Good Sunday morning and welcome to my front porch for Sunday Morning Tea!
It’s a beautiful sunrise—a bit chilly, but that is what our tea is for!
I must confess, I’m a tea-a-holic. I’ve got so much tea that if I were to drink a cup a day, I would be supplied for the next few years. Despite this, I still buy more. Why? Well, it’s one thing to have an endless supply of tea. But to have an endless supply of your favorite tea? Yeah, I don’t quite have enough to drink that every day for the next few years.
Currently my favorite is Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice. It’s the perfect brew for these crisp autumn mornings. It has all those familiar flavors of fall, with just a hint of heat on your tongue at the end. I usually drink my tea with sugar, but this is one of the few teas that I can drink without sugar and it still tastes sweet.
But this post isn’t only about my tea obsession. Let’s talk about writing!
Last month, I participated in the StoryADay fun-sized challenge. The challenge was to write a short story in a week. My goal in participating was to push myself out of my comfort zone of writing 100-1000-word stories, where I’ve been sitting comfortably for the last five or six years.
One of the cons of having a writing blog, I suppose. The majority of the fiction I write goes straight to this blog these days, and knowing how short attention spans can be, especially online, if you want people to keep reading to the end, its preferable that you keep posts relatively short—1000 words or less.
As someone aspiring to be a novelist, i.e., write more than 1000 words, I’m finally starting to realize how having a blog can be counter-productive to my writing goals.
That being said, I never consider my flash and micro pieces complete after I hit publish. They’re more of a jumping off point to something longer, for example my Therapy series and other serial stories. A few years back, when my well was overflowing with inspiration, I would explore various story ideas in blog posts. I would post the beginnings of a story or scenes from a story that was still brewing in my mind and, in the process, discover how I would expand on it.
One of those stories was about a prom night ghost…
After the prom
As you can see from the dates above, this story was seven years in the making. There are a number of reasons why it’s taken me so long to finally write it.
Going back to the counter-productive blogging comment, when you’re pressuring yourself to pump out a steady stream of content for your blog, it’s easy to forget the stories you’d planned to develop further.
I also wasn’t sure where I wanted to end the story. For example, did I want to end it where “Twice Dead” ends, with the teenagers “killing” the ghost? Or would I go further, with them calling the police? How would the police react? Would they arrest them? Would the teens be too afraid to call the police? Would there be an argument among the teens about what to do? For context, the teens are Black, and the “ghost” is White, so there would definitely be fears of racist retribution.
Another reason for my delay in finishing the story was writer’s block. After a few disappointments—rejection letters that weren’t so kind, criticism that wasn’t all that constructive, comparing myself to other writers, reading too many “how to”/”what not to do”/”why you will fail as a writer” writing “advice” articles that made me feel like I was doing everything wrong, feeling censored because I wrote stories about characters who weren’t all that likable—I started to let insecurities stunt my creativity. That’s basically what writer’s block is, at least for me. It’s not necessarily that I can’t think of anything to write, because, as most writers will say, story ideas are prevalent. It’s the convincing myself that I’m worthy enough to write them that’s the issue.
That was the second obstacle I had to conquer in my fun-sized challenge participation: self-doubt. That was the hardest part: not the actual writing, because, apart from the ending, the plot had been set for years, but the assuring myself that I could write it and it would be good.
And I did it! I wrote it! And I think it’s good. Though, I’m the only person who’s read it so far.
Of course, it’s still only in the rough draft phase. I started to make revisions, but when I found that my insecurities were trying to force me to delete everything on the page, I stopped myself. I haven’t looked at it since.
When I began writing the story for the challenge, I wrote it on paper rather than typing. Sometimes writing with pen and paper helps the creativity to flow. While I’m still staring at a blank page initially, it doesn’t feel as daunting. I don’t have the blue light of the screen burning a hole into my eyes, into my brain. I think clearer, and when there’s no backspace button a finger-stretch away, I’m far less tempted to erase everything.
I think that’s how I will approach editing. I know I will probably have to remove some parts, but I’m going to try writing my potential edits first before I make any changes to the file. Hopefully this method will result in more additions than deletions. The story currently sits at just over 2000 words. I would love to add more.
I’ll end this post with a quick teaser, the opening paragraph of the story. Funny, this paragraph was the one I was tempted to delete entirely. That’s because the story is written in third person limited POV, and I was afraid the narration in the beginning was too distant. Then again, it’s good to start a story from a distance and then zoom in.
In our post-challenge Zoom meeting, the host provided feedback on a few participants’ stories. (Mine wasn’t one of them because I’d fallen behind and was still writing when the challenge technically ended. I finished in those final seconds before the call started, so obviously that didn’t give her any time to read my story.) A comment she made on one of the stories she shared with the group was that parts of the story read like a news report. I thought, does mine sound like that???
Since I didn’t get feedback from the call, maybe I can get feedback from you? Let me know what you think! And I’ll see you next Sunday for tea.
“It’s said that Spanish moss cannot grow where innocent blood has been shed, and yet the most haunted road in the county is a small quarter-mile section of Georgia State Route 99 on the outskirts of The Ridge in Ridgeville, where the Spanish moss drapes from thick oak branches extending over the road like fingers. After driving through the veil of sinewy tendrils, one is sure to see…something.”
© 2022 Nortina Simmons
3 thoughts on “Sunday Morning Tea: Oct 23, 2022”
Blogging is a double edged sword. I have gained so much inspiration from different challenges I’ve participated in. And written several serial stories – two have ended as full length novels and three or four as longish novellas. But I am blasting so much of what I write to the blog, usually in a very lightly edited first draft. What about works that are seen for the first time by someone picking up a book? (My answer is that by the time I’m done editing, they are completely different works, but is that true?) There is also time and length – I try to put up a post for a challenge as soon as I can. so that restricts it. And then there is that idea of “too long for a blog”. Of course you recently read a story that I posted that was far too long for a blog post. And it was a first draft. So…
Anyway, I almost completely stopped writing for that same type of writers’ block you described.
I do like the idea of starting broad and narrowing in. I’ve been trying that method on occasion, but I still too often opt for the “cold opening” – starting with an “action” scene and then going out to a setting the scene.
I do like your opening paragraph. It asks a lot of questions, all without question marks, so they don’t read like rhetorical questions. I think that’s a great way to pull readers in. And, no, I don’t think it reads like a news article. Of course you have some great imagery of the oak and moss, which would be left out that news article… Anyway, I think it works.
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Double edged sword is the perfect description! I’ve decided to take a break from all the challenges (at least the daily/weekly ones) because I realized I was spending way too much time blogging and not enough time contributing to my many WIPs. Sunday Morning Tea was meant to be a way for me to force myself to work on my WIPs, so I then can write a blog post about my progress and maybe occasionally post an excerpt. 🙂
I have a couple serial stories I want to turn into novellas, but I haven’t touched them much since initially posting them. That voice in the back of my head says, “But it was free on the blog. Why publish it? Would it really be that different after revisions that someone would pay for it?” That little voice stops me from even editing. As you say, there are benefits to publishing a first draft on the blog. So I have to find a happy middle.
And thanks for the feedback! I also prefer to start stories in the action, but setting was just as important as plot for this particular story, so I thought starting out and then coming in would work. 🙂
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It is difficult to find that middle. having a post about your progress on your WIP can be a good little motivator, just can’t let it become a barrier.
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