Gnashing Teeth from the Deep and the Children Hang on Tight - A Checklist
On the one year anniversary of the publication of my non-standard form flash fiction published in Issue 2 of Constelación Magazine - Myths and Monsters learn the story behind the story. Be sure to go read the flash before reading this blog post, for there are spoilers ahead. You will want to buy a single issue (and buy both issue 1 and 2 because they are both great!) rather than use the subscriptions.
This publication will always be very close to my heart. In the fall of 2020, I attended a Writing Prompts and Games session with Cat Rambo via her Discord Server. Cat read this prompt, which was what became the title, "Gnashing teeth from the deep and the children hang on tight," and I immediately thought this was a checklist. And I was off writing my story.
I am a pantser and other than write a little snippet per word or phrase, as told from this Nightmare Monster's perspective, I didn't know where this was going as I wrote for the ten minute writing time. For the Monster, who has no name, it is a transitional time, a coming-of-age of sorts, moving from a young and shallow voice into a more mature and motivated voice.
When our ten minutes was up, I'd mined some of my own trauma for the resolution - because when I got to the phrase "children hang on tight" I asked myself, why would the children hang on tight to a monster from the deep that I've created here? And the answer is that the Nightmare Monster become a savior from the terrors in life. Terrors I knew well as a child.
I volunteered to read my story during the reading time. I recall a couple of the other attendees that day. As I read along, the sing-song nature of some of the prose and the inital voice elicited smiles from Cat and the other Zoom members. And at the twist, the smiles faded and it was silent. We mute ourselves when we aren't reading, but it took a moment for Cat to say anything. And I wasn't sure if the faded smiles and silence was a good sign or a bad sign about the story.
I don't recall what Cat said, to be honest. But I polished it, taking the somewhat blunt twist and wrote it a little less extreme and severe from its initial course.
Submission and Acceptance
In December 2020, I began submitting my fiction to markets. My initial method involved finding best fits as I saw them. The call for Issue 2 of Constelación Magazine - Myths and Monsters was opening. I spent an afternoon in an early December co-writing session from Cat Rambo's Discord polishing the story specifically for this call. At least one other person on the Zoom session mentioned they were also polishing a story for this call.
Polished and ready, I submitted "Gnashing Teeth from the Deep and the Children Hang on Tight - A Checklist" on December 15, 2020 through the Constelación moksha portal. It was my second fiction submission since the 1990s. I generally just consider it my second fiction submission ever since I was not paid for any of my 1990s fiction. It was the first submission of this story to any market.
I continued to submit other stories to other markets, a total of six that December. I used The Submission Grinder to track my submissions. I watched rejections turn the Constelación graph from purple (pending) to red (rejected) while my story stayed purple along with a chunk of others. I am supersititious about nudging for responses and only do so under duress. I simply waited, along with those other purple lines.
On Monday, March 29, 2021 around noon local time, I received an acceptance email from Coral Alejandra Moore and the Constelación Team!
Many authors have dream markets. By March 2021, I hadn't really made my list of dream markets, but Constelación Magazine would definitely be on it.
Issue 2 was supposed to be published April 15, 2021, according to the Constelacion Kickstarter. As a new publishing author, I didn't know much, but I knew that would be a tight turn-around. It didn't matter. I was thrilled for the acceptance and to be a part of this publication and its journey. This also signified my first pro-rate sale.
I attended the Flights of Foundry virtual convention in 2021, where the Constelación editors were guests of honor. I attended their panels and their open room. I may have fallen all over myself and possibly (definitely) cried in excitement at meeting Eliana and Coral. (I'm not cool. At all. And my ND brain cries at any opporunity, much to my dismay.)
I waited six months for my second story to be published. Spring acceptances with fall publications is currently a 2-point trendline. On October 5, 2021, Issue 2 of Constelación Magazine - Myths and Monsters was published with my story in it. With this publication, another wishlist item on my author dreams was achieved - have my work translated from English to another language. Natasha Besoky wrote the translation into Spanish.
The publication announcement was met with wonderful tweets and an amazing review from Charles Payseur. It also earned me a spot in The Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index.
On September 2, 2022, Coral Alejandra Moore announced the closure of Constelación Magazine. I am gutted for her and Eliana. They and Constelación were fabulous, and I wish them and the Constelación Team well in their future endeavors.
On this, the one-year anniversary of my first story publication in this millenium, I'm sharing the backstory about Submerged published at Wyldblood Press Free Flash Friday on March 19, 2021.
I used to say I took a long break from writing. But that isn't true. I wrote fiction that I shared randomly with people through about 2005. Then I went to grad school for a doctorate in physical chemistry while caring for two young children. I journaled during that time, including fiction. I wrote about science for scientists. I wrote about science for general audiences. I blogged.
All the while, I told myself stories. I wrote fanfiction in my head. Original characters lived rent-free for short and long-term lease periods.
In 2019, I could no longer contain a particular story and wrote several hundred thousand words that spans short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels. These are all in various stages of completion and submission. I hope at some point I have big announcements about all of them. But this is not the story of those.
In 2020, while looking for support and writing education, I found the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers via a friend. I joined the discord and participated in co-working sessions. I attended many of their workshops. In one workshop, I wrote a 70-word story that I liked. A lot. Since, I've found it doesn't work as well for me and I've pulled it from submission.
But, more importantly, I started attending writing prompts. During those writing prompt sessions with fellow writers I'd met in the discord, in the workshops, and during co-working, I wrote many pieces of flash. Some of them grew into larger pieces, some of them stayed small.
On a Wednesday in December 2020, Cat showed us a photo of many hands reaching up out of water, clasped together. I shuddered and gave such a creeped out response that Cat commented on it. I've since tried to find the image several times and cannot. I would love to share it for more people's story seeds. We wrote for ten minutes, and at the end, I read mine aloud to the others in the Zoom group.
Then it got set aside.
During one of my short story binge-reads, I read all of the Free Flash Friday stories available from Wyldblood at the time. They had an open submission period in January 2021, and I thought Submerged would fit their taste. I polished it to meet their guidelines and sent it off on January 10, 2021 and had an acceptance email on February 1, 2021. It was an exciting email to wake up to on a Monday morning!
I missed the publication date. I have little advice for publishing. But the one I have is for publishers to send their authors a notice when their story goes up or out. I want to promote my stories and the publications that they find their home in.
For however long it is available on the Wyldblood website, I will send everyone there to read it. Should it ever come down, I will publish it here on my website. However, with no other expected publication of it, I have done a reading of it on my Youtube. This is my first publicly available story reading and my first original video on my Youtube. Enjoy!
In late November, Amalie/A.R. Frederiksen posted a tweet about a short story exchange.
It's me. I'm stuck in the query trenches where writing had lost its joy. And this exchange seemed perfect to get my writing joy back. I followed the thread instructions and sent off my prompt. On December 1, I received my prompt.
I found writing in the week between Christmas and New Year's to be rejuvenating and fun. I produced a 2150-word story that I hope my Santa's Secret Pen 2021 partner will love!
Mel Grebing received my prompt and produced a sweet little tale about a relationship in the lab space called Mistakes and Resolutions.
Time for Magic by Adria Bailton
The horse plodded forward, its foreleg breaking the snowdrifts with power. Chelsea yanked at the lining of her hood, pulling it farther forward to protect her face from the fat falling flakes. She’d numbed to the chill hours ago. Who needed warming spells when she could just freeze away all feeling? The horse snorted as if it agreed with her assessment.
“That’s a good boy, Roger.” She leaned forward and patted the chestnut’s neck. “It’s not far now.”
For those just joining me, this summer I participated in the Writer in Motion program.
In Week 0, we were given a prompt to reflect upon.
In Week 1, we posted our inital, rough, unedited drafts.
In Week 2, we posted our self-edited drafts.
In Week 3, we posted edited stories after receiving feedback from assigned critique partners also participating in the progam.
During Week 4, we received feedback from a professional editor. I was paired with Justin Manzano, who provided helpful feedback in both line edits and a short edit letter.
I cannot thank my critique partners and editor enough for their feedback in helping me clarify the story, and for correcting that spelling error and line edits.
Below is my final version of In the Country of Shadow.
In the Country of Shadow
[Removed for Submission Purposes]
What is Writer in Motion?
Week 3 we were assigned a small group of critique partners - other writers participating in Writer in Motion. We read and critique each other's stories. I was paired with Erin, Anthony, and Linda. Their stories were so much fun to read and their feedback helped me shape my story into more of a story, something more coherent, (and correct spellings!) and gave me a little bit of confidence that I was missing during this process.
There's still more...
My process with CP feedback is to usually receive it, read it, let it sit a few days, and then work through it. I received all my feedback with time to do all that, except my own time management and ability to wrangle tenses eluded my alloted time I'd reserved to work on it. The tenses are still giving me trouble, and I'll need to make sure I get quiet time to tame them for next week.
In the Country of Shadow
What is Writer in Motion? See my Week 0 post.
What did this story look like when I gave up and posted for Week 1 rough draft? You can read my initial draft at my week 1 post.
The Story So Far...
Normally, I'd leave a short story at least one week, often much longer, before re-reading it and doing some self-edits. Since it took me to the very last minute to finish my initial draft, and there are deadlines for posting, I didn't have that luxury for this story.
Another stumbling block I've encountered with this story has enlightened me on my writing habits. I often have stories that crop up in my brain and need to be told and I pour them onto the paper (or into the digital Word file as it were.) Sometimes, I use a prompt and it takes me a couple sentences or a minute of thinking, and then the story just flows. And while I don't usually know the end until 40% of the way into the story (which is also when I discover how long the story will be prior to revisions), I always know where the story was going.
Dear Reader, I did not know where this story was going. I never have had such a hard time writing a story. I mentioned last week I would never have bothered to "finish" the draft if I weren't signed up for Writer in Motion. When I looked at the image, I had ideas. I had so many ideas. And all those lovely ideas got me into trouble. Because I didn't let the story simmer long enough and/or I didn't have the appropriate length of time of a deadline. I often will give myself 10 minutes or 30 minutes to write a story based off a prompt. And the furiosity of that writing may lead to giving myself a little more time to finish it. Instead I spent the week trying things and really nothing worked.
What all that comes down to: I had a lot to self-edit.
Week 2: Self-Editing
I started with a 647 word story. I was trying to push to that 1000 word goal. Our stories are supposed to be under 1000 words at the end of this week, or as of this posting. That was clearly not my problem. However, I worried that having too short of a story would also be a problem. The pushing towards the required word count, rather than let the story be whatever word count it wanted, created problems. I kept trying to add in conflicting ideas. I had no clear goal. I kept changing the relationship of the two characters.
Going into edits, I planned to remove the chorus, focus the story, get to a point of conflict and resolution (that didn't exist before) and clean up the copy.
On the 20th, I felt I'd waited as long as I could or I wouldn't have any edits to put forth. I opened my doc, created a week 2 doc, read through, tried to remove the chorus and found the story lost the little bit I liked about it, put the chorus back in, and closed the doc.
I opened the document back up again yesterday. I deleted 279 words, bringing the story down to 367. There was even less story, but I liked it better. I had shaved off all the competing ideas. I worked hard to keep the line that got some positive feedback, scrapping the line about being made of photons, which hurt my scientist's heart.
A Single Thought
I self-edit all short stories with the single thought: what change does my protagonist go through, ie. a protagonist must change in order for it to be a short story. For this story, I actually want the problem my protagonist starts with to be the problem they end with, and the change needed to be that they now accepted themself with this problem. So the conflict became how do they go from wanting to change themselves to accepting this about themselves?
Self-Edited Draft: In the Country of Shadows
Read more stories
The prompt was revealed on July 9.
On July 10, I wrote 24 words: "I am made of smoke and dreams and things you don’t want to see in the mirror.I live in the country of shadow."
After a particularly frustrating day job work day, on July 14, I wrote more words, ending my evening with 487. I still wasn't sure my plot, but the repeating I miss you. I love you. Let me go. introduced itself.
Of course, once I called it for the night, I went to bed and immediately came up with more of the story. First thing the next morning, I wrote more, filling out a bit more.
I'm a circular writer. I write in spirals even though my stories are told in a line. At low enough word counts, and usually if I write the full thing in one sitting, I will write through and then my spirals can be reclassified as "filling out." But, filling out to me means to enhance something that exists, not create an entirely new arc, plot, or even interaction between characters. For me, filling out has often to make more for the reader, not for the story.
Today's draft is not a finished draft, and it is very, very rough. It is 654 words. It is both too short and too long.
Normally, I wait a week before editing shorts. I won't have that time. I have some tense issues. I already see things I wish to cut, the chorus for one. And I need to fill the story out quite a bit, to edge closer to the 1000 word limit and to round it out for the reader.
In the Country of Shadow
After posting, I edited to add the prompt image and some links.
Adding these more thoughts, just for transparency. I would never post or submit this story. In fact, this story fought me so much, if it weren't for this program, I would not have written it. The story feels too influenced from others, despite me trying not to read other people's responses to the prompt.
Links to Other Writer in Motion Stories
I learned about Writer in Motion from Erin Fulmer. Here's her unedited first draft.
Keir Alekseii livestreamed her writing, which is a cool idea. View the video and result here.
Mel Grebing was inspired by the prompt and posted their story as well.
Enjoying all these stories? View all the participants at Writer in Motion Week 1: The Messy First Draft.
Based on the enthusiasm author Erin Fulmer showed for the Writer in Motion project, I joined up during their registration period.
What is Writer in Motion? It's an opportunity to participate in short story creation and share your journey from draft to polished story via your writer's blog and the Writer in Motion forum. Additionally, the writer is matched up with critique partners (CP) and potentially a professional editor.
Updates will be given weekly per the Writer in Motion timeline.
July 9: Prompt Revealed
I have seven more stories to share with you this week. Enjoy!
A-B-A by Nicholas T. Brown is a long read at Lunch Ticket.
Lunch Ticket published The Fur of My Insecurities by Ursula Villarreal-Moura, a piece of flash.
Writer of spec fic.