Writing, Writing, Writing, SQUIRREL!

Cormac McCarthy wrote all his books longhand. OTOH, they’re all super depressing, too.


This is the same reasoning that kept me away from novels. I’m very much a “get in there, tell the story, get out” kind of person. The closest I got to novel-length was an idea for a short story collection, but it turns out that the stories are interconnected and there’s an overall thing going on. But I didn’t write that either.

I did sit down to write a short story one day, one I knew was good because I had been excitedly pitching the synopsis to a bunch of people for about a year and they all liked it. I figured it was going to be about 15 pages. Well after I wrote the very first introductory part, that was already 10 pages and I was like “crap, is this a novel?”


I think I read somewhere once that Neal Stephenson wrote the entire Baroque Cycle of books by hand on one long continuous scroll. That may be apocryphal but he’s also kind of insane so I don’t know.

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Well, was it?


It may be. I got it up to 40 or 50 pages and got pulled away into something else. Maybe a novella? Someday?

Oooh! It would be perfect for an Ace Double. That’s still a thing, right?


Are there any publishers in the world nowadays who would accept a manuscript in such a form, even from Neal Stephenson?

It makes my wrist hurt just to think about it. That’s several thousand pages.


I even have come up with ideas and plotted them out enough that I think they would sustain a novel. I have three I came up with- one involving someone trying to thwart an alien invasion of New York City involving wormholes hidden in janitor’s closets, one involving a crashed UFO full of tourists in Washington D.C. in the 1960s and a Dr. Strangelove-esque push for nuclear armageddon and one about the Pig War of 1859 (someone should write a novel about the Pig War). I did a ton of research for the last one too, but that was as far as I got.


This is a battle I fight a lot. I write for a television website (a weekly rating article) and I write novel-length sci-fi adventures.

People seem to think putting words on paper is easy pie.

It’s not.

Telling a coherent story? That’s interesting? With a beginning, middle, and end, and well-paced.? I dare you to try! LOL!


I wrote one Buffy fanfic that made it over 10,000 words.

It is the one I’m most proud of, though.


Is there a general writing thread these recent posts can be moved to? I’m really liking this discussion but I think it’s too far afield from the topic.


Not sure, but I’ll peel all of this off into a new thread. We can then merge if someone fids something.

Hang on.


I was just looking for one, but no luck so far.


Oooh a writing thread!

Tim And Eric Flirting GIF


I’m a big fan of writing to limitations. I was in a writers group a few years ago that issued prompts and everyone wrote for a set amount of time (5, 10, 20 minutes) and we’d share afterwards. I’d not been in that kind of environment since college and it was great. I’d like to revisit some of the stuff I came up with then and polish it.

I also once wrote a blog that was on a set schedule and I also for some reason thought it would be funny to make every entry exactly 666 words in length. Tough to either expand or shrink ideas to fit, but ultimately satisfying.

Writing adjacent: with songwriting, I was part of a 50 Song Challenge group, where you had to write 50 songs in 90 days (averaging a little over four a week). You write a lot of crap to meet the quota, but you also get some real gems and just in general get accustomed to working at speed.

Perhaps I can pursue that novel(la), the challenge being write X words per day or for X minutes per day.


These days I can write and edit an 80K novel in about 6-7 months. So I get about two stories written per year.


I used to participate in an annual short story writing contest for the Pathfinder RPG, which was judged by Paizo’s fiction editor in chief, James Sutter. I think we did it for 4 or 5 years. I won once and came in second once, and got into 3 anthologies. But the story I won for had to be mercilessly hacked down to fit into the word count limit. The anthology editor let me expand the story significantly for publication, and I finally wound up with a story I liked.

So I’m not a big fan of word counts, especially for online publishing where stories don’t have to fit into a physical space. A story needs to be as long as it needs to be.


There’s a long, convoluted story I won’t type here—as much because I don’t really want to tell it as I doubt anyone wants to read it—but I was the graphic design guy in a small arts collective here in NC made up almost entirely of published authors. They read some of my very rough and very short fiction (writing prompt stuff done at our retreats) and convinced me to work on something longer. I came up with an idea for a novel, wrote a first chapter I was happy with, and that was it. There were a couple of gaping plot holes well down the line in the story that I couldn’t quite figure out how to justify/resolve, but I’m pretty sure I would have figured them out when I got there. My problem was that I just didn’t have that drive to write.

And I’m OK with that. It’s a thing I can do well enough—or so those folks told me; I don’t know if it was truly any good or not—but I honestly don’t care enough about telling the story to go any further.


I’m good at coming up with interesting characters and premises. I’m good at writing dialogue.

Getting an actual story out of that premise and figuring out what my interesting characters are supposed to do is something else again.

Stephen King says he never writes a plot. He comes up with characters, poses a problem for them to solve, and lets them solve it. If he finds himself writing to a plot, he knows his story is in trouble.

That’s why he’s Stephen King and I’m not.


The vibe I expected from this thread and the vibe of the actual posts in it are extremely different.

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What, for free?

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