Category Archives: Fiction

Why I’m Not Writing ANYTHING New This Week

At the start of the year, like so many writers, I set some specific writing goals.

I’ve consistently exceeded my daily word count, sometimes by a multiple of ten. This doesn’t include rewrites or revisions. I set specific expectations for generating new material, because I can happily get lost for hours in finding one perfect metaphor, deciding between a comma and conjunction or two separate sentences, or simply paring down dialogue. That’s all in good fun, and I continue to find great pleasure in those things, but they make for a very slow writing process.

My foray into writing genre fiction has made it somewhat easier to generate thousands of words a day, but I also do the same with literary fiction, with the knowledge that I’ll likely do a lot of cutting in the long run.

I’m proud of all the works I’ve produced (though more proud of some than others). But it’s time to do something with it all. This week is about getting the genre fiction revised and published. Next week, I’ll make time to rework the literary stories for an hour or so each day, but I’ll also get back to generating new material and hitting my word count quotas.

No matter how many words we write, our work is in some way incomplete until it’s released to the world and found by readers.

Go write something!

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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Fiction, Writing


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Note to Self: Trust Your Writer’s Instinct

When I first started as a creative writer, I took a lot of classes and workshops. I was so close to my own writing, so invested in my lofty goals, I often failed to see my own shortcomings. Even when I did, I was quite good at rationalizing them away, hoping no one else would notice. I needed an instructor or classmate to point out cliches, poor word choices, logic gaps, unintentional humor or total lack of humor, flat characters, lack of texture, and all the other things that can make your writing a bore.

Receiving criticism and using it to make my work better helped me learn to find those problems for myself. Critiquing my classmates’ writing allowed me to develop an even sharper eye for all those details, and eventually I got to the point that I didn’t really need anyone to show me where my work was falling short. In almost every case, the things they circled and outlined and questioned on my drafts were things I already knew weren’t right. I may not have known just how to fix them, but I was aware that they needed to be fixed.

I still get feedback from my writing friends and from some great readers I’m fortunate to have in my life, but I don’t depend on it. Instead, I’ve learned to be my own best critic. Rarely does my writer’s instinct let me down.

Go write something!


Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Fiction, Writing


4 Reasons I Was Writing Fiction on Christmas Day

Yes, my family celebrates Christmas, and I spent the weekend with family and friends, doing the things most people do to recognize the holiday. I enjoyed the food, and the Christmas movies, and the exchange of gifts, but  by late afternoon on Christmas Day, everyone was ready to settle down and have a little quiet time. That left me with a few hours of free time, and I used an hour of it to work on a short story.

Why would I want to spend a holiday writing fiction?

  1. I love writing. I had some free time, so why shouldn’t I spend it doing what I most enjoy? I hung out with my family and read from some of the books they gave me as gifts. Writing was just one more enjoyable activity.
  2. Writing every day makes it easier to slide into the fictional worlds I’m creating. The more time I spend away from my characters, the more time and effort I require to get back into their stories. By writing every day, even if the sessions are brief, I find it easier to get back to work each time I sit in front of my laptop. As an added bonus, I also find that I’m thinking about and developing the stories, even when I’m away from my desk.
  3. Progress inspires me. Seeing my stories nearer to completion makes me want to come back for more each day.
  4. I’ve set goals and deadlines for the work I want to publish in 2012. I could wait for New Year’s Day to resolve to make resolutions and plan how I’ll get the work done, but I’m no longer wasting time. No one is going to impose deadlines, work hours, or quality checks on me, so I’m imposing them on myself, and there’s no sense in waiting for an artificial trigger to begin.
Go write something!

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Fiction, Writing


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A Short Story Renaissance in the Making

Over the years, I’ve published several short stories, and I’ll submit a novel for consideration in the near future. While I love reading (and writing) in both forms, I find that many of my friends prefer novels almost exclusively. Short story collections generally don’t sell as well as novels, even in this supposed age of short attention spans.

Amazon’s kindle provides the opportunity for digital readers to discover a world of short stories they never knew existed. No longer will the decision for what short story sees the light of day be made primarily by editors of The New Yorker and its like. What your high school English curriculum marked as canon material, will only scratch the surface of easily available short stories.

Classics will always be available, and the big name writers will always find a platform for their stories, whatever the lengths, but with kindle and other ereaders, authors can publish their short stories without producing an entire collection, or waiting years to get responses from understaffed literary journals.(Yes, I have actually had responses come back after more than a year.)

Our work will remain available on sites like Amazon for as long as said sites exist. Readers will stumble upon stories that look interesting, discover that they’re shorts, and hopefully, find it’s a form they can easily dip in and out of, a form fit for today’s busy world. Some of them will be hooked on the satisfaction of getting from Once upon a time to The End all in a sitting. Some of them will be hooked on your writing and storytelling ability.

Write what the work moves you to write. Write what you observe, care about, and fear. Write what entertains you and upsets you, and end it at its natural length. Make it the best that you can, and then release it to the world. It may not find an audience today, but stay with the process. The readers will show up.

Go write something!


Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Fiction, Writing


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The Case for Writing Every Day

Lately, I haven’t spent enough time for writing fiction. I’ve spent most of my writing time on paid projects, and on my own non-fiction projects. As much as I enjoy all of those things, there remains a void that only fiction can fill. Just as I need to break up my non-fiction reading with novels and short stories, my writing time can become a chore, if I fail to work on my own novel or short stories.

The horror novella needs rewrites. Even though I’m not sure I’ve got that all figured out yet, I’m diving back into it. It’s uncomfortable, since I’ve been away from it for a while, but it only takes a few hours of focused work to fall back into my character’s lives. The thing about working on a project every day is that my mind continues to work on it even when I’m not at my desk. I may be at the farmer’s market, or sitting by the pool while my daughter tries to engage me in her water games. At random moments, the character’s speak, and the story bubbles up to latch onto details and ideas I might otherwise have missed. It makes for a richer fictional world when I live in that world for at least an hour or two each day.

I needed a break from the finished material of the novella–sometimes space is the only way to find clarity–but it would’ve been wiser to continue to exercise my fiction-writing muscles on other projects.It’s easier to write, if I do it each day. It’s easier to return to my main fiction project, if I write fiction each day. There’s no reason not to do it. I certainly have enough works-in-progress to keep me busy. Don’t you?

Go write something!

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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Fiction, Writing


Suggestion: Ignore Other Writers’ Attempts to Fix Your Work

People who know my work tend to expect dark subject matter, but horror isn’t usually my thing. I think, though, that when the story offers itself to you, you’d be foolish to turn it down.

My horror novella needs a fairly significant rewrite. There’s a problem with the structure that requires more than a bit of cutting and pasting. Fortunately, I have a talented reading partner who gave me some direction in making the changes. Some direction, but not too much.

Although I almost always seek feedback from my critique partners and from smart readers, I don’t see fiction writing as a collaborative process (though I’m not opposed to doing a planned collaborative fiction project). I take all the feedback seriously, because I’ve known and worked with these writers for a long time. That doesn’t mean I make every change they suggest, but that I give serious consideration to their opinions. And if  two or more of them are in agreement on a point, I pay extra attention.

I appreciate constructive criticism, but in general, I don’t want to be told how to fix things. Figuring out how to make the story better, more coherent, more engaging, or more lyrical, is one of the things I most enjoy about this art form. I look at it as an opportunity to challenge myself and become a stronger writer, and frankly it’s just plain fun.

If you’re ever overwhelmed by the responses of your workshop, writing group, critique partners, or beta readers, consider ignoring their suggestions. Perhaps you can politely ask them to point out bumps and holes in your work without advising you on how to smooth or fill them. You may be surprised by how quickly you grow as a writer without all that noise in your head.

Go write something!




Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Fiction, Writing


Write About What Scares You

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’ve been referred to as the Queen of Darkness by someone who knows my writing well. What he may or may not understand is that writing fiction frees me from the darkness. In fact, it saved me when fear had reduced my world to approximately 4000 square feet. When anxiety and depression threatened to make me a recluse, writing provided the opportunity to safely explore the things that kept me awake late into the night.

Real life events and people may inspire scenes and characters in my fictional works, but they are still fictional. My worst fears can take place on the page, and when all is done, no one bleeds, no one mourns, no one is left with lasting trauma.

So yes, I’ve shaken babies, beheaded children, and crashed planes. I’ve dwelt with unfriendly spirits and destroyed families one life at a time. I’ve sent one spouse off to cheat on another, and given over teenage girls to lecherous manipulators. If my writing career lasts long enough, I’m sure I’ll do worse.

Terror of the most real kind enriches my fiction in a way few things can.

Go write something!


Posted by on June 9, 2011 in Fiction, Writing


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