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This is the other secret…

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

A chance for more sci-fi stories here

I’m a science fiction writer first, so I’ve been contemplating the best way to get more SF stories onto this blog.

I always post snippets from my upcoming novels, of course, but I don’t produce full length books fast enough to keep those snippets running for long. (The next book in my Translocator series won’t be out until early next year, for example, and that’s good for about 3 snippets, or 3 days worth of blogs.) I have occasionally posted short stories on the blog, but they have historically been few and far between.

If I add a weekly column like I’ve been contemplating, something like “Flash Fiction Friday,” where I publish short short stories (likely less than 500 words) once a week, that would be fantastic…but it would also add more to my workload. That time has to come from somewhere else.

So the trick to getting this right is going to be about timing and effort, and finding a balance between the two.

So here’s a couple things I’ve got to sort out, and what I’ve been noodling on while I consider the best way to make this shift without losing ground on the daily blogging streak (which has been super fun and gratifying!)

  1. Have a plan. Right now I have problems, not plans, but I’ll get there. Whatever the plan is, it needs to be sustainable.
  2. Gather the prompts/ideas ahead of time. Either come up with some process that generates infinite combinations of SF writing prompts, or buy books of sci-fi writing prompts, or just make and keep a massive list. Most likely it will be “all of the above.” Having the prompts takes the hard decision making out of the writing—simply open the prompts, pick one that sounds neat, and you’re off!
  3. Build up a backlog. So that I can plan ahead for holidays/times when I’m just busy.
  4. Start short. Start with flash fiction and short short stories. 50 word stories. 100 words. 250 words. No more than 500 words, TOPS. One day, I’ll have a back catalogue larger than you can believe, and I’ll be able to run full short stories (5-8k words) once a week on the blog…but that’s years away.
  5. Think long term. I plan on reusing the stories of course, bundling them together into books when I have enough to publish. So I am already thinking about themes and genres and certain series characters that would fit together in a book. Being able to publish stories later in books/collections, makes me feel like the time I spend on stories for the blog is not wasted, but is contributing to another product that helps grow my author business. That’s important to me, too, because one day I plan on making a living writing fiction.

So that’s it, basically. Publishing more short fiction here is something I want to do, but it’s always presented a challenge of time and effort. For the past few years, the vast majority of my fiction-writing time has been dedicated to creating publishable stories and books. For the foreseeable future, the vast majority of my fiction-writing time STILL NEEDS to be dedicated to publishable stories and books.

But if I can eek out a little more from my time and regularly publish flash fiction here, especially stuff that can eventually be wrapped up into SF flash fiction collections, that will be good for me and good for finding new readers.

So it looks like the next step is gathering a ton of writing prompts, and coming up with a process to nail down SF flash fiction ideas quickly.

More soon, I hope!

Belly full of cake

Shelly and I did a cake tasting tonight, for the wedding in March. I’m so full of cake! It was delicious. Wonderful flavors like peaches and cream, and blueberry bourbon, and all sorts of chocolatey caramel deliciousness. The caterers we found are very talented.

As for my writing projects, I’m making solid daily progress on Translocator 3. Up to 41k words now, past the halfway mark and into the third act (of four). I’m at the “shut up and type faster” phase, which is a great place to be because I’m not worrying about the words so much, just trying to get them down as fast as possible.

Meanwhile, I’m daydreaming about a sci-fi mystery series I’ve decided that I will one day soon create. Taking notes on that, since I don’t want to get distracted by starting a new project in the middle of another one. The new ideas will be 2018 slate for sure.

Milemarker #200 on this blog

Tonight is noteworthy because this is the 200th blog post that I’ve published here on MGHerron.com!

A little history will help provide perspective.

I registered this domain and launched the website in December 2013, shortly after I settled on a pen name and began to write and publish fiction seriously. That’s almost four years ago now.

Looking back at the early posts, you can tell what my goal was setting out. It was all about writing and getting published. There was still a lot I didn’t know, but if nothing else at least that much is clear.

The first blog was published on 12/12/2013: The Oxford Comma Makes a Funny.

I shortly followed this up with some modest writing goals a few weeks later, in the form of writing resolutions for 2014 (1/4/201).

Fast forward 4 years

As I’ve published a dozen stories, 3 novels, and a nonfiction book since then, looking back at the beginning is surreal, almost like I’m looking into someone else’s past life instead of my own.

I’ve run personal blogs on and off for a decade before this one, publishing articles and stories and links and quotes and conspiracy theories and code snippets and other various things I was interested in at the time.

But none of those blogs had any staying power. They were all attempts to find myself in some way. Those projects taught me different aspects of writing and critical reasoning and creative collaboration and website management and HTML/CSS and other important skills. Eventually, though, I grew bored or restless of each and moved on to something else.

The biggest downfall of all those previous attempts was that they all lacked direction. This blog, for any failings it might suffer, at least knows what it’s about: my journey as a writer and everything that entails.

My journey, told in my own voice. After four years, I finally feel like I’ve embraced that. That’s liberating in its own way.

So 200 posts is a milestone I’m glad to have reached. I’m grateful to be able to look back and see that I’m a different person than I was then, that I’ve grown, and that I’ve got a few books on the shelf and many hundreds of thousands of words under my belt.

I wonder where I’ll be four years from now…?

Well, there’s no reason to rush it. If you’re not diligent, you blink and life rushes by.

I’m just going to continue being present here, trying to squeeze the most of each day, and be a better writer this year than I was the last.

The finished fence

The fence is done!

There are a few details left to clean up, but the gates are on and the yard is once again completely enclosed. And bonus: Between the cedar wood scraps we’ve been burning in the fireplace and the fresh-cut lumber of the cedar planks, the house smells amazing.

I love how the new fence makes the yard feel so much bigger, even though it runs along the same property lines. Really strange but cool. And now we have privacy in the yard that the old chainlink fence never provided.

My father deserves most of the credit for the work. I just followed orders, while he designed and directed the construction. Couldn’t have done it without him.

It’s always gratifying, whether it’s a book or a fence, to be able to look on something you built with your own hands and say, “I did that.”

Today was uneventful

Inevitably, as with any significant undertaking, there are days when I am tempted to say “screw it” and skip the daily blog.

Today is one of those days.

Perhaps it is because today was uneventful. I went to the gym and I worked. And then I worked some more.

Or perhaps it is because my focus is on the novel and what’s going on in my freelance work.

Either way, one of those days. Not much else to say. I’m going to go finished reading The Lives of Tao and have a glass of wine, and then probably watch Stargate SG-1 reruns.

Enjoy your night!

It is change, continuing change…

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be … This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.”

– Isaac Asimov, “My Own View” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1978) edited by Robert Holdstock; later published in Asimov on Science Fiction (1981)