Weekly Update

Nothing special to report today. My last story was about a young man walking the line between good and evil. He had grown up without his father and had fallen in with someone in high school who was a bad influence, introducing him to drugs and alcohol. Now that he is out of school, he is finally realizing that there is no future in that relationship, but he doesn’t know how to end the friendship. His uncle sits him down and tells him a story about how he and the kid’s father had crossed that line in their youth, becoming drug dealers and living on the wrong side of the law. He told him how his father had been killed during an ambush while they were making a pick-up from their supplier. That story, along with an understanding of just how much his uncle cared for him, was the deciding factor in making the decision to drop his friend and give up the party life.

It’s not a great story, but it is one of the few that I have written this year that hasn’t had a paranormal or seriously disturbing influence. It was kind of refreshing to write something without a demon or monster in it. I probably won’t be able to continue the trend, but at least I managed the one.

That’s all for today. I’ll check in again next week with another update and fill you in on Dirty Little Freaks story number Fifty. See you then!

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Another False Start

I did it again this week. The beginning of my story was one thing, while the story itself was something completely different. In my defense, however, if this story was a lot longer I might still be able to bring it back around to where I started.

When I begin writing a new story, I try really hard to make the first sentence “pop”. I want to grab your attention right out of the gate. A lot of good writers do this. If you can seize hold of your reader right away you have a better chance of keeping them involved when things slow down.

In this story, I set the scene as my hero lining up to take a shot at something. I didn’t say what it was, just that the fate of the world rested on his shoulders at that moment. And it was all because of something that had started just a few days ago. The rest of the story was told as a flashback, remembering how he had met the woman who had put him there, in that place, with that responsibility.

The problem was that it was supposed to be a short story, and what I wanted to tell was more like a James Bond blockbuster. There was no way I could fit all that into under 10,000 words. So what it ended up being was just a beginning scene. I kind of wrapped it up at the end, but there is so much more to tell in that story. Unfortunately, the rest of it will have to wait until I have more time to spend on it, along with all the other stories like it that I wrote this year.

Which brings me to my next question: What will I be writing next year?

This year of writing a story a week has definitely been interesting, as well as productive. But I’m getting tired of these quick and dirty tales, and would really like to dig into something with some more meat on it again. I want to write another novel.

However, this time I don’t want to just start writing and see where it takes me. I want to take some time and figure out what the story is before I start. I want to know who my characters are at the beginning and where I want them to be at the end. I want to decide what the story is trying to say about life, the universe, and everything before I put my fingers on the keyboard. And, perhaps most of all, I want it to be outstanding.

The stories I have written so far have been okay. I like my characters, even though I have been told that they are so similar it is hard to tell them apart. And even though I put them in danger, there can also be a bit of deus ex machina involved in getting them out of trouble. It makes the story less believable and makes disengages the reader.

I’m not sure what I’ll be writing yet. I could take one of the shorts that I have been telling you about this year and expand it. Or I could write something completely new. It could be horror, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance. Or maybe I might try writing something a little more serious. An attempt at real literature. Something that you might see on Oprah’s book club.

Actually, probably not.

The first step is probably going to be the characters. I think they are the most important part of the story, even more important than the plot. The plot, of course, would be next, but it would fit the characters and the arc I want to take them through before the end. Those two things will help me decide what kind of genre I will be writing.

I guess that’s about all I have to say this week. Congratulations to all of you who participated in NaNoWriMo this year. I wasn’t one of them this year, but speaking as a winner for the last three years I know how hard it is. And even if you didn’t finish I still think you deserve recognition. Hooray for you!

See you next week, and keep on writing!

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How Did I Get Here?

This week my story started out with a boy running from some bullies. Then I turned it into a flashback and by the time I had finished it was essentially an origin story for a superhero like Batman. He found a secret hideout underneath an old, empty warehouse that was full of technology that was beyond what the rest of the world had available. He’s not quite sure if it is alien in origin or not, but he thinks that he can use it to make himself into a hero.

The story isn’t bad, but the first few paragraphs really don’t fit where the rest of the story ended up. They will probably all have to be rewritten or maybe cut altogether for the second draft. It’s kind of an intriguing premise though, and I might just have to explore it again some other day. In the meantime, though, I’m on to story number 48.

It’s hard to believe that we’re this close to the end of the year. It has been a long run, and I think writing all of these short stories has been good for me. They have certainly given me a chance to come up with some interesting ideas for the future. If you have followed my blog, you also know that they have also given me some reason to worry about my sanity. But then, most writers probably think that at one point or another in their careers. How often do you think Stephen King has written something and thought to himself, “What is wrong with me?”

Anyway, since I have spent most of this weekend watching Doctor Who in honor of the 50th anniversary special, I started this week’s story with my main character using some British idioms and references. I probably won’t be able to pull it off for the whole story, but it’s one of those writing exercises that I thought might be interesting. I’ll let you know next week how it went.

Speaking of the Doctor, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come up with that kind of immortal character? There aren’t many fictional creations that have the worldwide attraction and recognition of Doctor Who. It’s also interesting that the ones that I can think of are British creations, like James Bond and Harry Potter.

Time for a challenge, kiddies! Name some other fictional characters in a long-running series that are widely recognized across the globe. Go ahead, I dare you!

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Going Too Far

All right, this last week’s story was just plain wrong. It started out all right, about an eight year old boy who decided to go treasure hunting. Armed only with his mothers gardening trowel, he set off into the woods to find gold. Which he did.

He dug up a huge golden egg. It was planted in the ground in the middle of a clearing. He spent the day digging it out, then gave himself a hernia getting it out of the hole. He had to leave it in the woods due to his injury, but the gold was already having its effect on him. He didn’t tell anyone he found it, wanting to keep it all to himself.

Of course, his plans didn’t mean so much to his mother. She freaked out when she saw how filthy he was, and when she found out he was injured she dragged him to the hospital. The doctor diagnosed the hernia and told him to stay in bed for a few days, effectively grounding him. He also prescribed some heavy-duty painkillers which made sure he couldn’t go anywhere because they knocked him out cold.

After a full day of unconsciousness he managed to convince his mother he didn’t need the pills, then tried to stay awake long enough to sneak out to get the egg. Things didn’t work out that way though, and he fell asleep while waiting for the house to settle in for the night. It wasn’t an ordinary sleep though. He had a dream that his stomach ripped open and a monster burrowed inside, taking over his body and using him as a meat puppet.

The demon walked the two of them outside and into the woods to the egg. Our little victim was barefoot, so his feet got cut up along the way. The monster used the blood to paint arcane symbols on the egg, which then rose into the air and hatched.

A cloud covered up the moon just before the hatching, so the boy wasn’t able to see what came out of the egg. When it was gone, he was back in control of his body and ran home, where he started to wash off his mutilated feet. The bathroom door opened behind him, and when he turned to look he found a dragon had eaten his mother, and it was still hungry.

The story had so much promise in the beginning. I thought it would be a nice story of buried treasure. I thought that maybe I might make it a cautionary tale about the perils of greed. But then it went dark. Really dark. This is probably what I should have written during the week of Halloween, as it is definitely a horror story.

Maybe going too far like this is a good thing for a writer. Pushing the envelope can make a mediocre tale into a great one. Or, it could push it over the edge into the abyss of unsalable dreck.

What do you think? Did I go too far? Is this story better for the horrific events that happened, or is it over the edge? Would you like to read this kind of story, or do you think it should be burned in a ritual exorcism to cleanse it of the demons that have taken over my brain?

I’ll try to write something a little less creepy this week, but I won’t make any guarantees. Check in next Sunday to see how it goes.

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Oops

It seems that I forgot to post on Sunday. Sorry. I guess all I can say is better late than never.

Last week my story was about an auction. I was watching episodes of Storage Wars, so it seemed like the thing to do. In case you haven’t heard about it, Storage Wars follows several people as they bid on storage lockers that have been abandoned. Nobody knows why these little rooms full of people’s lives have wound up on the auction block, but it gives these entrepreneurs the chance to  pick up stuff for pennies on the dollar. They find the most unusual items, which they then take to experts to explain why they are special and what they are worth. At the end, the narrator recaps the profits that each one made from the locker.

So my story started simply, about a man getting ready for his bid. Then he spots an attractive woman who seems to be extremely interested in something in the locker. He decides that he is going to do something different for this auction. Instead of focusing on the value of the contents and cutting off his bid appropriately, he decides he is going to spend whatever it takes to win the locker. He is betting that he can then get the woman to sleep with him in exchange for whatever it is that she wants from the room.

The bidding goes higher and higher, to the amazement of the rest of the people at the auction, as they are convinced that it couldn’t possibly that much. The main character pushes it up to ten thousand dollars, probably ten times what it is worth, which wins him the locker. The rest of the auction then goes off to the next item up for bid, leaving him alone with the girl.

He starts digging into the boxes, purposefully ignoring the one she was interested in, while she hems and haws in the background. When she finally speaks, he dismisses her, but she refuses to leave. He ends up thinking that she is a born victim, unable to make up her mind and in desperate need of a strong man to take control. Which he then does.

She tells him that the locker was her sisters and she is looking for a family heirloom. He convinces her that the only way she is going to get it is if she takes off her clothes. She hesitates, but eventually does as he asks. While she strips, he finds her trinket, which is a locket with a crescent moon on the cover. He also finds some fur-lined handcuffs, because apparently her sister was into light bondage. He puts the cuffs on the girl, and then slips the necklace over her head before turning around to get another sex toy from the box. By the time he looks back, she has transformed into a werewolf which proceeds to tear him apart.

So the aggressor becomes the victim, and the world is possibly a better place. Depending, of course, on how you feel about werewolves.

My story this week is about a young boy who finds buried treasure. A huge golden egg buried in the woods. So far he has spent most of the day digging it out, and gave himself a hernia getting it out of the hole. I’m trying to show that he is unnaturally obsessed with this thing. I think it is going to turn out to be a dragon egg, but I haven’t figured out yet where the story is going next.

I’ll fill you in on the rest of the story next week. Hopefully on time. See you then!

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Last week’s story was supposed to be a Halloween horror story, but it didn’t turn out to be very scary. One more story that needs a lot of work to get to where I wanted it to be.

It started telling about an ordinary man. An insurance agent with nothing special about him. But then he met the woman of his dreams. A beautiful woman who could have been a supermodel or movie star. She told him she was there to buy insurance for her boss. And then, once their business was concluded, she asked him out on a date. Things went well, and eventually he asked her to marry him. She said yes, but on the eve of their wedding her boss called Thomas into his study and stole his body. It had all been a setup. Thomas had been a target from the start.

I think that one of my biggest problems was that I was on a deadline to finish it by Saturday. So instead of taking the time to craft the build up and suspense, I pushed it, especially at the end. Of course, this is something that can be fixed simply by taking the time during edits to fill in those holes.

I don’t know yet what I’ll be writing about this week. Tune in next Sunday to find out!

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The Treaty

Last week my story was about a man trying to work out a treaty between the normal world and the supernatural one. The ongoing war between the humans and the monsters was a nasty business and humanity was losing. But there were some in the supernatural community that only wanted to be recognized with the same rights and privileges as the human citizens, and since they were backed by some pretty powerful creatures our hero was willing to go along with it. This theme was probably inspired by the civil rights issues that our country has been struggling with in recent months, and when it popped out onto the page I decided it was worth following. While I might be a straight, married, middle-aged white male, that doesn’t mean that I can’t support the rights of EVERYONE to have the same privileges I enjoy. I am a firm believer in non-discrimination. I voted for Obama twice and right now my car is sporting an “I’m ready for Hillary” bumper sticker.

Unfortunately, the story was actually pretty rambling and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s another case of a seed of an idea that needs time to grow and be redone in the future. Maybe I’ll work it into something else someday. At the end of the story (or scene, really) our hero is left alone with the queen of the fae, who wants to seal the deal with sex. But since he has heard stories about mortals losing their minds after sleeping with her he tries to get out of it by saying she can only have him if they get married first. He never expected her to accept.

This week’s story is supposed to be a Halloween-themed horror story. I had an idea for it yesterday, but didn’t write it down right away so most of it slipped away. I think it was something about an ordinary man being targeted by a body-stealing immortal spirit. So far my beginning has this ordinary guy (yes, the word ordinary is being overused, but it’s on purpose) meeting a very extraordinarily beautiful woman. I think she is going to be the one that initiates the process that will lead to his downfall, but I haven’t quite worked out how yet. I guess we’ll find out by the end of the week.

In other news, I hit a milestone of 150 days on my writing chain for the Magic Spreadsheet last week. I’m still going strong, but I have to say I’m getting a little tired of forcing myself to write every single day. Which is probably one of the reasons I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Another reason is that I don’t really have a project to work on. While I could continue to write my short stories and count those toward the NaNoWriMo goals, I have only been writing 400 words a day and I still remember how difficult it was over the last three years to get those 1667 words per day in for the month of November. Maybe I’ll participate next year.

That’s about it for today. If the goblins don’t get me I’ll be back again next week for another update. Have a safe and happy Halloween, and keep writing!

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Sacrificing for your Craft

Last week I wrote a story about a man who seduces a young woman, takes her to his luxury cabin in the woods, has his way with her, and then sacrifices her to the demons that keep him in his way of life. So I thought that this might be a good time to talk about making sacrifices as a writer.

I don’t mean that you need to go out and make a deal with the devil (although I wonder sometimes about Stephen King). What I mean is that in order to be a good writer you have to dedicate yourself to your craft. You will have to give up some things, like television, movies, even reading, in order to spend more time writing.

Now don’t get too discouraged. I’m not saying that you need to cut yourself off completely from the rest of the world. Books, movies, music, and  television shows can give you inspiration for your writing. Even the most pathetic sitcom can be a guide to how someone might react if they were put in a situation that spun out of control.

The idea, though, is that you need to be careful with how much time you spend away from your writing. When you decide to spend two hours watching a movie, consider first whether or not you will still be able to get some writing done that day. Or make sure you do your writing before you go to the movie.

Writing is a calling for some, and a job for others. The trick is to make it a little of both. Dedicate a part of every day to putting words on the page, and then you can make sure that you also have time for yourself as well.

That’s about it for today. I started a new story about a treaty between men and monsters today. Kind of a preparation for Halloween next week. I am also thinking about doing a true Halloween story next week as well, but I haven’t figured out yet what it will be. Tune in again next Sunday to find out!

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Fairy Tale Failure

Last week I tried to write a fairy tale. I started with “Once upon a time” and everything. There was a princess, and a poor farmer, and a witch. But when I got into the story, it just didn’t come together. It also didn’t help that it was a short story that had to be wrapped up in a week. I kind of knew where I was going, but it was taking too long to get there. Once again, I had to wrap up my story at the end of the scene, instead of the end of the story.

While the story may be a failure, the effort certainly was not. If there is one thing I have learned about writing in the years I have been practicing, it is that no writing is worthless. Even if it sucks, the idea be refined, rewritten, and edited until it shines like gold. Even bad writing serves as a lesson of what not to do the next time you sit down with your pen. And so, even though this week’s effort was a loss, I have another idea to add to my edit list, and maybe someday it can be redone into something that I would like to share.

I haven’t started writing this week’s story yet, but I’m hoping that it will be more cooperative. No idea at this time what it will be about. I’ll probably just start writing and see where it takes me. As I have done so many times before.

I hate to say it, but that’s all for today. I just don’t have a lot to say, and my time would be better spent writing. See you next week.

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Show and Tell

My story this week was about a crime scene. I have been watching a lot of old episodes of Castle recently and wanted to see what I could do with a murder mystery.

Apparently, not much.

The problem that I found with the story is one I have struggled with a lot. That is the old rule of “Show, don’t tell”. What that means is that you need to put your reader in the middle of the story. Show them what is going on by describing the scene as they might see it themselves. It also involves showing thoughts and feelings by the actions that characters take. Instead, what I tend to do is tell the reader about it in a more detached way. In short, my story turned out to be more of a lecture about crime scenes and detective work than an actual story about a murder. Four days in I gave up and ended it. I’m counting it as a story because it is a complete scene, even though it sucks. I finished the week working on the secondary story I started last week, which is still going strong.

I don’t have anything against my murder mystery. It’s just that I don’t know who any of the players are. What I think I need to do is find a good character for my detective, then figure out what happened to the victim, including who killed her and why. Once I do that, I can plan out the story as a longer narrative. But for now I’ll just put it on my list of stories to revisit later.

As for my secondary story, that’s coming along pretty well, but I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, is going on. I started with a woman lost in the woods. She comes across a lab surrounded by an electric fence and yells for help. She’s scared that she is going to be caught outside when night falls and freeze to death. She actually gives up after a while and starts walking around the fence when someone comes out of the lab. In her excitement, she forgets that the fence is electrified and ends up getting shocked enough to knock her out.

Part two is when she wakes up in the lab. Unfortunately, her rescuers aren’t very nice people. They have strapped her down to an exam table and despite her protests, they inject her with some kind of weird serum. Once again, the pain from whatever it was they shot her up with causes her to lose consciousness.

I have just started part three, which is where she wakes up naked in a cage. She feels okay and can’t even find the injection site. I’ll probably have her doubt her memories for a while, as there seems to be no evidence of the experiment. I still haven’t decided what they injected her with, or what it is supposed to do, but it will probably be something that will give her extraordinary abilities. Can you say “superhero”?

My story this week has the typical fairy tale beginning. “Once upon a time.” It’s about a beautiful princess who travels around her kingdom helping those less fortunate solve their problems. The family she is helping now lives on the edge of a cursed swamp. That’s what I’ve got so far. I wonder where it will take me.

That’s all for now. See you next week for another update.

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