Friday, September 30, 2011

Dissecting the Short Story: "Beach Girl" by P. N. Elrod

This is the fourth in a series of posts (introduced here) which will appear every other Friday on my blog. In this series, a short story from a recent major fiction digest magazine will be analyzed in detail, to see what we can learn about how the author approached creating the story.

"Beach Girl" by P. N. Elrod
Published in:
November 2011 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Approximate Length:
5500 words
Third Person, Large Chunks in Flashback
Summary [WARNING: Spoilers Included!]:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DtSS Preview, Blog Award, September/October Goals

Every other Wednesday I announce the story which I'll be analyzing in the upcoming Friday "Dissecting the Short Story." This week's entry will be on P. N. Elrod's story "Beach Girl" from the November, 2011 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. If you have a copy of that magazine and would like to "read along" with me, now would be the time!

If you're not familiar with the "Dissecting the Short Story" series, what it consists of is a detailed analysis of the story, focusing on a variety of issues such as characterization, plotting, and word choice. All of the stories for this series are selected from major digest magazines. The ultimate goal is to be able to take the knowledge gained from examining the story to help better understand what makes stories which receive publication in the major digest magazines work for editors and readers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Value of Ideas

A question that's frequently posed by non-writers to writers is "Where do you get your ideas?" It's such a common question that some authors have taken to giving obviously-sarcastic answers.

I can understand where the question comes from, though. During my past writing hiatuses I haven't been inundated with story ideas and just thought "Nah, I'm not going to do anything with that."  During those times, I'm not consciously aware of many, if any, story ideas. So for those who don't write, I would expect that the same would apply. They never have that "Oh!" moment where a writer starts thinking "Hey, I could do something with this idea." And it's not because they aren't creative or aren't smart or anything like that. It's because they aren't thinking in the mindset of a writer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Links: September 25, 2011 Edition

Summer has officially given way to Fall. The next time I put up one of these weekly link roundups it will be October! Among other things, this means that NaNoWriMo is just a little bit over a month away. I'm planning to participate this year. Any readers who are also participating this year and would like to be "Writing Buddies" on the NaNo site, let me know in the comments below.

This week in the blog world has been busy, especially with the extremely challenging 2nd challenge in Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Writers' Campaign. If you read mine ("My Name is Imago Montoya...") and enjoyed it, I'd truly appreciate you voting for it by clicking here and "liking" entry #42. That's also where you'd go to see the complete list of entries -- there are some great ones out there, so it's worth a browse.

With that little bit of BSP out of the way, I hope you'll follow me past the jump to this week's links!

Friday, September 23, 2011

#FridayReads - What I'm Reading

I'm reading several things that I'm really liking right now, so this seemed like a great time to do a #fridayreads blog post. Before I get to the titles, yes, I'm one of those people who reads multiple books at the same time. (Oh, not at the same-same time. You know what I mean... I don't finish one before I start another.) I have been for as long as I can remember. When our house isn't in the middle of major renovations, there's usually a gigantic stack of to-be-reads and just-finished-readings and being-reads and started-but-didn't-finishes sitting on a nightstand by our bed.

That brings up another point.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"My Name is Imago Montoya..." (2nd WriteCampaign Challenge)

Rachel Harrie's Writer's Platform-Building Campaign is now onto its second challenge. This one was a doozy! In 200 words or fewer, include four -- shall we say, uncommon? -- words. Oh, and if you can throw in a reference to a mirror all the better.

If you like this, please consider going to the Linky List and voting for me. To my great delight, I am #42 in the list.

Without further ado...

"My Name is Imago Montoya"

The twins shriek through, chasing each other with plastic swords, dollhouse mirrors as shields, misquoting The Princess Bride.

No one’s killed me. I’m sitting right here, trying to write. You couldn’t tell from my progress. A miasma of doubt and frustration fills my brain.

Cindy comes in, fresh from the shower. An oversized Lacuna Coil tee hangs to her knees. Was there really a time we got to go to concerts? Her fingers flutter over my shoulders. “Getting anywhere?”

My sigh answers her. I’m getting nowhere on this sequel to my first novel, Synchronicity Blues.

“Prepare to die!” one girl shouts from another room. Cindy leaves to settle them.

I review my last few paragraphs. My heroine yawns three times in them. Thesaurus time! Gape, gawp, … oscitate? No. Maybe just better to rewrite, so I delete the troublesome text. Keep those eyes off the wordcount!

The girls dart in, Cindy following with an “I tried” shrug.

“Tell us a story, Daddy!”

I spin a tale of heroic princesses and treacherous dragons. Their rapt attention reminds me why I love storytelling.

My excitement must show. Cindy herds them off to bed. “Looks like dad’s ready to get back to work!”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One Size Doesn't Fit All

There's a lot of writing advice out there. If you add up all of the blogs with tips on writing, editing, querying, ePublishing, and more I'm sure there's enough every day to fill a good-sized book. It can get overwhelming trying to make your way through all of the information. You're wanting to tell your story, and you've got dozens of "Do"s and "Don't"s floating through your head, crowding out your characters, plot, and dialogue. What's more, you can easily find one person touting an approach that worked for them and another suggesting that writers should do the exact opposite.

There's a simple explanation for this. Not every tip is going to work for every writer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say for every writing suggestion, there's at least one writer that it just won't work for.

Monday, September 19, 2011

When Something Goes Wrong

Recently, I was taking a final pass through one of my short stories before sending it to a crit partner. As I was reading it, I was struck with a sickening feeling. There was a huge -- no, an enormous -- plot hole in the story. One that dealt with the central problem of the story and basically would have left the reader saying to themselves "Uh, hey, why are they going about it this way instead of just fixing the problem the easy way."

This, I must say, is not a happy feeling. For several moments, I was convinced that there was no way to salvage the story, and I was feeling rather stunned. In fact, I was pretty close to completely setting the story aside, putting it into the "nice idea" pile, and finding something else to send to my crit partner for his review. Fortunately, I got past that initial panic reaction and thought some more. Maybe there was a way to recover the story?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Links: September 18, 2011 Edition

Time to revisit the past week. It's seen me dive into writing a novel in addition to continuing work on my short fiction. The upcoming week has me a bit concerned. I'm on a good roll with my Seinfeld Chain (up to 17 days as of last night) but the next five days I'm going to be in training for my day job nearly 12 hours a day when you include transit time. Will I end up using a Mulligan? I hope not.

I came across some great blog posts around the internet this week, and I'm happy to present them past the jump. I hope everyone had a good week and has a great week this coming week.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dissecting the Short Story: "Aisle 1047" by Jon Armstrong

This is the third of a series of posts (introduced here) which will appear once every two weeks on the blog. In this series, a short story from a recent major digest will be analyzed in detail, to see what we can learn about how the author approached creating the story.

"Aisle 1047" by Jon Armstrong
Published in:
September/October 2011 Fantasy and Science Fiction
Approximate Length:
5000 words
Third Person, Essentially Chronological
Summary [WARNING: Spoilers Included!]:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dissecting the Short Story Preview & Goals Update

Every second Friday I post a new entry in my "Dissecting the Short Story" series. In this series I write up a detailed analysis of the story and what I think may have been some of the issues that the writer considered in crafting their story. The goal is to use this analysis to help better understand what makes stories which receive publication in the major digest magazines work for editors and readers.

This week's dissection will be of Jon Armstrong's "Aisle 1047." This one is a bit different from the last two stories I've analyzed, so it should be an interesting discussion. This story was published in the September/October 2011 edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. So, if you have that issue and haven't read this story yet, now would be the time.

Also, I wanted to give a quick update on my September goals.

1) Write 15,000 words of fiction across at least four stories. - I've got the "at least four stories piece done" and I'm well on my way to 15,000 words.
2) Take all of my August stories which have not yet gone through Beta/critique through Beta/critique. - In progress. I've completed this for several stories and have several more where I've received feedback and need to use it for revisions. I do also have one August story that's awaiting a second draft before I send it out for critique.
3) Stick to my planned Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday blogging schedule. - On target.

I hope that everyone is having a good week. See you on Friday at the dissection!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Striking a Balance

Along with my recent leap back into actively writing fiction, I've also been exploring the social media world as it relates to writers and writing. I've been on Facebook for quite a while now and also had a Twitter account which I mostly used to keep track of news relating to my beloved Columbus Blue Jackets. I even had a blog briefly a couple of years ago where I rambled about whatever came into my mind; I don't think anyone visited it except for maybe some Russian spamming sites. Recently, I've been following, liking, and blogging about writing like a man possessed.

Not long ago, Twitter told me that I had hit a limit for the number of accounts I could follow. I'd already been giving some thought to how much time I was spending talking about writing as opposed to actually doing writing. This was another reminder that I needed to make sure I was maintaining an appropriate balance.

But how do I know where that balance is? What would be some signs that I'd missed the mark? Here are three that come to mind:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Links: September 11, 2011 Edition

In addition to my usual Sunday link roundup this week, I'll be responding to some recent blog awards which have been presented to me.

Glitter Lady presented me with the Versatile Blogger award  which calls for listing 7 random facts about yourself and linking back to 15 (!) blogs.  I also received this award from Ms. Saba at Of Thoughts and Words.
Annalise Green presented me with a 2nd Liebster Award which calls for passing the award along to several other blogs.  And I just saw that Kate Lineberger also presented me a Liebster!
Finally, Daina Rustin at Mystic Treehouse tagged me to list 10 random facts and tag back five other bloggers.

Whew! OK, so to keep this something vaguely resembling simple, I'll list a total of 10 random facts and tag back a total of five bloggers.  Everyone I tag back can consider themselves recipients of both the Liebster and the Versatile Blogger award.

But first, this week's links!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Stretching Out

In the last six weeks I've written first drafts of 16 stories ranging in length from 200 words to about 5500 words. Many of these have gone through revisions and/or Beta and are out to markets. I'm thrilled with the volume of writing I've gotten done, but I'm also running into a situation where I'm starting to feel like I'm doing some serious juggling. Several of my stories have sat in first draft now for 1-2 weeks without me revisiting them for a second draft. This is due to a combination of factors. One is that I'm spending time doing revisions of slightly older stories based on feedback from Beta crit partners. The other is that with my goal of having 500 news words every day and with the fact that my average story length is about 2000 words, I'm producing at least two new stories a week. Finally, just the process of submitting all these stories is taking a non-trivial chunk of time.

The longest story I've ever written is just under 10,000 words. When I first started investigating being published -- around 1990 -- the common wisdom was that novelettes and novellas were next-to-impossible to sell for non-established writers. That might be a bit less true today if you consider self-publishing options. But, for now, I'm still primarily interested in following the "traditional" publishing route. I'm interested in learning about self-publishing, but not ready to jump into those waters yet.

I've already planned to do NaNoWriMo in November. But I've got two novel ideas and I'm feeling the itch to try to start diving in to one of them sooner than that. Starting on one of these would let me keep working on writing every day while not adding to my backlog of short stories. I could still write a short if the mood struck me. In fact, I'll probably try to do that to make sure I don't let the short story muscles I've been building up recently get flabby. Looking at themed issues and anthologies seems like a possible way to keep myself using those skills.

On the one hand, it's an exciting thought, tackling something new. On the other hand, it's scary. A novel is a big project representing a lot of time commitment. The thought of spending all that time on something that possibly no one but my Betas would ever read is unsettling. But I think I'm going to take the plunge.

I'd love any advice from people who have gone through that shift of writing shorts to writing novels. Naturally, I'll keep everyone posted on my progress. My plan at the moment is to do some preliminary work over the next few days (while getting my 500 words in on other tasks) and start Chapter 1 by the middle of next week.

OK, I've said it. Now I just have to trust in myself and let peer pressure help keep me "honest" to what I've decided I want to do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Paying it Forward... Liebster Awards

Last week Angela Brown bestowed the Liebster Award to me and four other bloggers. What is the Liebster Award? "The basic idea of the Liebster Award is to showcase bloggers with less than 200 followers." The name, though it may put pulp and science fiction fans in mind of Murray Leinster, is derived from a German term for a close friend.

The tradition with the Liebster Award is to pass it along to five other blogs and I'm doing that today. I am apparently not yet "hip" to how I can determine which blogs have fewer than 200 followers. Unless they had a Google Reader box showing follower count, I was clueless. But I did try to find blogs which didn't appear to be flooded with existing reader comments. Tricky, in the midst of this Platform-Building Campaign!  :)

Without further ado, the Liebsters go to...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Chamber - First WriteCampaign Challenge

The first challenge of Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Campaign has been issued. The challenge is to write a story of 200 words or fewer, starting with the words "The door swung open." Extra degrees of difficulty can be added by ending the story with the words "the door swung shut" and/or hitting exactly 200 words. Naturally, I couldn't make it easy on myself...

I hope you enjoy this little story, where a number of people step into, but don't step out of...

The Chamber

The door swung open. The next person in line entered the empty chamber. Dr. Ziegler fiddled with the control panel and the chamber door closed. A buzz filled the room. A light on the panel switched from steady green to flashing amber. A minute later the door re-opened on a barren chamber.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

So, this Labor Day morning has not gone as I expected. I woke up to the sound -- so I thought -- of someone showering in the hall bathroom. I didn't have to get up right away, so I was still relaxing in bed when one of our children came in. She told me that the upstairs bathroom toilet was overflowing and that the floor was soaked. That sounded bad.

I realized it was worse when I walked downstairs and saw torrents of water running through the ceiling into our kitchen. But, as they say, wait... there's more.

The basement also had water flowing into it from its ceiling.

We've taken a first pass at cleaning up and are waiting for a service company to come out to help with the damage as I type this post. I'm not writing this up for sympathy (though I'd certainly accept any sent my way) but because in considering this morning I realized it provides a valuable lesson for writers. See what I mean, past the jump...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Links : September 4, 2011 Edition

I don't think I've ever explicitly stated my blogging schedule in full. I post new items every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Every other week, the Wednesday post previews the new Dissecting the Short Story entry and Friday is the full dissection. Sundays I post links to new articles from the week that I found interesting and also recap the week on my blog.

Now, to the links!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dissecting the Short Story: "Less Stately Mansions" by Rob Chilson

This is the second of a series of posts (introduced here) which will appear once every two weeks on the blog. In this series, a short story from a recent major digest will be analyzed in detail, to see what we can learn about how the author approached creating the story.

"Less Stately Mansions" by Rob Chilson
Published in: 
July/August 2011 Fantasy and Science Fiction
Approximate Length:
6000 words
Chronological Narrative, Third-Person Limited
Summary [WARNING: Spoilers Included!]:
An older man, Jacob Mannheim, lives as a farmer on Earth of the distant future. Many people on Earth have emigrated to colonies; there are generous buyout offers for people who own land on Earth and will emigrate. An impending ecological disaster -- a great freeze -- will lead to his land eventually being worthless. However, Jacob has no interest in abandoning his farm and his younger relatives are distraught that he won't accept the buyout which would enrich their eventual inheritance.