I haven’t forgotten about Scotland, I promise!
I’ve been writing stories. STORIES! I am very excited about this. It’s been a while. In fact, that is why I have a real live author photo now, as demonstrated above.
So real. So author-y.
(Warning: the rest of this post is just going to be about writing because that is the kind of nerd I am. If you came here for Scotland stuff only, feel free to wander off. I promise I won’t get mad!)
So a few months back, I decided I wanted to get serious about writing fiction again. And I thought the best way to do that might be to try my hand at short stories – REAL short stories, rather than all the ones that, as it turns out, were actually first chapters of books. (I did that a lot.)
The way I see it, short stories are a way to allow a writer a bit more freedom (to try new things), while – paradoxically – also dialing things back, in a way. Everything has to be self-contained, streamlined, simplified.
On top of that, short stories are a great way to remind oneself (if one’s self is a lazy and absentminded writer named Alex) that YOU CAN ACTUALLY FINISH THINGS.
Anyway, I started a short story – well, actually started redrafting a novella that had originally been conceived as a short story – on the plane to Iceland. And although I – surprise! – never finished it (because as it turns out it still needs to be a novella at least or maybe even a novel), I kind of caught the bug.
So then at the beginning of this month I remembered that itch for stories and made a very last-minute decision to sign up for a “Writing and Selling Short Stories” online workshop with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, two bestselling fiction writers who have been basically mentors for me, Erik, and countless other would-be pro writers.* I think I signed up the day before the workshop was due to start. Wheee!
Oh yeah, and I guess I forgot to mention that I managed to get in to next year’s Anthology Workshop, a much-coveted in-person (rather than online) workshop that includes real live professional editors arguing about and buying your stories for actual live anthologies. I am so giddy.
And hoo boy, I need to up my story game.
Which is one of the reasons I’m spending all this time doing the online workshop now. I’m writing a story a week, in fact.
So, the second week in, Dean (the main instructor for the online workshops) assigned the first short story to be completed in five days. It was for a fake anthology titled “Alien Pets,” which apparently meant there had to be an alien, and there had to be a pet. Because all of the immediate ideas I got for it were humorous ones (I mean, seriously. Alien Pets?), I decided I needed to be contrary and write something oddly serious. So I ended up with a revenge story. Huh.
And it’s – apparently – surprisingly good! The feedback I got from Dean was nothing but positive. (At this point I should add that Kris and Dean are notoriously…hmm…blunt in their critiques of their students’ work. They have been known to make grown men and women cry, although everyone always agrees that it’s totally worth it by the end of any given workshop.)
So maybe I can write actual self-contained short stories after all?
(Of course, last week I didn’t get my assigned story completed in time. Only had two evenings free to work on it and I have never written any mysteries before, so…yeah. I ran out of time to finish it.)
But THIS week, it’s the Urban Fantasy genre. I have more time. And I think I’m going to write about Edinburgh.**
*They teach amazing workshops on the Oregon Coast, in the same town as Erik’s family. The first time I ever seriously thought about making a living at writing was in their introductory workshop (I don’t remember its official name because everyone called it the “Kris and Dean Show”), and they’ve been providing amazing guidance for newbie writers like me for years and years.
**I guess I lied at the beginning – I did talk about Scotland. Ha!
[UPDATE: I did, in fact, write that Edinburgh story. It’s for sale here, with a sequel on the way.]