Monday, February 28, 2011

Introducing "Vestigial Organs"

Happy Monday, everyone! Today my short story "Vestigial Organs" was archived on the Daily Science Fiction site, so you can head over there and check it out.

The zombicorns celebrate this story, naturally.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


If you head over to the DNA Writers' blog, they are having an awesomesauce contest right now with loads of cool prizes. Check it out:

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Which I Talk About Getting A Short Story Published

So awhile back, a very exciting thing happened. I sold my speculative short story "Vestigial Organs" to Daily Science Fiction. I didn't talk about it much because I'm weird like that (ie my OCD convinces me that good things will inevitably and inexplicably vanish) and I was worried it wouldn't actually happen, like maybe the editor would change his mind or the whole market would randomly decide to go bankrupt and close down, but he didn't and it didn't and now the day is almost here! On Monday the story gets mailed out to subscribers and then it will be archived on the site. I'll put up a link to the archived story when one is available.

I'm very excited. :-)

Excited writer is excited
(In other words: Squeeee!!!!!)

The thing I like about short stories is how easily I can handle the submission process--I can send out one or two a week, and when they come back rejected I just send them out again to some other place. It's like juggling. Not to mention how the rejections hurt SO MUCH LESS because I didn't spend a year of my life bleeding words into them, just a few hours or days.

But acceptances are still really sweet.

Happy Friday, peeps!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finding the Right Balance

For me, writing is about finding the right tension between planning and pantsing, between the willpower to write no matter how much I don't want to and the burning desire to tell a story, between knowing enough about my characters that I can render them accurately from the beginning, and leaving enough to be discovered so they surprise me.

For instance, take planning vs. pantsing. If I plan everything, it has the effect of a wet blanket on a fire. Sizzle, and not in a good way. On the other hand, the idea of pantsing a NOVEL scares the crap out of me. With my (much neglected) current WIP, I discovered halfway through the first draft that I really needed to plan every beat of the story because it was a bit of a thriller/mystery, with betrayals, twists, and reveals coming right and left in the last act. I needed to know everything I was going to do so I could set things in motion early on and have them pay off at the end. But when I sat down and made myself a thorough outline, the desire to write the thing tapered off.

This, naturally, ties into the second point. Willpower vs. desire. I can't write a good story when I literally force myself to write every step of the way. They always turn out flat and stale. There's something about my own eagerness for the story that breathes spark into the words. But I am fully aware that few books are written on burning desire alone. Everyone has days (many many days) when they don't feel like writing and they must sit down, grit their teeth, and do it anyway. So the balance for me is finding that spark and then nurturing it and yes, sometimes going on without it. But I need it somewhere.

And with the third point--characters that have no mystery to them are boring. Boring kills the spark. It's a vicious cycle.

Anyway, I made a discovery with this WIP. I think I can have my ice cream cake cake and eat it too.

Here's what I did. I planned out the entire story and journey for my main character, Shana. There's lots of mystery and intrigue, and I needed to know who was the villain and who betrayed whom and all the major twists and hints dropped beforehand and all my red herrings. BUT then I compromised with my creative self and added the viewpoint of a second character, who previously didn't have a POV in the narrative. His story is largely unknown to me, and I still don't understand him fully as a character. Suddenly, the story is breathing again. I feel the itch to write it, to explore it. But I still have my outline and IT STILL WORKS.


I am PRAYING this plan is successful.

So what about you? Do you ever have to play games with your brain? Is your creative self a needy, demanding diva like mine?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Are You Writing For?

Sometimes when I'm working on a book or short story, I start to get bogged down in the details, in the anxiety of being perfect and scintillating and sparkling with wit. Is this sentence vibrant, is that verb active, is this character complex/deep/likable enough, is that plot line going to be strong enough? And I lose my way, creatively speaking.

Now, vibrant sentences, active verbs, strong and complex characters--those are valid concerns. I want the story to be the best it can be. I want my writing to be clear, strong, and concise.

But at the same time, I've discovered something about myself.

When I fret about editors and agents and being perfect and what will people on GoodReads think?? and on and on and on while I'm writing the rough draft, it KILLS THE STORY.

Today I had to take a metal step back from a project that I was slowly strangling to death with anxiety and I asked myself sternly: Just who am I writing this for, anyway?

Am I writing this story to impress those editors and agents? Am I writing it for the people on GoodReads? Am I writing it for my mom, my next door neighbor, my sister, my cousins? Who?

I thought about it for a second. And my answer was the one it always is--I write every story for my teenage best friend Nikki and my teen self. If I could put my books in a time capsule, strap that baby to a time machine, and send them back, I would do it. And just realizing that again made me breathe a sigh of relief. It helped me focus. And I realized something else.

You can't write for everybody.

At least I can't. I know I can't please everybody. So why do I even try? Even worse, when I sit down and try to bang out a story that will impress and stir the hearts of a vague, hazy-in-my-mind audience of people I don't know, I freeze up. I get "write fright" (astonishingly similar to stage fright in my case).

So my advice to myself and every other writer out there is this. Don't do it! Don't write for everyone. Write the book that you (or whoever you are writing for) would love. Focus on that, and make it the best book you could possibly give yourself or whoever your lucky recipient/beta reader/cheerleader/best friend may be. And then, when you're done with your first draft and you're editing and cutting and making it pretty and shiny for the rest of the world to see, you can expand that focus.

And who knows? Maybe your book will speak to more people than you thought it would when you wrote it. Everyone brings their own imagination to the table, and we have more in common with others than I think we realize.

But don't let yourself be paralyzed creatively by the thought of "everyone."

Here's a few links to posts I found relevant/fascinating today. The first is a frightening inclusion in Macmillan's contracts that you should be aware of, and the second is a post from the brilliant blog Wordplay about common mistakes editors see. (But don't let it kill your creativity! Absorb the advice and log it away for revision!)

{Macmillan's freaky new contract clause}


{The four most common mistakes fiction editors see}

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Open In Case of Agent

If you're anything like me, then sometimes you probably find it hard to keep going amid all the waiting and rejection. Follow Your Dreams No Matter What! can be a lovely sentiment, but when you're staring a the latest rejection letter, wishing your dreams included a little more instant gratification and a little less heartbreak, you might need something to pick you up now and then.

No, I don't have an iphone :-(
I'm feeling a tiny bit of that today, so I thought I'd compile a folder for if when I get The Call. It's nice to think about, but more than that, I think it's a good thing to consider ahead of time.

Basically, I figure that should an agent ever call out of the blue with great news for me, I will probably be too flustered and hysterical to think of everything I need to ask. With that in mind, I'm going to compile a list of questions and considerations ahead of time so I can just pop over to my laptop, open the file, and ask away without having to wrack my brain.

Of course, I don't know everything I need to ask anyway, even if I'm not flustered with the news of my dream come true. To that I say, hello, interwebs!

I turned to Google and found this great list on Rachelle Gardner's blog:

Questions to Ask a Potential Agent

And she actually included another link in that article, to this handy blog post about some other considerations you need to make before signing with an agent:

Before You Hire a Literary Agent

So think about it. If you are still waiting on your good news, maybe this is a good time to get prepared for what you'll say when it happens.

Happy writing, everyone!


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