Monthly Archives: October 2011

Short Story #33 Mailed

Yep, finished Short Story #33 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge over the weekend and mailed it to a professional market. The story ended up right around 1,000 words; I’d planned to write something longer, but the story idea resolved itself nicely in a short space so I just went with it.

That leaves me with just 7 stories to go to meet my 2011 goal of 40 stories mailed, and I already have two more first drafts done (the short novel of ~31,000 words and a 5,000-worder), just waiting in the wings to polish off, so I’m sure that I’ll make it quite comfortably.

Is my stretch goal of 50 stories still possible? 17 more stories done in 8 weeks would be tough, but not out of the question. I think it’s doable especially if I continue to do a lot of flash pieces. Also, I started off pretty slow on this challenge and most of the stories have been written in the last 8 months or so. So I think I can do it.

And this week looks good for a two-story week, so we’ll see just how far I can push this thing.

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Filed under Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #32 Mailed

I finished a new ~4,000 word story for a pro-paying anthology submission last night and mailed it off today, for Story #32 completed of my 2011 short story challenge. I thought the story turned out pretty well, but who knows. It’s impossible to judge your own work, so I will await the judgement of the editors, but I feel like I put out a good effort for this one and I’ll simply hope for the best.

I also received one rejection back from a story that had been out for a long time, and mailed it back out the very same day– to a market that pays better, even– so my race score now stands at 26.

I decided the ~5,000 word story that I had tentatively earmarked for the anthology had too many problems at present, so I decided not to mail it off yet. I’ll revisit that story in a while and decide what to do with it, with the options being mail it out as is (if fresh eyes revise my opinion of it), trunk it, redraft it (write most of it starting over from scratch), or most likely, add some scenes and word count so that it can deliver better on its original promise.

The absolutely key thing to avoid is a death-spiral of revision, tempting though that may sometimes be. I found myself quite tempted to start fiddling with this one, which from experience I know is at best a fine way to waste time and at worst a very effective way to ruin a perfectly good story. This is also what Kris ‘n’ Dean preached repeatedly at their Short Story Workshop– it takes a lot of experience and skill to make anything more than superficial revisions to a story, particularly if you let youself slip into critical voice– so I just set it aside and completed the other story instead, and now I’m glad that I did.

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Filed under Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE. (and 100th Submission, 75th Rejection, & Short Story #31 Mailed)

It’s been a while since I last posted but things have been busy. Since Oct 7th I received 9 rejections (one piece rejected twice) and mailed out 11 pieces. That brings my race score to 25.

I also passed some milestones this week, with the 75th rejection of the year coming in and the 100th mailing of the year going out.

I still also have one piece being held by an editor for possible publication. No clue when I will hear back about that, but it’s for a market that pays professional rates.

I mailed off Short Story #31 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge several days ago, a short strange one about a character with phantom limbs.

I have also finished a first draft of the short novel at about 31,000 words as well as a first draft of a 5,000 word short story that I was thinking of submitting to an anthology call. So, lots of words coming through the keyboard, but finding time to do some editing (as opposed to producing new words, which has been my priority) has been a challenge.

I started a new piece this week as well where I decided to have fun and follow explicitly the directions that Dean Wesley Smith gave us for one excercise at the June 2011 Short Story workshop when he was none too pleased about the results of a previous assignment about story setting:

VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE.

So I went and did just that and have a 2,500 word start on another story where the first six pages do nothing but layer in a creepy setting bit by bit, filtered through the viewpoint and opinions of the main character. I rather like how it has turned out so far.

The reason to “vomit setting onto the page” is that, as an early-stage professional writer, it is too easy to focus on plot and other story aspects and leave the setting too thin. That leaves you with a white-room story full of fake details (“the bench” vs. “the grubby oak-planked bench capped with wrought-iron finials,” for example). This also brings particular and concrete details into your story that evoke the five senses.

On this new story, I’m admittedly a bit stuck on where it will go next. But I have a solution for that, as well, thanks again to another bit of advice that Dean pearled out during the dinner on the last night of the workshop.

One of the students asked Dean how to flesh out a big idea, how to get going on it, how to develop it to its full potential. Dean had a great, short answer that might seem trite at first glance but actually encapsulates a lot of wisdom:

“Just start typing.”

The student looked at him incredulously and started to rephrase the question. To which Dean said, “No, really, just start typing.” His point was that the place to do world-building is at your keyboard, with probes and bore-holes drilled in the form of stories. If a particular story veers off of your big idea, well so what. Let your subconscious, creative mind take you where it will, finish off that story, and take another whack at it with your next story. And then the next. And the next. Soon you’ll understand your “big idea” better, and through the process of exploration in story form, likely come up with many twists and turns and improvements on your idea that you never would have otherwise.

Now, I may have little track record as a fiction writer but I’ve worked in advanced R & D for my entire professional career and so I could see the wisdom in Dean’s words. It’s way, way to easy to paralyze yourself into inaction because an idea seems to big or too difficult or too vague in its present form. You just have to build stuff, try things out, and gradually via exploration-through-experience something interesting will come out of it– as long as you trust yourself and permit yourself to have some whiffs along the way.

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Filed under Dean Wesley Smith, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011, Workshops

Short Story #30 Mailed

I sent short story #30 of my 2011 short story challenge, another bit of flash fiction this time, off into the electronic void a couple days ago. I’ve been writing alot of these short-short / flash fiction pieces lately, and at some point soon here I’m going to start running out of pro-paying markets to mail them off to.

But I’ve been having great fun with them, and it’s been a nice counterbalance while I work to complete the novella that I have pounding away on. I wrote 3,600 new words on the novella this week and I’m close to having that elusive end-to-end first draft completed. Then I will go back and layer in a few things here and there to properly set up and motivate the plot twists and character development and so forth that come later in the short novel.

Two more rejections since my last post, and three pieces sent out, so my short-story race score now stands at 24.

I want to e-publish some more short stories, collections of flash fiction pieces, and of course the short novel before the holiday season to see if I can pick up a few sales from all the new e-readers coming onto the market. But, I also need to balance that with my main goal right now of making some professional sales to the short fiction markets, which will help to get my name out there and give me better fiction credits for my cover letters.

We’re in the wild, wild west of reading, writing and publishing these days and there’s heady times a-coming. All I need to do is hold on tight and just keep writing no matter what, and the rest will follow.

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Filed under E-Pub, Flash Fiction, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #29 Mailed

I just mailed off story #29 of my 2011 short story challenge to a professional market. That brings my race score up to 23 (all short story submissions to professional-paying markets). As I write more it’s getting harder to place them since I usually already have a story under consideration at “the usual suspects.” But that also forces me to stretch my boundaries, find new markets, and send things to places that I might not have considered before. These are all good things (grin).

Only two rejections in the mail this week, so a good week on that front.

Unfortunately, however, I failed to finish my work-in-progress last week for the Sept. 30th Writers of the Future deadline. Got about 4,000 words done on it but with sick kids and work demands there were just not enough hours in the week to get it finished. And the story I had set up stubbornly refused to resolve itself without throwing a lot more word count at it. So I’ll keep plowing forward with it and have something ready well before the deadline for the next quarter. I’m guessing it will end up as an 8-10,000 worder.

I returned my attention to the short novel over the weekend. That has now topped 24,000 words and probably only needs another 2000 words to finish off the first draft. I also need to cycle back and layer in a couple more things, seed some plot developments earlier and the like, but it’s getting close. I’ll be moving that one direct to e-pub when I have it finished as at that length I’ve now outstripped the short fiction markets.

So, eleven stories to go to hit my original goal of 40 short stories written this year. More and more I want to shoot for 50 stories instead to really push myself and see how much product I can churn out this year. My pace has been increasing as well, with about 18,000 words written in September.

Focusing on just making sure I get 500 words written every day– even if it’s just a fragment of something that I whip up on the iPad before I fall asleep– has been a really good strategy for me.

Oh, and I pre-ordered a nice little goodie for myself from Amazon, too, apparently along with just about everyone else in the known universe who has $199 burning a hole in their pocket. Should be fun and hopefully a good holiday season for indie publishers everywhere 🙂

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Filed under E-Pub, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011