Daughter went with the word lake and wanted a mystery… so that’s what she is getting. Her tale is about 600 words and is called Last Chance Lagoon. I’m enjoying this one too and at this early stage it feels like it may end up being the best of the three.
Son went for a drama with the word equality. I initially struggled getting some traction with this one because it is such a broad genre and – dare I say it – a bland word to use. But that was what I was given, so I won’t shirk the challenge. Monochromatic is currently around 500 words.
I have decided to give myself a Christmas Day deadline for these three stories. I can print them out and save myself a few quid on gifts.
Trucks is about a bunch of autonomous – yes, you guessed it… trucks. The story is set entirely in a rest stop after the trucks have taken control of the surroundings and are keeping the patrons as their playthings.
There’s not much going on in Trucks, and we never find out why the vehicles have suddenly become sentient – not that it matters, I guess. Sometimes keeping the mystery is fine, and let’s face it: any explanation would probably sound like bullshit anyway, so why bother trying, right?
The story picks up in the second half, as the survivors decide on the best course of action, but this never really clicks the way I would like it to, or indeed the way that it should. I think if King wrote this ten years later it would be a much better piece, but as it stands it’s only just passable.
With this little writing challenge I set myself a couple of weeks ago I reckon I have stumbled upon a trifecta of (potentially) good stories. It may take some time to get them done, especially at this busy time of year, but perhaps I will stick them under the tree and offer them up as Christmas gifts.
Admittedly, the stories took a while to get to where I wanted them to go, but I now have a clear direction for each of them and it’s just a case of joining the dots and finding the picture that they make.
My biggest hurdle will be once I present the final products, because I can see the narratives putting a few noses out of joint in my closed audience.
The printing of all my stories is taking a long time, not least of all because the connection between my laptop and the printer seems to be extremely temperamental, and it forces my computer to blue screen and shut down every once in a while. But I’m doing that a little at a time while I get on with other stuff.
I unintentionally started another Jack & Patrick story this week. I was doodling and coming up with ideas, and before long I was putting something down that will probably end up being the next tale in that series.
I used to print out my stories as I finished them but somewhere along the line I stopped, and as a result the only hard copies I have of my work exists in the magazines and books that I have via their publication.
At least, that was until this week…
I decided that I wanted to have everything there in front of me, filed away on paper. Yeah, it’s a little old fashioned, but there is something satisfying about stories on the page, as opposed to double-clicking a word document. It also means I don’t have to boot up my laptop to look at something I’ve written.
So, I bought a couple of ink cartridges, a heap of plastic pockets, a few lever-arch ring binders, and a shit-ton of paper, and started the process.
And it’s a long process.
I am working back in time and have gone through two cartridges of ink already, which has only got me the last seven years of work… so I’m going to need another trip to the supermarket soon.
But it’s nice to have a physical record of what I’ve been doing. On that note, I discovered that I was missing a first draft of a story I wrote in 2013. Can’t find it anywhere. Fortunately, I have the redraft stored (and now printed), so all was not lost.
Last night I finished writing the short story I first mentioned three weeks ago. From first word to last it’s a fairly quick turnaround for me. After my initial struggles I found a title that fits what I was trying to accomplish. It’s called More of a Wednesday Girl.
The tale comes in at just over 2000 words, which – give or take a word or two – is exactly the length I had anticipated, and that’s another thing that is unusual for me, because I’m very good at grossly underestimating just how damn long my stories are going to be.
Unsurprisingly, I did not do any actual writing while I was soaking up the sunshine and scenery in Croatia. I say actual writing because there were quiet people-watching moments when I tried to absorb a lot of what was going on around me. That kind of thing always comes in handy when I least expect it.
I’m back on track now though, and that story I was working on before my holiday is my current priority. I expect to finish it in short order – probably around the 2000 word mark – before getting back to my growing list of stuff in progress.
It is still without a title, which is a little concerning because usually by this stage in the process I have that part nailed on. I don’t think I have ever reached the end of a piece and still not known what to call it. I have a couple of ideas but they are either too on the nose or trying to be too clever, but as long as something comes to me by the final run-through, it’ll be fine.
We’re now into the final third of the year, and it’s about this time on the calendar that I begin to reflect on what I’ve done since this twelve month period began…
… but it makes for a depressing read, so I’ll leave that alone for a while.
I spent one afternoon this week sending stories out for (potential) publication. And while it’s true that one of them came back as a rejection before I had even finished up for the day, I still see every attempt to get my work out there as a positive one.
I never send a story out into the wild just to make up the numbers, because the only person who is really interested in those numbers is me. So, on the other end, when that response comes in, I’m always hopeful for good news, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had an acceptance. And yes, it has been a while.
My standards are (admittedly) quite high and, although my recent output probably doesn’t justify that bar, I have had many pieces published in non-paying markets over the years, and I think I deserve to be a little further along the food chain by now. As a result I have neglected to even look at a lot of markets that may want to carry my stuff simply because they aren’t going to pay me. Occasionally there is a non-paying market that grabs my attention, but not very often.
Anyway, I’m going to have a soft reboot of my writing to give things a shake-up. I was going to wait until the turn of the year, but that is such an arbitrary time for resolutions, so I’m just going to do it now instead.
I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, or how this soft reboot is going to manifest itself, but I am going to do something.
In an effort to write good short stories I’m going to look towards one of the masters, Stephen King – a guy who has written a fair number of them.
Over the coming months I will be reading and offering my opinion about every short story King has had published in the six collections that are out there: Night Shift (1978), Skeleton Crew (1985), Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993), Everything’s Eventual (2002), Just After Sunset (2008), and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015).
That’s over 100 stories – some of which I have either forgotten since I came across them many years ago, or not read in the first place. I know not all of them will be good, but I’m sure every one will give me something to say.
… and hopefully I can get it done before he comes out with another anthology.
I have never really had a writing routine. It’s just not the kind of thing I have ever been able to pigeon-hole into a specific window. It’s a good idea, and certainly I’d like to be able to frame my writing in that manner – for consistency, if nothing else – but I have always taken a more adhoc approach to my words.
I think my early resolution for 2020 is to manufacture some time when I can actually sit down and do my stuff regularly, because at the moment I’m all over the place and nothing is really getting done. Definitely not as much as there should be.
When I do write, it’s often pretty good, but I’m just not happy with the volume of the output.