This post is addressed to those of you that write/read web fiction. And who are interested in Reddit. The rest of you can just bugger off.
Ok, now that I’ve scared everyone away, I can continue this conversation with myself in peace.
I’ve been writing a serialized scifi blog as a for fun project side project. Lately though I’ve been looking into different ways to tap the very niche audience that actually follows web fiction. It’s been kind of cool! For example, there’s a whole web serial branch of NaNoWriMo called WebSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month). Whodathunk?!
Seeing as there was no Reddit category for web fiction, I decided to start my own: http://www.reddit.com/r/webfiction/
For those of you unfamiliar with Reddit, it’s basically a place to share links. So you post a link, people can vote it up or down and then comment on it. Think of it as a fast-paced hub for sharing the latest funny cat video.
If you’re an author it’s really not the best place to self-promote. Any attempts to sell your own work are immediately voted down. But blog posts that are fun/interesting are generally well-received. For awhile I had been posting under the science fiction category but I thought it might be fun to try and start this little web fiction community.
So if you’re interested, you should definitely check this out and subscribe to the group.
At the beginning of this year my life got busier. It’s all good things, nothing bad. And the extra busyness is temporary (I hope). But, needless to say, it has put a cramp in my writing output.
This cramp led to some frustrations. When I got back from my Christmas break I just couldn’t get back in my groove. It seemed like something was always getting in the way of cranking out my 850 words (daily goal in 2014).
I was forced to take a step back. I love writing but it’s not my primary source of income. And I realized that the frustration I felt was sucking all the enjoyment I gleaned from the process.
It wasn’t worth it!
So I dropped the rigorous schedule I had built up for myself last year. That schedule worked for 2014, not 2015. I contented myself with just writing every day, word count be damned. I’m still making steady progress just maybe not as much as I used to. And I’m ok with that for right now. The joy returned when I sit down to write so I believe the decision was a good one.
Consistency is key when it comes to writing. I realized that this will probably not be the last readjustment I’ll have to make. Life gets in the way but that doesn’t mean the writing has to stop. Writing is a lifestyle. You make it work.
Jennifer Vendenberg won first place in SFWG’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, “Advice from Siblings.” The theme of the contest was “Evil Christmas” but it was entirely up to the contestants how they wanted to interrupt that theme in 1,000 words or less.
For those that didn’t get the opportunity to read your story, tell us the gist of your tale and the source of your inspiration.
“Advice from Siblings” is a story about two people who want to break up with each other and their siblings who are giving advice that may or may not be helpful. It explores the idea of what makes a person do evil things and are evil deeds that are done on Christmas too evil to consider.
I had started a dozen stories that were about evil Christmas but I couldn’t finish any of them. They were all heavily Christmas themed, with Santa and elves, and I just couldn’t make Santa evil. With the deadline pressing I started complaining on the page. This is something I often do when I feel I have nothing to write about. I just type all my fears and desires on the page. I am a discovery writer (a pantser) and I find that when I type about what is bothering me a story often emerges. This time my complaining turned into two guys talking over lunch and I realized I could finish this story.
We really liked how “Advice from Siblings” explored a different side to evil than the obvious slasher horror. Could you maybe go into why you chose that approach?
I rarely read horror and I only watch light horror movies. When I heard the theme was evil Christmas I never thought it would be a slasher story. I always knew I would write about the evil that is more devious and emotionally destructive. This was one reason why none of my Santa stories worked. I could not convince myself or the reader that Santa had any evil in him.
Is flash fiction something you write regularly? Why or why not?
I love writing short fiction but I find flash fiction to be much harder. The only time I write flash fiction is when I am entering a writing contest. “Advice from Siblings” feels like one scene out of a larger story. Most of the time I would write out the entire story. However, I really liked the challenge of writing flash fiction and I want to do it more often.
Any advice for those interested in experimenting with flash fiction for the first time?
Keep the number of characters small and focus on one setting. If you do that then you can put a lot of detail in your story even though you don’t have many words to work with. Most of my stories that didn’t work were too complicated and would have been very shallow had I actually squeezed them into a thousand words.
Also, write many versions of the story. I think I was able to finish “Advice from Siblings” because I had written a variety of evil Christmas stories and I learned from those stories what worked and didn’t work for me.
Lastly, never give up. When I didn’t have a finished story two days before the deadline I could have decided it wasn’t important and stopped trying to find the right words. Instead I kept working on it and won. You only lose if you stop writing.
Thank you, Jennifer! Be sure to check out her other work on Amazon.
Jennifer Vandenberg’s Advice from Siblings is light but not simple, textured but not harsh, and neither is it predictably literal. However, it is refreshingly infused with selfishness and a moral ambiguity that belies the honest humor inherent in this tale of emotional conundrums. Advice is a charming little gem that played out perfectly with SFWG’s Evil Christmas Holiday Flash Fiction Contest, taking first place as the unanimous favorite.
At its heart, the story illustrates that evil, although most often associated with horror and overt acts of malevolence, is a slippery notion at best, often born of good intentions, but maligned by manipulation and baseless fear. And for Jon, our protagonist, Christmas Eve is just another day of dealing with his controlling girlfriend and her ever changing list of acceptable behavior. Jennifer shows us that evil can wear many masks and go by many names, even ones masquerading under the guise of altruism.
Flash fiction, by its very nature, cuts to the chase, omitting the breadth in favor of depth. Jennifer Vandenberg reaffirms in Advice from Siblings that the richness of the tale need not depend upon anything as pedestrian as word count.
“Advice from Siblings” was the first place story in SFWG’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Summary: “Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.” (from Traveling Left of Center)
Nancy Christie’s is a hypnotic, lyrical voice that captures your heart with its deep, rich humanity. In Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, Christie writes about what happens when people face life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. The characters in these eighteen short stories are unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, relying instead on coping methods that range from the passive (The Healer) and the aggressive (The Clock) to the humorous (Traveling Left of Center) and hopeful (Skating on Thin Ice). But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash? What happens when people face life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared? They may choose to allow fate to dictate the path they take—a decision that can lead to disastrous results.
Included in this collection of short stories are the critically acclaimed Alice in Wonderland and Annabelle.
Buy this collection on Amazon.
We would like to thank everyone that took the time to submit to our “Evil Christmas” flash fiction contest. We were simultaneously scared and amused by all the creativity.
And now for the results!
First Prize goes to Jennifer Vandenberg for her story, “Advice from Siblings.”
Second Prize goes to Al Stevens for his story, “Santas on Patrol.”
Third Prize goes to Robin Leigh Morgan for her story, “A Haunted House at Christmas.”
Always be on the lookout for future contest announcements!
Genre: Western Adventure, Mystery
Summary: Book 1 of the Zachary Davis Series
Called in to investigate small town’s bank robbery, Texas Ranger Zach Davis immediately gets the impression that there’s more to this case than meets the eye. A mysterious note, a ruthless railway overseer… how does it all add up?
This short novelette is approximately 10,200 words.
Buy this story on Amazon.
We our looking for sinister holiday genius with with the theme: Evil Christmas
- Entries have a limit of 1,000 words. Stories beyond that will not be considered.
- Stories may be previously published.
- Submissions should follow the theme “Evil Christmas”. The contest is about originality and depth of story given a limited number of words.
- Entries will be accepted beginning on December 16, 2014.
- Entry Deadline: January 1, 2015.
- All submissions should be sent as a PDF attachment to email@example.com with “SFWG Contest” as the subject.
We will announce the winners by January 15, 2015.
First Place: Will be given an SFWG logo. Will receive an in-depth public review posted on SFWG. If winning story is up for sale, review may be published on ebook retailer of author’s choice. Winner will also be interviewed and featured here on SFWG as well as various forums and websites.
Second Place: Will be featured on the SFWG Blog and announced on various forums and websites.
Third Place: Will be featured on the SFWG Blog and announced on various forums and websites.
I am a short story writer. The thing is that if you are not a short story writer this is a difficult concept to understand. The only thing I can equate it to is music. You find the instrument that you consider to be your voice. I can play both the violin and viola very well but I consider myself to be a violist. It’s my instrument. It’s me.
The same goes for short stories. The precise, compact writing style is my voice. It’s me. Even before I started writing my brain would constantly think of new ways to streamline the story I was reading. And now that I’ve been writing for a few years the problem is even more pronounced. It’s aggravating for me to read long, drawn out sections in a novel that serve no purpose whatsoever.
Is it really necessary for the heroine to be looping around in her head why she can’t be with the hero a FOURTH time? We know their issues. Address the issues. Maybe readdress the issues to remind the reader. And then move on!
What’s even more aggravating to me is that I’m haunted by the idea of writing a novel. I mean, they sell way better than a short story. Why do I put myself through the agony of writing story after story when I could just spend the time making one LONG story that may actually sell?
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve mentally succumbed to the novel’s siren’s song. I sit down thinking: “This will be the story that I’ll turn into a novel. I’ll drag out all the scenes. I’ll pad all the descriptions. The works.”
I write the story with this mindset. And then it ends up being a 12,000 word novelette.
So I give up! I’m tired of being tortured by novels. If one happens to come out of my brain, that’s great. But in the meantime I am resolved to be content with my short story existence.