Thursday, June 18, 2009

Outlines are Fun

Before I get to babbling about outlines, let me direct you to some light-hearted flash fiction I've been writing on ficly. These pieces are prayers from Caveman Bob (or his family + associates) to God, and you can find related prayers written by me and by other people by clicking around on either the "prequels" or the "sequels" at the bottom of the piece. They are fun to write, so I command you to have fun reading them!

It's been that, and it's been outlines and notes for story ideas. In some ways, writing outlines makes me itch to actually begin the stories, but I'm a bit leery about that because of the upcoming interruption (having the baby). I'd rather write a good outline now and start a story fresh later than start the story and have 2,000 words that I never pick up again.

Besides, I've had periods like this before, where my brain just decides to switch gears for me from writing to conceptualizing. It tends to happen after I've finished (or abandoned) a large project. This is partly because, for me, outlining and writing are separate things. I'm not saying I won't start writing a story just because I don't have an outline (which, by the way, doesn't have to be written down to count). But for the majority of my stories I like to have enough planned that I feel like I know where the story is going. I like to feel as if I'm approaching an end that I will be able to come up with, or further define, or just plain fix, later. I know a lot of writers do the exact opposite, but for me, the initial conceptualizing of the work is exactly when I "go with the flow" and it's almost like actually trying to write it down at that point would be an interruption to the creative process.

Another reason is simply because I've been sick. There's something about being sick that makes me appreciate being better and makes me want to do stuff, and this time, that's creating and outlining. Whatever, I'll take it!

The two stories, are, briefly:
Clear Omens - A fantasy story where the characters are concerned with the mysterious birth of non-mages in a world where every one is a mage. The context of this story is heavily religious and even some of the events are patterned after Judeo-Christian beliefs. So, my beliefs, but I still wonder if some people will be needlessly offended. Probably. I mean, people are offended by Narnia somehow.
Shards - Also fantasy, but this one doesn't come with a plot yet. World building has been fun, though! The setup is also partly religious but, since I made the Narnia comparison, in more of a LOTR style where it simply explains how some things came to be. It involves a gift from God shattering and its pieces falling all over the world, where they create magic that humans can use. Yay, magic!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Good News Comes with Bad

In the week since I last blogged, I've gotten news about many things, both personal and professional (writing). We'll stick to the writing news, but suffice it to say that the personal news has also been a mixed bag. Life is just like that. Except that with personal news, it happens to you whether you put yourself out there or not. Your actions may greatly influence what kind of news you get in your personal life, but if you sit around and do nothing, stuff still happens to you.

Writing is quite different. Ain't nothing gonna happen if you don't put your work out there in some way. The first step to somebody liking it is somebody reading it. (As a side note on that, since I've gotten less sick, I started writing on a collaborative short fiction site @earl7399 showed me. Check out my work on ficly here. I was also delighted to beta read @dreamrock's story here.)

What that means for me is that even though I've been sick this past week and unable to write, it's been a week of news because I have been keeping up with submissions and that sort of thing. Before I brag just a bit, let me tell you that I've gotten many, many rejections. But along with upping the number of rejections listed in the sidebar, I've also received two and a half acceptances:

"Queen" - PicFic - Coming June 22, 2009
"Jimmy's Leg" - Amphetamine Press - Unknown 2009

The other half acceptance is that my fantasy short story submission "Invisible Trees" made the Adromeda Spaceways short list. I was intrigued by the fact that they inform me of the selection process before I even got the first email saying that I had passed such-and-such round. The short list means that they like it, and now they leave it in a pile for their editors to pick from. They were also kind enough to inform me that about 1/3 of stories from the short list get chosen for publication, and that it can take up to three months.

What this comes down to for me is the best news I've ever had yet on any short story I've ever submitted. All of my accepted works have been flash fiction of some type. I have been musing lately about how, when it comes down to it, flash fiction is faster to write, read, and accept or reject. This story I submitted the 15th of April, and I'm set to wait an additional three months. In contrast, the "Queen" twitter serial, which is flash fiction, got accepted literally the day I sent it. I'm sure that was partly good timing on my part, sending it a day that the editor was reading submissions, but still. Most of the flash fiction I've submitted gets responded to in a week, maybe two weeks. Short story submissions take months.

But hey, if I actually get a short story accepted somewhere this year, it will certainly be worth the wait. And even if this particular submission doesn't pass the final bar, I'm happy to know that people liked it enough for it to get this far. There are so many form rejection letters out there that it can be hard to tell if a story is even worth submitting again, or if it needs editing first, or if should be scrapped altogether. That's part of what fuels the debate on how many times you should bother submitting a particular piece. I've got another short story that's had 8 total rejections despite how much my various beta readers liked it. So for this story, I like knowing how many rounds it passed. Maybe I'll submit my 8-rejection-letters story to them so I can see if it even gets passed the first round. Haha!

I'd better sign off. Writing and submitting my work means actually getting some sleep some time. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Recording Bluuuues

I was looking forward to recording this weekend with my co-host for Dear Editor, but today I learned that she's come down with a sore throat. Aw. Here's hoping she curls up with some chicken soup and gets better soon! Usually it's me that's too sick to want to record. There was a long period earlier this year where my voice just sounded too awful because of allergies. In fact, if you listen to the episodes, I bet you can pick out which was the last we recorded before we decided that my voice was too distorted.

One of the reasons I wanted to record was because next Monday's release, "The Reset Button," is currently the last regular episode we have up and ready. We have several reviews, though! Including, on the 15th, a guest review of Cold Duty.

Speaking of reviews, I've been reading Crime and Punishment. Remember the last time I did a review of a classical piece? I was very disappointed in “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright, because I'd read novels by him that I'd liked. And that brings me to a story.

My husband and I were talking to friends a week or so ago and somehow he started talking about an essay he hated doing back in High School. One thing he hated about it was that his teacher picked the subject-- the author and the story-- that he was to write about, and the essay had to be longer than the actual story! Then he starts describing the story to us and lo and behold! If it ain't friggen "The Man Who Was Almost a Man!" His hatred for the story burns as deep as mine, so much so that he remembered it many years later. Truly we were meant for each other.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Short Attention Span

After writing my last post, I realized that with a shorter attention span I should be focusing more on shorter works. I've been toying with flash fiction for the past month or so now, but over the weekend I was more productive and focused. Two of the pieces I completed (first draft, at least) were "Passing the Test" which is under 500 words, and "Throwing Stones" which is just under 1000. Both of these are scifi and one involves a robot. Both imply the death of children. Hmn.

I've also been interested in twitter serials, which just seem like an odd concept to me. The few that I've seen I have not liked. I do, however, get the idea that it's not supposed to be a longer story arbitrarily broken up. It has to be written for the form. So I tried that -- yet more robots! -- "Robot Wife" which centers around a robot revolution in 12 tweetable morsels. Confining myself to that form was interesting and reminded me of when I used to write poetry. I doubt that it will be something that I try my hand at on a regular basis, though. Even for my currently broken attention span, the very idea of a twitter serial is a bit... disconnected.

I wonder if other writers go through periods where they are stuck on/experiment with one form versus another. Had a brief but interest conversation with another writer, "Saudu" on twitter, because his works are typically very long, and even before this little burst of flash fiction, mine are typically much shorter. It also reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Stephen R. Donaldson. His Thomas Covenant series books are quite long. One time I picked up a collection of "short" stories by him. I think every one else would call them novellas-- and then to top it off, one of the stories was actually a huge chunk cut out of one of his books by his editor! I feel like I am on the other spectrum. I've never completed any thing long enough to be considered a novel. One incomplete at 120k is the longest I've ever written. At least, so far. I will most likely try my hand at longer works again some day, and who knows? Not totally fail next time. :)