Tag Archives: short story

NaShoStoMo

So, today marks one week of letting Fugitives from Earth decant a bit in my mind. I’m still working on a few short stories and things like that before getting back into it, but I’ll definitely be plugging away at it again by this weekend.

I’m actually rather enjoying the short story work in between major projects. Once the novel goes out to beta readers it’ll be literally impossible for me to work on it for a month or so while they chug their way through it, and I think I’m going to use that opportunity to try a little experiment.

So, NaNoWriMo is great, right? And why? Because of the magic of the deadline. That little pretend goal takes on Damocles proportions as the month goes on (especially if you’ve been bragging) and that means that stuff gets done. And, frankly, when I don’t have a deadline around, I really miss it. Ones that I arbitrarily assign to myself aren’t as compelling as ones that are tied to dates by circumstances partially out of my control.

So, here’s the plan: for the four weeks after I submit FfE to the beta readers, I will write one complete short story from conception to submission-ready per week. Each story will be at least 3000 words long (as if I could ever write anything shorter) but no more than 7,500 words. There aren’t any other rules for NaShoStoMo. I just need to write.

Using the NaNo method for short stories will be particularly useful, I think, because of the peculiarities of short stories. The economy of plot and language required are totally different for shorts than a novel; the skills are barely transferrable. But because each word is so much more important for a short story, I tend to slow down and seize up altogether when I get nervous. Writing nothing instead of “the wrong thing” is pretty much the stupidest habit ever, and I really, really want to rid myself of it. It’s not like anything you write is ever wasted, even if it just improves your skills.

There are advantage of writers block, as I’ve discovered, but most of the time, it just pisses me off. And I want to fix that.

Weekend Update

I didn’t get much writing done this week. Despite the hopeful tone of my previous post, it was not a good week by any means, and in fact I was as depressed on Tuesday and Wednesday as much as I ever have been. Not a good place to be. Fortunately, as it always does, my mood gradually regressed toward its reasonably happy mean. Still didn’t help much with the writing, though.

But that trend breaks today. My deadline for the first draft of my NIWA story is Sunday, and I’m less than a quarter done with it by this point. No way I’m going to be the only guy that shows up without a story to pass, and if that means writing 4,000 words a day for two days, then that’s what it’s going to be. I’m a professional. Well, a semi-professional, anyway.

Given my unstable living situation, I’ve started to look seriously into freelance writing opportunities. I think that it’d be a great way to make a living, if not a fantastically lucrative one, and if I’m honest with myself, I think I have a chance to be successful. A chance, at least.

The problem is that I’m so rarely honest with myself. I feel a little awkward putting this out on the internet for everyone to read, but whenever I think about what I’m writing actually being read, or being paid for, I’m stricken with such profound paroxysms of self-doubt that I can barely proceed. My inner editor starts screaming at me, loud as can be, and I can’t put him away because I need him. I need what I write to be good. It’s not rational, but I crave that external validation.

I’m certainly not alone in this, so the pity party ends here. Sometimes it helps to get that out in the open, though, so thank you for reading (and, rational or not, validation is always nice).

And, self-doubt or not, there’s no doubt in my mind that this short story is going to get done, and that Fugitives from Earth is going to get done. That novel has been hard, much harder than I thought, but I feel like the book is starting to gel in my mind, like the characters are finally easing into the places they belong, rather than the places I tried to wedge them. I’ve still got a bunch of writing left to do, but it’s gratifying to see that end in sight, even if it’s not necessarily, you know, close.

As the Wheel Turns, It Gets Drawn Through the Mud

7 days is the longest I’ve ever gone without making a post, and it’s not something that I ever want to repeat, but I’m sure you all will be gratified to hear that I’ve at least got a good excuse. See, I found out yesterday that my hours are being dramatically cut back at my job.

This isn’t one of those, “Oh, the economy is doing poorly, we’re all tightening our belts” sorts of things. This is a case of dramatic mismanagement, a complete lack of a business plan, and an inability for my company to compete in a changing marketplace. I won’t get into specifics, but I feel like everything that’s happened to me was completely avoidable. I get to keep full-time status, benefits, and vacation, but I’m still losing about 25% of my income.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. I’ll be getting one more day off a week, and in addition to that, I’ll be telecommuting two more days. That means tremendously more time to write, almost as much as if I were only working part time. In spite of all the turbulent times, I can see this as kind of a golden opportunity. I figure, if I can get myself in the writing mindset now, then I could do it full time, as a professional. Not only will my production speed up dramatically, but it’ll be a chance to shift my entire mindset into professional mode.

Maybe I’ll even make a sale. In fact, now is as good a time as ever to actually submit something, terrifying as that prospect is.

On a more regular note, I’ve taken a break from Fugitives from Earth this week to write the first draft of my short story for the NIWA anthology I mentioned before. I don’t have a title for it yet, but here’s the breakdown: there’s a violent murder in the orbit of Saturn’s moon Titan, which is home to a technologically advanced colony comprised mostly of uplifts (that is, animals bred/engineered into human-level intelligence). The victim, “resurrected” as a clone, charters the main characters to find out how he died and who killed him.

Sound like fun?

Saaatisfaction

Today, I finished the first draft of my untitled uplift story. It’s not that remarkable of a story, really. I didn’t pursue any grand ideas and it doesn’t (yet) have any real moments of genius. But, it’s the first story where I’ve finished the rough draft, sat back, and thought, “Yeah, there’s some good stuff here.”

Before I started on Fugitives from Earth, I had spent much of my writing time in the previous months on short stories. Every time, same deal: I’d get really excited, get about three thousand words in, and then the going would get really, really tough. I’d have to remind myself that I didn’t have to write perfectly on the first draft, fix it in the rewrite, blah blah blah.

Not so this time. It’s not outstanding or anything, but this is the first first draft I’ve ever finished, of anything, where I didn’t feel like the story needed major work. It still needs better foreshadowing, better motivations for the characters, and a lot of tuning, but the basics are all firmly in place. And that’s a damned good feeling, especially considering how down I tend to get on myself.

So why is this time different? I can think of a couple of reasons.

  1. I outlined. Before FfE, I never would’ve considered writing an outline for more than the first couple of scenes at once. I was a discovery writer, so damn the endings, full speed ahead! Turns out, that’s not the best way to write. Knowing what the ending was makes the beginning much smoother, especially for a short story. And having all of the scenes down already meant that I could skip around if I was having trouble. I did that a lot.
  2. I’m more familiar with what I like to write. I specifically aimed for a low-concept story this time. Nothing ostentatious or groundbreaking, but fun to write and (hopefully) fun to read. May or may not be publishable, but at this point that’s secondary at best.
  3. I’m much, much more familiar with what makes good conflict. This time, I was conscious from the very beginning that I needed to create characters that clashed. There’s no antagonist in the story (a theme of my works, I’m noticing) but the two main characters spend most of the story in opposition to each other. That’s good times.

So I am learning. They say that you need to write a million unpublishable words before you write your first publishable one. I don’t know if that’s true, but this experience makes me think that I’m at least 10% of the way there. And, frankly, I’m going to enjoy this feeling of self-satisfaction while it lasts.

Short Story Time

As you probably guessed from that flash fiction piece I posted a few days back, I’ve been spending my two-week break from Fugitives from Earth to work on some short story ideas I’ve had piled up. It also gives my alpha reader a little time to finish reading the first part of the novel. I don’t think I can overestimate the amount of help that little bit of advice is going to be once I’m deeper into the project.

So, apart from my flash fiction, I started working on a steampunk story that was set during the construction of the transcontinental railroad, but it didn’t really pan out. It was kind of a high concept story that wasn’t really all that interesting to me, but I’ve got about 4,000 words that I might flesh out later if the muse strikes me.

My current project, which I hope to have finished this weekend, is based on a few of the aspects of the Eclipse Phase RPG that I especially like. I ran a game for some friends last weekend, and in reading over the manual and playing the game, a few fun ideas popped into my head and I kind of built a story around them. In particular, I wanted to write that kind of middle-futuristic setting with lots of ubiquitous social networking, biological and cybernetic augmentation, and uplifts.

An uplift, for those of you unfamiliar, is an organism that has been bred and engineered into sentience. Usually it starts with an animal that’s already quite intelligent, like chimps, dolphins, elephants, or octopuses, and just guide it along on the path toward self-awareness. I’m kind of curious what sorts of social effects that would have, how people would react to this new type of “other” that goes beyond race or culture.

Anyway, I’m having fun with it. I’m also starting to look forward to getting back into FfE by next week, and then trying to gun it toward the finish line.

And do conclude, here’s my random Wikipedia link of the day: Octopus Wrestling.