Header Image - Getting the words out by any means possible.

Short Stories

by Jonathan 3 Comments
Here's hoping the bones of my next short story aren't so, um, combative.

Here's hoping the bones of my next short story aren't so, um, combative.

I wrapped up the first draft of my first novel three days ago. It felt good. Not great, but good. The following day, all I could think about was all the stuff that needed to be rethought, reworked and rewritten. The prospect of doing those things is daunting and exciting. I look forward to the revision process, but I also look forward to some weeks away from the novel.

To that end, I am working to stretch my short story muscles a bit. I’ve entered a few contests hosted by Jay Lake, Susan Adrian and Ken Scholes, but those were all of the flash variety. Until I started entering these contests, I hadn’t done much with short fiction since primary school. I am thankful opportunities like these exist. It is unlikely I would have written any short fiction while working on my novel if not for these authors’ offering incentive to do so. Now that I’ve done some, I’m encouraged to do more for the sake of writing. Prizes are nice (not that I’ve won any), but to explore short fiction can only help to better my writing.

Also, it is a nice break from working on one concept to explore many. The challenge for me will be to see if I can convey the feelings, tones, characters and stories economically. Today I’m mapping out the bones of a fantasy short story, probably something in the 3,000 to 6,000 word range. I’m trying out some tools I’ve come across with regard to setting up the story, so it’s an exercise of sorts. It’s also an exercise I plan to submit for publication.

More than One Way to Skin a Cat

by Jonathan 2 Comments

The imagery of this post’s title is awful, but I like the meaning. I’ve hared off and slung a whole bunch of words down on my laptop and am close to wrapping up the first draft of my first novel. Part of me thinks I should have studied more about the craft: plot, characterization, setting, and so on. However, I may never have written if I had gone about it that way. I just got a couple of new books as a 9th anniversary gift from my loving and supportive wife (Thanks!). BTW, is the 9th anniversary the Book Anniversary? It is at our house. I picked up Emily’s Ghost by West Virginia’s own Denise Giardina and The Lady with the Little Dog by Chekhov.

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Both books I received are Writer’s Digest publications. The first is Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. I posted a little while ago about the search for inspiration to keep going (or inspirado as the D calls it). I highlighted Card’s book, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy there. Well, Mr. Card, your clever marketing pitch among those pages worked. I put Character & Viewpoint on my wishlist. So far I am enjoying it. Of course, I could read about the craft all day long and never do any writing. I think it will be useful over the long haul. I like Card’s easy style. He writes in a way that makes the techniques accessible, but not oversimplified.

The other book I received is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Again, this book is written in a easy style. Bell opens the book by exposing what he calls the Big Lie, which, alone, is worth the price of admission. Granted, I just gave you a link to said opening for free, but whatever.

And I discovered the most incredible thing. The Big Lie was a lie. A person could learn how to write, because I was learning.

James Scott Bell from Plot & Structure.

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

I’m about 60 pages into the book and I find it to be useful. I don’t know how many of the exercises I’ll do, but some will dovetail nicely with the novel I’m already working on.

So here I am, my first draft almost complete and I’m reading books that might have made my writing life a little better had I read them before embarking on my journey of a thousand miles. I will be devouring these books now in hopes that I can put some of the info to good use during the revision phase as well as trying out some of the techniques for some short stories I have in mind. We shall see.

If anyone has any experience with these books, please feel free to share. Or, if you have other writing books you find useful, throw ’em out there!

100k

by Jonathan 4 Comments
Words not Dollars

Words not Dollars

I hit 100,000 words on the first draft of my first novel today and feel like I’ll have things wrapped up within the next 10,000 or so. My original goal was 100k by the end of August, with the idea that I’d also have a complete story. That gives me 11 days to get to the end. I should be able to do it because I have the luxury of having 4-5 writing hours at least 5 days a week. I’m a lucky devil, I know. At the same time, I’m pretty excited that I’ve been able to make it this far, stay close to my goal and have a complete, if extremely unrefined manuscript. I read an interview with Lauren K. Hamilton where she says:

Seventy percent of a first draft is garbage and 30 percent is gold, but you have to write 100 percent to get that 30.

That’s probably conservative in my case. I figure if I get a quarter of good stuff, I’m in good shape. I have no idea how long revisions will take, but it should be a fun experience. Does anyone have any words of wisdom where revision is concerned? I’ve come across a few articles and read a few books on the matter, but I’d like to hear as many approaches as possible. I know there are probably plenty of ways to get to the same end, so I’m all ears.

Here are some articles I came across in my on line search that I enjoyed:

http://www.essortment.com/all/writebetternov_rtsk.htm

http://www.gonzalobarr.com/blog/?p=732

http://www.efuse.com/Design/wa-seven-steps.html

I found this one particularly entertaining:

http://buddha-rat.squarespace.com/shitty-first-drafts/

Hope you get something out of these.

Morass

by Jonathan 6 Comments
My head - right now.

My head - right now.

Just a quick question to all three of you who occasionally read this thing. I’m closing in on the end of my first draft and there are definitely elements where I feel like I’m swimming in a whole bunch of concepts, many of which seem disparate. At one point in my mind they seemed coherent, especially conceptually. But now, I ain’t fer sure. I’ll probably let it go and revisit the whole thing during revisions, but I was just hoping for a little lifeline from anyone out there who has enjoyed a similar experience.