inasmuch as it concerns Friday Fictionettes:
Bite-sized weirdness for your weekly enjoyment. (Tip jar attached.)
this fictionette forgot that writing doesn't prompt itself
- 1,022 wds. long
The Friday Fictionette release for December 15 is up and available for your perusal. It's called "The Youth Fairy." Here's the ebook and audiobook links for $1/month and $3/month patrons, respectively; here's a little teaser for the rest of everybody.
This one began as a response to a Magic Realism Bot tweet, "An opera singer makes a fortune trading in adolescence." Only I skipped right past the literal idea of adolescence and went instead after the more general fantasy trope of someone who sells youth. How do they manage that? Well, they must be some kind of supernatural being, a fairy or suchlike. Where do they get it from? Well... probably from people who don't want it: young people who are in a hurry to grow up. "Youth is wasted on the young," the fictionette begins, and it goes from there.
Writing from prompts is something I always assumed everyone who was a writer did, because it's an exercise that all my writing teachers going back to elementary school would assign me. Not everyone did it, I knew that, but everyone knew how to do it. Right? Only that's putting it too strongly, know how to do. That phrase implies a skill that you have to learn and practice, like knitting or calligraphy or touch-typing. Writing from a prompt, that's just something you do. Right?
Well, I've had roller derby trainers who thought that things like keeping your eye on the jammer or staying near your teammates wasn't so much a skill you learned as just something you did if you weren't totally stupid. And they couldn't understand why, in my very first few months after passing my skills and safety assessments and being allowed to play the actual game, I didn't just do it. And they got impatient with me, and I felt stupid.
But as it turns out, pack awareness is an actual skill. Teaching it is tricky; it's not like a skating skill where you can demonstrate the individual motions that make up the maneuver. But it's still a skill that one has to learn and practice and develop. Kind of like, oh, defensive driving. In both cases, you've got a list of things to be aware of and stay aware of, simultaneously, at any given moment, and you've got to be able to process that data and make split-second decisions because of it. Teaching it might involve things like, oh, periodically redirecting the student's attention by asking them questions during the activity ("What color is the car in your rearview mirror?" "Where did the opposing jammer position themselves before the whistle?"). And, safety permitting, the trainer needs to give the student a bit of mental space in which to work out how best to wrap their personal brain around the challenge. I mean, it's their brain and all. They know best how to operate it.
So different individual brains will process the skill differently. And some brains will glom onto the skill more readily than other brains will. But it's still a skill, not an instinct that you just magically have waiting within you that you can tap when the time comes, just by virtue of having a brain. It's a skill. You have to spend time learning how to do it before you can be expected to do it.
Same with writing skills. There are skills I've been practicing so long that I've forgotten that they are skills, but they are. Writing from prompts is a skill that can be taught and learned and practiced and developed. And clearly there is an audience who want to learn, or else there wouldn't be so many articles online purporting to teach it. Heck, here's a wikiHow about it.
For me, in my own personal practice, there are three basic steps to working with a prompt.
Choose a prompt. Depending on the prompt, I might choose one or several. A common "spread" might be a couple random words (watchout4snakes is a good source) and one image (e.g. tarot card, InspiroBot poster). Or one Magic Realism Bot tweet, which tends to be just complex enough to stand alone.
Give the brain space to respond. The first minute or two isn't for conscious, directed thought, and it's certainly not for passing judgment. It's for watching the brain bubble. Whatever passes through my brain goes directly onto the page. It's somewhere between free association and automatic writing.
Ask and answer follow-up questions. Questions will arise, either in response to the initial brain bubbles or in direct response to the prompt itself. "An opera singer..." Why an opera singer? Which part do they sing? Buying and selling youth... OK, how do you even do that? What price do you set on youth? Who sells it to you in the first place? What's the effect of selling youth to someone--does their driver's license actually show a more recent birth year, or is it just a physical appearance thing?
These questions are, more or less, new prompts; the brain bubbles up answers in response. And those answers spawn new questions. Questions! Questions are, arguably, the atom-unit of story. Why did they do that? How will the other character respond? And then what happened?
There's actually a fourth step: Then write a scene. This step is sort of like "And then a miracle occurs." At some point, the prompts and the bubbles and the questions coalesce into story. The trick is recognizing that moment and then getting out of my own way and letting it happen. Sometimes it happens very early, the first sentence writing itself in direct response to the prompt. Writing down that sentence and continuing on to the next one is a kind of leap of faith. But the moment I'm starting to get even a little narration, it's time to stop babbling, bubbling, and free associating and just start writing.
What's the worst that can happen? I can get stuck. No big deal. Getting stuck generally happens because I ran into some questions I didn't have answers to. So I stop a minute and ask those questions and throw some answers at the wall and see what sticks.
The important thing in a timed freewriting session is not to interpret getting stuck as a reason to stop writing. I have to write until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off, I stop. Or maybe I keep going. Maybe I can see the whole rest of the scene and I want to get it down. So I do. And then I stop, reluctantly, and mark the session as "To-Do." Those are the sessions that turn into flash fiction, fictionettes, and full-length short stories.
And there you have it: How a writing prompt becomes a story inside my personal brain. Your brain may vary. Void where prohibited. Please do try this at home.
"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- Mirabile Dictu
- Political Maunderings
- Selling My Soul
- The Beast That Rolls
- Yahoo! Yeehah! Woopie!
I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--
(be right back.)
*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*
*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*
*Running footsteps getting louder until--*
OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)
And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.
I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"
And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.
Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!
OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.
but this fictionette would like to sleep in once in a while
- 1,238 wds. long
Happy Friday! The latest Friday Fictionette is out; it's "Come Home to Roost" (teaser excerpt for everyone, ebook and audiobook links for Patrons). It's about the possible consequences of committing origami while drunk. It is also tangentially about the potential superpowers of bartenders.
Stay tuned for next week's fictionette, which will feature an alternate origin story for the tooth fairy. (Yes, I've already started drafting that sucker. Some 300 words of outline-ish note-splatter all over the page. Gotta start somewhere.)
In other Friday Fictionette news, you may recall that when I released the Fictionette Freebie for November, I tried posting it to a new venue. In addition to Patreon, Wattpad, and my blog, I published "Love of Country" to the 4thewords READ area. (If you have a 4thewords account, you can see it here.) Well, I'm astonished and please to report that the experiment was a success. It got read, it got rated, and a 4thewords denizen came over to Patreon and subscribed. That rather made my whole weekend.
I am aware, by the way, that Patreon has decided to punch every Patron in the face all of a sudden. (The only reason I'm aware is the outcry from the artists whom I follow and/or support; I didn't get any sort of notification from Patreon about it at all.) I'm not happy about it. I'm not sure immediately what to do about it. I'm considering options. Meanwhile, I do want to reassure my Patrons that I will not take offense if you need to cancel your pledges.
Today was a Friday with nowhere to be but at my desk doing the writing thing, so I let myself sleep in. It is weirdly hard to get up the morning after scrimmage, what's up with that. (That was sarcasm. I know what's up with that. I can probably name you the skaters what caused the specific bruises. It was a good scrimmage.) I figured I could afford to treat myself to a little extra rest, then just offset my usual workday schedule by a couple hours.
But no. Apparently when I start late, I continue slow. Just draaaaaaagging my feet through everything. There is no cure for that but willpower and focus, I guess.
That, or never sleep in ever again. But that would be sad.
Anyway, the new computer arrives tomorrow, according to FedEx. Not a moment too soon, is all I can say. I can almost hear the Asus grinding when I open up a tab session on Firefox. It's like the Asus knows it's about to be replaced and would like to reassure me that I didn't jump the gun or overreact--it really does need to be replaced. See? It can hardly handle having three Firefox windows and Chrome open at the same time! And then you want to open a spreadsheet in Libre Office? Without closing your web browsers down first? EVERYTHING IS HARD. Go, save yourself, forget about me--
Tomorrow evening. I'm hoping. And I'm nervous. I have this cynical suspicion that the problem is actually me. Like, I have only to use a computer for a week, be it ever so PENTIUM i7 QUAD CORE, and everything will grind to a halt again. The rot will set in. I am a corrupting influence on laptops; not even an honest-to-goodness gaming system can withstand my destructive power. It may have something to do with the way I use (or abuse) Firefox with Session Manager. It may have to do with my insistence on running Bluestacks rather than getting a smartphone. It may have to do with my aura.
Well. I just keep telling myself, even if that's true, even if I really do have the anti-Midas touch when it comes to laptop computers, the new one will at least have a keyboard that works. That alone will be worth replacing the Asus for. Although possibly not for the price I paid.
With any luck I'll have good news on that front to report on Monday.
writing tomorrow's words today (because that Einang isn't going to defeat itself)
So there was this neat thing that happened at the end of yesterday's writing task list, and it's another 4thewords thing, and I know, I know it's starting to sound like I'm turning this blog into one big continuous 4thewords advertisement, but I am going to take that risk and tell you about it. Because it's kind of cool.
Here's what happened.
I was working on the new story when I hit the word count total needed to win my current-at-the-time battle. And since I knew I was going to work on the story a little longer and then write my blog post, thus generating plenty more words, I started another battle. I think it was an 800-word monster, maybe 500, something like that anyway.
Because I've always got to have a battle going on, right? If I'm going to be writing, I might as well also be advancing my current quests. But it can be tricky to pick the right monster to battle. It needs to be about the right size for the writing at hand. And "the right size" can be terms of either word count or time limit.
Like, right now, since I don't know how much more writing I'm going to do after my blog post, I'm chosen a 24-hour battle. That way, if I don't write enough to defeat the monster tonight, no big deal, I'll finish it off with tomorrow's freewriting session.
Or, this morning, I picked a 300-word monster to battle when I wrote down my dream. (Yes, I count dream journaling toward my daily word count. It's narrative. It's description. It's story idea generation. It's writing.) Because of the short time limit on that particular monster, I really did need to generate all 300 words by writing down that dream. But 300 words (or rather 260--I have a pretty decent attack bonus) seemed like a reasonable estimate. As it turned out, it was an overestimate, but only at first. I eked out the rest of the words by challenging myself, with some success, to recall more dream details to write down.
But yesterday afternoon, I goofed. I still had some 250 words left on the battle when I finished the blog post. The battle timer had only two and a half hours left, and I had to leave in about half an hour for a three-hour roller derby practice. Where the heck was I going to get 250 more words in the next half hour?
From this week's fictionette, as it turned out. I'd already logged a session working on it that morning, but the alarming prospect of having to forfeit a battle (and break my flawless record of nothing but victories!) spurred me to reopen the project and work on it some more.
And that's how I wound up finishing the first draft of this week's fictionette yesterday rather than, say, in a panic on Friday morning.
And that's yet another reason why 4thewords is awesome. It pushes me to finish projects early.
but these two hours were just kinda sitting there burning a hole in my pocket so
It's December now. Time to find out what all that NaNoWriMo madness was good for.
I mean, yes, I generated a metric shit-ton of words and raw ideas for a novel that I hope I will finish sometime in the near(ish) future. That's worth something! But what's even more important to me than that is the forming and strengthening of better work-a-day habits. I just spent two weeks and change coming up with between 3,000 and 4,000 words per day. I budgeted time every day to write those words. Now that I'm not scrambling to meet that 50K/November 30 deadline, will I nevertheless keep using that hour or two per day to generate word count and/or revise fiction?
The answer in previous years has been a solid "Ehhhhhhhh.... no." And I think the reason was this: I took December off. I did not immediately build upon the habits fomented in November, so, really, there was no new habit. There was only a month-long fluke.
This year, I hope the answer is "Yes!" In fact, heck with hope; I'm making the answer be "Yes." And this will involve a little more praise for 4thewords, so brace yourselves.
See, one of the things 4thewords does is, it rewards you periodically for keeping up a longer and longer writing streak, which is to say, consecutive days of writing at least 444 words daily. Why 444? Why not? 4 is an important number in 4thewords. It's in the URL. It's in the logo. No surprise it's in their metrics. It takes 44 core crystals to purchase a month's subscription time. On Day 44 of your writing streak, you get some free core crystals as a streak reward. Today was my 21st day, so I got rewarded with a wooden chest full of mystery goodies. I'm really excited about getting the Day 30 streak reward, a pair of wire-frame wings for my avatar to wear.
Anyway, in the name of keeping up my streak, I've stopped taking weekends off from doing my daily gottas. I'm freewriting every day, Saturday and Sunday included. Which would be an amazing enough improvement in and of itself, but then--
Saturday's freewriting resulted in a relatively fleshed-out story idea which intrigued me enough to want to develop it further. Maybe I could work on it during this week's afternoon shifts. I mean, I'm not using that time for NaNoWriMo anymore, so it's free for slotting in the next writing project. That's how it's supposed to work, right? So this afternoon, that's what I did--laid down the bones of the story in quasi-outline form, dropped some question marks into key places along with some preliminary answers, that sort of thing. It would be really nice to wind up with the first draft of a brand new story by the end of the week.
But isn't that how it's supposed to work? Right? The daily freewriting generates story ideas; the story ideas turn into fully fledged stories? I mean, that's precisely how each week's Friday Fictionettes come about, yes, but this process is also supposed to yield new full-length, commercially viable, submittable and publishable stories.
Hooray for things working the way they should work! Better late than never!
a well-earned THUNK with side of happy clatter
All right, so, I have done it. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Actually in more like 16 days, owing to a stupid late start. Just like old times. This time around, I'm going to say it got me through about Act I of the novel, if that's how you like to think of a novel's structure. I don't know how many Acts there will be--I'm definitely suspicious of the idea that every novel or movie must conform to the glorious Three-Act Structure (and don't get me started on the Hero's Journey, we could be here all night and I have to sleep sometime)--but the place I left off at is pretty much the end of an Act. My plan is to let the novel (and my brain) rest through December, spend that month working on more short stories to throw into the slush rotation, then come back in January to examine what I've got and do some fresh brainstorming on where it goes from there.
So I have this very pretty badge to show off that says that I Am A Winner! and also a tasty 50% discount on my next purchase of Core Crystals at 4thewords (to whom I really must attribute this win--I wasn't logging 4K+ days until I had monsters to battle). And yes I'm already subscribed through the next five and half months, true, but there are also in-game things to buy, like clockwork parrots to sit on your shoulder and cuss, and really snazzy costumes, and ridiculous hair, and so on. I like the idea of getting half off all that.
In other end-of-the-month news, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2017. It is "Love of Country" (ebook, audiobook, wattpad). I chose that one partially because it's the longest of the four, and partially because it's the first one I not only drafted but also completely revised in the 4thewords editor. That made it easy to "publish" it into the 4thewords reading library. So you can read the Freebie there, too,, if you have or wish to create a 4thewords account.
Then I have more happy news to share. I got an acceptance letter today! Somebody just offered to buy the right to reprint one of my early Friday Fictionettes next year! More details, like who that is and which story they bought, will follow when I get the go-ahead to share 'em. For now I will just be very happy in a showy yet mysterious way.
And now, I go to collapse in bed and sleep the sleep of the productive and satisfied writer. I believe the sound effect for that is thunk.
friday is the new friday
Sound the trumpets and ring the bells! This week's Friday Fictionette is out on Friday. Shock! Surprise! We are stunned! And also I've already made a solid start on next week's fictionette because--y'all are gonna get sick of hearing me say this--4thewords is 4theWIN.
And but so anyway. "The Rutabagas Remember" is about equal opportunity basketball. Kind of. It's also about making memories that matter. It's 1042 words long. It's available to $1/month Patrons as an ebook; to $3/month Patrons it's additionally available as an audiobook. The usual drill, in other words.
My original plan for cover art was to find public domain or Creative Commons images of a rutabaga and a basketball and kinda fade one onto the other. It looked really cool in my head. It also was going to be a pain in the butt. But that was my plan.
I'd just logged my morning NaNoWriMo session. I was about to have my lunch. First, though, I went for a walk around the neighborhood to figure out what I'd write during the evening session. Meantime I intended to start right in on fictionette publishing procedures soon as I got back and had a bite to eat.
While I was out, I stumbled across two things:
- A community garden left to winter over, just behind the nearby church.
- A basketball abandoned and left to rot on the shore of one of the little private lakes nearby.
Well. I'm not one to ignore the Universe when it is so very clearly talking to me. I grabbed the basketball, I grabbed my camera, I headed back over to the garden, and lo, a photo was born. It probably could have been a better photo. But it's mine, I took it, I made a cover design out of it, I'm sticking with it.
I mean, a basketball. Just lying there being thematically relevant.
Today went as planned in other ways. I logged two NaNoWriMo sessions which together netted me 3,385 words. It wasn't the 3,500 I was hoping for, but it was in excess of the 3,334-word double-day mark, and that's the important thing. If I can pull double days from here on out, I will win the prize.
And there is a prize. There's going to be a coupon code for 4thewords in the NaNoWriMo winner package; it'll be worth 50% off a core crystal purchase and it'll pop some exclusive NaNoWriMo-themed gear in your inventory. Details about this and more in the NaNoWriMo Forum on the designated 4thewords thread.
That Nano-winner gear will be mine.
(Also I have now defeated a whole bunch more monsters and I've completed the torch quest and a bunch of Nano-related word-count quests and some quests involving a checklist of marionette varieties to defeat and and and and I finally SUBSCRIBED, ok, I bought the big bulk package, I am IN THIS EVERY DAY for YEARS TO COME)
tangled mess here i come
- 7,664 wds. long
This 4thewords experiment has been wholly successful. Three days after registering, I am done with blog backfill, I'm ahead of schedule on this week's fictionette, and I'm starting to glimpse some small hope of actually reaching 50K words on the novel by the end of November.
My work habits have improved, too. I have barely touched my usual procrastination enablers all week. In fact, today, I didn't play Two Dots or Dots & Co. at all, and when I tried to get caught up on the blogs I usually spend too much time reading, it was with a feeling of reluctance. Like, I didn't want to, but I felt like I ought to. As though staying caught up on the current comment threads was some sort of obligation.
I am enjoying writing more than I am enjoying the things I tend to do when I'm avoiding writing. It's magical.
I confess, I did not get 1800 words in last night. I was tired and only got 1600. Got only another 1600 today. Not so bad, really. Running in place beats falling farther behind. Still, starting tomorrow, I hope to get on a 3500-per-day track. I've rearranged my timesheet template to indicate that I should work one novel-writing session during the morning shift and one during the afternoon.
It's not going to be that hard to come up with the words, not if I keep doing what I did today. Here's what I did today. Ready? It's so stupid. In the flashback I spent today's session writing, I got the plot totally wrong.
See, I'd already decided ages ago on the details surrounding Michael Fischer's family. His little brother died in infancy; his parents broke up over it. That's not the part I got wrong. The part I got wrong was forgetting that the whole reason Michael jumped at the opportunity to take a foreign internship and get the hell ouf of there was, his parents were getting back together and he didn't want to be within miles of the inevitable drama. OK but so except during today's writing I got distracted by a last-minute inspiration and hared right off into an alternate universe where something entirely else happened. And I didn't realize that's what I'd done until I'd logged my word count, packed up my computer, and headed off to scrimmage.
Oh crap, I realized, I'm going to have to write a lot of that scene over again. And I'll want to somehow synthesize the initial backstory with the new inspiration, figure out how much of what I came up with today is bunk and how much actually improves on the original plan. Which is hard and has me sort of running around in mental circles trying to keep track of everything.
It's NaNoWriMo. I'm not going to erase anything. I'm after word count! Keep today's work, write the scene again tomorrow, hell, write it five more times, it all counts! Only, I was also after a vaguely organized first draft rather than a tangled mess that will be a nightmare come time to edit. At this point, I think the tangled mess is the most likely outcome.
Alas, such things happen in November.
ending on the right note
Rabbit stew was indeed on the menu yesterday. And for lunch today, we had boiled blue crabs. Then it was time to go to the train station.
But first, I had an errand to run at the post office. (Not unrelated: Fictionette Artifacts for August 2017 are in the mail!) And as long as I was biking over to Seventeenth Street and Severn, I might as well enact the ritual of beignets and cafe au lait.
This used to be a pilgrimage every time I came to town. I had to have at least one early morning bike ride to the Morning Call and attempt once more the feat of writing while simultaneously eating beignets covered in powdered sugar. (Once upon a time I was pen pals with a Morning Call waiter who, also being a writer, noticed my frequent scribbling visits and said hello. We exchanged short manuscripts by post over several years before losing touch somewhere in the late '90s.)
Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit. But today--why not? I'd be in the neighborhood anyway. OK, well, I'd already had breakfast, but since when is "I already ate" a good reason not to indulge in good food? I mean, it's just three beignets. And I'm biking! When you really get right down to it, it's negative calories. (Look, I'll pedal really really hard, OK?)
So that happened. And as long as I was going to be snacking and errands-running along the north face of Lakeside Mall, I might as well also go shopping at Scriptura, right? And buy some gorgeous "moss green" Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pen ink? And a handful of New Orleans postcards for my next batch of Postcards to Voters? Oh, and surely there'll be something I want to buy at the Lakeside Plaza Fleurty Girl...
So I went shopping and ate too much. Which is the proper New Orleans experience, come to think of it.
tfw you wake up in tennessee and go to bed in
- 1,244 wds. long
- 713 wds. long
- 914 wds. long
Hello from Metairie, Louisiana. After two very pleasant days on trains, I have arrived. Have not done anything particularly exciting beyond biking some postcards to the post office on 17th street and piecing together a this-n-that dinner from Dad's leftovers (although that can be very exciting, because Dad's leftovers include venison sausage, crawfish boudin, and seasoned trout in wine sauce with green onions). But that's OK. The week is young yet.
I made very good use of my time in the sleeper cars. I finished up last week's Fictionette (ebook, audiobook, excerpt) in time to send it live from a pub in Chicago (Haymarket, which brews, among other beers, a robust porter and a magnificent lemon saison). I made progress on this week's Fictionette so that hopefully it will go live on time. I got a reprint flash fiction submission package together and ready to email tonight to a very nice editor. I also played a lot of Two Dots/Dots & Co. and solved today's jigsaw sudoku.
And now I am inexplicably exhausted. Aside from today's bike ride and yesterday's street-skating between Chicago Union Station and Haymarket, I have done very little since Saturday afternoon that didn't involve sitting on my butt. I guess being shuttled across the country, however passively, takes its toll. And it will be nice to sleep in a bed that isn't rocking back and forth all night long.
Big day tomorrow. Lots of driving, visiting, and skating planned. Also it'll be Halloween. I'll be out late, so tomorrow's post will come early or, more likely, not at all. You have been warned.