Why I’m Writing Short Stories Instead of Novels

I’ve always considered myself a novelist. I love long involved stories, the more epic the better. As a kid I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, then I read The Lord of the Rings and others (The Silmarillion, etc.) I love a thick novel with a thick plot (like The Historian), and my favorite TV show is the sprawling sci-fi epic Babylon 5.

And so, I began writing what I loved reading. In middle school I had an epic fantasy series that I wrote on for several years (I’d planned to make it a seven book series, and wrote first drafts of about two and a half books). When I first started this blog a few years ago, I was working on an epic fantasy trilogy inspired by the folktales of Finland.

While I have not given up on either fantasy series, both have been temporarily shelved and I’ve started writing short fiction. Because of my love of long epic stories, I never thought of myself as a short story writer. Continue reading

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Writing Updates – February 2014

Happy new year! It’s still early enough in the year to say that, right? It usually takes me till about the end of January to stop dating things with the previous year.

For 2014, I set some reading goals and some writing goals. I set goals for last year, too, and missed just about all of them. But that’s okay, because at least I know where I stand right now. Without goals, it’s hard to measure your progress or results. I know what I did and didn’t do that caused me to come up short. So this I know what to change.

I’m still editing the first book of The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala fantasy trilogy. The critique group I’m part of has been of invaluable help in getting some pretty rough scenes into something readable. My goal for this year is to finish a full revision/rewrite of the book, incorporating the feedback from my critique partners for the parts that they have read.

I’m on the home stretch with the first draft of book two. This past year I discovered that I am a first draft lover. I’ll go out of my way to start something new just to avoid the rewriting process of something I’ve finished. This is not very productive if I ever want to get something published and have it be of decent quality. So that’s where goals (and discipline) come in.

In other news, I started a second job at the end of 2013. I’m working for a social media company called Helps2, writing and managing content for the Facebook and Twitter accounts of several of their clients. I love writing and I love social media, and this job has been a fun opportunity. And I’m basically getting paid to write. Always nice!

And talking of goals, I’m also planning on attending two writers conferences this year. One is the James River Writers conference in October – it’s pretty local for me, but I’ve managed to miss it for one reason or another the past couple of years. Not this year!

The other conference is not so local – it’s in Iceland. As most of my regular readers know, I love Nordic things, and I’ve been to Iceland before. This writers retreat in like a dream opportunity, and it’s the first of its kind. It’s a big (but worthwhile) expense of time and money to commit to going, and so I launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to help me get there. Please consider donating if you can, and please share the page. Much appreciated!

So that’s how my 2014 is shaping up so far. Anyone else set any reading or writing goals for this year?

End of Summer Update – My Writing Projects

So here it is, the end of the summer, and what have I accomplished? Well, more than I thought I would, and less than I thought I would.

To be fair, let me explain – I have no kids, and I do not work in the education field. Therefore, summer is no different from the rest of the year as far as my schedule or time commitments. All that changes is that it’s hotter. And humid. I hate humidity. But that’s another topic….

So, back to the current status of my writing projects. Here’s what I’m finding myself doing:

Editing

The current millstone around my neck is book one of my fantasy trilogy The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala. As I (slowly) progress through this editing/rewriting/more editing phase, I’m discovering that I’m very much a first-draft lover. I love cranking out that fine new tale, in all its roughness and over-verbosity, getting to know the characters and their shiny new world.

Editing, revising, and rewriting is a lot like mowing the lawn – an apparently never-ending task, boring, unpleasant in every way. But I like the results. Mowing the lawn is necessary if you don’t want your yard to look like an abandoned property, and editing and revising your story is necessary if you don’t want it to look like it was written by a second-grader with no talent.

But I’m happy to report that I’m past (most) of the parts of book one that needed the heaviest re-writes (I hope). Right now I’m doing more editing and revising that full-out re-writing; it’s a lot more like weed-eating the edges rather than mowing the whole stupid yard.

Writing

This is the stuff I enjoy. I’m working on the first draft of the second Light-Whisperers book, albeit sporadically. I’m trying to focus my time and energies on the revising of book one for the next month or so. I’m also still working out some major plot points of book two, and since I’m a big-time plotter, I’m not in a huge hurry to get to that blank spot in my outline.

I’ve also started working on a short story for a contest. It’s fantasy, of course. The challenge here is to keep it short. I’m one of those odd people who can bang out 100,000 words with (relative) ease, but I struggle when it comes to keeping it under 5,000 words. My “short stories” in my college English classes were usually small novellas.

In the blogging realm, I am feeling very accomplished because as of the time of this writing, I have several future entries done (full or in part). This saves me from that last-minute panic of “ohmygosh I publish every Wednesday morning and it’s now 11pm Tuesday and I have nothing written.” So now I can relax and publish panic-free for the next few weeks until I use up my back-stock and have to start writing again.

More editing

I am now also marketing myself as a freelance copy editor and proof-reader. I figure why not put my inner grammar nazi to good use? I’ve put up a page outlining what I do. Contact me if you’re needing a second pair of eyes for that last-minute polish, and please help spread the word!

So that’s been my summer. Writing, editing, heat, and humidity. And mowing the lawn. How was your summer?

Current Writing Projects

This week’s entry is all about me. I couldn’t think of anything useful or instructive to write, so I thought I’d just share a little about my own current writing projects.

Besides writing this fabulous blog, I am also working on two novels. They’re both part of the fantasy trilogy that has been my main creative focus for the better part of the past two years. The trilogy is entitled The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala. I’m about half-way (okay, maybe one third of the way) done with the first draft of book two.

I really enjoy writing a first draft, even when I find myself deviating from my original outline. Or when I get to that trouble spot of my outline where I just had a big question mark and now I’ve got to come up with something.

First draft writing is pure creation, pure exploration. I’m learning about the characters and having adventures right along with them. It’s fun and it’s freeing.

Editing, revising, and rewriting are not quite as fun. This is where I am with book one. Yes, editing, revising, and rewriting are all different processes, but I’m currently engaged in all of them. Mostly that last one.

I have rewritten many scenes in the first two chapters—more than once. And each time a scene is rewritten, I know it’s better—the plot flows smoother, the clunky boring parts are trimmed or gone, the characters become more three-dimensional and consistent. The total word count is going down, which is a good thing (the first draft clocked in at 175,000 words, which is a tad long, even for a fantasy tome). I’m excited about the end result of a more streamlined and readable novel, but I’m becoming less and less excited about the process to get said result.

I’m sure all writers (or artists of any sort) experience this feeling of being so tired of a piece of work that you just want to give up on it and call it done so you can forget about the thing. Yes, there will come a point when I have to call it done—without doing that, it will never be published. But I know that time is not yet.

My critique group has been very helpful by providing feedback. They have pointed out the slow spots (there are lots of those), the places where characters seem to fall flat, and those little inaccuracies that aren’t a big thing but could trip me up later. Of course I don’t automatically make every suggested change, but when multiple people point out the same things—repeatedly—it’s probably important.

Hence, the rewriting. And more rewriting. My goal is to have the rewrites and revisions of the entire first book done by the end of May. That’s a little over a week away, for anyone who’s counting. And how close am I to accomplishing that goal? I’d rather not talk about that…

Well, sooner or later, I will finish this revision of book one. As sick of it as I am right now, I’ve worked too hard on it to just quit. And besides, since I’m industriously writing book two (and sketching ideas for book three), that kind of makes book one necessary.

So now it’s back to the rewriting/revising board again (with the occasional hop over to first draft creative freedom on book two, when I just can’t stand it anymore). Oh yeah, and cranking out a blog entry of some sort every week.

So what sort of projects are you working on?

THE NEXT BIG THING – Blog Hop

I did a blog hop about the Next Big Thing once before, but I thought it’d be fun to give it another go. I will be answering several questions about my WIP. In the first “interview” about the Next Big Thing, I talked about the second book of the trilogy I’m doing, because I’m currently writing the first draft of it. For this blog “interview,” I’ll talk about the first book, which is in the rewrite and first round of edits stage.

1: What is the working title of your book?  

The Vanished Reindeer. The trilogy is titled The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wrote a blog post once specifically about that. The idea came from a thought about a herd of reindeer and a mystery—and to solve the mystery for myself, I turned to the realm of fantasy.

3. What genre does your book come under?

Fantasy. Specifically, cross-world fantasy (where the story takes place both on earth and in a fantasy world), with a dose of mythology-inspired fantasy.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Dunno. I’m still working on this one. Most of the actors would need to be Finnish, as the story is set in Finland and only one of the characters is American.

5: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year and half to finish the first draft.

6: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, let’s see—are you a reader who likes fantasy that pulls elements from mythology and classic literature? Are you a reader who likes a good Scandinavian mystery? Are you a reader who likes mysterious monsters, immortal queens, magic, music, and just a dab of romance? My book has all of that—hopefully tied together in a nice cohesive package. That’s what this rewriting/editing phase is for.

Many thanks to Bonnie Watson for sending me this blog hop entry. Check out her books at www.WisdomNovels.com!

The Devil’s Horse

I’m taking the title of this blog from the title of a book I’m re-reading: The Devil’s Horse: Tales from the Kalevala by Keith Bosley. Published in the 1960s and intended to be a children’s book, it’s a translation and re-telling in prose form of the Finnish epic poem called The Kalevala. This epic poem is actually a compilation of folk songs and oral tales gathered from the country people of rural Finland during the 19th century.

Since I’m not quite proficient enough in Finnish (yet!) to read the original Kalevala, I have to settle for English translations. This children’s book by Bosley was my first introduction to the world of Finnish folk tales and mythology. Bosley’s witty prose and often snarky dialogue add a touch of humor to this translation of ancient tales of heroes, evil witches, the land of the dead, and other mythological adventures.

Now, this actually does pertain to my writing habits, not just my reading habits. I’ve always been very inspired by ancient tales, mythology, and folk songs so old that no one knows when they were written or by whom. The fantasy trilogy I’m currently writing draws very strongly from The Kalevala. It’s not a re-telling of any of the stories found in The Kalevala; but in my novels, just like in The Kalevala, the reader will encounter a magic kantele or two, characters with names like Iku-Turso, and maybe even the ever-mysterious Sampo. And there’s even a fiery horse–the “devil’s horse” of the title.

The Kalevala still influences modern Finnish life, especially in the areas of art and music. In my story, some of the characters muse about this very fact. The story begins in modern-day Finland (and then fantasy adventure ensues from there). The characters (being Finnish, most of them) note the various parallels between their fantastical adventures and the cultural literary icon of The Kalevala. This is why I call my story “inspired by The Kalevala,” rather than a re-telling of it, like Bosley’s The Devil’s Horse.

Whether you’re wanting a story that’s “inspired by” or a “re-telling of,” I do recommend delving into the world of The Kalevala, if you have any interest in folk tales or mythology. A lot of Finnish music (both past and current) falls into both categories of “inspired by” and “re-telling of,” as well. A lot of my inspiration and writing motivation has come from Kalevala-influenced music; I’ll be blogging about that some in the near future.

And finally, a quick disclaimer of sorts–I am not Finnish, I have not been to Finland (yet!), and I am by no means a Kalevala scholar (there are such people as Kalevala scholars, and I have no wish to offend them by making any pretensions of being one). I’m just a big fan of mythology, epic poems, and folks songs in languages I don’t know. And I’m a writer who is greatly inspired by all of these things.

However, if someone reading this is a Kalevala scholar and can tell me exactly what a Sampo really is, that would be appreciated…