It's shorts month!

July, 2017 is the first annual Short Story Writing Month, an exciting new event devised by yours shorts1truly, with the full collaboration of the Austin-based Indie Author Society. It’s a short story writing festival! A short-a-thon! A frenzy of shorts!

We’re challenging each other to write a story a week. Nobody’s coming around to check up, so suit your own pace, but give it a whirl.

We kicked the month off yesterday with a short craft workshop taught by Benjamin Reed, a creative writing professor at Southwestern University. That was for Indie Author Society members only.

If you missed it, be comforted by the wealth of resources online and in bookstores. I’m reading James Scott Bell’s How to Write Short Stories And Use Them to Further Your Writing Career on my Kindle this week. I won’t try to link to the multitude of online how-tos and classes, although I will put in a pitch for Dean Wesley Smith’s course on writing short stories. Expensive, but it shattered three misconceptions I had about myself as a writer, so — worth it.

Myth #1: I can’t write short

fishMy old idea of short fiction was getting my Texas cozy under 80,000 words. Ha! Turns out, short stories are not tightly compressed novels. They’re a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Actually, just one engaging fish, having a singular day or week. Or month. Singular, that’s the key. A short story revolves around a single emotional turning point for the protagonist. Subplots just get waved at, or skipped altogether. Same with series character arcs. A touch; a note. That’s all.

Myth #2: I can’t write fast

This has as much to do with experience as with the length of the work. The more you write, the more you gain skill and confidence. More importantly, the more you get wise to your silly self, so you can cut out the time-consuming agonizing and screwing around. You just sit (or stand) at your desk, put your fingers on the keyboard, and write the dang story. 2K/day is comfortable for me now, and a short story only has 3-8,000 words. Think about it for a day or two, write for a day or three, forget about it for a day, then revise it. A week’s work, with time for many other things.

Myth #3: I can’t write to someone else’s theme

I have a long list of stories wanting to be written. I don’t want other people’s dumb ideas! Also, I believed my imagination couldn’t dance to someone else’s tune. Well, I was wrong. I grumbled about how dumb DWS’s assigned theme was for half a day before forcing myself to think about it, because it was homework and I always do my homework. When I stopped resisting the idea, I found a story to fit that I love so much, I’m going to have to write more stories set in that universe. The river of creativity will provide, if you tear down the blockades.

The moral? Don’t be stubborn about your creative capacity. Challenge yourself from time to time and let it surprise you.

Shorts have many uses

Especially for us indies. We can sell them to magazines, especially science fiction and fantasy, which have an abundance of zines. We make a few bucks, but more importantly, we get our work in front of another audience. It’s like advertising for which they pay you.shorts2

We can offer them to newsletter subscribers as a freebie, which we keep refreshing, because we can write a short in a week.

Shorts make great palate cleansers between drafts of a book. They get your mind into a different world so you stop believing what you wrote in the book is true and can’t be altered, so you can revise the thing the way it needs to be revised. Revenge is not the only dish that’s best served cold.

Shorts are great catalog builders. You can sell them for $0.99, which nets you almost $0.34 a story. That’s riches for ya! Once you have enough shorts to add up to 60,000 words or so, you can collect them into an anthology. You can make a neat little paperback out of three good-sized shorts to sell at local events for $5, giving people get a taste of your writing an an irresistible price. You can even make a booklet out of one short story to put on swag tables at conferences.

You can wear them on your head, you can read them in your bed. You can offer them for free, you can write them up with glee. Go for it and write yourself some shorts this month!


Launch! Publish and Perish

Please welcome the fourth book in the Francis Bacon mystery series, Publish and Perish. This Publish and Perishone is the answer to my irrational obsession with the Marprelate Controversy, a conflict of great concern and consternation between 1588 and 1593-ish, pretty much forgotten by all but a few shortly afterward.

In brief, Martin Marprelate was the nom de plume of a Puritan writer who enraged the authorities, both lay and clerical, while greatly entertaining everyone else. Martin managed to write, publish, and distribute six inflammatory works before the printers were captured, in spite of the professional pursuivants desperately trying to catch a whiff of their whereabouts. That intrigued me, although I don’t follow this secret press in my book.

In an attempt to recapture public opinion, the church hired a group of popular writers to publish counter-strikes, adding more scurrilous rhetoric to Martin’s. That bafflingly ineffective strategy made me laugh. Furthermore, Martin was never identified in those days. Thanks to a book written in the 1980s, most people nowadays feel confident as to his identity, but there’s nothing absolutely definitive. That intrigued me too, enough to write a book supplying my own solution.

Digital versions available everywhere today; printed versions in two weeks. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Here’s the official blurb: 

It’s 1589 and England is embroiled in a furious pamphlet war between an impudent Puritan calling himself Martin Marprelate and London’s wittiest writers. The archbishop wants Martin to hang. The Privy Council wants the tumult to end. But nobody knows who Martin is or where he’s hiding his illegal press.

Then two writers are strangled, mistaken for Thomas Nashe, the pamphleteer who is hot on Martin’s trail. Francis Bacon is tasked with stopping the murders — and catching Martin, while he’s about it. But the more he learns, the more he fears Martin may be someone dangerously close to home.

Can Bacon and his band of intelligencers stop the strangler before another writer dies, without stepping on Martin’s possibly very important toes?