19 May 2011

One Buck Horror Acceptance

I'm very pleased to report that Chris and Kris Hawkins over at the brand spankin' new One Buck Horror have accepted my story, "The Last Nephew."

It's a semi-steampunkish musty dusty creep festival about ghosts and consequences.  I will let you know - loudly and unequivocally - when it comes out.

17 May 2011

Story a Day: A Midway Progress Report, or Two Camels in a Tiny Car

First of all, allow me to apologize for falling off the internet. I have (ahem!) been writing.

Story a Day continues. As I'm headed into the second half of this challenge, I am ecstatic to report that I've written somewhere in the vicinity of 33 000 words since the beginning of May, and I've completed 12 stories, seven of which I consider to be viable. Of those stories, two took me more than a day to complete. Two others were "do-overs" - in other words, I had an idea, wrote it in a day, and decided it was not what I wanted it to be, so I tried again the next day.

Here's what I've learned about the art of writing short story first drafts, or at least about my art of writing short story first drafts:

It's possible to compress the process. 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to go from vague idea / prompt to concrete idea to plot to completed first draft.

Compressing the process is fun. How satisfying is it to think about a story and work through a basic plot, only to be done with drafting it by the time you go to bed (even if bedtime gets pushed back just a wee bit)? Very satisfying.

I tend to procrastinate in the name of "working on a plot" or "ironing out potential problems" with a story. In truth, I am just putting off actively thinking about it or doing the writing, while hoping that some magical muse will drop the answer on my head. I am forming a much better idea of the intensity I need in order to make a story happen. It's much more intensity and active troubleshooting / what-iffing / cause and effect logic-grinding than I'd previously thought.

I have been lazy, or maybe helpless, or maybe clueless. I am less so now.

I can do much, much more than I thought possible.

If I don't like the way a first draft worked out, I can always rewrite it. The best time to do that is the very next day, when the potential problems and solutions are fresh in my mind.

Writing is performance. Like all performances, it can go horribly wrong, or descend into slapstick. On the other hand, some days are better than others. Any draft can be much more brilliant than I thought. Any idea can suddenly blossom into something very cool. Any plot can become magic - but it has to play out on the page.

I'm looking forward to the second half of this challenge.

Meanwhile, if you came here for the camels, here they are. Headphones up!

09 May 2011

Fill Your Boots, Man

Love this:

Via Stephanie Skeem.

Also love Shit My Students Write (for the grammar nazi in you).

07 May 2011

Some Kind of Wonderful: Wicked & Tricksy

Are you following the ever insightful Margo Lerwill, the super savvy S.B. Stewart-Laing, the maximally effervescent Sommer Leigh, and the microbially fascinating Claudie A.? I've been dropping in on these fabulous writers for a while now. They all write speculative fiction, and share some very sharp insights via their blogs. They are about to combine their superpowers into one awesome, all-mighty online resource for aspiring genre writers. I give you:

Wicked & Tricksy

The details:

We seek to provide resources for fellow aspiring writers on writing craft and theory. While we focus on all things speculative fiction, there will be plenty of craft talk for writers of any genre to use. We hope to create a community of aspiring writers who can share ideas, ask hard questions, and offer insights we as individual writers may not have had access to otherwise.

The site launches on May 9th. That is so soon! We all know the kind of effort and planning that goes into making a regularly updated resource like Wicked & Tricksy happen. I plan to stop by regularly once the site is up. Can't wait.

05 May 2011

Already a Cheater: The First Four Days of Story a Day

Soo......Story a Day!  This is a post to update y'all on my progress and to talk about what it's like to push yourself way beyond your usual capacities.

As a writer I face a couple of challenges. One: I have chronic ants-in-pants. I find it physically difficult to sit with my arse in a chair for more than a few minutes. I combat this by working out a lot, to the point of exhaustion. Two: I am a relentless multitasker. Although I can focus on a task for long periods of time, I find I am super distracted by the many different things we as writers should do: draft! edit! polish! submit! blog! correspond! research! read read read!.

As a result of these two factors, it often takes me a couple of weeks to finish a short story draft.

So Story a Day, with its brutal, high-intensity schedule, is great for me, because there is no time to get distracted, and I have to keep my arse in my writing chair in order to do it. I'm finding that it is deeply satisfying to get a short story draft out in a single day.

I haven't started my challenge story today, the 5th of May. So far in four days of writing I've drafted three short stories with a total of 11 772 words. Yoicks! That's huge for me.

Day one was good: I dutifully wrote a not great story about a Greek tragic actor. I ran into a spot of trouble on day two when I came up with a great story idea that I knew was going to run long. I made some sacrifices to Chronos (by cancelling some plans) and kept writing. At 11:30, I still wasn't done the story, but I had hit a reasonable stopping point. Normally, I would let a larger story drag out. Because I was aware that I was already stretching the Story a Day guidelines, I finished it the next day: BOOM! I'm super happy about that one. At 7600 words, it's a little long, but trimming will happen later. Yesterday I wrote a silly story about catharsis. And here we are. Today I'm planning to go back to an older idea I've tried to write before, but it's never quite worked out. I will try to make it work today.

The nice thing about this challenge is that if the writing goes well, then great; if it seems like the story sucks, you can let it go at the end of the day and move on. I feel like I'm getting an education in what works and what doesn't.

I am learning too that unless I have an idea that seems like it should be flash, I am much more a short story writer than a flash writer. This is a little frustrating because I would like to write a piece in an hour or two, rather than spending all day on it. I'm all:

But I am in this to push myself, so getting out ridiculous amounts of word count this month is not a bad thing, not at all.

If you're doing Story a Day, how is it going? If you're not, what are you writing today?

02 May 2011

Easy A to Z

If you've been dropping in from time to time, you already know this, but:

I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge. I used A to Z to focus on topical posts that range far outside of my usual discussions of the entertainment industry, the horror genre, and writing. It was nice to remember that I know lots of stuff about...stuff! (And also that I am an articulate person.)

So I want to issue an official thank you to Arlee Bird and co-hosts Jeffrey Beesler, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, Candace Ganger, Karen J. Gowen, Talli Roland, and Stephen Tremp. Well done!

Extra credit goes to Marcus at Writing Investigated for creating the Next Blog / Surprise Me! buttons that have made going through the massive list of A to Z participants so much fun. Thanks, Marcus.

For the hosts of A to Z and all of you who participated in the challenge, I offer a stern round of Kane applause:


In case you are only catching up with me now via the mega-post, AND you have tons of creative juice because A to Z energized you as much as it did me, or even (especially) if you are dragging your arse now but you want to keep writing anyway, I want to issue a very special invitation to join me in tackling the Story a Day in May challenge. I am using my A to Z posts as story prompts. Please feel free to plunder my April posts for inspiration.

For today's story, I'm using my post on Bubonic Plague. Care to play along? (Never mind the swelling.)

01 May 2011

The Joys of Raw Word Count

During the first four months of 2011, I have focused my writing efforts on editing, polishing, and submitting pieces in my existing stable of short stories, in the name of getting my name out there a whole heck of a lot more. I have come to the conclusion that pro markets are super, super hard to break into, and editing is even harder.

I've learned a lot about taking my stories from first draft to something resembling acceptability. I've learned that I often forgo logic in place of aesthetics, and that this means my early drafts are messy and hard to fix. I've learned that you can't polish a turd: if there is something seriously wrong with the first draft, it will not become a shiny story just because you correct grammar and trim excess and add a few neat tricks. You have to make a story true. Just because it's fantasy doesn't mean that you can skimp on compromise or conflict. Just because it's horror doesn't mean you automatically earn the right to make everything relentlessly terrible.

All this editing has slowed down my raw word count output substantially. By raw word count, I mean first draft, fountain pen on lined paper, pantsing like it's 1999, and otherwise just enjoying the act of trying to get story down on paper. I've drafted a few shorts in the name of Write 1, Sub 1, but for the most part, I've been trying to get stories out of the virtual trunk of my hard drive and into the world.

It is time to do something a little bit different, since this slog is getting a bit stale. I woke up yesterday excited about the prospect of Story a Day in May, because I'm really looking forward to the chance to just practice laying out beginnings, middles, and ends for a while. I plan to get out some substantial raw word count this month - maybe even reaching NaNoWriMo proportions.

For today's story, I used my "Agonize" post as a story prompt. The piece I wrote features a disgruntled actor in ancient Greece who wants to be more than part of the chorus.  The working title is "Goat Song." It came in at 2032 words, and took me about two and a half hours to draft, in between conversations with my writing pal Chris Kelworth at a local cafe. Good times!