Tag Archives: Short Stories

One Writer On Revision

I’m in between projects at the moment (literally; if I don’t get my critiques back this evening I’m going to pull a writing prompt and start a new story), so I wanted to share some thoughts I had on revision. I like my revision process. I have two elements of writing, the muse, whom I often envision is a blip of fuzzy blue light (she has no voice, just an overbearing presence at times), and the editor, he is also intangible, but he’s got this enormous red pen wherever he goes, so it’s easy to draw him in: I just pick up his red pen.

I love revising. The second draft is where the story truly comes alive for me. My subconscious did a lot of work during the bang-it-out-fast first draft, and this is where I go picking through the treasure. The step is read the story, and this is where muse and editor dance, sometimes in unison sometimes in the most discombobulated imitation of a pre-k dance recital. Amusing, yes, but not productive. That’s because not every story really works. Some stories can’t be fixed. Those stories were practice. But I still do this process for those because it’s experience I can learn from. (That doesn’t mean I spend the week inputting those changes: it’s the analysis that’s important).

Back to the reading: as I do, I outline each scene on a sheet of notebook paper, just using the left half of the page. As I’m reading, I realize where the scene went wrong or missed something, so on the right side, I record/outline what the scene should be, aligning it to fit the story I wanted to tell, rather than the story I told.

During this read-through, I’ve got my red pen and I circle grammar and misspellings; paragraphs that cover the right material but need to be rewritten because the writing is crap, those paragraphs get a vertical red line in the ride margin. I don’t worry about fixing these until the input phase because I need the muse to put the puzzle back together. The editor is just telling us what’s wrong.

I prepare another sheet of paper, unlined if possible (lines are too constricting for this part). Ideas are coming to me–the muse is starting her dance–things that needed to happen that didn’t, mentions that were never born, or elements that repeat throughout the story. I number these down the page. It can be something as small as “change hair to long and blonde” or “foreshadow the tools she needs for her self-rescue”. Anywhere in the manuscript this needs to come up, I write the number in the margin on the left and circle it. I’ll refer back to this sheet during the input phase. I should mention that this kind of stuff, story elements rather than writing mechanics end up in blue ink. The manuscript is so marked up, it bleeds.

It keeps the muse happy, just as the red keeps my editor happy.

It takes me about 2 – 3 hours (about 2 writing sessions) to get this part done. The inputs take about a week. Then I pass it on either to a crit group if I’m feeling good about it, or to a friend or two if I know something is off but can’t quite figure it out. Reader comments often shine a light on something I missed, so it’s helpful. Then I can go in, fix these items, then present the story to one of my crit groups or buddies.

While I’m waiting, for feedback, I’ll either work on another smaller project or work on doing critiques for other people. But when the feedback comes back, I print the clean manuscript, and mark it up with the comments (or just circling). I then get to see where the holes are and were something bothered a lot of my readers. I take a few days to make, brainstorm, research, and polish. I have a checklist that I review during the polish to make sure I reviewed my weak areas plus a reminder of short story basics (sometimes those disappear if I’m too excited – it’s good to make sure they stay in the story.) Then I submit it. I do like to wait a day before submitting. Sometimes something will jump out at me or hit me overnight in my sleep.

I thoroughly enjoy the process. It’s the perfect balance of analysis and creativity that doesn’t exist any place else in the world for me.



Week 2 Success

Write1Sub1 on or ahead of schedule: story number two, “How Cherry Coke Saved My Life” has been written, revised and submitted. It’s flash at 750 words, but is a quirky little science fiction story that just tickles me. Hope it does the same for some editor someplace. 🙂

The novel is progressing, though not as quickly as I’d like. I’m not writing on it every day, but I should be. Now that I have my short story quota out of the way, I have more time to focus on the novel and the critiques I’ve got in progress. I also wrote two children’s stories, based on a story telling session with my daughter. One is called “No Dress Princess” and the other is “The Crystal Castle on Cinnamon Island”. Both require transcription, but they’re safely in my notebook. (And now that I said that, I won’t sleep well until they are safely transcribed and backed up in three places).

And it looks like I maintained my weight this week – which is fine since we went out for dinner one night and got take out another. I’ve been trying to keep up with the workouts and the water, but it’s been a serious focus week at work and my brain just plain fuzzed out on the health stuff. At least i didn’t go back to the cherry coke. 🙂

Hope you had a great week, too.

writing “magic” or “security blankets”

I have a set of 3 books on short story writing that I turn to whenever I’m stuck on a story, or feel that I’m in the midst of some writing discovery. I picked them up today after having lent them to a friend, and found myself comforted by their mere presence. I decided to skim through one of them over my lunch break, and selected one of the final chapters in the book about revising. I feel like I’ve come a long way this year through practice and crit (rinse repeat repeat repeat) that I wanted to see if I could find something new to grasp onto.

Three pages in, the magic hit. It felt like a ton of bricks hitting me; there was this little gasp, and a feeling of elation and I felt like a kid as I scrambled for a bookmark and a pen. Quite the OMG moment… and the magic, my friends, is that the chapter I was reading (revision) had nothing to do with the revelation that hit me.

The revelation concerns a short story I outlined and started drafting back in May. Despite the outline, I couldn’t write it. I knew something was wrong with it, but not what. In that instant, the ending of the story came to life, answering both what was wrong and how to fix it, or rather, how to write it to begin with.

This magic book, my security blanket, has been in my possession for maybe twelve or thirteen years. It was one of the first books on writing I ever purchased. I didn’t even know who Damon Knight was at the time.  (I’d probably have been more excited at the time and read it more carefully; truth is, I figured if someone put out a book about writing and got it published, they probably knew what they were writing about).

I’m not going to analyze the magic, except to say this particular book puts me in my happy place, my comfortable place, in regards to learning about writing.  As much as I’ve learned, there’s more. I can feel it.

Anyway, I have a story to draft. While I’m off doing that, why not comment on your own writing “magic” or “security blanket”? I’m curious if I’m insane, or my book really is magic.

Happy Writing.

the big plan

Just like thousands of other writers, I’m working out my goals for 2011. The big scary goal for next year is the Write 1 Sub 1 challenge. The most short stories I ever wrote in a year was 9 to 10. I’ve done it twice. This past year, I focussed on my revision skills. I’ve submutted 7 new stories this year. I learned a lot about my writing, and about the methods that work for me. Armed with this, I’ve set myself a half goal for the Write 1 Sub 1.

The original goal for the challenge is to imitate Ray Bradbury, and each week, write a story and submit a story. I’m pushing this year, but I’m not pushing myself so far I’m going to break myself. My half goal of 26 stories written and submitted is over double what I’ve ever done.

This breaks down to about two stories per month written and submitted. My method, to keep me sane, will go something like this:

  • 2 new stories: one from my story ideas file, one from a prompt.
  • 2 revisions pulled from my completed stories folder (preferably not the newly drafted stories)

I need distance to revise well, and I think writing more stories will create that distance.

This could be a good approach; I’ll try it and see. It is subject to change. 🙂 Also, I don’t want to pass on my May Story A Day challenge, so I will likely not be revising that month, and writing extra short stories.

I’m eager to see what this will do to my writing, both skill and habit.

Good luck to those of you taking part. 🙂

SAD # 3: The Encroaching Hand of Winter

Another story done. I actually started this one Friday night by hand, but tossed out everything I wrote. It was enough for me to get the feel for my character and her predicament. Last night, I sat down and wrote the entire story out on the computer. I almost didn’t. It was one of those “I can’t sit still” night, since my husband and daughter are away from home for a few days. Eerie silence in the house. But I connected with some friends in chat on Forward Motion and got things going.  See, friends come in all forms….

trudging onward

It’s been a rough week with being sick and getting family plans underway and dealing with the day-job workload. Two of my herd are out of the house and it’s confusing the “child awareness” center of my brain. I can’t sleep because the house is so empty.

I have two stories that are in first draft progress. One is Moondust which is one of the werewolf stories, but I’m stuck for geographical reasons which I hope to resolve once I can think more clearly. The other is one I started tonight by hand, entitled The Encroaching Hand of Winter.

I think I’m getting better at titles. 🙂 Then again it might be my disrupted sleep cycles playing tricks on the brain…

SAD # 2: Calico Under Cherry Blossom

Rang in my birthday while writing a story by hand in bed with my favorite green pen. Yes, it works like that. I’m calling it Calico Under Cherry Blossom and it’s modern day but mystical and maybe a little fairy tale. It’s different from what I’ve written in the past, but it feels good. I really like it. For my FM friends, it’ll be up later today on the FM boards, I just need to transcribe it first.

revising, submitting, rinse, repeat

Hunting the Red went out and promptly returned with a no thank you. I’m in the processing of polishing it, and then it’s back out, where it will keep going until someone buys it.   Nighthunter is also awaiting it’s final cleanup. I’m no longer sure it’s right for Sword & Sorceress, but it can’t hurt to try. I had a brilliant idea to make it a frame story so she starts out in her special role before the confrontation with her dad, but I’m not sure if it’s brilliant or just desperate. I had played with point of view on this one before, trying to do something special with it, but I think it’s the character that needs to shine here, not the style or the prose. Funny how blogging about these things brings clarity for me.  Thanks for listening. 🙂

Oh, and I’m still working on SAD #2, but it’s got a title now: Takeshi’s Gift. Takeshi locates the orb that’s been haunting his drawings since childhood and discovers his gift isn’t what he believed it to be.

SAD # 1: Hunting the Reds

One down, nine more to go. I played with the prompt for this one on Saturday, kind of got a novel idea out of it, but I really didn’t like one of the elements to write more than one story on a “male prostitute”. So I ditched it. I started losing hope for the rest of the challenge. But then it hit me what I needed to do.

The prompt I selected gave me four elements: character, item, setting, and theme. I kept the theme. (innocence) It might not count for a generated prompt story, but every third story can be a non-prompt inspired story. I may have to count this one in that category.

What did I write about, you ask? Well, it’s fantasy. And the biggest innocence reference in fantasy is unicorns. So I wrote a story about an evil unicorn. He’s Red.

orchard tonight… all night

Hopefully not all night, but I haven’t been able to get this opening quite right. I think I’m almost there. I was on page 4 of a 15 page revision, but I really didn’t like the opening. This one is better. I just need it to take me to page 15 and beyond. This story is due tomorrow… back to the revisions.

continuing tiger princess

Friday I wrote another 1/3 of the Tiger Princess story, but Saturday and Sunday were nonwriting days (aka kids, kidfun, laundry, groceries, more laundry, etc etc etc). Finally, I have some time to myself after prepping for the week, and am almost ready to sit down and write. I’d like at least a scene tonight if nothing else. I should be able to finish up the story tomorrow with three hours of writing over the course of three planned writing sessions. I’m actually giving up the lunchtime writimg tomorrow to hit the gym.

It might seem silly considering I have two big deadlines coming up, but if this is what I’m going to do with my life, I’ll always have deadlines coming up. If I don’t fit in my workouts now, they’ll never become a solid part of my routine, and it will always compete with my writing. Aside from those workouts I’ve managed to plan for a good 20 hours per week on writing, including attempts on Saturday and Sunday which don’t always work. I figure I lose a quarter of what I plan on due to family stuff. So still, 15 hours a week on top of the day job? I’m happy with it. Especially since adding the early morning sessions. I’m been getting up at 4:30 and get onto the computer by 4:45, giving myself 45 minutes to write. This week, I’m moving it a tad earlier: up at 4;15 and onto the computer by 4:30. It’s amazing how much the writing flows at that hour, and I found that I kept creeping past my 5:30 mark, and getting our morning going late.

Goals for this week: complete Tiger Princess first draft, revise Orchard and send for crit, and then start on the Tiger Princess revision.

Here’s to a busy week, and a sucessful one! Good luck with your plans/goals.


Lonely Orchard is prepped and ready for revisions. Considering a title change. Possibilities are: Her Father’s Orchard, Valla’s Orchard, Valla’s Lonely Orchard, The Magic of Trees. I do like Lonely Orchard, and it has an underlying meaning that she sees the orchard as being lonely without her father, when it’s truly her that’s lonely without him. So maybe it’ll stick.

Running out of time: stepping it up on the Tiger Princess draft. I think the title is going to be Rise of the Tiger Princess.  We’ll see. I finally transcribed all my notes, organized them, and worked out the outline and ending options. I think I know which ending I want to go with, though the creepy one is tempting. I have to see how Vandana develops and see which one is more natural for her.

Oh and it doesn’t help that I’ve found James D. MacDonald’s writing posts on Absolute Write. I’ve been stalking the internet to learn more about the viable paradise instructors, and I’m actualling learning stuff about writing in the process. 🙂  I found a suggestion for an exercise, an idea I briefly considered myself a few weeks ago and dismissed, but am willing to consider it again.  The idea was to type a published short story or novel opening in order to study it. When I was in college, that was exactly how I studied: I typed out important notes and study guides. I learn through typing. There’s just something about it. I thought maybe typing up someone’s short story might give me a better understanding, but I figured it’d take too much time, and I have deadlines right now. But it is a good idea, and I might just do it when I have more time.

In the meantime, it’s write write write. 🙂


Over lunch, I analyzed Lonely Orchard and I’m pleased at my results. This is about fifty percent rewrite, but the rewrite is worldbuilding and a specific detail about the conflict. The characters are spot-on, the scenes and structure are mostly right.

The biggest part of this revision is giving life to one people’s fear and hatred of another. I need to create these two nations, including why Valla’s people lost a war to them (or something that’ll hurt as much). I also need to discover–aside from Valla’s sentimental attachment to the orchard–why the trees are so important. I know the create magic, a balance of some kind, and even how it happens, but I’m missing why and the other side of how. Sorry if that doesn’t make sense to you. It does to me, and I’ll need the reminder later.

Trees and maps tonight, and maybe I’ll get some more done on the tiger story too.

the magic of trees

Trees keep popping up in my writing, which may be an occupational hazzard for a fantasy writer, except that my trees are always more than just trees. In my published story, “Treischan Strength”, the trees are an age-old race that record history. In Lonely Orchard, the trees are magic, alive, and aware, and communicate through a special song that only those gifted with the talent can hear. I’m also working on a SF story where the dominant species on the planet is a hive-minded race of flowers. And never mind the forest in Nighthunter’s Bite — it’s not exactly alive, but it is mystical.

I know I’ve got enough varies projects going on, but I need to break from my current course and get started analyzing Lonely Orchard. I want to submit it at the end of the month, so I at least need to understand what kind of fixing it requires. It’s old–years and years old– so I’m afraid.

But to imagine what this story could end up being? I’m willing to lose sleep over it. 🙂

Hunter revisions

Continued.  Slow moving, but forward moving so I am glad.  I realize two things now: I really need to learn more about commas (what seems right one day, seems wrong the next and vice versa), and that I need to do something with the immaculate white cat I mentioned on page three.  Hmph.

tiring sundays

Fading Light has been posted for my crit group. I’m eager for some feedback and a little fearful as well. I’m always fearful on crits. Occupational hazzard I guess. 🙂

A full day with the kids is exhausting, yet I still pushed this evening. Did some science research for Black Violas, tried working on the first draft a bit, but failed at that. Science fiction is difficult for me, not impossible, just very difficult. It requires a lot of effort to understand concepts that do not come naturally to me, but yet I have the need to understand them to represent them properly in the story. I don’t always understand the science I read in science fiction either, but I try. And for some reason I love reading it. Figure that one out.

I’m giving my brain some time to adjust to the science and am going to spend the rest of my writing time tonight review Hunter for those changes. I originally decided it would be a rewrite. I need to skim through the manuscript and select which passages will remain.


I’m in edit mode, so I’m going with it. Fading Light is moving along once again, and I’ve cleared the dust off Hunter Hunted, which is getting revamped big time and is due for a title change. Writing is once again becoming a daily event. Now I need to work on completing tasks a little quicker. Fading Light needs a few more days of computer time and Hunter needs some paper & pen time so they balance well. It doesn’t help that tonight is the season premiere of Heroes, but I guess I’d better make good use of now.

And Something Bit . . .

I needed to be more comfortable with Celtic rituals and sacrifice before I could put this story together, so that’s what I did over lunch. There are some interesting websites you can find if you just Google the right combination of words, and let me tell you, those Celts were damned interesting.

Nighthunter’s Bite now has some backbone, and a basic outline is set. All I need now are the words.


Sometimes plotting is easy, and sometimes it irritates me to no one because I know the story is there, I know it needs to be written, but something is evading me, and I can’t figure the ‘why’ of the story. I remember now why I had stopped working on Nighthunter’s Bite. Gutsy character with enough spunk to challenge her goddess, and a nice confrontation scene between the two. But why is there this confrontation? And what the hell does it have to do with the moon bracelet I’m fixated on? Time for some celtic research, maybe something there will coax some answers out of my muse, not that I know where SHE went to. Probably took a nap after all the editing I’ve been doing . . .

The Best Laid Plans

Derailed. Derailed by both exhaustion (did too much this weekend) and by inspiration (new stories want to be written!) Yes, I am battling the need to edit with the inspiration of two new shorts. Once A Thief finally shaped up and I need to get the first draft typed out quickly, and the untitled urban fantasy I mentioned has a working title of Stone Forest. Both are demanding my attention. I have until Friday to edit Treischan Strength, so I’ll follow a friend’s advice and go with the new stories for tonight.

May the Edit Begin!

I spent Wednesday evening organizing the stories I like the best, the ones that I feel have the most potential. The four I wrote this past month, plus two from last year are the highest priority in my editing queue, although there are a few older favorites that need major revamping. The plan is to move those six along, and then I can look at the older stories.

I’m starting with Sunguard. I wrote my stories this year without use of my “Notes” sheets, so I’m using that document to prep for the edit. I like the premise, but I need to increase the threat in the story. Reading it feels too far removed from what Ashelle is dealing with, and that isn’t quite the feel I envisioned.

I red-lined the printout last night, and today I’ll move onto the analysis. Hopefully I can get this first pass done in a few days and out to my First Readers for some basic feedback. May the edit begin!

Short Story: Eve

Eve is complete now at 1500 words. This SF story was inspired by my own pregnancy research. (I’ve been contemplating an article on birth methods and the riding trend of repeat c-sections vs VBAC). There has been a growing trend and comfort with the “ease” of births via c-section. While I believe it’s warranted in some cases, I was almost a victim of “let’s just do that again, it’s easier”. Maybe in some respects it is, and while I’m not guaranteed a surgery-free birth for this child, it made me think about the future and the “ease” of childbirty via surgery. What if future technology removed the risks of surgery and this became THE way to birth children?

And this is what Jessica fights in “Eve”. Space dwellers on a science ship, the course of her pregnancy is determined by Medbots until Jessica takes things into her own hands.

Short Story: Bound

I wrote my first story this month about a mother’s love for her lost child, and now I’ve written this one about a father trying not to lose his daughter. Somehow the only way to save her IS to lose her. Being a mom has sure changed the way I think, the way I write. My characters tend to be older, with more serious problems, and serious solutions that hurt as much as they help. So long as I never have to experience what my characters do, I think I can live with that.

Short Story: Sunguard

Ashelle is hallucinating, and doesn’t know what’s real anymore. But her duties as a Sunguard do not end simply because of her illness.

I think this story has an interesting twist. After watching all the Star Trek and Stargate episodes where we the explorers do something terrible (accidentally of course) to the natives of some friendly and unsuspecting planet, I wrote a story such a thing from the point of view of the poor natives who have been damned. But you don’t get this to the end. I hope it delivers this at the end, but I have a feeling the first draft is very rough. I’ll have to work on the delivery in the edit.

Short Story: Anthony

It needs renaming, possibly, but I don’t know what is suitable at the moment. I finshed it on Mother’s Day. The protagonist is a mother who lost her five year old son to a kidnapper, but who now appears to her in ghost form to send her on a mission to save children. She keeps hoping he’ll send her to his body or to his killer, but that isn’t Anthony’s mission.

This one holds some speical meaning for me. While the situation thankfully resembles nothing in my life aside from motherhood, it has granted me freedom from the nightmares I’ve been having. They are pregnancy induced, I remember this kind of vivid dream from my last pregnancy. Though, last time they were about something happening to my cats, and this time, they are always about something happening to my daughter and husband. Writing the story has tied my brain up with Anthony and his mom, and spared me the nightmares of my daughter’s disasters. As for my husband, I think his place in the dreams were only because he would have protected our daughter, had he been able.

Amazing what writing can do!

7/10 Progress

TLO received another quick eidt/skim over lunch, and I fixed a few things that were nagging me overnight. It’s in the crit queue now.

7/09 Progress

I focued on The Lonely Orchard tonight, and finished the first pass edit, and I have to say it was a thorough edit. If I missed anything, I should be able to catch it with a casual readover tomorrow.

Neglected Forgotten Star to get the short done, but now I’ll be able to focus on FS entirely tomorrow.

7/08 Progress

I am planning on using this blog to mark my daily progress. Part of the reasoning is to keep myself on track. I promised myself I would not take a full year to get through an edit, as the previous versions required. I won’t have the luxury in the future, and I shouldn’t take it now. My goal is 6 – 9 months, so that’ll put me December – March for finishing this. I also need to maintain my other writing projects while keeping up with this novel edit, so I need to remind myself of those items as well. Here goes.

Today’s Progress:

The Lonely Orchard: 2 pages edited, which includes a stronger opening scene. (2/12 pages)

Forgotten Star: Chapter 1 (the recently written chapter “A”) red-lined for edit prep. Consists of three scenes to be edited electronically this week.

Update 7/8

Not too much done these past few days. I accomplished my goals for the week early, and I think my brain took a break. I picked up a book I read some time ago and skimmed over it again, as I tend to do with writing books. “Handbook of Short Story Writing, Volume II”, and sure enough, some concepts hit home. Two specific stories were in mind when I read this, and I confirmed for myself that I need to add the extra scene to the start of Dragon’s Bard, and just how I needed to fix the opening to The Lonely Orchard.

Edit prep and planning for the novel has gone as far as it can without turning into procrastination: the Forgotten Star edit begins today.

The Dragon’s Bard

Reviewed yesterday, edited today. It took about three hours once I got into it, but I didn’t go nuts with line by lines unless something really didn’t feel right. I’m still very close to the story, and toyed with several possible changes (surrounding a support character) and ended up adding a scene at the beginning to sort things out. (That’s becoming a common occurance for me, maybe something I need to think on when writing my first drafts).

This one will be out to the crit group shortly, can’t wait for feedback!