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You have to try a new genre in order to find out what genre writing is all about. I did that recently, and here are some thoughts that resulted.

My Story

I have been a Sci-Fi fan since I was about 10 years old. I cut my teeth on Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, so the genre runs deep in my subconscious. But I have never written a Science Fiction novel.

So in the depths of the winter of 2018, when we had no snow and no sun and I was heavily submerged in Seasonal Affective Disorder, I decided to make a change. I would write some Sci-Fi. Nothing fancy. Just a fun Space Opera, with spaceships and artificial intelligence and…well, I decided to keep it simple and have no aliens. I was just starting out, after all.

A Warning from Another Art Form

But I did not sit down and start writing, because writing in a genre is easier described by talking about jazz. Now, to be fair, I must admit to a jaundiced slant on jazz. While working as a theatre technician, I have mixed sound for countless performances of all genres of music, but the travelling jazz bands stand out. You see, what normally happens is three or four professional jazz musicians get together, give themselves a name and go on tour in the hinterland, playing small nightclubs and community halls. They don’t practise a whole lot before they set out, because they’re top professionals, and they know the riffs. Jazz is all about improvising, right?

And that’s the problem. They know all the riffs, and improvisation is a process of putting a bunch of riffs together. Yes, it’s different every time, but when you’ve been through ten or twenty of these performances, you realize that the form of every song is always the same, right down to the huge crescendo at the end with everyone holding the same major eleventh chord forever. And then they quit, but the drummer can’t resist one more bash, right at the end. They run this twenty times, do “Georgia on My Mind,” and a Billie Holiday tune and think they’ve created a jazz show.

If the performers are on, it can be wonderful. If the band just got off a long bus trip and missed dinner, it can be deadly boring. Bands who have been together a long time, who are only improvising in a few places and are playing more tightly arranged charts the rest of the time hit the high points much more often. That’s the difference between good jazz bands and hacks.

Back to the Story

But I’m not talking about jazz, here. That’s just the example. When you’re creating art in any specific genre, a series of hot licks doesn’t make it a work of art; that makes a potboiler. To do better, you need all the artistic skill that ten or thirty years of experience provide. Or creative genius, of course, but let’s not rest on that laurel.

So I did not sit down and start to write my Sci-Fi epic. No, I thought it over. I thought about what kinds of characters would be in a good space opera. The bright young captain (preferably female), the jealous stickler-for-the-rules First Officer. The somehow-augmented pet. The precocious brat. The awkward artificial intelligence. The spaceship with a personality. You know them all.

But I did not start to write. I had just finished an article for Indies Unlimited called, “Where’s the Theme in Your Book?” So I jotted down some themes that meant a lot to me. But I did not start to write. I just daydreamed for a month.

And then one cold winter morning at 4 a.m., I woke up with an idea fully formed. I kid you not. The whole basic premise and conflict was right there. Trying desperately not to wake up, I mused, half-dreaming, on the possibilities for a couple of hours. Pieces began to fit together. Ideas started to sprout.

But I have woken up to ideas before. Usually in the light of day they turn out to be crap. So I did not start writing. I went back to sleep.

And when I awoke to the light of a late winter’s dawn, it was all still there. It still worked.

Then I Started Writing

I wrote 25,000 words in six days. Once I had the basic framework, all the chops I’d been learning for the last 60 years fit in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And somewhere around the fifth day, I wrote a scene that had the theme in it. I didn’t start out to say anything important, but the moment I wrote it, I knew it was the theme. It wasn’t on my list. Until then, I had no idea.

Now, lest you think this is all happily-ever-after, at 35,000 words I got stuck. I had written out all the story arcs my dream had given me, and I still didn’t have even a novella.

So I Stopped Writing

Back to you, subconscious. I picked away at it. I wrote whatever came to mind. I wrote stuff I know I’m going to throw away. I even got creative and slipped in a couple of riffs of my own. But I just let it come. And while I was musing, I reminded myself of everything I’ve learned about story structure and plot development. I got sidelined into some tutorials on Sketchup and designed the cover. Then I threw it all out and used stock photos.

When I wrote IU’s article about Fat Outlining, I began to apply it to my new story. If you ever read that story, you’ll see the bones of the outline sticking through in a rather obvious way because of a cute device I devised, but only people who have read both the story and the article will notice. I hope.

It’s been five weeks now, and I’m at 45,000 words. Every time I get stuck or I can’t decide whether an idea fits, I say, “Does it help the theme?” If it doesn’t, it’s history. And then I write some more. I took to heart R J Crayton’s article about making mistakes, and went and talked to a cover artist.

Now I’m in the revise and re-edit stage, starting to look around for beta readers (anyone interested, let me know).

I wonder how it will turn out.

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Mary Kay Bonfante is the Readers’ Choice in this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. The winning entry is decided by the popular vote and rewarded with a special feature here today. (In the case of a tie, the writer who submitted an entry first is the winner per our rules.) Without further ado, here’s the winning story:

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Running
by Mary Kay Bonfante

Ellie ran along the road outside town. Strains of “America the Beautiful” ran through her mind. Ellie’s ponytail kept flopping up and down, keeping time with the song she silently heard. She was running against traffic on the “wrong” side of the road, because that’s just what you did to keep safe.

Purple mountain majesties! We have it all, out here in rural Oregon, thought Ellie. She thought she spied a truck on the wrong side of the road, but kept going.

As she ran, the road disappeared and was replaced by the finest grass in a color she’d never seen before. She found herself walking under new and different trees, beside a travel companion she found strangely familiar.

“Where is this place?” asked Ellie.

“Don’t you know?” asked the man.

“But how could it be — unless I”m — ”

“Dead? Do you feel dead?” asked the man.

“No, I feel absolutely, positively alive!” exclaimed Ellie, “It’s you, isn’t it?”

“You catch on quickly,” said the man, “So what do you want to do next?”

“I’m concerned about my baby. And my husband, who’s with her right now.”

“I feel deeply for them. Jenna isn’t with Mario now. She’s with your sister-in-law, Louise. Mario is with your parents at St. John’s.”

“So fast?”

“Time has no meaning here.”

“Can I go back?” asked Ellie.

“I thought you might want that.”

“I feel really torn. Will you be with me?”

“Always am,” he smiled.

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Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Wednesday, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2018.

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Hey authors – are you enrolled in KDP Select? Then this is for you. Hey readers – do you have a Kindle Unlimited membership? Then this is for you, too! Scroll on down – you can get all these books for FREE. Not sure what Kindle Unlimited is? Our Lynne Cantwell tells you right here. So…

Readers: look in the comment section below. If you see a book that interests you, click over and reserve your copy. How easy is that? (If you don’t see the book covers, adjust your browser’s adblock settings.)

Authors: if you have a book enrolled in KDP Select, that means it’s available through the Amazon.com Kindle Unlimited Program. Post your book’s info FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW. Authors who do not follow instructions will have their comments deleted.

We will convert your link to a clickable book cover. Do not attempt to insert an image in comments on your own. Just put the following information in the comment section:

1. Book title
2. Author name
3. A one sentence blurb (tweetable in length – longer descriptions will be deleted)
4. The Amazon link to purchase the book
5. The normal price so readers can see what they’re saving!
6. Limit 5 books per author

Then let your friends and fans know your book is being featured here today. Use the share buttons below, or copy the link in the address bar above and share the news on your favorite social media platforms. The more, the merrier, right?

So let’s give it a try, shall we? Please make sure to follow the RULES above. Now, go ahead and tell the world about your free read. IU is a safe-for-work site. PLEASE do not post links to erotica, religious, or political titles.

[Note: if the book cover images below do not display properly, please check your AdBlock settings.]

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Indies Unlimited by Administrators - 5d ago

It’s Christmas in July, or some such excuse to have a sale when you can fill up your Kindle or other eReader with some awesome eBooks. We’ve got plenty of free and 99 cent eBooks here on Thrifty Thursday!

Readers: look in the comment section below. If you see one you like, click over and buy it. How easy is that? (If you don’t see the book covers, adjust your browser’s adblock settings.)

Authors: if you have a book priced at 99¢ or less (that’s right, post your free eBooks here, too!), follow the instructions below and post it right in the comment section. Got more than one bargain book? Go ahead and post up to five titles but only one book and ONE link per comment please!

We will convert Amazon links to spiffy clickable book covers. Do not attempt to insert an image in comments on your own. Just put the following information in the comment section:

1. Book title
2. Author name
3. A one sentence blurb (~140 characters – longer descriptions will be deleted)
4. ONE link to purchase the book (only secure retail sites – Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, or Apple/iStore)
5. Whether your book is free or 99 cents (and for how long/what dates)
6. Limit FIVE books per author.

Then let your friends and fans know your book is available here today. Use the share buttons below, or copy the link in the address bar above and share the news on your favorite social media platforms. The more, the merrier, right?

So let’s give it a try, shall we? Please make sure to follow the RULES above. Now, go ahead and tell the world about your cheap read. IU is a safe-for-work site. PLEASE do not post links to erotica, religious, or political titles – they will be deleted without notice. Kindle Unlimited books do NOT go here. If you want to advertise a KU book, you may do so on Kindle Unlimited Fridays. Thank you.

[Note: if the book cover images below do not display properly, please check your AdBlock settings.]

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It’s that time again…time to choose your favorite flash fiction story of the week! It’s all up to you now – only one can win Flash Fiction Readers’ Choice Champion honors. It’s super easy – choose your favorite and cast your vote below.

Check out this week’s entries here. Make your decision, then come back to THIS page and click the gray circle next to the person’s name. Scroll down to the vote button which will turn blue, and then click it. Please then use those share buttons at the bottom of the post to spread the word. Attention Authors: It is okay if you ask people to vote for you!

Voting polls close Thursday at 5 PM Pacific time. If the poll doesn’t close on time, any votes received after 5 pm will be removed.

REMINDER – entries over the 250 limit are disqualified.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

NOTE: Entrants whose submissions exceed the 250 word limit will be disqualified even if they win. ONE VOTE PER PERSON, please. Duplicate votes will be deleted. The results displayed above are unofficial until verified by administration.

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Dale E. Lehman is the Readers’ Choice in this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. The winning entry is decided by the popular vote and rewarded with a special feature here today. (In the case of a tie, the writer who submitted an entry first is the winner per our rules.) Without further ado, here’s the winning story:

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Suspended
by Dale E. Lehman

“I don’t like the look on that bird’s face,” Frank said through the side of his mouth.

“Who’s looking at her face?” Will replied with a smirk.

“Not the woman! The bird!” Frank pointed. They were standing in the wet sand along the shore, waves lapping at their bare feet. Farther along, a pretty young lady in a pretty skimpy swimsuit was washing a shell in the water. The little white bird, though, only half as far away, had murder in his eyes.

“Who cares about birds?” Will said. “I’m gonna meet her.” He marched off toward his romantic destiny, leaving Frank to stare after him.

The bird turned as Will passed it by and screeched like a set of worn out tires.

“Shut up,” Will snapped, flapping his arm at it. “Fly south for the summer.”

The bird took wing, not south but straight for Will. Frank watched in horror as the creature’s beak opened to dozens of times its body size and swallowed Will whole. Then he did the only rational thing he could. He passed out.

The woman sauntered up to the bird and patted it on the head. “Good boy,” she said. “Shall we go home?”

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Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Wednesday, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2018.

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Indies Unlimited by Administrators - 1w ago

Lemonade and a good book… (yes, we know that’s not lemonade!) on a hot summer day – what could be better? Thank goodness today  you can fill up your Kindle or other eReader with some awesome eBooks. We’ve got plenty of free and 99 cent eBooks here on Thrifty Thursday!

Readers: look in the comment section below. If you see one you like, click over and buy it. How easy is that? (If you don’t see the book covers, adjust your browser’s adblock settings.)

Authors: if you have a book priced at 99¢ or less (that’s right, post your free eBooks here, too!), follow the instructions below and post it right in the comment section. Got more than one bargain book? Go ahead and post up to five titles but only one book and ONE link per comment please!

We will convert Amazon links to spiffy clickable book covers. Do not attempt to insert an image in comments on your own. Just put the following information in the comment section:

1. Book title
2. Author name
3. A one sentence blurb (~140 characters – longer descriptions will be deleted)
4. ONE link to purchase the book (only secure retail sites – Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, or Apple/iStore)
5. Whether your book is free or 99 cents (and for how long/what dates)
6. Limit FIVE books per author.

Then let your friends and fans know your book is available here today. Use the share buttons below, or copy the link in the address bar above and share the news on your favorite social media platforms. The more, the merrier, right?

So let’s give it a try, shall we? Please make sure to follow the RULES above. Now, go ahead and tell the world about your cheap read. IU is a safe-for-work site. PLEASE do not post links to erotica, religious, or political titles – they will be deleted without notice. Kindle Unlimited books do NOT go here. If you want to advertise a KU book, you may do so on Kindle Unlimited Fridays. Thank you.

[Note: if the book cover images below do not display properly, please check your AdBlock settings.]

  • Show original
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It’s that time again…time to choose your favorite flash fiction story of the week! It’s all up to you now – only one can win Flash Fiction Readers’ Choice Champion honors. It’s super easy – choose your favorite and cast your vote below.

Check out this week’s entries here. Make your decision, then come back to THIS page and click the gray circle next to the person’s name. Scroll down to the vote button which will turn blue, and then click it. Please then use those share buttons at the bottom of the post to spread the word. Attention Authors: It is okay if you ask people to vote for you!

Voting polls close Thursday at 5 PM Pacific time. If the poll doesn’t close on time, any votes received after 5 pm will be removed.

REMINDER – entries over the 250 limit are disqualified.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

NOTE: Entrants whose submissions exceed the 250 word limit will be disqualified even if they win. ONE VOTE PER PERSON, please. Duplicate votes will be deleted. The results displayed above are unofficial until verified by administration.

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