This is my final submission for NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge. The genre was left open, but the story had to involve a fisherman and jealousy. My fellow writers and I had 24 hours to turn around a story of approximately 1,500 words. Enjoy! Continue reading
For those of you close enough to me to follow me on social media, you probably know that I’ve entered NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge. I passed through the first heat unscathed, but the second really made me bite my nails. My prompt made me quite uncomfortable: a comedy about a butcher and learning how to drive. I wrote, scrapped, rewrote, submitted, and kissed my chance of the final goodbye.
But through the grace of the literary gods (hail Hydra), I scraped by fourth in my heat. The top five in each moved on to the final round, where the top ten (out of forty) will receive prizes. I’m not in love with this story, but hey, it served me well enough. Without further adieu, I give you “Four Step.” Continue reading
As a “writer,” one of the biggest obstacles I encounter is motivation. I think loads of us have great ideas, but we can think and research them to death without ever writing a sentence. Last week, I shook off the dust and started to write something that I believe can reach novel (or at least novella) length. In the interest of momentum, and not burying a Word document behind so many windows that I will never look at it again, I’ve decided to share the first chapter, to prove to myself and others that I can do this.
Coming up with a decent working title, however, is a different story… Continue reading
I’m sorry I haven’t posted any fiction in a while. NaNoWriMo was a very, very rough draft this year, so you were all spared those words. This is the first story I’ve finished since November. I was driven to write this after the atrocity that was the Bonnie and Clyde “television event” that consisted of lies that only made their story more boring. Stephen King has a fascinating novella called “1922” that has a brief but memorable depiction of a couple on the run, and I wanted to know more about them. Also, as I said in my recommendation of Tired Pony’s latest album, most of the songs, particularly “The Ghost of the Mountain,” stirred some plot in my mind. The influences meshed together in my mind to get me writing again, so there’s that little exercise for you. Enjoy!
Oh blog, how I do neglect thee. I apologize humbly for this month of silence. As you may or may not know, I do some music blogging on the side, paid only in MP3s and tickets and the satisfaction of a job well done, except during CMJ when I also get paid in free drinks. So there was a lot of reviewing to be done, and those beers/vodka tonics/whatevers weren’t gonna drink themselves. And then I wound up at an Ed Sheeran afterparty for more free drinks. And then I went to LA to see one of my favorite bands. No regrets, just adventures!
But this brings us to the worst possible time to blog: NaNoWriMo. To writers, this name is like kryptonite. To others, it probably sounds like some arbitrary anime title. For those of you who are curious, or who can’t stand an acronym and can’t be bothered to Google, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s actually an international project, so I don’t know why it’s not InNoWriMo. Nobody tells me nuffin’. Anyway, November (another “No”) is when writers across the globe decide to alienate their loved ones even more than usual to write 50,000 words in one month. This binge writing is supposed to swat away the cobwebs, blast away excuses and make it easier to get a very, very rough first draft out. In case that word count seems obscure to you, Wikiwrimo.org offers this list of novels roughly that length:
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (46,333 words)
- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (52,000 words)
- The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (50,776 words)
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (50,061 words)
- Lost Horizon by James Hilton
- Shattered by Dean Koontz
- Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
- The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
- Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter “E” by Ernest Vincent Wright
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (56,695 words)
As repetitive as Chuck Palahniuk is, that word count probably drops to 40,000, but I digress. It’s long enough to tell a full story, and writing roughly 1,667 words a day to stay on task is not hard. Unless of course you fly to LA for a long weekend away from the computer, finding yourself four days behind around the first week. Which I did. But I caught up, and you can too! So, my writerly friends, if you have time to read (and since I took time out of my busy novel writing to share this), here are my ten tips to make it to the finish line.
1. Write every day. Duh, right? But sometimes you will not feel like it. You will hate every word you put down. It’s a rough draft, and everything accumulates. You’d much rather be ahead than behind come November 29th, trust me.
2. Don’t outline. I know some people who are meticulous planners. I am not one of them. I have no fucking clue what’s happening in my novel, and it’s already surprised me several times. Brainstorming all month is so much better than once at the beginning. Give your novel space to grow.
3. Binge when you can, but know your limits. Sometimes you’re inspired and want to write five thousand words in a day, which is awesome! Go team you! But sometimes you’re just really far behind and want to knock it out. Resist the urge to spend the whole day with an adult diaper and Dunkin’ Donuts as your only friends. If you hate it, it’s not worth doing. Pace yourself. There’s time yet.
4. Accept imperfections. Some things in my novel make little sense. I just haven’t had the time to research them fully. This month is about imagination. Let reality creep in after you’ve built your own world. One day, you will be able to breathe again and reread your novel. That is the time to get critical. Do not line edit, or you will never make it.
5. Stop with the frou-frou names. Something that can take me out of a novel immediately is the character names. If your story is set in Kansas, then your lead is probably not a girl named Katniss Palladium, unless of course you’re writing something dystopian, in which case I want a footnote crediting this blog entry. If your names are overly complicated, everything else is in peril.
6. Don’t be afraid of a little drama. If you’re writing something deeply intellectual but have the urge to do something terrible to a character (a cancer diagnosis, the death of a pet, alien abduction), explore that. This month is for you and what you want to write. Enjoy it, you horrible, sadistic shit.
7. Have a buddy/bully. I used to try NaNoWriMo every year only to crash and burn. It was too close to finals, I was busy with college, blah blah blah. Now that I’m a real adult without a life, I have time! But more importantly, I have a friend also writing. She yells at me to get my writing done, and I yell back. We share plot points and drafts, then yell at each other for our “this sucks but…” disclaimers.
8. Talk about it. Often. People often don’t understand what the NaNoWriMo process is like because they’ve never forced themselves to sit in front of their computers living on carbs, coffee and the occasional booze for a whole month. After all, it doesn’t take that long to binge watch “Breaking Bad.” Remind them of your hobby. If you go out, mention your progress. Get some ideas, or at least be so obnoxious that nobody will invite you anywhere until December.
9. Keep your plot in mind. Don’t just fall back on dialogue because it’s quick and easy to write, as tempting as that may be. Every bit of action should go toward building your story in some minor or major way. This really is a short novel, barely more than a novella, so your scenes should have purpose. If you listened to me say not to outline, this will be no problem whatsoever since you may have no clue what you’re writing.
10. When in doubt, kill off a character. Look, this approach has always worked for me. That’s something, right? Right?!
Summertime and we’re blinking back the sting of the sweat invading our eyes, too silly for hats and too proud to admit the pain. We’re golden skin and bright intentions and glorious irresponsibility. Hours trapped inside the car have made us eager to stretch our limbs, but instead we’re hunched down in the fields, too embarrassed to think that it’s a minor miracle the day’s gone without rain. These crops are open to anyone who will pay, but we act as though the earth has offered up this bounty for us and us alone, our fingertips tripping over the berries that have swollen with promise. There are always a few that have already become full to bursting, or our fingers slip as laughter vibrates through our bodies.
(The best laugh is a clumsy one, one that renders you incapable of keeping your eyes open our your body steady. The kind that would be embarrassing if it weren’t contagious.)
Our fingers are stained with colors that cannot be replicated by man, rich red and purple so dark you’d nearly consider it the ink of night. We laugh at our imaginary scars and the way they’ve crept onto our clothes, as though we’ve been through any sort of hardship. Lunch was forgotten two hours previous, so we sit in the car with our baskets and reach our arms out the windows to catch more sun as we decide to darken our lips next. The first bite is a surprise as the berries erupt between our teeth, still warm from the sun and less sweet than expected. We look at one another and laugh, our mouths mockingly blue red purple to keep the sound going. People surely drive past and wonder about the couple pulled to the side of the road. Maybe they don’t, because here time has stopped and we are free.
I’ve probably read too much Stephen King lately. I started this story, then left it to fester for a while as I was distracted with life matters. Then I read King’s brilliant On Writing, and I felt motivated to finally let the story take me where it wished rather than forcing myself to plot things out. It didn’t go as I planned. That’s a good thing. So here is the very rough draft so I don’t revise it and decide I hate everything. Needless to say, it’s a bit dark.