Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo mom-style

November 1 marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo, an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is simple: start with a blank screen or a fresh sheet of paper and write 50,000 words by the end of the month. The effort has its own website with forums and everything. It doesn't matter whether the words are coherent; Everyone who reaches 50,000 words wins.
I can't do that.
There's no way, not with four young kids, a freelance article due in early December, Christmas shopping, a century-old house that needs lots of TLC and--oh, yeah--not without further neglecting my own physical health.
But something happened today that got me thinking.
I was talking with my agent about the progress of my next novel. When I got off the phone, I felt a rush of creative adrenaline. In less than 45 minutes, I wrote another 1,000 words--solid, strong, plot-moving words. It was the thrill of deadline pressure that had motivated me, even though it wasn't real.
My agent made it clear that he didn't want to rush me, but I can't resist a challenge, even an imagined one. In my 11 years as a full-time newspaper reporter, I never missed a deadline (though I've made some editors sweat). I thrived on the breaking news, the kind of stuff where targeted reporting, fast writing and just the write amount of clarity and creativity could land my story on the front page.
So why not put that to use.
I can't write 50,000 words in a month, but maybe I can write 25,000 words. That's less than 1,000 words a day, 834 words to be more precise. I don't want to start fresh, not when I'm already one-third of the way through my next novel, so I can add to that instead.
I won't officially join the NaNoWriMo effort either. The forums and emails are too distracting. I have trouble enough with Facebook, other writing forums and the twin parenting forums I frequent. I'll be a loner unless some other busy writer out there wants to join me in some parallel word play.
Instead of answering to NaNoWriMo officials, I will answer here on my blog. I will provide updates in the middle of the month and at the end. And I will remain choosy about my words. No junk pages. No ramblings. Nothing expendable.
Though the stream-of-consciousness writing can be helpful for newer writers who are intimidated by the length of novels, I find it's too much work to sort through the yucky stuff. It's easier just to write well to begin with.
One last thing.
I won't wait until November 1.
I'll start right now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Short Story America: the future of short fiction?

A cool thing happened today.
I got a call from Tim Johnston, publisher and co-editor of Short Story America. I had submitted a short story to his site less than a month ago and he wanted to publish it.
Even cooler is the site itself.
Short Story America is a start-up with a unique business model. My story, "Balance," will appear as the Story of the Week beginning Friday. When its run is over, it will be moved to the Contemporary Library with all the other formerly featured stories. At the end of the year, Tim and his co-editor, Sarah Turocy, will compile those stories into an anthology, which will be sold in book format. At some later point, all the short stories will be available as audio downloads.
I get $100 for the story plus 15 percent of royalties on all audio downloads. I will share 15 percent royalties with the other authors in the anthology. All royalties will be calculated after publication and marketing expenses. A little different, but I'm okay with that since all the start-up money is coming out of Tim's pocket.
That's not a lot money as far as royalties are concerned, but I can't think of many other short stories publishers who offer royalties at all. In fact, I can't think of any.
Short Story America keeps permanent nonexclusive rights, which might be a dilemma for career short story writers who plan to publish collections on down the line. But not for me.
I am primarily a novelist. If publishers so desperately want to compile my short stories into a collection, they are still welcome to use "Balance." If they don't like the deal with Tim, I'll write another one to fill the slot.
Coolest yet is the look and feel of the site.
Short Story America uses flash technology to make the stories look like real books with illustrated covers, bios and all. Readers click and drag, or just click on the page corners to turn them and it makes a sound like a real page flipping.
My kids had a blast tonight just playing with the pages.
Readers must be members to access the stories, but membership is free.
Personally, I'm thrilled just to be part of this new venture. Some folks are critical, of course, but the short story market must evolve somehow and this seems to me a different and interesting way to do it.
I wish Tim, a short story author himself, and Sarah the greatest of success, not just for my sake, but for the art of short stories and its the survival in this ever-evolving technological world.
They might just have something here.