Start at the action

Now that I’ve got a bit of experience slush reading at our new magazine, I can say ‘start at the action’ with even more certainty than ever.

When you’re reading someone else’s story, who you don’t know, and have no preconceptions about, it is a lot easier to see faults. One fault being ‘I have no desire to keep reading this because nothing is happening.’ If your friend or family wrote the story, you want to see what happens because you are curious about the ideas in the head of someone you care about. But, most other people reading that story might get bored…

If your story is about a bank robbery, start at the bank. A detailed account of the afternoon leading up to the robbery is going to lose 90% of your readers, even if it’s really great prose. Short stories aren’t novels, people don’t know what they are about or what to expect, so you have to let them know what the story is about right away and give them a reason to keep reading.

I think I will learn a lot about writing from the experience with this magazine!

Dual mind

Writing takes love, self confidence, optimism, and hope in order to complete anything. But editing, I am coming to believe, takes hate, pessimism, and self-disgust.

A writer has to be two people, two halves isolated from each other–the writing half is an excited person full of energy and love for the words they are creating (ideally). But when its time to edit, you better hate those words enough to slash them to pieces and bury them in an unmarked grave, all while laughing and spitting on them for how terrible they are.

Have I mastered this? I don’t know. But it helps, I think, to imagine the words as someone else’s. Some other me who is a terrible writer and I can scoff at their incompetence and point out every single flaw. Then once everything is highlighted and marked and notated, I can turn back into the creative optimist and fix it all up.

That’s the plan anyway. It is pretty hard!

The grind

I logged into my Submissions Grinder account for the first time since 2014, and boy did I used to submit a lot of stories everywhere… I miss that. Writing novels has kind of taken a lot of the excitement and feeling of making progress out of writing for me, since they take so damn long. Well, I want it back!

I think I can allow myself some variation without getting distracted.

My plan, now, is to allow myself one short story per 10,000 novel words. Goals/deadlines/requirements seem to motivate me, so maybe this will actually increase the speed I’m writing this novel.

And maybe… just maybe I’ll actually sell something again…

Multitasking with words

I wish I could write two things at once. But I’m terrible at focusing my attention, and anything that took my mind away from my current novel would have to be very short indeed, or risk me never going back to what I’m doing now…

Should I try flash fiction again? Maybe. I’ve never found it very fulfilling but maybe it will feed some part of my wandering mind and keep me more satisfied.

Perhaps there will be some vignettes posted here in the near future…

There is only one reason to write

Because you want to be famous?   ****X****

Because you want money? ****X****

Because you want everyone to know how smart you are? ****X****

Because you want people to think you are mysterious? ****X****

Because the ghost of PKD has possessed your fingers and is forcing you to scrawl dozens of pages of deep, yet clearly insane ramblings in your crumpled, sweat stained journal every night? ****√****

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

This is the first experience I can remember of being really impacted by a short story. I read it in high-school, at 15 or 16 years old, and have remembered it ever since.

The story tells of a man about to be executed by hanging, from the aforementioned bridge. When he is pushed off, however, the rope breaks and he falls into the water and swims to safety. After running through a seemingly endless forest, hearing voices and hallucinating, he comes home to his wife–but before he can embrace her is struck on the neck from behind and gone in a flash of light.

It is revealed at the end that the whole escape was imagined in the seconds during his fall, before his neck was broken.

This may sound a common theme for stories, but this one was written in 1890, and so I’m sure has influenced many a writer over the past century!

This story was the first one I can remember that made me question reality, and wonder about death and the brain and our perceptions. I still think of it every now and then to this day. Click the link at the start of this post and read it if you haven’t!

week 9

I nearly gave up this week, then I came across a story I’d started writing a month or two back and got re-inspired by it, and finished it.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever managed to come back to a project that I put on hold. Most the time when I ‘take a break’ from something, it is forever in the drawer, never to be worked on again. Maybe, there is hope for me ever having multiple projects at once after all!

The story was sort of fairy-tale ish, about the Queen of Time, who makes the seconds tick by but can have take no part in all the happenings she observes. It wasn’t inspired by this weeks prompt but sort of fits with it anyway so I’m going to go ahead and check it off my list.

I’m beginning to question whether it’s possible to write anything worthwhile with only a week to think about it. But either way this challenge is getting a lot of writing out of me, and hopefully there is gems of goodness in some of these stories that can be polished up later.

Week ten, here I come!