A Nighttime Swim

Hey, I got no intention of dying today.

Most people don’t, but it still happens.

Ella pulled her attention away from the sarcastic voice in her head and concentrated on swimming. She’d struck out from the island strongly at first, but the water was colder than she was used to. Sure, back home she could have swum this and not fretted over it, but this wasn’t the warm river back home. Here the water was chilling her to the bone, and she was resolutely not thinking about sharks.

I’m thinking about sharks, continued the unhelpful voice in her head. Vividly. Would you like me to share with the class?

Leave me alone, I’m concentratin’, Ella snapped mentally.

We’re going the wrong direction, the snide masculine tones informed her. Ella swore, choked on sea water, spluttered, splashed, and found her rhythm again after a few heart-stopping minutes. She pushed on, doing her best to seem matter-of-fact with her swimming and not panicked. Not thinking about sharks.

Sorry, said the masculine voice.

Sure you are, Paul, Ella thought snidely.

I don’t want to die.

So let me get us out of here. We had to get off that island, didn’t we? Away from that man? Teacher my stinky left foot.

We could have stowed away on a boat.

They’re ships, and everyone tries to stow away on the ships. They’re searched. You know that.

Everything sounds like a better idea when the other option is being eaten by a shark, Ella. Even going back to the island and taking our chances with our ‘teacher.’

It was true, swimming back the other direction there was less water to cross and they’d be swimming with the current, not against it. It would be easier. Ella tried not to be tempted. She tried so hard not to be tempted she wasn’t thinking about what was happening, when her limbs stopped responding to her.

Paul? Paul!

I’m taking us home, Ella. Go to sleep.

swearing and struggling, Ella slipped back into the quiet recesses of their mind to wait out the swim back to the school

Notes on writing and style

As I’ve been finishing more writing projects this year – including my novel draft, a handful of short stories, and a few novella-length stories that are more fluff than plot, I’ve noticed my writing evolving. The first thing I’ve noticed is endings – my stories, short and long, are tending to have endings, even if I toss it on casually or don’t intend to revise the story. I’m doing things that I find myself adding during revision to the first draft – dropping unnecessary dialogue tags, for example. I’m probably using one where I used to use five or six. I’m getting more of a sense to how much plot fits into how many words in my writing style, so my short stories have stopped being twice as long or half as long as they’re meant to be.

One interesting thing I’m finding about plotting novels is that plot-collapse that happens part of the way into the story. It used to be that all my stories, consistently, collapsed around 10,000 words. Either I wrote a 10,000 word story, or I wrote 10,000 words of a longer story and got stuck. A year or so ago I would have said my stories collapsed around 25,000 words. (I don’t count serials, which are a different kettle of fish.) Colony X is, to my memory, my first story that didn’t collapse around either point, though I did have the 2/3rds doldrums (you know, the ones where you want to throw your computer against the nearest wall and then never write again). Its first draft has been finished for months now, and since then I’ve found that my view on length has shifted – I tossed off an 18k novella for fun the other week. I don’t intend to do anything with it, I just kept going with it and it turned out to be 18k of a duke’s son having adventures and affairs with royalty. (He also became a pirate. I don’t judge myself.)

I’m also asking for commentary/editing on my writing more than I have since I was taking creative writing at university, and that’s very helpful too, though I wish people would agree with each other about commas. In one short story, a beta reader removed a pile of them and then the short story’s editor proceeded to add them all back in.

I’ve been reading a lot of books on the art, too, most of which are terrible. I currently have two categories of books I’m not allowed to read until I finish my drafts (terraforming/survival on an alien world stories, and diary memoirs), but I’m reading nonfiction and articles relevant to them.

Ungrateful

For Lyn’s prompt, “He woke up in fairy-town and everything went downhill from there.”

They thought he was ungrateful, the fairies that stole him away from his hum-drum country and his hum-drum life. He’d wanted to be a model, hadn’t he? He’d wanted fame, hadn’t he? He’d wanted to be adored, hadn’t he? He’d wanted love, hadn’t he? They loved him. They wanted him. They wanted to devour him.

He did not want to be devoured, and for that he was called ill-mannered. He was ungracious, honest, scared. They were monstrous, beautiful, weird. They had the antlers of deer and the ears of beasts and beauty to match his.

Ungrateful, he took no lovers, made grudging friends, always aware that he was not their kin and not their countryman.

Ungrateful, he plotted escape from the fairies, plotted going home, to his tiny home and his tiny life, where he could sit for portraits and dream of greater things, dream shining dreams.

Years passed by, and his friends grew less flattering of his stubbornness and his bravery. They grew impatient with his sadness, and the lingering longings for his home, and the gruff way the guards deposited him at their doorstep after an escape attempt. Some, the less kind ones, grew impatient with him for not choosing them as his lover.

Then he escaped, while his hair was still black and his skin still barely lined with age, his shoulders still strong and broad, and his heart still hopeful. He traveled according to stolen maps and plans, and he found his home.

He found that his home was ten years dead, destroyed in a battle between fairy armies, and himself the only survivor, waking with no memories of the burning and the devastation, for they had given him hope.

They had been very kind. They had been very cruel.

He wept.

When he went back to his new home, he could not find it, for the fairies veiled their hidden delights in spells and shadows. He was alone, ungrateful, unhopeful. He did not weep.

For his virtues or for his follies, he was done weeping for what was lost.

Friends with the Rain

She was used to rain. Spring showers, summer thunderstorms, autumn squalls, winter hail and sleet and snow. Rain was an old friend. As a little girl she’d splashed in puddles on the pavement until her rain boots (purple with pink flowers on them) had sloshed.

Still, it was as if she’d never noticed it before. Rain used to sneak up on her, streaking the classroom window (“If you’d only check the weather report….”), catching her walking outside without an umbrella. Now, no matter what else she was doing and how engrossed in it she was, Andy found herself checking the sky every ten or fifteen minutes. When the fog rose, when the fog died, when the rain swung in off the ocean or crept down from the north, as it did many times a day, she noticed and reacted, covering her fire and rearranging herself and her projects someplace drier. She started reading the clouds like an instruction manual.

Clouds rising high, grey below and white above, against a blue-green sky. Rain gathering. If it was a band of clouds, there was no escaping it, but scattered clouds meant she had to keep a sharp eye out to see if it would hit or if it would pass by. Rain made the fishy-things rise, damped the fuel for the fire, fifty other little changes in air and salt and breeze and food and projects. She worked through the rain when she could, because in this climate you couldn’t hide from the rain and get anything done, but it was a question of wind and energy and darkness. If the weather shut your eyes with blowing sand, hissed nonsense words in your ear with a salty wind, if lightning started striking the sea and flickering patterns in the clouds, it was no good continuing hunting or gathering or building. Safety first. Safety, always, first.

The sky was a friend, Andy thought in less collected moments. It talked to her. Sometimes happy, sometimes angry, sometimes whimsical. The sky was dangerous.

She still liked the rain.

July Prompt Call

July’s call is now closed. See you later!

Let’s jump right into it – leave me a short prompt, and I will do my best to write a short story. I will write at least 300 words per prompt, and may write more if the urge strikes me. I’ll be taking prompts from July 25-26, because my car had the ill grace to need its wheel bearing replaced right after a series of unfortunate events (otherwise known as normal living expenses). My goal is to finish writing all prompts by Sunday evening.

Patreon patrons get automatic story extensions. Give me two prompts or one prompt you double-length.

Now, if by some happy chance, you want me to write more than 300 words or on more than one topic, my writing rates are $5/500 words. Alternatively, if you just want to throw in a tip, you can do that too. Money is very motivating to me. I use it to buy tea. Here’s links to my Paypal and my Patreon account:

Patreon

 

As I said above, prompts can be about anything, but I’ll also write extra pieces of ongoing stories if that’s what you’d like. I’ll write fanfic, too, but only if I’m sufficiently familiar with the universe in question. Stories I’m currently working on:

  •  Tapestry, an alternate-history fantasy story.
  •  Colony X, a science fiction story.

Written so far and to write:

A book recommendation: Writing Mysteries, Second Edition

I’m only part of the way through Writing Mysteries, edited by Sue Grafton, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. It concentrates on the blood and bones of a novel, and it talks about the things you need to do for revisions, not just the gritty business of finishing the first draft. With my first novel’s draft finished, I’m trying to figure out how to get from one end of revising to the other, and what constitutes a finished novel draft to me. This book and its many authors and articles is my best guide so far.

Patreon

So I hit a Patreon goal this month, which means I owe y’all a Tapestry update before the end of the month. I’ll get it done in the next day or two. (My Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/lucyweaver )

Looking for book recommendations

Hello all,

I’m trying to come up with writing books I should read sometime in the next little while, as I work on this thing. What I have in mind are books like Le Guin’s Steering the Craft and King’s On Writing. What have you read that helped you write better, faster, more elegantly, more cleverly?

Thanks!

Lucy

January writing round-up

The big news in January is definitely having finished the draft of Colony X, available for closed alpha review if you make an account on this site & I approve it. It’s currently marinading while I figure out how long I should wait before starting editing. I’m thinking through the end of February or whenever I finish my current round of short stories, whichever comes first.

The other interesting news of January is I’ve gotten a short story, a 3,000-word romance set after the zombie apocalypse, accepted into an anthology. I’m very pleased about that. I’ll be making that available in some form after I see the contract and see what’s acceptable sharing and what isn’t.

I’m also working on a short Lovecraftian tale set in a museum, also for an anthology, and contemplating a literary/emotional story about bears for a contest. I’m writing a lot of silly little flash fictions in my writing-doodle journal, and Tapestry has been updating with a new direction that I think points to more updates all around.

That’s my good news, and I’d like to hear yours – what projects are you working on? It doesn’t have to be fiction, it can be anything creative or crafty.

Colony X: Entertaining 5/Epilogue

Michelle

Michelle took a dipper full of sweetwater from the thirdmost bucket and drank it down. The sun was just moving into the western sky, the initial round of feasting had been eaten and drunk, eulogies had been spoken for the dead they knew well enough to speak about, and Caleb had just started a drum solo using the edge of the shuttle panel as a musical instrument. The sound was metallic, melodic, and echoed pleasantly. Continue reading →