Flying Lessons

I started this writing thing about six years ago (as an adult, anyway. I’d always loved writing as a kid and, looking back, I should’ve let that little girl go free. Oh well… At least we’re up the right tree now.).

I remember exactly which office chair (now long gone) I sat in. A small Walmart-put-it-together-yourself computer desk (also long gone) held a desktop computer that, with any given keystroke, threatened to ignite a series of combustible reactions and send the tower into outer space. I seriously worried about the safety of that thing. That device long went to the electronics graveyard.

We still had Cosmo Quasimodo the Cat and Spencer Doodles the Schnauzer/Welsh mix terrier. Cosmo was in the window, and the breeze took his white hair and floated it all over the room. But I didn’t care. Spencer was staked outside on his lead, sunning himself and barking his fool head off at anyone brave enough to walk the road leading behind our home.

But I didn’t care.

Creativity (or so I thought) had struck and I was gonna do it, by gosh, by golly. I was gonna sit down and write the dumb book.

The blinking curser teased and taunted me as I plugged away one word at a time about a red balloon bobbing and hovering above a lazy river. A child had let the oval orb go from a nearby carnival, and…


About five hundred words in before the great block. And the cursor laughed at me. One horizontal wink after another.

At that time, I worked nearly full time as a medical transcriptionist and homeschooled our kids. My world was medical records, school reports, and all things factual.

So I gave up the creative for the concrete (read this as: FEAR, though I didn’t know it then). Stuck with the familiar grind and medicated that ridiculous notion of fiction writing with a hefty dose of “pull-it-together, Beth. You’ve no time.”

I don’t know that I’d even had time to read a novel for pleasure, let alone think about how to put one together. One word at a time.

When the urge hit again—and it hit really hard about three years ago—I knew I’d need a mentor or a teacher or an online class of sorts to see if I could shake loose the cobwebs that had ensnared those creative sparks (sparks I’ve now named “Little Miss Muse”). I needed someone to kick me out of the tree, parachute-free.

I took a creative writing course from Holly Lisle. Great fun. That’s where the idea for Switch came from with Oliver and Hedge and Earl.

But I didn’t finish the book. Wrote half of it and stopped. Blocked again. I’d lost my way. No one would read the dumb thing anyway, so why bother. (Read this whole paragraph as FEAR.)

Then I found Dean Wesley Smith’s blog through one of Holly’s blogs (down the rabbit hole of procrastination, but boy did that trip pay off in spades!) and his point of view on the indie author realm opened up a whole new world for me.

Dean wrote about Heinlein’s Rules, and they just made sense.

Robert Heinlein was a sci-fi author who started back in the ‘40s. He’s credited with 32 novels, nearly 60 short stories and other essays. I don’t know that I’ve ready any of his fiction, but Heinlein gave sage advice to anyone wanting a career in writing. I’ll paraphrase, but you can read the summary/reference info here.

1. Write it.

2. Finish it.

3. Don’t touch it (except for typos and such).

4. Put it on the market.

5. Keep it on the market.

Super simple. Super difficult. I’ve been through the stages with a couple of shorts, mostly ending at #4, but never consistently with all of my written pieces. Let me break it down further because ranting here on the blog helps me plan.

1. Sometimes writing takes a backseat to life, which is fine, but I like to think I’m writing things in my head. That doesn’t count. That “head work.” Gotta get to the computer. Butt-in-chair time. (An upgraded chair of the bouncy bungee variety. I like it so well I just know when it’s time for a new one, the company won’t make them anymore, such is my luck. Tempted to go purchase four more just in case…)

2. Finishing (stopping and starting and procrastination) is hard. Hardest part for me on this one now is the middles. I can see the end of a thing and Little Miss Muse scampers off to another idea because she and I both know where the story will go. Why bother coding it out in black-and-white letters? Butt leaves chair and finds other activities to do—evening cooking, for crying out loud—leaving characters stuck in proverbial trees swinging naked from all the loose ends.

3. I was a re-writer. Now I have so many ideas I don’t have time to change plot lines and character motivations, and, and, and... The story stands as is. I’ll fix the errors, but that’s it. Little Miss will stand for nothing more in this vein anyway—she’s running through the backyard right now scaring squirrels, playing chicken with the passing cars, and generally pitching a purple fit…

4. Finding a “home” for my “darlings” is daunting. I don’t even know what genre my stuff lands in half the time. I take about an afternoon a month and try to send out a few, but boy have I failed at this one. I could self-publish all the shorts, but getting a “yes” from a magazine or anthology sure is wind under the wings.

5. Keep it on the market? Failed here, too. I got the rights back to my first short story sale, “The Removal of Blue Sky.” I sent it to a couple of other places for reprint, but no luck, so it stagnates in my laptop along with the poor creatures that I’ve not bothered to do the first thing with after typing “the end.”

As of this writing I’ve finished one novel and self-published it to market, one collection of 21 shorts is done and on the market, and 51 other short stories are loose and flapping in the wind with their britches hanging down around their knees. Some shorts have sold, some are on the market, and two shorts are in #5.

My goal for 2020: Take at least twenty of those loose stories through all five steps out to live markets. Self-publish the rest or use them here on the blog. Keep plugging new content through Heinlein’s System.

Generally, despite Little Miss’s ADHD, 2020 is the year to follow the rules—with no parachute!

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog or revisit older post on my Archive page. Don't forget to come back on the first Monday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.