Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Last week, my partner emailed me a small selection of links and said you have to read these. I did so.

And now I am giving you a small selection of links and saying no, really, YOU HAVE TO READ THESE.

First up, we’ve got How to Become a Mars Overlord by Catherynne M. Valente, published by Lightspeed Magazine. The explosive richness of the prose and the vivid snapshots of alien culture and mythos are amazing – reading this is like bathing in a nebula.

Next is Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time, also by Cat Valente, published by Clarkesworld Magazine. I can’t even begin to describe the brain-melting blend of science, world mythology, and personal history that she encapsulates here. I mean, just look at the beginning lines:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a high-density pre-baryogenesis singularity. Darkness lay over the deep and God moved upon the face of the hyperspatial matrix. He separated the firmament from the quark-gluon plasma and said: let there be particle/anti-particle pairs, and there was light.

How cool is that?

Thirdly, we have As Below, So Above by Ferrett Steinmetz, published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I am a sucker for stories written from non-human viewpoints, and Ferrett pulls it off with brilliant clarity and easy readability. The worldbuilding is stellar in its subtle detail, and the slow, smooth untangling (or further tangling) of the plot kept my eyes glued to the screen with barely time for a blink.

And lastly, certainly not leastly, the fourth story is from Cat Valente: The Days of Flaming Motorcycles, found in Apex Magazine. This is the most unexpected and original zombie story I’ve ever read, and it packs an emotional punch right next to a fascinating premise.

That’s what I’ve been reading – what about you? Got links to other short stories or poems to share? I’m hungry for more words!

After reading a friend’s personal writing rules, then following the bread crumbs back to Ash Autumn’s rules, I wanted to play the game. I found myself getting verbose, so I separated my rules into two parts.

rules of passion

  • Write what you crave to be writing. Write what you’d exult in reading.
  • Don’t settle for less than gut-wrenching, eye-popping emotion. (As my partner said: Make it hurt more.)
  • Tell stories that could be real.
  • Enjoy the journey. Every step taken, every word written, every thing learned, every new experiment is useful in some way. Don’t scoff at the past or your old work – it helped get you here. Value everything, but cling to nothing.
  • Be loyal to the truth of the story, even if that goes against publishing trends, majority preferences, and writing advice. You can tell in your gut if it’s right or if it’s wrong.
  • If you don’t write it, no one will.

rules of craft

  • Stay true to your unique voice, but let it evolve with time and experience.
  • It doesn’t have to get published. It just has to get written.
  • Don’t be afraid to rewrite. A lot. Seriously.
  • Diversify. Shatter stereotypes. Twist tropes, warp clich├ęs.
  • Don’t let anybody be “evil.” Minimize redshirts. Make each named character a real person with sympathizable motivations, even (especially!) the antagonists.
  • Make the worldbuilding solid, detailed, and believable. It doesn’t have to be shown in the story, but it needs to hold its structure and individuality under inspection.
  • Get feedback from all sorts. Whatever skill or information you lack, find someone who has it in spades and get their opinion/help.
  • Take criticism gratefully and run it through your logic filters. After thinking hard, make changes that make sense.

What are your rules for engaging with creativity and producing your form of art? Share them in the comments, or do a blog post of your own!

Some of my brilliant writer-friends keep talking or blogging about their writing. Not just wordcount updates, but how the process hits them, where they are in their personal arcs, what they’ve figured out and what’s left to learn about their stories.

I love those posts/conversations. I love hearing about writing progress and ideas and excitement and flailing. I am just as interested in commiserating about the stuck moments as I am in exulting about the lightbulb epiphanies.

Then I realized that I could write those kinds of posts, too! And perhaps someone would be interested, in the same way I am interested in others’ posts!


So I’m going to ramble today. And perhaps more than just today. Perhaps you will see regular posts that are not comprised solely of fiction snippets and awesomesauce collections from around the ‘net. Wouldn’t that be somethin’?

What I’m Working On

I’m fidgeting with three WIPs at the moment and trying to pick one to focus on. The focusing thing may or may not happen, because I’ve been trying to choose among them for weeks now and haven’t been able to yet.

First off, we have Enmity, the prequel to the Jubagh series. It’s the shortest WIP of the three in wordcount, and its outline is done and solid but for one lingering, missing plot twist at the climax. Right now, the main plotline is a little too straight-and-dry for my tastes. I need to tangle it a bit.

Secondly, we have Gudgeon, last year’s NaNoWriMo novel. (That’s one of the main characters right there, Berin of Ghura. He’s a rarra.) It has a good 50,000+ words on it, but the vast majority of those need to be rewritten. The first draft created in November served only to show me glimpses of its potential; I have a solid and detailed outline for it now, the first really thorough outline I’ve ever done, and I want to rewrite it entirely. It’s a little more severe and darker than most of my plots, but I think it’s a story worth telling.

Lastly, we have Ghosts, 2009’s NaNo novel. It was the first story I actually completed within the month’s deadline and 50k wordcount, and it didn’t suck! I recently reread it, realized how simplistic and undeveloped the plot was, and remembered how much I loved the characters and the concept. I’m about 80% done with the new outline, which is much more intense, believable, complicated, and tighter than the original. I even wrote a short story to help flesh out some of the characters’ backstory, which happens well before the novel begins; you can also take a peek at the first chapter in its revised (but not finalized) glory.

All three novels are set in the Gurhai universe, a place of space galleons, tiny orbiting suns, disc-shaped worlds, and special gravitic ore that produces both gravity and magical energy. Gudgeon and Ghosts – both of which are working titles, so no snickering, you – are set on the same planet in Gurhai: Ryarna, industry-dessicated desert world of the magic-talented, carnivorous, rabbit-eared rarra and their ghost-powered mechanical beasts, animetals. Enmity takes place on a handful of different worlds, including the homeworld of the main characters of Ghosts (who are not rarra, but are corata from Oakh).

I’m really excited about all three novels, especially Enmity: once I finish that, it catapults me back into the rough drafts of the 4.5 books I’ve written in the Jubagh series, and I can rewrite and revise and update and play with all of my favorite people again. However, since Ghosts and Gudgeon are much farther along than Enmity in many ways, I may choose one of those to push through the finishing-and-polishing process first, just to gobble up experience that I can learn from and use on Enmity afterwards. I have written many a story, and some a novel, but never gotten one truly done to the point where I was comfortable asking for beta readers.

And that’s my goal. Taking a novel to a place where I have done all I possibly can by myself, then passing it along to people who can help me improve it even more.

So, fellow writers – what are you working on right now? I want to know!

In an effort to write more, connect more, and have more fun, I am raising @15minfic from the dead. (Cue the chanting, incense, and gothic candle-holders. Mmm, incense.)

In essence, 15 Minute Ficlets is prompt-based spontaneous writing. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’ll post a prompt – a word, an image, a quote, some lyrics – and as soon as you see the prompt, you start writing. You only get fifteen minutes to put words down. The prompt will be posted on the forum and on Twitter.

From there, you can do whatever you want. I suggest posting your ficlet in a reply to the original prompt on the forum and/or share it wherever you live on the internet – Twitter (hashtag: #15minfic), Facebook, your blog, etc. I want to help both of us write more often and more freely, and this is my favorite method of doing it.

Wanna play? Check out today’s image prompt!

Over this glorious four-day weekend, I decided to try my long-awaited 50k/24hr challenge. That means writing 50,000 words in 24 timed, not necessarily consecutive, hours. I can type 119 wpm accurately, and I can write 700 to 800 words of fiction in a 15 minute sprint; that means, with an average of 3k an hour, it would only take me 17 hours, not 24, to finish the challenge. Simple, right? For me, the test would be endurance, not speed.

I started the weekend with 13,644 on my NaNoWriMo novel (yes, being so far behind is nothing new for me). I intended to write on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, then all day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I even had the entire story outlined, something I rarely do, something that would really help in speed-writing. It was going to be easy.

It wasn’t easy. I didn’t write on Wednesday or Thursday. I doubled my wordcount and crossed 25k on the story’s total on Friday. On Saturday, I struggled to reach the halfway point of 8.5 timed hours, 25k new words as of that weekend. Sunday saw me write an hour before the burn-out was complete and I threw my hands in the air. My writing had deteriorated from “not bad for how fast I’m going!” to “still revisable without a total rewrite!” to “man, this is total junk.”

I resolved to just hit 50k on the story, rather than 50k written over the weekend, and even that didn’t happen. I stopped trying to force it, and I stopped writing. I kept thinking about my novel, chewing over the next scenes, getting myself accustomed to the idea of forging on. But I didn’t start writing again.

I didn’t expect to fail this challenge, not when a dozen other 50k/weekend writers were zipping into the 250k range for their month’s total and making 50k on the weekend on the second day. But my brain is not wired to work with this kind of singlemindedness (yes, I’m ADD), and I haven’t built up the conscious discipline that’s needed to keep myself on track. I tried, and I couldn’t do it. I failed.

And that’s okay.

I still tried, and starting was hard enough to be a victory in and of itself. I still got over 40k on my NaNoWriMo novel, making it a cinch to finish over today and tomorrow, before November ends. I stopped, acknowledging my own limits, before I could be so burnt-out that I never wanted to see my novel again, and before I could write so much junk that I’d have to excise entire chapters to get rid of the dross.

So, I failed, and I’m alright with that. It was a good run, I didn’t go completely crazy, and I made a lot of worthwhile progress on my novel. I don’t regret the attempt, and I’m not beating myself up for not crossing the finish line with arms upraised in triumph. It’s okay.

Enough about me. How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

When and how did you find out about NaNoWriMo? How did it go?

I honestly cannot remember how I found out about WriMo, but I know it was in October of 2003. My first attempt at it was a success and an incredible mind-blower; I’d been a prolific writer before, but now I had proof that I could write 50,000 words in a month. How cool is that?

How many times have you done NaNoWriMo?

Seven times – this year will make my eighth rollercoaster ride.

How many times have you won? If you haven’t won, what was your best result?

I won all but one time. My loss in 2006 was due to having visitors from England in town for two weeks in November, and, as much as I love writing, I loved getting to spend time with them much more. I also didn’t have much of a muse that year.

How did it go last year?

Last year I wrote Ghosts in the Machines, a cracktastic novel about shapeshifting (nonhumanoid) aliens who get stranded on a planet not their own (by space pirates, of course) and encounter feral vehicles that are, apparently and illegally, ensouled. Ghosts is one of the incredibly few NaNovels that I actually finished in November, which was a fantastic triumph for me; I’m working on the rewrites now.

You can even read the first chapter here!

Where and with what do you write?

I can write anywhere, but I am not one of the more adventurous WriMos who writes out a lot – I usually write at home, or at the office if all my work is already done. I don’t write longhand – computers only, please, and usually Wordpad, as it has the formatting shortcuts without all the BS of Microsoft Word. I’ve also had years where I simply posted my WIP on my personal blog without keeping it in a file until it came time to submit it for winnin’.

How do you find time to write?

I do not lead a terribly busy life, so it’s not actually too hard. I write whenever I’m bored and inspired (or when I know I’m behind and need to catch up).

Are your partners, friends and family allies or enemies?

Allies, definitely. I get a lot of support and encouragement from everyone around me – along with the occasional incredulous “you’re doing what in a month?” reactions, which are almost as fun.

What are your strengths, and what do you use to help you get to the end?

Mostly? I type fast. 119 wpm accurately, though considerably less when writing creatively. Still, I can finish the day’s quota of 1667 words in under an hour; I can do 15 minute sprints and come up with some 700 words each time. Those sprints really make the difference when I’m trying to catch up (or make headway), ’cause I can manage between 15 and 30 minutes of solid, break-neck writing before my brain fries and I need to take five.

What are your weaknesses, obstacles and challenges that hinder you from finishing?

I am really, really lazy and inconsistent. Normally, I can make a running start in the first week, and then die off in the middling two weeks. I’ve written the bulk of my novel more than once in the last week of November, once even writing 17,700 words in one day. The middle of the month seems to be great for letting everything percolate in my head and less great for actually pumping out words.

Do you plot/outline/plan or do you write by the seat of your pants? How much have you plotted or how unprepared are you this year?

In the past, I have tried outlining, both detailed and vague, and I have flown by the seat of my pants before. I am definitely a pantser at heart; it’s the 19th and I have no idea what I’m doing this year, nor will I really get a bead on my direction until about three days before November. Some years will knock me in the head with an insistent and wild idea, which I’ll run with, and other years will have me logicking out my best choice for the month – and then years like this will see me twiddling my thumbs until I can’t twiddle no more and have to start typing.

Do you participate in the real life community and/or go to write-ins and meet-ups in your area?

Not really. I’m pretty much a hermit.

What are your writing aids? Special snacks, music, totems, rewards or punishments?

My most important writing aid is music; I am helpless and hopeless without it. Music fuels me, inspires me, directs me, and gives something for the other nattery bits of my brain to focus on. I’m also fond of pretzels and sweet mint tea while writing, though I try not to overindulge too much for fear of consuming nothing else all month. I don’t use punishments nor totems.

There are two great events in November.

One is the well-known, well-loved National Novel-Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. Write 50,000 words of original fiction before midnight on November 30th. It is a mad dash into the fray of muse-fueled worldbuilding, characterizing, plotting, and type-type-typing.

The second is something I found just yesterday – National Solo Album(-Writing) Month. Write, perform, and record a full solo album lasting at least thirty minutes in one month. (The performing and recording bits are optional, but the site can host your mp3s should you wish to share them.) This is much, much smaller than NaNoWriMo, and similar to February Album-Writing Month (which tasks you to write 14 songs of indeterminate length).

I have been doing NaNoWriMo since 2003 and have won every year save one; I am certainly continuing the tradition this November! Whether or not I’m brave enough to try NaSoAlMo will be determined come November 1st…

I strongly encourage any and all creative types to participate in one or both of these crazy, wonderful challenges. It’s a wild ride and can really transform your view on and experiences in writing!

…or, well, I have one. Whoo!

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog posts for a SHINY GLITTERY BLUE THING! With some smaller teal and other-shades-of-blue shiny glittery things in the background!

My long-time Twitter bud Clifton Hill awarded me this “most prestigious of accolades” for being full of awesome. Or, um, something like that. I now have the sacred duty to pass it along to four, count ‘em, FOUR, other wonderful and talented writerfolk.

In no particular order…

  • J. Koyanagi (@jkoyanagi) is one of the most brilliant wordsmiths I’ve ever had the honor of meeting and befriending. Her worlds are immersive down to the detail and her story-telling impeccable.
  • Lyn Thorne-Alder (@lynthornealder) is quite prolific and has been writing books upon books of Addergoole (see link) since well before I knew her. Witty and creative, her YA fiction is anything but typical.
  • Josh Hlibichuk (@qrevolution) is a master of steampunk fiction. I had the pleasure of reading his rough draft, and I can’t wait to see it polished and published!
  • Jason Letts (@foreverjuly) is an up-and-coming YA author of the series Powerless. Very enthusiastic and talented guy, and I love the concept at the heart of his books.

Day 20 is (supposed to be) this month.

But I’ve already talked about the highlights of September: making music, the bass guitar named Kitten, and acquiring all of SJ Tucker‘s music.

So, I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate the amazing debut novel of A. M. Tuomala, a great friend of mine. Tuomala is a fantastic writer whose story-telling and picture-painting skills I have always admired, and this novel has been a thing of beauty since it began. From publisher Candlemark & Gleam:

For three hundred years, Erekos and Weigenland have fought to hold the borderland between the two nations. As the first storms of the flood season scour Erekos from the swamplands to the feet of the mountains, the Erekoi king discovers a dangerous new weapon that might be able to end the war: the witch Achane, who has raised her sister from the dead.

Achane and her sister, dragged apart on the very doorstep of a temple, must work to find each other again before the magic that binds them also kills them. In the process, Achane must overcome her grief—and the temptation of the king’s plans for Erekos.

Meanwhile, on the mountainous border between the two warring lands, the student Erlen finds his research interrupted by the encroaching conflict. Driven by a militant love for this neutral territory and its people, he determines to defend his newfound homeland at any cost.

In a land where gods walk the earth and myth manifests along the rivers and in the mountains, ordinary men and women must fight to make their own stories before the war unwrites them all.

You can find Erekos by A. M. Tuomala here, read a sample chapter, and purchase a digital copy of your very own. I’ve already got mine.

Day 8 is a moment.

‘Moment’ is ill-defined in length, so I’m going to cheat and pick a day. (In my defense, the day has since blurred and could be encapsulated into a very, very, very long moment.)

It was November 20th, 2009. I was way behind on my wordcount for National Novel-Writing Month. (50,000 words in 30 days, for the unfamiliar.) I was museless. I was desperate. And my partner was at work, which at the time was a 24/7 emergency animal hospital.

Over the course of the day – and I use the term loosely, as I think my ‘day’ ended somewhere around 4 AM – I wrote 17,700 words on my work-in-progress. Fueled by chai and pretzels, I more than doubled my wordcount – 15,769 to 33,469.

And my partner, J? He wound up being awake for thirty hours straight, working twenty-two of those. He didn’t stop until I drove up and took him home.

Now that was a helluva day moment.