Friday, December 23, 2011

Friends & Flash Fiction

I've been dabbling in flash fiction as an exercise. To increase the challenge, I decided to begin each attempt with a sentence provided by someone else.

I tackled using writing prompts found online, but for some reason they didn't jog me enough. When you're provided a list of a hundred first sentences or prompts and can pick and choose which one to utilize, it's easy to just glance at a prompt, say, "Nope! Can't think of anything for it." and move on to the next. Plus, the fact that some random person posted a random prompt for anyone to use makes it so . . . impersonal. I felt no desire to meet the challenge.

So I tried something different. I asked friends to each provide the first sentence of a story. When the replies came in, my brain finally chugged into action. These were prompts by people who knew me. They were curious to see what I came up with, thus providing me with accountability. They produced prompts specifically for Paul Maitrejean. All these factors gave me undeniable drive to accomplish the mission.

Sure enough: Despite work, kids, a pregnant wife, and other family drama, I managed to churn out roughly one short story a day. The friends who provided the prompts got a kick out of seeing their sentences turned into full stories. And I had a blast while building literary muscle.

I might end up making this a semi-regular practice.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Breaking From The Norm

On a whim, I whipped up a very short short story this morning.

I'm not sure if I'll do anything with it, but it was a fun exercise, and of course I derived satisfaction from getting to the end of the tale and wrapping it up. When one works on longer stories, one gets a little tired of writing, writing, writing, and not seeing the end.

If nothing else, it was a break from the norm and a way to flex my writing muscles a bit. Breaking out of a groove can be quite inspiring.

And this story was a real break from normal writing for me. Crime scene, cops, FBI, and . . . well, another element that I thought I would never employ in my writing but -- tada! -- just did. I won't go into too many details just in case I do decide to make it available in one form or another.

So, fellow writers -- what have YOU written that was a huge break from the norm for you? I'm curious to read your reply!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writing, Inspiration, and Hobbits

Inspiration is a fickle mistress. Which may be thought by some to be a good thing, considering I'm married and all.

But seriously, the tough part about trying to consistently turn out a specific word-count quota is maintaining the frame of mind necessary to do so. Writers rely on their brains functioning on a certain creative level. Unless we want to become relegated to the "starving artist" class, we can't just sit at our computers waiting for inspiration to return from its vacation and possess us like a Charismatic Holy Spirit experience. Though when inspiration DOES strike, we are inclined to jump up and shout, "Hallelujah!"

But it's rare and fleeting.

In between these erratic bouts of painless creativity, we moan and sweat and sigh and labor. The very thought of typing one word sounds about as attractive as going on a date with with a serial killer. But unless we soldier on, that cursor isn't going to expel any words. The keys need our fingers, the fingers need our brains, our brains need the sheer will of knowing that it MUST write, and cannot rely on a muse to show up whenever we summon it.

For me it raises images of Frodo Baggins dragging himself up Mount Doom. He represents our project, exhausted, dragged down by the weight of all that is expected of it. But when he finally collapses, good ol' Sam Gamgee steps in and bodily hauls him up the steepening slope. Sam represents our will power and the knowledge that our project will never get done by itself. It needs that extra push, even if it is painful and exhausting and often downright irritating.

Huh. I like that imagery.

Excuse me while I head off to my word processor to save Middle Earth.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Epic Freebie Sales -- Yay?

I should be pretty excited.

Since I made it available on Smashwords a couple of months ago, my fantasy short, "Vessa's Grave" has seen over 50 downloads! Coolness, huh?

Here's the kicker: It's free. So people are downloading it without a moment's hesitation because, if it turns out they don't like it, they aren't out anything. Or it's as simple as liking that they don't have to break out their Visa to obtain it.

As for my short supernatural thriller, "Devil's Creek" -- well, let's just say the vast majority of the downloads at this point are by reviewers. And they get the book free.


Marketing something with any price tag, no matter how low or high the price, is a beast.

I'm sure if I were Stephanie Meyer I would have next to no problem selling my latest OMG-my-boyfriend's-a-vampire story.

So what gives?

Simply, very few people know who Paul Maitrejean is, let alone have read his work. How many people are willing to take a chance on an indie ebook writer when they could click a couple of pages over to buy the latest release from an established author they know and trust? Very few.

A writer needs a reputation to hook readers, but can't build a reputation without readers. Another of the writing career's great Catch-22's.

That's why the freebie is out there. I hope someone eventually likes my writing enough they decide to shell out a couple of bucks for the non-freebie. That's why I'm making my non-freebie available to reviewers. That's why I plug both my freebie and non-freebie. Eventually someone will read it, love it, and rave about it. And gradually more people will love and rave. And from there the numbers could exponentially increase.

And then I'll sell lots and lots of books, and I'll be able to write full time, and everyone will be waiting eagerly for my next great work, and . . . and . . . and . . .

Reality can be a drag, can't it?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy (If Humanly Possible)

One of my biggest hindrances to writing regularly and prolifically is not the age-old nemesis known lovingly as "Writer's Block", but rather my mindset. Usually family issues, such as an argument with my wife or a run-in with the in-laws, completely stalls the production of writing juices.

What's interesting is that other stress-inducing factors -- finances, kids, deadlines for anything -- usually don't slow me down. In fact, somehow they spur me. The only thing that really, truly bogs me down is tension within the family unit.

I guess that's a good thing. I want to write. I want to be productive in string sentences together and packaging them into works (I hope) other people will read. I want to churn out fiction faster than a politician. Thus, I want to keep my relationships good.

Of course, that's not my only reason for working to maintain an emotionally healthy family life. I just like to get along with people. And I love my family. And shoot, I gotta keep my wife happy simply because I gotta LIVE with the woman (you know I love you, babe)!

But if writing for a living is my great dream, then I can only hope to achieve it by keeping my home happy, loving, and secure.

If I pull it off, everybody wins.