News, Changes, and Consistency

News.

I learned late last week—after my blog posted—that “Lucy Seven” won 3rd place in a short story competition from City Limits Publishing. This flash fiction began as a workshop exercise at the 2019 Boston Book Festival and I worked it into a longer piece (549 words) over the past year.

Novels permit leeway to write with an eloquence the short story seldom permits. And flash fiction—those stories under 500-1000 words—present the challenge of telling a complete story in as few words as possible. Some flash fiction venues set even tighter limits like 100 or 200 words. Also, there may be a theme the story must fit.

I began working at these during breaks in my novella and novel to improve my craft. It’s working. Along the way, I learned that I enjoy writing “shorts” and have about 20 more that are in some level of revision or polishing so I can submit them to anthologies or competitions.

So far, I have 7 published short stories, an 8th due in November, and “Lucky Seven” will be my 9th.

Changes

This morning I went outside to get the paper and, for the first time since I moved to Arizona, the smell of the earth wafted up to greet me. That may not seem like a big deal to some. To me, it was familiar and comforting, a sign of the changing season and foreshadowing of more change to come.

In the hottest summer I’ve ever encountered, and which broke all sorts of records in Phoenix, I’ve had to adjust to record-breaking stretches of 100+o temperatures throughout the summer months. For someone who doesn’t tolerate extreme temps well, I’ve managed to adjust. I kept reminding myself that I wouldn’t have to shovel New England snow in the winter months.

Consistency

Have you ever driven somewhere and wondered how you got there? Where did the scenery go? What was I thinking about on the way? All of a sudden, I’m there.

While I like routine, I sometimes force myself to change a traffic route or daily routine so it doesn’t get stale. It’s a balance between familiar (consistency) and being in the present moment (mindfulness).

I have my routine of rising, getting that essential first cup of coffee, and settling down to write. It can 4, 5, or 6 am, but that’s my writing time. Later in the day, I didn’t get back into the writing groove. Since I’ve begun writing full time, I’ve made it a habit to leave the document open and spin back to it several times during the day. A little progress here and there adds up.

While I would often wake with new scenes playing out or an idea to work on previously, this happens more consistently now because of a new routine: evening write-ins. A few of us meet on Zoom, talk for a few minutes (okay, sometimes we talk for 10, 15 or 20 minutes), write for 25, regroup and discuss our writing challenges, write for another 25 minutes, then regroup and say goodnight. I awaken the next morning with a fresh take on how to advance my stories or the next new scene forming. That stimulation of an evening writing session sets my subconscious to work on the story overnight.

What routines do you have that are helpful? What routines are getting in your way? Let me know in the comments. Oh, and have a great weekend.

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