Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Easier than Others

Now Playing: FLAWED LEGACY by Michael Salvatori and Martin O'Donnell

One way I know a story has a lot of potential is when it comes really hard for me.

I think Stephen King said that writing is best when it's a kind of inspired play. Well, the story I wrote for June (mostly that is--I just finished it tonight and we're a week into July . . . ) was all play until the time came to sit down and write it.

I had it all thought out: girl in trouble, girl figures way out of trouble, girl realizes her plan wasn't so foolproof after all and must deal with the consequences. I wanted it to be a longer tale, because I plan on subbing it to the Writers of the Future Contest, and in my experience the winners are longer stories. But I didn't expect the challenge this kind of length entailed.

It's difficult to keep momentum when the story is 12,000 words. You write a novel, you think, "I just have to do this sip by sip, and eventually I'll have downed the whole drink." In other words--one to two thousand words a day, and in two or three months you've got a novel. But a short story, for me anyway, usually starts with a different mindset: "Let's pound out a story, scratch it off the 'to-be-written' list, and move on to the next one."

June's story is titled "Frost and Flame." It refused to let itself be pounded out and set aside, to be crossed off as average stories are. It reached for greater depths, fished for more developed characters, and wouldn't let itself be neatly tied off, as I think I'm prone to doing (an amateur trait, I've come to think more and more). These are all good things, as they raise the bar for my quality; I can honestly say now that I've had a story idea that can hold its own against professionally published pieces I've read.

It's a bit like working out, maybe. Once you run two miles every day for a month, two miles isn't a workout anymore. You have stretch it to four or five. True, two miles is still something, and you should be proud of that. But you aren't here for a stroll--you're here to work out. So stretch it to four or five miles and be proud of how shaky your quads feel.

That's the way I feel after finishing "Frost and Flame." Like I just maybe ran a bit farther than I could comfortably handle, but here I am, and now I can't go back and run a two mile course because I know that's beneath my ability. That's wanting to stay comfortable, but working out isn't about being comfortable. Neither is writing--the good stories, the ones that tell you they want to go somewhere, leave you aching all over once you type "The End."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sit Down

Now Playing: World Cup, duh
Just Read: THE CAPTAINS by W.E.B Griffin--Pretty fun and historically informative. Not the most exciting novel, but funny at times and definitely enjoyable.
Reading Now: A TIME TO KILL by John Grisham

Most young writers I've spoken to agree: one of the hardest parts of being successful is finding the time, energy, and dedication to actually sit down and produce. We usually have lots of ideas and a grasp of the craft that will surely get better with practice, if only we could make ourselves sit down.

A great part of being a member of Write1Sub1 is that it holds you responsible--you committed to a story per month (or week), and you have to report in each Sunday on your progress. It's like a fabricated deadline. You have a reason, a requirement, to do your work.

I am terrible about putting things off if they can be done tomorrow. What's the number one thing that can be delayed? Writing, of course. I have to go to work. I have to go to the bank or post office before they close. I have to run to the grocery store and then cook dinner and then clean the kitchen, and since I've got the broom out I might as well clean the rest of the apartment. Then there's a world cup match on, and some friends want to get together to watch it. Well . . . you can see there isn't much time in there to write a novella.

This month's story is particularly long for me--I'm already at 4000 words and it seems like it's barely started. With five days left in June, three of which I work, it's going to be a challenge to complete it.

So I added another fabricated deadline. A girl I work with is also a writer, but she hasn't written anything new in a long time. I told her that if she could finish a story by July 1, I would too, and we could swap. So now I'm obliged twice to finish this story by the deadline.

Better sit down and get to work.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gratified and Determined

Now Playing: SURFIN' USA by The Beach Boys

How is that every month seems busier than the last?

It's the first day of June and I'm two weeks into my new assignment, working at Georgetown in Washington, D.C. I have barely had a free minute to write, but I started a story to finish for this month's W1S1 challenge about a girl who takes a risk that later spirals way out of hand. 

I was so happy to see my story "The Ascension Song" published in Every Day Fiction; I believe I've updated the link list to the left so you can click on over and read it if you want. I was especially flattered by the number and quality of the comments on my story. I've never had such a positive reaction, and it meant a lot. Thank you all so much for reading and being moved enough to tell me about it. 

Reading people's comments makes me want to write like nothing else. I recently heard that my girlfriend's mom had shared a link to "Dancing in the Black Blizzard," and her friend who didn't know me read it and enjoyed it so much that he looked up other stories I've written and commented on those as well. What a gratifying and rewarding experience, to be on the receiving end of such high praise. Thank you!  

I don't take the fact that people read my work lightly. I know how tough it is to find time to read short fiction, especially by a young author without many notches in his belt. But know that your efforts to read my stuff have direct effects on me. Over the past week, I've been more determined than ever to write, and write a lot, and write awesome, quality fiction for people to enjoy. 

I hope to have more published stories for you soon! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Story Accepted!

Now Playing: SOLAR SAILER by Daft Punk

Happy to report another story acceptance!

My piece "The Ascension Song" will appear in Every Day Fiction on May 25. This is a flash fiction piece with which I tried to focus more on the writing, the nuts and bolts of the language, because the story came to me pretty simply and completely.

I submitted it to some pro magazines with some positive rejections, but only when I got a rewrite request from EDF did I realize the problem that comes with a story plot's arrival in your brain seemingly complete.

It had some gaps. I fell victim to the same trap that gets me so frequently--unwillingness to break apart the plot and send it in another direction. But the editors requested I do just that, and that was all the push I needed. I worked on it for a day, resubmitted it, and they bought it!

I'm looking forward to seeing my piece in print there. This is my first publication at EDF, hopefully the first of many. If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Happily Home

Now Playing: YOU KNOW NOTHING by Ramin Djawadi
Just Read: FOOL by Christopher Moore--Very fun, super funny and witty. I loved the language and the humor. Good example of a book I don't have the talent to write, haha.
Reading Now: THE CAPTAINS by W.E.B. Griffin

Successfully back on the East Coast!

It was a long drive all by my lonesome, but I gotta say, it was a great time. Just me, my Camaro, and the open road, from California across the Nevada desert, through the Utah rock structures, up into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and down in the rolling plains of Kansas and Missouri, back to the forests of Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains of winding West Virginia, down through the hills of Virginia and finally the Piedmont of North Carolina. Home!

I think everyone should drive across the country at least once in their lives. Take some time to see the land flying by your window and realize how far people have come, how much work they did, and how much wonderful wilderness is still out there to enjoy. The American cities are amazing and cultured and have so many secret details. The memory pool I can pull from for settings now is so much more detailed.

As soon as I got home I was gone again. It was my best friend's birthday, and we went to Disney World to celebrate and to watch his girlfriend compete in Dance World's 2014--a great and fantastic show, so proud and happy for them! In between shows we got to drink beers at every country in Epcot, ride super rides, and watch live music. So hard to beat Disney, and one of my favorite parts--the fireworks show--I can remember watching as a ten year old kid and wanting to write stories as exciting as that show. It was the same at twenty-four.

Lots of work ahead of me--I made a list of stories to edit, and it's a long one. I still have to pound out April's W1S1 story, and I got a rejection from my story that was on hold at the Writers of the Future contest, so that story has to get back out there somewhere. One thing about writing, there are always more stories to be written. The work NEVER stops. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Your Mark

Now Playing: STAR WARS THEME by John Williams

The time has come to say goodbye to the West Coast. 

I've been out here since September, and made more friends and more memories than I can fit into a simple blog post. More than a few might well end up as characters and stories one day. Have a beer out with me one night, and perhaps I'll share some. 

I'm really looking forward to being home for a while, and to starting my next three-month adventure stint in Washington, D.C. 

 I wonder what new stories the nation's capitol will present? Only time will tell. 

I'm starting the cross-country drive in the next few minutes. A middle of the night departure to avoid LA and Vegas traffic (if I'm lucky), stop tonight in Boulder, CO, then on to St. Louis day 2, and home in Raleigh, NC Saturday night. I feel like a main character setting off on a quest.

A wise hobbit once said: It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and you never know where you might be swept off to.

Let's find out, shall we?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Story Published!

Now Playing: SEVEN NATION ARMY by the White Stripes
Just Read: THE GOOD NURSE by Charles Graeber--Frightening in how easy it was for someone to commit something so heinous in a place of trust. Great book, but lots of heebie jeebies. Made me feel insane myself a few times.
Reading Now: FOOL by Christopher Moore

My story "Dancing in the Black Blizzard" was published this morning!

I'm very excited to see this story in print . . . finally! Like I mentioned in my last blog post, this story is one of my old favorites, and it's been through a lot of revisions and rejections (even some personalized ones) before the final draft found a home at a great new magazine: Perihelion Science Fiction.

The word "perihelion" describes a place in a planet's orbit where it is closest to the sun. Appearing its pages makes me feel like that--warm and prosperous. It's an addictive feeling, having a good story published in a good magazine, and it makes me really want to continue having stories accepted the rest of this W1S1 challenge. I have some good drafts out there that need to be revised, and hopefully, with some perseverance, they'll find homes like "Dancing in the Black Blizzard" did.

Take a moment to savor this . . . now, back to work!