The Writer's Room

  1. NaNoWriMo Completion Post

    It is done…or at least pretty close.

    November is drawing to a close and thus is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Based on the response to the last blog post on this subject a fair number of our fellow Ficlyteers have been participating in this marathon of creative writing, the nationwide challenge to write a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. If you didn’t, let’s give them a hand for diving into a truly challenging creative endeavor.

    [Pause for clapping, assorted cheers, and general brouhaha]

    For those who did participate, good for you! Whether you managed that incredible word count by the deadline or not that was a heck of a thing to even attempt. I sorely wanted to, but I just didn’t see how to fit it in without compromising my work or pissing off my wife irreparably. One must have priorities.

    Please, if you would, let us know that you attempted NaNoWriMo and how it went. Did you make the deadline? How many words did you manage? Anyone require emergency carpal tunnel syndrome surgery? I will also be posted a challenge this evening daring you to pitch your NaNoWriMo novel, somehow fit a plot synopsis into ficly length. Look for it in the Challenges section, and Happy Ficlying to all!

    8 comments Posted 2010-12-01 Author: THX 0477
  2. Story Elements: Characterization

    Characters fall into one of two categories: static or dynamic.

    A static character does not change. They exhibit the same traits and way of thinking throughout a story. A dynamic character is one who changes. The journey of the narrative is in some way transformative for them.

    In real life, we talk of constancy, reliability, and tenacity as good qualities. In some way, these all reflect being static or unchanging. Alternately, we mock politicians who ‘flip flop’ and describe someone of ever-changing moods as a ‘flake’. To be dynamic, or able to be changed, is seen as a bad thing.

    So, generally you want your protagonist to be likable, endearing, or someone to whom the reader might relate or even aspire. The tricky part is that despite our societal bias, the general rule is you want your protagonist or hero to be a dynamic character, leaving the villain and maybe some supporting characters to be static.

    Read More
    7 comments Posted 2010-11-19 Author: THX 0477
  3. The Day We Stop Listening

    Life consists of comings and goings, an endless string of interactions, reactions, and action. Wave by wave we navigate a life of coexistence. Upon this sea of humanity we see reflections of ourselves, projections of our introspection tinted and warped by the hue of the other person. Back and forth reality bobs in the midst of a near-constant negotiation and re-negotiation of what is and what is not, both within ourselves and at large.

    You can talk and talk, paddle your little boat of self on a course that seems wise to you. Endless promulgation of your own point of view however is a one way journey with little point to, the final destination either delusion or misanthropy. Slowly, without any give and take, the multiform and delightfully, ruefully, bizarrely altered images shown back to us become staid and rote doppelgangers of what we already think and feel.

    Living is in the evolution required by seeing the world not as we choose or as we might like but as a place made up of disparate individuals, each with their own truth, trying to come to common ground on the shift waters of reality. Loving is in the adaptations required by seeing ourselves not as the ideal of our dreams but as the beautifully flawed, tragically wonderful people others come to know and love. Inescapably, we must pause in our headlong flight from one coast to the next and listen, find that space of calm, and really listen. The connection must be maintained to the greater whole, to humanity. Without it we are specks upon the face of an endless ocean, tiny tyrants of individual, stagnant principalities of one.

    The day we stop listening is the day we die.

    5 comments Posted 2010-11-06 Author: THX 0477
  4. NaNoWriMo!

    This blog post brought to you by the letter ‘N’, the number 50,000, and your fellow ficlyteer H.S. Wift.

    Hey, Ficlers!

    You may or may not be aware that November is the National Novel Writing Month. The National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a worldwide competition that is masquerading as a national competition. The aim is to write a novel of about 50,000 words or 175 pages, but you have to write it in 30 days.

    You’re not allowed to write anything for your 50,000 words until November 1st, but feel free to come up with a plot or background or blurb beforehand. Just get an idea in your head and see where it takes you come November-time. They can’t stop you from writing anything before the first, but as ficlers I trust you’ll do the right thing if you feel like writing outside the 1,024 character box.

    I’ll be entering and I hope a good few of you will too. God knows if anyone can do it, it’d be someone from ficly. If you run the sprint several times a day for fun, you should be able to handle the marathon, eh?

    Note from THX: If you complete a novel and choose to post it some form of public domain electronically, we’ll have a blog post at the end of December where you’ll be able to post a link, if you so choose, in the comments section. Now, posting does change later publishability, licensing, etc., so maybe don’t if you think you’ll pursue professional publication. Still, I thought I could at least provide a forum for putting up links for those who want to share.

    38 comments Posted 2010-10-24 Author: THX 0477
  5. The Ten Ficly Bounce

    “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”

    It applies in a lot of contexts, but I’ll let you and your imagination decide where best. For our purposes today, good ficlyteers, I mean playing around here on ficly, our literary playground. As all good playgrounds need games I’d like to suggest one. Most also have bullies, play structures, loners, and those little gaggles of giggling girls, but we can do without those.

    I call it the Ten Ficly Bounce.

    See, just reading the most recent or most popular or most active stories can be so staid, so predictable. Okay, it’s not really that predictable considering the random nature of each individual story. Stay with me though, if you would be so indulgent. The lists are a good starting place, so you pick one and read it AND leave a comment. Really, even something as simple as, “I read this and enjoyed/was lost/didn’t mind.”

    Then comes the bounce. Click on the author link for anyone else who commented on that ficly. Read one of theirs. Click on the author link for anyone else who commented on that ficly. Repeat until you’ve read 10. If you find one with no comments, you win and get to be the first to leave a comment. Congratulations you get 10 bonus points. Now click the ‘Random Story’ button (small blue link at very bottom right of screen). If you land on one you’ve already commented upon, you win 20 bonus points and get to spin again by either clicking on an author link of another commentator or the ‘Random Story’ button. (This one doesn’t count towards the goal of 10 stories)

    To make it more competitive, I say you get 5 points for being the second commentator, 3 points for being the third, and 1 point for being the fourth. Anything more than that, no extra points. Oh, and no points for the first ficly, as it’s too easy to cheat and pick one with no commentators on it, which also means you should automatically be picking the most recent story off the author’s list you bounce to. Also, no points if you don’t leave a comment, as that defeats half the purpose. Prequels or sequels by a different author are also a valid bounce destination, but not required by rules, I think, you know, just to encourage spreading the love around. Also, the author’s own comments on a story don’t count for any of this.

    Feel free to comment with rule suggestions or brag about your scores. My first time around I got 113 points, so there.

    15 comments Posted 2010-10-14 Author: THX 0477
  6. Loose Associations and Artistic Affiliations

    I have a refrain of music stuck in my head, as often happens with sleep deprivation. The gentle strains sway in lilting swaths across my mind. Runs surge and ebb on a sea of strings, the steady thrum holding aloft a melody, a dream. Dancing chords traipse up and down my spine, on the front side, a waltz within my soul. I’m in love. I’m in rapture. I’m reverent, swept away, and inspired.

    The piece is Pachelbel’s Canon in D. I don’t know what a Canon is, unless you add another ‘n’. What the “in D” portion refers to utterly eludes me. All I know of Pachelbel is that he wrote this. Obviously, I am neither musician nor scholar, just touched by the art.

    Why am I writing this here, on a writing site, a site with no audio component whatsoever? Most likely, it’s because I’m an idiot, you know, telling a tale.

    The loose association is art. Music is an art, and so is writing. The power of each, of any art, really is in the ability to evoke emotion. Not all writing is artistic. We all do a lot of clunky, formulaic stuff for work or school or to dash off a quick email to a friend. Don’t even get me started on texting. Writing for the sake of writing, as an art, now that’s a thing of beauty, a craft.

    To the veteran writers, bring it on. Make me feel, and take me to the depths. To the more novice writers, forgive our nit picking and hubris. The intent is just this, to help elevate your writing to an art, to where word selection, tone, flow, meter, and voice combine to convey not just the details of a series of events but a whole world of experience.

    You can do it. We can do this, people.

    Bring on the art, and happy ficlying!

    3 comments Posted 2010-10-01 Author: THX 0477
  7. Layers

    I’ve been thinking about layers today, which results in my craving petits fours…you know, those little cakes covered in icing? They’re yummy and adorable, but that’s beside the point.

    Good stories…no, strike that. Great stories succeed on multiple layers. One of the most frustrating things for an author is succeeding on one layer then having the story fall flat because it didn’t wind up hitting the other layers.

    This list is my no means in the right order, difinitive or authoritative, but I thought I’d put it out there as food for thought. In other words, which ones are you aiming for and which ones are you hitting? Obviously, we can’t hit them all in a ficly, but yeah, it’s about striving, people.

    Conceptual: The idea behind the story. Is it original or at least interesting.

    Technical: This the one we tend to harp on in comments the most. It’s the grammar and spelling stuff. This layer comes down to read-ability and comprehensibility.

    Emotional: Does it evoke something? Is that something in line with normal human experience. For me, this is the core of great sci-fi and fantasy—can you describe plausible human reactions to fantastical events?

    Oratical: I made this word up. By this I mean, did you tell a good story? Is there a beginning, a nice meaty middle, an exciting climax, and a satisfying denouement?

    Thematic: This is the kicker, the thing that takes a neat story to the next level. When you miss this, it’s a “page turner” or a “good read”. Does the story speak to a larger theme, societal point of view, or internal struggle. This makes the story connect on a gut level with the reader, giving it valence and salience.

    So, that’s my list and another overly long blog post. Did I miss any? Which layers do you think are the most important? How much do they interact? What is your favorite color?

    11 comments Posted 2010-09-12 Author: THX 0477
  8. Heritage of the Storyteller

    Nothing is nothing, and from it comes…something. Out of the ether we pull with crawling fingers, sometimes with timidity, sometimes with staccato hammer blows of swiftly flying phalanges. Like gods and goddesses of rhyme and prose, we rend from the great expanse of human consciousness bits and pieces of narrative expression.

    What a marvel it is! What a wonder! Creation ex nihilo of legends without number, lives that are countless, horizons unbounded.

    We practice the ageless art, the storytellers’ trade, to tell the untold, breathe life into fantasy, folly, adventure, and turmoil. Do so in full cognizance of the rich heritage before, the long line of liars and wordsmiths of yore. You are one of them. You are part of the lineage, weavers of the web.

    Breathe deep and bring forth the whirlwind, you writers, creators of worlds.

    9 comments Posted 2010-08-29 Author: THX 0477
  9. Blood, Sweat, and Gala Luncheons

    Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” which I’m sure is a shock to no semi-literate person. Then again, he also claimed to only need 4 hours of sleep per night and said, Religion is all bunk," not to mention being kind of a jerk about copyright stuff.

    But I digress…

    I think there is a temptation in the creative arts to reverse that idiom…the first one, not the second one, as that would be absurd. “All bunk is religion.” I mean, that’s just nonsense. Then again, so is trying to claim that art, being a product of good fortune and the favors of the muse has less to do with work and more to do with invisible lightning bolts of epiphany.

    If you listen to Stephen King talk about writing, it’s mostly work—reading lots, editing, getting peer feedback, incorporating that into another edit, giving feedback, re-editing, and so on. Sure, our brief little ficlies don’t demand a lot of work, but I know I for one find myself sitting around waiting for the next great idea to pop up. It rarely does as I sit idly playing Bejeweled or TapFish. It probably won’t.

    It’s not exactly slaving away in the coal mines, but being a writer is hard work. If you want to take it seriously, and be taken seriously, expect to put some effort into it. Now, get writing, people! (and by ‘people’, I mean me too)

    It’s not all gala luncheons, you know.

    5 comments Posted 2010-08-15 Author: THX 0477
  10. Forgetting

    We forget a lot more than we ever remember, I think. It’s probably for the best, considering the nonsense we see and hear everyday. I think Paul Simon put it best, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.

    In reading, for example, I’m really horrible about remembering. Like in Crime and Punishment, I have no idea how he ever wound up in jail. Frankly there’s a whole sequence I’m unsure cause I fell asleep while reading it and had a dream involving the characters. Did I read it or dream it?

    But I do remember the sense of isolation and cold wonder that possessed Raskolnikov.

    I read ‘The Black Tulip’, an amazing book…about which I could tell you very little at this point. But I do remember feeling transported and enmeshed in the world of French horticulture in days gone by. Note the vague time reference as I can’t remember in which century the story was set.

    One of my favorite random books of all time was ‘Earl in the Yellow Shirt’, a book whose plot points entirely escape me. But I do remember the feel of being trapped in a small Southern town with few options.

    There’s another book about a hydrocephalic kid who lives in the swamp with his dad and gets involved in an armed robbery. I can’t even remember the title. But I do remember the disconcerting feeling of reality and non-reality as the narrative wavered between the various points of view, including that of the slow-witted protagonist.

    Therein lies the trick, the beauty of a good book. Even when details and facts elude, something remains. That’s when the author got it right, made the reader feel something. Is that usable? Can you plan on the selective memory of a fickle consumer of the written word?


    But you can keep things consistent; maintain an internal reality that doesn’t jar the reader out of their suspension of disbelief. You can make the people believable; keep reactions within explainable human psychology no matter how crazy a situation you’ve cooked up. You can make it encompassing; however much or little you tell, make sure you have a clear idea of the entire universe in which your story takes place, the universe into which they slip page by page.

    Good luck with all that, and happy ficlying.

    5 comments Posted 2010-07-26 Author: THX 0477
  11. The Book of Ficly – Let Voting Commence!

    (this was written by Mostly Harmless, not by THX or Kevin)

    Friends, family and ficleteers!

    It’s been a week and a half and we’ve received enough responses to be able to forge forward and produce an anthology of some of the very best pieces of work our community has to offer.

    In light of the suggestion made by many of you, and as a matter of practicality given the amount of nominations we received, we are going to be publishing one book which includes the most-voted for pieces of both poetry AND prose – which leads me on to…

    The voting system:

    Below is the shortlist of pieces which were nominated by the community – each member now has the right to vote for four of these pieces to be included in the final publication, regardless of whether you nominated in the first stage –

    1. YOU CANNOT VOTE FOR YOUR OWN WORK, (MH cannot vote for himself.)
    2. OR FOR PIECES YOU NOMINATED, (If we all voted for our own nominees, we’d get nowhere.)

    but there are no boundaries with regards to poetry and prose – Just Vote!

    Please send all four of your votes – in the same Ficly (or Facebook) note – to Elsha, over the next week, with voting ending at midnight on the 21st of July.(Using notes makes this anonymous, so no one fights.)

    From here, the wonderful Elsha will tally the votes, and the winning pieces will be announced as soon as possible – the total amount of pieces will depend on the lengths of those most voted for, but it is likely to be around 37 – an eclectic mix of genre, format and style. (winners will be posted with their tallies)

    Thank you to all those who nominated, good luck to all nominees, and may this book raise oodles of cash for a phantasmagorical cause!

    - Mostly Harmless

    (Note by Elsha: Due to the possible change to a different publisher than Blurb, there is the possibility that all nominees could be published at a reasonable cost. Still looking into this. If you would be willing to pay for an anthology of all nominees, leave a comment below. Please send your ANONYMOUS votes via Note.)

    UPDATE: The e-book is available now! You can buy it now, or wait another day or two for the physical copies to be available for order! And remember, with Creative Commons, anyone can create a book of Ficly stories as long as they provide proper attribution!

    Read More
  12. Fantastical Aspirations of Reality

    As much as I like escapism, there is something inevitably empty in pure fluff. This may suffice for times of relative idolatry, such as seaside vacations and the interminable wait of doctors’ offices and legal proceedings. For really enjoyable reading though, I want something more, a deeper level.

    In ‘an American Childhood’, Annie Dillard wrote, “The trick of reason is to get the imagination to seize the actual world—if only from time to time.”

    There is a space behind the page, a fantastical world filled with jabberwocks, un-killable secret agents, and sharks of surprising focus and memory. We like to go there. It is a nice place, a safe place away from what troubles us from day to day. That place shifts ever so slightly from semi-pointless entertainment to something of powerful magic when a thread of reality finds its way amongst the creations.

    I don’t mean that the story is believable, that the events could conceivably happen. I don’t mean that the internal logic is consistent, though that is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t mean necessarily that it is even artfully written.

    I mean that something in the story grabs you by the gut and screams for acknowledgment. I mean you see a little bit of your life reflected in the gloss and sheen of that far away world. I mean that something in the character’s experience resonates with you and makes you think, “Yeah, I’ve felt that.”

    This is something to which a great author can aspire, a touch of reality that stings the soul and stirs the heart of even the most fanciful reader.

    Best of luck!

    (Note from Kevin: You still need to nominate stories and poems for Elsha’s book of ficlets!)

    4 comments Posted 2010-07-10 Author: THX 0477
  13. Huge Proposition by Elsha Hawk and Mostly Harmless

    (Since I’m too busy to write, here’s something challenging from ElshaHawk and Mostly Harmless… join the fun! – Kevin)

    Well, Ficly Folk, it has been a full year of writing, socializing, rating, and replying. I don’t know about you, but I love this site and try to foster it as a home for nurturing the ranting lunacies that transform into lucid and awesome stories worthy of publication.

    With that said, I have a proposition. See, the servers are not free, but the ficly website is open to all. This website is nothing without people; just a few servers and some code. It’s up to us to breathe the life inside and keep it alive. I propose we publish some ficlies into a small book, affordable for nearly everyone on the site, sell it, and the profit be donated to Ficly.

    Here’s how:

    RULE No. 1: In the comments section under this blog post, you nominate a ficly that touched you. See, you can’t nominate your own, because Ficly is about community, and for this project, check your egos at the door. Again, I know it hurts your egos, but *DO NOT NOMINATE YOUR OWN STORIES(.

    When the next blog post goes up, I will invite you to vote for your two favorite pieces. (Details on that to come)

    I know that a) this will take some time to find that perfect story and nominate it and also that b) some people will miss out. (This may become a multi-volume deal, YIPES!) So I am going to open the publishing to two categories, prose and poetry.

    RULE No. 2: NO MATURE STORIES. We want this to be read and purchased by those that choose not to view mature tagged stories.

    I am going to use to publish in black and white, standard size. Blurb accepts Euros, Pounds, Australian and Canadian Dollars, so I hope all who want to purchase a book will be able to. The book will be published under creative commons, just like the website, so keep that in mind.

    In 12 point font, one ficly fits nicely on a page.


    There will be at least 37 winning stories! (depends on title page and copyright page requirements)


    Depending on poem length, 37-ish poems too!

    Again, details to come on the voting half of this blog post about how many stories, how to vote, how votes will be tallied, etc. I will also let you know what stories/poems are the ‘winners’.

    So if you think you’ll buy a copy to keep Ficly alive, nominate!


  14. Technical Difficulties

    Please stand by. We are experiencing technical difficulties.

    By technical difficulties I mean I’m going to be away from internet access for a week, and I’ve cut my hand bad enough to need stitches.

    Blogging shall resume when I return or if Kevin decides to post something. This should not affect writing in any way, shape, or form.

    7 comments Posted 2010-07-01 Author: THX 0477
  15. 18,216 Journeys & Counting

    Sorry for the delay. I’ve had some connection issues. Here, without further ado, is the second place entry for the blog contest, courtesy of Mostly Harmless. Thanks for all the great entries, guys!

    There is nothing quite like following a story from it’s very inception to it’s final curtain – watching it grow, develop, take risks, maybe even stumble a little, in it’s quest to reach ‘the end’.

    That said, as several friends of mine clogged up my inbox with messages telling me how awesome the final episode of LOST was just a few days ago, I began to question how many things I have actually done that with. A tendency to channel hop can certainly make television viewing a surreal experience – half an episode of House, ten minutes of a Seinfeld rerun and the closing minutes of a nature documentary don’t exactly slot together naturally.

    But then, is that necessarily true?

    Yes, Ficly has it’s fair share of sprawling sagas, gripping you by the shirt collar and pulling you into their mammoth worlds, a la LOST, but at the same time, there are writers who have mastered the art of 1024 character storytelling – you can jump from a horror to a fantasy to a weepy romance in five minutes, and enjoy the ride as much as you could a whole novel.

    John Steinbeck once said ‘a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.’

    Don’t just let your writing take you where it will, but your reading, also – don’t let a story’s length or style put you off, because if Ficly is about anything, it is about discovery – and the beauty of discovery is that more-often-than-not, what you end up finding is infinitely deeper and more poignant than what you were looking for.

    6 comments Posted 2010-06-17 Author: THX 0477
  16. True Science is an Art

    Here we have the first place entry to the blogging contest. My apologies to the other entrants, but this one just won me over. Next week we shall hear from the second place entry, but now, first place, from Stargazer 1960. Thanks to all who entered.

    As a high school science teacher I often have to confront my students’ misconceptions. My students listen to what I have to say as I take their ideas hostage in the concentration camp of scientific truth. I force their misshapen ideas through a tortuous obstacle course and require complete sentences and complete thoughts.

    My students are visibly hesitant. They frown. They pretend to accept my meager, logical replacement for their strongly held corruption- that science requires only the briefest of explanation. Their acquiescence lasts until they go through my doorway and the bravest of all exclaims, “Can you believe that she expects us to write our essays like that!”

    I tell them that art is a science. The germ of the idea started in high school, where I was as comfortable on the stage singing in a musical or playing bass violin as I was in A.P Biology class dissecting a shark. For me, the interplay of harmonics on my bass violin was more than just mathematical frequencies constructively interfering with other notes. It was a small piece of the larger artistry of the orchestra.

    Drama was science. It was a representation of cause and effect. Comedic delivery required precision as much as quantitative analysis did in chemistry class. I took my notes in poetic metre and made up rhymes to memorize the metric system prefixes.
    It made perfect sense to me to see “College of Arts and Sciences” on a catalog because, for me, they where inseparable. I would often sing a song about balancing chemical equations. Later, I taught the muscles to my biology students by demonstrating the six ballet positions. Sometimes we writers spend too much time in our heads and forget about engaging the rest of our bodies.

    As writers I feel we must embrace the best of science- the forensics, the questioning, the analysis- and bring this to the page. Not that we have to dissect every emotion and eviscerate every line, but a critical mind is a fertile field for writing.

    5 comments Posted 2010-06-06 Author: THX 0477
  17. Ficlyteers Represent!

    While I take my sweet time deciding who won the blogger contest, here’s something to occupy your time. For those who don’t know John Scalzi was the original blogger for Ficlets and did a smash-up job of it. This seems like a great opportunity for you Ficlyteers, veritable masters of condensed fiction on random topics, to shine like crazy literary diamonds.


    Best of luck, and if it’s not a ficlyteer who wins this I’ll be shocked beyond my capacity to articulate it.

    5 comments Posted 2010-06-02 Author: THX 0477
  18. So You Wanna Be a Blogger Contest

    To be honest, as I write each blog post I have this vision of the various ficlyteers reading it and thinking, “I could do better than that. Who does this guy think he is? How did he get this job anyway? That so doesn’t fall withing the 1024 character limit! This is heresy. Someone should teach him a lesson, like I did to old man Jenkins after he looked at my sister funny.”

    I tend to visualize ficlyteers as violent, vindictive people…nothing personal.

    It is in the humble yet paranoid vein that I propose the first and potentially annual ‘So You Wanna Be a Blogger Contest’. [Insert fanfare here] The task is simple. Write what you think would make for a good, nay a great blog post and send it to me in a note. A panel of imaginary judges and I will pick a winner and use it as the blog post for the site. Entries will be judged on originality, message, prose, with grammar reserved as a tie-breaker.

    Deadline is June 1, 2010 at midnight, though honestly if you send it at 12:01 or even 2:00 AM I won’t know the difference.

    Good luck, and knock my socks off!

    8 comments Posted 2010-05-24 Author: THX 0477
  19. The Art of Language

    “Language and knowledge are indissolubly connected; they are interdependent. Good work in language presupposes and depends on a real knowledge of things.” ~Anne Sullivan

    The media in which we work here in the land of storytelling is language. Perhaps in an ideal world we could tell our tales in a proper setting, around a crackling fire, with a percussion accompanist and full Greek chorus. Realistically, we’re left with this, words and phrases left upon the page (or screen, of course).

    As the concert pianist masters their finger coordination, we strive to perfect our use of grammar. As the sculptor hones his skill with hammer and chizel, we bring into crisp clarity the application of syntax and vocabulary. As a serious pugilist will rehearse footwork until it is fluid and natural, we must elevate our use of language above the mundane and coarse.

    Even the most beautiful recital piece by Mozart or Beethoven played with clumsy hands, though done note for note, will utterly fail to wow the audience. Imagining the sculpture within the block of marble is all well and good, but crude strokes will spoil the image all the same. No boxer became truly great based solely on having a thick skull and heavy fists.

    The challenge, my most beloved Ficlyteers, is to take your writing to the next level. Go beyond neat ideas and good intentions. Use deftness with words and preciseness in language to shift ever so subtly from the practice to the craft, and from the craft to the art. Writing, storytelling, can be so much more than merely conveying information, and I know you can all get there.

    Happy Ficlying!

    10 comments Posted 2010-05-12 Author: THX 0477
  20. Library Book Sale

    I recently went to the local library book sale. It occupied a full-sized exhibition hall at the local arena, rows and rows of tables littered with books of every kind imaginable.

    It was a bit daunting.

    All those books, they sat as testaments to mass production. Heavy tomes and ragged paperbacks covered every topic under the sun. Several tables held a myriad of variations of romances, with its many ins and outs. Reference book after reference book after opinion book littered a whole row. Spy novels lurked amongst the others but couldn’t go unnoticed for their sheer number. My mouth watered at the cooking books, and my mind reeled at the scientific works. Sci-fi and fantasy were thick as thieves, conspiring to conquer nearly half the available space.

    How could I ever hope to write anything that could add something original and worthwhile to this mountain of literary effort?

    I shook my head and began to peruse, shamed by my own vain hope. Flipping through and tossing volume after volume aside, realization dawned.
    It was a bit inspiring.

    Of all that pulpy mass, most of it was absolute drivel. The crap that some people get published boggled my mind. There was a book about how physical education was failing our kids. All those romances were basically the same story, with slight variations on the naughty bits. If these books were so great, why were they being sold for $.25 each? This was no sea of literary greatness, but a miasma of poor judgment in publication.

    Aha, if I can just keep working at it, earnestly striving to tell my story, in my way, and produce something even halfway decent, odds are actually fairly good I could be as published as these other sad sacks.

    Best of luck to us all, and keep chasing that dream!

    9 comments Posted 2010-04-29 Author: THX 0477
  21. Metaphoric Epic Fail

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spider webs, bundles of sticks, slug slime, melting points in long-chain hydrocarbons, Darwinian evolution, medication side effects, marmosets, and neuroanatomy. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to come up with one coherent analogy or metaphor, only a great deal of pointless mental meandering. It happens.

    The underlying theme, as I highly doubt it could be evident from the above rambling list, is participation and interconnectivity, which are to me, the beauty of this site. Anyone, especially these days, can make a website, a blog if you will, and post their stories, novels, musings, manifestos, and naked self pics. If you structure it right, make it all searchable and whatnot, people might even stumble upon the material and read it. You could even provide a way for them to leave comments. Great. Good for you (except the self pics, cause that’s a bit naughty…I mean, what would your mother think?).

    Here we have the wonderful opportunity to interact. I would put forth that the strength and quality of your experience is largely based on how much you are able to make connections with other authors, thus the spider webs and stick bundles. This can take the shape of adding sequels or prequels to their work, participating in challenges, or just commenting frequently and earnestly. In this way, the site becomes more than just a receptacle into which one may spew unending gobs of material. It becomes a living and lively communal organism of thought.

    I realize that sounds a bit icky when I put it like that, thus the slug slime mentioned earlier. I promise you, however, it’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It’s a Ficly thing. So get out there, and stick yourself into the mass in as many ways as you can!

    Happy Ficlying!

    10 comments Posted 2010-04-21 Author: THX 0477
  22. Malleus Maleficarum

    It’s not as cool as it sounds.

    The Malleus Maleficarum is a 15th century text on the danger presented by witches, how to figure out if a woman (as witches are more generally women, per the text), and what to do about them. As you might suppose from the time frame, the instructions did not include, “Give them a hug,” or even, “Ask them how their day is.” The name of the book is generally translated as, ‘The Hammer of Witches’, and its treats the subject with according gentility.

    Obviously, I don’t bring this up to advocate you go strip and shave your English teacher on account of thinking she be a witch, a fair precaution according to the Malleus. Instead, and please, for Pete’s sake don’t anyone go assaulting a teacher, I bring it up to show the power of writing, namely the power in its longevity. Because this treatise was written down, published, and preserved an entire phase of history is lifted from obscurity to easy scrutiny. We need not look back at the events and wonder what they were thinking. They have told us, and the text stands where they cannot, being physically dead, to testify of their rationale and methods.

    In this way, the authors live forever. In the same vein, Shakespeare breathes and spouts verse to this day, in literature courses, theater stages, and outdoor festivals. Are we not all intimately familiar with Steinbeck, Whitman, and Thoreau? Bless his heart, Solzhenitsyn trudges on. Things are still, and likely always will be, falling apart for Achebe. Into the infinite void, Asimov and Adams plumb the depths of space. And we all know Anne, Stephen, and Clive haunt the shadows of our dreams to this day.

    Do we not as authors hope for this same thing? We toil and slave over our creations in the hopes that they will be read, appreciated, disseminated, and preserved. Our work is intended to go on, to remain after we have gone. Authors, let your writing be up to this weighty task! Write! Expand! Live for today! Live forever!

    Hmph, look at us, chasing after immortality. We must be witches.

    12 comments Posted 2010-04-08 Author: THX 0477
  23. A Sequel, You Say?

    “This needs a sequel!”

    It’s a comment that shows up from time to time here on ficly. Initially, my response has always been to bristle at the sentiment. Mostly, this is due to my own defiant and contrary nature. If you want a sequel, I would think, you write one. You can’t tell me what to do!

    Now that I think of it, however, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the highest compliments one can pay to an author. Rather than seeing it as a demand, I’ve come to view it as indicative of something very positive that has gone on. The story, however brief, has engaged the reader on some level, whether intellectual curiosity or emotional attachment. This engagement creates the desire for the story to continue, a curiosity to see what will develop next and how.

    On ficly, this is a hoot. It gives the author license to sequel their own work or (my preference) provides impetus for another author to jump on with a continuation. More importantly however, the principle can easily generalize to lengthier work outside of ficly. If you can encapsulate enough in this small space to get that kind of engagement you can do the same thing elsewhere. Here it means they want a sequel. Out there it means they’ll actually read the second page. Whether you’ve written a 5 page short story or a 500 page tome, the reader has to have sufficient connection to the material to compel them to read that next page.

    To put it in simpler terms, pack it in there, and leave them wanting more.

    7 comments Posted 2010-03-31 Author: THX 0477