Winter Reads: 3 short stories for you to cozy up to with a cup of hot cocoa.
INTRO TO WIP WEDNESDAYS
I’m starting a new blogging segment I’m calling WIP Wednesday. This is WIP Wednesday #1. I don’t plan to post every single Wednesday but occasionally will be writing about my latest work-in-progress on Wednesdays.
This year I’ve been posting weekly about my dialogue challenge, and I’ve found setting a blogging goal related to my creative writing is a great motivator. This isn’t that exactly. Unless I’m doing a weekly post, an occasional update on my next WIP isn’t going to really motive me not to procrastinate if for some reason I am procrastinating. Instead, I hope this new segment will be more topical in nature, letting people know some aspect of what I’m working on as opposed to what I used to do pre-dialogue days, which was only really post when a story of mine was published somewhere.
Since I’ve already been posting like crazy about the dialogues, expect my WIP Wednesday posts to be mostly focused on the novel. Though there will probably be WIP posts about the dialogues once they are ready to be compiled into a short story collection, but I wouldn’t expect any such posts in the near future.
For my first WIP Wednesday, the focus is going to be on word count.
I just did a recount of the latest drafts of all the chapters in my novel-in-progress, and I’ve got 89,191 words typed up. Now I write everything by hand and only a small portion of the chapter I’m working on is actually typed up. Using a conservative estimate, I’m without a doubt over 90 thousand words.
When I began writing I feared that my book would be too short to count as a novel. I worried I didn’t have enough to say—enough words—to tell a novel-length story. After all, I write lots of flash fiction and my debut book was a novella of less than 40 thousand words (at least after my editor got through with it).
The goal for my current WIP was at least 80 thousand words. I tried to focus on just writing—not word count—and repeated the mantra, A story will be as long as it needs to be, whenever anxiety about my novel’s length cropped up. Truth be told, I failed to brush away my worries and instead have been keeping track of my chapter’s lengths. Here’s the current breakdown:
Prologue: 623 words
Chapter 1: 17,082 word
Chapter 2: 10,943 words
Chapter 3: 8,359 words
Chapter 4: 6,404 words
Chapter 5: 10,034 words
Chapter 6: 5,389 words
Chapter 7: 4,647 words typed (This is the chapter I’m currently writing.)
Chapter 8: 25,710 words
Now that I know I’ve reached the magical 80 thousand, I feel relief because I have certainty that this work is long enough and, with more to write, will stay long enough even after editing. I believe I have something like four more full chapters left to write, including the one I’m currently writing. So I can calculate the average of my completed chapters (not the prologue or chapter 7) at 11,989 words. At only 4 more chapters, that’s 47,956 words left to write if I hit that average. Add this predicted total chapter length of the next 4 chapters to my completed chapters and we’ve got a 132,500 word book.
I have no way of knowing right now if I’m going to be spot on, way short, or a lot longer than this guess. At the lowest, my chapters should be 5 thousand words. I’ve read in places that 5K is a good word count for chapters in most books for adults. As you can see, my chapters are all above 5 thousand words. I think 5K is a good chapter length myself, but that’s not how this book decided to structure itself. It’s perfectly possible that I could end up with four 20 thousand word chapters to finish off my book or, much less likely, end the book with four 5 thousand word chapters.
Isn’t over 100K words too long for a novel?
According to this reedsy article, my book is likely to be a little on the long side for literary fiction. 80 to 100 thousand is the sweet spot. And while the sweet spot is a good place to be because it’s more likely to be accepted by agents and publishing houses, it’s also shorter than I hoped my novel would be. You see, while I fretted about reaching that magical 80K, I felt my book needed to be bigger. It might be best to remember that the sweet spot exists for a reason, but it’s also good to remember the mantra, A story will be as long as it needs to be. And I always felt this story needed to be longer than the minimum. Ideally, I really wanted it to be at least 120 thousand words.
Why break the “rules” of novel-length, especially when it’s your first novel?
That’s a great question? The simple answer is the same as my mantra. But it might also have to do with genre; though to be honest, I really don’t know. To me, my book is literary fiction. But a friend of mine said the book I’ve described to him is a systems novel, a genre of both literary and speculative novels.
I don’t know if he’s correct or not, but one trait that some systems novels have is bulk. Word counts in lit fic systems novels are often way larger than my guesstimate of 130K. So if my friend is right, then maybe the word count this thing is bound to be is closer to correct for its genre (though the mantra takes precedence IMO over any other correctness criteria). My friend is smart, so he’s probably right. But whatever the genre, I feel like the more words for this particular book, the better. You can look up articles on systems novels and, after the book out, decide for yourselves if it’s one, and while you’re at it, you’ll probably make a decision on how you feel about the long chapters in my book.
TL;DR Announcing a new blogging segment: WIP Wednesday. I’ll be posting these occasionally. My current WIP, a novel, is at 90K words and could get past 130K words. This is long, but it might be the right word count for the book’s genre, a literary systems novel, if it’s even its actual genre. In the end, A story will be as long as it needs to be.
Share a little about your WIP in the comments and don’t forget to drop a link to your website so we can follow you.
URBAN EXPLORING: Enchanted Castle is a dialogue about the depths of enchantment. Two urban explorers enter into an enchanted castle but find not the dilapidated magical charm they anticipated. Instead, they encounter the enchanted remains of a decaying nightmare.
These are the last weeks of the dialogue challenge. I am amazed at myself for sticking it out even in my busiest weeks. I’m even more humbled knowing that there are writers out there who manage to write a blog or article post multiple times a week. I really don’t know how you do it, but I applaud you.
For those who are wanting to read some new dialogues, stay posted and subscribe to get email notifications. My focus is on getting the last dialogues written, then I’ll start to type up whatever is still in pen and paper drafts, edit, and send my pieces out. There are some dialogues submitted here and there, so who knows, it’s possible something new will be published soon. If there is, I’ll do a post when it’s published.
Take care, bookworms!
Today I decided to scratch the dialogue I was going to post and wrote a new short and sweet one in honor of the blizzard that has me stuck at the hotel all weekend. It’s short and sweet (the story, not the blizzard). I’d say the dialogue is exploring the nature of art or some shit like that. I enjoyed the image I conjured up and enjoyed writing the piece. Hopefully a future editor of a magazine will like it enough to publish it. And if I’m really lucky, a reader or two will like it as well (yes, my mom counts as one of these two hypothetical readers).
Actually, fuck that editor and those two hypothetical fans (Sorry, Mom!). I’m posting this story on Medium for all the world to ignore. Again, it’s short, sweet, and totally first draft (I wrote it in a rush like 20 minutes ago). So ready to read it or not, hop on over to Medium to check out Man in the Snow.
UPDATE on a fudged up update:
Somehow when I was updating the Medium series that has similar posts about the dialogues as this blog does, all but 23 cards (everything before dialogue #37 + the title card) were totally deleted with no way to get them back. According to my stats, no one reads the series anyway. Just about anyone who cares how this challenge and future book of short stories of mine reads the blog (Thanks, Mom!). It’d be a pain to hunt down every last link to the series in all my old posts and articles; instead, I’ll just leave a note on the series directing people back here and, later, directing people to a book sale link (in advance: Thanks for buying two copies, Mom!).
I will be getting rid of links to the series feature on the Dialogues page, so if you’re really interested, this is the last time I’m linking to the Medium series feature even though it’s just going to contain a link back to this website and hopefully someday a book link. Oh, and it did something really weird to the title card, and I’m just going to leave that too. As always, just zoom out if it says you need a larger screen to read it. All right, click the link to proceed:
Out of the more than 2,000 writers who were accepted into Z Publishing’s 2018 Emerging Writers series, my story “Everything In Its Right Place” was one of 127 writings picked to be published in the nationwide edition, America’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction. My story is in Volume 1 of the this two-part anthology.
This week’s dialogue is Cup of Love. The story is about two old friends, Lacy and Samuel, who once had a romantic connection. They’re getting together for coffee to celebrate Lacy’s engagement. Things go well until lions are brought into the mix.
In other news, I hope everyone in the U.S. of A. had a happy Turkey Murder Day.
I know I did. A few new dialogue ideas came to me. So I’ve got some stuff to write for the next couple weeks. It’s hard to believe that soon I’ll only have a month left in my weekly writing challenge.
This week’s dialogue is The Wave. In this creative conversation, we find a world where a periodic wave comes crashing down on all who stay above ground. If anyone stayed above, they’d be washed away to oblivion. . . Or maybe that’s what they want you to believe. And if you don’t believe, what do you do? Do you stay out as the wave nears? Do you risk death to find a potential hidden truth?
Exciting news, my friend who’s been working on script for a video project says that he’ll be giving me a first draft to look over next week. I’m totally hashtag excited. I’m also excited to start working on some of my own scripts, but these dialogues must all be hashtag finished first.
(PS: Is it okay to write out the word “hashtag” instead of using the symbol? Let me know your thoughts in the comments).
Other than that, I watched the pizza delivery guy steal the Do Not Disturb sign right off of a guest’s door at the hotel. As he reentered the lobby after his delivery I asked him to give me the DND sign he took. He then lied, saying it fell on the floor. Bullshit. I have cameras. But whatever. Poor, sad soul.
Terry Won’t Let It Live is this week’s dialogue: When three explorers deep in an ancient man-made tunnels find a creature that appears to be an infant, a three-way struggle ensues. Denise thinks it’s human and wants to take it back with them. Jacob believes it’s an animal and says that they should leave it. But Terry, he believes it’s an abomination that they must kill.
This is a pretty dark dialogue. I don’t think it constitutes horror exactly, so we’ll see if there’s any luck getting this one published or not.
I’m still behind on typing up my dialogues. Alas, I’ve filled my plate up with too much to do again. Luckily most of it is writing-related. Next week doesn’t look too good for writing, however, since I’m working two extra mornings. My evening reading will have to wait while I put my writing first.
The wife and I are leaving for a wedding Saturday, thus why I had to make sure I had a post up about the dialogue today instead of Saturday (I usually use my downtime at work to make my post). It’ll be fun, especially since I won’t be back until Sunday night. The only worry is snow. I don’t think it’ll be an issue, though the wife had a hard time making it up a slick hill this morning. That’s good old Iowa for ya.
If you’re snowed in, may I suggest you read a little thing I wrote about the future of wedding bells here: Digispouse.com Testimonial.
This week’s dialogue is actually dialogues, with an -s. That’s because this week’s dialogue is comprised of several different back and forth conversations, all of them starting with the phrase “I don’t care, do U?” Yes, a parody Melania Trump is a speaker in all of these dialogues.
I’ll be sure to type this one up soon, that way I can try and land a publisher for all you hungry, hungry bookworms out there who are just ready to take a big old bite of The Melania Dialogues. To help satiate you until then, here’s the first couple lines from dialogue 1:
—I don’t care, do U?
—I don’t know, Melania, seven jelly donuts for breakfast seems a bit much.
As I write and publish my stories, sometimes I get the feeling that some of them just go together. Outside of the dialogues, I actually have three other short story collections coming together. I don’t talk about them very much because they aren’t something I’m actively working on on purpose. When I write a piece of fiction, it either feels like goes with one of these future short story collections or it doesn’t.
Basically, anything odd and fantastical goes into one collection. Anything I write within a certain spectrum of tones that also takes place in SD, NE or IA gets placed in another collection. Then there’s the last collection—my newest collection idea. This one is harder to define for me. There’s pieces that definitely don’t go into it. There’s not a theme or a style that really defines it, but certain stories feel to me like they feel fine next to each other in a folder, so I’m sure they’ll feel fine being bound together in a book someday. I still have a computer folder with lots of pieces that still haven’t found a home together, but that’s okay. Someday they might get some mates written for them.
Last week wasn’t the best week for novel writing. I was super sidetracked by short fiction. I guess I just don’t want these shorter ideas to go unwritten. My wife though said something to urge me to get back on track. She said, “I love, love reading short stories . . . from authors I know already because I love their novels.” Well-said, wifey-poo. Well-said. My productive procrastination ends tomorrow!
This week (today, actually) I’ve written a Halloween dialogue: Demon Zone.
Mark the doors with the sigils of the moon, of the red red river, of the biting chains. Empty dawn of its fire. Let dusk sink eternally into crepuscular paralyzation—hypnagogic, terrifying.
Thus begins the shouting match of the demons. Blood, horrible sights, and terrifying beings culminate in a conversation of violence where any talk of beauty or peace is muted.
Yeah, I’ll be sending this piece out pronto. Though it might end up getting published as a poem. I say this because for a dialogue it’s awful unconversational. I just couldn’t imagine a bunch of demons who sit around and shoot the shit (well, actually I can imagine that; it’s just not how I was inspired to write this particular dialogue). “Demon Zone” does resemble a prose poem. It’s perhaps more prose than a dialogue like “Insults Two by Two,” but it’s certainly poem-like enough to get published as one. Which is fine. A poetic dialogue. A dialogical poem. Tomato, tomato.
I have enough dialogues (and drafts and drafts of dialogues) that next week I’m breaking out a file box for it all. I don’t need the old drafts, really, as everything is saved in digital form. But I like to keep these as backups and for posterity or whatever.
The only other file box I have like this is full of Descriptions of Heaven stuff. Lots and lots of DoH stuff. Seriously, every draft was like a whole little book. I can’t imagine what my WIP, a novel, will fill. Two? Three file boxes? Yikes! I better invest should I ever see any on sale.
Notable life news: As some of you know, for a while my best friend, Mike, lived with my wife and I. We had a huge combined library and liked to chat about books, physics, and life. Well, we still like to chat, but nowadays we do a lot of that chatting here at the hotel (where I typically do my blog posts). He lives at the hotel now where both he and I work. It’s pretty awesome. For me anyway. Mike doesn’t seem to mind it much either.
One of the reasons he moved in with us was so we could work on a video project together. The project is Mike’s baby. I wrote for it, completing two scripts. While I never expected the same level of output (I write constantly; he writes sparingly), when no scripts were forthcoming from him, the project was pretty much red lighted.
Well, after revisiting the idea and steering our thoughts in a new direction (one which he and I both feel is a better direction) we may be starting the project again. Maybe. We’ll see. I do feel confident enough to actually write about it here because Mike is working on a script. I am in a state of squee about this, since I really think this collaboration could be fun and educational for both of us.
For me, this is a yellow light. I want to see Mike actually complete something for this project before I dive back in. Luckily, I was able to repurpose one of my scripts for a creative nonfiction piece (edited and sent out to potential publishers last week). If Mike manages to stay focused on our project, then come the new year when this dialogue challenge is done, I’ll green light my script writing again.