Saturday, September 24, 2011

Novel Territory

So I'm writing a novel.

Nothing new about that. I've started, what? Five or ten novels in the last decade, easily. I even wrote a whole first draft while listening to mortars scream in the blue skies of Baghdad. So why am I announcing I'm writing a novel?

Because this is one I'm going to finish.

Working on all these sci fi short stories last year has given me enough ideas to build a world. And not just any world. A world in which I can set an:


Why Space Opera? Because it's cool. You can sweep across space and time. You can have aliens with crazy bodies and out of control sense of identities. You can have space pirates. You can explore socio-cultural-metaphysical issues.

In short, you can do whatever the hell you want.

I'm going all in on this one. I've already passed the 10,000 word plateau and I feel like I'm just getting started. Which is good, because I am.

2012 must be the Year of the Novel. If you think so too, head over to W1S1 or Absolute Write and sign up for the W1S1 Novel challenge.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I've been listening to the excellent "Moonwalking with Einstein" audio book. At one point, the author Joshua Foer, talks with the expert expert at Florida State University.

Basically, the big brains at FSU has found that we generally learn a skill consciously with a great deal of thought. At some point, the skill becomes largely unconscious, and we can do it without thinking about it. Driving a car is a great example of that. Most of us can drive to work and not even remember how we got there.

When a skill becomes unconscious, people tend to hit a plateau with development. In order to go past this, they have to pay close attention to what they are doing and get feedback. In other words, you need to drench the skill from the depths of the unconscious and back into the light to keep improving. Practice, they say, should be difficult.

I think the same applies to writing. It is easy to let the words form on page without much thought, once we've attained a level of skill. But the important thing, according to these experts, is to continually pay close attention to the prose and keep trying to improve it.

As always, I'll experiment and report back how it goes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

M.S. James, Prize Winning Author

Well, it's official. My satirical fantasy story "Evolution" won 1st Place in the 15th Annual PARSEC New Writers Short Story Competition!

While I have unfailing faith in all my stories, I was surprised at how well this one did. It was a shorter humor piece and a modern satire based on the prompt "last contact". I'm glad so many people read and enjoyed it.

The final judges were Timothy Zahn, Mary Turzillo, and Diane Turnshek. Which means real spec fic authors read my story and gave it 1st prize! Exciting!

It also means I can be a little less tongue and cheek when I tell my wife I can't mow the lawn because I'm working at my "other job". I also had a moment on Duotrope where I clicked "Acceptance" instead of "Rejection." My story will be published in their Confluence Program, so this is my first official publication as an author.

It's ironic that it came on the heels of my 50th Rejection Extravaganza--- or is it?

50th Rejection Extravaganza

The folks over at Redstone Science Fiction have earned the honor of giving me my 50th rejection. It was a nice rejection, very encouraging, and they took the time to write down why they didn't take it (fantasy outweighed the sci fi component).

Having read through a lot of Redstone related stuff in preparation for their upcoming contest, I learned that the origins of Redstone lay in the fact that many sci fi markets actually publish fantasy. This is very true. The only pure sci fi pro mag I can think of off the top of my head is Analog.

So here's where I'm at for the year:

70 subs
50 rejections
2 maybes
19 pending

There's still time for that one lucky editor to discover me!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


So, my writing experiment has continued for 6 months. In this time, I have written and submitted 24 stories and gotten 42 rejections.

I feel that this places me at another cross roads. I think the initial fork is when you decide to write and sub. Then, after facing rejection after rejection, the goal seems to be much for formidable than you initially thought.

I think this is a point where many new writers quit. They pack it in, fold it up, and move on to something else.

I, on the other hand, am of the feeling that I've invested way too much time and energy developing as a writer to pack it in now. I've gotten a few positive indicators -- encouraging rejections, a few short listed stories, etc.

But most importantly, there are several great stories I'm working on. How can I forget about those?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

100,000 Words

Thanks in large part to my friends at W1S1, I've breached the 100,000 words mark for the year. That's 100,000 words in completed stories, so that can be anywhere from 150,000 - 300,000 words actually written. Before this year, I had submitted two stories in my life. This year, I've written 26 stories and submitted 45 times.

There is a lot of controversy in the writing world about quality vs. quantity. The driving philosophy behind W1S1 is that you churn out a lot of material. Given time, that material will get better. Some critics think that this is a horrible way to go, and that you're just vomiting out words without taking the time to really craft a good story.

Having gone through this thus far, I must say I think the W1S1 approach, coupled with critiquing other writers, has been a fantastic experience for me.

My writing has improved as a result of this process. Even though I've not published yet, the quality of my rejections and reader reactions are substantially improving. Further, I'm catching less flak for the basics--- structure, voice, etc.

I've also developed bullet proof skin for rejections, a handy thing. I usually get at least one a week. They are a common, every day part of my life now, and I no longer fret over them.

Will it pay off in pro pubs? Too soon to tell. But I feel like I'm finally starting to hit a sweeter spot with my fiction.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Write, Trash, Rewrite

So now I'm finding I need to do at least one complete rewrite per story.

It takes me at least a draft or so to see what the story is like and to flush out some interesting details. Then I can go back, choose a good POV, develop a voice, and let her rip.

I've also noticed that a short story can really only hold one idea. So I'm learning if I want to write a story about a big giant lizard, I don't want to also write about re-animating the dead. There simply isn't enough room.

Even so, I'm working more efficiently than my 10 draft past. What I did at the beginning was write the story, then go back and rewrite using it as a template. However, this locks in a certain voice and structure that may not be necessary.

With my novel in progress, at around 15,000 words, I've come to the conclusion that my main character is boring. It's a problem when the secondary characters are more intereting (actually, there are two main characters, but the primary one bores me). So what am I going to do?

Trash and rewrite.

The question is, will I be more successful this way? Right now, I've still had a grand total of 0 acceptances (althought I do have a short list, so that is something).

On the bright side, 1 acceptance will improve my rate by infinity!