#353 — at first sight.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with this new story, and been averaging about 2,000 words every time I sit down to work on it. Now if I could only make myself sit down more often! Anyway, here’s an (unedited) excerpt.

She came to a door at the end of the hallway and squared her shoulders before knocking twice, bluntly.

It was a moment before anyone opened the door, and she thought for a split-second she should just turn around and leave. What would she say to him, anyway? She should have just let Tammy and Matthew continue handling this. Before she could retreat, though, the door opened and she was looking up into the face of a very tall, very built man. Todd Butler seemed to fill the doorway to his small office, he too had quite a few tattoos, which she could see thanks to the simple tank top he wore, and his hair was longer than it had been in high school, black natural waves touching his shoulders.

“Yes?” He asked, looking more annoyed than anything.

“Todd Butler?” Abby asked, despite recognizing him underneath all the changes the last ten years had brought to him.

“Yes.” He said, his face going from annoyed to impatient now. “How can I help you?” He asked, looking over her shoulder down the hallway, as if wondering why the hell she wasn’t stopped by Bull Dog.

Abby put out her hand in her best approximation of a take-charge handshake, “Abigail Stewart. Nice to meet you. I believe I own your bar.”

Todd’s eyes lowered, suspicious and angry, and he ignored her offered hand. “I own this bar, thank you, and I’m currently busy with the running of it, if you don’t mind.”

Perhaps he truly didn’t recognize her, or hadn’t put two and two together with her last name, but she wouldn’t be dismissed so easily no matter what. “I beg to differ,” she said, pulling her father’s will from her shoulder bag. “You own,” she scanned the page, “twenty-eight percent of this bar, the rest has recently changed hands to myself.”

Now his annoyance and anger were nearly palpable, she could tell he was working to school his features but he wasn’t nearly as practiced at it as she was. “Who the hell do you think you are?” He asked, his voice raising slightly.

Abby couldn’t help the small, rueful chuckle that escaped her. “Who the hell am I? I’m Richard Stewart’s only daughter and his only living heir. If you bothered to pick up your phone at all in the last three days you would know that your business partner – my dad – has died and he’s left everything to me, including ‘your’ bar. Care to invite me in so we can discuss this?” Her own voice raised a bit as well, as if to compete with his. Abby may be small, but she made up for that in sheer attitude when needed. She crossed her arms across her chest as if to indicate I’m waiting.

#352 — of dreams.

I had a ridiculous dream about a month ago. There was a clear beginning and middle. No ending. I have no idea how the story ends. But when I woke up that morning, I couldn’t shake the start of the story no matter what I did. So I sat down that evening and wrote it out. There were no names, just faces, and angst (because there’s always angst in my stories) and romance (because, obviously).

Since then, I’ve plotted out the ending my dreaming didn’t give me. I’ve given the faces names. I’ve learned it’s not nearly as angsty as my subconscious was trying to make it. I’ve actually written the phrase: “What happens when these two hot tempers clash amid bikers, bookkeepers, and the beach?” I feel as if I should be hanging my head in shame over that one.

I’ve already had to go back and retcon a lot of the things I initially plotted out. For example, in my first outline, the main love interest was the older brother of my Main Character’s best friend. He is not. He is so not. Then it turned out (on my third attempt at plotting), her Uncle is not actually her Uncle, but her (deceased) father’s best friend and the family lawyer (which matters because there’s a will involved – the reading of the will is what starts the… hijinks). And then, once I began trying to write the third iteration, my MC shut her mouth and wanted nothing to do with any of the characters I had spent two weeks agonizing over. That was another hurdle.

But then, as if the clouds were parting after a hurricane (I do live in South Carolina, after all), not a single one of my characters – non-uncles, non-brothers and all – would shut up. I’ve since been average 2,500 words a day on the first draft. My two main characters have already had their first, disastrous meeting. He is already infuriated to find that he thinks she’s cute. She is wildly annoyed that he is so good looking. It’s headed in the right direction.

All of this is to say, before I even got to start writing the first draft (the first!), I had essentially written and read the damned thing three times (at least)! Don’t let plot holes or stubbornness (yours or your characters) get in the way of just getting the words down. Because as it goes, a crappy first draft is better than an unwritten one.

№351; R-E-L-A-X

I am so excited to be working with fellow writers who’ve graciously agreed to write here at tmstanton.com. First up, we have S.P. Johnson, a poet I’ve known since college, but have never had the opportunity to work with in creative endeavors until now. His rumination on the writing process is a hard-earned reminder to all creatives!

S. P. Johnson is an emerging writer from down South.  Sharing insights on his experiences, he offers glimpses into the world as he sees it — rather as it has been shown to him. Follow him on Instagram @SPJohnsonWrites for updates and to stay in touch!

I would be well served to heed the wisdom of such a statement. In fact, we all could benefit from listening to Mr. Rodgers. Aaron, not Fred Rogers. Writing is taxing. It’s like work – or something or other – and it can drag us at times.

14, 5, 4, 10, 20, 1, 7, 31

Sorry. But those are not psychic visions of the next winning lottery numbers. Rather, those numerals happen to be the summation of my month’s worth of work.

Fourteen. That’s the number of publications I submitted poetry to in the past few weeks.

Five. The number of hours spent daily editing cover letters and poems I long thought to be perfecto

Four. That lovely feeling of waking up in your sweats, at the foot of the bed, with drool out of one side of your mouth and a fork full of pasta dangling from the other. Such an ode to 4 a.m.

Ten. The pounds that I lost in one week from stress induced mania and loss of appetite.

Twenty. The pounds that I regained by the end of the month.

One. One toxic person. My impetus, my muse, my drug that brought me to my knees — gone!

Seven. The average number of evenings per week spent crying myself to sleep. The inner thoughts so beneficial for creating, turned to doubt and self-pity.  

Thirty-one. The number of days in January that I made mistakes. Submitted piss-poor cover letters. Edits that would have made my works hit harder, but the visions came too late. I always have the brightest ideas post submission.

But —

There’s more to it than just the numbers. Of course, you already knew that. We’re artists. We go beneath the superficial.

Fourteen! Fourteen publications! That is a solid month. A month that would not have been as productive without the five, the four, or the one happening. The ten I enjoyed. The twenty not so much. The seven and the thirty-one? I love those the most. They represent passion and a commitment to mastery.

Until that mastery comes, I do hope that my work is very good. Though perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “very” — because it is very lazy to do so. I care for those submitted pieces to be astonishing, but not out of want for their acceptance. I want them to grab the editors and enthrall them enough so that, when they reject me, they’re compelled to share their harsh criticisms. That’s more validation than anything else.

So, here I am. A new month and trying to destress, at least before the next torrent, and all I can do is chuckle. I’m tickled by the hardships. The follies. The everything. It’s okay to laugh. Or at least give a tiny smirk.

January gifted me lessons in freedom, pleasure, and meaning. However, the best lesson is to work hard, but most of all —


№350; January.

Somehow, I only wrote 7,548 words in January. I don’t have a specific word count goal for 2020, but I want to beat last year (I wrote 116,205 in 2019) and 7,548 just ain’t gonna cut it. If I write 10,000 words per month, I’ll beat it. Of course, that’s not counting the 50k I do every November for NaNoWriMo! So I’m actually looking at a goal of roughly 160,000 words in 2020. It seems like an approachable goal.

In contrast, I read over 86,700 words in fiction. I find the winter months much easier to slip through with fiction and fantasy rather than trying to force my own brain into some sort of motivation. I have not touched my monstrous work-in-progress, Finding Grace, even though I promised myself I would at least finish the current draft this year.

I attribute some of this to S.A.D. and some to general winter laziness. My energy almost always tanks in the colder months – not that we’ve had too many cold days this year, thank you Global Warming? – and my pain definitely flairs up the colder I am. So winter, for me, tends to be a time of sleeping and ‘hibernating’ and whining, more than a time for creative pursuits.

But! That’s enough woe is me. I’ve got some fun things in the works – including Guest Posts from some awesome up-and-coming writers! – and with the start of the longer-than-usual February, I’m going to put some plans into action. First and foremost: get my butt writing again and it that seemingly elusive 10,000 word count goal before March 1st!

№349; for the love of words.

I said a couple of weeks ago that I want to dive deeper into my list of goals for 2020. I recently got my hands on a project that made me reevaluate one of those goals: “Read More Books.”

I beat up on myself a lot when it comes to reading. I grew up a voracious reader, going through, sometimes, more than one book a day. Since I’ve gotten older and gotten into ‘real life’, I’ve had less time and, honestly, less motivation/energy to do so. I’ve missed it, though. I love the written word. Some books have truly defined who I’ve become and how I live my life. I worship at the alter of the library, not to any church.

I was reluctant to move to an e-reader, even when Kindle and Nook took the industry by storm – there was just something about holding a fresh book in my hands, browsing the shelves at a book store, the smell of paper. I didn’t take into account how much I read outside of that singular experience.

So, what made me re-examine this way of thinking?

I was asked to edit a novella length piece on behalf of another writer.

Rather, I volunteered to.

Back in what feels like a previous lifetime, I dipped my toes into the professional editing pool. I worked on a few books that went on to be published before I moved to South Carolina. When I moved, I stopped. There was so much going on, my life was changing so dramatically and so quickly, I simply shoved such pursuits to the side and let them stay there, gathering dust.

I don’t know what made me answer the tweet from a stranger, volunteering to beta read their long-form Star Wars fanfiction. But I did and I gave myself a deadline of this to have the finished product back to the author. To her credit, she didn’t rush me at all and even as I turned it back into her, she couldn’t believe how quickly I had finished. The project ended up exceeding 30,000 words (or single-space, font size 10, 100 pages). I spent about seven hours on it, over all, and it reinvigorated my love for this kind of work.

What does this have to do with “Read More Books?” Well, I read 100+ pages of fiction this week! That should count! Right?! I think so, I think. I got up this morning and added up the word counts of my favorite fanfictions thus far this year, and we’re talking (just in favorite fics, not even counting the countless others I’ve read and not taken the time to record down) 86,703 words in the month of January!

The Great Gatsby is roughly 50,000 words, to give you a scale.

I may not have touched a great literary classic yet in 2020, but having redefined my goal to be “Read More” instead of “Read More Books,” I think I’m already off to a great start. Essays, fanfiction, meta, movie reviews… I read every single day, when I’m feeling up to it or not, and I need to start giving myself a little more credit for that.

And maybe finally begin to tackle my ever-growing To Be Read List, while I’m at it 😉

№348; questions/answers.

Remember how I was so excited that I would finally be getting (some) answers regarding my pain and mobility issues? Yeah, be careful what you wish for.

As of yesterday, I have an official diagnosis and a specialist doc. But man. I thought the not knowing was hard, it is nothing compared to the knowing absolutely nothing can be done.

I have a diagnosis, so technically my big question has been answered, but without a cure or even a surefire treatment, having that so-called big question answered doesn’t do me any good!

On the plus side, my doctors assure me this is not the worst diagnosis, though it can be frustrating and painful and annoying. It’s not terminal even if it’s permanent. It could be much worse that it is.

So while I’ve learned my lesson about wishing – be careful what you wish for! – I am grateful in a big way and no doubt on my way toward lessons of patience and peace.