The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Writing

On April 27th, the Collaborative Writing Challenge will be releasing Army of Brass, their seventh collaborative novel and a fun steampunk adventure. As this date approaches, more and more people are talking about collaborative writing. How do you do it? Is it hard? What are the benefits? Today I’m going to talk about all of that and more, with a feature from the coordinator of the novel herself, Phoebe Darqueling.

 


What is collaborative writing?

Collaborative writing is a single story crafted by more than one writer. Even just two people working together constitute a collaborative effort. The methods they choose to use may differ, but the result is the same: a coherent novel.

In some situations, multiple minds are put together in the creation while only one or two people do the actual writing itself. Often times, many writers will take turns writing a continuous plot line using the same characters, setting, and conflict. Every contribution to the work is a part of what makes it what it is, no matter how small or insignificant they may think their part was. It’s all for the greater good! 😉

Why you should do it: the pros

  • Strengths and weaknesses often even out. A lot of writers struggle at the thought of coming up with a full plot on their own. Some excel at the story’s beginning and setting characters on a path. Some are brilliant at twisting up an ending and neatly tying up loose ends. Some craft daring adventures but have no idea how to get a character into that situation. With a collaboration, everyone gets to let their strong points shine.
  • Choices, choices! Most collaborative works are told from multiple points of view, leaving each author with the choice of who they want to write from or what scene they want to tackle. It keeps things fun and often allows everyone to write the character they are most comfortable with.
  • More writers means less work for each person. Sometimes, just the idea of writing 70,000 words (give or take a few ten thousand) can cause quite a bit of anxiety. That’s a lot of words! Working with other writers not only gives you a bit of a break in between sections, but it also helps make that daunting task seem a bit more manageable. I might struggle with writing 70,000 words, but I  can write 2,500 a few times and be okay.
  • Less chance of writer’s block. If you get stuck on a scene, no worries. Just hand it over to the next writer and let them take the wheel. When it comes back around to you, you’ll be less likely to get stuck because you’ll be considering a new scene or angle at that point.
  • A surprise at every turn! One of the most fun and challenging aspects of collaborations is seeing where other authors take the story. You might envision the main character meeting a new love interest in the abandoned city, while the next author might actually write them confronting a new villain! (Or both? Plot twist!) It’s exciting to get that next chapter and see what you have to work with. It never gets boring, that’s for sure.
  • Marketing efforts are doubled. When you write and publish a book on your own, you take sole responsibility for marketing that book and getting it in the hands of readers. When you work with others, that book becomes everyone’s “baby” and you all do your best to see it succeed. More people marketing it means higher visibility and therefore a better chance of it getting out there.

Challenges you may face: the cons

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  • Differences of opinion. This is the one everyone worries about the most. You may not all agree on the direction the story is heading or on certain additions other authors might add. You’ll need to work out ahead of time how you’ll handle these instances: you’ll have to be willing to either work together to alter the story line or you’ll have to be able to let go of your previously planned direction and work with what you’re given. Not every chapter will go the way you envision it unless you’re the one writing it, so be prepared to change your plans at a chapter’s notice.
  • Surprise, surprise! Although surprises are listed as a pro in the above list, they are also considered a con. Not everyone is always so thrilled about a surprise twist just before their chapter, and sometimes they can be hard to work with. Especially when it steers the story in a completely different direction. Accommodating these new plot lines, characters, or twists can be a huge challenge, and could cause anxiety for some writers. It’s also one of the most rewarding feelings when you  manage it, so again, this is just as much a pro as a con.
  • Dropouts. One of the biggest things that sees collaborative works fail is having people drop out of the writing. In larger groups, this isn’t as big of an issue, but one-on-one or in small groups, this can devastate a story. Especially if the dropout decides to pull all of their written chapters as well. I’ve seen half-finished collaborations practically start over because of authors having a disagreement and pulling their work.
  • Delays. Another issue that could arise is when an author is supposed to be writing but mysteriously disappears and doesn’t respond to messages for days or weeks on end. This also includes the “excusers”: those writers who always have an excuse for why their writing is late or delayed and are always saying “I’m working on it, I promise! I”ll have it done tomorrow!” then take a week to finish up. These can be avoided by having a set writing schedule with the stipulation that the writing will skip ahead to the next writer after a certain amount of time, but not all collaborations follow schedules. Delays can mean losing steam, losing motivation, and losing interest in the story altogether.
  • Missing marketing. It might take a group to make a collaborative story, but it only takes one person to market it, right? Some authors won’t tell you they feel this way until you’re already in the marketing stages, and it’s frustrating. They feel as if the writing itself was their part, and that it’s not their job to push it to the readers. They’ve done the “hard work” in their eyes. If this isn’t established early on, you may find yourself doing all of the marketing for a group that doesn’t seem to care nearly as much as they did when they were writing.

 

All in all, the pros and cons are fairly balanced. Some of them can even be switched for certain people. Some authors see sharing the work as a con, while others think the discussions that arise from differences of opinion help shape the final product. You’ll need to give it a shot and see for yourself just how well collaborative writing fits your style (or doesn’t). It’s worth a try, anyway. And there’s a lot you’ll find yourself learning along the way.

 


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How does it work?

I’ve personally attempted collaborative writing four different ways, and each had its own challenges and rewards. There are many variations to these, so I’ll keep it basic.

Method 1: the think tank

This form of collaborative writing focuses on the story’s creation more than on the writing itself. A group of contributors come together to discuss characters, personalities, relationships, conflicts, back stories, plot lines, and twists. Once a detailed idea is hammered out and agreed upon, one or two writers pen it down in novel form. Typically, a general story line is decided upon and then each chapter or scene is discussed in depth before they’re written to ensure all major details will be included.

Method 2: one-on-one

This involves two authors alternating the writing, either by chapter or scene, and discussing the potential story lines in between. This method works great for close friends or for people who know that they get along, communicate well, and have similar writing styles. Because this involves such close contact, I don’t recommend it for total strangers. Not that it can’t work with strangers, it just tends to be a bit harder, as close friends are more likely to be a bit more expecting and accepting of what the other might come up with.

Method 3: a group effort

One of my favorite methods is the group effort. Three or more writers (with no real limitation on how many, though more is harder to manage) take turns writing a chapter each. In this method, an overarching plot is rarely decided ahead of time, leaving each author to direct the story any way they like. This gets you the most surprises in the story but can also potentially have the most disagreements. You’ll want to make sure everyone is in frequent contact, and have a plan for the off-chance that someone drops out or gets delayed. In my experience, this is the method that has the most pros and cons to it, and is also one of the most rewarding to finish.

Method 4: organized submissions

This is the method they use over at the Collaborative Writing Challenge (CWC) and it’s another favorite of mine. It’s well organized and gives a large number of writers a fair shot at being included without sacrificing the story’s potential. It works on a submission basis, where 3-5 writers are all given the previously written chapter and a list of reference notes (including character bios, settings, and plot lines). The writers each take a shot writing the next chapter in the story, and a story coordinator reads the submissions and chooses the best fit. Writers have the option of attempting multiple chapters, so if their first chapter isn’t chosen, they still get another try. Even if you don’t get any chapters into the story, the writing itself is a wonderful experience and most writers agree that they are glad they participated.

 


The making of Army of Brass

Most collaborations tend to be plot-heavy. That wasn’t the case here. I’m more than pleased with the way Army of Brass turned out. It is by far the most detailed of the CWC novels to date and combines more characters, intrigue, development, and subplots than any previous novel. It sounds intense, but those writers handled it with ease. I’m thoroughly impressed by the authors who participated and what they were able to bring to the table.

In addition to being the most in-depth of the CWC’s novels, it was also a new genre for the writers. Steampunk hadn’t been done before, and the story coordinator for this project, Phoebe Darqueling, went above and beyond to make sure everyone had all the information they might need to get started, including the definition, common tropes, and examples of the fun and quirky genre. Here’s what she had to say about her experience as a coordinator, challenges she faced, and being on the “other side” of the collaborative writing process.

Despite a lack of familiarity with the genre, many of the CWC writers stepped up to the challenge and performed brilliantly. Others were clearly intimidated, and I had several weeks with very few or no submissions at all. On top of that, with so many intertwined storylines, trying to find balance and keep them all rolling along was another challenge. It made it very difficult to choose more than one chapter at a time because the authors often tried to advance several plotlines within one chapter, and this multi-pronged approach often couldn’t be reconciled with other submissions.

Now that I was on the other side of the decision-making process, I gained a whole new appreciation for what “rejection” means and the many factors involved choosing works by different authors and making them fit together. During the editing process, I did quite a bit of splitting and reorganizing the order of chapters to achieve the balance and pacing the story deserved. In addition, my own editing experience helped me to go back and add a few vital sentences here and there to create a coherent whole, and I think the writers and readers alike will be very pleased with the results. In fact, Army of Brass is already being hailed as the best novel produced by the Collaborative Writing Challenge, so thank you to everyone who contributed your time and creativity to the process.

This was one of the most challenging and rewarding collaborations I’ve ever had the honor of being a part of, and I’m so glad I got to experience it, because this was my first true steampunk story, too.

 


For anyone who hasn’t experienced collaborative writing, I fully recommend you give it a try. Not only will it challenge you as a writer, but it deepens your understanding of a story’s balance and pacing. It teaches you to analyze previous chapters and explore potential outcomes as well as how to tie together seemingly disconnected plot lines. Your communication skills will gain a boost as you work alongside other authors, and you’ll end up with a really fun writing credit to add to your resume!

If you’re still unsure, check out Army of Brass for yourself and see what collaborative writing can produce. 🙂

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Read Chapter 1 of Army of Brass NOW on Steampunk Journal
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Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!
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Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways (including a $25 Amazon gift card), and more.
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Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.

Anxiety

My OCD hits me like a whisper in a crowded room, with each new habit speaking so quietly I have to keep asking “What?” until I realize it’s screaming and I’ve just gone deaf from all the noise.

My esteem is an overflowing trash bag that sticks in the can, and every time I try to lift it, the bag tears at the seams.

My heart is an empty wine bottle that I keep tipping into my glass, hoping there might be a drop left to soothe my racing pulse.

My stress comforts me like a razor, carving “I am alive” into my arm along with a happy face because I’m nothing if not positive.

My concentration wanders the horizon, collecting vague shapes, unsure if they’re rocks or gems but not needing much of either.

My motivation is an endless supply of potatoes and a thousand recipes, but I don’t have any other ingredients and I’ve lost my taste for french fries.

My anger is a roller coaster, but it’s not the ride itself. It’s the bent rails and rusted tracks, the loose screws and rickety support beams.

My happiness waits in traffic, hitting every red light on the way home, while my self-doubt tailgates so closely I’m constantly bracing myself for impact.

My hope is ice melting in a glass, waiting to cool a drink that never gets poured.

On the bright side, if I wait long enough, my glass will be half-full of water.

The Messenger

I hate my job.

I know why I’m here; I know why it has to be done. But it doesn’t make it any easier. The funny thing is that I’m just the messenger. No postal worker cries this much when they deliver a letter.

That’s really not funny at all; I don’t know why I said that.

I hate my job.

With a reluctant sigh, I trudge down the familiar staircase. Counting the steps helps keep my mind off my task, but eventually I lose myself and a new count begins, this one counting back through time to each job I’ve done. I remember every single one in haunting detail.

Thankfully, I reach the bottom of the staircase before I can start counting my tears as well. My emotions get tucked away into their dark corner where I reprimand them and tell them to stay; stay put! Stay, or else I’ll…I’ll…

It’s an empty threat. My shoulders slump and I shake my head. Stay or I’ll break, I tell them. Please, just stay. Let me get through one more job.

Before me stands a doorway. It holds a simple door, made of cheap processed wood with a fresh layer of pink paint. Though I’ve never been through this door before, it resembles so many others whose thresholds I’ve crossed. I take a deep breath and straighten my spine, lengthening my torso and lifting my chin. It is time.

I slip inside, gently closing the door behind me. The carpet mutes my footfalls but the subflooring creaks softly with each step. A small lamp sits on a dresser by the far wall, giving off just enough light for me to see where I’m going. I don’t need the light, though—I can hear the faint beat of an infant’s heart echoing in my head, guiding me.

A wooden crib lines the wall to my left, and my legs grow weak at the sight of it.

Let me get through one more job.

When I step up to the railing, I close my eyes. The fading heartbeat tells me what I’ll see when I look down.

It’s just another delivery. I can do this. I’ve done this millions of times; what’s one more? It’s not like this is the end or anything. Just the quickest route to the next beginning.

I open my eyes to see the most beautiful infant in the world lying there on her side. I think I say that about every one of them. Each child is so beautiful, so precious. Her skin looks as soft as the clouds and her tiny fingers are so small, I can’t help but place my pinky in her hand. Even with the state she’s in, she curls her little fingers around mine.

Her heart beats faster now, working so hard to pump oxygen throughout her fragile body. Sadly, a decorative pillow covers her teeny nose and mouth, and she can’t fill her lungs with fresh air. I want so badly to move her, to help her, to save her in this life. But, that’s not my job.

I hate my job.

I let out a whimper as hot tears stream down my cheeks. My breath catches in my throat, and I look at a baby monitor sitting on a nearby shelf. My gaze drifts to the door, and I hold my breath as I pray the parents heard me. Pray they woke and wondered if they had truly heard anything at all. Pray they decide to check on their newborn baby girl just for a second, just to be sure.

My tears never stop. I blink until I can at least see my surroundings, then I return my attention to the sleeping child. It is time.

As quietly as possible, I slip my hands beneath her and wait, focusing on the warmth of her skin and the puttering of her failing heart. Like a song coming to a close, the beat fades into nothingness and the heat of her life begins cooling almost instantly.

I lift the infant to my chest and wrap my arms around her. She looks so peaceful. I suppose she is, now. Smoothing back the soft wisps of blonde hair on her head, I turn and carry her back to the door.

I pause at the base of the staircase and glance back down the hall. They’ll never understand. They’ll never forgive themselves. I wish I could console them when they find out. Tell them it wasn’t their fault. Tell them she’ll be okay.

But, that’s not my job.

The least I can do is give them one last night of peaceful sleep, as I know they won’t rest well again for a long time. And so, as quietly as I can manage, I creep up the long staircase with the baby against my chest. I whisper soothing words and hum age-old melodies.

I never count the steps on the way back up.

I know why I’m here; I know why it has to be done. I glance over my shoulder at how far we’ve come, knowing there is no going back. Not for her, anyway. I’ll have to go back for the next job.

I may just be a messenger, but this feels too personal and it doesn’t seem fair. Why can’t I deliver happy news or long-lost greetings? Why not Christmas cards or get-well wishes?

Why must I always deliver death?

I hate my job.

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

As quietly as possible, she lifted the sleeping infant from the crib and crept up the staircase.

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!

The Storm Approaches

I’m slowly merging my dream journal into my blog. I get a lot of inspiration from my dreams, and I’m excited to share them with you. I hope they inspire you the way they have inspired me. Welcome to my Dreamverse!

 


June 15, 2011

This dream must have been a foretelling; there’s no other explanation. However, for you to understand why I believed this to be true, I must first give you a brief summary of what was going on in my life at that time (in 2011).

My dad and ex-stepmother were divorcing. Regardless of who lived where and who got along with who, my husband planned on leaving the day after I had this dream to go pick up one of my younger sisters from Florida.

The day before, my ex-stepmother had written to me saying that unless certain plans were laid out within twenty-four hours of her letter, my sister would not be able to visit at all. Those were the exact words I had dreaded for the previous six months—that somehow, some way, someone would tell me I couldn’t see my sister. Despite us “kids” not wanting to be caught up as collateral damage, we were anyway. So we laid out those plans, but I was in constant fear she would tell me once again that I couldn’t see her. This is where my dream comes in.

* * *

The next morning arrived bright and early. My husband was packed and ready for Florida and had everything he needed to bring our two-year-old son along for the trip to pick up my sister from Orlando.

Not twenty minutes before he had planned to hit the road, my ex-stepmother called.

“I’m sorry,” she said without an ounce of sorrow in her voice, “and I don’t know how else to say this than to just say it, but your sister can’t come out there. You have a tornado heading straight for your house, and I don’t want her out there with that.”

Anger surged through my veins. How would she know if we were about to get a tornado? Huffing, I checked the weather channel, but sure enough, there was indeed a tornado. In fact, there were two. One safely drifted away from us, but the second was heading directly toward us and moving fast.

As quickly as we could manage, we gathered the important items we needed—a small folder of identification documents and three stuffed animals. (In all reality, this really is what we would likely reach for first. I refuse to allow Cherry Bear, Bunny, or Monkey to perish. They have been with me and my husband, respectively, all our lives.) We then bagged up food, drinks, blankets, and flashlights and took them to the round metal building behind our garage. We figured this was the safest place to ride out a tornado. At the time, we were using the building as a brooder for pheasant chicks, but at that exact moment, we didn’t mind sharing the space.

We had everything ready to wait out the storm and pray for our safety, so we each grabbed one of our two children and locked ourselves in the round room.

As the storm approached, even though the sky grew darker by the minute, everything took on varying shades of brown coated in sunlight. The wind picked up, gathering small rocks, dirt, and debris in its swirling gusts. I lay down, holding my two-month-old baby tightly, constantly switching between squeezing him or his older brother. I considered what might happen if the storm became strong enough to lift the small metal building; I couldn’t bear the thought of losing either of my children.

Suddenly, we heard voices just outside the room. We cautiously opened the door to a small group of people looking to buy some birds. We knew the storm was moving fast, but my husband went outside anyway to show off our flock and our brooders. While he talked business with our potential buyers, I looked back at the house and saw my mom walking toward me.

Apparently, she had been worried for the boys, so she decided to come over and make sure everyone was all right.

When my husband finished selling a few birds, a crack of thunder brought our eyes to the sky. The outer reaches of the clouds were almost upon us, stretching out like a dark shadow all the way to the horizon.

And so we huddled together in the round metal building: myself, my husband, my mom, and my two little boys. We braced ourselves—

And I woke up.

* * *

With the divorce in my family and a few issues in my husband’s family as well, it was obvious a storm had hit our lives. Of this dream and the clear foretelling it held, I had this to say that next morning: “We have secluded ourselves and are ready to brace for impact. But why was it important that we sell some birds first? What does that symbolize? Why would my ex-stepmother want to stop me from seeing my sister? Why was my mom there when she lives halfway across the country? A storm was moving away from us, too—what did that represent and why must another hit so soon?”

Fish and Finales

I’m slowly merging my dream journal into my blog. I get a lot of inspiration from my dreams, and I’m excited to share them with you. I hope they inspire you the way they have inspired me. Welcome to my Dreamverse!

 


May 13, 2011

My oldest son has to go to the pediatrician today, so I’m taking him in. Dr. Kent (as we’ll call him) runs his own practice, which just happens to also be a working fish store. As I pull my car up to the building, I try to work out whether I’m bringing my son here for the doctor or the fish.

Either way, we get out of the car and head for the door. A bunch of kids are playing in the large front yard, and my son eagerly runs to join them. As he crosses the grassy area, I notice a wasp flying nearby. Fearing for my son, I run over, grab him, and carry him to what seems like a much safer location by a sandbox.

Something nudges my back, and my fleeting sense of safety falls apart. I turn around and come face to face with my billy goat. I breathe a sigh of relief, but it catches in my throat and I struggle to draw a new breath when I realize my poor goat is dead. In fact, he’s a zombie goat. He takes a mouthful of my shirt between his teeth and tugs, chewing on the fabric.

I shoo him away and tell myself it’s about time to go inside. That’s partly true, but I  mostly just want to get away from the strange wildlife out here. So I take my son by the hand, and we walk into the pediatric fish store.

Once inside, Dr. Kent greets us and tells us he’ll be with us momentarily. We turn to sit in the waiting room and notice a second waiting room attached to the first, connected by a short, wide hallway. We take our seats and I glance up at a suspended television, which reminds me: the series finale of Smallville is today! I don’t know what I was thinking, making an appointment for this time of the day when such an important episode is coming on! I steal a glance at my watch and see that I have ten minutes until the finale begins.

I hastily grab the remote from a small side table and flip through the channels on the television, but I soon realize that this particular TV set doesn’t receive the required channel.

I walk over to the next waiting room and flip through the channels on the second television, and after much searching finally find the right channel. Checking my watch again, I have five minutes to go. I’m going to make it. I won’t miss the episode!

At that moment, Dr. Kent walks up and begins talking to my son. I take the opportunity to run to my car and grab some snacks that I always carry in the diaper bag. I originally planned on buying Pizza Hut for dinner as a special meal with the finale episode, but with only five minutes till showtime, I just don’t have the time (although, ironically, I see that Pizza Hut is right next door).

Upon reentering the building and seeing that my son and the doctor are sitting in the waiting room chairs talking, and with just a few minutes left on the current show, I share some small talk with the nurses standing around the front desk. I decide it’s time to go sit and prepare for the start of the episode, and as I walk toward the couch I notice that Dr. Kent has fallen asleep. I try very carefully and quietly to sit on the end seat, but he wakes up anyway. I apologize for waking him, and he tells me it’s perfectly all right; he doesn’t want to miss Smallville, either. The show starts, and my son and I spend two full hours watching the finale with the doctor.

When the show is officially over (even the end credits), I wipe the tears from my eyes and stand up to stretch. It was an amazing and emotional episode; a fitting ending to a perfect show.

(Of course, because this was dream, I have no idea exactly what happened in that episode. This dream took place the night before the real finale actually did air.)

I walk around the room to continue stretching my legs and get some exercise. My son and I enjoy spending the next hour or so watching people buy fish. Eventually, though, it’s time to leave.

Something big seems to be happening outside of the store; I’m not sure what it is, but everyone heads for the doors at the same time—not rushing but calmly walking. Just as I’m about to walk out the door myself, I remember that I forgot something back inside, something important. Someone next to me picks up my son, nods to me, and carries him out the door (probably his doctor, though I can’t see his face) but I know he’s safe. I run back to the other side of the waiting room, grab whatever it was that I left behind, and head back toward the exit.

I finally walk out the door and over to my car, noticing along the way that whatever big thing was happening is already over. My son and his doctor stand waiting for me at the back of my car. Seeing them there, I start to laugh with the sudden realization that the doctor and Superman have something in common: they are both “Kent”!

My phone rings in my pocket, and I curb my laughter long enough to bring it to my ear. I say hello, and wake up.

A Life At Sea

Here I lie, waving the Jolly Roger from my lounge chair with my sights set on the horizon. It’s the Friday of my life; I wonder what I’ll do this weekend.

My childhood went by like a busy week, with all my time spent floating through school and chores, expecting each year to either overtake me or push me in a new direction. Countless nights I stayed up late, swapping tall tales and deep thoughts with those I held dear and often with strangers who are still strange to me now. The tide rushed in, emotions ran high, and life was never ending. But alas, the tide always fell away, erasing all of my footprints from the sand and leaving no trace that I ever had my feet on solid ground.

Mutiny arose, albeit too late; my captain—oh, my foolish captain—had already steered me into the inevitable. I rebelled against the responsibilities, against the expectations, and yes, even against a promising future. It was so much easier to plunder my past and celebrate my failures. Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of esteem…an empty bottle I often tipped up in the hopes that perhaps I had missed a drop. Who was I kidding? It was all for show. I never drank anyway.

My ship sailed into adulthood on waves of hope and fear and crashed almost laughably against the immovable reef of reality. That seemingly delicate structure stood in beautiful contrast to the wrack of my life, my splintered dreams and fantasies sinking into oblivion to join the reef’s foundation and strengthen it further. How clever, I thought as I brushed off the sand from my bleeding knees. I vowed to learn from my mistakes, to grow as the reef did, and to build myself up from my own self-imposed opposition.

It had been a very busy week, indeed.

I’m relaxing now, as many are on a Friday afternoon, with the hard work on hold and the infinite possibilities of the weekend sprawled out before me. Yet, my time is limited. Death awaits me like a job on Monday and I want so bad to quit. I wouldn’t dread a flourishing career, but the future is unknown and my mind envisions an eternity in retail. It’s far easier to fear the worst than to hope for the best.

The sea calls to me, but I hesitate at the memory of my week-long ruination. At least the waves had highs to accompany their lows.

No. I belong on the shore.

Here I lie, because the truth is too much like reality. I’ll rebuild my ship from the wicker straps of my chair, and the Jolly Roger will announce my final failure to the reef. I’ll keep the horizon in my sights and aim high, and when the tide comes in, I’ll lift my bottle once more and enjoy the weekend as if it was my last.

Maybe this time, when the tide falls away, my footprints will remain in the sand and the world will know I was here, with a full bottle and a seafaring heart.

Edit Less, Write More. 2018.

Well, you guys, it’s been fun.

No, I’m not dying. I’m not leaving. I’m not quitting. I’m changing focus for a bit.

In my heart, I’ve been a writer since I first learned to read. When I took to writing as a serious career path, I picked up a love for editing along the way and just ran with it. No stopping, no slowing down—just rushing headfirst into a fresh novel and polishing it up to its potential. All humans aside, writing and editing are my two great loves in this life.

But, life has gotten busy this past year. Like, ridiculously busy. My children have all reached the ages where I can put them in sports, take them out to dinner or the movies or to a park, and spend quality time with them doing things that I also enjoy, like board games and video games and Legos. And those things take up a good part of my evenings and most of my weekends. And in my remaining free time, my friend and I run the fantasy publishing imprint Imagine House and we admin a fantasy-lovers group on Facebook. It’s a lot of fun and a great outlet for my fangirling, even though upkeep on the group and our social media platforms takes a bit of time. I’m not even complaining; I love this life and everything it has for me.

But on top of the fun exciting developments, there are also a lot of responsibilities that have joined the routine. My husband’s new job takes him on the road more often, which leaves me to deal with things around the property that he usually handles. As today’s youth would say, “I have to adult now.” And that’s just the constant stuff. This past year has thrown a lot of wrenches in my gearbox and I’m feeling like it’s time to replace a few weary parts.

My current editing clients have seen firsthand the delays life has thrown at me, and I am immensely grateful for their patience and understanding as I deal with each new issue. Though life is starting to even out, baseball season is on the horizon and spring always awakens my desire to plant a garden.

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On top of all that, I want to write. I mean I really want to write, y’all. I have a slew of story ideas and fans waiting for books. (Like, two fans. Let’s not get crazy here; I’m not famous or anything.) I have unfinished chapters, random scenes scrawled on napkins, and characters in my head screaming to be set free. I literally have an entire folder on my laptop full of started stories and ideas.

Thus I find myself at a crossroads. Editing takes up so much of my time now that writing has become what it used to be: just a dream. I want to finish a novel. I want to stress out over query letters and synopses and spend a month daring myself to hit Send. I want to find an agent and pull my hair out as I wait to hear back from publishers. I want to see my books on shelves and dance down the Barnes & Noble fantasy aisle while puzzled onlookers try to cover their smirks. mwitm-front-jdrf

I want to be published. Like, really published. Yes, I self-published my children’s book and I have a lot of short stories in anthologies and such, but…it’s different when a stranger takes a chance on you rather then when you put your books out there yourself.

 

So, the point of this longer-than-I-intended spiel is this: I need to choose between writing and editing—and I’m choosing writing. At least until I finish a book, which if I finally have the time might even be this year!

Before you all freak out, this only means I won’t be taking new editing clients for a while. If you’re already a client (if I’ve edited for you in the past), I will still edit for you. You know how to reach me. I will also still be one of the volunteer editors for the Authors’ Tale annual anthologies, and my formatting services will remain open.

It hurts my heart to have to choose between my two great loves, but I’ll feel a lot better once I finish a novel of my own. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause y’all.

Well, kind of sorry. In that sympathetic way that shows I understand your feelings. But I’m not, like, “sorry” sorry. Because I have to look out for myself, too. You understand.

Wish me luck! See you around—as a writer again!

Lost at Sea

Everything is so cold.

Warm waters gave way to thick floes, ice carving its way to the heart of my vessel. My companions have all fled the ship, drowning on their own terms rather than mine. The chill of loneliness soaks into my bones as the salty spray assaults me with each wave.

Had I known my path would lead me here, perhaps I would have stayed on the sandy beaches. Predicting sunburn, I took to the seas, and now the only sand I shall lie upon will be in the depths of the dark. Death by logic; the irony draws a stiff chuckle. My hand flies to my mouth to smother the sound. Laughter has no place here. Laughter means I’ve been broken. I am alone, I am cold, I am all but hopeless, but I am not yet broken.

The small bit of hope I’ve kept dry in my soul searches for an escape. A stormy sky drops water from above, and a stormy sea throws water from below. Up is down and under is over and I am suffocating. It fills my lungs, it clings to my skin, it burns my eyes. I can neither see nor hear.

It bites, snaps, steals, breaks. I can feel the cracks widening. Panic. Adrenaline. Fear. Determination.

My ship is torn apart, the wrack creating new obstacles to overcome. A choking breath, a staggered heartbeat. One more fight for survival. Sheets of ice prove how unforgiving the sea can be. Unforgiving but not impossible.

I climb aboard, ignoring the frostbite in favor of sweet oxygen. I dig my nails into the ice, the pain reminding me I can still feel. It burns but I smile, because I’m alive.

The storms calm and the waves recede. The surface glistens like diamonds adrift, my hope drying in the open air. The damning caveat: my raft is melting. The sun has returned with its glaring irony, watching over me with a devilish grin. Time is as small as my saving grace, growing smaller by the minute.

Small fishes nip playfully at my toes. I’ll lie among them soon on a bed of regret and failure. Their tiny mouths tickle, and I chuckle. My hand flies to my mouth, but it hovers mid-way there. I am alone, my hope is melting, I am damaged, but I am dry. I survived the storms, the ice, the deluge. Surely the salt and sun are no match for what I’ve already been through.

This is my life now. Lost at sea, alone, combating the inevitable upset with every wave and sunbeam that will come for me. I must adapt to the madness if I am to live. Silent tears break free and join the ocean, oblivious to my resolve.

Unhindered, I laugh.

And I laugh.

In the Dark

The lion greets the sky as he mounts his celestial throne. The breeze bows in reverence to the king of the morning. I sit in the light, I breathe the fresh air, but my thoughts remain in the dark.

An innocent moon travels ’round a world of pure imagination. The fools offer their wisdom to the royalty of the hour, smiling all the while. I am grateful for this day and it’s shining promise, but I learn to love the dark.

Twinkling and sparkling are the diamonds in the rough, the stars of the midnight realm. Friendship streaks the heavens among them and courtesy sets them on fire. I admire the view, I praise the beauty, but still I sin in the dark.

The light invites me to dance, to accept the king in his glory. But my mind clouds with smoke from the fire. The grinning fools taunt my esteem. The lion’s roar overcomes my senses. I steal away with the lady of the evening instead, because the dark is not all it might seem.

Praise To My Muse

A form without shape
A life of pure soul
My muse doth wake
Ambitious and droll

Fantastical worlds
Come alive in my thoughts
A story unfurls
Full of people and plots

As the sun darkens
The moon shines bright
Back my mind harkens
To that unseen sight

A glimpse of gold
Her shirt off one shoulder
Beauty untold
Like love, only colder

Or tall and slender
A handsome sight
His passion like tinder
A flame quick to light

A form without shape
A life of pure soul
My androgynous muse
Completes its role

Drifting in sleep
Among characters unmet
Ideas run deep
Incurring my debt

Requited in reams
I’ve paid my dues
Amid joy and screams
Praise be to my muse