Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Not In My Write Mind: Rumble In the Writers Arena, Part 1




'Not In My Write Mind' features trials and tales from my quest to go from a mediocre writer to a published mediocre writer. Please feel free to share in my struggle and laugh at my pain.



One of the many places that I send off my stories to be viciously savaged by editors is the Human Echoes Podcast. They have periodic prompts for 1,000 word stories, the winner of which will have their tale turned into a fantastic audio broadcast, published on their site, paid $10, and bask in self affirming glory.

Human Echoes also has an excellent and enjoyable podcast that people actually listen to. This means that when they offer 'exposure', people will actually read/see your work rather than what other publishers mean with the dreaded 'e-word' (i.e. getting 'exposed' to the ass end of the publishing business).

Their prompts also tend to be the type that really get me going. I love to create worlds and characters, but I often find that I need some sort of spark to get jump started into it. Maybe I'm just not good enough at coming up with things, but I prefer to think of my problem as being more in line with the illustration below by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal.




That comic is pretty accurate, but Inman is comparing the creative process to regular work, while I'm comparing to the creative process to my own feeble limitations. I also don't consider creative writing to be 'soul sucking' (quite the opposite, actually) and it's definitely not easy.

But when I get cool prompts like 'What if earth was invaded by aliens in ancient times' or 'What do the monsters of our nightmares fear themselves'....or the current one, DINOPUNK DEATHMATCH!...my imagination goes into overdrive with possibilities. 



Yeah...I can work with that.


As of May 8, 2014, I had submitted to them twice...and been rejected. Both times, however, I was contacted personally and told that my story made the finals and was greatly enjoyed by their staff.

For any publishers out there, you have no idea how much a personal letter (especially one with some kind words and/or constructive criticism) can go towards lessening the sting of rejection. Look, $10 isn't a lot, but those letters made me want to submit to Human Echoes again more than some other higher paying markets that repeatedly punch my soul with form notices.

Within my second rejection letter, Tony Southcotte, the mastermind behind HEP, asked me about taking part in a new project on their site. I expressed my interest with the usual flair and professionalism that many have come to expect from me.




He gave me the pitch for The Writer's Arena, which is what this week's series of blog posts will be about. Here it is in Tony's words (read through a Darth Vader mask).

I want to offer you a consolation prize though. Something that is new, fun, and possibly right up your alley. We've been building and piloting a new competition called The Writers Arena. thewritersarena.com is now up, and though we are tweeking it and making the art, it will be chugging along here soon. We will be having a weekly head to head match to see who can make a better short story off of an unknown prompt.

You would be going up against one of the podcast crew, which is Al, Joseph, Danny, and Tony (myself). I've been impressed with your writing. I've seen your ability to hit deadlines and be persistent. You've been on the cusp of winning more times than I can even remember. I think you have what it takes for this contest.

We would give a few weeks warning, then you would have around 10 days to finish the prompt. It would be judged by our editors for the first two votes, and the third would be from the audience.

We would want you document your trials, tribulations, etc, in coming up with a story. Just a few tweets or a blog post. In the end, there would be a winner, but we want to keep it gracious and friendly.

Let me know if this is something you want to be a part of.

I said yes, of course...AND submitted what I think/hope is a great story for their 'DinoPunk DeathMatch' submission call.

A few weeks later, I was informed that I'd be going up against Joseph Devon in early June. We'd have up to 4,000 words to write a tale, which will then be voted on by the editorial team and the readers.

I've never met Joseph, but I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy. As far as this contest goes, however, I plan to smack him so hard that his momma feels it.

See the blood on your logo there, Joseph? That's gonna be yours...

Yesterday evening, I got the prompt. It reads:

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

Or, at least, so we've been led to believe. But this challenge asks the question, what happens when you reach the edge? What happens when you stare beyond the bounds of reality and find something else staring back at you?

This is a contest that came from the humble beginnings of the Human Echoes Podcast, and unfortunately we couldn't crown a winner. I've always wanted to see this one redone, and the Arena is the perfect place for it.

You have 4,000 words or less. Use them wisely!

You have until June 18th to complete this, and one edit after that due on the 23rd.

Now begins the fun part...mostly. As soon as I received the prompt, my brain began what I like to call The Writer's Dance. In this instance, the steps were as follows:

- OH, I'VE SO GOT THIS! End of the world, cosmic entities...that stuff is write up my Lovecraftian alley!

- Heh...'up my Lovecraftian alley'. That made me laugh....but come to think of it, I do use Lovecraftian elements in my stories quite a lot. Maybe I should try branching out.

- Why am I so dependent on another author's work for my world building? Maybe it's because I suck.

- No, I don't suck. I can totally come up with something fresh and original. And even if I do use Lovecraftian elements, I can still make it good.

- *Stares at the computer screen for a few minutes*

- I'm a terrible writer...maybe I'll just go see what's on Netflix or take a nap.

This violent collision of conflicting emotions and thoughts can be summed up quite nicely in the following graph:



So yeah...still not sure what I'm going to write about. But you can be darn sure that the looming deadline will spur me into squeezing something out of my brain soon.

Join me here next time as the idea for my story (hopefully) takes shape. Maybe it will still end up being something steeped Lovecraft mythos. Perhaps it will be piece that deals with the intersection of religion and science. 

Or I might just write a story about farts...who knows...


"I better get royalties for this one, earth dweller!"


Click here for Part 2


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