100 x 100 III

I reached my goal to draft 100 micro fictions. None of them are shorter than 100 words; some are longer but nothing over five hundred. I like some but flinch slightly at others.

The traditional suggestion for revision is that once a draft is done it should sit as long as possible. The thinking is that the passage of time will help make the draft new or fresh or strange the next time it is read. This strangeness will show possible next steps for future drafts.

Another common suggestion once a draft is done is reading it aloud. Hearing sentences can reveal ways they might be improved.

Today, I’m not sure which of these I’ll do next. Letting this draft of 100 micro fictions sit for a while is an easy default. I have one or two other big projects (Friends of the Clam and Children of the Witch) I ought to return to as well.

On characters alone

The Practice of Creative Writing by Heather Sellers is an excellent introduction to Creative Writing across genres. It includes the following advice: “When you write about one person who is alone, you tend to rely on thoughts. It’s harder to create tension with a character alone on stage, lost in thought – difficult but not impossible . . . As a rule, however, a character alone with their thoughts is boring” (255). This is a good principle. One of the weaknesses in one of my projects lately is time a character spends alone, specifically while driving across much of the country. I’ve been thinking about how to revise to add tension to that journey.

At the same time, I’ve just started rereading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, the first of her MaddAddam trilogy. Atwood’s Snowman/Jimmy is very alone in a postapocalyptic cli-fi setting. Atwood’s text suggests a character who is alone can spend lots of time thinking about an interesting past that is full of other characters (these include for Snowman/Jimmy, his father, mother, father’s lover, teachers, a male friend, a female friend, at least one crush, and others). He is comfortable commenting on his own time thinking about his past (he generally doesn’t like it) and is comfortable guessing about the thoughts and feelings of people from his past. Most importantly, while much of the book takes place in Snowman/Jimmy’s past, the contrasts between his past, our near future (in which the book is set), and his present gives the narrative real tension.

I’m not sure how that set of three sources of tension could work in my project, but another strategy Atwood uses, that you’ve already probably noticed, is that her character gives himself a different name. He thinks of himself as a different person as a result of an event in the story. Before, he was Jimmy. Now, he is Snowman. Another source of tension or interest for me as a reader is discovering the details of this change. Why the change? Why Snowman?

That’s something I can use as my character drives and it might add tension or at least help characterize him. Before a big event he saw the world one way. After he sees it another. He might rename himself as a result. He’ll definitely think of himself differently in ways I can make explicit.

Are there ways Atwood’s strategies might apply to something your working on?

100 x 100 II

Since my last “current projects” post, I’m at 82/100. Some of these are certainly going to be tossed, but I like others. Given teaching and other business, I feel good about what I’ve done so far. Hoping for more revision over the summer and more attention toward submitting work for publication, my biggest weakness.

100 x 100

Yesterday, I collected 61 of my microfictions, probably averaging 100 words, in a document. I know I will throw some out.

My long term goal is to have 100 excellent 100 word microfictions. I have not submitted most of the 61, but 11 have been published. One was nominated for a Best Microfiction in 2020.

Sentence-level changes, big and small

Most of my writing time currently is focused on a 75K manuscript. I’m working at the the sentence level, revising, but I’ve decided on at least one and maybe two more passes through it. (Originally, it was called The Clam, then The Five Friends of Kurt Dale, and now The Five Friends of the Clam. I may still change the title.)

I’m still thinking about micro-fiction.

Toward one hundred words

I’ve been obsessing with 100-word stories lately. I might try to publish a manuscript of 100 100-word stories someday. This has led to editing and cutting many of the fragments, already very short, I’ve been able to find among my unfinished work. Keeping many of the drafts shows some of the decisions made as I’ve revised. One example is below. Word totals follow the title.

Looking for Honey 254

Honey lived two places while I knew her. Sort of remember wanting to offer to help her move, but I’m almost certain I never did.

One was this beautiful big green house. It was big enough to have its own parking lot. Three stories, surrounded by venerable fifty-foot oaks. A wide, thick lawn. She had at least two roommates there, but I think her bed was a thin twin mattress against a wall of the living room. She would roll it up and hide it away during the day, I imagine. Their kitchen was tiny, but you could stand in the fireplace. The rest of the house was full of similar apartments.

The other house was much smaller, one story, two bedrooms. The kitchen was bigger and she had her own room, but to get to it you had to walk through the only bathroom in the house. Must have made some awkward moments. I house sat there for a few days while she went to the Grand Canyon, house sat and tried to squirt antibiotics down a tube in the throat of her cat. The cat did not like me. But the bathroom had a tub and my baths there were a luxury.

Almost five years later, the big house is still easy to find, but the other house has gone missing. I drive the streets of this town I never wanted to come back to, wandering where I think the house used to be, but I never find it.

 

Looking for Honey 171

Honey lived two places while I knew her.

One was this beautiful green house. Big enough to have its own parking lot, three stories, venerable fifty-foot oaks. She had two roommates there, but her bed was a twin mattress against a wall of the living room. She hid it in a closet during the day. Tiny kitchen, but we could stand in the fireplace.

The other house was much smaller, one story, two bedrooms. She had her own room, but to get to it you had to walk through the only bathroom in the house. Once I housesat for a few days, trying to squirt antibiotics down her cat’s throat. That cat did not like me. But the bathroom had a tub and my baths there were a luxury.

Five years later, the big house is easily found, but the other house is missing. I drive the streets of a town I never wanted to come back to, wandering where I think her house used to be. I never find it.

 

Looking for Honey 146

Honey lived two places while I knew her.

One, a beautiful green house. Big enough to have its own parking lot, three stories, venerable fifty-foot oaks. She had two roommates there, but her bed was a twin mattress against a wall of the living room. She hid it in a closet during the day. Tiny kitchen, but we could stand in the fireplace.

The other was much smaller. Her own room. To get to it you had to walk through the only bathroom in the house. Once I housesat, trying to squirt antibiotics down her cat’s throat. That cat did not like me. But the bathroom had a tub and my baths there were a luxury.

Five years later, the big house is easily found, but the other house is missing. I drive the streets, wandering where I think her house was. I never find it.

 

Looking for Honey 123

Honey lived two places when I knew her.

One, a beautiful green house. Three stories, fifty-foot oaks, big enough for its own parking lot. Three roommates. Her bed a twin mattress against a living room wall, hidden in a closet during the day. Tiny kitchen, but we stood in the fireplace.

The other was much smaller. You had to walk through the only bathroom in the house to get to her room. Once I housesat, tried to squirt antibiotics down her cat’s throat each day. That cat did not like me. The tub made baths there a luxury.

Decades later, the big house is easily found, but the other house is missing. Wandering where I think her house was, I never find it.

 

Honey Lived Two Places When I Knew Her 106

One, a beautiful green house. Three stories, fifty-foot oaks, big enough for its own parking lot. Three roommates. Her bed a twin mattress against a living room wall, hidden in a closet during the day.

The other place was much smaller. You walked through the only bathroom in the house to get to her room. Once I housesat, assigned to squirt antibiotics down her cat’s throat each day. That cat did not like me. The tub made baths there a luxury.

Decades later, the big house is easily found, but the other house is missing. Wandering where I think her house was, I never find it.

 

Honey Lived Two Places When I Knew Her 100

One, a beautiful olive house. Three stories, fifty-foot oaks, big enough for its own parking lot. Three roommates. Her bed a twin mattress against a living room wall, hidden in a closet during daylight.

The other place was much smaller. You walked through the only bathroom in the house to get to her room. Once I housesat, assigned to squirt antibiotics down her cat’s throat each day. That cat hated me. The tub made baths a luxury.

Decades later, the big house is easily found. The other is missing. Wandering where I think her house was, I never find it.

 

Both at once?

Students are expected to write a novella in one of the classes I teach. I’ve wanted to complete the assignments of planning, drafting, and revising along with them and thought this semester would be a good time for that. One of my own projects was being edited, so it seemed I could take a break from it for a semester. However, I’ve actually been torn the past few weeks between wanting to revise the work I’ve just had edited and starting a new novella with the class. This is, I realize, a wonderful problem to have.

I don’t usually do more than take notes on one project while working on another, but in this case I may try both at once.

Current projects

I’ll try to update this as it changes. As of the 13th of November 2017, I’ve a bunch of novellas in various stages of completion. Impossible Money is about newlyweds who win the lottery; things go downhill from there. In Lava Springs a woman returns to her hometown to help her monstrous mother and encounters both memories of and actual old friends. Your Warmly Lit House is about a couple on the edge of homelessness, an almost commune, and a girl fleeing polygamy. I’ve also been genre mashing a little: What She Asks of Me and an as yet untitled manuscript are both weird westerns, I guess.

The Secret Physics, which has been published, is probably a post-modern romance portal novel.