Once upon a midnight dreary…

Halloween means scary story and book recommendations!  Per the request of the patron saint of writers, Neil Gaiman, I offer these Internet-obtainable reads to you as my All Hallow’s Read gift.

The classics remain the classics for a reason.  You can grab yourself some Poe for a good time, there is always H.P. Lovecraft if you prefer an eldritch twist to your short stories.  One of my personal favorite is The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers.

One of the best sites to ever be birthed from the Internet, The SCP Foundation, can steal days from your life as you browse their collection of bizarre items.  If I might suggest a few starter articles:

What are some of your favorite scary books?  Do you have a ritual for reading scary stories, or can you read them on the bus and still get a chill up your spine?  I am a huge wuss when it comes to scary stories, so I don’t read many.  Stupid Slender Man pictures can give me nightmares so my selections might be a bit tame.  Tell me good scary stories to check out!

Happy Halloween!

NaNoWriMo… BlogMoFoSho

It’s that time of year again!  Apples are in season (seriously, buy a bushel and bake something), the summer heat has finally broken, and the trees are starting to change colors.

It’s NaNoWriMo time, baby.

Coincidentally, November also happens to be the host to:

  • No Shave November
  • Look for Circles Day
  • Housewife Day
  • Have a Party with Your Bear Day
  • National Parfait Day

There are also some actual, sanctioned holidays tucked in the month but whatever.  For my purposes, in the realm of arbitrary celebrations, NaNoWriMo reigns above all the rest.  For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is an event wherein you aim to write 50,000 words within the month of November.  Each participant competes against them self in the end to make the end word count and earn the rank of Winner!  The prize is that you wrote 50,000 words in a month.  That’s it in a nutshell, really.

If this is the kind of thing that strikes your fancy, then it is up to you how far you’d like to get involved.  NaNoWriMo can be done in full isolation with just you, your word count, and your sense of gratitude when you reach then end.  You can sign up for free at the NaNoWriMo.org site for an account that will track your word count for others to see, and you can connect with other participants in your local area. There is swag to buy, you can receive weekly inspirational e-mails throughout the month and there are about a billion blog posts written about the topic of NaNoWriMo.

I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo several times without reaching 50,000 words.  The furthest I got was about 35k.  Most of the attempts petered out at about 10k, because Life Happens and I lose momentum.  This year?  I’m winning.  My strategy?

Brutal, uncompromising accountability.  And some actual planning.

First step:  make it publicly known that I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  I’m announcing it here on the blog and to my friends, with the encouragement for people to constantly ask me how I’m doing.  I even found a cool little widget that I put on the side of this blog so I will be forced to see my word count each time I update throughout the month of November.  At the very worst, I will be forced to feel intense shame 4 times next month.

Second step:  Get involved with the local NaNo scene.  I have joined up with the North AL NaNo people, and will be hosting two “write-ins” (events held for people to come and write in a friendly, less distracting environment) of my own.

Third step:  Direction.  Writers are encouraged to write anything for NaNoWriMo, so long as you are pushing a word count forward.  This year I have a specific intent:  to complete the first draft of a novel I have been faffing about with for too long.  I will be armed with an outline and a general idea of what I want to write.

Fourth step:  I have three different sealed boxes, each one filled with something that is relatively precious to me.  These boxes will be offered to different friends and will be held until the end of November, where one of two scenarios will occur:

  • I will complete 50,000 words and the boxes will be returned to me.
  • I will not complete 50,000 words and the boxes will be thrown away.

… That looks a little more psychotic when it’s actually written out then my original intentions.  I’m not packing up my cats or anything, but stuff I own that I either can’t easily replace, or would know that each time I looked at it that I had to buy it a second time.

I have been forced to admit that I do not hold to self-imposed deadlines.  I lack discipline when it comes to hitting word counts, sending out stories, all the things that I need to take seriously if I want to have writing as a viable career.  So now I’m throwing a new rule into the game to see if I can actually do this.  I would like to both win NaNoWriMo at least once in my life and prove to myself that if I can write 50k in November then it can surely be done in other months as well.

Straws, and Grasping of Them

What’s the difference between writing for fun and writing for profit?  Is there a difference?

This isn’t a rhetorical question, son.  I’m asking on the realz.

For the last 10 days, I spent my writing efforts on a submission to the Wisconsin Life Flash Fiction Ghost Story.  A six-hundred word story that might be read by Patrick Rothfuss?  Who could refuse such a chance for greatness!  Just think of the nerd clout!  The time from contest announcement to the closing of submissions was a scant 12 days (according to the announcement on Rothfuss’ blog), so I got to crackin’.

Here are the things I learned during this process:

  • Writing can have layered levels of difficulty placed on it.  ‘Write a good story’ is always the base-level challenge.  But are you writing a scary story?  That’s another level.  Is there a constricting word count?  There’s another level.  The more specific requirements a story has, the harder it gets to write.
  • Six hundred words is almost a cruel word count for a story.  A one hundred word drabble allows a writer an extremely small confine to work within, but the limitations are almost comforting.  You see where the lines are, and you know you’re not allowed to draw over them.  Six hundred words felt like I could get up to narrative speed only to immediately smash into the brick wall that was the word limit.  Six hundred words felt like sleeping on a love seat:  yeah, you can do it, but you’ll never get really comfortable.
  • I am really shit at writing scary stories.  Scary is a hard atmosphere to aim for!

Trials and tribulations aside, it was fun to try and shake out a very short ghost story and in the end I had a story to submit.  Ten days, six hundred words.

In that time I could have had the current short story I’m working on ready and sent out to my writing group.  This is a story that (hopefully!) will be published and earn me another paycheck.  The markets I intend to submit it to are pro-rate, and if I get accepted by the one I have my eye on it would count towards SFWA membership.  I’m counting my chickens before they hatch on a lot all of this, but I can shake the feeling that I decided to work on a project with less chance of returns and that bugs me.

Scott Kurtz (PvP) spoke about this subject in the Webcomics Weekly podcast.  He recognized that the time he spent as a guest at specific conventions could have made him more profit if he had simply stayed at home and worked.  I wonder if there is a way to tell which is the right brass ring to grab for.

This is something to ponder.  Avert your gaze whilst I’m pondering.  S’rude to stare.