A Writer’s Journal: Feb. ’21

Stories Drafted:

  • ‘With Love, From Waystation 4’
  • QueerBlades Anthology Story (In Progress)

Stories in Revision:

  • None

Words Written:

  • 7,259 words

A lot of people have talked about hitting the ‘pandemic wall’ and honestly, I think I’m pressed against this wall. Writing is hard, but it feels harder when the world is practically unraveling around us. I try to push through it and find value in my stories despite the noise of the world. Some days I’m productive and riding a high. Other days I’m utterly exhausted, frustrated with myself and ready to crumble from the merest bit of pressure. This is a depressing opening, but it’s how I feel and if you’re reading this and feel similarly, know that you’re not alone.

I managed to accomplish some things in February. I wrote a short story for an anthology, submitted said short story and started another short story for another anthology. I started drafting my novella and I have three volunteers willing to beta read my draft and offer feedback. I’m also brainstorming (aka daydreaming about) an idea for a novel inspired by games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley. I have a notebook dedicated to this specific idea and I’m hoping that by mid-April or beginning of May, I can sit and outline this particular idea.

Close up of notebook with a pen clipped to the elastic band.
The notebooks comes from Cottonbook and the fountain pen comes from the Goulet Pen Company! I think the notebook’s cover capture the mood of this particular story.

I’m going to try to avoid going into great detail about this story until I’ve written a first draft. But I’m excited to tackle this project. And it’s the perfect excuse to start a new game of Stardew Valley! For research purposes of course!

If I had to closely interrogate my frustrations from this past month, I’d say it partially stems from my difficulties with the short story form. I love the space novels provide. I like to take my time with characters, to explore what’s in their hearts and minds and how they perform under pressure. I don’t feel those same ‘freedoms’ with a short story. One of my MFA professors liked to say with a story you need to ‘get in late and get out early.’ That stuck with me and I often hear those words when I start a new draft of a story. I try to ask myself What’s the closest point to the action? Or Where’s a good place to leave off? I flashback to workshop where I was confident that I had FINALLY nailed the short story form, only to hear ‘This could be a novel’ from one of my peers. I constantly ask myself How the HELL do you write a short story?

I don’t think I’ll ever have the answer. In truth, I envision the short story as a pitstop in my career. I write them, not because I enjoy the form, but because they don’t require as much time as a novel. I can write several in the span of a year and send them off to markets for publication. When I think about my writing career, I picture short stories falling by the wayside as I gradually shift my focus to novellas and novels. Maybe I should abandon the form completely and pursue what I truly enjoy? But on some level, I think I’m afraid to completely ignore the short story. I want to gain some understanding of how to successfully write a self-contained story. There are several markets that I’d love to publish my work and the only way to make that happen is to focus and try again.

In March, there’s only one short story on my docket. I outlined it before tackling the draft, which is new for me. And I’m happy with the direction the story’s going in. Of course there will be revision and line edits. But in terms of the actual story and plot, I can see the growth in my skills as a storyteller. This story may not be my all time favorite story that I’ve written (that honor currently resides with ‘Final Correspondences From A Dying Planet’ *which I kind of want to continue as a novel*), but it has the ability to be *a* favorite story of mine.

My biggest focus for March will be my novella. I’ve accomplished very little with it. I still have time until it needs to be submitted. But I want to write a strong story and I need all the time I can get to polish the draft into its best possible version. I want to do right by the characters and the story because the idea is one that I’m immensely proud of.

One last thing, I recently purchased The Story Engine Deck and I can’t wait to try it! A lot of writers I follow on Twitter talked about how amazing the deck is, so I’m excited to come up with story ideas, characters and settings. I purchased the base decks as well as the fantasy, sci-fi and mythology supplements. Eventually I’ll buy the steampunk, dystopian and cyberpunk booster decks. While I’m going to use this primarily for story ideas, I would love to try it out for a Dungeons & Dragons or other Table-Top Role-Playing Game campaign. (My copy of the Thirsty, Sword Lesbians rulebook should arrive in a few months and this will be the perfect way to come up with a one-shot session.) I’ll try to write up some thoughts next month about this storytelling deck! Though I’m confident I’ll have nothing but praise for it.

This post started on a sour note, but I’ll end it on a positive one. The coming months will be a lot of fun. While I’m still nervous about writing short stories, I’m excited to draft, revise and submit this story to the Queer Blades anthology. And once that’s out on submission, I can focus on my novella and novel. The novel will require some research, but it will focus on space and the difficulties of humanity living off Earth and those subjects are wildly interesting to me. (Have I shown my ‘Space Wall’? I love it!)

Photo of Brittany standing in front of a wall of posters related to space. Caption reads 'Space Wall!'
Space Wall!

So I’ll start with buying a copy of Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot‘ and reading that, before revisiting ‘Cosmos.’ I also have a copy of ‘The Future of Humanity‘ by Michio Kaku that I can use for research. And the Remaster of the original Mass Effect trilogy will be out in May, so I hope to take all my feelings and thoughts about that series and place them into this novel! (I’m a huge Mass Effect fan and I’m excited to see what Bioware does with the series now that they’re focusing almost exclusively on that franchise and the Dragon Age series!)

How was your February? Do you feel like you’re hitting the pandemic wall too? How are you coping? Above all, I hope you’re staying safe and finding ways to ease any tension or stress in your life. Easier said than done for sure. But try to find five or ten minutes in your schedule, mark it off as ‘me time’ and do whatever you please. Take care! Stay safe! And as always Happy Writing!

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