Tag Archives: Revision

FLAFIWRIMO Flash Fiction Update

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Yes, there are two February challenges on my calendar; the FLAFIWRIMO flash fiction story-a-day challenge over at Wordsmith Studio and my write-in group’s annual February Writing Dash of 15K words new writing or thirty hours revision/editing work on previous material.

Each day is a sprint, especially when there’s also a six-member critique group in the mix working on something totally separate from the challenges. Today has been a major writing day for me.

Four flash fiction stories were done today because I got behind on that challenge. I still managed 2700 words on those four. This post will add a few more. Revision work will be for later and I’ll get an hour’s worth done before bed.

Tomorrow is critique work, another ff story, and more revision. On top of that is a study session to learn a new voice recognition program and time to put the finishing touches on my newsletter for the month.

Yes, I know it’s running a bit behind. It will get done and sent out shortly and then will come once a month, every month.

Just so that you’ll know that I’m really writing, I’m gone to give you tiny excerpts from the rough draft stories I did today. Here you go.

FLAFIWRIMO Day 5 Story

… I’m ready. Nothing can stop me taking my position in the middle of the pack. My teammates, helmets back in place, give me a small bow as I join them. The defensive players shake their heads and begin to laugh.

They don’t laugh long.

As the defense moves onto the scrimmage line, I wave at each player. That’s always my first engagement with the enemy.

It generally causes confusion. The action makes them wonder why I’m being so friendly. They don’t notice the slight air current rolling their way from my fingertips.

By the time my helmet is secured, the first rank of opponents have elbowed each other. The distraction gains momentum. Slurs and snarls begin to pass back and forth down the line ,,.

FLAFIWRIMO Day 6 Story

Being cursed isn’t the worst thing in the world. Believe me. I know.

About a year ago, I bought a lottery ticket. One of the big jackpots was up for the taking and I was feeling lucky that week. I bought only the one ticket. And it had all the numbers.

I’d signed an anonymity request to keep my name out of the media, as well.

To be honest, however, I think it was that request that did me in. I wasn’t worried about getting taken to the cleaners financially by friends and family. I worked for the IRS as an auditor. I knew about how much that agency would try to skim off the top and every year thereafter …

 FLAFIWRIMO Day 7 Story

The corpse lay, stiff and smelly, on the back porch of the Layton’s house. Mr. Layton had found it a half hour before. The man seemed most distressed about the situation.

“I can’t even salvage the meat,” the fisherman grated between clenched teeth. “Who, or whatever, stripped it, left all the fresh and took only bony parts and the scales.”

Sheriff Westle was known for being a stickler for detail.

“Well, Lester, I don’t think this has a high enough priority to warrant wasting my time on it.”

Three days after the fish carcass fiasco on the Layton- porch, Sheriff Westle was called to the home of Jasper Connors. In the Connors backyard were the remains of a large boar raccoon. The carcass had been expertly skinned, leaving behind undisturbed flash, supported by the entire skeleton …

FLAFIWRIMO Day 8 Story

Red-soled shoes—they’re all the rage, right? Okay, so they’re expensive and subtly ostentatious.  For some of me, though, they’re camouflage.

I can take my entertainment almost anywhere now without comment or suspicion. Especially, if I add a sleek briefcase to my ensemble. I’m in public relations during the day. I’m into self-gratification on my own time.

… Throughout dinner he laughed lightly at my witticisms, flirted undercover of his banter, and generally made me feel very female.

Of course, his flirtation was his downfall, too. I don’t get roused lightly, but he’d managed to rouse me easily and kept it up after his business partner left us for the evening. It didn’t take much persuasion on my part to convince the young man to escort me home.

When he left my place on the upper West Side, his memory had been cleaned of any unpleasantness. He would be a bit weak for a few days, but his contribution to my health would be replenished.

Now before you even think it, that last one has nothing to do with vampires and everything to do with those red-soled shoes. Okay, so there’s a bit more to it than that, but you take my meaning.

And that’s where I’ll leave you for today. Take a break. Write something totally outside your comfort zone. Me, I don’t often move into the macabre, but it’s refreshing when I do and recharges my Muse.

If you’d like to share an excerpt here from one of your own stories, drop it in a comment below.

Enjoy the rest of the week and I’ll see you again soon. TTFN

 

 

 

Revisions—You Gotta Love ’Em

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook Computer

Years ago, when I began a serious push to get published, I heard a long-time writer say “Revisions are where the real work begins.” Brother, was he right.

Anybody can write a story. Just ask those who’ve gone through NaNoWriMo. Getting a story idea down in in loose form is easy. It’s the reconstruction that comes later that proves the writer.

Even after weeks of revision work, the writer—depending on her level of perfectionism—may sit back and say that more work needs doing. That’s common. Perfectionism is a bear of a problem.

The inner critic never sleeps, never takes a vacation. It’s always there to rap you on the knuckles and sneer at you while pointing out something else that could be made better. It can’t help it. Deep inside that drive for the perfect sentence, the perfect paragraph, the perfect twist, lies the heart of the tyrant—the dictator.

Yep, I’ve lived with that beast all my life, and it’s taken this long to get a handle on it.

Wisher’s World has floated around inside my brain for a few years now. The concept came long before. Now, I’m into my final revision of the first volume. In all, there will be more than ten volumes. That’s why it’s taken so long to put together the components of the story. It’s huge and covers a whole world.

Oddly enough, it didn’t begin that way. It began as a short story and went into algae bloom mode.

I have a few more weeks worth of work to do on it before it goes to the formatter. And I did promise you all a taste of the story with an excerpt. I’m giving you the excerpt today. Here it is, from the the first third of the novella. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back in a week or so with something new.

Wisher’s World, Vol. 1—Composing an Apprentice (excerpt)

When their small group gathered, Reibe kept his eyes focused forward. Nine days wasn’t enough time to accustom himself with all the oddities of this incredible place and its people. This unexpected invitation might leave him more confused than ever.

They walked across the flagstone court and through the central arch to the second courtyard beyond. Cheerfully glowing lanterns cast their iron animal patterned shadows but kept the passage light enough. A pervasive, musty odor rose from the expanses of drying nuts on the courtyard’s stone floor.

“I’m happy to see so good a harvest this year, Marget. We can have nut pies for Winter Fest.” Willem put an arm around and hugged his wife’s shoulder. She only laughed and slapped the man’s arm.

Arches and CourtyardsReibe smiled to himself as the last of the sun ricocheted off the huge panes of roof glass. Will I always feel like a stranger here? “Why did they move here?” Reibe asked as they entered the next pass-through.

Willem stopped and turned. “You mean the Juton?” At Reibe’s nod, the big man looked away for a moment and then back. “You must understand their situation.” The big man didn’t frown, but his eyes bored into Reibe’s, his voice solemn and barely above a whisper.

Reibe gulped. He knew he’d stepped into something he shouldn’t have. “Of course, sir.”

“Last winter one of the younger Juton came from their home in the southeast.” Willem sighed, as if in pain. “By the time he stumbled into Theusa, he was almost dead.” He stopped and signaled Marget to take the next telling.

Both Macai and Jori lowered their heads. Marget kept her voice as soft as her husband’s. “His people were dying and needed help. Then he stopped breathing. He’d run all the way, during our first severe storm of the season. He had no cloak for warmth or shoes on his feet. The Juton are built for many things. Running distances in cold and heavy snow isn’t one of them.”

They were immortal. How could they die? Reibe’s eyes filled with tears.

Willem took up the story again. “Several of us went to their quarry. Only about half of them were still alive. They’d interred many of their dead but had become too sick to care for all of them and those still alive.”

“What sickened them?”

Marget shook her head. “A disease I’ve never seen. We took what precautions we could as we cared for the survivors. We knew we could get sick.”

Willem pulled her in close. “We didn’t have time to think. There were five of us to care for sixty-two survivors.”

“But–”

“Why did they come here?” Marget anticipated a repeat of Reibe’s original question. “We told them that staying there would be dangerous. The sickness could overtake them again. Their children wouldn’t be safe from it.”

“Is that true?”

Willem looked Reibe in the eyes and gave him a curt nod. “Yes. We don’t know where the disease came from. Their life is stone. Their dead are entombed in it, by custom. Those tombs are now full of the disease. If any of those tombs broke open…”

Reibe shuddered as he considered the man’s statement. Seeing the unasked question in his widening eyes, Marget said, “Yes, how to make certain that it wouldn’t follow them.”

Silence descended again. Reibe had heard legends of the giants and the magic they carried. Old tales spoke of how giants could pick up stone and mold it as a potter molded clay. “They did something to seal the tombs, didn’t they? So nothing escaped.”

Willem’s head came up slowly, eyes moist and haunted. “Yes. They performed one of their rarely used ceremonies and killed the place they’d lived in for so long.”

“Killed?”

“Nothing will ever live there again,” Marget added.

Willem shrugged. “We don’t understand all of their ways, Reibe. Far from it. They live close to the earth. They work with its bones. They have powers that can change it. It’s never done without great purpose. They would not allow such as killed so many of them loose in the rest of the world.”

The big man’s last statement hung in the air around them. Riebe’s heart ached for them all. So much sorrow and pain. He’d lost his parents, but not the whole of Riverton. How many children survived? How many old ones?

Now, we to a meeting with these strange people, who were capable of killing the earth, to talk about trade. What could they possibly want for trade? And what about me? I am only an apprentice. What can I add to these talks?

 

 

 

At Home Out in the Cold

Heavy Forest Snow 1

The phrase is an old one—being out in the cold. It means being outcast, set apart, exiled. And what does this have to do with anything? Well, I think all of us feel left out in the cold once in a while. We might be the third wheel, tagging along with a pair of potential lovers who’d rather be alone. We might be the new kid in the neighborhood who can’t make friends because everyone is so clickish.

Don’t say you’ve never felt that way.

When it comes to writing, the phrase takes on a slightly different meaning for me. When you’ve worked with a set of characters for a long while, they become like family members, sometimes more. If, for whatever reasons, you abandon them for a lengthy stretch, coming back is like being that new kid who isn’t trusted because the others don’t know you anymore.

009I’ve always had an issue with rejoining any group of people whom I haven’t seen or communicated with for a long time. Extended family, who came onto my horizon once a year if I was lucky, fell into that category, too. When Mom, Dad, Brother, and I arrived at the grandparents’ house for vacation, I was the one who tolerated being touched by them, cajoled, and cossetted. Later, as other members of the family joined us, my reserve grew more pronounced.

I’d watch everyone from a distance, deciding if they were the same as when I last interacted with them. I listened to voices to hear the emotions filtered by the crowd. There was always a big crowd. By the end of the vacation, I was again comfortable enough with these people to join in freely and enjoy myself and them.

My long-established habit of “observe first and connect later” has stayed in place throughout the years. I take little for granted about relationships. And the same holds true with my story characters.

004-stock-photo-fI walked away from serious writing for several months. Oh, I continued to write, but it was all surface stuff. No thoughtful poetry, no deep relationships with characters, old or new, took center stage during my hiatus for burn-out recovery.

As a result, coming back to revision work on Dreamie’s Box—my women’s cozy mystery—has been both a challenge and a blessing. I had to reintroduce myself to these people of the South. I was forced to see them, warts and all, and decide if they’d changed in my absence.

And you know what? They had, just as I had.

My heroine is not as stiff and formal when I work on her now. Her story doesn’t need to include every tiny detail of her day. She’s more comfortable with the role into which she’s been pushed.

Dreame’s not the only one who’s changed. Subtle shifts have taken place; teeny additions are present to impose better pacing and minor clues. Red herrings are swimming by with regularity.

In other words, the whole thing is better, richer, more defined, and the characters have accepted me back into the role of observer without reservation. My sleep comes now with thought tangents to add to the mix the next day—tangents I couldn’t have seen before now.

My personal quirk has become an advantage in my work. Most writers talk about stepping back and giving a story room to breathe before beginning a revision. For the first time, I’ve connected with the joy of revising a story and the gratification of seeing what it was supposed to be rather than what I expected it to be.

At Home Updates and Excerpt

B-5 Station

The 500 Word Challenge is running along nicely. Writers in circles, blogs, and forums everywhere are having an exciting time of expanding their writing time by doing short sprints to fit the challenge. Each burst of words works for the writer’s benefit.

I’ve been doing several things during the past several days. One of those things is work on a science fiction novella. Today, for instance, I was revising Part 4 of “A Grain of Truth.” The original part ran to seven pages. After today’s work, it runs ten and a half. Why such a big change?

Revision and expansion

Most of my work goes through a critique group for line edits each week. It could be a short story slated for a competition, or a novel, or like this—a short story conversion into a novella. Our group has writers both published and unpublished, but each has a specific talent for critique work.

One sees the flaws related to character development better than anyone I’ve ever known. Another sees the overall plot flow to keep things on track. One is a winner at eliminating what isn’t moving the story forward and for working with theme. One gal sees the logic of both character and story line. The fifth zeroes in on language and turns of phrase for unexpected revelations or implied secrets—all of the emotional elements. And me, I’m with the grammar police and genre detail.

Last week my segment went under the red pen and came out with wounds; not an unusual situation. I needed more explanation here, one set of paragraphs wasn’t needed at all, and one character seemed too wimpy for his position, another seemed too emotional and his actions too dramatic for the circumstances of the scene.

I applauded the honest critiques. I need them, as does every honest writer. That rough draft went under the knife today. Below I’m going to give you a short excerpt of what came out of that surgery. It’s a partial scene from the first third of the novella.

The first major crisis has occurred. The main character of the story has disappeared on her home space station, in the middle of a crowd, at a celebration put on for the Pilot’s Guild. The characters involved in this portion are her friends and Guild members. This scene is in the wake of her disappearance.

Excerpt:

A moment later, Alynn leaned in close to whisper to Kooly, “Grab Machio and move slowly, straight toward the sanitaries.”

Alynn didn’t wait for a reply but continued on toward the facilities on the far side of the chamber. At the entrance he paused to turn and scan faces again.

“Problem?” Machio asked when the three men came together.

“Maybe,” Alynn replied. His restless eyes made another pass across the crowd. “When was the last time either of you saw Caska?” He kept his voice low and as calm as his rising concern would allow.

Kooly’s eyes widened as the implication struck him. “I saw her crouched in the front rank of spectators at the performance. Those around her were people we know well. She was safe.” The co-pilot’s fingers were already tapping code keys on his comm unit. He ignored the other two men; his eyes only on the data stream he’d called up. If details were available, he’d find them. He sensed his facial muscles stiffen as his attention shifted.

“I saw her before the performance. She was talking to Dresden Marpho,” Machio added. “I saw Dresden leave her and go to the Rim with a pair of pilots. You know how she is.”

“Caska had her detail with her at the dance. They kneeled behind her, one on either side.” Alynn’s voice indicated that he thought they should have been even more vigilant than they’d appeared.

Machio turned to Alynn, his hand gesturing toward the opposite side of the chamber. “I’ll see if I can find Dresden and ask her about things,”

“Don’t bother, Mach.” Kooly nixed his friend’s offer. “I can’t reach Caska’s comm unit. There’s no bounce back.”

Alynn jerked to attention. “What about her escort?”

Kooly shook his head. “No good. I didn’t know them. I need names for a check. We’ve got to tell Master Reslin—now.”

Alynn snapped a nod at Kooly. “Do it. Someone could have disabled her comm.”

Kooly sent a burst of info to Master Reslin and glanced up at his flight partner. “They can’t disable her telemetry chip. I can’t find it either.”

“Damn.”

Alynn’s short burst of swearing reinforced Kooly’s suspicions about the man’s feelings for their red-headed friend. “Alynn, I’ve got to get into the systems for some answers. That’s my job now.”

“Right! We’ll go with you to HQ. We can’t do any good here.” Alynn flicked an eyebrow at Machio. Anxiety fought with training for his attention. Training won over. Always go to the top for answers and major policy decisions.

 

This is the first revision. More will follow. They always do.

I hope you enjoyed that tidbit. Please let me know what you think. The feedback always helps, you know. Thank you.

I’ll be back on Sunday with a post on Poetry. I’ll see you then.