Sunday, February 27, 2011

Writing Goals for the Week

This wasn't exactly a banner weekend for writing. I spent most of Saturday involved in a bathroom remodel. Today, I went out with my wife and we're preparing to watch the Oscars.

I did put together a fairly lengthy blog post last night about the importance of self-editing. However, as far as "new" fiction words are concerned, Friday night was it. On the plus side, I did write two short stories this week. I won't post the Peytonometer, but both are now in the "Audibles" stage, which means I need to work on revisions. I think one of these stories will actually fit quite well with an open anthology, but it needs a little spit-shine before I send it in.

I abhor the office work side of writing (the proof is here), but I'd better do some of it this week. I'm going to release a couple of short stories "out into the wild." A story idea may strike at any moment, but for now, I'm devoting the bulk of this week to revising one of my novels. This is the time for I, Crimsonstreak to get a long-awaited, much-needed fourth revision.

I originally wrote the comic superhero story (and by comic, I mean humorous and not comic as in comic book...I know, my head is about to 'splode, too) back in 2008. It features a super-speedster who must save the world after his father decides to play...and win...his own personal game of Risk. Over the years, some of the pop culture references have lost their meaning and I've also grown quite a bit as a writer. What seemed "good" two years ago seems "amateurish" in 2011.

Several months ago...last summer I think...I began reworking I, Crimsonstreak. The revision only covered about three chapters, so I have a lot of work to do. The novel is on the short side, a hair over 60,000 words. I would like to tell 2008 Matt Adams that he should probably try to bump up the word count a bit. The novel also includes an additional 25,000 words of meta-fiction (character bios, journals, newspaper articles, etc.) that need to be re-arranged and put in some kind of appendix format. Right now, the different texts are not in any chronological or thematic order.

The primary goal, however, is to dig into the text and eliminate clunkiness, instances of "telling" instead of "showing," and other deficiencies. The good news: I like revisions. The bad news: I hate revisions.

Such is the life of a writer.

The Importance of Self-Editing

Although sometimes uncertain of the relevance of my writing advice, I do like to pound out a column here or there on writing process and craft. This isn't expert advice, because I'm not an expert writer.

There is no such thing as an expert writer. Not in academia, not in the editorial department, and certainly not among writers. "Expert" implies someone has mastered the craft and has little else to learn. Anyone who's written a story realizes many opportunities exist within a piece to polish and smooth it out. These changes improve the writing considerably, taking what was once a clunky mess and turning it into serviceable prose. In some cases, these revisions go beyond just serviceable, transforming so-so writing into a breathtaking, organic journey through character, plot, and setting.

Before that can happen, of course, a writer must first transfer the story from the brain to the page. Writing methods vary greatly, from the "2,000 words a day" methodology to the strange world of the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. My friend Chris from Write Now Indy has an inner editor trapped in his brain who refuses to let him write organically. The mind-melded editor stops him from misspelling a word or constructing a sentence of questionable quality. While admirable, the "head-itor" does not allow for productive writing sessions. Chris' solution, while unconventional, works for him.

I'm partial to the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. I'm not only the RMWC founder, I'm also a client!

Once the work is complete--I'm talking about everything from simple blog posts to short stories, novellas, to full-length books--you, the writer, are not even close to finished. It's tempting after months or weeks or even years of writing to send that "hot off the press" story out there.

Just-finished manuscripts. All perfect, of course. Ready to be sent to agents and publications...

Wait a second. Someone is telling me not to send them...

Don't do it.

Every writer needs beta-readers and every author needs editors, but the first line of defense when it comes to content and quality control is you. If anyone knows your writing intimately, the verbal ticks and words you lean on too often, the character traits and archetypes you put into your work, it's you.

That's both a quasi-tragic and wonderful thing.

It's quasi-tragic because you are an expert in your own writing and can't often see past your own flaws.

It's wonderful for the same reason. If you can learn to step back and brutalize your own writing, your finished manuscripts will have a certain sense of polish to them. It's hard--the story and characters are your babies and you'll do anything to keep them from harm--but necessary. For this blog post, I'm sharing tips I use to improve my self-editing. Of course, these apply to the point after a story is complete. A self-editor who comes out during the creative process is a real pain and should be ignored under most circumstances.

Put it aside, no matter how long it takes. In my experience, the best time to self-edit is several days after you've finished a project. Maybe that should be several weeks or even a month...but you must mentally separate yourself from the story. When you do this, you'll more easily spot grammatical errors, inelegant language, poor plotting, and hit-you-in-the-face foreshadowing that lacks any semblance of subtlety.

Just print it, baby! The "green" among us will hate this one. I don't know about anyone else, but I find spotting my own mistakes from a computer monitor nearly impossible. For every error I catch, three more get a free pass. I think it has to do with the fact I've written the story at the computer and it's a familiar "brain space" for me to read at. I like to print out my stories (yes, double-spaced, I know, I know...I'm an environmental pariah) and read them in a comfy spot, red pen at the ready. My self-editing is much sharper on paper. On the plus side, I've also started re-reading my short stories on my iPhone (thank you, Dropbox!), a practice that helps me spot errors more consistently. I think it's because I'm seeing the work in a different form and relating to it differently.

Activate the T-800 Adverb-inator. Over the past few years, I've read a lot of columns and posts signaling a de facto War on Adverbs. Some call for the outright elimination of adverbs from your writing. I'm not a radical anti-adverb guy, but I do advocate the unleashing of the T-800 Adverb-inator. In many cases, adverbs can be eliminated; sometimes, I realize I'm stringing a bunch of them together. Anytime a sentence starts to rhyme from all the "-ly" words in it, it's time to pare down the adverbs. The less often you use them, the more impact they'll have when you do.

You've been adverb-inated.

"That" doesn't always fly. The word "that" has many uses. The fish was that big. The horse that won the race is from champion stock. That movie was great. It's a good idea that you decided to come. In many cases, the word "that" can go. I won't put a percentage on it, but in an overwhelming number of cases, you'll find "that" can be omitted. Some sentences need it for flow or clarification purposes...and if it feels right to use "that," by all means do it. However, "that" can also clutter up sentences and add the appearance of wordiness. You can easily trim it most of the time.

"Just" cause for elimination. This is more of a personal problem than anything else. I use the word "just" too much. In a recent short story, I had a sentence in which "just" appeared three different times. Since I've trained myself to spot this problem while self-editing, I nipped it in the bud. "Just" is a filler word...a five-cent word Twinkie. It tastes okay, but it won't fill you up. And too much makes you sick.

They're just Twinkies.

Comma comma down dooby doo down down... Breaking up is hard to do, but using commas correctly can prove even more challenging. When reviewing my work, I'll spot several places in which I've used commas incorrectly or too often. Nothing is worse than the meandering, paragraph-long sentence that's really a bunch of compound sentences strung together with commas. In most cases, shorter, punchier sentences are easier for readers to follow. This piece of advice is completely dependent upon the type of work you're writing. Perhaps the piece requires more flowery, ornate language. If that's the case, go for it...just learn to spot it when that's not your intention.

Theme show. Listen, not every story starts with some grandiose, life-changing theme behind it. I recently wrote a story about a robotic bounty hunter simply because I wanted to write a story about a robotic bounty hunter. Still, that story ended up with a simple theme: a machine that illogically wanted to become more than its programming allowed. Like it or not, your story has some theme or purpose tied to it, even if it's not explicitly stated. Make sure to identify that theme, no matter how elusive it may be.

“I'm simply saying that theme, uh...uh...finds a way.”

"Be" aware. Action verbs, action verbs, action verbs! The verbs of "be" are flexible and familiar. They work well with adverbs, but they severely limit your arsenal. I'm not calling for an all-out War on Verbs of Be, but limit their use. Action verbs engage readers and turn so-so prose into exciting, memorable writing.

Get some perspective...and make sure you stick with it. One of the first projects I ever wrote employed a first-person narrative. That's hard to screw up. Yet, it's still possible to do it. Your first-person narrator can't know certain things, unless he/she is a mind-reader. When working with a first-person narrative, watch out for writing that states exactly what another character is thinking. In third-person writing, look out for any jarring changes in perspective, especially in stories with multiple points of view. A scene that starts from a certain character's perspective should never deviate from that perspective.

So, what's the consistency? If a character on page one doesn't know anything about baseball and then whips out a baseball analogy on page three, you have a consistency problem. If that character uses a baseball analogy near the end of the story, that could be character development (i.e., a friend is trying to convince a non-baseball fan to learn about the game and the character make strides to learn about the sport). Character traits and motivations should not inexplicably vary from scene to scene or page to page. Think about it like this: your friends, your very best friends, usually won't surprise you with their behavior. You know them well enough to predict what they'll say or how they'll react. Characters, to you, should be like your very best friends. When they do something inconsistent with their personalities, you should be able to identify it with laser-like precision.

Jell-O: great as a snack, not so great for character traits.

Don't feel too entitled. When I come up with a concept for a story, I usually conjure a speculative title. Sometimes it's very simple; several of my superhero short stories are based around conceits of the genre and get attention-grabbing titles like "The Villain" and "The Journalist." The title I write at the beginning of my story is simply a guideline. Once the story is finished, a theme or line usually leaps off the page, chokes me, and forces me to re-title my work. Other times, I simply end up with what I started with. Every once in a great while, I know exactly what title I'll use and the story writes to it (i.e., the title is the definitive ending point and the story guides my characters to their final destination).

Read it. Out loud. This one comes from my background in writing for TV news. People may look at you funny, your significant other may tell you to shut up, and you may feel uncomfortable. However, this remains one of the best ways to get a feel for the rhythm and flow of your words. Read the whole thing'll be amazed at how many mistakes you'll pick up. Why does this work so well? When I read silently, my brain usually fills in missing words. When I read out loud, I don't have that luxury; if the word isn't there, most of the time my brain won't fill it in as I read. Sure, it will reduce you to being "the crazy person" talking in the corner, but you'll be better for it. This method doesn't work well, however, with novel-length works in their entirety.

End it, already. Writing an effective ending (and recognizing when you've arrived there) is one of the hardest things to do. Cat Rambo blogged about story endings earlier this week, and the advice is stellar. A good self-editor feels the pace of the story and understands when it reaches its conclusion. Writers easily succumb to pitfalls like false endings (Return of the King Syndrome--you know, when the story ends like seven times), unnecessary epilogues, and thematic diversions (when the ending doesn't fit what appears to be the theme of the story). Understanding the moment when the proverbial credits should roll remains a skill that must develop over time.

The story doesn't end until you pin me.

It never hurts to have an experienced editor look over your work, so cultivate your inner self-editor as a first step.

Keep in mind self-editing is simply part of the revision process. You always need to have someone with a critical eye look over your work. And if you do know an experienced editor, well, make friends with them!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Writing Update, 2/25

With production around 1,500 words tonight, I had another "Average Night."

I finished my short story, "Capes." That means I have another update on the new Peytonometer! We've moved from "First Draft" to "Audibles!" What does this mean? The explanation is here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reggie Miller WC Latest and the Inaugural Peytonometer Update

With a shade over 1,500 words, I managed to have an "Average Night" on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. My current short story is a project called "Capes," which is about a legacy hero who absolutely hates wearing a cape, but is forced by circumstances to do so. I think this story will end up in the 4,000-4,500 word range.

It is unfinished, of course, which puts it in the "First Draft" category on the Peyton Progress Meter.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Introducing the Peyton Progress Meter

I'm stuck at a crossroads on a story I've been writing and decided it would be fun to come up with another "meter" to measure my progress. I already have the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum, a magical meter that keeps me honest on my word counts. Were I to update the RMWC (or simply "the Reg"), tonight I would've technically been blocked by Tayshaun Prince.

But there's no fun in posting that.

So now, I have a new meter. Don't worry, "The Reg" isn't going anywhere! The new progress meter features Peyton Manning and is intended to track the individual progress of a work. You'll find the Peyton Progress Meter (PPM or "Peytonometer") below:

A quick guide to the meaning:

First Draft: I probably should've called this "Reading the Defense" or "First Down," but I kind of like the idea of Peyton coming up to the line of scrimmage and getting his "first draft" of the defensive game plan. Obviously, this category means a story or book is in the process of being written.

Audibles: Step 2 on the Peytonometer is "Audibles," which translates into "Revisions." When a story/novel hits this stage, the first draft is complete and the story is being revised/reworked/rewritten.

Beta Reader Handoff: Once I've called my audibles, it's time to send my story off to my beta readers (I'm actually looking for some if anyone's interested). This stage includes getting comments back from readers and making changes based on their suggestions.

Going Deep: Once I've taken into account the suggestions from my beta readers, it's time to release the work into the wild! That means sending the short story out to a publication or directing a query letter toward an agent or publisher.

We Have a Winner: This is the triumphant moment that a work gets accepted for publication! Raise that Lombardi Trophy up high, Peyton! Congratulations...we have a winner!

Of course, not every story comes up big. Some are one-and-done, some advance to the AFC Championship Game before falling short, and others simply fade away. These stories have been rejected...or as the Peytonometer calls it, Foxboroughed!

The following tragic graphic reflects these unfortunate situations:

You can expect guest appearances from the Peytonometer as I continue to share my writing progress.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Viva la Revolucion! Ebooks...what?

All right, I've been thinking something over lately. Since the creative part of my brain isn't working very well tonight (see meandering progress on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum), it's time to try something else. I'm not going to sit here and drill through my temple while trying to force my way through a short story.

So, a blog post it is.

If you've been following the publishing industry at all lately, you know it's not all wine and roses. It's far, far from it. Borders is closing a bunch of stores, mid-list authors will likely get the shaft, and agents are less likely to take on new clients. It means that a stop at your local bookstore (if you actually have one to go to) will be chock-full of books from James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, and Patricia Cornwell. These are familiar authors who generate sales and with the current economic climate, bookstores will lean on them.

Where does that leave someone like me? I mean, heck, I'm barely an author. I've had my novel soundly rejected by several agents. I've had a few short stories published in admittedly obscure places. I have little to no web presence and 26 followers on Twitter. I'm fairly certain 14 of those followers are fake Ukrainian smut-mongers. The other 12 are my brother's various web-based alter-egos.

In the past several months, I've really re-focused the Flying Trapeezius. I've generated content on a consistent basis. True, some days it's just "I wrote 1,300 words today, here's a graphic featuring Reggie Miller." Other times, I try to give people an insight into my projects or share a triumph publicly, such as the publication of one of my short stories. I attempt, with limited success, to offer advice on writing technique and craft and the business side of things.

The numbers in terms of page views just aren't there, which is fine by me. I'm not trying to make money off this blog; it's really more of a mad science lab than anything else, a place for me to vent and write and put my ideas out there. I know I can and must do a better job of attracting readers. TFT is a place for me to write about writing while adding occasional flavors of the Colts or Star Wars into the mix. I'm proud of my work here.

Lately, I've been wondering about ebooks. You know...those things you can buy and read on a Kindle or Nook or iPad. The royalties are pretty good on these things...authors get 70% for each sale. It has seriously crossed my mind to take one of my books and send it into the ebook marketplace to get poked and prodded. Specifically, I would take one of my "lesser" that I don't know if a publisher/agent would be sold on...and put it out there. I have a specific project in mind that I think would be great for this experiment.

However, I'm not sure this is the time to do it. I'm starting to feel like I'm gaining a little bit of traction as far as my work goes and I don't want to damage that. In addition, justified or not, there remains a stigma that self-published work is of inferior quality. This is a perfectly logical line of thinking; after all, books from the big publishing houses go through several rounds of edits. If I were to put one of my books up for sale, I'd be the only de facto editor. And while I'll try very hard, the possibility remains that I'll misspell a word or have some great logic gaffe that kills the entire story.

Yet, despite those issues, I want to be a forward-thinking author/entrepreneur. I don't want to be shackled by the bonds of major publishing houses that say only their books are of high quality. No one will ever get to read my work if it remains on my hard drive. Wouldn't it be nice to share it?

The argument keeps ping-ponging back and forth in my head...and I don't know what to do. However, I do know the following things.

I need beta readers. If I were to try to turn my book into an ebook, I'd need several beta readers. These would be people of varied expertise whose insights would prove invaluable toward refining my work. I'd need some adept at grammar, others tuned into plot structure, some good at both, and a few unafraid to unapologetically rip the work the shreds.

I need to make sure I don't rush it. The last time I rushed a book edit, I mangled my manuscript while trying to give it a "quick coat of polish" and ended up making the kinds of mistakes seventh graders are famous for. As you can imagine, the agent rejected my book. After re-reading my efforts to "improve" the work, I can see why.

I need a good cover. I'm not a trained graphic artist. Even though I enjoy playing with Photoshop, I'm not sure my designs would do the trick. I would need professional consultation or one heckuva great "group think" to come up with something eye-catching.

I need an actual marketing strategy. Turning my book into an ebook and placing it on won't instantly sell a thousand copies. Heck, it probably won't even sell five. However, if I keep investing my time on getting publishing credits, maybe I can start to build an audience. Maybe I can figure out a way to get "buzz" or go "viral" (yes, my stomach turned after writing both of those buzzwords). The Super Bowl comes to Indy next year (maybe). Let's just drop a bunch of t-shirts from the sky!

I need to learn more. I've been doing a bit of research on ebooks lately, but I don't even own a Kindle. The device kick-started this whole ebook thing...and now it's starting to take hold, especially among publishing professionals. How can I understand the impact of the Kindle/Nook/iPad/Sony E-Reader/Insert Another Ebook Reader Here if I don't have one of my own? What works and what doesn't when it comes to ebooks? How do you format them? What price do you sell them at? Research, research, research.

I need to stand out. There are thousands of authors out there...and that estimate is on the conservative side. Go to a bookstore; you'll find an author behind each and every one of those books on the shelves. The ebook "revolution" now means even more people can publish their work. This crowds the marketplace, dilutes quality, and makes it harder for the cream to rise to the top.

I need to step back. Writing a story is a euphoric experience for me. Every time I start a new project or read something I'm working on, I get excited. I think that shines through in every piece of writing I work on. The excitement sometimes gets the best of me; I want to do things now, not later. Later sucks; later is stupid. But later can also be smart.

Wow. Another late night...and I'm so full of questions.

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update, 2/22

The words flowed very easily last night as I wrapped up a story and started a new one. Tonight, however, I can't seem to find much of a rhythm. Still, I managed to commit about 1,300 words to the page.

Here's a quick summary of this week's writing endeavors:

Vengeance: Small-time criminal Calvin Collins gets double-crossed by two corrupt cops. Three gunshots later, his wandering soul is given a choice: eternal damnation or the chance for revenge. Months later, he emerges as Vengeance, a powerful being obsessed with meting revenge and guiding corrupt souls to their ultimate doom. (complete, ready for spit & polish)

Capes: Legacy superhero Skyfire gets the chance to join the famed Heroic Guild, but struggles with the group's one unbreakable rule: everybody wears a cape. Skyfire hates capes. (work in progress)

So, yeah, a couple of superhero stories are percolating. I really need to get back to revising a novel or finishing a book that's three-quarters written. Perhaps I'll be able to refocus over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update, 2/21

After struggling to write much this weekend, I finished a new short story simply titled "Vengeance." It's very similar in tone to "Absolution," though a bit less graceful in its execution.

I also started another new story tonight, giving me 3,200 words. That means I'm more than just an Average Night...I'm Sold-Out Conseco!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update, 2/19

Working on a new short story. I've only managed 1,000 words so far today. Maybe I'll be more productive tonight or tomorrow.

For now, it's just free throws and jump shots.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Hitman" Downed by Reality

This is how I want to remember Bob a Super Bowl champion and Defensive Player of the Year. I want to remember how he decleated Laurence Maroney in the AFC Championship Game...I want to remember how he launched himself like the Human Bullet at receivers, running backs, quarterbacks, and anyone else foolish enough to wander into his target zone.

But today, we mourn the passing of Bob Sanders the Colt. For every hitman must meet his maker someday, and for #21, that day is today. It is neither a surprise nor a shock that Bob Sanders is no longer with the Colts. He missed more games (64) than he played in (48) since being drafted in the second round in 2004. Yet, we fans know he was a game changer, a rare player who, when healthy, changed the complexity of the game for the Colts. We lament how his body failed him and did little to justify the generous contract awarded to him.

It is my belief that Bob Sanders will once again roam the football field, stalking opposing players, ringing the bells of receivers who dare cross the middle, and knocking running backs on their posteriors. We have only but one last plea to offer our beloved hitman: choose your next team wisely.

And not this. NEVER this:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update, 2/16

After worrying about a mini-slump, I surged ahead today with 2,200 words, putting me firmly in the Average Night category.

My current work is sort of a "reverse Absolution." I'm trying to do a story about a criminal who is killed and given the chance to get even with the corrupt police officers responsible for his death. The protagonist isn't exactly the most likable guy on the planet...but that's kind of the point.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An idea night and a little math

I have a deep, dark confession to make.

I haven't written anything story-wise for three nights in a row. Sunday, I spent the day with my wife; Monday, I ended up editing a story; last night, I had an idea night.

I haven't wasted my time and I'm not out of ideas. I simply don't have a story percolating that must be written right now. I've talked about my difficulties with having a set writing schedule (my Writing Process post). If I'm not inspired, it's hard for me to sit in front of the keyboard and write. So, without a "gotta do it" idea in my head, I haven't had the most productive three days in terms of writing.

But that's long as those three days don't turn into a week or two weeks.

So, last night I decided to have an Idea Night. I grabbed my trusty old high-school era notebook and jotted down a few ideas for some stories. I do this every once in a while; it's creativity in its purest form, a writer's meditative moment. I came up with four reasonably decent ideas for short stories, although there wasn't one that leaped off the page and screamed, "Write me! Write me now!" Still, although I didn't write a single word of a story, I still had writing on my mind. I think that's the most important thing of all.

I also started to wonder if I was in a kind of mini-slump. Three days. No words. But I thought about it a little bit more: I'm still blogging, which means I'm flexing my writing muscles. I'm thinking about ideas for stories, which means I'm flexing my writing muscles. I edited a story and had it accepted, which means I'm flexing my writing muscles.

Still, the thoughts didn't console me. I needed some actual proof. I've had a tremendous burst of creativity since December. And even though I'm waiting to hear back on several projects, I've had a pretty good run over the last two-and-a-half months.

So here's a quick look at my production since December:

It really has been a productive span. I hope I'll have an inspired idea for tonight so I can post another inane Reggie Miller Writing Continuum update.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Short story accepted

(OLD-SCHOOL BREAKING NEWS BEEP) Da-da-duh-duh-da-da-da-da...

This just in to the Flying Trapeezius newsroom.

My short story, "No Errors in Programming" has been accepted for Static Movement's Bounty Hunters anthology. I've heard no timeline on publication for the anthology, but it was a quick turnaround in terms of acceptance. I submitted the story early this morning (or late last night) and woke up to find an acceptance email in my inbox.

A quick summary:

Robot bounty hunter Molitor (Mobile Operation Licensed for Infiltration, Termination, Observation, and Reconnaissance) never compromises in tracking down its quarry. But when the machine accepts a contract to terminate a member of a well-known royal family, certain parameters don't compute, forcing the machine to recalculate the best course of action.

I wrote this one specifically for this particular anthology. I was originally going to do a story about a tough-as-nails female bounty hunter. A remnant of this idea comes from an early line in the story:

The last person who told Molitor that bounty hunting was a man’s profession ended up as an unrecognizable dark splotch on the main concourse of Xenia VII.

However, as soon as I wrote that line, I decided it would be fun to do a story about a mechanized bounty hunter with an identity crisis. Thus, the robotic Molitor was born and I wracked my brain trying to think of a suitable acronym (it ended up being: Mobile Operation Licensed for Infiltration, Termination, Observation, and Reconnaissance). The character, of course, is named after my favorite pro baseball player growing up, Paul Molitor.

The original draft was about 5,200 words. I pared it down to a shade under 5,000 in the final draft.

The most challenging part of editing and rereading the piece was making sure Molitor's gender remained undefined. The robot is a machine, so I didn't want to use any masculine words like "his" or "him" to describe Molitor (even though the machine possesses a booming voice and definite male tendencies). I used "its" in place of "his"; words like "the robot" and "the machine" in place of "he." It's not a huge deal, but I definitely spotted a few times where I broke this rule. I think I'd eliminated them all by the final read-through. I think. other writing news to report today. I spent last night editing the story about Molitor, so I don't have any progress to share concerning the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday's Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Status 2/12

A Saturday of stop-and-go writing, but I managed to pound out more than 1,800 words today. It was enough to finish a new short story I've been working on. It's pretty dorky, but I named a robotic bounty hunter "Molitor" after my long-time baseball fave Paul Molitor. I even came up with a stupid acronym to explain the name: "Mobile Operation Licensed for Infiltration, Termination, Observation, and Reconnaissance."

I was shooting for something in the 5,000-word range, but the finished product is closer to 5,200 words. I'll probably do a little trimming.

Waiting is the hardest part...

I was going to finish up a new story tonight, however I ended up submitting a couple of short stories for consideration instead. It's all part of that office work that writers are not immune to (and boy, do I love it!).

It gave me the chance to look at my spreadsheet of stories to see which stories I'm waiting to hear about. I can be a bit of an obsessive email checker...and owning an iPhone certainly doesn't help! Yet, the email address I use solely for my writing projects hasn't perked up at all (except for a few messages from that poor, deposed Nigerian prince. Will someone PLEASE do something about that? I hear millions of dollars could be yours).

The internet is a terrific tool...and is both the lifeblood and bane of my writing existence. Without terrific sites like Duotrope, I wouldn't know where to submit work. Of course, the other six million writers submitting short stories would be in the same situation. But the internet is the great democratizer; if you have the least bit of know-how and an inkling to write any type of story, you can find a market for it. It is both a blessing and a curse in that it's easy to find places to submit stories, but it also increases competition because others can also easily find those places as well.

I can't speak much of the publishing model before the internet because I was not a writer then. I know that people mailed manuscripts to popular publications with self-addressed stamped envelopes to learn if they got an acceptance or rejection. I'm going to speculate that competition was fierce then, too...but mailing manuscripts also became an expensive proposition. I know I would have a hard time printing out copies of my work, paying for postage on SASE's, and then paying postage to send the manuscript somewhere.

This is where the internet has become such a boon for writers. We can now easily and cheaply send our stories and expect a fairly prompt reply. But someone still has to read that story. Someone has to determine if it is of worthy quality. Someone has to write the author back to say "um, no" or "wow, yes!" And now, as submissions become easier to send, I'm betting editors are drowning in a pool of submissions.

Right now, I'm waiting to hear back on eight different projects (it's really ten, but I just sent out two of them today and to expect instant replies for those stories is a ridiculous thought). I wrote a couple of those stories specifically for certain publications...which means those stories won't be going anywhere else if they're rejected (well, I could send them to other places, but they'll need some MAJOR tweaking). Several of those stories were sent in December. It is now the middle of February and I'm still playing the waiting game.

This isn't a complaint; it's a reality. In addition, I tend to hit submission deadlines way earlier (it goes back to high school and college when an instructor would assign a project and I'd get it finished weeks in advance). For instance, some of those deadlines won't hit until March. That means acceptances/rejections won't go out until March...and probably not until April, when editors are assembling their table of contents. So, when you send a story in December or January, you're going to have to wait. Like me.

When you produce something you believe to be of high quality, you want to know if it'll make the cut. You hope for feedback--positive or negative--as soon as you can get it. That's where things like Twitter and Facebook and email fail us...we get so used to INSTANT FEEDBACK that we forget there are dozens or hundreds of stories that someone has to read and then reply to. It's a case where the instant nature of the internet is deceptive because we often forget the human factor involved.

Knowing that still doesn't make the waiting part any easier.


This is not to gloat.

This is not to tell you how awesome I am.

This is to share an accomplishment with you.

I received in the mail today my very first check for a story I've written. It is a milestone. Sure, I will gladly send stories to publications that don't pay because I love to write. But to get something beyond simple a contributor's copy is a very satisfying thing. This isn't big-time money, but it's something, another step in the right direction for my writing pursuits.

This is for "Absolution" (read or listen to it here) at Wily Writers for Speculative Fiction. The story is 4,000 words and the check is for 50 bucks...that works out to 1.25 cents per word! That's semi-pro payment, which according to this blog post I wrote last month, makes "Absolution" my first Double-A story!

I was going to post an image of the check with key details blacked out (bank account, check number, address of issuer, etc.), but decided against it. Who knows what someone could do with that information?

What will I use my new fortune for? I don't know. Valentine's Day is coming up, the upstairs DVD player has finally bitten the dust, or I could always buy new copies of the Powers Anthology and come up with the first-ever TFT giveaway contest. The possibilities are endless...or as far as 50 bucks can take me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Latest Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update 2/10

So, Ray Allen holds the record for most three-pointers in a career. I knew I should've put his shooting hand in a wood-chipper when I had the chance.

Don't worry, Reggie's still the best; that's why you don't see the Ray Allen Writing Continuum! I pounded out more than 1,700 words tonight, which is an "Average Night" on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. We love you, #31!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update 2/9

I've blogged the last couple of days, but failed to log any time actually writing stories. So tonight I'm happy to say that I managed to have an average night on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum.

I'm currently working on a story about a robotic bounty hunter. I'm not 100% sure where this is going to go right now, but I'd better figure it out quickly...I'm 1,500 words in!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Character Archetypes I Love

A dirty word in the writing world is "stock character." Editors fear these intrepid characters because of their familiarity, but readers often embrace them for the same reason. Stories, especially fantastical ones, need a sense of home cooking to put readers at ease. If something is too outlandish, most readers may not want to spend too much time in the world the writer has created.

Archetypes and stock characters exist for a very simple reason: they're familiar and easy to identify. Sure, some of them may end up being eye-rollingly terrible or downright laughable, but a skilled writer knows how to freshen up these archetypes so the characters are not cliche or one-dimensional.

Here are a few of my favorites...and keep in mind this is not intended to be an unbridged list of every single character archetype.

Sage Old Geezer Who's Gonna Die. You've seen this one dozens of times; an old man or woman who possesses otherworldly knowledge or insight that must be imparted to a worthy successor. And while their knowledge lives on, the Sage Old Geezer Who's Gonna Die won't. There is usually some element of self-sacrifice in this noble character who gives him or herself up to the forces of evil in order to help others understand a great truth. Or something. This character can be gratingly stereotypical in the wrong hands.

His Dad Was Awesome, But He's a Schmuck. This character is the product of a broken home. His father invented something terrific, changed the world in a significant way, or was filthy-stinking rich. Yet, while Daddy was out making the big bucks, he kind of ignored Junior and made some powerful enemies who decided the world would be a better place without him. The son has either coasted through life or been swept away from his privileged life. Others expect great things from him, but he's a total screw up who drinks too much and can't do anything right until The Moment It Really Matters.

I Like Shadows and Snapping Your Neck. Nothing's better than the strong, silent type obsessed with stalking his prey. While others are having the time of their lives, this character roams the shadowy underworld looking for ways to profit from their mistakes. This character could be an assassin or a bounty the end, he always gets his man. Unless, of course, he's aboard Jabba's Sail Barge and happens to, oh I don't know, get bested by a blind guy.

I'm New, Enthusiastic, and Willing to Do Whatever It Takes to Succeed. Ah, the overwhelmed intern. The new employee. The girl fresh from college who's ready to collate, brainstorm, and work, work, work until she nearly collapses from exhaustion. You can taunt her, deprive her of food and sleep, sabotage her projects, or make her look bad in front of the boss, yet somehow she manages to come out on top because she's new, enthusiastic, and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. Some readers will love her, but most will loathe her because Nobody. Can. Be. That. Good.

His Face May Be Stubbly, But Underneath It All He's a Really Good Guy. This character pretends not to like anybody and hangs out with the wrong crowd. He appears to be obsessed with things like money, fast cars, and awesome technologies, but all he really needs is a friend. Just when you think he's deserted you forever, he dashes in at the last minute and saves the day, reminding everyone that His Face May Be Stubbly, But Underneath It All He's a Really Good Guy.

Tremble at My Feet, I Am Lord of This Realm and You Shall Bow to Me. Also known simply as "the dark lord," this character is a man or woman who appears to be in complete control of everything. They're super-powerful, super-smart, and super-arrogant. Their true weakness is their lust for unfortunate trait that allows them to overlook minor details like oddly-placed thermal exhaust ports or Hobbits IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD who possess YOUR MAGICAL RING.

He'll Follow You Through Hell Because, You Know, You're Buddies. Ah, the loyal friend. There's nothing you can do that will make him go away. You can steal his girlfriend, beat him with a chair, and routinely swipe the last piece of pizza and his loyalty will never waver. Even though you'll have that rough patch where you argue and appear to go your separate ways, he always comes back. Because, you know, you're buddies.

The Line Between Good and Evil Is a Tightrope...And I Walk the Line. Sadistic or dedicated? It's really hard to decide in this case. This type of character has a strong moral just so happens that this moral code is kinda screwed up. He or she is always looking for some great truth and is often suspicious of the status quo. They're so dedicated to their cause that they'll risk anything to prove their point, even if that means their own death. Good guy, bad guy, or nutjob? It's a question without a true answer.

Women Should Vote and Be Put in Places of Power and You're Going to Accept It or I Will Kick You. This is your hard-driving, tough-talking, high-strung leader-type. She could be a princess or a senator or a top diplomat. Most people say it's a man's world, but she throws her head back, laughs, and reminds everyone that no man could stand the pain of childbirth. No one argues...because if they tried, she'd kick their butt with rhetoric (or her actual foot). Stay out of her way, people!

I'll Work Hard, I'll Commit to Your Cause, and I Promise I Won't Screw Up...Too Bad I'm Lousy at Life and Keeping Promises. This character is the butt of everyone's jokes. He's mind-bendingly awful at almost everything except for being committed to your cause. Sometimes he drinks too much and gives the enemy a detailed battle plan, sometimes he sells your magical sword for a shiny object, and sometimes he almost manages to be useful (but not often). Still, you admire his loyalty and (sometimes) courage, and hope for the day when he'll do something right...just don't cross your fingers.

I Have to Obey My Master Until You're Three-Fourths Through the Book and I Realize the Folly of My Ways. The main bad guy snaps his fingers, and this minion is here to do whatever is needed. He'll taunt you, torture you, deprive you of food, burn your village, and laugh at your constant pain. But somewhere along the line, he'll realize he's the one who's been tortured over the years and rebel against his dark master, allowing you to escape and asking you to take him with you. Given his track record, you should probably dump him off at the nearest restaurant and then speed away.

I Will Not Fight. I Cannot Fight. You Killed My Friend or Lover. I'm the Greatest Warrior Ever and You Will Die by My Sword! This character simply wants to be left alone. Years ago, he was his country's/world's/galaxy's greatest fighter, but strayed from that path long ago. He's pudgy now, his muscles more fit for a Jell-O mold than combat. Oh, what's that? His friend/lover/child is dead at the hands of the big bad? Oh, baby, it's personal! In a furious training montage, this reluctant warrior finds his swagger and gets reacquainted with his signature weapon, emerging as a ripped, revenge-fueled killing machine! Just make sure he has a plucky sidekick...this character is so filled with angst and rage that he's incapable of anything remotely resembling fun.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Readers' Mailbag

"Real questions from fake people"

QUESTION: So Matt, you wrote this one blog post about office work. And in that blog post, you mentioned that you should have a dedicated email for your writing work. Why do you post at The Flying Trapeezius under the name "Studicus?" Isn't that the exact opposite of your advice? And why is your Twitter handle @statomatty? Shouldn't it be like @MattAdamsauthor or something? Or at least @Studicus?

Phil from Punxsutawney, PA

ANSWER: Um, good point, Phil. I've been thinking about this a lot. Studicus is an internet handle I've had for a long time and I don't want to give it up. It's a nickname that's stuck with me since high school. When I first started blogging, I was very paranoid about what I posted and didn't want to "expose" my public identity. I don't really care about that now. Statomatty is another nickname I had in high school and I use it for email and such. It seemed a unique Twitter handle...after all...there are soooooooo many out there. I'm still getting a handle on establishing an internet presence...and you've given me some real food for thought. I suppose The Flying Trapeezius doesn't scream "author blog," does it?

QUESTION: So I see there's a link to another blog called I, Crimsonstreak. It has two posts and the interface is ugly. What gives?

Dean from Lincoln, IA

ANSWER: About two years ago, I discovered the infinite power of internet marketing. I thought I could use that to get buzz for my book I, Crimsonstreak. So I made a Facebook profile and started a blog. Then I realized how much work that would actually be and gave up. Yeah, after two posts. I was also concerned that publishing excerpts of my novel could hurt its chances of being published. That's probably rubbish, but it was a concern at the time. I haven't deleted the blog yet because I keep thinking there's untapped potential there. It just takes a lot of time and effort that I'm devoting to my other writing endeavors and The Flying Trapeezius.

QUESTION: Why do you think you're a writer? I've never heard of you. Along those lines, I've never heard of any of the publications where your "stories" have appeared and the ones I have heard of are way past their prime.

Rachel from Cleveland, OH

ANSWER: Thanks for reading, Rachel. Obviously, if you're sending me questions, you've read something I've written. And if I've written something, then I'm a writer. Coincidentally, the fact that you haven't taken the time to read the excellent stories at A Thousand Faces or Wily Writers for Speculative Fiction isn't my fault.

QUESTION: I'm a prospective author seeking advice for my career. Since you've had so many stories published and you write like you know what you're talking about, you've obviously figured out the publishing business. Will you help me?

Balian from Jerusalem

ANSWER: Well, Balian, I've had six short stories published. That hardly qualifies me as an expert on publishing! I'd be happy to read a sample of your work and critique it if that would be helpful. No charge, of course.

QUESTION: Do you ever reuse character names? Like, do you get fixated on a name and it appears in a ton of your work?

Alan from Snakewater, MT

ANSWER: Oh, heck yeah. A few of my go-to names include Sid Lumpkin, which is a name I give to a slightly overweight, bureaucratic boss. He appears in one of my books and a short story. The SimCo company also appears in a couple of stories and is quickly becoming the "ACME" of my writing portfolio. In two of my stories, the company manufactures robots that have a tendency to malfunction. A character named Baron Gallant originally appeared in a story I wrote long ago in college; the name resurfaced in the superhero farce "The Bank Loan." In that story, Baron Gallant was a gruff, unappreciative, and stressed-out hero in need of a loan. So, yeah, sometimes I recycle for my own amusement.

QUESTION: Can I get a Flying Trapeezius hat? Preferably one with your picture on it? And could you autograph it?

Lois from Metropolis

ANSWER: The Flying Trapeezius does not currently sell merchandise. After all, three people read this website. However, if you're dying for a piece of Studicus, you can always order this stylish hat with the logo of my fantasy football team.

QUESTION: In your story "Absolution," what's the deal with the Notre Dame stuff? I mean, the family's name is O'Riley. You mention pubs and Catholicism and wakes and stuff. It's pretty obvious the family is Irish. Why bring the Fighting Irish into it? Don't you owe Notre Dame money now?

Rudy from South Bend, IN

ANSWER: RUDY! RUDY! RUDY! Thanks for writing. Sure, the O'Riley family is clearly of Irish descent in a kind of Bizarro Boston world, but I like to add sports references to my work. Odd as it sounds, making the family a bunch of Notre Dame fans helped me connect with them. You see, I tend to categorize people by their sports affiliations because I'm shallow like that. And I don't think Notre Dame can charge me for mentioning the university.

QUESTION: So what's the deal with the ending to "In Memoriam?" Is the guy dead or not? I need to know now! He faked his own death, didn't he? C'mon, man! Tell me!

Barry from Central City

ANSWER: Okay, Barry. Slow down! I'm afraid I can't tell you what happened at the end of "In Memoriam." It's completely up to the reader. Did Clinton Abernathy Warner fake his own death? It's possible. Is he still alive? It's possible. Did the crowd simply see what it wanted to see? That's another possibility. I really like that story because of the ambiguity of the ending. You can interpret it in several ways.

QUESTION: You've posted a long list of your current projects on your blog. If you had to pick five favorite short stories, what would they be?

Anna Marie from Caldecott County, MS

ANSWER: Wow. That's a tough one. I become pretty attached to my stories...I hate it when they get rejected. It truly feels sometimes like your child just got cut from the varsity basketball team. However, if I had to pick my favorites, they would be (in no particular order):

Swatch: Guardian of Time. With most members of the Time Rangers on vacation, Madame Timeweaver begrudgingly enlists Swatch to preside over a vital mission. Determined to prove his worth, the easily-distracted Swatch screws up the mission and scrambles to find a solution in the Temporal Mists.

In Memoriam: The loss of a firefighter stings a community; more so, after the man's double-life as the mysterious "Wraith" is revealed. Those who know the man mourn his passing during a memorial service and all witness a chilling sight that defies explanation.

A Wing and a Plan: A super-intelligent penguin declares war on humanity, citing the human race's mistreatment of penguin kind. He works to raise an army of penguin super soldiers, until the foibles of his own kind unwittingly befall him.

Should've Stuck with the Chicken Story: A TV news reporter and his trusty photographer scoff at the chicken wing shortage story they're forced to cover...until a strange outbreak of mindless, hulking creatures leads them to reconsider their opinion of the story.

I Took Over the World for This? Dementius has finally beaten the good guys and taken over the world. Instead of groveling at his feet, his subjects seem more concerned with border disputes, petitions for universal health care, and other petty concerns, leaving the ruler to wonder what compelled him to take over the world in the first place.

To the Infinity Room! A man named Mervin Garth collects items from alternate universes using a device called The Infinity Room. He cares so much about this collection that he sometimes neglects his dim-witted assistant Nathaniel. But when the boy goes missing, Mervin realizes that the priceless items in his collection have little true value and begins a desperate search through the infinite cosmos to find the boy.

Yes...that's six stories, not five. I've never been great at math...just ask my high school calculus teacher.

QUESTION: What's with the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum and wouldn't you be better served, I don't know, actually writing something instead of making up a stupid readers' mailbag?

Conrad from St. Louis, MO

ANSWER: The Reggie Miller Writing Continuum is an informal tool I use to track my daily writing progress. That's all it is. As for the question of whether I should've focused on something a little more substantive...well...yeah. I probably should have. I just didn't have the inspiration to write much tonight in terms of a story. At least I've written something.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Boom, baby!

I reached a milestone today. For the first time in the history of the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum, I reached the fabled Reggie at the Garden status! Earlier today, I was struggling to get past Tayshaun Prince. My efforts to write this afternoon produced only 450 words. But tonight, I had an unprecedented surge of creativity, pounding out a total of 5,400 words! That's more than an Average Night, more than Sold-Out Conseco!

I hate to congratulate myself...then again, I created the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum specifically for my writing endeavors, so who else would I congratulate?

BOOM, BABY! It felt kind of like this:

I now have a massive short story that's approaching novella length. You can bet there will be plenty of editing for this one!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I'm working on

It's a snowy, icy morning in Central Indiana...the perfect time to park myself in front of my keyboard and work on some writing projects. My plans for the day are pretty well set. Before I get knee-deep in the creative impulse, I thought I'd take a moment to share what I've been working on lately.

Later this month, my short story "Absolution" will appear on the Wily Writers of Speculative Fiction website. The story won't be everyone's cup of's a little darker in tone than many of my other stories. Still, it'll be nice to have it published. It's one of those things that just kind of fell into place. Wily Writers uses themes for its reading periods...and the theme for February happened to be "Vigilantes." I took one of my non-superhero stories and sent it in. The neat thing about the website is that it does both a text-based and audio version of each story. So not only will readers get to read "Absolution," they'll also get to hear it if they so choose.

I have several short stories out on submission right now. It will likely be a little while before I hear about an acceptance or rejection because most of the deadlines actually fall in March. It varies by editor, but unless the reader absolutely hates your story from the get-go, you usually won't know until after the submission deadline if your story makes it.

Here's a look at the stories currently in Submission Purgatory:

Sparky Save the World (5,700 words). This is my first attempt at a zombie story. I'm not a very good horror writer (explanation here), but I thought I'd give it a whirl. It's not really a horror story anyway. The tale revolves around a border protection agent whose bomb-sniffing "dog" is actually his former partner James Sparkowich, a man who was turned into an UNDEAD (UNnaturally DE-evolved Anthropological Degenerate) and then trained to seek out explosive materials and biological agents at our nation's ports. When confronted with a massive, potentially catastrophic shipment of weapons, the UNDEAD nicknamed "Sparky" proves his ultimate worth. This story was submitted to an anthology called "Live and Let Undead," which is supposed to be about how to integrate zombies into daily life.

Last Stand on Cyclonus Seven (7,200 words). I submitted this story for an anthology called "Gods of Justice." It's a superhero-themed story collection, which is right in my wheelhouse. The summary: Cyclonus Seven was just an orange blot on the star chart; an easily-skipped stopover on the way to Earth. But when an overwhelming army storms the planet, a single guardian knows the truth: if Cyclonus Seven falls, Earth follows suit. Fifty-two heroes arrive to answer the distress call. They are greatly outnumbered, hopelessly fractured, and desperately low on time. But wave after wave, fallen comrade after fallen comrade, they fight knowing that victory means sacrifice and death. Everyone would remember Cyclonus Seven. And no one would forget the last stand.

Baz Ramen and His Great Intergalactic Band (5,800 words). This is an odd story told in a "Behind the Music" fashion. It details the rise and fall of the galaxy's most popular band. I honestly have no idea where the inspiration for this story came from and it's nearly impossible to fit it into a specific genre. I'm fond of the tale...I just don't know where it fits. That's why I submitted it to an anthology called "Liminality," which is looking for short fiction that's science fiction/fantasy but crosses into other genres and doesn't fit neatly into a specific niche. If a story about an intergalactic band that falls from grace after being unwittingly used as hitmen for a nefarious crime figure doesn't meet that description, I don't know what does!

Gus and Mariel (4,900 words). The idea for this one started off as "I'm going to write a Godzilla story from the perspective of Godzilla!" I came up with a giant, building-size puffin named Gus who just wanted to be left alone. The original title, in fact, was "Leave Gus Alone." But as I wrote the story, it turned into this cute little tale about a puffin who falls in love with another bird and then goes on a cross-country quest to find her after her sudden, unexpected departure. Of course, Gus steps into radioactive goo and grows to epic proportions, leaving an accidental trail of destruction across the country as he tries to find his lady love. I submitted this one to an anthology called "Attack of the 50FT Creature," which is a collection of stories about large creatures who wreak havoc on the world. When I saw the antho was accepting submissions, I thought, "Gee, I just happen to have a giant creature story sitting on my hard drive."

Grisham's Council (6,200 words). I submitted this story for an anthology called "Beta City." It's a collection of superhero stories set in an already-defined universe. This presented a few unique challenges because there was quite a bit of background info to play with...the book is actually a sequel to another anthology. It wasn't restrictive in the least, but I needed to do a little homework to make sure my story fit into the universe. The gist of the anthology is that an alien force is invading earth. The bad guys specifically target Beta City, which is a haven for superpowered beings. I came up with an antihero named Grisham. He's a "good guy" who's rough around the edges. Upset with the heroes' lack of urgency against the alien threat, he strikes it out on his own and fights the bad guys on his own terms until he comes to realize that he really can't do it by himself.

Family Tradition (3,000 words). A young man recounts his family's futile superhero legacy during a battle with the villain responsible for his father's death. Dressed as the armored hero "CLANK," he tries to save the city of Cincinnati while coming to terms with his embarrassing family tradition.

To the Infinity Room! (5,700 words) I'm proud of this story, which is about a man named Mervin Garth who collects items from alternate universes using a device called The Infinity Room. He cares so much about this collection that he sometimes neglects his dim-witted assistant Nathaniel. But when the boy goes missing, Mervin realizes that the priceless items in his collection have little true value and begins a desperate search through the infinite cosmos to find the boy. I submitted this one to an anthology called "Through the Wormhole," which is described as "whacked out tales" from the edge of science fiction and fantasy.

So I'm waiting for a response on those stories. Certainly, not every one will make it, but I'm hopeful one or two will be accepted. That would put me right on my average acceptance rate, which is currently 28.5%.

In the last couple of weeks, I've also been working on some new projects. I've mentioned most of them during my frequent Reggie Miller Writing Continuum updates. But here's a quick roundup of my latest and greatest projects:

SimCo Technical Support (4,700 words). A bored, beleaguered tech support worker named Carl discovers a dangerous flaw in his company's new flagship series of robotic servants. As customers flood the call center with problems, Carl tries to get the attention of corporate leaders. But no one is willing to listen to his concerns until an apparent robot revolt begins to take hold in a large city.

The Memory Pools (3,000 words). On the planet Garland IV, every native must travel to the Memory Pools; it is a planetary birthright. But when Garland leaders discover the pools have unique regenerative powers that other cultures will pay any amount to possess, the world's most precious resource goes up for sale. And the cost of greed couldn't rise any higher.

And a God Could Finally Cry (1,500 words). File this one under the "Most Melodramatic Title Ever" category. One of my shorter works, this is a powerful story about an invincible superman who leaves earth after his beloved dies at the hands of his arch-nemesis. Lost and broken, he journeys toward the far reaches of the universe and ends up on a planetary paradise. There, he loses himself and starts anew...until remnants of his former life return and force him to remember his long-forgotten pain.

And the World Stopped (work in progress, word count undetermined). In a single, unexplained cataclysmic event, all superpowered heroes and villains suddenly lose their special abilities. As heroes fall from the sky and helpless villains turn themselves in to authorities, a single-minded mystery man named Night Wasp stalks the truth.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update

I seem to be stuck on a pace of about 1,200 words, because that's what I finished with again tonight! My current work in progress is now up to about 3,300 words. I had imagined the piece going about 5,000 words, but the story is growing in scope and character, so I'm thinking this may end up being a slightly longer story.

I have a character in it now that I'm really enjoying...kind of an old-school mystery man stuck in modern times. There's no time travel involved's just the vibe I'm getting from the character. And to think the character wasn't even in the original outline of the story! Sometimes these things just end up going on a path you don't expect!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update

A truncated but productive night. I only wrote for an hour tonight, but produced more than 1,200 words for a new short story. This is another piece of superhero fic about what happens after a cataclysmic event strips all heroes of their powers.

If I weren't so tired, I think I could've approached Reggie at the Garden production, a mark I have yet to achieve in a single day. Still, fairly productive for an hour.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Latest Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update

It was by no means a banner night. I survived Ice-Frost-mageddon, but only managed to pound out a shade under 900 words. Even if I counted my blog post, I'd still barely crack the 1,200 word mark. I hope tomorrow provides for more fertile writing.


One thing every writer must learn is that rejection lurks around every corner. Even if you think you've crafted the Greatest Story Ever, odds are the person reading it will not agree. They will likely look at your story, compare it to the 3,000 others they've read that week, and then send out a nice, simple form rejection.

The same goes for query letters. Sure, your book idea is a can't-miss-blockbuster-bestseller! But thousands of other writers believe the same thing about their work and have also sent their query letter to the same agent. The form rejection becomes much easier to use when agents are buried beneath a deluge of submissions. Then again, some may not even bother to reply at all, a despicable practice that leaves writers stranded in purgatory: "Did my email get sent to their spam folder?"; "Should I query since I haven't heard back in two months?"; or "Did they simply not like it?"

Over the past eight months, I've sent out 21 separate submissions for short stories. The markets have varied from small to pro. Of these 21 submissions, six stories have been accepted. That's a batting average of .285, certainly not Cooperstown numbers, but good enough to hang around as a utility player for a while. I would love love love for my acceptance rate to be higher, but that's tough. Even the smallest publications get hundreds of submissions that vary greatly in quality...and these markets typically offer token or no compensation! When it gets to the bigger publications, competition gets even tougher.

So yeah, I've had 15 rejections and six acceptances. That's a landslide in favor of rejections.

However, let's put it this way. If I wrote a hundred different stories and failed to send out a single submission, what's my batting average then? That's a big oh-fer; a failure percentage of 100%. I'd take 28.5% success over 100% failure any day.

That's because every story you don't send is an automatic rejection.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reggie Miller Writing Continuum Update 1/31

A very dense and complicated short story brings me more than 1,500 words (but just barely!). This one will be an absolute BEAST to edit!

Still, thanks to a strong third quarter, I ended up putting in an "Average Night!"