Writing

Monday, Briefly.

Feeling: Sick, tired, and tired of being sick. I’ve officially been unwell for an entire month now, between having strep, surgery (which caused a throat injury), throat infection, vertigo, steroid-induced insomnia, and now — because I wasn’t given antibiotics for long enough — acute bronchitis. Ironically, the “invasive head surgery” part seems to have gone perfectly, and if I hadn’t had the complications, I’d have been back on my feet weeks ago.

Doing: Very little. Anyone wondering if I’ve been lazy and/or procrastinating lately should reread the above. I am doing what I can every minute that I can — which is why this blog post was written at 3 am — and a few more things powered by sheer force of will, but I’m behind on a lot. If you’re waiting on me for something, I will get to it. Probably right after I get a full night’s sleep. Or at least, on a day that I can actually breathe.

Listening to: “Uptown Funk”, still, especially because I found out the glorious Dap Kings provided the horns for this song. Video here. It’s fun, it hearkens back to hate-era disco (as in “everyone hates disco”), it features Bruno Mars — who’s starting to impress me with his interest in reviving older musical styles within his largely pop playlist — and did I mention the horn section?

Watching: I saw

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the first 45 minutes could have been 20, but otherwise, a better film than I expected, and cements Ben Stiller on my very short list of Hollywood celebrities I’d actually want to have a conversation with).

Gremlins, because my son had never seen it. A lot of the dark, campy humor was lost on him — and more noticeable to me than I’d remembered — but he liked Gizmo enough to want a T-shirt with him on it.

Big Hero Six, because my son actually asked if we could watch this, and he rarely likes age-appropriate stuff. (He’s all Blues Clues and Walking Dead. No, I don’t let him watch Walking Dead, outside of the zombie scenes.) It was fun, touching, and while it was limited to a very tight PoV and almost no one did anything important except the MC, all of that focus was on a bright, awkward, Asian kid who wasn’t treated like a minority, just a person, living in a multi ethnic world.

I’m still watching iZombie, Jane the Virgin, and Grimm, whenever there’s a new episode. Other stuff too, if someone else is or I’m really, really, bored, but those are the only three shows on TV that I’m not burnt out on or tired of hoping will improve.

Reading: started Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation.

Writing: Revising last week’s 1700 word SF story into about 2500, when I figured out there would be no character arc unless I added to the beginning. Also trying to finish a 750 word story for this (deadline 4/26/15).

What are you into lately?

Post Surgery Update: Two Weeks and… Um. Yeah.

Two weeks ago, I took a week off of work to have surgery, recover, and spend a little time catching up on some projects for myself. Turns put, only part of that happened. Surgery? Check. Recovery? Eh… Still in progress. Getting stuff done? In bits and pieces… But nowhere near like what I expected.

I have been too tired to watch television. Too dizzy to read. Sleeping 20 hours a day, in little naps, or not sleeping at all. The first time, last week, I felt better and ready to get back on track — I had a huge setback, and it took days to get better. I did! In time to go back to work. But I wasn’t done recovering, I guess, because I woke up Sunday morning with vertigo. It’s one of those side effects you usually get right away or not at all, and since I felt great immediately after the surgery, I wasn’t expecting this.

I have to remember that I’m wired to be strong, in the moment: having surgery or a baby or dealing with emergencies… I’m present and capable and make it work. But sometimes there’s a price to pay for that, and for me that’s having the physical or emotional reaction after the fact, when it’s safe to do so. Not always convenient, but better than falling apart when I need to be focused instead. I don’t know if what’s kept me from healing has been that I was sick just a few days before the surgery, or the throat injury/infection I got from the breathing tube, or if I somehow got water inside of my ear canal (which was supposed to healed closed by now), or that last week was unbelievably stressful — or all of those things together. It doesn’t really matter, because the situation is what is.

I’m going to lose a week of work, without pay. I’m dizzy and nauseated and exhausted. I’m on a steroid to reduce the swelling in my ear (what’s causing the vertigo) so that it doesn’t permanently damage my hearing. I’m on another drug to reduce the dizziness, though I still can’t drive or turn 90 degrees around a corner without losing my balance. Even reading my tablet as I write this hurts my head, and I think I need to go back to bed again.

But the only way out is through. I will be better in a few days. I already know that my hearing in greatly improved, and the sounds I was frightened of losing, I get to keep listening to, for a long time. And now I have whole new experiences to write about, when the world stops spinning.

What’s An Introvert To Do?

I’ve been at my new day job for seven weeks now. In that time, I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook only a handful of times; published three blog posts here; checked my email occasionally, but not nearly as often as before. In the past, I’ve gone quiet when I’ve been overwhelmed with life — gone into hiding, in a way, from everything that threatened to topple over and bury me under its weight.

This is  not that.

I work in a place that provides a wide range of services to members of our community, most of whom don’t have other options. (more…)

It’s true! Writing very short fiction can improve your novel.

I’ve had great success teaching flash fiction, and my students have gone on to be more widely published, and better writers. But I often hear from people who say something like:

“Oh, that sounds cool, but I don’t write short stories. I mostly write novels.”

Fear not, friend. Flash fiction is for you, too.

Writers Digest suggests learning to write flash because “no matter what you write, stringent word limits can challenge and sharpen your skills in ways that can improve even your long-form work.” Writing great flash requires the same skills as writing a great novel: descriptions that show instead of tell, concise language, poetic (compact yet evocative) style, and clear vision.

Microfiction (work that begins, ends, and feels complete under 1000 words) isn’t a fragment of a story. It’s not a scene without an anchor in the rest of the tale. It is its own moment. That kind of writing focuses on using the best words to speak clearly to your reader, giving them the impression of something larger than that space allows, so they don’t walk away unsatisfied. You want to give enough information so that the rest of the story, the history and potential future, are hinted at, but the reader doesn’t need to see them spelled out in order to have enjoyed what they read. If you can do that with a handful of words, you can do that with a hundred thousand. Even better – you can take away all the bits you don’t need before they get in the way of the words you want, confusing or even boring your reader.

Writing and reading short fiction show you successful ways to tell a story with the excess stripped away. I’ll help you learn the two major approaches to handling the challenging word count: how to write into the space that you have, and how to edit down to your limitations. Applying the lessons from my workshop to your novel will help you cut the fluff from your pages, turning your epic into a lean, thrilling, can’t-put-it-down adventure for your readers. Who doesn’t want that?

Keep an eye out for my next flash fiction workshop! I’ll post my teaching schedule here.

#SFWAPro

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

Update 11/13/14: 23 students enrolled; only 2 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.

$60 for 4 weeks:

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 8, 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.

Wondering how this workshop will improve your novel? Read this.

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…)