As I mentioned in my introduction to this September series, I’m sharing my top five writing experiences (so far) in the hope someone may draw motivation or inspiration from them. Rather than rank them, they’re appearing in chronological order since they built one upon the other and represent my growth. Each was a treasured and positive learning experience.
We begin with the explosion of short stories in 2015 that represented a turning point…
To put this in context, prior to 2015 I hadn’t finished a short story since high school. Over the years, each failed attempt felt like an evolving curse. It was also the year I began overhauling my writing and worldbuilding. Thus, Ontyre was in a state of flux.
My first NaNoWriMo in November 2014 ended with me limping to the 50K goal and finally pulling the plug on my contemporary tale at 65K. In August 2015, I decided, for the zillionth time, to attempt a short story, a historical Ontyre tale. It worked. Gryphon Gray was a major breakthrough. In early September, I tried again and produced Residual Chaos, another historical tale. Again, success. Later that month I wrote Harsh Insight. It was contrived and, well, just plain bad. Was my “short story curse” returning?
NaNo 2015 was mixed. The completed Ontyre novel set in Carrdia failed to adhere to the new Ontyre. The Deep 3rd voice I thought I was learning was awful. On the other hand, the novel was short. I’m a fast drafter and so it was only November 16th.
It was decision time, and, as it turned out, the decision was pivotal. My NaNo word count was reached, but I like those badges and that meant writing those last 14 days. Okay, write what? My subconscious writer self suggested Bradbury-like short story experimentation. While earning badges I could work on Deep 3rd voice and explore my new worldbuilding in miniature. The result? The writing gods payed me back on Day One with absolute gold…
November 17, 2015. I awoke excited, planned a story through the morning, and wrote like a maniac, the day a template. Final Stage was probably 90% in Deep 3rd and the most FUN story I’d ever written, including the twist at the end. It’s among those to be included in Anthology1.
November 18th. Following my template, I jumped into Shadow in Winter, which, I realized, tried to cram too much into a short story. I was, though, learning to find my range. In August 2021 I rewrote it as a novella for Anthology1 and love it.
November 19th. Bringing Light was another success, yet completely different from Final Stage, exploring other aspects of the new worldbuilding. Three stories in three days was like a drug. It wasn’t about the productivity, but about the creative thrill. Another Anthology1 tale.
November 20th. Okay, Too Late the Truth wasn’t quite a dud, but it was close. It did, though, introduce airships for the first time and explained the fall of Brillica. Both those aspects were useful going forward.
November 21st. Because of writing a new story each day, I didn’t have the time to dwell on the bad ones. It was the best kind of pressure. The short stories were rescuing NaNo. On this day it was Chasing Visions, which was heartbreaking, yet hopeful. An Anthology1 story.
November 22nd. Crystal Essence was hysterically funny early on, then cute. It’s a middling story and unusual in that it’s linked to several novels.
November 23rd. Dark Like Terror. The first true, hands-down flop. This one arrived DOA. Even so, each miss helped me see on the fly what did and didn’t work.
November 24th. Genessa and The Powers. In danger of suffering burnout, I turned to something different, in this case a parable. This has been incorporated into the worldbuilding.
November 25th. Yes, I was still going and this was the day I really bounced back. The Shadow Twin was a complex gothic story that explored fascinating issues. The core was excellent, but it stumbled. Removing the problems later made this an Anthology1 story.
November 26th. The Thanksgiving holiday that year. I wrote something short, but I don’t remember what. I probably added a few hundred words to something so I could say I wrote that day. You know, the badges and all.
November 27th. The last of the short stories written in one day that year. I’m happy to say it ended on a positive note. The Voice that Cries explored Sirens in the Wizard city of Barnavava. Like Crystal Essence, it’s linked to Barnavava so it isn’t a part of the anthology.
After that, I slowed my pace, but continued writing through December, thus creating my annual writing tradition where I casually draft that month. It’s a fun way to end the year.
Did I break the curse? There never was one. Instead, I had learning to do. Late 2015 was an intense stretch where I made huge gains in voice, structure, and so much more. Those stories, even the bad ones, also helped evolve the new worldbuilding. Even now, I can close my eyes and recall those days like they were yesterday. I’d rush to the computer with a cup of tea and eat my meals while writing.
Yeah, it was like that, and I loved every minute of it.
That period was a turning point and why I consider it the beginning of my modern era. I became a fearless drafter and the benefits reverberated through to drafting Trust in the Forgotten in April 2016. That was my first revision-worthy novel and the true beginning of Riparia’s series. It, in turn, led to drafting its sequel, A River in Each Hand, in November 2016. The number of stories written never mattered. Instead, it was about becoming a better writer and learning about myself.