Flash Fiction Workshop

My Writers Club hosted an excellent flash fiction workshop last week. We invited local author, editor, and teacher Tara Campbell to lead the workshop. Another club member and I had attended a writing salon she taught at the National Gallery of Art. Space is limited for those, but if you’re in the DC area, I recommend attending. I left with most of a flash story drafted. Though I’m still shopping that piece around, I’m proud of the outcome.

This time, Tara led a shorter workshop focusing on three types of flash stories. The first task was to produce a story about an ordinary, everyday ceremony but with a twist. The second was to write something autobiographical about a time in our life when we experienced anxiety. The final story was to be something procedural, like a recipe or some other set of instructions but embedding a story therein.

We were given 10 minutes to write each time. And darned if I didn’t come up with ideas for each immediately and get most of a story for each on the screen in that time. The next day I finished all three and polished them a little, but most of the stories were there already. I’d count that as a productive workshop, and if you need inspiration, I recommend using the same three scenarios as the basis of for three stories.

In the interest of full disclosure, these stories are not long. They aren’t even typical flash length. Two are 200 words and the third is 300. However, I think each is a complete, self-contained story. I don’t have any plans to flesh them out further. I like them the way they are.

I intend to shop them around to the flash fiction markets. I haven’t had a flash piece accepted yet. Maybe one or more of these will break that logjam.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve attended a flash fiction workshop and whether you were pleased with the results. Did you get one or more stories out of it? Did you have any success in getting those stories published?

Collaboration II

I finally did it. I started the draft story I hope to collaborate on with one of my beta readers. I wrote about this way back on Post #27. See how long that took?

Here’s what happened. Back then, I had a story in mind the two of us could work together on. I sat down to write my part, but I kept going. And going. Until I finished the entire story. Oops! So much for that idea.

Then my beta reader was in town, and she and her husband came over for dinner. The beta reader and I talked writing while the spouses talked about something probably way more meaningful. Anyway, during our discussion, my beta reader mentioned an image she had for a story. She didn’t have the plot or any characters or really anything beyond this single image.

I decided to run with that image. I wrote the first scene which ends on that image and then sent it to my beta reader. While I mentioned at our dinner that I’d be interested in collaborating on a piece and possible using her story idea, I didn’t tell her I started the story until I sent a draft of that first scene.

The best part is she agreed to work together to flesh out the story. I proposed we follow the round robin method where each of us takes a turn drafting the subsequent part. She’s game for tackling the next scene.

I initially thought about including notes with my chapter about where I thought the plot could go and explaining a couple of vague references I included in that first chapter. Then I thought better if it. I don’t want to limit my writing partner with where she can take the story. For starters, it was her idea, but I also want to see what she comes up with. I want to be surprised just like a reader would be. I’ve been a little stagnant lately with my writing, so I like that this has me excited again.

Have you ever collaborated with another author? If so, did you use the round robin method or another technique? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments.

Procrastination

1/24/19

Some call it writer’s block, but I just call it procrastination. It seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. The Writer’s Path recently had an interesting post about writers block, and The Green Room had a post about procrastination yesterday. Is it a winter thing? I’d think being stuck indoors would lead to more writing when compared to the distractions caused by nicer weather. Maybe my own experience is indicative of this phenomenon.

After getting 17,000 words down in my WIP novel for NaNoWriMo in November, I did very little in December. I sent the usual batch of submissions as rejections came in for the various short stories I have out, but I did next to no writing, especially in the WIP novel. I maybe added 1000 words there the entire month.

So what gives? Honestly, I felt a little burned out after writing every day for a month in November. I’d never done that before. I’ve read, and I believe it, that writing is like any other endurance activity. The more you do it, the more you build up your ability to do it. However, too much can still burn you out. I’m an avid runner, but I don’t run every day. I never have. I’ve never wanted to run so much I get sick of it or risk injury.

I opened the file for my novel in mid-January and saw I hadn’t worked on it since December 19, over three weeks at that point. I needed motivation. I’d continued to plot the storylines during my runs, but that hadn’t driven me to put anything on the screen yet.

On one of those runs, I came up with the idea for a flash fiction piece. I immediate hammered that story out in the hopes the process would reignite the fire. It was to no avail, though that piece turned out fine and will start making the submission rounds soon after a quick edit.

Then a snow day hit on a Sunday, the day I reserve for my long run. With a snow storm forecasted, I decided to move my run up to Saturday afternoon, thus freeing up my Sunday morning. I took advantage. While the family slept, I got up and wrote.

It still took me awhile to get back into the story. I had to reread the last chapter to remember where I was and to fix some things in that chapter. I only ended up with about 300 new words before the family got up, but it felt good to get those down. Now I’m feeling better about continuing. I’ve since added some more totally about another 1000 in the novel. At that rate I’ll finish in four years. I’ll reserve figuring out how to increase that productivity for a later post.

The longer I was away from the WIP, the more likely I was to stay away. I’d find any excuse to do something else rather than work on the novel, even if the distraction was writing related. While I think a short break was needed after NaNoWriMo, the break I took was too long. It just made things harder.

What has been your experience with burnout, procrastination, or writer’s block? Are they all the same for you, or do they manifest themselves differently? How did you combat them?

Self Promotion

1/17/19

It’s been a year of blogging once a week, and I finally ran out of topics. So what should I do? Shamelessly self promote, of course.

Hot off the electronic press is Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters where my story “Temporally Out of Order” appears!

I’m pretty stoked. This was my first paid sale (though my second paid sale was published last November). In addition, this was the first story I started when beginning this writing adventure about a year and half ago. I got stuck about halfway through, so it ended up being the second story I finished. Regardless, it holds an honored place in my heart for starting me on this writing journey.

I’m glad it found a home, and I’m glad it was with Broadswords and Blasters. The magazine hearkens back to the pulp fiction days of speculative fiction. I thought my story would be a perfect fit, so I’m delighted the editors thought so too.

This story also means a little something more to me because I borrowed the characters names from a couple friends of mine (with their consent). Oddly, when I did so, those names were meant to be placeholders. As soon as I included them though, the words flowed to the page rather easily. The characters themselves don’t resemble my friends, but that didn’t seem to matter.

Because of the success I had once I named the characters after friends, I’ve continued to use that technique in other stories. Each time I’ve found naming characters after friends made the story easier to write. I don’t do this for every story, but I used the technique for both of the two fiction stories I’ve sold to date. That may tell me something right there.

Let me know in the comments how you name your characters. Do you borrow from friends and family? Do you make them up on the fly, or do you put a lot of thought into each name?

And if you’re interested, go buy Issue 8 and leave a review!

Christmas Eve Tradition

12/27/18

I want to share a tradition that my wife and I started a few years back. It’s not writing related, but it is reading related.

We can’t take credit for inventing this tradition. We took it from the Icelanders.

If you haven’t been to Iceland, you should go. It’s an easy flight from the United States. Icelandair serves numerous U.S. cities. If you like water in any form, this is the place for you. There are glaciers, waterfalls, and thermal springs galore. They have great historical sites (Vikings!), outdoor activities (hike to a volcano or on a glacier!), culinary traditions (puffin!), and the usual offbeat cultural experiences (penis museum!). Everyone speaks English, along with at least three other languages, and best of all, it’s not crowded. The island’s population is just over 300,000. Two thirds of that live in the capital, Reykjavik. While the city is fun (Icelanders are staunch night owls), we enjoyed renting a car and driving the ring road.

An Icelandic tradition we discovered was the giving of books on Christmas Eve, known as jólabókaflóð (translated as Yule Book Flood). Everyone unwraps theirs that night, and the family sits around reading until bedtime. Since we are both bibliophiles, my wife and I readily adopted this tradition and have since introduced it to our kids and my in-laws, who routinely spend Christmas with us. Do you want harmony over the holidays? Give someone a book you know they’ll enjoy. Then they have an excuse to ignore you and you them. It’s perfect!

Even if you don’t need or want an excuse to duck the family, spending time together reading during the holidays is sure to put everyone in a festive mood. Of course, this only goes well if whoever selected your book knows what you like. Things might not be copacetic if I got Tom Brady’s The TB12 Method. On the bright side, at least then I could use the classic line: It’s like you don’t even know me!

Let me know in the comments if your family has a holiday tradition built around reading.

Photo credit: I used one of my own this time.

Note: this is post #53, but I decided to give up the numbering system. I used that system initially to prove I could blog once a week for an entire year. Well I did so, mostly. I started blogging last January, but I had so many topics I wanted to write about initially I didn’t stick to my one-a-week formula early on. Still, I made it to 52 and now 53. Happy blogaversary!