The 500 Words Short Story Project is up and running again, this time with other writers playing along, and I’m giving myself a personal challenge to stay in the realistic fiction lane this month. The first round of blurts flowed easily enough, thankfully, so there are more challenges ahead.
Dipping into science fiction/fantasy or simply the fantastical opens up a lot of possibilities as a pantser. I can turn corners, create new world elements, and stretch the capabilities of my characters to make the stories more interesting. Shrinking the space (tip #25), or putting up limits around the thing you’re working on getting better at, is one of the suggestions from The Little Book of Talent. Staying in the box of realistic fiction is forcing me to dig deeper into thoughts, feelings, motivations, and natural elements of life. It’s an interesting shift after spending the last Nanowrimo working on a story that follows characters who talk with trees.
Where these blurts will lead and which one will win the honor of being finished as a true short story is anybody’s guess. For now, I’m just holding on for the ride.
I made a commitment on Twitter last week (yes, I’m working on accepting Twitter into my life – follow me if you’d like) that will shape my October. I committed to doing 3 things daily: Read, Write, and Edit.
It’s the morning of 10/3 and I’m still on track. 🙂
I’ll be blogging my way through the month as well (not daily) and have high hopes for a productive month. Part of this is to get me back in the swing of daily writing before Nanowrimo kicks off 11/1. Part of this is to get me back on track for having Gretchen published by the end of the year (stretch goal for sure). Part of this is about making and taking time for the things that I know help me on a mental health level.
On a quantitative level, I hope to have the following completed by 10/31:
Final(ish) edit of Gretchen
5 books read
31-document Scrivener file
What are YOU working on this month?
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? If a writer collects words on the page and no one is there to read them, are they still an author?
Week 2 of my 3rd round of the 500Words Short Story project is coming to a close and I’m feeling the silence. My motivation for this project is twofold –
1 – Use daily practice and outside input to develop strong short-story prowess so I can create short stories suitable for submission to magazines for publication and,
2 – Develop a “following” and an “online presence” to make myself more appealing to potential publishers.
Both 1 and 2 are intended to make it so I can get my first novel published. That is the end game. That is the ultimate goal (though not my Big Goal – that stays secret). I know short stories are not novels (or even short novels). I also know that writing credits of some kind are better than none.
So, I guess the real question is…
If a novel is written and no one gets to read it, does it still exist?
I unplug for Shabbat (no internet, no phone, no computer) every week. It’s become something I look forward to as the week plugs along, and a big part of that is the deeper conversations I end up having since my phone is tucked away, silent. This Shabbat, the conversations between my husband and me turned to writing.
Do you have a “significant other” in your life? Have you experienced the joy that is talking about a shared craft or passion? It is divine.
We both participated in Nanowrimo this past year (my 2nd, his 1st) and I’m in the process of reading the collection of short stories he wrote, so some of our conversations were about that – sharing feedback and learning about his inspiration sources and the like. We also talked about how to go about getting better at this thing called writing, and our different processes for taking an idea and getting it down on the page, and how our reading of other people’s works has changed since writing, and about the parallels to other creative outlets, and about ourselves.
It was wonderful. As the 25-hour break came to a close, all I wanted to do was to get to the computer and document the experience. Writing (and sharing) is a powerful connector.
In Stephen King’s On Writing, he talks about needing to be prepared to “kill your darlings” and I had the chance to put that into practice this week.
My process for the 500Words short story project is to, in the fourth week of each round, add words to the chosen story daily for a week. This results in a long-ish short story (around 4000 words) by Friday with final edits being done on Sunday.
The process of writing daily and then, as the wise Mr. King advises, killing the darlings will, by the end of tomorrow, leave me with a finished short story of no more than 2000 words.
Every time I sit down to work on this project – every single time – I learn something new. I can feel my brain growing and stretching. I can see the impact in the stories I create.
I love writing.
My husband has been my Alpha Reader since the very beginning. After years of proofing and providing feedback on blog posts (and emails and marketing material…) he was the first person I trusted with my first novel. I was confident that he would a) read it, b) give me honest feedback and, c) be kind if the thought it was drivel.
Putting your work into someone else’s hands can be scary. Putting my story-starts out here for any and all to see is terrifying. I am able to do that in part because of the confidence I gained by having Alpha and Beta readers last year. I wrote, I shared, and I lived to tell the tale.
Tomorrow I will begin to return the favor for the first time – I get to be his Alpha Reader and be the first person to see the collection of short stories he created during Nanowrimo 2017. I pledge to be as honest and supportive of him and his work as he continues to be of mine.
Being creative in public is not for the faint of heart.
#doitanyway #showyourwork #failfaster #givefeedbackwithcare
This past week was a rough one in my “real life” and that showed up in my writing. Interestingly, none of the story-starts this week had anything to do with what was actually happening. The weight of things was definitely reflected in the story-starts. As a result, I created five dark pieces.
Dark isn’t a bad thing, and conflict needs to exist for there to be something to push the story forward. I still find it interesting that I wasn’t trying to infuse my writing with darkness this week. Even a little story-start about a snowflake took an ominous turn.
All of these 500Words pieces are created on the fly with whatever is in my head at the moment I find myself with the time to write. I am looking forward to seeing what my brain comes up with as an add-on to whichever start wins the vote. I wonder – will the darkness continue, or might the story take another unexpected turn towards the light?
Thanks to being struck idle by both the wicked cold (flu?) and back spasms, I had ample time this week for reading and thinking. I finished off my Nano 2017 novel, A Memoir (Imagined), and made some pleasant realizations.
- In the year of writing since 2016’s nano novel (my first), I’ve gotten better at defining and maintaining the distinct voices of my characters. Most of my big edits of Gretchen related to correcting the voice of various sections. In this novel, each character’s voice stays true throughout – progress!
- This year’s story has a strong plot that is the focus of the novel. I ended up writing a YA SCI-Fi story which is far more plot-driven than last year’s piece of literary fiction. The difference is both fun to see and fun to read.
- I spent more time having my characters DO in this novel. Partly due to the difference in genre and partly due to intentionally crafting the story in this way, there is much less telling in this book.
- I liked it! This isn’t a drastic difference from last year, though in the process of writing this one I really felt like I might be creating drivel that wouldn’t need to be read by anyone other than me. I was pleasantly surprised to like the story and the characters and am now looking forward to editing it and getting it out to somewhere readable by others.
I’ve made a promise to myself to hold off on digging deep with this one until Gretchen is out the door (at least until I get the first full-manuscript request from an agent) so I’m not trying to edit two books at once. Querying out Gretchen *should* resume again in February, so A Memoir (Imagined) will need to lay dormant until spring at least. I look forward to reading it again, red pen in hand!
This week marks the end of the first month of my 500Words project. It’s been quite the adventure! Coming up with the story starts has been, I think, the easiest part. The ideas come from snippets of conversation, random thoughts, and things I see around me. My eyes and ears are open for about 17 hours a day so there’s a lot of potential fodder floating around!
The putting the stories out into the world and hoping folks read and comment is far scarier, though is technically “easy”. I’ve gotten into a pattern of posting daily here and then sharing those posts via social media. The gulp involved in knowing that the words are out there for all the world to see is getting smaller each day. As Austin Kleon says, Show Your Work.
The most challenging piece has been adding on to the starts, both the 1000 words in stage two and the full story in stage three. I’ve pantsed my way through Nanowrimo twice – this writing with edges is an entirely different beast! It’s a good exercise in stretching my creative muscles in different ways and I’m enjoying the challenge of it all.
My intention is to repeat the process for two more months at least, and I may continue all the way until next November when Nano strikes again. Perhaps one of these short stories will become the seed of my 2018 novel, complete with a chapter outline. Perhaps I’ll pants it again. Only time will tell!
I cracked open my 2017 Nano novel today, a month and 6 days after I finished writing it. Last year, I only managed to wait 2 weeks to go back in! The wait feels like a success in and of itself since restraint and patience are not typically in the vocabulary of words used to describe me.
I credit Stephen King’s On Writing and a year’s worth of writing practice with my newfound resolve, and I can see the benefit of the distance from the piece. There really is something to be said for getting far enough from the creation to be able to see it with fresh eyes.
I’m only one chapter in so far and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. This novel is significantly shorter than my 2016 creation, so I imagine I’ll be able to finish reading it this week.
I’m making myself read it without editing – just letting the words and the story wash over me. The second read-through will be done with red pen in hand. For now, it’s just a story crafted by past-me, in a genre that is outside of my usual reading material, about a world that is only 1/3 created (this is book one of three, I think).