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Flash Fiction Challenge

As if having a 12 week old, teething, biting, super curious, super sweet, quite devious puppy taking up most my time wasn’t hard enough, I decided it would also be super smart to enter a flash fiction contest run by NYC Midnight.

Writers are put into groups, given a genre, location, and item, all of which must be written into a story of no more than 1000 words. Oh, and that story must be completed and submitted 48 hours after receiving the assignment. Super easy, right? Even under normal circumstances, I’d struggle with something so structured. Add to that some severe sleep deprivation and I was in for a rough weekend.

Still, I was excited to get the email, find out what sort of story I was going to be writing. At 10:59 PM Friday night, my path was revealed-Romantic comedy, a tropical island, a brick.

What? People actually write romantic comedy flash fiction? Visions of Love Actually and a half dozen Adam Sandler, Drew Berrymore movies instantly came to my head. This genre was definitely not in my wheelhouse or toolbox. I would rather have had romance, a soviet era gulag, a french fry.

My first attempt on Saturday Morning was a disaster. I had a couple, a clever way for them to meet, but that moment itself took 400 words. Scratch that. Delete. Try again.

A second idea had more promise, but also took up too many valuable words without getting me anything resembling a story.

Then the tiredness took over. I couldn’t concentrate, spell, type, do much of anything but stare at the screen. Also, the puppy needed attention, and the puppy comes first right now.

A few hours later, I tried again, this time with some more success. I had several awkward encounters, silly moments, and the outline of a story. An ending still eluded. I had Sheryl read what I’d written so far and while she liked it, she agreed it wasn’t quite right.

Sunday could not have been a more awful day. I didn’t rest well, and a very intense wave of puppy depression hit me early that morning. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Writing was impossible. The contest was out of my mind completely.

I did some heavy soul searching that day, spent a lot of time talking with my amazing wife. I am so grateful for her advice, patience, love. She is my best friend and perfect companion.

With less than 3 hours until I had to submit the story, I had no draft, no ending, and very few ideas, but I was determined. I sat at the computer and hammered out three very sloppy endings, picking one to flush out and use. I read through, edited, read through again, edited, then asked Sheryl for her opinion.

“It’s okay, but the ending lacks pop. It’s too sweet. Something needs to happen that puts them at odds again.”

I was crushed, out of ideas, ready for defeat.

“Something like…” and she said it. The exact ending. And I loved it. With forty minutes to go, I rewrote the ending, not worrying about word count. When it was finished, I was at 1020 words, but the ending was just what this brief romantic comedy needed.

I spent the remaining time cutting words (easier than I thought) until I was at 997. One more read and edit, just to make sure, and it was time to submit. My first romantic comedy was complete. I’m not sure it will get me enough points to move out of the second round (two rounds are guaranteed each writer), but that is fine with me.

I’ll keep you posted.

Wish me good sleeps. I still need them.

And dogs are awesome.

 

Old Things

I’ve had a really good week as far as writing goes. A short story idea has been rolling around in my head for months, and I finally sat my rear end in the chair and attacked it. The first few pages came quickly, and for a while I was convinced it would only take three writing days before a draft was complete. I should have known better.

As soon as I’ve nailed down one aspect of the story, something else decides to be a problem. The strange part is, I’m excited that it is being difficult. I want to be pushed and stretched. None of this effort means the story will be any good, but it will be rewarding to finish.

The only real distraction is another idea that popped into my head while I was reading a book called “Slow Boat”, by Hideo Furukawa. I’d written a story more than a decade ago that shared similar elements to one chapter of “Slow Boat”. As soon as I finished the book (it’s wicked short), I went to my computer and opened the file. The story was still in very rough condition, and I remembered I’d only loosely edited it after finishing the first draft. Reading through, I liked the flow of the story, and thought it would only need a few tweaks to be ready for sharing. Four hours later I’d rewritten most of it, changed the overall tone, and given the story an entirely different ending. It was the most fun I’d had with writing in more than a year.

Finding life in one old idea got me thinking about other abandoned work, paragraphs, pages, two or three lines that had promise, but I either lost interest in or wasn’t skilled enough to write at the time. I’m making a list of texts that need attention, and it is a good long one. I’m certain many of them won’t become anything more than they already are, but there are likely three or four that have some serious potential. The prospect is keeping me up at night, pondering.

What about you fine people? Have you ever gone back to an old idea and found it had new life? How did you approach the project? Were you successful?

One other note-

The shelf I was using to display my vinyl was near capacity, and I was not excited about the prospect of using crates or boxes to store things. I dislike clutter. Over the weekend, we picked up this fine shelf from IKEA.

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I’ve triple the space now. You should all come over and we can have a listen party. You bring the drinks, I’ll provide the food and music.

 

 

 

 

The Third is…

I wrote my first novel in 2013. The first draft was just over 79,000 words. Edits, rewrites and subtractions have left the book hovering around 77,000 words. My second book (2014) came it at just over 120,000. After Edits, rewrites, subtractions it is still at 120,000.

For the third book, I made a conscious choice to keep myself to 50 thousand. I liked the idea of clear writing goals and a word restriction. The second book had a life of its own and refused to be limited. It still does, and while I enjoy the feeling of having written something so long, I wanted to see if I could limit myself, focus the content, make hard choices.

The first completed draft was 43,000 words. Three versions later, I now have a story of 37,501 words. I fear it is becoming too short, but each time I edit, I find more to cut, and have come up empty on ideas of where to expand. Maybe it doesn’t need anything more, and maybe it needs less. Is this really a short story; a novella? I don’t know. I am looking for some brave souls to volunteer as tribute, fearless warriors, willing to offer suggestions, direction. Two would be great, more would be better. There is no rush on feedback as I am not actively trying to sell this to any agent or publisher.

Any takers?

Reply here (or on Facebook or Twitter, for those who don’t like commenting here. Weirdos) and I will send you a lovely .rtf document.

Advice Needed

I’ve another blog. It goes by the name Only One Shoe. The concept revolves around very short stories written about photographs I take of found items.

The rules for what gets photographed are simple-If I come across something that seems out of place or uniquely situated, I take photographs. I am not allowed to re-position the object or manipulate the surroundings in any way. I take several images, hoping to capture as much of the area around the object as possible, pick the best one, then write something (hopefully) clever about how the object ended up where I found it.

It has been suggested to me in the past that this would make a swell book. I rejected the idea at first, thinking that: My photography is far to amateurish for publishing- and I would need close to 150 to 200 images and stories to reach book length. It seemed daunting.

I’ve come to realize that I actually really like the idea and am gearing myself up to pursue it more aggressively. The blog has sort of languished over the last year, and I think part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to add to the collection is I want to save the ideas and images and include them in the book.

What I need is some feedback about the idea, the blog, the images, the stories. If you’re feeling up to the effort, take a look, then tell me what you think about what is already up there. If this is not something you as a reader would be interested in seeing in print, odds are others feel similarly. On the other hand, if you think this would be a stellar book, I could use the boost.

Thanks in advance, friends.

IWSG-March

Happy March 1st. While technically still winter, my mind is already planning for warmer weather, walks in the sunshine, iced coffee. I’m ready to start cycling again as well. Hooray for spring.

It is also Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog time. You know the drill- Every writer is insecure from time to time and in need of some good support. The first Wednesday of each month (and all the time in our Facebook group, really) we gather to share our experiences, fears, doubts, achievements and successes. You can’t ask for a better group. Check us out here– Once you realize how amazing we are, you’ll want to participate.

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This months question-Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Yes. Yes.

The end.

Okay, not really the end.

My first completed novel was written from a reworked story. I had the idea five years before I began writing it, and when I finally made the attempt, things did not go well at all. I wrote myself into a corner after ten pages. Frustrated, I left it alone for three more years.

When I decided I was tired of being the writer who had not yet written anything of substance, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, and my first inclination was to return to that old story. The same issues remained and time had not offered me a clear way out of them. I agonized over how to proceed. I didn’t want to scrap what I had written as I really liked it, and this story was my best hope for reaching the 50,000 word goal. The tone was right, and the voice as close to what was in my head as possible. I finally decided that this one moment was not worth any more agony, wrote three pages that felt satisfactory moved forward. After that, most of the story unfolded cleanly (but not painlessly, as a mountain of insecurity was still waiting for me). I’m still not sure my solution worked, and that particular chapter is one of my least favorite, but revisiting the old story paid off in the end. I am very proud of that book.

I’m trying it again with a flash piece which I felt would work well as a longer story. So far so good. I’m looking for another beta reader for that particular story, if anyone is interested.

Now, tell me what’s good with all of you…

 

IWSG-January

The kids are back in school. Sheryl’s too short vacation is over and she has returned to the office. The house has resumed its usual daytime stillness, settling back into routine.

Welcome to winter.

Oh, and welcome to the first Wednesday of the month, which is of course when the members of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gather to share our writing adventures, successes and failures. Check us out here-http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Every writer is an insecure one, so join in the fun.

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I am roughly four weeks away from learning the fate of my poetry chapbook. The fine folks at http://www.blacklawrence.com/ are at this moment, selecting the finalists, which hopefully includes my work. I entered fairly early in the window, so the wait has been/felt extra long. I’d like to pretend there were days I didn’t worry, or wonder. Less time has been spent stressing about it all than in October (the sleepless nights I’ll never get back), and I’ve swallowed the nervousness that kept me from even looking at the poems (certain there would be a million typos, misspelled words). Still, I am more than ready for this process to come to a conclusion. I feel confident about the work, and if for some reason, I am not a finalist, I will be alright.

Really.

But dammit, I so want to win.

When I was sending out query letters for my first novel, I fully expected the rejection. I never felt I’d created a solid letter, and if I wasn’t sure about what I was submitting, it was unlikely any agent reading it would feel any differently.

In this contest (unless they are being completely dishonest about the process), it is a blind reading, and no one on the committee has any clue who wrote what until after the decisions have been made. My ability to write about my work is not being evaluated, but rather the writing itself. I’ve always thought that if I could get someone at some press somewhere to actually read my work, that would be all it took.

What if I’m completely wrong?

I know, I know, rejection is rarely about the person (right?), but that doesn’t make this any less frightening. And maybe rejecting me would actually be less disheartening than rejecting what I’ve created.

Four more weeks…

Maybe I need some company in my misery. Do any of you have some heartbreaking rejection stories you’d like to share?

 

 

IWSG-November

Welcome to the November installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop. Once again we gather to discuss our writing successes and failures, our moments of joy and our deep dark fears. What a roller coaster ride of conflicting emotions!

If you want to find out more about us, or how to join, click this lovely link

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

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For the second month in a row, I’m choosing to answer the suggested question. I’m starting to see a trend. I go to the dentist (cavities this time, what a world), then the next day, I’m all about rule following. My guess is there is something in the fluoride.

November question- What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Some things come to mind: Being able to create people, events, worlds which did not exist before I put them on the page (what a powerful feeling). Finding ways to make sense of the emotions, events, people that make up my daily life (It is so damn cathartic). Sharing stories or swell blog posts with like minded people (people with minds like mine? Shudder)

All those things are wonderful, but the thing I love best about being a writer is the intimate connection I have with words and language.

I feel fortunate to think, write, read, understand the word through the English language, which is among the most vast languages in the world (containing over 1 million words). Of course there are things one cannot express very well in any language which are unique to cultures and regions, but a visit to any English thesaurus will show the flexibility and diversity of my native tongue.

Having a multitude of ways to express concepts is a priceless treasure for a writer (a thinker, a human being in general). The more words at my disposal, the more complex and diverse ways I can understand a concept, theory, etc. Language liberates my mind, gives structure to my thoughts, creates order out of chaos, and most importantly, allows me to communicate with all of you.

I’m rambling, but you get the idea.

Next month, I should write about the ambiguity of language, the arbitrary nature of meaning  and debunk this entire blog.

What about you clowns? What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Another option- write my language counter argument for me by defining the word meaning. 

Layers and layers of analogy, people.

An aside- My October experiment was not successful. The story I chose fell apart after about ten thousand words. I’m letting it sit for a while, and am moving on to a different project. I may or may not do NaNo. This afternoon’s effort will decide my fate.

Down the rabbit hole we go…