Posted in Exercises, Stories

Setting Up a Challenge

With the last few days of March approaching, I’ve been looking towards things I want to do for April. Because I have a tendency to get distracted by new ideas, I’m trying to limit myself to three new project months a year. That should be April, July and November. These nicely sync up with the usual NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo events. Over the last couple of months however, I noticed that while I have a several ideas for larger works, I don’t have too many for shorter ones.

So, for April, I decided I wanted to challenge myself (of course, you are more than welcome and heartily invited to participate as well). For April, I want to try and write thirty short stories.

‘Short story’ tends to be a broad spectrum. From hundred words drabbles to a ten thousand word exploration, there’s a lot of ground to cover in ‘short story’. That’s part of why I find the idea so appealing. It’s a good way to explore new characters and ideas and to get other ideas moving and working.

On the other hand, that broad of an interpretation leaves me open to falling behind if I end up stuck on a short story that does end up being ten thousand words.

To keep myself from getting mired in a pit of a longer story, I’ve decided on two requirements:

  1. Write a total of 30 short stories by April 30th
  2. Shorts should not exceed 5,000.

That still leaves plenty of space to get everything done, if say I have a bad writing day and don’t manage to get anything written. I have a chance to catch up on the next good day if I can instead write two flash pieces or a couple of drabbles.

Just in case I get stuck, I’ve also come up with thirty lists of between three and seven words to help spark something should I need to. The idea is that if I don’t have any ideas already, I should challenge myself to write a story including all of the words on that day’s list. If you want to check out the list of words, you can do so here: 30DayShortsApril2020.

Are you up for a challenge?

Posted in General, writing

Co-Authoring

There’s a good chance at least one of the books on your shelf or in your digital library has multiple authors behind it. And, if you’re a writer, you may have thought you’d love to work with another author or writer some day.

Writing a novel is a huge endeavor. Writing a novel with someone else (or several someones) is even bigger. There are a lot of things to take into account when you decide to co-author.

Examine Your Process before you even start writing with someone else, take a look at how the both of you write. If one of you is a hard-core plan and the other can’t stand to have even a basic, that’s a major obstacle you need to be aware of and come up with a solution to. There’s no easy solution here, it’s going to require compromise and working together to figure out how to make your processes mesh. There’s likely to be less work if you have a similar process.

Communication is a huge factor here. Remember that your process likely won’t be the same as their process. Communicating how you work and what you need to complete your work is absolutely vital or the entire thing can grind to a halt. This also covers expectations: do you want to set particular requirements for each party such as timing?

Compatibility in a creative project is a tricky one to define. How well your voices and styles work together is different than how your processes work together. Genre is another important factor to consider when co-authoring: if you’re not reading and writing in the same genres, chances aren’t high for success. While this is the biggest factor in how well a co-authoring project works, it’s also the most subjective. This goes back to the above communication: Being open and talking to your writing partner about what you want from the story will save you problems and headaches later.

What are your co-authoring experiences?

Posted in General

Everyone Is Afraid

Originally I’d planned today’s post to be on co-authoring, but in light of the reaction to COVID-19, I wanted to address the concerns plaguing the world. The fact is, the reactions we’ve seen are massive. Here in the US schools are closed or are having their spring breaks extended. In my state, there has been some talk of postponing the end of the year tests. Employees are sent home for a cough and told not to come back until they’ve been tested. National Emergency has been declared, and people are scared. 

This is reflected across the world. Canada. Ireland. Australia. Schools are closed, large gatherings are cancelled. People are told to self-isolate and travel is heavily restricted.  There are shortages of incredibly questionable items.

In the face of all this, things look grim. There are no concrete answers to what the next steps are even while researchers, scientists and medical professionals work to contain and combat the virus.

There are however, things to keep in mind and reassure yourself with. To start, do a self-assessment.

Are you currently ill? If no, do the things you would normally to stop yourself from getting sick–wash your hands regularly, cough into your elbow, don’t touch your face and if you know someone who is sick, don’t hug or kiss them.

If you are ill, stay at home. Enjoy some of your favorite shows, drink plenty of fluids and follow medical advice.

If you need to stock up, please, please pick up reasonable amounts. Remember that although it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, there is such a thing as being over prepared. Also keep in mind that for those of you buying up large cases of water and toilet paper that you’re not facing a natural disaster, you’re facing an outbreak of a virus. Tap water will still be available. You do not need six months of toilet paper.

In the event you end up having to self-quarantine, even temporarily, there are plenty of ways to socialize without having to be around people. Messaging systems like Skype, Discord and FaceTime give you a way to be around people without having to be near them. You can call and chat with people even while they continue their day-to-day lives. Work from home if you’re able.

Above all else, remember that as scared as you are, everyone else is scared as well. The virus itself may never come anywhere near you or your family, but the actions you and others take out of fear will have a much bigger impact.  Fighting over basic supplies won’t help anyone. Checking in on your vulnerable community members and helping them get the things they need such as cough and cold medications or soap and hand sanitizer will help protect your community as a whole and minimize the spread and any potential deaths from it.

Posted in General, writing

On Different Approaches

Last week while speaking with a friend, we ended up on a discussion of worldbuilding and where to start it. In essence, she wanted to write a story, but complained she didn’t have the world for it. My response caused a bit of confusion for us both: Just write the story.

The fact that I did so surprised her, if only because she’s also heard me complain and grump about editing when my story contradicts the world I have for it. She’d thought that I, like her, built the world first and wrote the story second.

I however, had a hard time grasping how you would build a world that you don’t have a story for at all. I tend to write the early draft, and pull out any details from it during editing to build the world as I build the story.

Both techniques work, and there’s something to be said for both of them on where you begin.

Worldbuilding First gives you a solid structure to work from. It provides plenty of places for conflict as well as giving you the details needed to make your story seem real. On the other hand, worldbuilding is a massive undertaking and it could be very easy to get bogged down on trying to figure out everything before you put pen to paper.

Story writing First provides ideas to help spawn details and new features for your world. It can help you populate the world with realistic characters. But, it also leaves you open to contradictions and possible continuity errors.

Whichever approach you choose, choose the one that works best for you. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.

Where do you start your worldbuilding?