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

Purity of Essence

Looking for the perfect formula.

I’ve been working on developing a concise blurb for the novel I’m writing. I’ve gone through no less than four iterations of a back-of-the novel blurb in hopes of distilling the story in my mind. And as of last night, I reduced it further to a one sentence blurb that I’m not embarrassed to put up on the blog.

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Check it out.

From this:

The Magnate Trust rules the ancient industrial city of Bogazeci, but raw materials rule the Magnate Trust.  Centuries of ceaseless manufacturing and trade have depleted Bogazeci’s raw material reserves. Head Magnate Atakan Shrike seeks the living magic from the desert steppe of the Jashem to stoke the fires of industry and his dreams of an empire.

One thousand miles to the east an airship crashes in the Jashem. When Yuruk nomad Khyrg al Wahid discovers the downed airship — and the survivors — Khyrg must choose between the ancient laws of his people and outlanders from the city that has plundered the Jashem for two hundred years.

Khyrg’s journey takes him back to Bogazeci where he confronts the specters of his past. Amid intrigues and civil unrest in the city, Khyrg learns the sacrifice that must be made to save his family and his people. But can he overcome the painful memories of his past to make it?

To this:

When a nomad discovers the survivors of a downed airship, he forsakes his clan to guide the survivors back to the city that hides his painful past and uncovers a secret that may destroy his people.

It’s not perfect, but I feel like it’s getting closer. My hope is to have this stuff ironed out by the time I start querying.

BONUS ROUND: An attaboy for anyone who identifies the source of the title of this post.

Writing Short Fiction with an Eye on Long Fiction

This Photo is Reminscent of My Current Short Story in Progress

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I’m in the process of wrapping up the second of two short stories that I’ve written in between drafts of Shadow of the Black City. With each short story I write, my awareness of things grows and my writing improves.  Things blurred in the murk of my peripheral awareness are coming into focus.

Right now I’m the equivalent of a guy in a blackout who just found the circuit breaker with a weak flashlight. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but with how much I’ve learned in the space of a few weeks, I can only imagine how much I still don’t know.

I want to see the whole house bathed in light.

What I’m suggesting is by no means novel (heh). Those who’ve written for a while and have explored the short story markets know of what I speak.

For me, the appeal of the short story is summed up by a couple of quotes from Janet Burroway in Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft:

The greater the limitation in time and space, the greater the necessity of the pace, sharpness, and density.

and:

The form of the novel is an expanded short story form. It asks for a conflict, a crisis, and a resolution…

Sounds like stuff I want to do in my work whether regardless of the form. I love how the limitations of the short story force me to economize for effectiveness in plot, character and theme.

It’s also nice to take a break from the novel and explore unmapped areas of my imagination. Those forays into the unknown are great for churning up the subconscious and seeing what ideas arise. Writing begets more story ideas and better writing.

How can you lose?

It Ought to be Easier (To Leave When You Know that You Have to Go)

Leaving

Giving up the Ghost

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And you tell me I’m the one you’re not to blame
And you tell me I make you feel the same way
And we talk in circles but we never say
It’s just out of weakness that both of us stay

And it ought to be easier
When you turn your lights down low
And it ought to be easier
To leave when you know that you have to go

Lyle Lovett – It Ought to Be Easier

Ain’t that the truth.

Even so, you fiddle and tweak and poke and prod your current work in progress and hold it in your loving arms, but the romance is gone. You are both tired of looking at each other and you don’t have the energy to rekindle the old flame. Yet, you’re having a hard time letting go. Which is funny, because you could be moving on to something fresh.

Like the next draft of your novel, or a new short story, or a tear-stained letter.

Whatever.

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away for good
Oh, the thrill is gone baby
Baby its gone away for good
Someday I know I’ll be over it all baby
Just like I know a man should

You know I’m free, free now baby
I’m free from your spell
I’m free, free now
I’m free from your spell
And now that it’s over
All I can do is wish you well

B.B. King – The Thrill is Gone

Sometimes you’ve got to power through to the end so you can begin again. I’m busting my hump to wrap up my second draft because I’m ready for the third. I’ll be hitting it with better organization, and thus a better understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish.

Besides, B.B. is preaching the truth – Once you let go, all you can do is wish it well.

First Draft is a Snot Rocket.

Snot Rocket

The devil is in the nostrils. Art by Cliff Rickard

Knowing what I know now, I’ll be happy to blow out a disjointed, gangly mongrel of a first draft in the future if only to clear my mental sinuses. I mean, if that’s what it takes to get a tighter second draft that I might actually enjoy reading, then sign me up.

Lemme ‘splain:

The words are coming on the second draft of my first novel, Shadow of the Black City, and they’re not all bad. I’m almost to the quarter mile post on a mile-long track (I’ve got a new writing progress bar on this blog that motivates me even more to see it fill up). I’ve more or less discarded the first draft without even finishing reading it and am rewriting the second draft. This time around, I’ve done more planning and have a better idea of how I want the story to go.

If I had known it would be that way from the start I don’t think I would have forged ahead. The one piece of advice I read on blogs and in books was to write. Period. Get the first draft out and work from there. It turned out to be very true, but not in the way I thought. As I wrote my first draft, I thought I’d have this ugly duckling that would need lots of TLC and nurturing. Instead I got an unlikeable creature that I smothered and buried in a dark corner of the yard.

Once I stopped rationalizing why I should love my first draft, I began thinking about the story in earnest. I really wanted my story to be pretty good from the get go, but my vanity, pride, desire to not shame my family, whatever it is, dictated that I own up to the tripe I created and learn from it so that I didn’t recreate it the second time around. Now, I’m using first draft more of a means of determining what I didn’t want in the story, how I didn’t want the story structured and how I didn’t want to the characters to act.

Here’s a bit:

Men and women lay everywhere — as if an army of ancients had stood against the Djinn and, seeing their doom, laid down and died. The Bedu mages had drawn their energy from the lives of their own soldiers to send the spirits of air and fire back beneath the Jashem. They burned through lives yet unspent, aging soldiers where they stood. They bled the land as well, bleaching sand, stone and dust, leaving only dried, brittle skeletons of grass and plants and shrubs and trees — as if Hazriyah herself salted the earth, forever damning the valley to desolation.