And Then That Castle Sank into the Swamp

Bodiam Castle (Photo credit: Mark Seton CC)

I feel like the king from Monty Python who kept building castles in a swamp. The first one sank, so he built a second. That one sank. He built a third, which burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp.

But the fourth one stood up.

I think I’ve been going in the wrong direction with Featherfolk. I recently wrote a few flash fiction pieces and pared them down to their essence so they could squeeze into the 150 word limit. (Like playing limbo: “How low can you go? How low can you go?”)

Those experiences helped me realize I’m losing the essence of the story I really want to tell in Featherfolk. It’s getting buried. I want to pull it out into the light where it can shine. I still love it and think it’s an important story.

This of course will require starting over. Again. I’ve brainstormed and jotted notes and mulled it over for a week or so. My fingers want to get typing, but now I’m jittery.

Should I start it yet? Should I wait until I pin down all the details?

If I don’t lay all the groundwork, will it just sink into the swamp again?

Is that why it sank before–because I started writing too early?

Even if I lay all the groundwork, will it sink anyway?

Jitter jitter jitter.

What do you do when you begin a new draft/new project? How much do you plot and plan and write notes? What’s your process? I need some advice here.

Happy Yarning!

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150 Words is a Small Sandbox

First, a moment of silence for the lives lost in the attack on the Twin Towers 14 years ago.

I was in elementary school. I still have an irrational fear every time an airplane flies loudly over that it will fall from the sky and smash into my dwelling.

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I’ve been wrestling with my entries for Leading Edge Magazine’s flash fiction contest. The word limit: 150.

It’s like trying to build a castle in a tiny desk-top zen garden. *Frantically tears out hair.*

From my experiences so far, I have three tips for tackling radically short stories.

1) Play to tropes

The more the reader can assume about the setting or characters, the better. Think of how much information these two words conjure up: “glass slippers.” Or these: “starship bridge.”

2) Cool vs. essential

There is only room for one plot. Leave out everything tangential. This is not the place for exploring characters deeply. I love cool details. I love fleshing out a setting. This is not the place. Flash fiction is all about paring down to the essence of a story. If your story has a cool essence, it’ll be enough.

3) It’s all about the punchline

The last line has so much power! Use the final line to put a twist on everything that came before, or to cement it in a tear-jerking way. Make your reader want to read it again with that punchline ringing in his or her head.

There’s my three cents on the topic.

Happy Yarning!

My Votes Are In. How About Yours?

There’s still time to read this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz finalists and vote for your favorites. Each finalist is under 1000 words. Several are half that length or less. So put your feet up and head on over to http://lit.mormonartist.net! Voting ends on June 6th.

With the move, I’ve been too busy to finish up Baby’s new garb. But she will be wearing it this weekend whether the hems are finished or not.

Happy Yarning.

“Should Have Prayed For a Canoe”

You can now read my flash fiction story “Should Have Prayed For a Canoe” on the Mormon Lit Blitz page!

Vote for your favorite finalists between June 1st and 5th. I hope I make it into your top four!

Happy Yarning.

Flash Fiction Finalist

My 990-word story, “Should Have Prayed For a Canoe,” made it into the top twelve in this year’s Mormon Lit Blitz!

I first heard the news shouted at me from a speeding car by my good friend Annaliese Lemmon, whose piece, “Disability, Death, or Other Circumstance,” is also a finalist. (Though it took my brain a few minutes to figure out why what she shouted sounded like “Congratulations,” rather than a more conventional “Hi.”)

You can read my piece, Annaliese’s, and the other ten as they are posted on the Mormon Lit Blitz page over the next two weeks. Mine goes live Friday, May 29th. Annaliese’s will be up on Monday, May 25th. After reading all the finalists, be sure to cast your votes for the Grand Winner.

I am elated and honored to be a finalist in this contest. May the best work win!

Happy Yarning.

Fun with Flash Fiction

My friend Annaliese Lemmon recently introduced me to flash fiction and this wonderful thing called Daily Science Fiction.

Flash fiction is a subset of short story with a very low word count. Depending on whose submission guidelines you check, flash fiction pieces range from no longer than 1,500 words to no longer than 300 words. In any case, they’re short.

I’ve long considered myself a novelist (and not a short story writer), because I love to read novels (and I didn’t think I liked short stories). It turns out I hadn’t been exposed to the right short stories yet.

In my time as a volunteer slush pile reader for Leading Edge Magazine, and from reading some of Annaliese’s short fiction work, I discovered that I like well-crafted sci-fi and fantasy stories–no matter the length.

I love that authors can narrate a few impactful scenes (or just one) and in doing so actually tell a vast narrative.

It’s like poetry.

Daily Science Fiction is an online magazine that publishes one sci-fi or fantasy flash fiction story 5 days a week. They also sell anthologies of the work they’ve published. Go check out their archives. Maybe you’ll love flash fiction, too.

Also, check out Annaliese’s blog! Two of her short stories are available as ebooks.

Happy Yarning!