Short Stories Fast

Writing 50,000 words of short stories in a month is my personal challenge. I wanted a way to jump start my short writing and this challenge is certainly doing that. My writing tends to be long with many plot threads and an epic scope. Writing short requires focus on a few characters, a single plot, and one or two locations.

Writing short requires depth. Not that an epic shouldn’t be deep, but a short story demands a depth that is apparent and felt in just a few words. Also, specific to genre, the short story does not give much space for world building. I am finding that challenge to be the most enjoyable. Defining the character’s situation within a secondary world or alternate first world in no more than a paragraph or two worth of words is delicious. It can only help in my longer works to be more concise and focused.

Writing this many stories (I’m up to five so far) in a short period of time has also revealed my tendencies and repetitive faults. This may be the most valuable part of the exercise. Rather than learning over the course of a year or two that I always start a short story the same way I see it right away, and I can correct it before any of the stories goes out into the world.

This #NaStoWriMo may be the way I spend next November too.

How is your #NaNoWriMo #NaStoWriMo going?

For Character Driven Fantasy, Start With World-building

Filed under notes to self.
During my planning for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel it occurred to me I have developed a process for honing in on characters, and it starts with world-building.
Process
Create a physical world: whether it is the real world, a secondary world, or a nebulous astral plane, knowing what the large physical constraints are helps define what kinds of societies evolve. This might be where I introduce any magic inherent in the world, particularly any magic based on nature.
Define the time period of the world: when in the world is the story happening?
Describe societies: with physical boundaries in place and any natural magics defined, and knowing when the story is happening, I can start to see what sorts of societies might have developed. Is there an isolated society, or one where water is scare, or seafaring versus landlocked? This is where ideas for characters really start to emerge. Knowing how societies order themselves through social norms, politics, traditions, religion, commerce, etc. I can see roles within those societies. These roles start to suggest important players, not always POV characters but characters to move the story.
I should note this is often where a plot, if I don’t have much of one, starts to be revealed. To me, plots are about conflict and on the epic scale, conflict is about power; who has it, who doesn’t.
List who best to tell the story: again I’m initially talking about roles, not specific characters, but as the roles get defined the focus narrows to individual voices.
Identify the voices to tell the story: by this point most of the POV characters have been revealed. I know who needs to tell the story, the ones who need to shed light on an important role character who is not a POV. Most importantly, I know the characters who’s voices need to be heard. They already beginning to speak and make me take notice of them.
Detail the characters: is the final step. Dig deep into who they are, how they came to be who they are, and who they might be at the end of the story.
This is by no means a unique process but it’s the one that works for me. This is my sixth novel/series and just as the process has evolved to this point, it will no doubt continue to evolve. This is also not definitive. There are times when I’ll have an idea for a character and no world in which to put them in. That’s a thought for another day.

Planning (Again) & NaNoWriMo

Participating in NaNoWriMo, as I’ve mentioned before, has been a good way to start the work of a new book and get it completely down in what I call a NaNo draft. The NaNo draft is really just a starting point to get to the Dirty Draft. Fifty thousand words just isn’t enough for the epic fantasy novel.

This year it looked like my day job was going to prevent me from participating in NaNoWriMo, so I made alternate plans to do what I could in November, mostly research and editing. However, this week brought a change in the day job’s schedule. It now appears I may actually have more time than I thought. There still won’t be enough time to do a new novel in November but I am going to add fifty thousand words to last year’s NaNo project. The novel needs it. Despite doing NaNo prep in October, I always spend a bunch of NANo time filling in plot holes, developing missing characters, or character arcs. By using last year’s book I have already done the majority of those things and I should be able to just write the book.

Writers who work at other jobs have to be flexible and always seek the best use of the time they have for their writing. We can’t worry too much about the rules of how to get the writing done, we have to find the ways which work for us.

NaNoWriMo and Marathons: It’s November

November seems to be the month where my personal goals get an accounting. It is also the month where things seem to fall apart. Two years ago I signed up for my first half marathon. It was a test for myself after losing twenty pounds that year. The weeks immediately leading up to the event, however, became ridiculously stressful at the day job, and the hours grew so great I could no longer train correctly. I never made the distance in training. Somehow, the last two weeks before the marathon calmed down enough and I was able to run the event, all thirteen plus miles. Mission accomplished.

Last year I signed up again. I wanted to challenge myself and beat my time. I also decided I should participate in NaNoWriMo. I had a couple of novels ready for their first draft and needed to just get them written. The same thing happened at the day job and this time it was worse. I worked eighteen hours a day, seven days a week for six weeks straight. I even worked the day of the marathon. There was no training for two months. I lost my entry fee, and I lost NaNoWirMo.

This past Monday I signed up for NaNoWriMo and today I signed up for the half marathon. Am I just hoping this year will be different? No. I’ve made some professional choices in my day job and made it clear I will never again go through what I experienced the last two years. I have turned down some opportunities but I’ve also regained some fitness and creative energy, which in turn has improved my life. Period.