Ideas Galore

Ideas Galore

Ideas Galore

I participated in a workshop for speculative fiction writers this week called “Getting the Science Right”. It was a very science-oriented talk (DNA, mutation, genetic drift, evolution, speciation, etc.) that expanded my horizons about what to consider when world-building in science fiction and fantasy, as well as how to set up new life forms in a believable way. I especially enjoyed the part of the discussion on the immune system, symbiosis, parasitism and fungi (parasites and fungi can be awesomely creepy). One of the workshop’s goals was to show how to “turn speculative ideas into metaphors that enrich stories”. After the workshop’s exercises and discussion, I left with no less than 14 new story ideas. I’m not sure if I can wrap my brain around any of them just yet but a few of the ideas will be very interesting to explore.

The Summer Project is progressing well, though not as fast as I would have hoped. One story – Still Daughter, I’m still tinkering with the name – will be submitted within the next few days to meet a market’s deadline. I’ve added several scenes to flesh out the plot and character motivation. I have to write out one more scene (the inciting incident) and tweak the rewritten ending before it’s good to go.

I have also been receiving critiques all week on Fossil Lake, an 8,500-word story. The feedback has been very positive overall and more than half of the readers have suggested that I expand it into a longer work or even a novel(!) While that’s not out of the realm of possibility, I won’t make it longer than it needs to be. I could easily see it double it in size but markets for close to 20k words are few. When I revise it, I intend to focus on develop it in a way that serves the story and not worry too much about the word count.

The third story seeing action this week is called Frozen in Time, which I’m revising based on feedback I received quite a while back. Since some of the changes are quite extensive, my plan is to submit it for online feedback before sending it out to a market. I’m not addicted to critiques but getting fresh eyes on a story is always good. The feedback I received on Fossil Lake this week was quite stellar, offering very detailed and pointed commentary that will help bring that story to the next level. You only get one shot when submitting a story to a market so it’s best to make sure it’s fully ready, even if it takes a little longer. I don’t have a deadline on this one so I will take advantage of another round of feedback, this time with online strangers who are blunter than any others.

With all that, I still managed to critique three stories this week (the stories totalled close to 20k words).

I also finished reading Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean. I read just about anything I can get my hands on relating to the Arctic and Antarctic and this thriller is set in an atomic submarine under the North-polar ice cap so I could not pass it up. The book was first published in 1963 but its age did not prevent me from finding it wildly entertaining. I loved this Scottish writer’s laconic style and really appreciated wording like “He had the grace to colour slightly” instead of “He reddened in embarrassment”. Great stuff and look forward to reading more of his work.

Happy writing.



Writing Week in Review (#1424)

June 13, 2014

-As per my post yesterday, All of a Heap will appear in Plague: Aftermath in September. The contract is signed and delivered, now I get to work on my author bio to accompany the story;

-Received a critique on Still Daughter from the Narwhals – it was generally received as an interesting concept, a different take on zombies even if that thought never crossed my mind until someone suggested it. This is a story I started two years ago but one that’s been quite a challenge to pull together as I can’t use the daughter/zombie as the viewpoint character. We had a good group discussion on possibilities and, as I don’t yet have a clear idea on how to thread it all together, I’m letting the idea seeds planted germinate for a bit to see which ones come out of the ground;

Fossil Lake is online for critique and I am sifting through the feedback that will continue to trickle in over the next week. I plan to quickly rework the story based on feedback from this new group to submit it to my regular online group for more substantial and specific feedback. Reviews from fresh readers can help pinpoint any final hiccup before final polishing and submission. I’m aiming high with this one and want to get it just right;

-As I enjoyed the first two chapters of a novel up for critique online, I took on reviewing the entire manuscript. It’s about 100 pages and classified as horror. I ended up spending most of my free time over the past week to draft the critique and have over 200 comments and notes, mainly about characterization and lack of tension. I’ve never taken on critiquing such a long manuscript before (never more than 10k) but I found the critiquing experience very similar to short stories, except of course for the length and that the same issues appeared over 100 pages instead of 10. It was an interesting experience and I learned more about writing in the process. I’m eager to shift my focus back to my own projects and hopefully be able to look at them in a more objective light to address any similar issues in my own work before I submit the stories elsewhere.

Writing Week in Review (#1423)

June 6, 2014

The news of the week: one of my stories has been accepted for an anthology! More details as soon as I can share.

The week began with a write-in session I hosted at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library, the final session in a public series. Attendance grew over the six-month period and I think it was effective in getting new writers started on their projects, or at the very least get them to sit down in front of a blank page to try. It’s always interesting to see how varied the write-in newbies’ reactions are, from the frustration of those giving up after twenty minutes and walking out, to those so focused they’re oblivious to the lights off being turned off at closing time. Those are the writers I want to work next to.

Weekly Tally:

-Finished a full rewrite of Fossil Lake (now 8,500 words) and shared it for online critique;

-Expanded Still Daughter, doubling the word count to 2,000 and shared it with the local Narwhal critique group;

-Critiqued three short stories.