Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lessons Learned from Writing A Sunset Finish

Thanks to A.G. for letting me guest blog today. My first novella A Sunset Finish came out a little before A.G.'s novella Brass Stars did last year. It's thrilling to get something longer than a short story published, and not quite as daunting as writing a novel. She asked if I'd do a Lessons Learned theme for the guest post. It was a great idea since I learned quite a bit writing A Sunset Finish.

1. Research pays off. I've lived all of my life in New Mexico and near many Pueblo Indian reservations, but I didn't know enough pueblo folklore to write A Sunset Finish off the top of my head. I was somewhat fortunate when it came to the music and dance aspects of the story because I had studied some local Native American music in college. But even my music experience was limited. To make up for the gap in my knowledge, I took trips to ruined pueblos, attended dances at the Pueblo Cultural Center and visited the libraries frequently. My favorite book for study was Dancing Gods by Erna Fergusson. While gleaning the information from it about pueblo ceremonies, I also found myself thinking up different short stories and a possible alternative history book. Two of the short stories I thought of during that time of research have already been published and another one is on the way this summer.

2. Watch out for repetition in longer stories. I sent A Sunset Finish to three places before it found a home. One of the editors who rejected it told me that it was well written except for being so repetitive. I had no idea what she was talking about. So I boohooed to my best friend who said, “Well, I thought that too, but a lot of published stories are so I didn't say anything.” After that, I read it with a different eye. Indeed, I had several chapters in there that were rehashing the same emotions or the same mysteries. I cut most of the scenes where Bruce's dad appeared and about half the dates between Stephanie and Bruce. It was accepted at the next spot I sent it to: Jupiter Gardens Press. Looking back on stories I've read, I now believe several novels would be better as novellas if the repetitious scenes were cut out :)

3. Don't waste time watching rankings. After A Sunset Finish was released, I was introduced to the world of rankings, which I had largely ignored. I made it to my publisher's best seller list, and then I was addicted. Watching rankings cuts into precious writing time and can be depressing. This month I've made a huge effort to not look so often and only focus on new stories. My production has gone up, even though I find myself looking more than I should.

4. Self-promotion is hard. I think most writers are introverts; I know I am. But now we are expected to tweet and blog and Facebook all the time. I really enjoy swapping blog posts with people like A.G. where we talk about the craft. I see it as a definite benefit to growing as a writer. But time blogging is also time not writing new stories. There needs to be a balance. I see some writers promoting every day, and I honestly don't know how they do it and still get their next novel out on time. I admire them, but for me, I need time to let my head settle on a story and crank out the words until it's done.

Thanks again for having me here, and please come and check out A.G.'s post on my blog at enchantedspark.com coming in June.  

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