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What are you writing?
  • We can’t have a category with no topics. What are you working on? What have you recently finished? Share stuff if you like, or just talk about it. Ask for advice, whatever.

    I write on the bus, now. It’s a 30-40 minute journey, ten times a week, and I guess I write on about 6 or 7 of those journeys each week, usually between 200 and 600 words in a session. Sometimes it’s a bit weird because it’s not a long time to settle into something, but I think it can also have its benefits - I get the whole day at work to let whatever idea or plot I’m working on just kind of marinate in my brain, whereas if I’d just charged through 2000 words on a Saturday I might have allowed myself to gloss over some tricky moment in the name of not getting bogged down.

    I’ve been writing an adventure novel for my girlfriend which is set in the peak district in about 500AD - it’s one of those teen novels with strong female leads with a bunch of my Old English interests thrown in. I’m hoping she’ll like it and that it’ll help me learn more about designing plot, managing characters and structure, etc, because I’ve never really worked as hard at that stuff as at individual characterisation and small quiet moments. At the moment it’s called Ela’s Dark Ages. I gave her the first 20 thousand words a couple of months ago and she said I had to keep writing it - those first chapters came really quickly but since then I’ve only added another 10k or so.

    The other thing that I’m learning with this one - aside from the plot/planning stuff - is that sometimes you have to do a bunch of research just to make tiny details feel true and compelling. The only novel-length thing I’ve written before required very little research, so this is a new thing for me. I’ve been digging in my textbooks and scouring various universities’ OE dept webpages for answers to questions about all sorts of stuff. It’s sometimes fun, sometimes a bit frustrating.

    I’m also slowly thinking about a half-science-fiction novel in one of those alternate-present kinds of settings, but at the moment that’s just a big spreadsheet with a bunch of characters and vague plot ideas, and a file full of half-written individual scenes or vague notes about different people or ideas to think about. I’m going to start it as soon as I understand the central idea I want to write around.

    How about you?

  • The other day I downloaded Scrivener because I was trying to evaluate its potential usefulness for a project my s/o is undertaking, and I really liked it! I’m considering taking the time to translate the big mess of physical and electronic notes and chapters from a 1/4-finished fantasy novel I’m writing but I don’t know. I’m a little superstitious about doing that.

    I’ve also been percolating a new idea for a thriller the last few weeks.

  • I’ve got an idea for a satirical thing and a couple of essays kicking around, and notes for some stuff. That MA program was really good for forcing me to write and making me realize that I’m still damn good at it, but man, I have a real problem when it comes to writing of my own volition without a built-in audience. Laziness and narcissism, what.

  • Our local free weekly is hosting its annual fiction contest. This year, the theme is “the meaning of life.” I’ve come up with a concept for my story and I’ve got the opening paragraph. I’ve got until mid-November. Luckily, can’t be longer than 3000 words. So I’m working on that.

    I hear ya on not being able to self-motivate. Running and competing in this reading series I’ve been part of has done wonders for my productivity by forcing a prompt and a hard deadline and the promise of an audience on me every other month. I’ve been dumping some of that stuff on a website I set up because I came up with a good name for it: http://occasionaltriumphant.wordpress.com.

  • It makes me sad how little I write these days. I’ve sort of taken pollo’s writing laziness to the extreme. Given that I have a boring job with no supervision and not much to actually do, I should absolutely be writing at work, but I just haven’t been able to. I’ve got a bunch of random rtf files that I pull up and work on every now and then, but nothing I’d considered a project or promising. I do have a lot of ideas, so hopefully I will break out of this funk one day soon.

    Hm… maybe a New Middle fiction and/or essay contest?

  • New Middle Fiction just sounds like a fantastic name for some kind of quarterly.

  • Let’s do it. We can do both a fiction and essay, one and then another a few months from now or something. You sign up, there is a deadline (a couple months from now?) and a length limit (3k-5k words?), has to be a new piece (no recycling). Then we can PDF that shit up real nice, feature pieces on the blog, etc.

    I mean we are all busy but whatever.

    Which do people want to do first, fiction or essay?

    Edit: Or we can do both fiction and essay, whatever people feel like, and then strive for some balance.

  • I’d vote essay but that may be due to cowardice, so, hey

  • Yeah, that sounds awesome. I’d set the deadline sooner, like one month (it’s possible to write a story in a month, and it’s more possible to forget to write a story in a couple months). Probably choose either fiction or essay. I vote fiction, if only because I don’t know if I could ever pick an essay topic.

  • Thinking about it a little more, from the perspective of the reader it might be better to do a mix of fiction and essays. Straight one or the other feels a little MFA-ish and could get tedious.

    Plus everyone could contribute a little closer to their comfort zone.

    Add in some comics and some doodles (sashwap! hannah!), I think it could be a pretty innerestin product.

    Well-considered on the closer deadline though, Gary.

  • That sounds fantastic y’all. One month out is the day before Halloween—you wanna make that the deadline?

    Fiction/non-fiction work of your choice. Neighborhood of 3000 words. To be compiled for web publication.

    Who would like to curate this and put everything together once the pieces are in? i.e. who do we email this stuff to? Are we making it an actual contest or more like a throw-your-lot-in LPTJ Covers Project kind of thing?

  • I politely request that we have a split deadline, one month from now to submit your first draft and get your place reserved (if you don’t get a solid draft in, you’re not getting in this edition), and then maybe a further month or couple of weeks for redrafting, possibly with comments from anyone in the group who wanted to offer them.

  • Dick said

    The other day I downloaded Scrivener because I was trying to evaluate its potential usefulness for a project my s/o is undertaking, and I really liked it!

    At the risk of coming off like That Guy Who Can’t Use Google, what’s the deal with this?

    My current MO for dealing with notes for most things is just to put them at the beginning of my text file - I have a chapter list at the start with brief notes of each one’s content, and chapter zero has all my notes about plot, themes, characters etc. It’s not perfect, and it’s already too unweildy to deal with for my second current project (the first one is straighforward enough for it to just about work).

  • I haven’t written anything in forever. Some friends and I had started a sort of workshop/support group type thing, but that fell apart, and I haven’t really written much of anything since then. If I’m being honest, part of it is that I got what I felt was a particularly harsh critique from one of the members on a story that I felt was quite good, one of the better things I’ve written, and I got a bruised ego and that made it hard to pick it back up. Concurrently, I had sent out another story (“Mountains for Rats,” which some of you have read) to try to get it published, and getting rejection after rejection sort of killed my will to write even further. And then life just sort of got in the way.

    But I am ostensibly working on a couple of things, even if I haven’t touched them in quite a while, one being a short story about two kids, brothers, who discover something horrible in the woods, and I think it’s going to be sort of a sci-fi or horror type thing (which is a little worrisome for me, since the former is a genre with which I’m quite familiar and which I love, but a mode I’ve never written in, and the latter is a complete mystery to me); the other is a story about a group of shiftless twenty-somethings who get in over their heads, and I’ve written some stuff I rather like for that one, but I’m still not sure it’s got legs. I think I might actually try turning the story about the brothers into a screenplay or something, since it’s really sparsely written anyway, and the times I’ve tried writing screenplays, it’s been a lot of fun and actually I think suits me a little better than prose does. Not that I think I’m a bad prose writer, by any means, because I think I’m actually pretty damn good at it, for the most part.

    I also dug up a script for a comic book that I was going to write, and that was pretty strong and fun to read through, but I’m not sure if I’m interested in following through with it or not.

    So I have a lot of things ready to cook, but I just can’t motivate myself to turn on the stove. Or something.

    I think I’d maybe be interested in a fiction, er, contest, or whatever. I haven’t written an essay in forever, and I don’t really feel like I have anything compelling or new to say in that venue.

    Also, guys, I think we’ve solved the problem of what’s going on the blog, eh?

  • I would also be interested in having a discussion about plotting techniques at some point, I think, because while I feel like I write strong scenes and dialog, I find trying to actually create a narrative rather agonizing.

  • That’s a whole new thread in its own right! And something I’ve been working on consciously in my current thing.

    As for struggling to motivate yourself: I’ve tried schedules, sprints, long breaks, resolutions and what feels like a thousand other clever strategies, but the only thing that ever worked for me was to tell myself to decide what things I think I want to be doing, and to stop messing around and start actually spending time doing them. Right now I’m doing okay with it, though there is still a little bit more mindless internet-browsing and a little bit less physical exercise than I’d like. But do I want to get to the end of next year and still be a third of the way through the novel I’m writing? No, so I guess that means I want to do some writing on the bus tomorrow even if I do feel a bit tired and disinterested at this precise moment.

  • It sounds like a lot of people are writing sci-fi/fantasy/horror stuff. Would totally be down for a sf/f/h contest/group/whatever. Lets hammer out the details, whatever we do. If nobody else wants to take the initiative to organize things, I’d be willing to do it (though I’m still not entirely sure how the blog structure works here).

    I also think a workshop/discussion group might be kind of cool, if people would like to do that too.

  • I’m really excited at the prospect of writing something sci-fi-ish.

  • I’d love to do a workshop/discussion group.

  • at the moment i’m trying to get some stuff on paper, as i want to do this workshop from the iowa writer’s school over summer, but they only accept 12 people and require a ten-page writing sample. it’s organised by the same people i did a short-fiction workshop through previously, so i’m not sure if i can submit material i wrote during that, but i haven’t really written anything since…

    but yeah, i’d be down to post something for a zine or whatever! i don’t really write sf/f/h but

  • I write lists because I am afraid of my life

  • I think it would be helpful if we have two deadlines: one, say a week from now where you submit a one-paragraph synopsis as a place-holder/intent to make a submission and then a deadline for the finished product. Would aid greatly in getting a finished product prepared, and might help cut down on the ‘fuck it, it’s the night before and I haven’t done anything’ plus if people really want to help each other out / discuss work collaboratively / workshop stuff that would be a step in that direction.

  • Wrote this poem a couple months ago, and I’m proud of it! It sort of ties together my Birds of Abomination set. (Using forward slashes for stanza breaks until I figure out how to insert blank lines - CP)




    I went out to the laurel grove

    Because a disease was in my blood,

    And plucked a sprig of laurel growth,

    And mixed the bay leaves up with mud;

    And when the dark had quieted,

    And darker stars were coming out,

    I rubbed the mud into my skin

    And lay down like a seed to sprout.


    When I had rested forty years

    I blinked and flung a look around,

    But something rang inside my ear,

    And someone grabbed me underground;

    I had become a silver shoot

    With root-hairs blindly stuttering,

    Whom light awoke by name and lay

    In clay of Uruk’s founding king.


    By edict of his golden reed

    I will not die like other trees,

    But as a feast for birds of sound

    Announce myself on Sumer’s mound;

    And pumping sin like blood to air

    All through 12,000 furlongs square,

    Awake the tongue within your mouth,

    And by its language I am crowned.

  • Jim, I read that while listening to the Bonnie “Prince” Billy album “Lie Down in the Light,” and they complimented each other very, very well.

    I like it a rather lot!

  • Thanks!

    It’s to the tune of Yeats’s “Song of Wandering Aengus”. Other than the meter & rhyme scheme, there’s not much else in common.

  • The last little bit reminds me of something I wrote for a song w/ my old band:

    Transform our bodies to beacons,
    Transmitting our tired tones to the stars

    The clattering code of tongues and teeth,
    A whisper growing.

    Maybe the mouth prefers its chewing,
    the lungs their simple air,
    but the tongue between them
    don’t complain at all.

  • Jim I’m really into your stuff, dude.

  • I am trying to jog my age- and psychoactive drug-addled memory by writing a mini-memoir. It is about a very specific period in my high school life that involved a two-year-long openly polyamorous relationship in a small city in Kansas. It is kind of serious and kind of silly, and is interesting to me on a personal level because it involves going back and trying to remember the kind of people we used to be—I am still very close with the two people involved (and their significant others). Probably not fit for public consumption at this point, but I got stories to tell.

    I have also been working for a long time on a series of interconnected short stories about things that come back from the dead, sometimes literally, sometimes not. A lot of the pieces need reworking but it has been a fun project.

    I want to participate in the suggested group writing project but am not sure what I can contribute.

  • jim slid that poem into a a. r. ammons book he lent me and i’ve been meaning to tell him it’s really nice.

    it’s really nice, dude!

  • Nice, Jim!

    I’d like to write an essay…not sure what at this point. Going to start working on one about child poverty in New Zealand soon, I don’t know if that would interest people or not though. Will think about other stuff too. I sometimes wish I could do fiction. Haven’t had the time to get my brain used to doing stuff in that way.

    Are we making it an actual contest or more like a throw-your-lot-in LPTJ Covers Project kind of thing?

    It’d require too much moderation to be a contest, I think, and who would [be appropriate to] bother with all that?

  • I’ve always been down with theses collaborative projects, count me in for this one too. I’ll do some fiction thing. Maybe some people can make illustrations for some of the pieces once they’re done???

    dick wrote

    I think it would be helpful if we have two deadlines: one, say a week from now where you submit a one-paragraph synopsis as a place-holder/intent to make a submission and then a deadline for the finished product.

    that sounds pretty good

  • a week from now where you submit a one-paragraph synopsis as a place-holder/intent to make a submission

    might be fun to post each as it’s own thread in the “writing” category, then we can kind of workshop them as we go

  • ok, so:


    We are soliciting original contributions for short fiction, essays and poetry.

    Word limit: 3,000 words, firm-ish.

    Acceptance: Submissions will be accepted by group consensus. The only criteria I can think of for rejection would be 1. if you submit something obviously half-finished, and 2. if you are Hitler. Being Hitler is grounds for a polite-but-firm rejection.


    • A proposed title and 1-2 paragraph synopsis is due October 7th by midnight, this will serve as your intent to submit. We’ll start a thread for each synopsis for discussion, critique and encouragement.

    • An optional first draft / partial draft submission is due October 14th by midnight for review and critique on this here board. We’ll add the draft to the extant threads. Criticism will be frank but not unduly harsh, and will serve to help each of us better our work, as well as helping to shape the final result.

    • Final works are due October 28th by midnight. For those whose infernal powers peak during the Samhainn, extensions will be allowed until October 31st by midnight, subject to proof of an auspicious augury.


    After submissions, we’ll name a Select Committee (3-ish people by consensus of submitters) to:

    • Assess and arrange the material.
    • Do the formatting, layout and FONTS.
    • Write a foreword.
    • Illustrations/drawings/menstrual blood paintings etc. are extremely welcome and will be solicited at this point.
    • There will be a subcommittee created to deal with any etymological issues that present themselves.

    More to be determined.

    —by authority of The Directorate

  • Viva El Directorate!

  • Christ that sounds awesome. I wonder if I can fit this in parallel to the other thing I’m working on. I’mma try

  • I’m a professional editor — if everyone does their own editing, I could proofread the content, then, once it’s formatted, check the .pdf for any last glitches.

  • Christ that sounds awesome. I wonder if I can fit this in parallel to the other thing I’m working on. I’mma try

    Do it! I really liked the thing I read on your blog the other day, the one with the offices and the tribes. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you’ve written.

    Let me know if I need to get on the webcam and make some regretful memories to help coax out a submission.

    That goes for all of you.

  • I will do a thing

  • I really liked the thing I read on your blog the other day, the one with the offices and the tribes. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you’ve written.

    Thanks Dick! If you’re interested, you can hear me read that story here.

  • I want to see this blog

  • hey guys
    you guys
    who go on forums and
    are there any writing forums where you can give each other feedback for short stories and people are cool?
    like i’m not knocking this place but last time i posted a story on lptj (granted i was sixteen and it wasn’t very good) it just got a whole lot of one-line dismissive insults.
    and i’m just curious if any of you writing people know some cool places

  • Adam, yeah, LPTJ was a harsh mistress re: feedback. I think we can do better on TNM. Remember, peeps - THIS IS NOT A WORKSHOP. No points need be scored.

    That said, you can expect the criticism offered here to be at a fairly high level. If you’re just starting to get feedback for your fiction or other writing, the best thing you can do is share your work with one or two readers whose taste you trust. They can even be TNM folk - point is, do it one-on-one, over email or in person. It’s just easier to talk through the issues that way than in a group setting.

    Eventually you get a thick skin and reply to one-line dismissive insults with one-line smackdowns.

  • Adam — The critical_writing Yahoo group is very active: honest, constructive criticism in a generally respectful atmosphere. Check it out:


  • Is there a monetary prize? I want to win an old hotel, with an old caretaker, with an old Cadillac, with the ghost of an murdered young child who shows up under the bed, when it’s 2am

  • It’s so funny you should say that

  • I mean, not because that’s the prize or anything. It’s just funny. You fucking weirdo.

  • j/k luv you

  • Warren you have to contribute. Ill be the nice no pressure Guy for everyone else but if you don’t submit something I got an appointment with the bushes beneath your bedroom window, dogg.