J.M. Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

Some Details About Me Posted Elsewhere

Nov
04

Some comments I wrote on my relationship with writing were posted by fellow blogger Richie Billing. My blurb is accompanied by that of another writer named Paul Freemanwho I had not heard about before now.

Richie is planning a series of posts like this, and I think it’s a interesting concept–looking at how writers got started in the craft and what keeps them going. I find it interesting that Paul Freeman responded to someone’s sarcastic jab by going all in on a book. My fall into writing was much more gradual.

Anyway, head over and read the post.

~J.M.

SHARE: The Key to an Engaging Story is Conflict

Oct
07

Even a novice writer knows the truth of this: fiction is driven by conflict. It simply wouldn’t be interesting to read about someone going about their day and having everything go their way. The uneventful is boring. We crave big events, flashy and even crazy events. We don’t go to concerts to watch some dude stand around doing nothing. There’s gotta be sound, and lights, and maybe a little rough-housing!

Conflict is critical to any work of fiction and it becomes more critical the shorter the piece is. This is largely due to the connection of conflict and action. Conflict forces a character to make a choice, and ultimately to take action. And the shorter your work of fiction, the more action-centered it needs to be, in order to provide a pleasing experience for the reader. Flash fiction is not a good place for complex world-building or convoluted plots.

I stumbled on the following article in my Facebook feed and found it to be a very well-articulated summary of one half of the conflict topic, namely external (or physical) conflict. These days, Lit is usually concerned with internal (or emotional) conflict, but speculative fiction–especially Fantasy, and soft sci-fi–tends to favor external conflict. We fantasy fans love our villains. It’s no surprise then, that most of the examples given in the article are SF/F works.

I have to say, I really like the look of this site. It feels more like a fiction ezine than a writing blog. Near the end of the article, the author provides a good seven-point checklist for working out your story’s conflict. But I will let you read that at the source.

Head on over and read the full article, linked below.

~J.M.


What is external conflict?

by Kristen Kieffer

As humans, our curiosity piques when two forces oppose one another. “What is happening?” we ask. Why are these two forces at odds? How will the conflict play out? Who will win? What would I do if I were in that situation?

These are the questions readers ask, more or less subconsciously, as they read. Which means they’re also exactly the kinds of questions writers should ask themselves when crafting plots for their stories.

In stories, as in life, there are two types of conflict: internal and external. Internal conflicts are the mental, emotional, or spiritual struggles a person faces—Character vs. Self—which we’ll talk about in a new blog post soon! Today, however, we’re going to focus on the second type of struggle: external conflict. Shall we dive right into the breakdown? … READ MORE

It’s Been a While

Sep
18

I just spent some five hours revising a short story. I got a rejection with a rewrite offer from a publisher a couple months back, so of course I was going to heed their feedback and resubmit.

I just spent five hours writing and revising. Last night I had a muse, took a bunch of notes and went to bed thinking about my story. This morning I woke up and couldn’t wait to get started. Even when I had to take a break to drive somewhere around noonish, the story was stuck in my head. I finished the story. I think it’s much better now that the previous draft I submitted. But even though I’m done with it, it’s still stuck in my head.

I just spent the last five hours writing, and never realized that it’s almost 4pm and I haven’t eaten anything today. Not a crumb. Damn, I’m hungry.

It’s been a long time since I had as good a day of writing as this.

~J.M.

Write Like Hell!

Sep
11

Ray Bradbury seems to come up a lot in writing advice columns. That’s probably because he’s had a lot to say about writing and it has often proved useful to people like me.

One of the things that he seemed to say a lot was that sucess at writing takes a lot time, and practice. I find this incredibly reassuring, seeing as I am still struggling to “break-in” to professional writing. I wonder if I am rushing my expectations, or even if I know what breaking-in really means.

One of the many things Bradbury supposedly said was:

“If you can write one short story a week, it doesn’t matter what the quality is to start – at least you’re practicing. At the end of the year you have 52 short stories. And I defy you to write 52 bad ones. It can’t be done. After 30 or 40 weeks, all of a sudden a story will come that is wonderful – just wonderful. That’s what happened to me…”

It’s great to know that I have been working much in the manner he suggested, even without having heard this bit of advice in advance. My story publication tracker has about 55 stories on it from the last year, just about on target with Bradbury’s suggested goal. 28 of these have already been accepted for publication, so I’m not doing too bad.

If you’d like to read the full article the above quote appears in, here’s the link:

Ray Bradbury’s Words of Wisdom – Write Like Hell!

I wholeheartedly suggest you do as Bradbury says and write like hell! There’s worse things you could do with your time.

~J.M.

 

Where to Publish? — Anti SF

Sep
03

There are quite a few bloggers out there who post links to markets for writers. The trouble is, more of often than not the markets they share are pay-to-submit writing contests. I have voiced my concerns regarding some of these so-called “publishers.” In short, sometimes the math doesn’t add up.

Regardless, there is little reason to pay to submit your work when there are countless paying publishers that read for free. For writers new to formal publishing–like I was not so long ago–it can even be beneficial to send to publishers who don’t pay anything.

There’s a lot to gain from publishing, beyond just dollars and cents. One should not be so short sighted. Publishing in any venue helps build your brand and helps you learn the submission process. You get the chance of working with editors and staff, perhaps even receiving feedback on your work, and in general learning whether you have any writing chops or not.

These benefits come from non-paying publishers as well.  Moreover, while I don’t have any statistics, I imagine you have a better chance of being accepted into a non-paying market. That gets you in the door to learn the second half of the publishing game, the social exchanges between author and editor (and maybe even contracts depending on the pub). Even better, many of these publishers accept reprints, meaning you can send them work you have already posted on your blog. Few paying markets accept reprints, and those who do have brutal standards for anything that isn’t bringing in first rights.

Most of all, getting published anywhere helps you build confidence and establish relations with the greater writing world. To that end, the first publisher I am going to recommend is one whose editor I have developed a congenial bond with.

1

Antipodean SF is an Australian non-profit, print and audio publisher. It is managed by a man named Ion who DJs his radio show under the moniker “Nuke.” Most of the authors they publish are Aussies, but they will read English-language work from any which-where.

AntiSF has many things going for it as an online pub. Not only will they publish your work as part of an ezine issue, they will also add the audio version to the radio show (this can either be author read, or read by the AntiSF staff–usually the incredible Marg Essex). Beyond that, they have a more professional-looking website than a lot of free publishers. And most importantly, they accept reprints. Both of the stories I sent to AntiSF were originally posted on my blog.

If that didn’t sell you, the editor is a friendly chap and is more than willing to work with you to tune-up the story, if accepted. It’s a great place to start learning how to work with an editor.

There really isn’t any reason not to give it a try.

They publish flash fiction of the sci-fi or fantasy variety, and prefer quirky stories that are humorous or turn the genre upside down. Their guidelines can be found HERE.

What’re you waiting for? Give it a shot!

~J.M.

*If you’d like to receive even juicier publishing advice, join the Rabble! I will send out one premium market recommendation with each letter.