Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Elephant's Bookshelf Press Call for Short Story Submissions: Science Fiction

Matt Sinclair, a long-time writer/publishing colleague and friend of mine, has launched a call for submissions for Elephant's Bookshelf Press's latest anthology. The genre is science fiction with a connecting theme of flight for all submissions. Word count is up to 5,000 and the deadline is Jan. 15th, 2019. No erotica. Submissions are vetted by a panel, and go through a complete editing process if accepted.

The theme is more broad reaching than you might think. To quote directly from Matt's announcement:

"One of the reasons I like this theme is because it’s a term that has multiple meanings and therefore multiple interpretations. Of course, flight can involve human or alien spaceships, heroes with super-human abilities, winged creatures, but it just as easily could include flight from danger. Heck, I bet there’s a clever person out there who can make a flight of stairs into a vital element of a science fiction story.

"I don’t want to be too restrictive in this description. The story should incorporate flight; I leave the details to you."

While contributors aren't compensated monetarily, you do get a free print and ebook copy of the anthology. This will count as a viable writing credit for your bio. You'll also be in good company with other published writers who have contributed to past anthologies.

Previous anthologies published by EBP
Why not give it a whirl?

NaNo Aftermath

Every November that I set out to do NaNo, whether with new or old material, instead of collapsing on December 1st, I find my momentum is still charging ahead. There is a story to be finished! I hope you feel the same after the last month of work and discovery.

Whether you end up trying to revising a polish the story you were working on for publication or not, I hope this madcap adventure helped you to find out more about yourself as a writer. If anything, that setting goals and working towards them brings more of a harvest than not setting goals or working hard.

If you feel like sharing your total word count for November in the comments, I'd love it. My writing project was more of a third draft than a first, so word count was sketchy. The point was I accomplished a lot and came closer to my long-term goals.

I've often used NaNo as a tool to garner more writing time. Yes, some of it has been about revising, more about the hours spent than the word count. But the same tactics I've shared over the past month still go into play whether I'm working hard at a second draft or a first. Next year I hope for new material.

That aside, what tips and tricks (whether from me, someone else, or your own creativity) did you find the most helpful? Would you do NaNo again?

Best of luck with your continuing journey as a writer.

Tip 1: Stuck? Do Some Jumping
Tip 2: Details, Details, Details
Tip 3: Exposition Help
Tip 4: Verbal Tornado

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

NaNo Tip: Verbal Tornado

We're almost there! How'd you do this past week? Are you staying on top of your daily or weekly goals? Did you fall behind a bit? Are you beyond what you thought you could do?

Ready for another NaNo tip?

This one's fun to do. Take a scene, or a string of them, and just write dialogue. Except for the tags, or if you absolutely have to write a short (and I do mean short) word or two of action, keep to only what the characters say and see how much you can convey through their dialogue.

What I love about this tactic is it makes the pages fly by and it's easy to get into. It also helps you narrow down your characters' quirks and verbal style. Arguments and explanations are great for filling in word counts.

Want to take it up a level? Pick two characters, major or minor or both, and for a day or two, only write their encounters with each other. Skip everything else, and show - through dialogue - how their relationship develops or unravels.

Paul and Betty may start off as old school mates who haven't seen each other in years. Their initial encounter would probably contain pleasantries, leading into a bit of reminiscing about people or their old school. Perhaps this makes them want to meet up again, maybe it doesn't.

Needless to say, they meet up again a few days (or hours) later. This time are they more open, or does their dialogue take another turn. Do they rub each other the wrong way?

Then write their third encounter, and the fourth. You might want to bear in mind what's been happening with the rest of the story. After all Betty and Paul's conversation may cover something going on with one of the other characters or an event.

Hopefully this might help you get through the home stretch. And like always, over done or bad dialogue can always be trimmed later. Get the gist of what you need to happen in the story down now while it's fresh and simmering in your brain.

I've also learned it's possible to pull off 10,000 words or more in a solitary week, so don't give up if you have that much left to do. Do your best with what time you have and don't let the stress of word count slow you down.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

NaNo Tip: Exposition Help

So we're past the half way point ... go NaNo'ers!! Are you hanging in there?

I've got another tip, if you'd like one.

Focus on internal exposition, no matter what POV your story is supposed to be in. Dive into your character(s)' psyche. Learn what their voice is. Even if it's only for one scene. How does character A see a particular event or place? What ghosts from the past does it bring to light? What emotions? What schemes or desires?

And for further mixing it up, write the same scene from someone else's POV. Or do it from multiple POVs. What this does is add depth to your characters (and words to your word count), which you can later utilize to show even side characters as having a life rather than being dumb extras as stage props for your MC.

Don't worry about whether you'll use this internal exposition later on. Write it. Work on your character development. It doesn't matter how far into your story you are right now or where you're determined to be by the end of the week.

I think one of the most common problems with reaching that 50,000 word goal is thinking you have to finish the story, therefore you have to skip all the good stuff in favor of the action. Action is only one aspect of a story. Exposition helps you (and more importantly your readers) get to know your characters. And at this phase of the writing process you don't need to stress about how much exposition. There is such a thing as too much, which can slow your pacing down. But that is a revision consideration, not a first draft one.

Try it out, you might be surprised how much this helps your word count goal for the week.

Don't miss out on each weekly tip!
Tip 1: Stuck? Do Some Jumping
Tip 2: Details, Details, Details
Tip 4: Verbal Tornado

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

NaNo Tip: Details, Details, Details

Hi everyone! How did you do this past week? Are you still going strong or ready to throw in the towel?

I have another tip for you to keep going: details.

Use some of your writing time to just sit and write a setting, character, or action description. Don't worry about order of any kind. Let your imagination run wild and spill out everything that comes to mind about your topic. It counts toward your word count. Chances are you'll later restructure and toss out or amend what you write now - but that's later.

Fleshing out details can awaken your creativity and get your juices flowing again. All of a sudden you've got loads of new ideas for where your plot can take you, or twists you can add in.

Imagine going from: Carol walked through the park to get to her appointment.
To something like this:
Men wearing green and gold-braided uniforms stood like doormen at either side of the entrance to the park. Crowds of people milled in lines along the pathways, the line moving to Carol's right carrying bright colored balloons and the line going left with either their hands in their pockets and eyes watching their feet or carrying crude picketing signs that said things like: "Give What You've Got!" and "We Want the Combustion!" The wind blew newspapers, empty popcorn bags, and other trash between the marchers' legs. More than one balloon was snatched and floated across the man-made stream towards Carol. The voices, the onslaught of debris and balloons, the confusion - Carol unfroze, looked dubiously at the snooty men by the park entrance, and dashed behind a group of newcomers.

It's rough, but you get the idea. All of a sudden we have details we can play with that might have an impact on Carol later in the story.

Use the five senses. What does your character smell? Hear? See? Feel (physically)? Taste (if applicable)?

Go for the unusual and the pertinent. What stands out about a place, person, or event? What helps move your plot along? What makes your character react in some way? Maybe Carol hates balloons and seeing a bunch of them blowing wildly toward her is what freaks her out. Maybe she knows there are hidden messages in those balloons that could implicate her. Maybe she's supposed to be one of the organizers for one of the marches and instead she's ducking out to go to an appointment. So many possibilities. Don't be afraid to go a little crazy or go big.

Happy writing this week!

Don't miss out on each weekly tip!
Tip 1: Stuck? Do Some Jumping
Tip 3: Exposition Help
Tip 4: Verbal Tornado