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Write1Sub1 Week 5

January Juggernaut Logo

Four Stories in Four Weeks (Write1Sub1)

On to week 5.

Saturday: For Week 5  I continue my steampunk series, which began with “The Glow” in week 1. This has been subbed to Fae Publishing and I’m awaiting their reply. Consequently, I’m not ready to commit to a particular market for this week.

Sunday: Once again I’m behind on my schedule. Polishing and nudging today instead of plotting for this week’s story. Fortunately I already have the core events in mind since it’s a continuation of last month’s steampunk, “The Glow”. I hope that will help as I need to get back on schedule soon.

Monday: I spent too much time today going over my story from last week. I’m just not happy with it and don’t want to leave too much to do on Saturday when I polish and sub. I’ve got a rough plot in place for this week’s story and will start that tomorrow. Wrote my literary flash tonight (1450 words) so that’s a good thing. It came out okay.

Tuesday: I don’t really want to admit this, but admitting you have a problem is half the battle, right? I keep obsessing over the ending for the story I wrote for Clarkesworld. It just doesn’t work, yet I know there’s the potential for a strong one in there somewhere. I woke up twice last night thinking of alternate ways to go, then again today when I took a break from reading slush. I was taking a bath and reading Pride and Prejudice when it suddenly came to me. It was so obvious. Now I have to write that before it fades away. This, of course, has cut into my time for this week’s story.  My respect for what Ray Bradbury did grows with every passing week.

Wednesday:I have my first scene envisioned and much of the dialogue between my MC and the woman he meets, but I’m having my usual problem sitting seat on chair and applying fingers to keypad. I settled for catching up a bit on Triangulation work tonight.

Thursday: I worked most of the day, but mainly managed to revise the story from last week (sigh). The pressure continues to build. Will I get my steampunk story rolling in time? It’s not looking good.

Friday: Where does the week go? I did a little research on reinforced concrete today and talked over my plot with Sue. Happy to report that the second steampunk story is now rolling along. I’m through the opening scene and have most of the second scene dialogue written. Here’s hoping for a productive Saturday. Not only do I have to finish this draft, I have to polish last week’s mainstream story and get it sent off. Sunday is shot since the Steelers are playing in the Super Bowl. May the spirit of Ray be with me.

Saturday: I polished up last week’s story “A Perfect Pair” and sent it off to Per Contra. I wrote through three scenes in this week’s story, but it still needs a final scene I’m afraid. I won’t count this week a loss, since I did write a short story at Show Me Your Lits; it came in second in the polling for best of the week, which was gratifying. And I did sub my story for the week, so it’s not technically a failed week. But it’s not a success either until and unless I finish the steampunk story I started. I’ll make that a priority in the coming week, along with the new story.

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Write1Sub1 Week 4

Exterior view. Bronze tympanum, by Olin L. War...

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The third week proved toughest so far. The story I had in mind just would not gel. Finally, on Saturday morning, the breakthrough that allowed me to finish a draft. Is it good? I doubt it, but it’s a story with closure and some emotional investment. This week I’m writing literary fiction. I plan to base this one on the weekly prompts at Show Me Your Lits.

Saturday: For Week 4 I chose to target Per Contra an online literary magazine that publishes very good, accessible stories. It’s listed as a professional market (>5cents/wd) on Duotrope.

We publish literary fiction (read several of our stories before sending us your work).

LENGTH

Per Contra accepts submissions of short fiction up to 3000 words. We publish both flash fiction and short stories.

ORIGINAL UNPUBLISHED FICTION IN ENGLISH

We publish only work that has not been published before, either online or in print.

Yes to Work on Password Protected Sites

Material work shopped and posted in password protected sites are not considered to have been published.

No to Work Previously Posted on Blogs

Works posted on your own blog or on someone else’s blog may not be submitted: we consider them to have been published.

About Translations

Although we publish translations, at this time we can accept only original fiction in English as submissions. Do not send translations or fan fiction.

POLICY ON SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS

If this is a simultaneous submission, please let us know right away when/if it is accepted elsewhere.  You do not have to identify it as a simultaneous submission, just let us know immediately if you have to remove it from consideration. When you let us know include in the subject line:  FICTION WITHDRAWAL:  YOUR NAME:  TITLE OF STORY

POLICY ON EDITING

We may ask for some edits in stories we would like to publish.

We regret that we cannot comment on all stories.

WHAT WE PURCHASE

We purchase first rights (that is, we do not accept previously published work), right to archive, right to broadcast and to reprint in an anthology.  You retain copyright, and we ask that you acknowledge Per Contra if you reprint the work.  We are a paying market.

PERIOD OF OPEN SUBMISSIONS

Submissions will be open until March 1, 2011.

Sunday: I worked today on Triangulation submissions and watching a certain Steeler game. My plan this week is to use one of my 90 minute Show Me Your Lit prompt stories as a jumping off point for the story. I’ll read sample stories from Per Contra prior to doing my challenge story in hopes that will help me to produce an approach that will be suitable. I’ll then take that story and expand or deepen it.

Monday: I wrote my literary prompt piece tonight. It’s rough, as anticipated, but I think it will serve as a starting point for something interesting.  I imagine it will end up around 2000 words.

Tuesday: I spent much of the day learning my moderator duties over at Show Me Your Lits. Didn’t get a lot of writing done, but did talk through ideas for expanding my literary story. The bare bones are okay, but the story lacks the extra layer it needs to be substantial. It will take some fleshing out of scenes and characters, but there is a metaphor to be had here. Can I manage it in three days? Stay tuned.

Wednesday: Ouch. I’m falling behind here. The original flash is getting some good comments from fellow Show Me Your Lit folks, so I can fall back on subbing that, but I’d really rather seize the opportunity to write a more ambitious piece with this material.

Thursday: Between a writers group meeting and some moderator duties at Show Me Your Lits tonight, I’ve not gotten a single word onto the page. I have been thinking about characters at least. Will I finally manage to get this down in black and white tomorrow? I hope so.

Friday: Once again I don’t know if I’ll make it. I did get a start tonight and I think I found the voice I want, but there’s still a ways to go and the metaphor is pretty subtle, so I have to be careful to include enough to make recognizing it possible without doing it in a way that seems blunt.

Saturday: Finally got those characters talking to each other in my brain. Working on polishing my Week 3 story for submission now. I have a writers group meeting tomorrow morning, but will finish up after that. It’s not getting any easier, but I feel like a large part of the problem is in my head. Gotta crack that walnut soon.

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Steampunk desktop.

Steampunk desktop image via Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe 2011 has already begun, but it has. Write1Sub1 is off to a flying start. 64 brave souls have chosen to undertake this ambitious challenge and I wish each one well. Surely there will be ups and downs for each and every one of us, and it will be those who “find a way to win” who will reach that finish line.

Saturday: For Week 1 I chose to investigate a new market called FaePublishing, which seeks both short stories and novel length manuscripts for 2011. As they’re a new outfit, I’m not counting on them to deliver just yet, but I’m certainly willing to support their efforts.

Short Story Submission guidelines:

We accept short stories in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genres, this includes all the different Sub Genres, such as Hard Sci Fi, General Sci Fi, Space Opera, Steam Punk, Time Travel, Urban Fantasy, General Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Magic Fantasy, etc…  NO Simultaneous Submissions.

What we ARE looking for:

  • Quality writing
  • Stories for Adults
  • Active voice
  • Protagonist a reader can care about
  • Unpublished short story

What we are NOT looking for:

  • Erotica
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Graphic horror
  • Poetry
  • Previously published short stories

We pay $0.05 per word up to maximum of 2500 words at this rate, with a minimum payment of $60.00 for shorter work.  Longer Short Stories may be submitted, but are still subject to $125.00 maximum.

The key element for me is that they’re open to steampunk, which is what I’m writing this week. Further complicating the issue is that this story is the first in a serial I hope to turn into a novel. As FaePublishing also publishes novels and seems to be looking for short stories as a method to attract readers for their novels, this seems a possible good fit.

Sunday: At my writers group meeting in Pittsburgh, I wrote three mini-scenes of mostly dialogue. These are pivotal points in the story that have been running through my head for a few days. I wanted to give them voice and see how they came out. I’m not sure I’ll use all the material, but it helped me to understand the primary characters a bit better. I also discovered that our local library has a few books on the history of Freemasonry, which plays a secondary part in my world building. I’m also interested in reading a bit more on local history in the 1890’s.  Will stop by tomorrow on our walk around town. The real challenge for this story will be to give it sufficient closure to feel complete rather than merely a part in some larger arc (which it is).

Monday: I worked on the fantasy novel this morning, then walked to the library and did a little research for this week’s story.  My ideal time line doesn’t quite jive with reality, so I think reality will have to bend a bit. Artistic license and all that. We walked up the hill past the area where the story largely takes place. Also got to browse old photos of downtown New Castle that should give me at least a vague idea of what I’m talking about when I describe the surround. Tomorrow begins the real writing.

Tuesday: Today, I read about masonry and discussed my plot with Sue. She set me straight on a couple issues. Started writing this evening. So far so good, but behind schedule as usual. On another front I finally had the breakthrough I’ve been seeking for the fantasy novel. That should break that logjam at last. Story will have four scenes. I argued for a fifth, but Sue convinced me the story will seem more self-contained without it (and it will play very well in the next story).

Wednesday: I hate when this happens, but forcing my story scene took me nowhere today. I wrote the first half twice and it still sucks. After the second time through I realized why. I don’t need the first half of the scene. What I wrote today is basically a walk through of a scene leading to the inciting incident. I’m definitely behind schedule now, but at least I’m not over budget (that’s the optimist in me speaking). Tomorrow will be better.

Thursday: I rewrote the first scene to begin later (recalling the “rule” about starting in media res at or near an inciting incident). That worked and the scene played out pretty well from there. I’m lacking some emotional connection to the protagonist, but his flaw is becoming more concrete for me, so I think that will come with a final polish. Scene two should be easier as I’ve already written dialogue for the heart of it, and scene three is the climax and should be short. I may or may not require an anticlimax.

Friday: Sue read my first scene and made comments. I reworked it and then completed the second scene this evening. I have part of the final scene in place as well, but it needs a little transitional work. I’ll have to finish that tomorrow and send the story off to market. Looks like it will come in at 4000 words or so. I don’t have a title yet. Hopefully, I’ll wake up with one.

Saturday: After comments on the second scene, I revised it to improve a secondary character’s voice and insert some tension between characters. The story came in just under 4000 words. I’ll read through it next Saturday and submit it to Fae Publishing. This week, I subbed stories to trapeze magazine and Pedastal Magazine. I also wrote two literary flash fictions.

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analyzing mirror self-recognition

Image by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Flickr

Well, it’s that time of the year when we look back and forward in the same instant. No wonder we drink.

This year I focused on marketing my short fiction, learning new forms (twitter fiction, flash fiction) and learning to manage book length projects.

It was a good year in terms of sheer number of publications, a good year in terms of adapting to new forms, and a not quite so good year with book length projects.

The stats:

Short stories (including Flash)

Submissions = 158
Acceptances = 18

to paying markets = 9

New stories written = 37 give or take a couple

Twitter Fictions

Submissions = 24
Acceptances = 11

to paying markets = 3

Twitters written = 51

Novels

Completed = 1
Sold = 0

My goals for the upcoming year are:

1. Write and submit one story per week (Write1Sub1)

2. Publish at least 20 short stories, at least two professional markets.

3. Revise and submit fantasy novel

4. Put out the best possible Triangulation anthology.

Fireworks

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to friends and family and colleagues who read this blog. Let’s make 2011 something special, shall we?

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After a very nice day with family, I’m doing my best to catch up on slush for Triangulation: Last Contact. See my previous post for disclaimers. Here’s hoping the eggnog kicks in.

Story 20  (12/13/2010 Fantasy 3200 words)

This comes from a reasonably well known writer and previous contributor. Will that color my reading? A little bit. I generally give such stories a little more leeway, especially in their openings.

The story begins with a quirky hook and speculative element. I pretty much have to read on now. One of those “if the story works it’s great” lines.  It’s a comfortable, conversational voice. I’m not getting a lot of density though. It has the makings of a pretty light weight tale so far. Page 2 seems kind of familiar. Page 3 picks up for me. The story starts moving on page 5.

Page 6 makes me grin. Some strong details and lively prose through page 8.

Page 11. Seriously? I guess it’s taking trite and making it (somewhat) fresh again, but it’s not exactly leaping off the page. I do like the protagonist’s voice; it’s the fairly standard sight gags that aren’t working for me. If the story was shorter, I’d be more tolerant, but I’ve invested significant time to see a pretty basic plot skeleton. The story comes full circle, but it’s a forced full circle, in that the device that comes back was forgotten through the middle of the story.

I’ll pass this on to the other editors. It’s written well for what it attempts; I’d rather it attempted more, but we do usually publish a few light stories to balance out heavier ones. I’m willing to be convinced this should be one of them.

Slush-o-meter (1-10): 8 As a fluff story, this works well. It takes a speculative element and plays with it in a new way, utilizing an engaging voice and reasonably active plot. The story suffers a bit from an opening that takes too long to get moving and some too easy plot devices. I may not be a fan, but I do appreciate the skill on display.

Story 21  (12/16/2010 SF 5300 words)

This puts us right into the middle of a fight. Sometimes that’s a good way to involve the reader and sometimes it causes problems when the following scenes do not escalate further. Good action. I’d like a little more stage detail. I feel a bit disoriented. I wouldn’t want the detail to interfere with story action, but a few specific details mixed in would help. We have a yellow-suited human, hand claws (that works), red fur (cheats a little, but works), an electro-staff (I’m not picturing anything specific), a narrow opening, a pipeline, a corridor, an access hatch, a comm unit. These are certainly details, but nothing really jumps off the page and I end up feeling as if I’m running through a generic space ship rather than THIS one.

We come to more like the protagonist, “They had gray fur with gold eyes…”. This is sloppy description; does the fur have eyes? In general, I like the pacing of the scene, I like the character so far, I even like the general balance of detail and inner thinking, but it needs more attention to the specific to really come alive for me.

On page 3 I love the distinction between protecting the sword and using it. That’s effective, efficient culture-character development. Humans with electro-rods come down the hallway, yet I see nothing. I mean I can infer their presence and their weapon, but it’s not real to me. There’s not enough specific detail to pull me in.

Better details inside the transport pod. I’m not getting a good sense for the protagonist’s motivation. He does have a distinct goal, which is fine, but the chase scene doesn’t develop it further. I feel like there’s a lot of chasing without a lot of investment in the character (yet).  I like the action on page 5 – there’s a good sense of character interaction and I do care about the protagonist’s safety, yet I don’t really understand why this story is important yet.

The pod’s transition is delivered too abruptly. A scene cut might be better. I do like that there’s a complication.

I hope this isn’t Earth. Now we’re moving into a tour of the planet mode. I wouldn’t mind this if the character felt some tension regarding his purpose. This part of the story lacks escalation.

Page 8 provides some welcome context and some emotional escalation. This is good. Back to the world tour. Survival mode. The pacing feels more like novel-pacing than short story pace at this point. It seems part of a larger story than a depiction of an important story. Skimming.

Page 13 provides effective culture, the matrilineal nature is good. The complication of his wounds doesn’t really escalate from prior complications. What is missing in the story is a sense of story importance (Raise the Stakes).

Protagonist meets natives (not Earth – good).  They take him in without incident or particular tension. I like the dreamy interlude on page 19.  If he has a healing hand, why didn’t he heal his own wounds? Am I missing something?

An attack. Climax. Protagonist must make a decision. Is there a price? Nope.

Story ends with an episodic feel, as if this is just the beginning of the protagonist’s journey. He has learned something, but it came pretty easily – he had no real choice in the matter. The story ends up feeling like a sequence of basically well written scenes that don’t really escalate to an important resolution.  What the story needs, I think, is a stronger sense of specific detail early in the story and a much stronger sense of motivation throughout. A short story should be the most important event in a character’s lifetime, one that changes him forever and costs him in the process. Here, we don’t understand the importance of the sword, the importance of the escape, the actual motivation that keeps him moving, other than survival and possible reunion with his kind. What other option does he have, really? Now, if his mission was crucial to his species (at least his family) and it was his imperative to return the sword, such that survival is only a secondary need, and if he has to give up the chance to succeed in that quest in order to achieve this ending (i.e. he makes a choice that costs him dearly) then I think this can be a winner.

I’m not going to request a rewrite; there’s too much uncertainty as to whether “fixing” these problems will result in a spectacular story or simply a better one. I will offer to look at a revision, however, as there’s a real chance it could.

Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 The writing is active, which is very good for this type of story. The plot moves at a steady pace (except the world tour section, which needs to accomplish more than simply showing the world). The character is likable and does change. There’s a stated motivation, though it’s not carried well throughout the story. Overall, this is actually a decent depiction of an alien in a strange world. As a short story, however, it fails to escalate sufficiently and does not exact enough of a price from its protagonist. There’s good potential here.

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Ditty

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The Light Ray has become a reality over at Write1Sub1. If you’re intimidated by a story a week, check out the story a month option. Simon describes it well in his blog entry.

I spent the weekend writing a refreshing little ditty for Liberty Hall and reading Triangulation: Last Contact submission stories that had already been first-read by other editors. We’re already up to 37 submissions and I’ve rejected 10. Another four or five are being read by full staff. Hopefully we’ll have one or two accepts by next week.

So far I’ve been very impressed by the level of the prose. I don’t think a single story has been badly written. About half of the submissions have been reprints. We’re being very selective with reprints this year, since that has been a criticism of past issues. I’m sure we’ll end up taking a few, most likely from fairly “name” authors, and only if they’re really good.

What about the others, you ask? It’s been interesting. Last year we saw a great many stories that began with a startling hook before devolving into less interesting backstory. This year I’ve seen one, maybe two of those. No, a larger issue so far this year is the lack of genre indicators early in the story.  As a science fiction, fantasy and (a little) horror antho, we’re very sensitive to this issue. Our readers want well written genre stories, with definable story arc and are generally less patient with stories that depend primarily on glistening prose and emotional spaces. We want ambitious idea and competent or better character and prose.

Ideal examples from last year’s collection would include Tinatsu Wallace’s “A Womb of My Own” and Jaime Lee Moyer’s “Commander Perry’s Mystic Wonders Show”. Both stories utilize strong literary technique in service of their equally strong ideas; Science Fiction in Wallace’s case and modern fantasy for Moyer.

Don’t get me wrong. We loved every single story we published. Each editor, I imagine has a favorite or two (my blog, my faves above), but we all liked them or they didn’t get in. In my next post, I’ll run through each story and highlight exactly what we liked.

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

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In personal news, today I finished up chapter 4 of the fantasy novel. I’m working through a character motivation issue for chapter 5, but hope to write again tomorrow. I polished and submitted three flash fictions to literary markets. Finally, I received a page proof for my Daily Science Fiction story, which will appear on December 21. I hope you will read it, and post your compliments/complaints (I value both) to their Facebook Page.

My latest twitter fiction appeared at trapeze magazine over the weekend and I had one appear at Seedpod last week.

Well, off to bed for now. Wishing you a good night.

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I have time to squeeze in a story or two from the slush tonight. Let’s hope for a gem.

See my previous post for disclaimers about my posted reactions, etc.

Story 5 (12/6/2010 SF 2700 words)

This comes from a writer I admire, so fingers crossed, I begin. Dialogue heavy opening works because the dialogue is lively and moves the story forward. Not sure I’m fond of the gust of wind, unless there’s some purpose behind it.  Good pacing. Just as I’m beginning to think the dialogue could go on too long, it ends, and we get a new encounter with just the right hint of strangeness. Scene 1 ends very well.

Second scene opens well, but is slipping into familiar territory. I’m losing interest, but not to the point of stopping. There is a nice irony to the protagonist being selected. The scene recovers; it’s familiar but specific.

Some fun writing in third scene. I see an end coming. I hope the story surprises me.

Ah, darn. The ending doesn’t really impress me. I liked the selection of the protagonist, but he resolves into a stereotype by story end. Why does he drink? Because he’s one of those people. Why does he make the decision he does? Because he’s one of those people. The decision complicates Al’s objective, but it doesn’t really contradict or complicate the underlying concept. Consequently, I’m left feeling like the story, while engagingly written, doesn’t really rise above the usual, at least not enough to recommend for the collection. We’ll likely end up with a couple stories of this sort, with fairly straight-forward premise and fun writing, but this one doesn’t quite do the trick for me. I will share it with other editors because it’s well written and tastes do vary.

Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 It succeeds at building a quirky, likable character and setting forth a reasonable premise, but fails at taking me to a really new place. That seems essential for this “type” of story, which is meant to be clever, with a vein of serious conjecture running through it.

Story 6 (12/6/2010 Fantasy 2000 words)

This uses an unusual viewpoint device (2nd person), which is typically difficult to pull off. Technically, this is handled well here. The genre reader in me, however, feels it is slightly pretentious. My literary side likes the attempt. Unfortunately, the story devolves (for good reason) to a sort of explanation of necessary background that detracts from a sense of story movement. I mean, isn’t this a version of talking heads? The protagonist is telling me stuff I would already know for the most part. Some good character details, but I can’t get past the artificiality of the technique.

Second scene is more intriguing.

Third scene has a good sense of story movement. We discover the protagonist is male. That came as a surprise to me. This is not a good thing.

Fourth scene maintains sense of movement. I’m hoping there’s going to be more to the story than the surface details we’re getting. An interesting line at the end.

Fifth scene begins with a rainbow, which reminds me of last year’s anthology theme. This is not really good, though I’m not sure why it should matter to me.  Ends with an escalation of the prior scene. Technically sound, but not really getting beneath the surface of the idea.

Final scenes move along at a good pace. I like the visual we get with the phenomenon, but I’m still not feeling like the story has deepened from its initial premise. It’s basically a ghost story. I like the final line, but not so much what it implies. Suicide seems likely. Reject, I’m afraid.

Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 It’s strange to rate it so low, because the prose is actually quite good and the pacing is about right; the idea is acceptable, the execution solid. But the story fails to accomplish what a story of this “type” needs to accomplish, which is to show me a new facet of the ghost story idea. The technique interferes with characterization and the reveal doesn’t really require the second person viewpoint; in fact the viewpoint detracts from the reveal for me. If I were revising this, I’d start with deeper characterization of the protagonist and more specific life history. And definitely stick to first or third person. Either should work at this length. The idea is simple; character will have to carry the tale, I suspect.

Well, I’m out of time for this session. See yinz soon.

 

 

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U.S. Patents granted, 1800–2004.

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This year I’ll be first-reading about 25% of submissions and reporting the process here in the blog. Please remember that these comments reflect my reactions as an editor for the anthology. The Slush-o-meter (patent pending) attempts a wider interpretation, in that it seeks to understand what the story is attempting to do to my mind and gauge how well it succeeds in that worthy ambition. Please note the preponderance of terms such as “attempts” and “seeks” in the above, as the Slush-o-meter (patent pending) is no more a perfect device than yours truly. I mean well.

Shall we begin?

Story 1 (12/1/2010 SF 7500 words)

I like that this begins by dropping me into the middle of an action. It efficiently introduces a character in context and incorporates sound and sight and internal thought. The prose is unadorned and admirably clear.  I am, however, disoriented by a lack of a greater context, in particular I have no idea how this character came to be here or where here actually is. Or why it should matter.  Certainly I’m not expecting a character motivation in the first sentence of a 7500 word story (I wouldn’t mind that, but it’s not expected), but I am expecting somewhere concrete to put my feet before I start exploring. This opening disorients me enough that I’m not identifying with character and I’m certainly not getting a sense of the stakes involved.  And, so, while I like this prose very much and the character seems nice enough, I’m already skimming by page 2. Not because I think this is unsuitable for the anthology, but because I’m looking for the point at which it engages me fully. I already know that we will not take the story with this opening, but we might request a rewrite if it develops and ends well.

For a little over two pages, I’m simply watching a character extrude herself from a tight place. It’s perfectly clear what she does and how, but not why or what it means. In other words, I’m not getting a sense of story yet. On page 3, we get the first concrete connection between this situation and the story title. My interest perks at this point. Some interesting (and unobtrusive) character development holds me.  We get some backstory. I like that it’s not info-dumpy, but delivered as internal thought in response to the character’s situation. I do not like how simple the back story turns out to be. Basically, the character got here almost by coincidence. This does nothing to allay my concern that the story is not “important” enough to carry 7500 words. I’m getting little in the way of escalation yet.

Page 4 brings some escalation of the situation. Good physical description of action. I’m still not getting a sense that this really matters (beyond the character’s immediate welfare). We get an effective description of aliens.  So much is done well, yet the story is reading flat. I am a little annoyed by the repetition of a certain character trait involving numbers. That gets old quickly (at least for me).  Ditto the exploding head concern. I actually like that a kid would fixate on such an accessible catastrophe, but I’m wishing we could escalate the overall emotional stake, and this occasional repetition reminds me we’re not.

Ah, page 8. We get an abrupt confrontation and I feel engaged.  The next scene is charming. However, there’s really no escalation of emotional arc, rather an exchange of information. It never quite becomes info-dumpy, but is close to talking heads at one point. I feel as if the scene is provided to give me information rather than to escalate story.

Protagonist joins the aliens and uses her talents to save them from a threat. This is all fine and delivered cleanly, but it’s a fairly superficial story event that barely changes the protagonist’s perspective. That is, the story isn’t really important in the end. It’s a transition in the character’s life. Which is why it reads like a chapter from a longer work rather than a short story. For this reason, I don’t think a rewrite will be in order. Certainly, I’ll encourage the writer to submit again, as the writing is exceptionally clean. There’s a nice balance of introspection and action and the prose never drags. Unfortunately the story never quite grabs me either.

Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 If this were a novel chapter the rating would be more like a 8 or 9, but as a short story that seeks to engage me, it only partially succeeds.

Story 2 (12/1/2010 Horror 1900 words):

Story begins with dialogue. This can be an effective technique to drop us into the middle of a situation. It works well enough here, identifying the protagonist and a secondary character efficiently. The dialogue snippet also hints at motivation, which is good.  The following lines, however, read very flat. The conversation feels chit-chatty. “Hi, how are you?” “Oh, I’m fine. You?” “Not so bad.” It’ s not really that extreme, but I’m no longer feeling intrigued by the opening line. It also does not help that we’re not engaging with the character’s perspective, but are seeing this from a camera POV. One character walks in, sits at a table, the other brings a plate of food. They say words. There’s no sense of a protagonist reacting to his surroundings or of his emotional state. How would I fix this? I would tell it from inside the protagonist rather than outside. I would have him think something relevant in that first paragraph and have him react internally to the other character’s response. Rather than establishing his schedule through dialogue, I would establish his priorities through internal thought, in response to dialogue. The purpose of this opening should be to get us to identify with this character, to see this world through his eyes and emotional state. Right now the entire opening scene does not advance the story any further than the first sentence did. That’s a problem.

The second scene brings us into the protagonist, which is good. The writing deteriorate s a bit, however. Too many “as” and a telling of emotion (he raised his eyebrows in disbelief). These are elements that pull us out of the character and remind us that we’re reading a story rather than experiencing a situation from within the character. Having seen this problem so often, my emotional attachment to the character fades quickly. Some stories can overcome such technique flaws (good story can overcome a lot), but these sorts of flaws can drag a less than stellar story idea down fairly quickly.  The pacing is a little quick through here, but we do get a complication and that’s good.

The prose is adequate, but tends to lapse into passivity, which makes it read flat. As one example, consider a sentence such as “The fluttering  sensation was no longer occurring.” Rather than using sensation to connect us to character, this sentence settles for telling us about the sensation in passive terms. “The fluttering in Joy’s stomach stopped abruptly. ‘Thank heaven,” she gasped.” This second version may not be great writing, but it does invite us into the character rather than pushing us out.

The remainder of the story reads in this same flat cadence. There’s definitely an escalation of situation and emotion, but the actual revelation isn’t all that fresh. I’ve read something similar in Necrotic Flesh recently. The device does work and is certainly creepy, but the story itself doesn’t compel me. We publish very little outright horror in the first place, so this becomes a definite no.

If I were to advise this author, I would recommend working on writing scenes from inside the character. A nice place to start is Writing The Perfect Scene by Randy Ingermanson. In particular, I like his take on the micro elements of scene (Dwight Swain’s concept of Motivation-Reaction Units).

Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 This is a decent small press horror idea and there’s a definable story arc, but the delivery lacks the visceral emotional reaction such horror should convey.

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Ate Day

Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall. Image by jaqian via Flickr

Progress today:

1. wrote a flash for Show Me Your Lits.

2. read flashes at Liberty Hall.

3. caught up on Daily Science Fiction, at least a bit. One story, in particular, caught my attention. Outside the Box by Brian Winfrey. His first short story attempt. I’ll be interested to see what else he comes up with, whether he’s trapped within this lively voice or it is simply one facet of his craft.

4. worked some more on my critique for Australia.

5. first read on second critique

6. tweaked a flash piece and submitted it to Daily Science Fiction.

7. subbed a twitter fiction to Nanoism. I’ve had difficulty breaking into that market. I think my work is a touch too genre for his taste, but it’s on my bucket list now. We’ll see just how stubborn I really am. Have a look at Simon Kewin’s twitter fiction there. Cool, eh?

8. read Chapters 24-26 in Pride and Prejudice. To tell the truth, my mind kept wandering, but there was a marriage and a touch of fairly hilarious (and insightful) prose, as well as Lizzy deciding what love is not (she’s wrong, of course).

So, while I didn’t exactly finish what I wanted to finish, I did work my tail off, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much. I’ll leave that task to you, dear reader.

elephant pissing

Image by mygothlaundry via Flickr

In closing, I’m pretty pissed at North Korea today. That country needs a diaper change or something. And what’s with the hair? I hope it doesn’t blow up into more than the usual tantrum for world attention.

Kim Jong Il

Image by Dunechaser via Flickr

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Sink Day

Australian Coat of Arms (adopted 1912)

Image via Wikipedia

Progress today:

1. Wrote a 1200 word flash for Liberty Hall. It’s a great idea, but 90 minutes did not do it justice. I’m hoping it will become the first scene of a longer story.

2. Started critique for my Australian friend. It’s taking longer than I wanted because I want to do a thorough job. I feel like he’s so close to breaking through that next layer of frustration.

3. Watched my Steelers trounce Oakland (for a change). Ooops, that’s not writing.

In other words, I didn’t achieve my goals for today. Ugh.

Tomorrow:

1. Finish Critique

2. Do critique for Triangulation purchaser

3. 500 words on Chapter 3.

4. 2-3 chapters in Pride and Prejudice

Feel free to heckle in the comments section. I would if it were you :-)

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