Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Taking on Textnovel in 2010

Rain didn’t make it past Editor’s Choice this year, which is fine seeing as how I’m fairly certain it didn’t meet the length requirements for the 2009 by the deadline.

However, the story is still unfolding, and more than likely it will meet the criteria for the 2010 contest. It’s at thirty-five chapters right now and is approximately halfway to its conclusion, which would put it at over fifty thousand words once everything is said and done.

I’m not really concerned about winning the contest, though the thousand dollar prize would be a sweet victory. I’m more interested in gaining the attention of the editorial board over at Textnovel, which may or may not lead to a publishing deal in the future. Even if it all falls through, just attracting a bit of exposure for the story would make me happy. Rain isn’t my most serious piece of fiction, and it’s not the one I spend the most time on in terms of plotting and writing out chapters. It’s a bit of an experiment, written purely for fun and plotting experience. It may not ever land me any contracts or money, which is entirely fine with me, but if it manages to attract the attention of the right people, I’ll be beyond thrilled.

I’m crossing my fingers and getting ready to enter the contest. I’d probably feel a bit more confident if I knew where the story itself was heading, but that’s the way the project works.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Confession

I’m hoping that it isn’t quite as apparent to anyone reading the story as it is to me while I’m writing it, but I have no idea where this project is going to lead or even how long it’s going to be. There, I said it.

Rain started off, as I’ve said before, as a way of passing time at my old job. Some nights I would write what I call “Thousand-Word Exercises,” where I would come up with an interesting premise, a particularly vivid mental image or snippet of dialogue and write about that for a thousand words or more. Some of the short stories I wrote during that time period (many of which are unpublished) began as a Thousand-Word Exercise, and it was fun for me so long as I was able to come up with an appropriate topic.

At some point, though, I decided to work on a serial story. It was after reading Genichiro Takahashi’s Sayonara, Gangsters that I decided it would be some kind of bizarre, postmodern experiment in novel writing. Unfortunately, I can’t shake my habits that easily and after the first chapter of Rain was typed out my usual writing style prevailed. Still, it was a lot of fun to work on, even though my job picked up after a while (not to mention my office becoming the go-to place to stash coworkers on light duty/disability, rendering my workspace none too private). After a few months a chapter every day or two trickled to a chapter every week or more, but the story never completely left my head.

Several months after my position in the company was downsized out, I returned to Rain, penning another chapter or two. It seemed like I was always too busy to devote my sole attention to the story, though I was fascinated with the two main characters. They were unlike anything I’d ever worked on before. At the time, though, I was finishing up the rewrites of In the Teahouse and beginning to plot what would later become Ghostbox, and I couldn’t force myself to take on two lengthy projects at once.

That’s when I decided to make Rain an internet serial. It was never the kind of story I considered submitting to publishers. It was too new to me, too uncertain, too weird. It was, however, the perfect story to release to friends, blog readers and any other interested parties online. I’d just met Dan Halloway and had seen his success with The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes, so I decided to take it to Facebook, where it remains to this day, updated on Mondays and Fridays.

Enough backstory. This has to be at least my third telling of it, and it’s sounding boring even to me now.

On to what this post is about.

Up until the twenty-fourth chapter or so, I was working with the material I’d written during the night shifts at my old job and the stuff I’d penned during my first months of unemployment. Now, however, when I sit down to update the project I’m literally writing the chapter an hour or less before it goes live. At first, this was a terrifying feeling, but as I’ve gone on I’ve found it easy to adapt to. Still, the anxiety of wondering whether or not the story will move forward (or even be worth anything) never quite leaves, and I wonder each time I do it whether this will be the last time or not. I certainly hope not, but I never know if I’m going to run out of usable material or back Addison up into a corner that I can’t write her out of. If I end up doing something incredibly stupid that needs a deus ex machina, I’m done. I won’t continue writing something that I can neither enjoy nor respect, so this is quite understandably a big fear of mine.

I spent a lot of time on the days I don’t update brainstorming the coming chapters and possible scenarios for the characters, but I never know until the moment I start OpenOffice what I will end up doing. It’s a real rush, but it’s also a bit nerve-jangling. What if I write something completely stupid and unreadable? What if this chapter is completely useless to the plot? What if, dear god, I contradict myself and make a statement that goes completely against something I said way back when?

I guess all of this comes with the territory, but seeing as I’ve never done something like this before (and can only be called the most novice of novelists), it all seems so new and terrifying to me.

The story goes on, though, into the foreseeable future, until I wrap this baby up or run it into the ground.

Mail me at, and look forward to another so-fresh-its-gooey-on-the-inside update on Monday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Screaming into a Wind Tunnel

Thirty chapters of Rain have been posted so far, including the one that just went live a few minutes ago. One of the things I’ve done with most of the updates is ask for feedback, questions, concerns, hate mail, et cetera. So far the only comment I’ve received was from my mother, when I posted the very first chapter, and I think even she’s forgotten about the project by now.

I began posting the chapters online in order to draw attention to the story and see if it was worth anything when filtered through another person’s eyes. When you’re so close to your own story, it’s often hard to accurately gauge its quality. One moment it feels like the pinnacle of your body of work, and the next it’s the biggest pile of garbage that’s ever come from your keyboard.

The opinions of loved ones, sadly, don’t always count for much. I know I ask people I’m close to for their honest opinions, but even if they are (and they very well could be) being honest I always wonder if their affection for me may be clouding over their ability to be objective about the story.

That’s why I took Rain public. That and the fact that a forced deadline is the best way to keep me productive.

So far, though, nobody’s been saying much of anything about it. I still can’t tell if it’s an interesting story or a poorly paced, horrible pile of crap. There are days when this is a bit discouraging, as I’d love to have a ton of interaction going on in the group, but I understand that not everyone who joins groups ever checks them again and that people are often busy and can’t comment on everything they see.

I’m just hoping now that the bulk of the members are reading the story, and that eventually they will drop me a line, either on the discussion page of the Facebook group or to my Rain email address. Until then, though, I’ve decided I’m going to worry less about feedback and more about pleasing myself. I’m writing this story to entertain myself, first and foremost, and when anyone else wants to chime in, I’ll be thrilled to hear from them. Until then, I’m just going to keep writing, giggling hysterically as I do so, and hope it’s as good a tale as my overly-involved self believes it to be.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Twenty-Eight Chapters and a New Direction

The first twenty-five chapters of Rain were written nearly a year ago, while I was working the night shift at my old job. I wrote a chapter a week at least, sometimes one a night while I was on a streak, thinking I was penning a postmodern story about a young woman and the ghost that lives in her apartment building. The chapters were going to be short, possibly out of order, possibly in numbered outline format. It was going to be weird, something I’d never attempted before, a fun way of keeping my sanity in an office in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night.

Rain suffered a strange metamorphosis along the way. It became more of a straightforward serial, throwing off the cloak of experimental formatting and becoming something much closer to my usual writing style than I’d hoped. Still, I enjoyed writing it, mostly because I don’t normally allow myself to inject as much humor into my work as I was doing with this project.

I was laid off, and working on other projects at home, and so Rain went dormant for a while. When I decided to put it up online for fun and feedback, I had no idea where the story was going to go beyond the chapters I already have. Now, after posting those chapters and penning an additional three, I have a confession to make.

I still don’t know where the story’s going.

Sure, I’ve added extra depth by exploring what happens to other, less hospitable Ragged victims, but I haven’t the foggiest idea still what exactly the Ragged are, who Ethan is (aside from an unusual shop owner, which I know doesn’t cover the half of it with him), what Addison and Marcus are going to go through or how the story will end.

I suppose this is what should be making the story fun to write, and it is in a way, but it’s also causing me to worry a bit. Without any idea of where to go, without an outline or even a series of key plot points to work on, I feel a bit lost. I wonder if perhaps I’ll meander with the story for months without taking it to any logical conclusion, or that it will become too fantastic at some point.

There are elements creeping in that I never would have expected to see, and I suppose that’s the beauty of winging it. Were I doing this entirely as Open Office documents and not sharing them with anyone but a few choice beta readers, I wouldn’t have any anxiety at all. I’d be loving it, free to make my mistakes in private and correct them at my leisure. But now that I’m doing this in public, and on a schedule, there’s a feeling of real work involved. I now get to worry about making a royal ass out of myself with inaccuracies, inconsistencies or plain boring chapters. I now get to worry about alienating what few readers I now have (I’ve lost and gained a handful over the months) and wondering if my writing style and subject matter are up to snuff.

I guess what I’m saying is this - if you like the story, let me know. If you don’t like the story, I’d like to hear about that as well. Feedback is important to me. Otherwise, I’d have been content to email each new chapter to close personal friends and pester them for their thoughts. With Rain, I honestly have no idea what I’m about to write ninety-nine percent of the time. The other one percent, when I do know what I’m going to be doing, usually stems from a few scribbles on the back of a Denny’s placemat or a line of frantic, barely legible notes I’ve scrawled in the middle of doing something else. There is no real brainstorming, no free writing, no careful planning involved. I kind of like that seat-of-the-pants approach, but without feedback, without any external scrutiny, I have no idea if it’s working or not.

I can judge other people’s works, but being so close to my own kind of shatters that ability. I need reader comments. Constructive criticism, hate mail, prestigious literary awards and dirty jokes can all be posted on the Facebook group or sent to

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