Not In The Mood To Write? You’re Not Alone…

A simple truth about teaching is that my whole year starts in September. Once Labor Day comes and goes, EVERYTHING changes. Days get colder, blankets are unpacked, and demands on my time become ridiculous. As a result, many of my writing projects get shelved in the basement alongside those gross window air conditioners. 

But I’m not alone. Even famous and notoriously-prolific authors have admitted how hard it is keeping their productivity up during a semester. Something Stephen King wrote still sticks with me years after I first read it: “Teaching school is like having jumper cables hooked to your brain, draining all the juice out of you.” I’m pretty sure that quote was in his book On Writing, but I’m not 100% on that. Either way, it’s still true.

The trick to staying productive is to figure out what it takes to motivate you to do the little things that make big things happen. That’s really all that productivity is… the little things. Scratch an outline on notebook paper. Read for inspiration. Allow yourself to daydream. Type a couple of words. Repeat. Forever.

What Gets Me Writing 

My favorite motivator is an ambitious submission deadline with a hard end date and no room for forgiveness. The funny thing is that this is the antithesis of how I teach children. But I’m no child and I sometimes need a bit of a stiffer push to get things done.

The current project I’ve been obsessing over is a call for submissions for Horror Novellas that was first published in Interstellar Flight Magazine back in May.

The word count of a novella is under 40k, so it is totally doable compared to the idea of writing a full novel in just a couple of months. In Netflix language, think of a novella as an episode of Black Mirror as opposed to a novel which would be the full season of Midnight Mass. Episodes of Love, Death & Robots are all short stories at heart, but we’ll get into all of that another time.

To get started, I’ve been reading fiction in the horror genre from acclaimed authors like Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Check out my reviews on TikTok for more details – NBBT and TGB). These books have all been great for helping me develop a feel for the pacing and delivery of horror writing and they give me a chance to think of wild “what ifs” that can be seeds for future stories. 

When considering which story I wanted to dedicate my time and attention to, I had to consider a few things. How complicated is the plot? Novellas can’t be too difficult to follow or have as many people to keep track of as a full-length novel, but they require more depth than short stories.

How I Publish Short Fiction

The website I use to find an audience for my short fiction is Duotrope. It is essentially a submission aggregator that lists agents, publishers, and contests with clear guidelines and focused search filters so you know that you are sending your work to the people who are looking for what you have to offer. 

From Duotrope’s About Page: “Duotrope is a subscription-based service for writers and artists that offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art publishers and agents, a calendar of upcoming deadlines, a personal submission tracker, and useful statistics compiled from the millions of data points we’ve gathered on the publishers and agents we list.”

An easy way to see what short fiction I have sold through this process is by looking at the Table of Contents for Watching From Behind Glass Eyes. A majority of that anthology is work that was first published through Duotrope submissions.

Put Yourself In Control

The sad fact is that nothing gets done unless you do it yourself. Find your motivator and get working on that draft you’ve been neglecting. Your imaginary friends miss you. 

And while you’re looking for motivation, keep an eye open for my NY Comic Con shenanigans on TikTok and Instagram. It should be a wild time.

“I Don’t Grant Wishes” by Jeremiah Kleckner

“I Don’t Grant Wishes” is my 600-word flash fiction story published by New American Legends on March 31, 2020.

Synopsis – Tommy’s home remodel has been delayed for months. And when a magical creature emerges from within the wall he’s demolishing, Tommy struggles to understand the benefit of what is being offered to him.

Read “I Don’t Grant Wishes” for free here: https://newamericanlegends.com/2020/03/31/i-dont-grant-wishes-by-jeremiah-kleckner/

You read comics, right?

I still read them from time to time, which is why I’m thrilled to be a part of two New Jersey events this month.

One is on 3/12/17 at the Clifton Community Recreation Center, 1232 Main Ave, Clifton 07011 http://www.njcomicbookshows.com/clifton.htm

The other is on 3/19/17 at the Toms River Elks Lodge 600 Washington Street Toms River, N.J. 08753 http://www.jerseyshorecomicbookshow.com

As a way of revving myself up for these events, I wrote a superhero vs vampire story exclusively for Wattpad.  (Description Below)

Force – Jeff Beal is unique. Balancing high school and a broken home, Jeff blows off steam jumping rooftops and taking down bad guys under the name Shadow, protege to Macro City’s superhero, Force. And when a string of gruesome murders grip the city in mortal terror, Force and Shadow swear to put an end to the bloodshed. But the Vampire Lavinia is no ordinary killer. Now Jeff must use every resource at his disposal to hunt down the deadly vampire before the sun sets … because he won’t survive the night.

Read the first few chapters here.  I’ll add to it every Friday night at 8pm.  Shoot me an email, post a response, or tweet me @J_Kleckner to let me know what you think.

Thank you again for your support. Happy Reading.

Outsourcing Jobs to Fiverr Leaves More Time for Writing

There comes a point when you have to admit that you cannot do it all.

Writing.  Editing.  Book Cover Design.  Book Interior.  Sales Copy.  Marketing.  Social Engagement.

The more time you spend on one task, the more you ignore the ones that are actually important.  As far as I’ve figured out at this point in my writing career, there are really only two ways out of this hole…

Get Published in the Traditional Way

One of the ways in which I avoid wasting my time is by submitting stories to magazines and contests.  If they accept your work, traditional publishers will create graphics for covers and do all of the formatting for you.  You’ll still have to market yourself and engage socially, but it beats the hell out of learning new programs.

Not only that, but the lag time that it takes for a publisher to review your work is a good window for you to get more writing done.  Even if they reject it, you’ll have more material as well as feedback on your old work.  There’s really no downside, especially considering that you can always self-publish if you get too frustrated.

Fiverr – A Self-Publisher’s Business Partner

Fiverr is an online marketplace for people to offer their services for as little as $5.  There are add-ons and extras that can bump up the price, but these are optional.  I’m not even going to bother mentioning the types of services, because they range from resume writing to graphics to advertising.  There’s even a whole subset of people who do amazing things with puppets.  (I’m not kidding.)

Recently, Jeremy Marshall and I talked about continuing to work on stories in the Captain James Hook series.  This required me to give our current books a facelift.  We needed covers and new sales copy, so I went to Fiverr.

I got two new covers and copy for both book descriptions for a total of $42.50 (that’s including $5 tips for each job).   I used Book Covers by PixelStudio & Sales Copy by Emmaki.  Samples of their work can be found on the updated CaptainHookNovel.com page.

Even if you have a budget of under $100, you can get some serious work done on this site.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Building an Audience Means Taking the Next Step

People won’t just come to you.

Now that there are so many entertainment options choose from, people (rightfully) feel that they should to be courted by creators who want them to read/watch/hear their work.

In truth, it may have always been this way.

Selling the First Wheel

So, if these systems have been in place for millennia, then what can I do to compete?

Building An Audience

Step One:  Blog Regularly

The weekly blogging schedule I’ve taken up has helped keep me sharp and focused.  It doesn’t hurt that I changed my branding a little bit to better fit my personality and interests.  The Writing Teacher was fun and I liked the dual usage of the word “Writing” in the title as both an adjective and a verb, but it didn’t allow me to comment on the topics that most engaged me.

Cynical Sci-Fi gives me some range and helps me be truer to who I am, which is important.  This authenticity has contributed to an increased follower-ship on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Step Two:  Broaden My Market Base

It is hard to find new ways to promote old work.  Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan has had thousands of readers and I am very proud of how it has influenced the Peter Pan mythos, but it is a three-year-old book among many, many, many newer similar titles.

Therefore, I am working with the Audiobook Creation Exchange to make both Captain James Hook titles available on Audible and iTunes.  As of this post, I have one audition already submitted and I am using my audience base to promote this opportunity to others.  (Expect to get updates on this process as it unfolds.)

Step Three:  Collaborate With Others

Working with others in a creative field can be a real pain.  Many will actively try to cut you down so that you do not get a leg up on them or will try to rip off your ideas while discouraging you from pursuing them.

It is important to find a partner (or group) that will encourage you while being constructively critical.  I am fortunate that my writing partner is as talented as he is insightful.  Hundreds of thousands of words have passed between us:  read, commented, and revised.

This isn’t for work that we share credit for either.  These are solo titles, made better through joint effort.

The followup step is to get myself into book talks, social groups, and conferences.

Step Four:  Create New Work

This is often the hardest part.  You tweet.  You post.  Distractions pull you this way and that until hours have passed and you find that your daily word count is under 1000.  It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

  1. Develop new ideas
  2. Set a schedule
  3. Stick to it

This simple process has given me two new series of short fiction, the first titles of which are already done and ready to go.  More are on the way as July and August are typically big drafting months for me (teacher’s schedule).

Step Five:  Experiment

I’m taking a different route with the new titles.  Their lengths allow them to be submitted to genre magazines and I feel that they have a good shot, so I’m trying that first before diving into a self-publishing model.

As with the audiobook creation process, expect that future posts will include updates on which magazines each title will be submitted to and what the responses are.

New is only new for so long, then you have to learn what comes next.  These are both new journeys for me and I’m excited to take them on as a lifelong learner.