Friday, October 22, 2010

What am I going to write?

Having trimmed my 13000 words down to a more sensible 4900ish, and got some reasonable feedback, I think "The Big Three-oh" may be ready to send out there.....and for it to join the three other submissions that are out in the world and waiting for someone to ACCEPT (let's be optimistic here).

I've also dug out a Dark Fantasy tale I first wrote about 8 months ago and polished it up. It was written for a particular market which promptly closed for submissions, so the story went into limbo for a while. Then, having been pointed towards Duotrope and it's vast search engine of writer's markets, and I feel I've found a new home for it. So, I've sent it to a few readers, and once we have a final nip and tuck, it too will join it's chums out in the big wide world.

But, with November, and thus NaNoWriMo, coming up fast, I want to decide what novel I should attempt to write...

1) True Cosmic - teen girl in backwater world discovers cosmic powers, while evil corporation are about to rip the community apart.
2) Tales from the Edge - dark sword and sorcery in bizarre otherworld where the eternal war between Sanity and Madness is about to be consumed by an even more chaotic threat..
3) Citizen of FreeSpace - episodic life of a citizen of a very advanced society and the consequences of that society.
4) Darkness Rides - fantasy where a small child and his mother are hunted by the forces of darkness with only a retired accountant and the ghost of his dead partner to protect them.

Or maybe something else....

Bah - here's a hundred words of fantasy action:

Herak Goblin-Slayer jumped back as the rampaging Orc swung its axe. It smashed the table to firewood.
The Orc snarled and charged at the warrior. Herak ducked, slashing upwards as he rolled past. The Orc hit the wall, then realised it had been disembowelled. Herak’s backslash took its head off.
“Did you have to kill him?” asked the innkeeper.
“It’s what you do with rampaging orcs,” replied Herak.
Growls rumbled from the backroom of the inn and a larger horde of orcs stomped through.
“They are good customers,” said the innkeeper.
“Can I get you guys a beer?” asked Herak.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Current Activity

13000 words have been delicately sliced back to just under 5000 - it's surprising what can get jettisoned when you focus on the real guts of a story. All part of the learning process, with a short story I just can't spend so much time on creating exciting action scenes - if it was a full length novel I'd have that luxury, but with the short form, I have to make sure that I'm focused on what the scene is bringing to the story.

I'm currently reading "The Neutronium Alchemist", being part 2 of Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy. Each book is a mammoth 1200 odd pages, and it's not large print either. There are hundreds of characters spanning dozens of worlds - it is about the grandest space opera I've come across, and is terrific stuff - however, Hamilton uses that space to create vast scenes that suck you in, take you on a rollercoaster, fill you with wonder and, more and more frequently, scare the crap out of you. And that's fine when that's what the story demands - but my short story (provisionally called The Big Three-oh) does not have such a huge scope, does not demand such enormous scenes - and when it was filled with that, frankly, it was just getting in the way of the story.

So - The Big Three-oh is provisionally finished, and now is out with various friends awaiting feedback. And I need to trim a few hundred words from an old dark fantasy story. With a bit of luck, I'll have two stories ready to send out there in a couple of weeks. Which will lead neatly into NaNoWriMo....and what the hell am I going to write 50,000 words about in 30 days?

Today's drabble - you may be able to guess what I spent the afternoon doing. And perhaps the lesson here is to make sure the area is well ventilated, clearly bleach fumes have unpleasant side-effects:

At last, the bathroom was cleaned.
“I thought you were a vegetarian,” said the voice.
No-one was there. Must be the bleach fumes.
“No, not the bleach, this is the gestalt mind of the lifeforms you were conducting genocide upon. And you said you respected other living things.”
“The mould?”
“Yes,” raged the voice. A pinkish splot appeared in a corner. “Yes,” it said again as more dark patches swarmed behind the toilet. “YES,” screamed trillions of voices as across the world as the obsession with cleanliness came raging back to bite.
Civilisation fell; at least, the damp bits did.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Writing is re-writing...oh yes it is...

I have found an annoying aspect to my writing - for me to do a 5000 word short story, I have to write a 10,000 word story first, make a stab at trimming it then realise that I have to really start from scratch and blast out the desired 5000 words. It happened with "Miramar is Possum Free". Its earlier incarnation was an 8000 word sort of take on Blade Runner, set in a dystopian New Zealand where a private eye with a past hunted for a mutant cow. 8000 words and various attempts at editing made me produce a grim, gritty story, set in a ruined environment with a backstory of a tragic romance. While hunting a mutant cow.

Eventually I realised that no matter how grim and serious the underlying message of the story was, it was still about a huge great cow with an attitude. So I went for broke with a far more bonkers story of mutant possums - which turned out to be far more fun, certainly for me as a writer and, as far as some feedback is concerned, for a few readers.

And this is exactly where I find myself with my latest story - the big 10,000 word monster that I started with is bogged down in grim and violent detail, and, having re-written the opening section, I've managed to make it a reasonable 900 words as opposed to 3000...

There's still a lot of work to do before its ship-shape and ready to submit, but now, I can see something that will hopefully be fun, sparky and a bit satirical but without being too damn grim.

Am I going to have to do this when I write a novel - as in churn out some dark, weighty tome of 300,000 words before starting from scratch again and distilling the one decent idea in it to about 100,000 words? Yikes, that's a lot of work....

Ah well, 100 words is a little easier....

The alarm was going off and slowly burning my brain into mush. Was anyone listening? Who knew what the alarm was alarming people about? TURN OFF THAT BL**DY NOISE!
I had to finish the report and the procedure about writing the report but still that BL**DY NOISE carried on.
I grabbed my gun and stormed out of the office.
It wasn’t a car or burglar alarm. It was a trap.
The only sounds I hear now are the strange shrieks and moans of the other inmates when they open the padded door to feed me. It’s much more peaceful here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review of "Tourists" by Anna Caro..and today's drabble - a bit of romance

Anna Caro's story "Tourists" (in A Foreign Country) has a lot of the qualities of a short story that I aspire to. The story starts with a great Sci-Fi idea - time travel being used for "disaster tourism", taking tourists back to see disasters happen like the Titanic sinking, great earthquakes etc. From there, Anna draws on two of the characters to give us a great story about people, relationships and our views on death and the afterlife.

There's lots I love about this story - as an example of craft, it's great - Anna gives us enough detail to accept how the time travel happens without burdensome description getting in the way of the story. I was drawn in by the intriging idea and then drawn in by the well-crafted characters to find the story reaching a different level.

It's not a long piece of work - maybe 7 pages - yet Anna makes you think about what tourism is all about, how we relate to "disasters", both from a distance and at a personal level, along with a warm story about three-dimensional characters we come to care about. A teacher of mine once said that the essence of great art is achieving much with little - Anna achieves just that.

I read it at a good time - I'm trying to cut back a story of mine from 13000 words to 5000 - so it's a great reminder that I don't really need all that action-packed description, at least, not in a short story. Time for me to go back, strip back to the core of what the story is about, beef up my characters and get rid of the rubbish. As has been said, writing is re-writing - ain't that the truth?

Today's drabble - a bit of romance, which will make sense mostly to anyone who has had to use the London Underground on a daily basis (around 6 million people a day, apparantly). For those unfamiliar with this marvel of Victorian engineering, there are a lot of very long escalators allowing you to descend to and ascend from the depths of London to get to and from work...maybe we'll call it "Very brief encounter".

You never make eye-contact on the Underground. Except today, riding the escalator up, he does.
A quarter of the way up he touches eyes with a blond woman coming down. She smiles.
He can’t help but smile back. She bites her bottom lip. He looks away for a moment but she is still looking back, and smiling.
They meet in the middle.
They turn their heads and hold the look but then they are past each other.
At the top he looks down.
And she looks up at him.
He rubs his wedding ring, remembers hers and goes to work.