Keeping up with my free short stories every month, this time around I went with a different style and dove into an epistolary style, where each part of the story is a short entry from the protagonist – Dr Harvey Bollard – as he details an excavation of something that shouldn’t exist. It may have been inspired by my recent obsession with The X-Files.
After a wee hiatus, Project Dark House is back in action with another freebie posted on IrishComics.ie. I finally got to work with a bucket-list artist, Lane Lloyd, on a creepy, genre-diving story called The Faces of the Many.
Entirely inspired by the fact that Fractured Realms is currently funding on Kickstarter, I wrote a short story about a god – the last god – encountering the last humans on Earth, following a sort of apocalypse scenario.
While Project Dark House is between comics at the moment, I decided to delve into the world via prose fiction. Masquerade is a weird story that looks at identity, because apparently existentialism is my brand when I’m writing these days.
Short stories are always a fun way to force myself back into writing. To get the ball rolling on 2023, I wrote Spare a Thought, a story with a telepathic virus of sorts set in a small Irish town with too much to say.
Following on from the publication of The Fiend in the Forest earlier this year, I worked with Gavin Fullerton to produce the second story from Project Dark House. Dead Ringer is an 8-page story about identity and faceless violence. With a monster, for good measure.
To celebrate the launch of IrishComics.ie, I teamed up with Clare Foley on a new short horror. The Fiend in the Forest is the first completed work in what I’ve taken to calling Project Dark House, a weird little universe of original cryptids.
This past weekend, Octocon 2020 took place online. It was an opportunity to keep the convention running, even in the face of a global pandemic, spreading members’ attention across Zoom, Twitch and Discord for a free weekend celebrating fandom and genre fiction. I was fortunate to be offered a Dealer Room channel on the convention’s Discord, as well as one for Cupán Fae, where we could talk about our books.
New Editions of The Black Pages
In a pre-Covid world, new editions of The Black Pages would have debuted at the convention in physical form, rather than appearing as an Amazon link. Thankfully, even a global pandemic doesn’t stop authors like me releasing new editions of their books that tie together for the first time since they became a series in their own right.
The new editions – which I’ve been calling my Spellbook Editions – mark a change in the design for the series to keep it consistent and interesting, while also serving to reduce my stress levels when it comes to creating new covers!
The Magic Man: Book 2
On Twitter, I mentioned the cover reveal for my next book. I’m delighted to share it publicly for the first time: the cover, title and release date for the second book in the Magic Man arc of The Black Pages.
The book has some overlap with Second Sight for Sore Eyes in terms of its timeline, with the other side of Arnold and Gary’s story being told. I’ve been dying for the release of this book, which is nearing the point of formatting for publication.
New Cupán Fae titles!
It wouldn’t be Octocon without a Cupán Fae release. This year, thanks to the cancellation of physical events, we pushed our summer release out for a double-bill for Octocon.
I have stories in both anthologies. In Fierce & Proud, I tell a tale of discovering one’s sexuality later in life in Man in the Mirror. In our punk book, Fiercepunk, I have Biopunk and Flowerpunk stories, Accidents Happen and The Central Fae respectively.
Creating these books was a blast, and this time included three authors’ debuts with us!
Until next time…
I’ll have more updates soon, and a few extra bits and pieces as we near the launch of State of Despayre in November. In the meantime, I’ll be working on getting the book ready to go, and prepping for NaNoWriMo 2020. If you want to keep in touch, I’ll be starting my newsletter this month. You can sign up below and get your hands on a collection of stories from Tales of the Fantastical. I promise I won’t spam.
When it comes to writing short fiction, sometimes it can be difficult keeping the word count low. In this post, as part of my NaNoWriMo series, we’ll take a look at three tips for keeping a story short. This is essential if you’re planning on writing a short story a day for NaNoWriMo, if you know how long each one is meant to be.
What makes a short story?
A short story is like any other story – it needs a beginning, a middle and an end, and should actually say something. It helps to understand general word count ranges for different lengths of story.
0-7,500 words – Short story
7,500-17,500 words – Novelette
17,500-40,000 words – Novella
40,000+ words – Novel
It’s imperfect, because everyone disagrees about one thing or another. Some people will specify word counts for flash fiction differently, whether it’s up to 100, 250, 500 or 1,000 words, and others will insert a noveletta into the mix, as well as specify word count ranges specific to genres.
With that in mind, how do you keep your word count down?
Start as close to the end as possible
The less build-up you have to do, the less time you need to spend wrapping up.
We don’t need to know how everything happened, just that it did, and pick a moment near the end to focus on. This will help you avoid the sort of set-up that a novel requires, and protects the short story from going stale before it’s gone anywhere else.
Introduce the premise, character and their motivation as quickly as possible
We should know everything we need to know from the get-go, especially for fiction of less than 1,000 words.
If a character’s relationship with their father isn’t important to the story, you don’t need to mention it. If a character’s motivation is to become an astronaut, the story should be about that.
Ideally, aim smaller: the character just needs to get through an interview, or a lunch, or get somewhere on time. Big motivations, long-term goals, are for novels, unless we’re close to the end.
Short-term goals, things a character can achieve in a day or less, are better suited for short fiction. And always refer back to the previous tip.
Outline in 3-5 bullet points
If you need 20 bullet points to plot your story, it won’t be short. Keep it simple. Refer back to the previous tips.
Your plan for your story can follow something like this:
Introduce the premise, the character and their motivation.
Introduce an obstacle.
Explore how the character will overcome the obstacle.
Conclusion. Wrap it all up.
Write about moments, and let the story end, no matter how much you love the characters (or what you get to do to them.) That’s the key to making it short. If you like the characters, and you haven’t killed them all by the end, you can always write another story about them. Arthur Conan Doyle did it with Sherlock Holmes.
Do you have to plan?
Technically no, but I know a lot of people who try to write without a plan and end up going way over their target word count. Planning your story will help you figure out exactly how much will happen in it. Likewise, if you know how many words you’re allowed to write – if you’re writing for a submission to an anthology, magazine or competition – you need to be able to plan your story accordingly.
My NaNo prep series is done, at least this time around. Ahead of the July Camp session, I may write another series, covering other topics.