Tag Archives: writing

Reflections on the 2014 A-to-Z Challenge

Last Wednesday marked the end of the 2014 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. It’s the third year I’ve participated, and I think it was my most enjoyable. Instead of doing random posts, I went with a theme, and I made it one that would be challenging, creative, and also helpful to me as a writer: flash fiction. I wrote a piece of flash fiction for every day of the challenge. Further, I kept to a 100 word limit–exactly 100 words, no more, no less. I think this had the dual benefit of maintaining my interest, and also enabling people to read my posts quickly. There were over 2,000 blogs signed up for the challenge, and most people would be visiting multiple sites per day. I thought a good way to attract readers, and return readers, was to keep each story short and interesting. This is one reason why I didn’t stick with one particular genre. The stories encompass horror, romance, contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, detective, as well as a range of age groups from middle grade to adult. Hopefully, something for everyone. I briefly considered making the stories all connect, so at the end of the challenge you’d have a 2,600 word story. In the end, I decided I wanted people to be able to drop in on the blog anytime and read something complete without feeling like they have to go back to “A” to get what the story’s about. Perhaps I underestimate people’s willingness to do that, but I figured they probably wouldn’t.

The hardest part of the challenge was visiting different blogs each day. Some days I managed to get around a number of blogs, others I only made it to my “regulars” (i.e., blogs from people I already follow, or ones I decided early on I wanted to follow for the duration of the challenge). There were a number of blogs I visited where the bloggers either did the first few letters then gave up, or ended up not participating at all. For the sake of supporting those who were trying to get to “Z”, I tended to avoid the blogs that abandoned the challenge (or never started it). However, given the large number of blogs on the sign-up, it was hard for the admins to keep the list “clean” so I would end up wasting time visiting blogs that were no longer participating. It would be nice in future if people had a way of removing themselves if they decide they no longer wish to participate.

So there are some of my thoughts from this year’s challenge. I fully intend to take part in the 2015 challenge, and perhaps even write flash fiction again. We’ll see. For those that are interested, I have compiled all my flash fiction posts from this year into a single pdf file, along with “author notes” for each story. You can find that HERE, or by selecting “Stories” under the “Writing” tab above.

Do you plan to do the A-to-Z Challenge next year? I’m also curious to know, if you read any of my flash stories, which was your favorite?

 

My Writing Process

Man Writing: Facing Left by Vincent Van GoghSamantha Dunaway Bryant, a new blog friend I met through the A-to-Z Challenge, invited me to participate in this blog tour. The purpose of the tour is to get writers, published or unpublished, to talk about their writing: current projects, writing process, and so on. Thanks Samantha for asking me to take part. Here are my answers to the questions:

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m working on final revisions to my current novel. At the moment, it’s title is A TEENAGE ALIEN IN VICTORIAN LONDON, and it’s about… a teenage alien who gets stuck in Victorian London. Seriously. The idea for the story came to me a few years ago. I had already come up with a race of aliens who think Earth is the technical center of the universe, and consider Earth’s inhabitants to be geniuses. The only way in which this race are superior to “Earthians” is that they have mastered space travel. Otherwise, their technology is at least 20 years behind Earth’s. Indeed, the technology they have is stolen from Earth because they couldn’t invent it themselves. I have long enjoyed H.G. Wells, and read THE WAR OF THE WORLDS when I was nine or ten years old. Years after coming up with this Earthophile alien race, I was contemplating the setting of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and I wondered what it would be like if the alien visitors had been benign. In fact, what if a teenage alien girl found herself in Victorian London. What would she think? Especially if she already knew about modern Earth, so it would be a double culture-shock. Then, in a burst of inspiration, teenage alien in London idea met up with retro-aliens idea, and my novel was born. My main character, Pearl, is one of these Earth-loving, technologically inferior aliens, who accidentally ends up in Victorian London in need of electricity to get home. The problem is, it’s 1879, and electricity’s a bit of a novelty.

My Beta Readers seemed to enjoy it, so my plan is to begin querying as soon as I’ve finished these last edits.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This particular novel is one I find hard to categorize. It’s a historical, but it’s also sci-fi. The best way I’ve found to describe it is “Douglas Adams meets the big-house feel of ‘Downton Abbey’.” I suppose it differs from others in its genre since, unlike most historicals, it involves an alien, and unlike most sci-fi, most of the story is spent in a real, historical setting, with no extra-terrestrial technology. Perhaps another thing that sets it apart is that it is YA. The main characters in the story are all teenagers, whether alien or Victorian. It would be foolishly arrogant for me to suggest that my novel is unique, but I’ve not seen anything like it, so hopefully it will fill a gap in bookshelves.

Why do I write what I do?

The simple answer is because I have ideas for stories that no-one else will tell if I don’t–at least, not the way I would tell them. I don’t consider myself a genre writer. My last couple of novels have been YA, but not by design. In fact, I discovered the YA category because I had written a novel (not my current novel) and I needed to know it’s genre. Before then, I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as “YA literature.” As soon as I made this discovery, I got hold of other YA books and read them to see how well my novel fit. That novel may never see publication, but it helped me understand what YA is about, and introduced me to a great bunch of writer friends online. Will my next novel be YA? Possibly, or maybe not. I have ideas for Middle Grade and Adult novels too, so it depends which I decide to take on next.

How does your writing process work?

I see the value of plotting, but I have no patience for it. My problem is that I love writing, and I love the thought of writing, but I hate the process of going from thinking to doing. I’m lazy like that, and will procrastinate if I don’t exercise discipline. One way I encourage myself to write is to remind myself how much I enjoy it when I get started. Most of the time that does the trick. So my writing process begins with me telling myself to quit procrastinating because that great story idea I keep thinking about won’t make it to the page unless I put it there. I might draw up a very rough outline so I know what the main plot points are, and I’ll probably jot down character names if I have them at that time. Some like to do extensive bios of their characters, but I try to avoid getting into that. Not because I have anything against that kind of background detail, but because such things separate me from the work of actually writing, which just feeds my procrastination. I’d sooner get on and write the first draft, and let the characters develop with the story. In the case of this novel, I did a lot of reading on Victorian London, and made notes on things of relevance (e.g., the different staff jobs in a large manor house, the social dynamics within the house, the development of electricity, etc.). I’m sure there are factual errors and places where I’ve exercised artistic license, but for a work of fiction, I’m more concerned about verisimilitude–being right enough that it feels real.

The revision process involves me working with my Beta Readers’ notes, comparing their comments and weighing them, chapter by chapter. It’s very time consuming, but given as much time they put in to reading and commenting on my work, it’s only right that I give all their notes due attention.

That’s a little insight into how I work. I’ve invited some blog friends of mine to discuss their writing processes on their blogs next week (Monday, May 12), so please be sure to visit them:

Robin Moran is an as-yet-unpublished YA horror writer in England, who otherwise teaches children. Her current novel, BEAST INSIDE, is nearly ready for beta readers.

Cole Burke is another as-yet-unpublished writer from England, who has been learning the violin alongside trying to tame all the wild story ideas she has roaming around her head.

Tracey Neithercott is one of my U.S. writer friends who gets paid to write magazine articles on health, but in real life she writes YA novels. Her fiction is as-yet unpublished, but, along with the rest of my writer friends, it’s only a matter of time.

Zombie

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I’m posting a 100 word piece of flash fiction every day. It might be a self-contained story, or a scene–whatever, it’ll be fiction, and it’ll be over in a flash! Today’s story is…

Zombie

We lost the barn door with the first one. I nearly lost my friend with the last. I was preoccupied watching these unconscious zombies return to the living. I saw grey skin turn pink, glazed eyes blaze into life. Some even smiled.

Then the last stormed through the doorway, pushing me aside. He went straight for the man with the unicorn blood. I got up in time to see the zombie over him, hands around his neck, the last vial spilled on the ground.

I had no choice.

I set aside the club, and took up an axe.

In case you didn’t pick up on it, this is part two of my “U” story. And that’s it for this year’s A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading these flash fiction stories as I’ve had writing them. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to stop by, comment, and make this year’s challenge that much more fun.

What’s Up Wednesday

I don’t think I have much to update you all on today, but since I didn’t post one last week… here goes!

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading WAR AND PEACE, but I just got the new Gary Corby novel–THE MARATHON CONSPIRACY–in the mail, along with Susan Dennard’s SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY. So I might have to take a little break from W&P, because these are books that need to be read. Soon. I’ve been a fan of Gary’s since his first Athenian Mysteries novel, THE PERICLES COMMISSION. If you like mysteries and you’re interested in Ancient Greece, and you have a sense of humor, you’ll LOVE these books. As for Susan’s book… it’s been recommended and loved on so much by so many blog friends, and it has zombies. I’ve yet to read a zombie novel, and I’m intrigued to see how people write zombies (see my final A-to-Z story today for my take). Put all that together, and you have must-reading.

What I’m Writing

Still working on revisions to my novel. I have multiple Word docs open–all my Beta Reader notes (yay Team Awesome), and my main document. My process involves reading over all the Beta comments for the chapter I’m reviewing, weighing their insights, then making the necessary changes. Team Awesome also gave me lots of general comments by email, and I’m carrying those thoughts with me as I edit. I do believe this thing is taking shape. Right now, I’m hopeful I’ll have something worth querying by the time I’ve finished.

What Inspires Me Right Now

I probably said it last time, but I’ll say it again–the comments and likes on my 100-word flash fiction posts this month. Today’s the last day of the 2014 April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. For this month’s challenge, I wrote a 100-word piece of flash fiction every day. These were fun to write, and I’m happy to see others appreciated them too. That kind of validation is nice for someone who wants to be published.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Nothing strange or startling (or deadly). Through the A-to-Z Challenge, I’ve made some new blog friends, so it’s been fun visiting their blogs and getting to know them a bit. But mostly family, work, church, writing–same old good routine.

What have you been up to this week? If you’d like to join in this blog hop, visit the blogs of the founders, Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, for details.

Yarn

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I’m posting a 100 word piece of flash fiction every day. It might be a self-contained story, or a scene–whatever, it’ll be fiction, and it’ll be over in a flash! Today’s story is…

Yarn

Jethro’s mistress was busy with her knitting, so he pawed a ball of yarn from her basket. It fell to the floor and started to roll. His ears twitched. He gave chase.

The old lady shook her head and smiled.

Jethro loosened the end with his claws. The ball trundled along the floor, unraveling. The cat pounced; the ball shot away, long cords of yarn drifting down. He pounced again, a strange urgency in his eyes.

He may not have understood mistress’s threat to cut her brother from her will. But he knew where the man hid her heart medicine…

Check back tomorrow for the last day of the A-to-Z Challenge: Z…

Xenophobia

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I’m posting a 100 word piece of flash fiction every day. It might be a self-contained story, or a scene–whatever, it’ll be fiction, and it’ll be over in a flash! Today’s story is…

Xenophobia

After six days, we parked the ship and disembarked, glad to be on solid ground. The place we came to was full of lush vegetation. Our team walked toward the native dwellings, hoping to make contact. This intention was greatly hampered by the reluctance of the natives to meet us. Some emerged from their domiciles, but they screamed, and quickly retreated.

“Did you see them?” said Bargs.

“I did!” I replied with equal enthusiasm.

“They only have two eyes,” said Angip.

Bargs turned to me. “Do you think we can take one back home?”

“We’ll have to catch one first…”

Check back tomorrow for Y…

Sunday Flash Fiction Special #4

Each Sunday in April, I’m posting a piece of 100-word flash fiction I wrote for a Janet Reid writing contest (see HERE for the full explanation). For this last Sunday in April, here’s my only win to-date. The rules for this were a little different:

THE “GOTCHA KNICKERS TWISTED, YO?” CONTEST

(December 15, 2011)

Rules: Write a poem, or a story in a poem, that’s reversible. That means the lines form a poem reading down AND up. And just to make things LOTS of fun, it’s fewer maximum words this time: 60.

My entry:

“hard candy
sucks,”
the child
said;
his father
disapproving.


disapproving,
his father
said,
“the child
sucks
hard candy!”

Janet was impressed that not only did I complete the challenge with only 9 words, but that I also reversed the sensibility. As you can tell, I’m really rather pleased with this–especially since I don’t consider myself anywhere close to being a competent poet.

I should also note that if you have been the slightest bit impressed with my efforts, please go check out the original contests and read the other entries. I’m pleased with how mine turned out, but some of the other writers are insanely talented, and do this much better than me.

See you tomorrow for my “X” story…

 

Wish

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I’m posting a 100 word piece of flash fiction every day. It might be a self-contained story, or a scene–whatever, it’ll be fiction, and it’ll be over in a flash! Today’s story is…

Wish

“I don’t care that you’re not tired. You have school tomorrow. Bed. Now!”

James dragged himself to his room, changed into pajamas, and stared out his window.

“I hate school,” he told the night.

A twinkle caught his eye. A shooting star. James squeezed his eyes shut, and smiled. Silly, perhaps, but he felt better for doing it.

It was three in the morning when his father woke him.

“What is it?” said James, yawning.

“Come see.”

They went to James’ window. A fire blazed in the distance.

“It seems a large meteor just crashed into the school.”

James gulped.

Check back on Monday for X…

Viola

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I’m posting a 100 word piece of flash fiction every day. It might be a self-contained story, or a scene–whatever, it’ll be fiction, and it’ll be over in a flash! Today’s story is…

Viola

Alina nestled the instrument close to her neck. Her deep breaths slowed her pounding heart, but they did nothing for her clammy fingers struggling to grip the bow. She was a violinist; viola was her second instrument. Now she had to give the viola recital of her life. There was no room for error.

She had thirty seconds.

Alina began.

Her fingers found each note with perfect vibrato, her bow drawing out every sweet, sonorous tone.

Ten seconds to go.

She swallowed down panic.

Five… four…

Alina bowed the final note, tears in her eyes.

The disabled bomb blinked: 00:03.

Check back tomorrow for W…

Unicorn

For the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I’m posting a 100 word piece of flash fiction every day. It might be a self-contained story, or a scene–whatever, it’ll be fiction, and it’ll be over in a flash! Today’s story is…

Unicorn

Death seeped through my veins. I could feel its progress as I staggered toward the barn. I collapsed on a bail of hay, the sickness clouding my thoughts.

A blurry figure approached me, holding a vial.

“Drink! Quick!” he said pouring the contents down my throat. It was thick, sticky, and powerful. The darkness retreated. My senses cleared.

“What…?”

“Unicorn blood,” said the man. “How far away are they?”

“About ten minutes,” I said. He walked out of sight. When he returned he handed me a club.

“Have you your strength?”

I nodded.

“Then we must be ready to fight.”

Check back tomorrow for V…