Writing

New workshop begins Nov 15, 2014: Better Writing Through Brevity

Update 10/21/14: 7 students enrolled; 18 spots left

Beginning November 15, 2014 – “Better Writing Through Brevity: Writing/Editing Microfiction and Flash” – read, write, critique, and edit short fiction of various lengths, including 140 characters, 1 sentence, 150 words, six sentences, under 500 words, under 1000. Previous students of this class have sold their final pieces to semi- and pro-rate SFF markets.

$50 for 4 weeks if enrolled by 11/01/2014.

Sign up here.

I will close registration for this workshop when we reach 25 students, to limit the group to a manageable size. If there are still spaces left on November 1, the price will go up to $75. And, yes, you can purchase a registration for a friend. Simply enter their email address on the signup screen when it asks.

When I did this workshop last year, it was a lot of fun! Many of those students are still supporting (and critiquing) each other today.

Please note: All workshops take place in my private online forum, so you can post questions, comments, and writing excerpts without worrying who will see it. Plus, since we have deadlines of a certain day, not a set class hour, you can be anywhere in the world and still participate! With everything online, you won’t miss a thing, no matter what time zone you’re in or what challenges you’re working around.

How does the class work?

A week before the class begins, students will get an email instructing them how to log into the private online forum. Only people in the class will have access to the workshop space. (This means anything posted there is considered “unpublished” and if you like it when it’s polished, you still have the option to submit it for publication.) Anyone who logs in during that pre-class week will be able to start reading the samples in advance. (more…)

Free Fiction: “While Waiting For Your Landlord To Evict You” (Experimental/Literary)

This story is a little different than my other work. It’s creative non-fiction, in that it’s true, but written well (I hope). It covers the first six months of this year — I wrote it before the situation got even worse with the CO/gas leaks a few weeks ago, but I think it’s strong enough that I don’t need to add to it. It’s 2nd person PoV, 3200 words long, and isn’t published anywhere else.

An excerpt:

As the month ticks down, you should lay out all of your options for moving so that you can clearly see you don’t have any.

Find the information for the storage place nearby, the one with cheap little units that hold a single room’s worth of stuff, because you can’t afford bigger and you can probably get your belongings down to that size. While your son is at camp, or school, or asleep – anything, as long as he doesn’t see what’s going on and get spooked – start packing up what you know you want to keep. If he does figure it out, tell him you’re organizing, that the apartment is too little for even the meager amount of things that you own, that you’re a minimalist at heart, anyway.

Give silent thanks each day that he doesn’t ask.

Get the PDF here

Seven Bits of a WIP

Various people tagged me in a meme that’s going around about finding the seventh page in the seventh book that you wrote for the seventh brother on your wedding day, or something like that. Rather than tag a bunch of others to do the same — because I am nothing if not an enabler of you keeping things to yourself — I’m posting seven sentences from one of my novels-in-progress here, no strings attached:

Determined not to be the first casualty, caught unawares by a child in a bloodstained nightgown waiting silently for her wake up so it could feed, she focused on the enemy Romero gave her. She packed watertight plastic containers with dried food, wooden matches, camping gear, medical supplies, and knives (in assorted sizes). She refused to live on the first floor, since a second-story apartment was more defensible. And she kept her doors locked when she was home, even when she was awake, so nothing could sneak in.

Years of paranoia and preparation, and in the end, none of it mattered. It was all made useless by the sudden realization that the something lurking in the darkness wasn’t foreshadowing a future apocalypse. They were only ghosts.

What a fucking waste of time.

This is from my urban gothic (aka “No, she should not have a tramp stamp on the cover god dammit”) novel, tentatively titled “Shades of Grey” because my sense of humor demanded I use this until the book is done enough to tell me its real title.

If you do decide to post your excerpts as well, and want me to see it, leave it in the comments and I’ll take a look.

New Lakeside, New Publication, and Readercon

We launched the second issue of Lakeside Circus over the weekend with a brief Letter From The Editor, followed by the outstanding short story by Fran Wilde, “The Naturalist Composes His Rebuttal”. We paired it with a podcast — our first — read by Don Pizarro, who’s not only contributed a story to this issue but has been working tirelessly with me as our audio producer.

Fran said, “Bravo, Don BRAVO. This sounds exactly as I’d imagined it,” so take a moment and listen to it here.

You can see the full issue Table of Contents and publishing schedule here, along with links to subscription options. Please do consider subscribing if you haven’t yet; the more readers we have, the more podcasts and stories I’ll be able to fund.

My story, “How to Recover a Relative Lost During Transmitter Shipping, In Five Easy Steps“, is now online at Unlikely Story, for their Cartography special issue. Though it is technically about a map, for me the story is more about the idea of a map as a description of the places you’ve been along the way to where you’re going. The map you draw for others isn’t always accurate, even though you may think it is. The path is bent as you react to obstacles along the way, or filled in from hazy memories and half-guesses. Looking back, you’re tempted to see the past as the whole of the map, when it’s only your perspective on display. It may be true. It might not.

“How to Recover a Relative Lost During Transmitter Shipping, In Five Easy Steps” is told as an interview with a woman who accidentally became part of something enormous, when she thought she’d lost someone whose impact was only enormous to her. Here’s an excerpt:

Interviewer’s note: Amrita Chakrabarty agreed to this meeting only after several concessions were agreed to. First, that we wouldn’t discuss the contentious court battle she and her family had only recently settled; second, that we wouldn’t discuss the theoretical science in more than a passing way, as it applied to the events themselves; and third, that I didn’t ask about her relationship with her younger brother, Shikhar, beyond what she was willing to disclose on her own. The reader, no doubt already familiar with the hundreds of other articles on what’s now called “The Chakrabarty Wormhole Map,” can piece together for themselves why that might be the case.

Q: Let’s go back to the very beginning. What was your first hint that your brother and his friends had done something monumental?

AC: Nothing feels monumental until after it’s over and you realize what’s happened. This thing, which is so huge and impossible to escape now, was annoying to begin with. Frustrating, and then scary, but looking back, I can see why it’s been painted as something of an adventure. That sounds fun, right? A grand escapade.

The title of your book, which comes from the first set of instructions you wrote, makes it sound simple.

Yeah, that was a marketing thing. It wasn’t simple at all.

You can read the rest of the issue here. It also includes work from Sarah Pinsker, Rhonda Eikamp, Kat Howard, James Van Pelt, and Shira Lipkin.

I don’t have the schedule yet, but I’ll be on a panel at Readercon discussing imaginary cities and invented cartography, along with other folks from the Unlikely Story issue. Last version of the description I read was:

This summer, Unlikely Story will publish their Unlikely Cartography issue, featuring stories by Shira Lipkin, Kat Howard, Sarah Pinsker, Carrie Cuinn, and others. Together with editor A.C. Wise, these authors will discuss their stories, and other authors (historical and modern) who similarly explored the cartography of the fantastic. Influences and discussion topics may include Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Eco’s Legendary Lands, Post’s Atlas of Fantasy, Mieville’s The City and the City, and more.

I can’t wait!

Coming back around to Lakeside Circus again: I’ve update the website to include a main page button for podcasts (like we already had for short stories, flash fiction, and poetry), included the Issue Two information, and added rotating news posts to share important information on the front page. We’re keeping the design simple to translate well to your mobile devices, but still want it to be useful, easy to navigate, and aesthetically pleasing. Take a look?

#SFWAPro

10 Things You Should Never Say Before Your First Book Is Actually Written, and 3 Things You Should

I get it. I really do. Writing your very first* novel, travel guide, collection of short stories**, how-to text, or any other long form work is exciting. You think ahead to how it will be received, how much money you’ll make, and it’s tempting to jump forward to the good parts… especially when the act of writing it can sometimes be slow. Or painful. Or, impossible, at that particular moment.

So much more fun to talk about it as if it’s a real thing, with potential!

But there are 10 things you should never let yourself say out loud, online, or to other humans, before at least a solid first draft of the project is complete. Some are cardinal sins, some are merely pointless, but all should be avoided (caveats noted):

1. How do I get my book published?

Variations include: Do you have any advice on how to make my book sell? What do think I need to do to make my book popular?

The shortest, truest, answer is: “How would I know?”

Authors, editors, agents — none of us can tell you the “secret” to getting published because there isn’t one. “Write the best book you can” is standard advice, because it’s true, and because each book is different. If you’re writing exactly the same novel as I did, sure, maybe I can tell you who loved mine and wanted to buy it, but why would you want to write a book that’s already been published? Unless it’s the same all the way down into its bones, I couldn’t tell you for certain who would buy it. Acquiring editors base their decisions on the quality of the work, but also on marketing trends, what’s selling now, what’s already been bought but isn’t yet published, how long it will take to get your book out compared to how current/trendy it is, and so on. Generally, a book takes a year or more to see the light of day, and if you’re offering a work “just like that new book that’s selling so well!” by the time a buyer accepts it, gets it edited, laid out, proofed, printed, and distributed, you’re too late. Readers will have moved on.

Once a book is finished, edited, revised, and ready to be shopped around, then you can ask for advice. Once you have a tangible item that your mentor can actually read, it’s so much easier for them to say, “I think XYZ House would love a book like this because their editor was just telling me she wanted the [specific bits] I see here” or “I’ve seen two or three of these exact books out last year, but none of them had your chapter 11 — I’d expand that section to make your work stand out”.

Until then, you’re basically saying: “I’m going to make cookies with lemon juice and ginger in them. Can you tell me if they’ll be delicious? How many people will buy them? I don’t have any for you to taste, but can you tell me what I need to do to make them better?”

Exception: Certain types of non-fiction publishers will hire writers to create books that fit a pre-established line (like the “For Dummies” series). If you want to write specifically for them, you need to first contact them and pitch your idea. This isn’t true for most types of publishing, and if you’re planning to write the book your way, and find a publisher who won’t want to have strict control over every single aspect of it, you need to write it before you worry about publishing.

Your unhatched chickens? Do not count them yet.

Your unhatched chickens? Do not count them yet.

2. How do I get an agent?

Variations include: Will your agent read my book? Hey, agent, my book isn’t finished yet but do you want to read it?

You get an agent by submitting a cover letter about your book. Sometimes they’ll want a sample as well, but mostly it’s the cover letter. Sure, you can write that before your book is finished, but if the agent likes the letter, they’ll want to see a sample. If they like the sample (often a complete outline and the first 3 chapters), they’ll want to read the whole book. This process could take months, giving you time to finish the project — or it could take a week. What do you think will happen when the agent finds out you don’t even have a first draft done yet?

(more…)