drama.

And that’s where I’m stuck. Those standby ideas that I’m just waiting for the right time to write don’t fit into those/that genre. And whatever new story ideas that’re currently floating around my headspace haven’t been there long enough to prove their worth. I know that I’m only going to be writing this first chapter and maybe three more, so I don’t necessarily need all the twists and turns figured out.

I really don’t need anything beyond Chapter 1. But I’ve done too good a job of training my brain to be picky about stories that it balks at every shiny new idea it’s presented. The starter chapter isn’t due until January 22nd, so there’s still plenty of time to shake loose any ideas hiding in my brain’s nooks and crannies. Besides, I always seem to do my best work under pressure.

How long do you cultivate story ideas? And where do you get your ideas from?

My Resolutions for 2016

For the longest time, resolutions and I didn’t get along. The resolutions I’d make each year at the end of December and beginning of January always sounded great. But then they’d be forgotten about by mid-February. Now after a few successful years, I like making resolutions. I’ve made more than usual for 2016, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to accomplish all of them.

New Year’s Resolutions (2016 Edition)

  • Move to Charlotte, NC
  • Attend another Walker Stalker Con (either Charlotte or Atlanta, or both)
  • Revise and finish all of Bay View Outbreak
  • Read 30 books
  • One full revision of A. Romanus
  • Visit somewhere completely new

Have you made any resolutions for 2016 yet? Do you usually make resolutions?


What I’m Doing Instead of Writing

I finished my NaNo project only about a week ago, and I’m already itching to start a whole new project. There’s a few problems with actually that, namely that I don’t have any projects suiting my fancy at the moment. The option is always there to charge ahead into something. Throw caution to the wind and all that. But when after giving into that urge last year, I was forced to shelve a partially finished, 171-page manuscript for good.

No writing is wasted. But I’d rather focus on recharging my creative juices for a while. Here’s what I’ll be doing over the next few weeks instead of writing:

  • Play Video Games
    Last January and February, I spent a whole lot of time playing Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead computer games. I pretty much vowed never to play them again (because of the tearjerker endings, not the game quality), but I recently restarted the first game. There may also be a couple new games in my Steam Library thanks to the Steam Winter Sale, but I’m not telling. Getting through the games should take enough time that I’m ready to write again.
  • Catch up on Television
    The OnDemand function on my cable-box goes on the fritz after about 5 PM each night because everyone with Verizon in my town is watching shows after work. Working mostly days and other weird shifts mean it’s tough to catch up on shows as a result. So I’ll get a chance to binge watch during the day when I’m not working during the time that I’d normally be writing.
  • Write & Schedule Posts for this Blog
    I rocked the whole “write & schedule posts weeks ahead of time” thing this past fall. At one point, there were like three weeks of posts all set and ready to go. That’s something I’d like to get back into doing, so I’ll be spending a bit of time getting all of January’s (and maybe even February’s) posts done.
  • Finish my 2015 GoodReads Reading Challenge
    In order to finish my 2015 GoodReads Challenge, I have to finish four more books. Reading four novels during less than a week is doable, but not exactly feasible while working. So I’ll be finishing up last volumes of Rurouni Kenshin manga. Maybe even the George Washington biography and Playing with Fire that I’ve started reading but haven’t finished.
  • Revise Other Projects
    Technically this isn’t writing. Technically. I’ll be revising my Camp NaNo novel from the spring, or at least giving it a first pass revision. It needs a whole lot of work based upon what I’ve read so far. But that’s a good thing. It’ll help me refine my writing without committing to a brand new project. Besides, I need to sit down and revise it eventually.

What kinds of things do you do when you’re giving your writing time to breathe? Or are you the kind of writer to dives right into editing the moment you type “The End”?