FFM 2017 Write-Up

This comes a few days later than I’d meant it to, but this July really wore me out. Now that I’m no longer meeting a deadline a day, sleep has taken the top priority.

This is my fourth year doing FlashFictionMonth, but only the second that I’ve done it as intended: the last two years I spent part of the month traveling, which meant that rather than writing a story a day for a month, I wrote (around) two a day for (around) two weeks. You would think that would be harder; so did I. Thus came the great pitfall. I have done this thrice before, I thought, twice under worse circumstances; last year’s circumstances were particularly horrid; yet I still managed it: so this should pretty much be easy, right?

Hubris is the art of remembering successes but not the costs at which those successes came.

FFM is more of a marathon than a sprint, as I have heard more than once from other participants. Keeping it up for a whole month may, in fact, be harder than doing twice as much a day in half as much time: particularly as having the full day available gives me the internal expectation of writing stories at least twice as good as last year’s, which really isn’t a fair expectation to hit. So, yes: I’m very much worn down right now.

But I’ve also got quite a lot to show for it: not only the 31 stories (and at the moment I’m quite happy with the quality overall: there are some I like less and one I don’t much like at all, but these are a clear minority), but also a setting I’ve reused a few times throughout the month (space faeries!) and may at some point do more with, and also – perhaps most importantly – the understanding that writing, and especially writing well, does, in fact, take time and energy. This seems obvious when you think about it, but even outside of FFM I’m continually beating myself up over not doing “enough”: I’m hopeful that the difficulty with which I made it through this month will help me adjust my expectations to something a bit more reasonable.

Then, of course, there was ilyilaice’s extra challenge: to begin each story with the last word of last one, with the final story ending on the first story’s first. This was a fun challenge, and also an interesting one, because it led me to think quite a bit about the way I usually begin and end stories. These are the 31 starting/ending words I ended up with:

(three) – skins – to – forever – yes – here – open – lucky – it – it – well – dragon – vengeance – time – ready – here – fingers – back – thorns – last – come – rise – head – hope – out – this – death – do – silence – (three)

So that’s an interesting variety, there. Astute observers will notice two its, which shouldn’t be surprising: it’s one of the very few pronouns that’s syntactically valid at both the end of a sentence and its beginning. Somewhat more surprising might be the fact that there were almost two forevers. I thought four different stories with a strong emphasis on such a dramatic word might be a bit much.

Outside of this challenge, I’ve noticed, I have a tendency to begin stories with names or pronouns – or articles, which are even worse for ending on. I tend to end on big dramatic words (forever) – nouns, infinitive verbs, adverbs. But beginning on an “infinitive” verb generally turns it into an imperative, which means either an imperative/instructional narrative or dialogue, which means it’s hard to avoid repeating oneself; and nouns are hard to begin on (singular nouns usually paired with articles, especially), and always have a pretty big impact on the story that follows.

There is a chance this may be less interesting to people other than myself. But among other things, FFM is a good way to improve one’s skills, and thinking about this is one way of doing so.

Now that it’s over, I’m planning on a much-deserved break. Lots of sleep, relaxing, maybe some games. I’ll start on this year’s FFM collection once I’ve recovered a bit: I expect it’ll be ready before the end of August.

Until then, you can peruse these FFM features on this mirror post on DeviantArt. Have a read, and enjoy!


Challenge Winner: FFM 2017

A month has passed, FlashFictionMonth begins tomorrow, and the wait is over: the time has come to select a challenge! I’ve received twelve challenges this year, so it is once again time to whip out my trusty d12:


Our winning challenge comes from ilyilaice, who writes:

Every story must begin with the last word of the previous story. The 31st story must end with the first word of the first story. EXCEPTION: If this will directly conflict with FFM challenge criteria and there’s no way to get out of it. Then you should just skip that story, but the next one must still continue the chain.

Thank you, ilyilaice! This ought to thread my stories together nicely. I’ll send you your point reward forthwith. And thank you also to all others who contributed challenges!

Challenge Me: FFM 2017

Once again, my friends (and foes, and passing acquaintances, and those I have yet to make the acquaintance of): here is a chance to WIN FABULOUS PRIZES and MAKE ME A SLAVE TO YOUR WHIMSY. Your wishes, dear readers, shall be my commands.

That’s right: Flash Fiction Month begins in less than a month.

[Obligatory explanation, as always: FFM is a month-long challenge to write a piece of flash fiction, fifty-five to a thousand words long, for every day of July. I’ve participated for the past three years, and I intend to make this a long habit. Give it a go, if you like! FFM is fun, rewarding, and an excellent way to push your limits.]

Last year I crowdsourced an additional challenge to carry me through the entire month, which resulted in a whole lot of murdering people with shovels (good times, good times). I promised I’d do the same again this year if it went well. I also said I’d choose two challenges this year instead of one: I’ve since decided against that, partly because the response last year was decent but not overwhelming, but mainly because one of last year’s challenges went “ALL the challenges” and if that comes up again it really won’t combine well with, well, anything. So we’ll do this the same way we did last year. To wit:


Absolutely anyone may enter. You do not need an account here or anywhere else: as long as you have some way of communicating your challenge to me, anonymously or otherwise, I will accept it.

Here are some avenues through which you can reach me:

  • Comment on this post, anonymously or otherwise (this does not require an account).
  • Comment on this mirror post on DeviantArt.
  • Note me on DeviantArt.
  • Challenge me on Twitter.
  • Hunt me down, lurk behind some bushes, and shout your challenge at me as I walk past.
  • If you happen to have my email address or be on speaking terms with me in person anyway, or regularly communicate with me in any other fashion, that option is certainly open to you as well.

(If you choose an anonymous method of communication (and I can’t reliably get back to you) but do not wish to be credited anonymously, please include whatever information you’d like to have included; also, if you have a deviantArt account, keep in mind I’ll need to know what it is in order to distribute that part of the prize if you should win.)

You may issue as many challenges as you like. You may also add your vote to an existing challenge (the winning challenge will be chosen randomly: this will increase its chances), or modify an existing challenge by adding or changing criteria. (Keep it to one vote per person per challenge, please. I will enforce this as far as I am able; don’t exploit the loopholes of anonymity.)

I will reject challenges only if I feel that the challenge is undoable (by, for instance, being incompatible with the actual rules of FFM) or in conflict with the spirit of the event. Please stay away from fanfiction challenges or ones that involve each story throughout the entire month having the same specific length; pretty much anything else is valid!

Your deadline is noon (Central European Standard Time) on June 30th. There will be no leniency. Winner(s) should be announced by that afternoon.

Fabulous Prizes

You stand to win:

  • Official credit for the challenge in whatever form you’d like, from complete anonymity to a name and a link, both in the eventual ebook collection and on the stories themselves.
  • Up to 500 DeviantArt points, if you have an account.
  • The grim satisfaction of watching me dance through your arbitrary hoops, knowing I am but a puppet upon the strings you have laid.

Complicated technical details on who wins what in which fringe scenarios are available on last year’s post; I haven’t included them this time because it’s all sort of long and boring to read through, if admittedly important to have worked out in advance. Last year’s rules on that still stand.

Challenges So Far

  1. Every story must include a fictional fictional character.  ~Damon L. Wakes
  2. Every story must feature the word ‘glamorous’.  ~TheCrazyTarantula (deviantArt)
  3. Each Sunday’s story must shockingly recontextualise each Saturday’s story.  ~joe-wright (deviantArt)
  4. Every story must begin with the last word of the previous story. The 31st story must end with the first word of the first story.  ~ilyilaice (deviantArt)
  5. Do at least one of all the “important varieties” of twist endings as seen here.  ~ilyilaice (deviantArt)
  6. Each story must be connected to the one before it in some way, shape or form.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  7. Each story must include a piece of cutlery.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  8. Upvote #3.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  9. Upvote #3.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  10. Upvote #4.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  11. Every story must feature something edible (or something usually inedible that gets eaten anyway). Bonus – story 3 and 14 must feature pie in some way.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  12. For every story, the story’s word count must be mentioned in the story itself.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)

Thank you, and happy challenging!

Within Blank Pages

NaNoWriMo is just about over, this time with great success! This year I’ve written a little horror game called Within Blank Pages. It really is more of a game than a story this time around: very adventure-game-y, very puzzle-based: an attempt to work around some of Twine’s weaknesses in that regard, and I believe a successful one. Thanks go to both Damon L. Wakes and jdeyke for influence and inspiration!

I could write quite a bit about the process and all, but I’ll leave you to enjoy the game. I would like to show you one last thing, however. Remember that incredibly inspirational graph from the halfway point?


How’s this for an inspirational graph?

Yeah. Validating the .html file gives the wordcount a bit of a boost.

I think we can count this one as a win.

NaNo 2016: Mid-Month Check-In

I never meant to make NaNoWriMo a habit. Last November I wrote Between the Trees, which turned out quite well but was not a novel, not 50k words, and not finished until December; this year it took me until the 1st of November to even consider having another go, until the 2nd to commit (on a bit of a lark, in honesty), and until the 5th to actually make any sort of start. Nothing like a slow beginning to put on a bit of pressure, eh?


That straight line there, way up above my daily wordcount? That’s the par.

What an astoundingly inspirational graph, eh? Eh??

Well, it’s been one of those months in which I spent half a night at the hospital instead of writing or sleeping, my time and concentration keep scattering, and WWII films have suddenly become frighteningly topical (I recommend Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl – The Final Days)). Still, I’d like to finish this project on time: so, in the hope that doing so will motivate and inspire me, I thought I’d share enough details to get you all excited (or at least help to keep me accountable).

This year, once again, I’m using NaNo to write a Twine project; and once again, I’m doing something experimental new and interesting with the format. I’m pushing this one more in the direction of game instead of story, which means less for what it will look like than it does for how to develop it: I’m suddenly having to think in terms of puzzles and solutions rather than decisions and consequences as I plot, which is slowing me down quite a bit. I’m hoping I’ll be able to speed it up a bit once things start to fall into place.

(If I’m going to make a habit of this NaNoWriMo Twine thing, I hope next year I’ll have the sense to write a nice straightforward linear branch-and-bottleneck story. Also, to come up with an idea in October.)

I’m not necessarily aiming for 50k words. I’m certainly not aiming for a novel. But I am aiming for a good and complete Twine game complex enough to impress, and I aim to finish it by the end of November. Look forward to the finished thing!

Thank you.

Audio Version of “Hunger”

I’ve been meaning to put out a few audio stories for quite some time: now, at last, the time has come. I give you “Hunger”, presented with a cool accent and with handy text for easy reading along.

I’ve altered my voice slightly (mainly in order to keep those of you who like to assign gendered pronouns guessing), but the cool accent is authentic. It is also pretty much optional, so feedback on the relative coolness/comprehensibility of the accent may have an effect on any future audio stories. (A Twitter survey confirmed my assumption that cool accents are worth a slight loss in comprehensibility, but the very low response rate mostly served to confirm that I should probably work on my Twitter platform. Perhaps I ought to upload more humorous biscuit packages.)

Please enjoy!

Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors

I’d just like to quickly announce the release of Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors, an anthology of steampunk stories edited by Jessica Augustsson. There are two of mine in there, as well as several by a number of authors I admire: if you’re at all interested in steampunk (or would like to be), please do have a look at it! The collection is available from Amazon US here and from Amazon UK here.

Thank you, and enjoy!