Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I recently encountered a writer -- and I'm a little loathe to use that word, writer -- who said to me that he refused to do rewrites because he felt that a piece ought to be perfect the first time it's written. My first thought was, "Someone has been reading too many parables about Faulkner." My immediate second thought was, "I have no rebuttal." I am going out on a limb here to say that this person is not a writer.

Why? Because rewrites are almost mandatory in our line of work.

I have never had a piece published that didn't require a rewrite. Even "In A Flash" -- a piece that is only 263 words -- got a rewrite to change a whopping six words from the original. If you're a writer who believes in self-improvement, rewrites are almost part of your fiber.

So here are some tips I give to folks at the Milwaukee Writers Workshop who might not be as well-versed in the art of rewriting.

1. Read your piece like a reader. It's a difficult trait to master, but it's essential. Be subjective about your own work in order to create the best possible piece.
2. Keep the goal in mind. Your story should have a resolution; every story needs one. Is your rewrite getting you to that resolution?
3. Don't over-correct: if you find yourself substituting words, put your pen down.
4. Allow yourself time. A lot of times you can spend too long on rewrite a piece. Sometimes put it down and work on another project (or better yet, submit it).

Just a few thoughts on revision and rewriting. What are your thoughts? What's your process?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Work Work Work Work Work

Projects have been coming in copious amounts lately. It's been a busy summer for my writing, and I'm happy about that.

After CONVergence I felt like I'd made a discovery, or perhaps I simply allowed myself the pleasure of admitting something: I write steampunk. I'm good at it. I like it. I'm ok with that. I've always had an inordinate love for Victorian literature (Dickens is my man), and I love socially-conscious science fiction. So I blend the two and whala! I have created my own steampunk.

So that -- for the last two months -- has been my driving force. I am working on a series of shorts that are going to be converted to script in order to make them into a graphic novel. It will be a bit of a process, but I'm hoping to get a few of the initial issues into Steampunk Magazine.

I've also been working on yet another edit of the Charles novel, which I have tentatively titled (yeah, after 12 years I finally came on a title, which I think is a good sign) "The Mechanics of the World" or possibly "The Mechanics of Man." The rewrite is going well, and I'm going to use NaNo to finish it off.

I have a few thoughts to say about motivation, though. My job, of late, has not been as conducive as it once was to getting work done, which has left me to get work done at home or elsewhere. Let me tell you there are a lot of distractions at home, and I have had to force myself to go to places where I have only writing to keep my occupied. If you find yourself in the same quandary, find a place without personal distractions: the library, a bar, the coffee shop, a park. Go somewhere that works for you that's not riddled with the internet, and dishes, and pets, and kids. Otherwise you'll make excuses, and writing just won't happen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


So much going on. Many updates.

WriteCamp 3 was good. We had about 90 people and some really good sessions. I also think that we did a good job of really pushing the envelope as far as garnering sponsors and repeat visitors. So who knows what next year will bring. Overall I was pleased.

I am still working (though not as strongly) on my post-apocalyptic, Second Coming story. I'm roughly 40,000 words in, which is pretty solid. I think I should finish by the end of the summer -- only because another project has landed in my metaphorical lap.

Hence the title. CONvergence. It was great.

This year's theme was "The future through the past." Needless to say there was a lot of steampunk-ery going on, which was great. I was really stoked for the conference because of that, and I was equally enthralled with all the costumes and the sessions. Most notable was a session entitled "Beyond Dirigibles and Pith Helmets," which was about going beyond Europe or even Earth as a setting point for steampunk works. In it I got a great idea for an adventure-based story with a strong female main character and a lot of non-European story to be told. I'm quite excited for it.

My tentative title: "The Amazing Adventures of Lucinda Barrington, Empress of the Danforthe: a Tale in 7 Parts Regarding the End of the World." Yeah, it's long. But it's gonna be awesome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Implications and Inferences

I talk so often about writing, and improving writing, and motivating one's self to write, and blah blah blah, that I forget to take a minute to really reconnect with why I write. Why it's important to me to write.

Lately, for some unknown reason -- and one that I am not about to question -- I have been writing consistently, constantly, and (quite honestly) pretty damn well. Since February, I have done a complete edit of my 30-thousand-word novella and written the following pieces:

"You Could Be Happy" -- 3600 words; contemporary
(Untitled) -- 4100 words; near-future

I've also done a complete revision on "Westward Expansion" and "The Pod Village of San-Zhr" (which I was sad to receive a rejection for in the Library of Fantasy & Science Fiction "Liminality" anthology, until I realized that I don't think it's science fiction). So those will get a second round very soon.

I've also done a fair amount of work on a project I've been writing since last November with a writing partner. It's a Steampunk work that focuses on letters written between the two main characters from my short story "Westward Expansion." It's going quite well, and we're really delving into the nitty-gritty of the plot. I like it.

I also have about 11 pages written on a new, but slightly revised version of an old piece, story that is very plot-driven, which was a change for me. As well, I recently started an idea that started about 10 years ago after reading Stephen King's Gunslinger, which formulated, sputtered into life briefly, and then died. Now, though, nearly finished with The Drawing of the Three, the second book in the Dark Tower series, the idea came back to me.

Two things: 1) the stories are almost entirely unrelated, but the world in King's books bring to mind the sort of world I originally wanted to create for that first piece and just couldn't really find the story behind it. Now I think I have. 2) I think I've been influenced, if only slightly, by the very visceral writing of King's that sort of allows things to happen as they ought to. What does that mean? Well, in my case, I've written two stories (the previously-mentioned, "You Could Be Happy" and this new project) that have very blatant and necessary sex in them.

Previously, I felt that sex was something that didn't really fit in my work because it wasn't relevant to the piece. Some people have said otherwise in regards to a few stories; and I think I will have to go back and reexamine those works because of the new turn I've taken. Partly, too, though, I felt like sex was a bit of a "reader-grabber" simply for the fact that it was put in to get readers to say to their friends, "Oh my God, I just read this great book with awesome sex scenes in it." I never wanted that (and I still don't), but I recognize the place it has in other stories, and I recognize the place it has in these stories.

And that's what's important. Everything is relevant. Everything is given meaning by the act of writing it. And that is why I write. I feel like lately, with all of the things that are going on in my life, have gone on in the past year, and continue to inspire me, I am forced to make sense of things and give them meaning in the hopes that I can find some answers.

Although I think maybe I should just buy some chocolates and take my girlfriend out to dinner more often, so I can take care of the latent implications of writing sex into my stories.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


In a moment of brilliance -- or perhaps just idiot savant-ness -- I figured out the integral flaw in my very first attempt at a novel. It's a project I've long thought was worthy of having been written but more than once person has pointed out error after error. It was never that I didn't think that the errors were un-fixable; I just didn't know how to do it.

At work last week, however, it dawned on me where the crux lay: the main character's passiveness needed to be changed to make him more active. Now, that might seem like a pretty easy thing to pick out when reading a draft -- and it was -- but like I said the problem wasn't in not knowing the flaw; it was knowing how to fix it.

I think the problem is pretty much resolved now, though, which makes me happy. The main character has really blossomed in my re-writes (and I'm only about 20 pages in, with an additional 10 or so pages of new material). Not only has he become more active in his own story, but his actions make him significantly more empathetic, which was a big issue for people in previous critiques.

As a side note, I took comments from a few people to heart and made what was essentially a Victorian-era pastiche piece (as an homage to Charles Dickens) into a Steampunk piece.

Now, in my defense, I feel like this change is worthwhile. Steampunk is a very broad genre, and I feel like this piece can be made into what some chidingly refer to as 'Li-fi' -- literary science fiction. I'm ok with it being that, because I think that it fits more in line with literary fiction, rather than entertainment fiction.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Giddy With Inspiration

Three years ago, when the Milwaukee Writers Workshop still had all of its groups on one day, I braved the novel critique with a project that was nearly seven years old (at least) and in its fourth or fifth iteration. It was a novel that was (perhaps still is) my former* wife's favorite piece. A colleague in the group, who I thoroughly respect for his critique and his writing skill, offered up the advice to turn what is essntially a pastiche of a Charles Dickens novel into a science fiction piece. At the time, I had no idea how that could be possible. 

Over the last two days, though, I think I've discovered how I can make that happen. I'm entrenched in the Steampunk genre now. I love it more now than I did when I first discovered it, than I did when I fully recognized its potential, and than I did when I read "The Difference Engine" for the first time. I enjoy the genre, and I enjoy its capabilities. Now, I believe I have truly discovered the root of the story that began as an attempt to write a Victorian novel. 

So, putting most other projects aside, I am going to revisit said project -- which I haven't looked at in nearly two years -- to try and hammer out this new direction. I have it in my head, and also on a ton of scraps in my bag at work, and I think I can really make something marvellous out of it. 

Also, in short story news, I completed a brand new story this week that's roughly 4200 words, and it's about cowboys, in the future, in a post-catastrophe America. It's fun. 

*I like to use the term former for my soon-to-be-ex-wife because it sounds better. It's like being the former president: the title is still there, because the importance of the position hasn't changed, but there's no real duties that lie therein. We're still friends, which is nice, so she's not really an "ex," just (as I say) former. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Updates Feb. 2011

So here's the scoop. Since the beginning of the year, I have the following new pieces written:

"The Pariah of Langeford" -- 1100 words; pseudo fantasy
"Electric Golems" -- 4700 words; steampunk
"The Pageant Fire" -- 1700 words; contemporary
"The Horticenter" -- 900 words; futurist science fiction
"Annalisa (WT)" -- 3400 words; steampunk
"Thomas, Boy Wonder" -- unfinished steampunk

I have also been working diligently with a new writing partner on an extension of the "Westerward Expansion" story that unfortunately got rejected (by default) for the Clockwork Choas anthology, which I hope to see very soon in publication. The project is a series of letters, along with narrative, between the two main characters presented in the short story. I believe I'll be polishing the short work to be sent out as a stand-alone with the longer work to follow.

I also sent out "The Pod Village of San-Zhr," which is an older story, but one that I liked quite a lot. It went out to an anthology for stories of liminality. Needless to say, I am excited for that one.

Once polished and critiqued, I will be sending out "Annalisa," "Thomas, Boy Wonder," "Electric Golems," and "The Pariah of Langeford." I think they're all solid and with a good polish should prove to be good works. My hope is to get at least two pieces published this year, and I know that there are a few new publications to look forward to.

I'll also be trying out a bit of something new on the blog, but I'll need some help from my trusty readers: I would like to answer writing questions. I have one in the wings -- perhaps by Friday or Saturday -- and that should give some idea of what I'm talking about. Feel free to send me things. You can send it to boone@milwaukeewritersworkshop.com; just be sure to put something like "writing question" in the subject, so I know to mark it properly.