So what am I going to write? Short stories, novels, or what?

Up to this point in my writing career (such as it is), I’ve only written short fiction. Why?

First, and probably the primary reason, is the traditional advice that writers should start with short stories before they write novels. Whether this holds as true today as it once did, I’m not sure.

Second, I’ve never had an idea that I considered good enough for a novel. Then again, my ideas tend to be puzzle pieces — they never make a picture on their own, but must be joined with other pieces. Perhaps if I took one of my puzzle pieces and took the time to hunt down its friends, I’d prove to myself that I am capable of coming up with novel ideas.

Third, there’s the issue of time. I’ve mentioned that I still work a full-time job, which leaves me little time to write. Short stories are, well, short. A shorter, less costly investment.

But now I find myself questioning my path. I did a Google search on the topic to see what others had to say, and this led to more questions. Should I stick with the short stuff until I feel like I’m ready? Is the traditional way still the best way? Or should I try something new? Would breaking tradition unlock my potential and my future?

Hell if I know. Let’s list this out.

Why should I write novels instead of short stories?

  • My stories tend to go on long. Perhaps their core ideas aren’t enough for novels, but I think the way I write is reminiscent of long form.

  • I think I may have more of a natural instinct for longer work. I have no actual evidence of this. Just a feeling.

  • It is my final goal. Short stories are fun and all, but it’s always been about eventually working my way up to novels. Why delay the inevitable?

  • It is what I prefer to read. Ironic, perhaps, considering how I complain about lacking time, but I’ve always preferred having time to invest emotion in the fiction I consume. I like television series over movies, for instance. I prefer novels to short stories, though not necessarily a series to standalone novels. That’s a topic for another day.

  • Short fiction and long fiction are different markets, and they involve different skills. Working on short stories will not necessarily make my future novels better.

Why should I write short stories instead of novels?

  • Short and long fiction may not share all the same skills, but there is some overlap. I still need to break off the rust from the writer’s block, so short form may be good for practice.

  • Writing short fiction may make it easier to build readership. As I’ve only been published a few times (two of those only being the flashiest of flash fiction), I’m still an unknown. Especially since I’m thinking of switching the name I write under. I need readers who know me.

  • Short fiction allows for more experimental stuff. I may not be a groundbreaking pioneer, or some kind of writing rebel, but the flexibility does appeal to me in case I need it.

  • As I already mentioned, time. It always comes down to time with me. Time and money (but money is not part of this discussion).

So, I still have no answer. For now, as I have this story I’m editing, I suppose I’ll stick with the status quo.

But in the future? Who knows? Maybe I can do both at the same time. I’ve never worked on multiple projects. Perhaps it would be enough to challenge me.


Attack of the Day Job!

*flops bonelessly onto the bed, preferring sleep to writing a post, but damn it, he has an obligation to his legions*

I have a very full week at my job. My hours can be pretty funky, too, so this doesn’t leave me a lot of free time, at least not evenly distributed across the week. Two hours here, ten hours there, and obviously not all of that is used for writing. Not seeing anything close to a good stretch of time until Thursday afternoon.

And no, I’m not writing this post to complain about my schedule. I’m being thoughtful here, you cretins. *sips his tea and adjusts his monocle*

Time is one of my obsessions. I covet it. Some might say I am stingy about sharing it, and they would be right. Now that I am being creative again, I monitor my time spent even more closely (though I’m slipping a bit by playing more games than I should).

I go to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and I wonder how other authors and creative types seem to have so much time to devote to them. If I dutifully read every tweet, status, and post, and also tried to interact with them in some meaningful way with comments and whatnot, I’d have no time for anything else. I want to have as much time as they do! And I’ll do anything to get it. I mean, within reason.

*hides his laser revolver and his notebook, which is labeled “Time Robbing Plans”, under the bed before any of you notice*

Then it occurred to me: wait a minute, self, these people can be creative and social because it is their full-time jobs to do so! They don’t get up before the sun (what a lazy piece of crap, getting up to shine only when it feels like it) and work a full day, sometimes before most people even think about whether to have the wrap or the burger for lunch and decide instead on the tuna salad pizza. So don’t be so hard on yourself, self, if your social networking efforts seem paltry by comparison. You’re still an okay guy! Just very busy.

Maybe if I can make a living on my writing, I can be a better networker. If I become a better networker, maybe I can make a living on my writing. *follows some footprints, not yet realizing they are going in a circle*

Anyway, that’s it. Not the most interesting post, maybe, but I don’t have the time or energy for more this time. Maybe next time I’ll come up with something ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute.

Socially Awkward Guide to Meeting Someone New

There are about seven billion humans on the planet. Chances are you’ll have to meet someone once in awhile. If only the apes would hurry up and rise against us, thinning our numbers, maybe I could finally avoid encountering strangers ever again.

A guy can dream. I’ll take a tapir uprising if that’s all that’s available. Just get it done.

Anyway, until that happens, you’d best learn the right way to introduce yourself. Read on and be amazed. Or slightly impressed. Or confused. I’ll let you choose.

So, you’re meeting someone new. Maybe someone is introducing you to each other at a party you’ve been dragged to, or it’s a new face at work and you have managed to avoid them most of the day until a shared lunch break. What to do, what to do? Do this.

Keep your hands at your sides and hope the person doesn’t go in for a handshake.

It seems like the older I get, the more likely it is that the people I meet are the handshaking type. I’ll probably have to shake everyone’s hand once I’m a senior, even people I know. That’s going to suck. Maybe I can lose my hands before then and get them replaced with lobster claws like Dr. Zoidberg. Anyway, maybe you’ll get lucky and manage to avoid touching a stranger if you just don’t move your arms.

Dr. Zoidberg

Hey, as long as I’m modeling myself after this fine gentleman, maybe i should get an ink sac installed, as well. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crap, they’re reaching out to you. The expectation. The pressure. Fine, shake the person’s hand, but make it as unpleasant for them as you can.

How can they expect a firm handshake when they come at you like that? A guy needs time to prepare! Just put your hand in his and let him do all the work. Don’t squeeze, don’t pump. Work up some defensive palm sweat. It will be over soon. Oh, and if they’re a “hugger,” throw down a smoke bomb and run. There’s something wrong with people who hug strangers.

When the awkward silence falls, and it will, keep it going as long as you can and ruin all attempts at small talk.

Don’t ask question. Don’t you dare. It’s your job to minimize chatter until you can escape. Aim for monosyllabic answers, grunts, and vague hand gestures. Forget anything interesting about yourself and share the boring and generic stuff. Don’t worry, it’s almost over. Light at the end of the tunnel and all that.

Forget the person’s name and face as soon as they are gone.

You’ll probably never see him again, so don’t waste brain power memorizing any of his details. Congratulate yourself on making it to the end of the ordeal. Treat yourself to a piece of cake. Oh, hell, have two, they’re small.

Encounter the person again in the future and make it obvious that you’re forgotten everything about him.


Shape of the Shifter: The Tortoise’s Revenge

*enters the room riding a Galapagos tortoise because he is stylin’ and in no hurry*

Walter Rothschild on Rotumah, a Galapagos tort...

Just like this, but I’m wearing a fez instead of a top hat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey, nice to see you guys. You good? Any problems you want to talk about? I’m a good listener.

Not much of a talker, though, which is the key point of this post. My current shape is…

*knocks on the tortoise’s shell*

A kangaroo! No, it’s a tortoise. What’s the first thing you think about when you think of a tortoise? If you said “great on the dance floor,” then you are right, but off-topic. Let’s talk about the shell instead.

A tortoise is a good shape for the social me. He can be out and about when it suits him. When it doesn’t, zip, into the shell he goes. Lately, I feel myself withdrawing, seeking that safety. It’s actually more common than the opposite. I’d think all my talk about social awkwardness would make that obvious.

But there is good news for this little tortoise. A blog is like being able to yell out to the world without having to direct it at anyone in particular. Imagine a tortoise with a megaphone poking out his neckhole. Like that. It’s not dialogue, but it will do in a pinch.

Let me take a moment to be almost social. Just wanted to say hello to all the followers and likers (it’s a word now) that I’ve had since resuming this blog. It’s good to know the things I post here are somewhat interesting to people other than myself. So, hello, and thanks.

One last thing before I sign off and take this tortoise home (he lives in a penthouse apartment downtown, lucky bastard). I have a Socially Awkward Guide for tomorrow, but that might be the last creative post for awhile. I kind of feel like I’ve been forcing it with those lately. Plus, now that I’m working on my story again, my brain gears are all set to “fiction.” If I think of an interesting idea for a creative post that I get excited to write, then maybe you’ll see one sooner than I think. Until then, I’ll keep posting little stuff here and there, so stay tuned. Later.

*rides the tortoise into the sunset, trumpet music blaring*

The end is here. Rejoice!

This is the last post of my first-draft-completion extravaganza. Edits begin tomorrow. Finally. Time to whip it into shape so I can get it published and begin anew my climb to the middle. No, scratch that. The top. Or at least the top of the middle? Almost as good as the bottom of the top. I’d better stop, this is getting topsy turvy.


Wherever I end up, I’m wearing a crown and cape and referring to myself in the plural first person. Because I’m going to work hard for it.

Since this is the last post, and I don’t have anything better prepared, I’m just going to write about whatever. Nothing you can do about it.

Checking the stats for my blog, I saw that someone found me by searching for “awkward back rubbing at work by customers.” Thankfully, I have not experienced that, but I do apologize for not having the answer the searcher needed. If you’re reading this and need advice on what to do, I’d suggest a display of nonlethal force. You could use a mannequin for this if you work in a clothing store. I’m sure you could improvise with something else otherwise.

I want to do something fun with Twitter. Two ideas came to mind: 1) Do a “choose your own adventure” story, letting followers vote for the outcome; and 2) making a bunch of fictional accounts and using them to tell stories together. Something fun, maybe with 40% wackiness or so. I’ll have to ponder it some more to decide if it’s a worthwhile idea. Something to invest time in.

Spending some time lately playing Reus. It’s a fun little game. Might write a more detailed post about it soon, but for now, just know that you play as a planet and control some elemental giants. If that’s not enough to get your interest, then damn, you’re difficult. Wait until the actual recommendation post, then. Geez.

You know, I think this post is enough. I’ve been up since 2 AM, and I’d rather not word anymore. I’ll be back with more posts soon, but don’t expect anything tomorrow. As I said, IT’S EDITIN’ TIME!

Curse words, or “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

Ass bitch damn.

These are probably the only “no no words” I’ve used on this blog. Network-TV-grade stuff. I did say “piston licking” recently, but that was just suggestive, not bad. I’m a little less inhibited in actual speech, but not by much, and only when alone or in preferred company.

My fiction is as squeaky clean as my blog. Why? It’s not children’s or YA fiction. At least not yet. Why do I censor myself?

Believe it or not, but I care about what people think of me. Perhaps I fear being looked down on for using crude language. Then again, when I think about the kind of stuff I’ll probably end up writing, I don’t think my potential readers will be uptight about that sort of thing.

I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? This, maybe?

A reader wanders the aisles of a bookstore. He finds my book, or a magazine with one of my stories. Flipping through it, he is horrified at the presence of four-letter words (literal and metaphorical). “What kind of author is this?” he demands of the heavens. “Some kind of barbarian, I say. I will have no part of it!” And so, he goes to the nearest garbage can and throws the book/magazine away, despite not having actually bought it, then storms out of the bookstore. He vows never to read another book ever again.

But the tale doesn’t end there, oh no. Without the magic of reading to soothe his savage desires, he turns to a life of crime. His capers get more elaborate and dastardly, culminating in his magnum opus: stealing the beard from Abe Lincoln’s face on Mt. Rushmore. The son of a bitch. But who is worse? Him, or me, the one who set him on this path of chaos?

Hey, it could happen.

Abraham Lincoln, Republican candidate for the ...

THIS COULD BE THE FUTURE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I doubt my public word choice will change anytime soon, and that’s fine. Not really what I’m about. Why force it?

In fiction, though, perhaps I need to open myself up to the option of using the bad naughty words. Every word has potential. If it serves the story, isn’t that what really matters? Heck, I can at least toss them in my first drafts and see what floats.

The story evolves. Like a Pokemon. Stop pressing B!

My latest story began with an image. There I was, minding my own business while drinking some water, when BAM. The image entered my brain, then exploded like a Big Bang into an actual idea. I think the water may have been drugged.

I began the mad scramble to write down as many notes about this new idea as I could, and soon had jotted down a theme for the story. It was a theme that resonated with me, based upon personal experience and attitudes. It seemed obvious that it should go with the story.

The image and theme did not survive the first draft. However, they took the longest to die.

I hesitated to remove the image because I liked it so much, and I felt a certain loyalty to it for bringing the story to me. I suppose it could return in another story someday. If not, it’s okay. It did its job. I can let it go. That reminds me….

*Gets into a car with the image, drives it out to the woods, leaves it there, and drives home, sobbing as he watches the image shrink in the rearview mirror* I’ll never forget you, water-based hallucination!

And then there was the theme. It was made of tougher stuff. Scales like titanium. Quick enough to dodge my bullets. Too smart for the traps. Politely refused my eviction notice.

So how to kill something that does not want to die? Hand-to-claw combat. What weapons did I have? Machete, or maybe spiked knuckles? A lead pipe? Those little umbrellas they put in fancy drinks? Whatever it took. I had a space for a trophy on the wall, and I was going to fill it with a singing bass. Oh, the theme? That just goes in the garbage. Dude, it’s not real, how could I put it on the wall?

Like I said, this theme is strong in my life. At the same time, in this story, it required too much passivity from the characters. Or perhaps I’m not a strong enough writer yet to make it work. I prefer to believe the former.

I think I have to find a balance with theme. It needs to be something I’m interested in writing about, but not something I’m too passionate about. Otherwise, I focus too much on my feelings and experience, even if it does not suit the story.

This brings me to a philosophical quandary: why am I writing? Am I writing to dig deep into the gooey bits of my soul and fling the contents at people? Or am I writing to escape myself and my feelings, looking for both a more ideal world to live in and some entertainment for myself and my readers?

Heck, I don’t know. Maybe either at different times. Maybe both at once. I’ll figure it out eventually.

Lesson learned? Story can evolve into something different from the plan. Sometimes, you have to let it. Unless it’s Magikarp. Keep that thing from evolving. Gyarados is overrated.

Magikarp, use Splash! No, SPLASHIER!

This guy is BOSS.