I’m always on a quest to get to know my readers better, so today I’d like to hear from you:
Do you read primarily fiction or non-fiction? Which do you prefer reading? Which do you prefer to write?
Answer in the comments below and feel free to ask me a question of your own.
While I’ve been blogging for years, over the last year or so I’ve become more focused on non-fiction than ever before. This is not because I’ve found some new passion for it. It’s because it’s easier to get paid for non-fiction than it is to get paid for fiction, and I very much want to make a living. So I’ve shifted my focus to include more non-fiction. And I’ve actually gotten paid for a few articles, inspiring me to write more–after all, it’s not like I’m getting paid for my short stories yet.
But while non-fiction is an easier way to make a living off what I love doing–writing–it’s important to me that I keep this work balanced with my fiction, the stuff I’m truly passionate about. I might not be getting paid for it now, but I’m confident that someday I will, as long as I keep working at it. I also know that if I let my fiction fall by the wayside, it won’t be long before I’m depressed.
So how do I balance my non-fiction work with my fiction work? I always have a couple projects of both kinds going on, and I try to work on one of each every day. Other days I’ll decide to focus purely on one or the other. Many days I’ll do some non-fiction work in a notebook at school or during my commute home, and then focus on the fiction when I get home. How I do it from day to day varies, but I try to make sure that every week my accomplishments are on an even keel in both fiction and non-fiction.
This year I’ve really struggled with this balance as I try to bring non-fiction into focus, but my list of goals for next year already has a good balance of fiction and non-fiction. Finding the right balance is a process and I’m sure I’ll get better at it year after year. Over the last couple years I’ve figured out how much I can reasonably expect myself to do in one year–now I just have to find a way to balance my fiction work with my non-fiction work. While it’s kind of terrifying because I’m about to finish school and try to make it in the working world, it’s also wonderful. I’ve come a long way in the last couple of years and I’m incredibly proud of myself.
If you’re trying to balance non-fiction work with fiction work, take a good hard look at the lists of goals you’ve created for the last few months. Go through all your to-do lists and mark each item as fiction or non-fiction work. That will give you an idea of what you’ve accomplished in both fiction and non-fiction this year and allow you to see where the imbalances might be. Once you’re aware of this, it will be easier to set goals for next year that allow you to balance the two.
Friday’s post will be all about goal setting and creating that balance for the year ahead, so stay tuned.
Since I’ve spent the last the weeks on a non-fiction kick, and more importantly since my entire database of markets was wiped off my computer, this week’s markets are all for fiction. Today’s markets are new and don’t pay much, but they caught my eye for varying reasons.
The Epiphanist pays $.02 per word up to 8,000 words for short fiction. They also accept serial fiction with no stated word limit. What about this magazine caught my eye? I love the name and upon reaching the site, the pictures are breathtaking. They’re not going to make you rich, but wouldn’t it be nice to see your work beautifully illustrated?
Plunge Magazine caught my eye because they only accept stories involving queer women. They can only pay $15 for short stories of up to 5,000 words, but it’s the only magazine themed around queer women that I know of. Go team.
TM Magazine I checked this one out because its name seemed odd to me, and discovered that they pay $0.05 per word for both short stories and novellas up to 60, 000 words. What’s the catch? No matter what you’re sending them, they want a pretty complete submission package.
Metro Moms: Metro Fiction is a fiction extension of Metro Moms, a site I’d already come across in my web adventures. On this trip I discovered that they’ll pay you $25 for a short story of 900-1100 words that will appeal to its large audience of women. They accept all kinds of genres.
If you think you’ve run out of markets, never fear–magazines go up and down all the time. By the time you’ve been through all the markets you knew, there will be half a dozen new ones springing up. Maybe even more.
Have you found any other interesting markets lately? Share them in the comments.
Many of us dream of writing for a living. Some of us have gotten paid for our work before, some of us haven’t. Some of us write during our day jobs. Others are lucky enough to have writing as their day job.
Right now, I’m sitting somewhere in the middle. I spend a lot of time working on assignments for other people: school, Penumbra and a couple things in the works that I don’t really want to talk about yet. Each of these assignments carves hours at a time out of my schedule. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve also spent hours of each day looking for writing jobs and examining markets.
A few days ago, I got an email from the lovely folks over at WriYe saying that they missed me and updating me on what’s going on there. I realized with some guilt that I’d neglected the site since late last year and went over there to pop my head in. After checking a few threads and making my guilty online confession and a list of my goals for the year, I stumbled upon a site called 750 words.
The idea behind 750words.com is that everyone should write three pages, or 750 words, a day to clear their heads. Originally intended to be a journalling tool, the website has a simple text editor where you can write, distraction free. The word counter sits in the bottom right hand corner, and when you hit 750 words, the counter turns from red to green. If you manage to write 750 words on this website several days in a row, you can get all kinds of badges which I’m sure will only increase with time.
This tool is great for any writer, especially the one who finds themselves spending all their time working on writing for other people. Your 750 words can be a journal entry, a character exercise, a synopsis for your novel, or anything else you want it to be. I’ve decided that only my most personal writing–my own sparse journalling mixed with character journals and probably a few exercises in flash fiction–is to be done on the 750 Words website. Since I’ve also set it up so that the website will email me reminders every day, I’ve put myself in an ideal position to write for myself every day.
Money and fame can often cloud our heads. We might spend seventy hours a week on a project that is earning us lots of money and forget to write for ourselves. Forgetting to write for ourselves can only lead to dissatisfaction with life and failure to meet the goals we set for ourselves. It’s important to remind ourselves every day that we got into this because we love to write, and that our long term goals of being novelists are just as important as the short-term goal of paying the bills.
Tonight, I’m going to use 750words.com to write a synopsis for my paranormal romance/fantasy story, tentatively named Birth of a Vampire. I’m planning to shop Birth of a Vampire around to the ebook publishers because of its awkward length at a little bit over 10, 000 words. I’ve been sitting on a two-paragraph rough draft of a synopsis for three weeks and it’s time to cut the crap. I need to make sure I honour my fiction as much as my non-fiction, even though non-fiction is more likely to pay the bills in the near future.
Always remember to write for yourself. Write because you love writing. Paying the bills, important as it might be, needs to be balanced with doing what you love.
Do you ever forget to write for yourself?
Lately I’ve been working on a lot of background stuff for Moonshadow’s Guardian, also known as my Novel of a Thousand Drafts. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring characters’ pasts and writing pieces in side characters’ point of view. Really, it’s all just procrastination because I’m sick of editing this darn novel. But I have enjoyed it, and I’ve worked with a lot of interesting themes. In particular, I’ve been developing the relationship between one of my main characters and his bastard son–who I only found out existed fairly recently.
Working on their relationship has taught me quite a bit about the character in question. I’ve learned that he spent almost two years with Calder’s mother before she left him because he couldn’t marry her. It wasn’t really his decision, it was the king’s–his brothers’–decision, but she left him for it anyway and turned to the bottle for comfort. He’s got a bit of a guilt complex about it, and in the set of stories I’m working on now, he’s finally convinced Jacob to let him recognize his son.
The best part? I’m writing short stories that I might be able to sell while fleshing out my characters for the novel. This way, I’m able to work towards two goals at once: my goal to write–and submit–more short fiction, and my goal to have MG ready for submission by the end of the year.
Today’s prompt came from the story I started yesterday:
Write a scene in which a young boy is reunited with his father after a tragedy only to discover that his father is blind.
The tragedy can be anything you choose–a war, an earth quake, a hurricane–just have some fun with it. If you can use characters from one of your novels for this story, do so. If not, make up some new ones and have fun getting acquainted.
Please post the first sentence of your response in the comments.
On Co-Writing a Novel
When my good friend, David Pilling, and I decided to write a novel together we had no idea where to start. We had both written plenty of stuff individually, but how do you coordinate a dual effort?
Before we could think of the actual story, we had to decide how we would both contribute to a book without it being disjointed and difficult to read. After a few decent ales and a good chat, we came up with the idea of a story with two main protagonists who are born on opposite sides of a world, have never met, but are inexorably drawn to each other, for reasons we were yet to think of!
The plan seemed perfect because it meant we had two main characters, each with a life, enemies, friends, culture, religion, who didn’t meet until the end of the book. I would write about one character and David would write about the other. And so The Best Weapon flickered into life.
Our plan of action turned out to be the first step towards a story line and, over a few more ales, we thrashed out a rough outline of the synopsis. Then, feeling rather excited and eager to get started, we both went home to start work on our first chapter. A few days later we were reading each other’s first efforts. It was good to see the characters we had ranted about in the pub come to.
The great thing about co-writing is that you have instant feedback on everything you write, but to take full advantage of this you absolutely have to be completely honest with each other. It is really important that you point something out which you don’t think works and are equally happy to take criticism. If you’re working with the right person, it’ll work well.
We are both influenced by the same authors, Bernard Cornwall, Robert E Howard, Joe Abercrombie and Rafael Sabatini to name a few, and our writing styles are similar. We found that what we had written fitted together fairly seamlessly and those few close friends and family who read the first couple of chapters couldn’t tell who had written what or where I stopped and he started. We took that as a good sign.
Over the following six months, we would meet around twice a week and talk about the story. We would discuss ideas for plot-changes and developments, often getting quite heated in our debates. These discussions were really important. Being able to bounce ideas off one another meant that we could develop them into some thing which we felt was really exciting.
On a personal note, I have learned a lot from working with someone who has a bit more writing experience and a much better education (he spent a lot of time correcting me spelling!) and now I have more confidence to write on my own.
If I had any advice for anyone thinking of co-writing a book, it would be to be completely honest with each other from the start. Don’t be afraid to criticise or suggest improvements about your co-writer’s work, it is all about the two of you coming up with the best story you can by using the best of both your skills. Most of all, you should really enjoy writing together because the more you enjoy writing it, the more someone else will enjoy reading it…
Martin Bolton was born in Cornwall in 1979 and now lives and works in Bristol.
Previously he concentrated on his artwork and writing small pieces of nonsense for the
amusement of his friends, before deciding to do some serious creative writing. His first published
work, a full length novel co-written with David Pilling, is The Best Weapon, is due to be released
by Musa Publishing on 02 March 2012..
His work is inspired by authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Robert E Howard, Bernard
Cornwell and Iain M. Banks.
Most of my short stories–the ones that have been actual stories, not just free writes for fun–clock in somewhere between 6, 000 words and 10, 000 words. This year one of my goals has been to try to write shorter short fiction. This is mostly for selfish reasons, namely that there are a lot more markets for stories of under 3, 000 words than there are for stories in the range I usually work in.
Anyway. The motives aren’t the important part. What is important is the theory I’m using to write these shorter stories. The short stories I’ve written all encompassed multiple days. In fact, it was crucial to their plot that they encompass multiple days. One story I’ve been shopping around forever–another rejection today, but it’ll be back on the market in another two–is about the three trials a girl must overcome to become priestess. Of course, each of these trials takes up a day, and another day is taken up earlier on by a cleansing ritual. That story simply wouldn’t fit into 3, 000 words.
So, in order to write shorter fiction, I decided I needed to make the stories shorter. I needed to focus on one individual moment, maybe a whole day, instead of multiple days. I have a list of prompts written out specifically for the Write One Submit One challenge I’m doing over at the Absolute Write Water Cooler (someday they’ll get their own post, but for now I’m too lazy to even find the link), each one focusing on an individual moment. Today’s prompt–as well as many of the other prompts you will see this year–is one of those.
To honour the idea of writing short fiction, I am capping this at 1, 000 words. Of course, it’s totally arbitrary and it’s really up to you what you do with it, but I really suggest sticking with the limit. Can you write a complete story–it only has to be a moment, but there has to be a coherent beginning, middle and end–in less than 1, 000 words? Well, it’s about time you found out.
Today’s prompt is:
A man comes home from a long day of work to find that his wife has only set out dinner for one person… and that she wants a divorce.
Over the last week of December and the first week of January, we worked on fairly long short stories. Now it’s time to talk about editing.
Editing a short story is a much less painful process than editing a novel. It’s a shorter process, and if you go through each of these steps you can make it a lot easier for yourself. I recommend taking a day or two away from your short story before you start editing it. You don’t want to stay away a long time. Particularly if your end goal is to make money, it’s a good idea to have several of these on the market at one time.
When I edit a short story, I usually follow these steps:
1. Proofread on the computer. Sure, you don’t see all your mistakes on the computer, but spelling and grammar aren’t necessarily the most important things to focus on at first. It’s a good idea to reread it on a computer first and edit anything that stands out to you. If you can, read it somewhere other than where you wrote it. Your brain will automatically pay attention because of the new surroundings, and that should be enough for you to see the worst grammatical mistakes. If you can already see a flaw in the structure of your story, you can try to fix it now. If not, move on to the next step as soon as you’ve proofread your work.
2. Get feedback. Some writers go through several edits of their work before anybody looks at it, and I’ve always done that with longer works. With short stories, I find that getting feedback right away is the best. I see stories as movies in my head, and most of the time I don’t notice when it doesn’t look quite as nice on paper. There are a lot of critique groups out there and forums where you can look for a long term critique partner or beta reader. Feedback is a great thing to have.
3. Print it out. Armed with the feedback that you’ve gotten, look at your story again, this time on paper. Make a note about anything you find awkward either on the margin or on the back of the page. Cross out sentences you don’t like. Add details you left out because the image is so clear in your head. Proofread. You can either do this in one really long reading, or you can read it a few times, each time with a different goals. I like to take the intense, one read approach to my short stories. After you’ve gone through it, list the important changes you need to make on the back of the last page.
4. Edit your story. This is the long part. While it takes only a couple of minutes to notice most of the errors on any given page, it can take a while to fix them if they’re structural. Of course you can always get stuck looking for the right word too. Either way, it has to be done. Armed with your annotated story, go into your word processor and start editing. Make all the changes you’ve already noted, but take your time to read through it and fix anything new you notice. While the proofread on the computer was just a skimming to make sure it wasn’t awful, this is an edit to try to make it good.
How long this part of the process takes depends on two factors: how long the story is, and how badly it’s messed up. If you’ve written a ten thousand word story, it’s probably going to take longer to edit than a two thousand word story. However, if your ten thousand word story is relatively clean grammatically and sound structurally, but the two thousand word story is just a mess, the shorter story might take longer to edit. No matter how long it takes you to edit, don’t forget to reward yourself after you’ve done it.
5. Get more feedback. Now that you think you’ve got an awesome story, it’s time to send it back out into the world. Get more than one opinion if you can. If you’re lucky, people will notice improvements and they’ll only be pointing out grammar issues and spelling errors. Odds are that your readers will still see something that throws them off, but that’s okay. That just means it’s time to start the process again.
How many times should you go through this process? Well, that depends on how much experience you have as a writer, and it also depends on the story itself. Some stories take a long time to really become what you’ve envisioned. Other stories come together almost fully formed and only need the most superficial polish. Only you can know when it’s time to send a short story out into the world.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking about the process of finding feedback, critiquing etiquette, and the submission process.
How do you usually edit a short story?
While I am hoping to use several of these prompts to create standalone flash fiction, writing responses to these prompts from the PoV of one of my novel characters is a really good way to build character. Today I’ve got not only a prompt for you, but a small response to it that I wrote from the PoV (point of view, for those of you who don’t know) of Riana, the main character in Moonshadow’s Guardian.
It’s been thousands of years since I protected Eternia, but I will never forgive myself for failing her.
She was just a little girl the first time we met. I remember her cute smile, her little head all covered in long black hair like a curtain. I remember her parents explaining the politics to me, the threats that made them so afraid for their daughter that they summoned me.
It never occurred to any of us that she would be the murderer.
I remember going to magic lessons with her. She was so powerful that when she was being trained in offensive magic we took her out into the woods, away from anyone she could hurt. I was so proud of her, it was almost like she was my own daughter. She was almost as powerful as me. Sometimes I wondered why they’d summoned me in the first place.
I knew she was powerful, but I had no idea what she was capable of. I spent too much time in the pubs pursuing human lovers. I never saw the darkness growing inside of her heart.
I still don’t know what drove her to it. Nobody ever explained to me. With all the blood, all the bodies she left behind, I knew I’d failed her. I knew that I missed something, that I could have stopped it. Normal girls don’t kill all the guests at their wedding. I knew I failed, but nobody told me how. They just stuck her in limbo and sent me Home to contemplate my sins. I wish I knew.
I still dream about Eternia. I don’t think it will ever stop, not until I know what happened to make her that way.