NaNoWriMo is Nigh – A Month of Getting Things Done

Every year I think I’m free but they pull me back in.
National Novel Writing Month is approaching, and once again, I’ll be participating. That being said, I am going to be working towards that 50k goal on my own terms. It doesn’t serve me very well to just crank out thousands and thousands of words worth of stream-of-consciousness narration and then look back on it in December and see the text version of a tangled box of Christmas lights so I am going to take a more organized approach.
Here’s my 2014 NaNoWriMo Plan:
Use this month to write a rough draft:  Last year I did this and it was a great exercise in working through a plot idea and trying to stitch together all the ideas I had for a story. The story itself is a mess and a half, but nevertheless it was a great way to force myself to get through the hemming and hawing that comes from conceptualizing a story. Once you start putting ideas to paper (digital or otherwise) you can get a clear picture of what’s going to work and what isn’t.
Also use this month to clean out my in-progress short stories:  I use my Gmail account’s draft folder as a sort of cloud drive for short stories, plot and character ideas, and keeping all the other crafty and creative things that spring to mind close at hand. It’s nice to be able to have a few hundred words of a story on hand that you can pull up on any computer without having to constantly shuffle the most current saved file back and forth between multiple machines.
At the moment I have seven incomplete stories in my draft folder, and I’d like to have at least five of them completed by the end of November. Even if they turn out to be flash fiction, that’s around 10k worth of word towards the NaNoWriMo goal and more importantly, five more stories to submit to markets. I am looking forward to this challenge as I feel it will be a good way to take a break from working on the rough draft without removing myself from writing. If I finish all seven stories, then great! Woo-hoo, go me!
So that’s-a my plan.
Additionally, I like to throw some sort of personal motivation into the mix. The thrill of 50k in a month is pretty sweet, but hey, I’m a base human being and enjoy my rewards being a little more tangible. As NaNoWriMo draws nearer I will have to figure out some little treat for myself as a reward for certain word goals.
The trick here is to make sure it is something that you cannot just wait until December to get; it has to be a fleeting chance at achieving it only through word count. For me, this works best when I deny myself something, only allowing myself access to it again after I reach 10k, 20k, 30k, and so on. For example, I’ll buy a package of Biscoff cookies (SO GOOD) and put it up on a high shelf, only allowing myself to open them after I reach 20k. If I never reach that word count then they get handed over to a friend. I never buy them in day-to-day life, so it’s rare enough to entice me without being overly expensive or anything.
Man, Biscoff are so good. I love those stupid cookies.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Have an idea for a story yet, or waiting for the Muse to sweep you off your feet on November 1st? What kind of motivation would keep you writing during the long haul?
I’m user MuchandQuick on the NaNo forum, so feel free to find me and we’ll be buddies!

You Should be Reading: “Sic Semper” by Kristopher Reisz

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who either support creative works, or are creative types themselves. I know singer/songwriters, cosplayers, artists of various mediums, and of course a couple of writer-types. We keep each other confident during our bouts of writer’s block and celebrate each others accomplishments. One of those writer-types is Kris Reisz, who has an awesome name and an awesome short story out at Crossed Genre right now.  Here’s a teaser:

Vladislav IX had been the first monarch ever assassinated by bullet, a fact his ghost was quite proud of. “No brutish stabbing and hacking for me!” he crowed. “Powder and lead, efficient and to the point.”

Backed against the wall of the royal crypt, Alexander nodded. “Sure… I can tell.” The historic shot had left Vladislav IX with very little face above his curled white mustachios. This made talking to him unsettling. Luckily, the ghost carried most of the conversation.

“My reign was very forward-looking that way. I was also the first Cynanian monarch to eat a plantain.”

“Oh? Did you like it?”

“Not particularly. Mushy.”

Alexander kept nodding. He tried to remember something about Vladislav IX’s reign he might add to the conversation, but the truth was, Cynan had lots of Kings Vladislav. After a while, they all blurred together into one endless mustachio.

Just then, the shade of Queen Ludmila the First drifted close. “Vlad, stop pestering him. Can’t you see he’s nervous?”

Vladislav IX harrumphed. “I’m simply giving him some historical context for what he’s about to do.”

“He doesn’t need any historical context.” Queen Ludmila smiled at Alexander. “Just do what comes naturally, dear. Assassination isn’t difficult.”

Alexander gulped. “Y-you know why I’m here?”

The ghosts filling the royal crypts laughed. “We’re nobles, boy! Can’t slip an assassin past us,” Boris the Younger said.

“Unless he’s hiding in the privy with a spear, eh, Boris?” asked Mad King Casimir. This made all the ghosts – except Boris – laugh even harder. Boris the Younger (also known to the annals as the Man-Eater King and Boris Lutheran-Bane) snipped back, “Well, at least I wasn’t poisoned like some woman!”

“No, you just died with a spear-point rammed up your–”

“Lords, please!” Queen Ludmila drifted between them, then turned back to Alexander. “The point is, you’re hiding in the royal crypt fiddling with a gun. I’d know what you were up to even if I hadn’t killed my husband’s first wife.”

Alexander stuffed the revolver in his pocket, but the queen was right. He was here to kill the king.

Read the rest of “Sic Semper” at Crossed Genres. While you’re there, feel free to donate or purchase a subscription to get more stories and support the site. It’s a really rad publication, with lots of opportunities for authors to submit stories. Even if you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kris like I do, you will enjoy his works. So go read!

Life of a Former Slush Pile Reader

A TALE IN WHICH THE AUTHOR, at her computer, comes across a newly released story.

“Didn’t they already release this one?” she asks herself. “I could have sworn they printed it last year. Let’s see if anybody else noticed in the reviews.”

But no one did. There was nothing but praise for the story, and so the author reflects on where she might recognize this story from.

“Oh,” she says to her cat, “I read this when it was in the slush pile. I approved it and sent it to the next level of approval/rejection. Huh.”

The author felt pretty cool about that.

Daily Science Fiction and the Itsy-Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Word Count

Breaking news!  By breaking, I of course mean, “I read about this last week and am just getting around to telling other people about it!”

Daily Science Fiction has moved their maximum accepted word count from 10k down to a lean 1.5k.  The announcement came and went as a header for a story with little fanfare, an e-mail I deleted because I am an idiot and reflexively delete stories once I am done reading them.  There was no notice on their Face Book page, nor any mention of it on the main DSF website that I could find other than an edited submissions page that reflects the new word count limit. I do not think this is a negative move, as the owners and editors of DSF may do as they very damn well please with their submission guidelines and, as I recall from my deleted e-mail, are moving towards shorter stories in response to their audience’s desire for a more true “quick-fix fiction” story in their inbox each day. This shorter word count will also strip away the longer stories typically published on Fridays.

DSF is a voracious market that demands literally hundreds of stories a year to keep pace with its publishing schedule and I can not blame them for moving to smaller stories for shorted processing times in regards to slush pile navigation and the necessary editing process that touches stories of all lengths. It also helps cut back on the cost of paying authors, which even as an author who has and will continue to submit to DSF, I don’t see this as a bad thing. DSF will keep their 8 cents a word payment and I respect that a lot. If this was a cost-saving maneuver on their behalf then I would prefer that they take shorter stories and maintain their status as a Qualifying Short Fiction Venue for SFWA.

Daily Science Fiction is an awesome market, and I highly encourage anyone with a shorty-short story to throw their hat into the slush pile.  No, wait, throw your story into the slush pile. You would probably ruin a hat doing that.

 

 

BOOM. I’m back.

Two truths and a lie, and then a bunch of links:

1) Working on an early draft of a novel is boring.

2) There is a place in my town that sells “drinking chocolate” that is right across from our main library branch.

3) I returned all of my library books on time, as I always do.

 

First Draft in 30 Days is a how-to book that will, in theory, help you crank out a highly detailed outline that can be gently jostled into a first draft. I found it worth the trip to the library, and suggest you give it a read through if you have trouble organizing your plot.

Scared Yet remains a fantastic study of scary stories and if you haven’t discovered Kris Straub yet then you are just flat missing out.

She Walks In Shadow will hold open submissions for their Lovecraft inspired anthology. The submission pool is open to female-identifying authors only, and they will start taking submissions in November.  I want to submit to this real, real bad so we’ll see what sort of Lovecraft vibe I can shake out of my brain. What I don’t know about eldritch horrors I can make up for in a weirdly expansive collection of man made industrial incidents and I have all sorts of thoughts on how closely the two are related.

Scared Yet? A Study in Horror

Found a cool thing and I’mma share it with you! I’m like a golden retriever that brings back websites instead of sticks.

I highly recommend that you check out the video series “Scared Yet” by Kris Straub. Straub is the author/illustrator of the ongoing webcomic Broodhollow (excellent) and the notorious creepy-pasta “Candle Cove” (also excellent). In this serious Straub takes on the task of studying the more popular scary stories that have spread throughout the Internet, dissecting both their intent and construction to determine if the piece is a success or failure.

 

 

“Scared Yet” is a great resource for writers, regardless of how invested they are in the horror genre. It’s a great way to see how stories attempt to evoke a specific reaction from their audience and how it can go both wrong and right. Straub is respectful in his critiques as he seeks out weak stories not to shame their creator, but to show the flaws in its execution and where it might be improved. Pacing, believability, and what an author can and cannot expect of their audience are discussed in a broad sense that is not aimed towards authors but an author can certainly gleam some good information from each episode.

Go check it out!

Diabolical Plots Reviews “The Witch’s Cat”

Diabolical Plots, in case you weren’t aware, is a cool website that does a lot of literary reviews. One of their more impressive feats is their devotion to reviewing each and every Daily Science Fiction story that gets published. You can also find The Grinder on their site, which is a story submission database and a great tool for researching available markets.

Here’s what they had to say about my story:

A tribute of a town’s savior shows up at the doorstep of a young lady’s home in The Witch’s Cat by Kalisa Ann Lessnau (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The companion of a Witch takes to the protagonist when its master dies. The Witch did much for the town. The people she helped all whisper their thanks to the cat (named Sampson) as the protagonist walks tours the community. Sampson contributes to the bonfire while the town performs one last tribute to the Witch, surprising them all, but the magic of the witch has not stopped giving, after all.

“The Witch’s Cat” is a tale that had me guessing throughout. The Witch had left a lasting mark on the local people, she being an icon like many leaders throughout history. I really had no idea where this story was heading and its conclusion is one that I whole-heartedly approve of. Very nice work indeed.

RECOMMENDED

I appreciate the positive review, and am very proud to have earned a recommendation from them. Whee, thanks, Frank D.! I would have posted this review even if it were neutral or negative, because I see all reviews as a learning experience. Sometimes the lesson is “people are cray” (especially if you read some of the reviews on GoodReads and Amazon, yikes) but for a minor-league author like myself it is just good to know that someone out there is reading my work.

As an unrelated bonus, please enjoy this informative video in regards to the Oxford Comma: