A couple of months have passed since putting my novella Privilege and Longing through the Writing the Novella Workshop. The workshop experience was great, the feedback invaluable, and a camaraderie was created that has so far lasted beyond the workshop. But now comes the work. It is time to review the feedback and incorporate the best of it into the story.
Others have already edited or re-written the works they presented. I may be the last to do so. Partly, this was due to getting caught up in a shiny new project. Partly it was due to completing some short stories for submission. But the truth is, it is not easy to sit down to re-work something that has been so thoroughly analyzed.
I loved the feedback. Most of it was positive and does need to be incorporated to make my story stronger. But how do I know which suggestions work and which ones might be good ideas but don’t contribute to making the story stronger? It will take a lot of digging, trying things on the page, re-reading, and thinking. That’s the work that gets stories completed.
So the next few weeks I will be re-opening the innards of the story and performing surgery. Hopefully the patient will fully recover.
I mentioned a few months ago that I was going to use this year’s NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words of short stories. Others have tried different versions of a story writing month but this is my plan for 2018.
In September and October I’m dreaming up ideas then giving each idea a star rating with three stars meaning it has everything it needs to be a story. In October I will settle on ten to twelve three-star story ideas and flesh out who’s in them, what the main conflicts are, andfigure out the motivations and settings.
In November I will write each of the there-star stories until I reach 50,000 words.
I want to do this for a few reasons. First, I’ve done NaNoWriMo three times and succeeded all three times. Last year, even while traveling and in the first week attending the World Fantasy Convention, I reached the goal early. When I am committed to a month of writing, hitting 50,000 words is not really a challenge any more. That is not a brag. By working through previous years I have developed a writing discipline that lets me produce fairly quickly. Editing is another story, but I can get a draft down much faster than when I first tried NaNoWriMo.
Second, I need to write more short stories. I have enough novel ideas for the next ten years. What I need are short stories. This is partly because I feel the form fits certain story ideas I want to write. It is also because there is truth in the fail often principle.
I know none of the stories written during November will be ready to submit. That’s not the point. I will have at least eight or ten stories to edit and give me nearly a year’s worth of submissions if I edit one a month.
NaNoWriMo is great for social writing, motivation, and feeling accomplished. Even if you don’t make 50,000 words its worthwhile. You get something written and that’s really the point. So I’ll be using the community of NaNoWriMo to support my short story writing. If you wish to join me, use #NaStoWriMo on Twitter and we’ll provide our own sub-support group.
Note: #NaStoWriMo is not affiliated with NaNoWriMo in any way.
Summer travel was not conducive to a lot of reading but here are a few stories that stood out to me over the last couple of months.
- Bones in the Rock, by R. K. Kalaw, was really strong with emotion, and shows that a good writer can elicit emotion through any being.
- By Claw, By Hand, By Silent Speech, by Elsa SjunNeson-Henry, and A. Merc Rustad, is thematically related to Bones in the Rock. The story is very inventive storytelling.
- Milkteeth, by Kristi Demeester, is a deliciously dark and disturbing story.
- To This You Cling, With jagged Fingernails, by Beth Cato. For all of us who still believe in magic.
- The Passenger, by Emily Lundgren, is a dark tale that falls into greater darkness. It’s also a flashback to life in 2002-ish.
- Cast Off Tight, by Hal Zhang. Quirky, sad, yet hopeful.
I recently participated in my first fiction writing workshop. It was exactly what I needed. The Novella and Novelette Writing Workshop led by K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl focused on the shorter novel form.
The exercise of writing a novella for this workshop was strong motivation for me. It provided a deadline. I had six months from registration to the first session in which to plot, write, edit, and proofread what turned out to be a 39,000 word story.
To meet that deadline I stepped up my productivity and met the deadline easily. That was a confidence builder for my writing work in general.
The workshop itself also provided reassurance once we were underway. I was not sure what the other writers would bring or where I would fall in terms of skill level. Did I belong? It turns out every story showed promise as a publishable work. We all have things to do to improve our stories, but we each have something we could publish. Another confidence booster.
I have heard workshops can be a positive or negative experience. This one was all positive. The environment was productive and encouraging while the critiques were direct and constructive. I recommend anyone who wants to write novellas or novelettes to sign up for it the next time it is offered.
It’s only June but I was recently thinking about wether or not I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I decided I would, but I won’t be writing a novel. I have participated for several years now and had no difficulty in producing a 50,000 word draft for a novel, so it feels like there is no challenge. It still remains a great way to get a draft down but this year I decided I will try to write 50,000 words worth of short stories.
I know May is National Short Story Month but that celebration feels like one mostly for reading, plus I was focused on completing a novella that was due. It seems like a good use of the community and environment that NaNoWriMo creates to help me get more short stories written. So I’m going to call November, NaStoWriMo (sorry if that isn’t original) and over the next few months I’ll be collecting ideas for six or seven short stories. Then, for thirty days I’ll be writing them out fast and furious.
Anyone else interested in #NaStoWriMo?
My to-be-read list of short stories, novelettes, and novellas is growing. So many good things being published right now it’s hard to keep up, but I did work my way through a few items lately and here are the most remarkable:
The Only Harmless Great Thing” The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander is a terrific novelette. If you like alternate history Fantasy and Science Fiction this should be on your reading list.
Origin Story, T. Kingfisher
River Doll, Tariro Ndoro @MissTariN
I have noted before how I’m a slow reader. I read each word and then I re-read as I go because, as a writer, I can’t help it. Despite my slowness, I have managed to read more by making reading a priority. If I consider myself a serious writer I have to spend time writing, and reading.
What to read?
As widely as I can. I know, that sounds more like a ‘how’ rather than a ‘what’ question but really it is about what to read.
How wide is wide?
This is a question about genre. How many genres or sub-genres is only part of the equation. I see Format as part of widening a genre. Short stories, novellas, and serials, even within a genre, provide a rich and varied set of voices.
The same is true with publishers. The Big Five and their imprints are fine but small presses and small magazines are publishing some of the best, and award winning fiction. The best things I read recently came from small presses like Small Beer Press and small magazines such as Shimmer.
Readers seem to be embracing the diversity of format and sources given the success of novellas and serials recently. I’m excited to see this trend because as a writer it provides me with more ways to reach an audience. More chances for an acceptance letter.
It also means I need to read in the emerging wider world and I’m happy with that.