Heroes and Villains

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Last week, someone asked me my thoughts on writing antagonists versus protagonists.

Since I prescribe to the “no cardboard cutouts” philosophy of writing good-guys and bad-guys (or girls!), but I always love a fine juxtaposition of world views (see: Batman and The Joker), I told them this.

Your villain cares about the omelet, but your hero should care about the eggs.

One of the strongest pieces of writing advice I ever received was to write the villain so they could’ve been the hero if they made better choices. It goes along with “every villain is the hero of their own story”.

But, honestly, it was the weekend, and I wanted an omelet for brunch.

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DETROIT 2020 2nd Edition Release and Sale

Hey loyal blog readers,

Just a short post to tell you DETROIT 2020 2nd Edition is now available!

After a long wait, the upgraded version of Dagger and Julia’s action-packed adventure through “Free Detroit” is now available for purchase on Amazon.

It features:

  • A cool new cover by artist Christoper Torres and Designer Kevin Noonan
  • A new layout and additional professional edit (now with 350% less typos!)
  • Previously deleted scenes and an expanded story that give you more details about the gritty world of “Free Detroit” and its citizens

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If you already own Detroit 2020, great news, it’s a FREE UPGRADE. If your Kindle has auto-updates enabled you should get 2nd Edition the next time you open it.

If you’ve never read it before, now is a great time to jump in because it’s on sale for just 99¢ to celebrate the re-release. Grab a copy while it’s cheap and see what all those 5-star reviews on Amazon are about!

Jeff and I also want to thank all of our friends and family that made this project possible. You’d be shocked at how much work was. Seriously, to everyone involved who has supported us in making this crazy book happen, you’re the best!

(While you’re here, I rarely post about my mailing list, but if you’d like to sign up for it, you can do that here. I send a quarterly newsletter with author updates and news, and I’ll never spam you or share your email address.)

How to Draft Short Stories

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Short stories are my stock-in-trade. While I’ve written (and am writing) novels, short form fiction is really what I’ve had the most success with. I also get the most feedback and questions about them when speaking with other writers. It’s always interesting to me when people think they are “too difficult”, since for me, writing a novel is the greater challenge!

If you’re thinking about writing a short story, I’d encourage you to do so. I’m a big proponent of literary magazines and anthologies, and building a body of publication through them. While it’s good to hunker down for months-years and knock out a novel, a great short story can potentially earn its keep in a week’s worth of work.

Here’s a few tips on my personal system for short story writing:

Story Beats

I’m a plotter.

It seems a bit crazy to outline a short story, but I do it anyway.

It’s not a traditional outline though. It’s just “story beats”. It’s a simple bulleted list in my notebook that I use to “pre-write” the story before I actually grind out the first draft. Will it change? YUP. Does it keep me on track and help write the story faster? YUP.

One of the main criticisms I see in short fiction is “the story goes nowhere”, or “it feels like a vignette”. It can be tough to pack an arc and character transformation into a 5-10K word story. Having those story beats laid down ahead of time let’s you look at the skeleton from a zoomed out perspective to see if you’re accomplishing that goal, before you get into the details of laying “meat on the bones” so to speak.

Self-Editing

Please, PLEASE. For the love of God, do NOT hire an editor to go over your short story. Shorts are a perfect way to accomplish two things.

  1. Brush up on your editing & proofreading skills – Give each pass a day in-between. You’ll find the problems. Fix them. Let the Editor at the lit mag or the anthology point out the rest. It’s what they are paid to do.
  2. Build a stable of Beta Readers – Quality beta readers are indispensable to an author. You need to treat the ones who give great feedback like gold. Short stories are a low-commitment way to find beta readers. It should take a few hours at most to read a short story and critique it. And once you’ve identified the beta readers who give great feedback, you know who to ask first when you need a larger project (ie: novel) read and reviewed.

I personally do three editing passes on my short stories (waiting 1-2 days in between each pass to keep my eyes fresh) before I show them around to people. Those folks will inevitably catch new things, and I fix those before I begin to submit around.

Learn When to Quit and Submit

I debated including this, but I think it’s really important.

Saying “this story is done” is one of the single toughest things for a writer to do. Knowing “when to say when” is tough because an endless draft protects us from the dreaded rejection letter.

Short stories generally carry less blood, sweat, and tears in them than novels. So sending them off for submission (and rejection!) can help you learn about what I like to call my personal “quality threshold”. While thickening your skin, rejections and acceptances will help you know whether you sent out a story that was up-to-snuff, or needs another revision. While we’ll never be the best judges of our own work, it can at least help us to know when it’s time to not do another revision. Unlike a novel, if you’re on your tenth re-write of a short, it’s probably best to scrap the whole thing and just write another story.

Conclusion

I hope these tips are helpful, and if you’re thinking about writing some short stories, do it! There are many benefits to them, and they really help you to find your voice as a writer, while also giving room to experiment with different styles that you may not want to commit to for a book-length project.

 

 

Happy New Year 2019

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Just wanted to drop a quick note to all my readers here, new and old, and say have a safe and happy start to 2019.

I’ve had a bunch of new people follow this blog and comment on it, and it is consistently one of my favorite internet outlets, because the quality of discussion and discourse here is so much higher.

I’ll be taking a short break (like many do) over the next week or so, and be back next year with plenty of new posts about writing, a bit of film photography (got a new camera for Christmas!) and some site updates.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

-BLD

“O Unholy Night in Deathlehem” Now Available

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Hey everyone,

Hope you had a great holiday of your choosing.

A quick note that O Unholy Night in Deathlehem is now available from Grinning Skull Press. You can purchase the ebook here for Kindle on Amazon. Print editions will be available soon as well.

This is an excellent Christmas horror anthology and features my short story “Manufacturer’s Defect” among a bunch of tales by some great writers.

Plus, all proceeds go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation so these seasonal scares are for a good cause.

So grab yourself a copy, support a good cause, and keep those holiday feelings going before you take down the decorations and pop open the champagne to ring in 2019!