Posted by: devonellington | April 15, 2016

April MidMonth Check In

Mid-Month Check-In April

How’s your April going?

Mine is busy – in the best possible sense of the word.

I decided to wait until early May to start revisions on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC. That gives it six weeks to rest – a good compromise between the month I scheduled and the two months I prefer.

SONGBOUND SISTERS and “Just a Drop” are on track – I still plan to have the first draft of the latter done by the end of the month.

I’m also looking for a way to add the next round of revisions of HEART SNATCHER and finishing the first draft of HEART BINDER back into the mix, without dropping the ball on any of the other schedule projects.

I may drop the two short stories, since they are not contracted. I think I have enough on my plate without them.

I finished the judging for one contest, and just received the entries for the radio contest.

I’m behind in submissions, but the work is going well on both nonfiction projects.

It’s rained almost every day I’ve had off, so I’m behind in the garden, but I hope to catch up this weekend!

Hope your April is spectacular!

Posted by: devonellington | April 1, 2016

April To Do List

 

My April To-Do List looks short, but is actually quite time-and-labor-intensive.  Writing the first draft of one book while revising the draft of a different book is always an interesting challenge.  At least CHOLERIC is in first person, while SONGBOUND is in third, so I’m not switching between first person voices.

Knocking out two short stories will be a challenge, but one is partially formed in my head.

The contests will take the biggest chunk of time, and are on the shortest deadline.  But it will be fun.  What does your April look like?

To-Do List April:

Work on SONGBOUND SISTERS
Start revisions on DEATH OF A CHOLERIC
Finish, edit, polish, and send off 2 short stories
Finish “Just a Drop”
3-5 submissions/pitches
Finish Contest entries
Judge high school radio contest
Continue work on Non-Fiction #1 and Non-Fiction #2
Garden

Posted by: devonellington | March 31, 2016

March Wrap-Up

How did your March go?  While the last few days have been challenging, to say the least, but, overall, when I look back at the month, I feel good about it.  When I look at some of the non-writing-life stuff I’m dealing with, I’m amazed I got as much done as I did.

March 2016 Wrap Up:

Completed:
First draft of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC
“Not Such A Bargain” short radio play
“Fright Shift” short radio play
Presented at CCWC’s WNO on “Point of View”
5 Submissions
2 Pitches

In Process:
Play on 17th Century Italy (now titled “Just a Drop”)
SONGBOUND SISTERS
Work on contest entries
2 Short Stories due the end of April

Moved/Dropped:
Moved TIE-CUTTER to the next slot; brought SONGBOUND SISTERS forward

Unexpected Opportunities:
Short radio plays
2 grant proposals
Campaign writing
2 new novel ideas in the process of outline
Material for what I thought would be essays are really the foundation for 2 non-fiction books.

Disappointments:
Had to pull out of interviewing for a project due to scheduling conflicts

Successes:
”Broken Links” placed first & will be produced/performed by On the Air Radio Players in June.
My mixed media piece “Have You Seen . . .?” was accepted into the “Unsafe” exhibit at Cotuit Center for the Arts

Posted by: devonellington | March 15, 2016

Mid-March Check-In

How is your March going? Are you getting into your groove?

I have three submissions out, and I finished the first draft of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC!
The book is going to sit and marinate for a month or two.

The rest of the month, I will focus on the first draft of the play set in 17th Century Italy, and also get going on SONGBOUND SISTERS.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I decided to flip the deadlines for SONGBOUND SISTERS and TIE-CUTTER, and I’m lucky enough to have the flexibility so to do.

Tomorrow, I’m speaking at Cape Cod Writers Center’s Writers Night Out. The topic is “Point of View.”

So, all in all, a good March! I’m excited about what’s been accomplished thus far, and the possibilities for the future.

Have a great March!

Posted by: devonellington | March 7, 2016

The Pull of Projects – Inspiration or Sabotage?

The Pull of Projects – Inspiration or Sabotage?

Many people, be they writers or in any other field, sabotage themselves by not finishing what they start. Whether it’s a stack of half-written projects or a stash of partially knitted pieces, unfinished work drains creative energy. If you drop something any time you get an adrenalin rush for something new, you won’t reach your goals. You’ll just hoard unfinished projects, which causes depression and anxiety.

At the same time, sometimes a project moves forward and demands attention. So what do you do?

First of all, it depends on the type of schedule you’re on. If someone else is counting on you to finish a project by a particular deadline, you do it. Whether or not you feel inspired; whether or not another project is pulling at you. Especially if you’re on a paid contract. You don’t have the right to screw up someone else’s schedule because you’re flaky.

If you’re in a situation that’s negative on many fronts, that’s something different. Then, you either fulfill your obligation as quickly as possible and make sure you don’t get in that situation again, or you find a replacement and withdraw gracefully.

But you don’t do that high-pitched little giggle and blame The Muse because YOU are unreliable.

Sometimes, however, you have to have enough flexibility to rearrange your schedule and deadlines to accommodate an additional project or a new opportunity. If you’re offered an outstanding opportunity, you don’t say no, and you especially don’t use the “I don’t have time” excuse. People who don’t MAKE time for opportunities soon find that Opportunity goes and knocks on someone else’s door – someone who will invite her in.

You factor in:
–how much you want to do this particular project
–how it fits into the overall vision for your career
–how much you’re being paid
–how many other people your participation or non-participation affects and where those individuals fit into your life
–how much time you have to MAKE in your schedule to add the project in and keep up with your other commitments.

So what if you’re tired? Get up earlier; go to bed later for a few weeks. Spend less time on your cell phone, on social media, or watching TV. Make your creative work your focus.

I’m facing a current dilemma about rearranging a couple of novels on this year’s roster. I’m nearly finished with the draft of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC – behind where I wanted to be, but I’m close. I can taste it. I’m pushing ahead to get it done, so it can marinate, and then I can come back to it with fresh eyes, do another draft (or two or three), put together my submission package, and get it out there.

The next novel on my roster is TIE-CUTTER, which I started last year. It has a slower innate pace than the mystery, and it was one of the two novels I wrote in tandem during last year’s Nano (the other being CHOLERIC). It’s also a very different direction for my writing. Originally, it was supposed to be completed in March. Because CHOLERIC is behind, so is TIE-CUTTER, so that deadline will have to be adjusted.

However, I’m pulled very strongly by the novel that’s supposed to be third on the year’s list, after TIE-CUTTER, called SONGBOUND SISTERS. That was originally started last August in a workshop; people loved it and encouraged me to continue. I put it aside because of other commitments, such as Nano and, at the time, BALTHAZAAR TREASURE (before I knew my publisher was going to shut its doors). I decided to put it on this year’s roster – it’s a fantasy novel, not completely outside what I usually do, but more epic sword-and-sorcery than urban fantasy.

I had SONGBOUND SISTERS with me when I went to the retreat in Vermont at the end of January. That is the piece I read in our work sessions – mostly because I had a bit of remove, and it is detrimental for me to read something to others I’ve just worked on that day. Again, SONGBOUND got a terrific response. I was confident in keeping it on the roster for this year.

I’m winding up the CHOLERIC draft – and SONGBOUND is pulling at me strongly. So, I’m considering flipping SONGBOUND with TIE-CUTTER. I’ve been making notes as ideas come to me – I haven’t written my way into it enough for my Writer’s Rough outline, although I have a general idea of the book’s shape. But SONGBOUND is filling the waking hours away from my writing, much the way CHOLERIC has done the previous months. Therefore, it makes more sense to work on SONGBOUND.

Why can I do this flip? Because neither book is under a contracted deadline. Do I have people who’ve requested First Look at all four novels this year? Yes. But it wasn’t on the typical meet-and-greet, what-do-you-have, send-it-in-48-hours. The First Look agreements came out of more casual conversations that sparked interest.

Flipping these two novel projects doesn’t affect the contracted deadlines – the two plays. The first one is still due on June 1; the second still due on November 1. Those are worked alongside the novels. I spend a portion of my writing day on whatever novel has the primary focus, then I switch to the play of the day, or the other way around.

When I go into edits for CHOLERIC, I will be drafting whatever is the primary novel of the time, writing the play, and editing CHOLERIC. All will need to be balanced in the time I have – and, if need be, I’ll work later at night or get up earlier in the morning.

There will be other projects inserted as well – freelance articles, revisions on the scripts that are currently out, new script commissions, short stories. Once the rights revert to me at the end of this month for the pieces published by Amber Quill, I have to take a breath, decide what’s next with each of them, and move forward on that. Several of the shorter pieces need companion pieces written for them before they can go out again. And new covers.

I have several pieces out on submission – they will need additional work once they go to contract. Plus I have other job responsibilities and my work as a Trustee of the Marine Life Center. And things like the garden and the house and the cooking – chop wood, carry water.

And there are other pieces demanding to be written, that are being developed through a few dozen pages here and there, with an eye to adding them to the schedule as possible, without overbooking myself.

That is how a career is built, and how it is maintained. Accept commitments that move you forward and be unrelentingly reliable once you agree; refuse what does not excite you or pay you well.

To what will I say no? Unpaid “work”. This month, I’m about to give my last speech without pay. The person who invited me to speak only accepts paying gigs – why shouldn’t I? That doesn’t mean I’ll never in my life do another freebie, but not for the foreseeable future. I’ve already changed my freelance business to focus on marketing writing and script work. When I do editing work, I’ll only take jobs from a publisher, not from an individual writer. That will cut the frustration level because the writing will have already been vetted at least once before I get it, and publishers (usually) are more reliable about paying than individuals. The unpaid work is where I “don’t have time”.

It’s always a delicate balance between being flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities that come up in a way that means you finish what you start, and that each project builds on the previous one. It can be done. But only if you put in the work.

Posted by: devonellington | March 1, 2016

March 2016 To Do List

The March list is short, sweet, and to the point:

 

March 2016 To Do List

3-5 Pitches/Submissions
Finish the first draft of TIE-CUTTER
Finish the first draft of the play set in 17th Century Italy
Continue work on contest entries
Finish draft of short story due end of April

Posted by: devonellington | February 29, 2016

February Wrap Up

February 2016 Wrap-Up

Complete:
“Confidence Confidant” adapted from stage play to radio play, in both BBC and US formats.
“Broken Links” converted into BBC radio format
2 submissions

In Process:
DEATH OF A CHOLERIC – very close to the finish I wanted for the end of this month
TIE-CUTTER
Continuing to work on contest entries
Play set in 17th Century Italy
Working on material for my presentation in March

Dropped/Moved:
Connected short stories put on hold for the moment

Additional:
Writing my way into the historical novel LAUGHTER RETURNED
Outlining a novel that’s a re-envisioning of an idea I played with for a long time.
Rewrote the first two and a half chapters of SONGBOUND SISTERS.
Writing my way into the re-envisioned novel, so I get an idea of what I want to outline.
Revamped the Fearless Ink Website and working on the Devon Ellington Work website

Disappointments:
1 rejection, although that editor wants to see something else.
When I’d prepared the material for my March presentation, the topic was changed, and I had to start over.

Successes:
Asked to be a panel judge for a high school radio writing contest
Happy I made the decision to focus on the aspects of the business and script writing that I enjoy most, and move away from the areas I found frustrating

Posted by: devonellington | February 22, 2016

Writing Bliss

I am someone who actually loves the physicality of writing. There are so many writers who moan and groan that they have to actually sit down and, oh horrors, WRITE their book.

I love it. Yes, there are tough days and frustrating days, but the daily sitting down and creating is fulfilling to me.

Right now, in the current book, I’ve hit that zone. The place where I think about the book when I’m doing other things, where I can’t wait to get up in the morning to meet the page, and where I add in extra night-writing sessions, because I can’t wait to get back home to the book at the end of the day.

It’s not the early-book frenzy, where everything pours out. It’s the steady building of a book. The brick-by-brick, moving the story forward, epiphanies as you go, knowing your characters well enough to trust them to take you through to the end. When the rhythm feels right. Feels good.

That doesn’t mean I believe I won’t have to edit – I know this draft will need major revisions before it’s submission-ready. But it’s also the stage where I smile and say, “I’m glad I’m writing THIS book.”

You want motivation to achieve your goals, dreams, and resolutions? Find a vocation that fills you with passion and bliss. The motivation will come naturally.

Posted by: devonellington | February 15, 2016

February Mid-Month Check -In

It is absolutely brutally cold here — but good reading and writing weather!

Here’s the latest:

February mid-month Check-in

How is your February shaping up? It’s a quick month, isn’t it, even with Leap Year.

For me, the month is shorter, but everything else is taking more time than I expect.

I’m behind on pitches and submissions.

I hoped to have the first draft of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC done by today, but I’m behind on that; the readjusted date is the end of the month.

I started the play set in 17th Century Italy, so that’s on track.

I’m preparing for the speaking engagement in March, and I’ve also started the first of the two stories due at the end of April.

I adapted “Confidence Confidant” into radio format, and put it in both BBC and US format.

I converted “Broken Links” from US radio format to BBC radio format.

I started outlining a new idea, a re-envisioning of something I’ve been playing with for a long time.

I’ve been writing an historical novel, writing my way in just enough so I don’t lose it, because it’s not yet on the roster.

I rewrote the first two and a half chapters of SONGBOUND SISTERS, which comes up as the primary focus once DEATH OF A CHOLERIC and TIE-CUTTER drafts are complete.

It feels productive, even if it deviates from my original list!

How is your month coming along?

Posted by: devonellington | February 8, 2016

Staying Excited About the Work

One of the hardest tasks early career writers have is finishing what they start.

You have to finish, for several reasons.

If it’s not finished, it can’t be edited or submitted or go out and earn its keep.

If it’s not finished, it drains creative energy from the other projects you’re juggling.

Every project you write will hit some sort of bump in the road – whether it’s a wrong track for a few pages or an absolute wall. If you expect to succeed, you have to learn how to work around blocks and continue.

Sometimes, it means moving to a different project for awhile. If you do so, set a definite date and/or time to go back to the original project and DO IT.

Sometimes, taking a walk or a shower (I get many of my best breakthroughs in the shower).

Other times, it’s interacting with other writers. Whether it’s in a writing group, or a critique partner, or in a workshop/retreat/conference, tossing around ideas with other writers is a great way to figure out how to get past “stuck.”

Maybe they faced the same obstacles, and their experiences will help you. Or maybe just a fresh perspective will give you the jump start you need.

This doesn’t just pertain to writers – artists, actors, business people – whatever it is you’re working on, finding people who understand what you’re trying to do and have your best interests at heart will help you succeed.

It takes time and experience to find people, and some of them will move in and out of your life.

But finding them, and having a healthy give-and-take (which means you help them when they need it, not expecting everything to be one way), will keep you excited about your work and bring it to a new level.

Posted by: devonellington | February 1, 2016

February To Do List

February is a short month, and the to-do list, while intense, is also reasonably short:

February 2016 To Do List

3 – 5 pitches/submissions
Complete first draft of DEATH OF A CHOLERIC
Keep on track with first draft of TIE CUTTER
Work on full-length CONFIDENCE CONFIDANT
Finish adapting one-act CONFIDENCE CONFIDANT to BBC and US radio formats
Continue with cycle of short stories
Begin short story due April 30
Start play set in 17th Century Italy
Convert “Broken Links” to BBC format
Prepare for March WNO speaking engagement
Continue sorting boxes/purging

Posted by: devonellington | January 31, 2016

Jan. 31, 2016: January Wrap-Up

It was a pretty darned good month, creatively, and I’m happy with what I got done. In spite of a few disappointments, the overall mood was creative and upbeat, which is a solid way to start the year.

January 2016 Wrap-Up

Completed:
“Light Behind the Eyes” adapted from BBC to US format
5 pitches/submissions
Evening yoga practice integrated
“Broken Links”, the short radio play, completed and submitted

In Process:
Work a little behind for DEATH OF A CHOLERIC
Work on track for TIE-CUTTER
Expansion into full-length begun for “Confidence Confidant”
Cycle of short stories — a little behind on that
Boxes/purging

Dropped/Moved:
BALTHAZAAAR TREASURE off the schedule temporarily, due to Amber Quill shutting its doors
Tango on hold for now

Added:
Adapt “Confidence Confidant” into radio format (both BBC and US) — in process
Three new novels outlined (writer’s rough)
LAUGHTER RETURNED begun
Research begun on 17th Century Italy
Research begun on 19th Century Berkshires
Research begun on 19th Century Florence

Disappointments:
Amber Quill shutting its doors
Having to let go of Tango, at least for the moment

Successes:
Both ideas for new plays accepted by 365 Women

Posted by: devonellington | January 25, 2016

When Opportunity Knocks

When Opportunity Knocks — Answer!

It happens time and time again — at conventions, networking nights, general party conversation. Someone moans about the lack of opportunities. I give them a list of resources. The response? “I don’t have time.”

Going back to what I talked about earlier this month, if you “don’t have time”, it means you don’t want it enough. So stop moaning and move on. Let go of it and decide what you DO want, what you ARE passionate about.

Part of our JOB as working artists (or working professionals in any field) is to constantly hunt for possibilities to stretch and grow. If we wait around for people to find us, we’ll be sitting by the side of the road while others build viable careers. If we get out there and are active, we have a chance to do something. To build something.

For example: You’re a writer. Search out calls for submission. You find a short story deadline that’s next week? Look through your unpublished work. Is there something that fits the guidelines that needs a polish, or a bit of reworking? Do it. You don’t have something in hand, but the opportunity intrigues you? Sit down and write it. Is there a mixed media call — a mixture of visual and word? But you say you’re a writer? You have a point of view, don’t you? Create a piece. So what if it’s new to you. It’s an opportunity to grow and challenge yourself. So what if you’re “tired”? Get up earlier. Go to bed later. Get it done.

Each person who answers a call for submission starts out with a 50-50 chance. The answer will either be “yes” or it will be “no”.

You can tilt the scales in favor of a “yes” in your direction by following submission guidelines EXACTLY and by honing your craft. If you know spelling and grammar aren’t your strong point, saying, “Well, I never really learned it in school” is not appropriate. Enroll in an online or a continuing education course and LEARN IT.

You don’t have time? You’re going to keep getting rejected, and people are going to keep telling you your writing sucks. After the first time, you don’t get a pass. You’ve now refused to grow. To learn. To HONE YOUR CRAFT. Unless you’re completely brilliant (and few are), submission readers can’t get to the story if you can’t be bothered to learn the craft. They also don’t have time to coddle you, because there are at least ten thousand writers lined up behind you who are just as talented who BOTHERED to spend time learning their craft. That goes beyond writing and can be applied to whatever you want to do.

How do short stories help a novelist? Everyone knows the short story market is dead! Not exactly true. It’s much harder to make a living just writing short stories, the way authors did in the first part of the twentieth century. But the market’s not dead. Not only is it good to learn how to tell a compelling story in a concise format (which is what a short story requires), but short stories are shared. They are little bites that can entice a reader to hunt down a writer’s longer works. That’s why I love anthologies so much. An anthology introduces me to new-to-me writers; then I hunt down their other work, and now I’m a regular reader. As a writer, a short story is also a good way to test drive new characters or a premise. If the story is too big to fit the format, well, then, I start the research and outline process to see if there’s enough for a novel. If I discover that when I’m on a deadline, I put the story that “won’t fit” aside, and create a new one that fits the format. Or, I pare down unnecessary elements so the piece fits the format. Because if the guidelines say 1500 words and I submit 2000 or 3500 or 5000, it won’t even get read. Nor should it.

Whatever your profession, if you hate your job, get out there and look for a new one. Talented people get hired. Sometimes it takes time. It can take months rather than weeks. What skills do you have? What do you love to do? What skills need work? Work on those. Go to networking events. Check job boards that carry jobs that interest you.

Obviously, if someone tries to get you to “edit” a book length manuscript for $5, you say no. But what if someone asks you to work for free?

Ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you’re trying to change careers and the volunteer opportunity is in the field you’re trying to move into, it makes sense to spend some volunteer hours getting a foothold into that community. Can you work a few volunteer hours a week around your current job? Will you meet people and gain experiences you can put on your resume that will help you in future job searches? WHY does this organization want volunteers? If they can afford to pay people and are being cheap, walk away. If they are a small nonprofit with a mission in alignment with your passions, give them a few months and see what happens.

Don’t expect other people to do your work for you. A published author you just met at a book signing is not obligated to read your manuscript and walk you into his agent’s office. NO ONE is obliged to share their contact list. Contact lists are built op over years of work. Why should someone just hand you what’s taken them years to develop? Especially when all you offer in return is a misplaced sense of entitlement.

Do your research. Learn your craft — whatever that craft is. If you want to act, take class. Read plays. Go to auditions. Watch plays. Work your way up from community theatre into professional gigs. Read the trades. Every profession has trade journals. If you can’t afford a subscription, see if you can find it online.

Many libraries, even if they don’t subscribe to a particular publication, are part of a network of libraries and have access to data bases and publications online as part of that network. MAKE the time to find out what’s lacking in your education and then MAKE the time to fill in the gaps.

Your family is not an excuse. To say, “well, you know, my family . . . ” is a slap in the face to them. Get them involved and excited in what you want to do. Chances are, your kids are more internet savvy than you are. Have them help you look for classes and publications and information. Make them part of the process instead of excluding them. Let them share in why you love whatever it is you love.

If you don’t like where your life is right now, change it. The ONLY one who stops you from making positive change is YOU.

Stop whining.

Start doing.

When opportunity knocks, answer.

Step through that door.

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