Saturday, January 8, 2011

Throw It All Together

Being almost exclusively a Discovery Writer and a Writes-a-Lot, I have the glorious liberty to run with any idea that comes up in the certain knowledge that I'll always have more and that I can always make it work with enough hammering. One of my favorite methods is to decide one aspect of the story [setting, character, plot (ending, beginning, cool scene), "message"] first and then free associate until I've got the three or four images that I need to start writing a good short story. Sometimes it even works for writing a daily blog post.

Let's say that I want to write a story set in the 80s. I was born in 1984 (and lived in Japan for all but my first year of the decade anyways), so I have no real memories of the 80s, yet cultural osmosis has imparted unto me three key images about the 80s:

1. Ronald Reagan
2. Karma Chameleon
3. Cocaine

With this massive store of knowledge, I'm ready to roll into the story, but I need an opening scene. I recall the movie Annie Hall (1977) of a sudden, and (because doing basic research before starting to write the story is counterproductive to Discovery Writing) I assume it was made in or around the 80s. Bam! and we're off.

The great thing about such stories is that the cover art pretty much makes itself...

Coked Up Ronald Reagan Sings Karma Chameleon
by David Barron
Almost certainly based on a true story.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long to Die"
Short Story "City Muse, Country Muse"
Short Story "A Blot on the Escutcheon"
Short Story "Bitsy Pollo Save Us!: A Love Story"
Short Story "When What Why?"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Friday, January 7, 2011

Otherwise Idle Moments

I need to be a better manager. Since I'm self-employed in this Writing thing, I need to force myself to be much more productive than I otherwise would be, to realize my own potential and profit. The trick, I think, is to consider the long-term.

I've never had a Good Boss. Whether that's because I'm almost entirely self-motivated or because there are very few good managers is up to the end. It could also be that I haven't had a good boss yet. I've had a few asshole bosses, and a few ineffectual team-building bosses. If I wanted to be part of a team, I'd have asked for stock options.

(I just swallowed a bug, but I'm pressing on. Stupid tropics.)

Long-term thinking seems to be very important, but not in the sense of "There'll be plenty of time to write later." I need to force myself to write now so that there'll be a later where I can force myself to write for a living. I suspect, although I can't be sure, that this will be easier.

But who the hell knows? As for me, get back to work. My door is always open, except when it's closed. Then I'm either having sex or taking a conference call. The sound is about the same.

A hand-crafted weapon of war

Wread This First -

Ghostweight (Yoon Ha Lee)
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue #52

I read "the mercenaries in their starfaring kites had cindered cities" Oh, hell yeah. Throughout this story there are tantalizing glimpses of space-kites and folded-paper weapons of mass destruction. This was a cool enough visual to draw me in, but then I drowned in backstory and exposition.

I'm not sure what side these starfaring kite mercenaries are on, for instance, and I couldn't unravel the main character's background. I also felt let down by the ending. There were a few too many "reveals" that the plot had not prepared me to be shocked by. Of special note: I do not understand Kiriet's motivation.

Still, evocative kite imagery (and clever use of the word "haptics") keeps it from being a waste of time.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long to Die"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Writing Game

On ePublishing:

Suppose you're a heggler who's snuck past the gate guard into the Castle of Art, but you've only two eggs for sale, and they're rotten. Nobody's going to buy your eggs, except maybe to throw at you. You're going to have to offski back and get some fresh eggs, then sneak back in. So you do, with a dozen fresh eggs. Some people buy your eggs, but you don't make much because you've only got a dozen eggs to sell. So you go back outside and you get your chickens in a row and start them pumping out eggs. Now, with all these eggs, you might consider hiring a few folk to check that they're fresh, but after that you can sneak past the gate guard into the Castle of Art with impunity and everybody will buy your eggs and you'll be a Happy Heggler.

If that's what you really want to be.


A heggler is a seller of eggs. Since the common assumption is that a writer is not a seller of words, I'm going to start calling myself a hwordler.

My path to riches is assured.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long to Die"
- - - -
Reading - A First Lesson From The Challenge
(Dean Wesley Smith)


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reverse Plotting

The first book I ever tried to reverse plot was "Heir to the Empire" (Timothy Zahn), and the subsequent series of two books "Dark Force Rising" and "The Last Command". The results were telling.

I started the reverse plot because I could never figure out how exactly one of the characters (in this case Luke Skywalker) happened to be on the same planet as all the other characters at the same time as an Imperial attack. Lando Calrissian lived there, and Han and Leia were there for some well-established reason or another which I can't recall at the moment.

It turned out that the reason Luke came to the planet was he found some device and R2D2 mentioned that he had seen Lando with a similar device. That's it*. It's so tenuous that it's almost a throwaway line, but it works. That's how the entire series is organized.

What that tells me is that I don't need to worry too much about the Middle as long as the Beginning and End work. There are two advantages to this: (1) I write faster when I'm not agonizing about stringing stuff together, and (2) I feel free to Get On With It. The reason it was tenuous is that Mr. Zahn knew that, for this story, nobody would care how Luke got there so much as what he did when he did. Bogging down the story with a complicated detective scene wouldn't have been very interesting.

So that's why I'm going to stop worrying and love the handwave. This is not the plot you're looking for.

*Nerd Bonus, though. 10 years and ~billion Star Wars books later he tied it all together.


Ha! I don't know what's going on here, but I like it. I still find it hard to believe that we, citizens of the future, do not have cities of the future to live in.

We keep spending all our money on blowing shit up.

1000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long to Die"
Short Story "Science Up Some Love"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, David

Yes, it's my birthday. I had a peaceful day not doing much, and I did have some cake. Success.

I was somewhat distracted from writing today because I finally transitioned gNewSense. I was distracted from writing Science Fiction by the even equally geeky task of fiddling around with GNU/Linux. Whatever, it was fun.

Anyways, what with my birthday being in the same general area as Christmas Eve and New Year's Day, I'm all introspected out. My birthday resolution is to become much more annoying, but get paid for it. If I'm going to be a misanthrope I might as well make a living too.

What that means is I'm going to dial down the filter Even More, because repression is no fun and no filter means I can write like the...the...the very fast thing. This is also a test to see if this girl has the mental fortitude to withstand my gale-force babble, techno- and otherwise. Always good to know.

I'm turning into this:

That was, of course, Alan Partridge in one of his rare moments of heroism.


That doesn't look very comfortable, but whatever gets your Creativity flowing, lady.

I mean, you've got to paint my portrait and all.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long to Die"
- - - -
(An anvilicious flash fiction)


Monday, January 3, 2011

I Never Wanted to Be Popular

Now that you know the magazines I read, I can dramatically reveal my banal new blog feature: "Wread This First" (graphic Coming Soon! Oh boy!). The title plays off Wreaders, in which I laid out why Writer/Readers are different from Readers.

The whole point of the exercise will be reviewing short stories that are available so I can link to them in full, almost certainly from that list of magazines. It'll appear on a loose schedule of Whenever, but it's not that hard and there are plenty of stories within clicking distance.

I don't often see short story reviews, and since I really like short stories I'll just do it myself. My scale is (Perfect)/Great/Good/OK/Bad, and is purely based on (1) how much my time was not wasted by reading the story and (2) how much of the story (image, plot, characters, cool new words) I can remember whilst writing the review. If it's Bad, I won't bother to review it. If it's Great, I'll talk about what techniques I would steal more than picking at the plot.

Since this is Wreading, it'd probably be best if you read the stories first before reading the review. Since I won't post "Bad" stories, it can't be too horrible.

As usual, if you disagree, leave a comment. I guess I do want to be popular. Just not "liked".

Not The Protagonist

Wread This First -
The Summer King (Megan Arkenburg)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #59


It felt a little too long for me, the middle dragged a bit (especially considering the ending), but the story pulled me along by being the kind of political-maneuvering plot that I like. I rather liked the opening scene: start personal, then grow.

Two things pulled me out of the story: the characters say "shit" a lot, and the transition "By the time the carriage stopped at the Hôtel Camus the bleeding had mostly stopped." had me going back to see what happened.

I liked the setting, something of a Rome meets (mild) Gangs of New York with a monarchy. The balance of characters was good too, with the Bosses running from evil to banal to good (a bit too good, in the case of the heroine), but I would have liked to see some more overt expressions of the Assembly being evil.

1000 words? Yes
Short Story "Science Up Some Love"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nothing Happened Today

Everybody seems to be sleeping off their hangover except me, who always wakes up exactly six hours after he goes to sleep regardless of inebriation. So rather than disturb people by writing some crazy blog post, I'll go through the fiction magazines I read, and thus the ones I tend to shoot my submissions toward. 

Asimov's Science Fiction
Sheila Williams
Well, of course.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Scott H. Andrews
Personal favorite!
This is where all my fantastical alternate history and quasi-fantasy goes. I'm just obsessed, now. By the by, Fantastical Alternate History & Quasi-Fantasy would be a good name for a magazine. "FAH&Q-F": I call dibs.

Clarkesworld Magazine
Neil Clarke
Solid, and I like audiofiction.
The only annoyance is that you have to wait seven days before submitting something new. I have a lot of short fiction circulating, and that throws off my schedule. Eh.

Daily Science Fiction
Jonathan Laden
Michele Barasso
It's Fantasy and Science Fiction and it comes every day to my Inbox? Awesome. I regularly read the longer Friday stories, but I'll occasionally breeze through the weekday flash fiction.
The submission system is weird...but it works.

Fantasy Magazine
Lightspeed Magazine
John Joseph Adams
Lightspeed Magazine has a really slick website design and good fiction. Fantasy Magazine? I don't like the layout but I like the stories when I'm in the mood for Fantasy. Which is better than the reverse.
I submit here on those days when I want to get a response really fast. I think I once got a response back before I finished reading one of the front-page stories at Lightspeed Magazine. That's fun.

Strange Horizons
Susan Marie Groppi
Good fiction and a Bonus! The SH "Stories We've Seen Too Often" page, notable for being the only one of its kind that doesn't give me ideas for stories to subvert it. That's a good sign of taste. Example:
#10 Someone calls technical support; wacky hijinx ensue.
a. Someone calls technical support for a magical item.
b. Someone calls technical support for a piece of advanced technology.
c. The title of the story is 1-800-SOMETHING-CUTE.


Paul Graham Raven
Christopher East
I mostly read the articles here, but whenever I write a "Near-future, Earth-based science fiction" story (not often) I send it over here. I wouldn't mind being one of their bloggers though. That'd be fun.

These reflect the basic ratio of my fiction writing as well, about 60% SF, 30% parts F, and 10% part Goofy


That looks kinda fun...

Oh, Mr. Drunky, why do you take all the good times?

600 words? Yes
Short Story "Science Up Some Love"
- - - -
Reading - see above, jeez.

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