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Out From Under

Hey friends. I’m sorry to have missed last week’s blogging fun, but I have been a bit under the weather. I’m sure you don’t need the details.

The good news is I feel mostly better and am back into the swing of most things. I’ve not been around to comment on all of your lovely blogs, but I hope to use some time today to do so.

On the writing front, NaNo is off and running, and I have chosen to write a collection of unconnected short fiction. So far so good, and I am right on word count to this point. Some of the stories are rewrites of older (often shorter) works, so I’m unsure if this really qualifies as a pure NaNo WIP. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. If some project gets me writing and creating again, that makes me happy.

What surprises me is how different my writing style has become over the last five years, from the way I approach the story, to the overall tone and voice I’m writing with. I will let you know if this is a good or bad thing as the month progresses.

Any of you taking the plunge this year? I’d love to hear about your progress.

Some blah news- As my stories did not score enough points, I will not be continuing on in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. I’m not surprised. I really didn’t write well for this competition, and was mostly unprepared for the way the assignments were structured. I’m not too discouraged and might even enter the contest again next go around. This is a learning experience, and gosh, I like learning.

As always, I’d love to read your comments and talk some about writing, yours and mine.

 

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IWSG-October 2017

The leaves are changing on the mountains. Temperatures are hovering near perfection. I get to wear sweaters and long sleeve shirts. Autumn is here! Oh, and also, it is the first Wednesday of the month which is when the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gets together for their monthly blog hop. Check us out and sign up HERE 

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From the website:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

You can also answer the optional question each month.

for October the question is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

When I first read this, I thought in terms of identity theft. You know, something like I wrote my social security number on page 17, or maybe used my current street address. I can say with surety I’ve never done that.

But slipping personal things about myself, stories, traits, desires and dreams, sure.

When I was in my teens and twenties, the majority of my protagonists were loose representations of myself. I’d write about actual events, slightly tweaked, but anyone who knew me or was there could see through the flimsy disguise.

With practice, I got better and hiding things. Like many writers, I was able to create characters who could do and say things I might never dare try in my actual life. I would write idealized versions of who I’d like to be (and on one creepy occasion, someone I’d never want to be). The fictionalized adventures would be mine, become something like my memories.

If I’m being honest with myself, I think I still do this more than I’d like, but rather than jumble all these things into one character, I spread them out over everyone in the story.  Maybe others are talented enough to write complex and interesting characters based entirely on speculation, void of any connection to themselves or anyone they know. That is beyond my skill.

On another note, I finished the second round of the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. Hopefully this story is more well received than my last effort, which honestly wasn’t very good. This time, I wasn’t sleep deprived or unable to focus. Hopefully, I’ll actually score some points and maybe advance to the final two rounds. If not, it was a fun and challenging experience.

My only complaint about the contest is the rigid use of  genre and accompanying expectations. I know it makes judging a bit easier to have set criteria, but it makes the writing feel very controlled. I mentioned my story wasn’t quality work, but one of the critiques was, in romantic comedies, we expect a happier conclusion. In other words, don’t play with the genre. That seems a strange and vapid critique.

What about you clods? Any good words to share?

Selfish

As I looked up, streaks of pale pink and yellow stared back at me me. For a moment, it seemed as if the sky were moving at an incredible rate of speed, stretching the clouds, and the earth lurched to keep pace. I stumbled, confused and dizzy, forgetting why I had come to the city, who I intended to meet. A passing stranger spoke to me, but his words were a jumble of incoherent sounds. I could only stare at the fading light, awestruck.

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Three deep breaths, three rapid blinks, and I regained a recollection of my surroundings, who and where I was. She was waiting for me in the bar around the corner, a cold beer already placed on the table in front of the empty chair I would soon occupy. I was excited to see her again, share some conversation, one hundred laughs with someone I did not see enough of during the autumn months.

And in that moment, as I fumbled with my phone, framed a picture, instead of thinking how much she would appreciate the stunning sunset, the mountains dark silhouette like an oil painting, all I could think was how I wished you were right here to see this with me instead.

 

IWSG-September

It’s my favorite time of the year! Summer is waning, and while I am not a huge fan of long, cold, Utah winters, I do love autumn. The temperatures hover in the near perfect zone. Football has started up again. Kids are in school. I don’t have as many yard work responsibilities. I’m calmer.

And I can’t think of a better way to start off this glorious month than with another IWSG post.

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From the website:

-Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! –

Doesn’t that sound great? If you like the way that makes you feel inside, sign up here. You only have to (get to) post once a month, and the feedback is always on point.

September 6 Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

My second novel was going to be about a woman trapped by a blizzard in her mountain cabin, confronted by the sudden appearance of her husband who had died from a heart attack ten years previously. He would inform her that he had been sent by God, and that God had decided the world needed purging. He was ashamed of his children and wanted to wash his hands of them, forever. In six months time, humanity would be gone.

Over the course of the winter, she’d engage in back and forth conversations, hoping to convince her husband to intervene with God on behalf of humanity.

I liked the idea, thought it would make a compelling story. About thirty pages in, I realized the book was going to come off very didactic, preachy and arrogant. Also, I was losing interest in the overall arc of the characters. The minor players (out in the big wide world) felt flat, locked into certain behaviors. I didn’t want to scrap the entire concept, but knew the idea needed tweaking.

The story shifted into a science fiction tale, where beings from another world have tasked themselves with taking care of our planet. Frustrated by what they believe is an immoral human attack on the environment, they decide to reset the planet, eliminating the mechanisms that pollute and damage the planet. Most humans and their technology must go.

I had not written sci-fi since I was very young, and I was sure it would be a disaster. Maybe because I kept the story rooted in the 21st century, centered the action around one family (aware of what is happening, but unable to do anything to stop it), and another small band of people, I was able to stay focused, not write outside my ability, create a compelling story.

What surprised me most was the way certain moral dilemmas played out in the book. I tried to write from as neutral a perspective as I could. It was fun to leave certain questions unanswered.

I’m still very proud of the book, and try to push it on anyone willing to read it (you, maybe?). I’m still not completely comfortable writing science fiction, and would never claim to be good at it, but I did enjoy creating this particular book.

Maybe I’ll write a thriller next, or a horror novel. Yeah, that’s it.

 

 

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.