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Dec

30

Short Stories Rule

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on December 30, 2018 9:18 am

(This post first appeared many moons ago in the Hiveword newsletter.)

I’ll just mention a quick tidbit from the Hive because I want to get right to the interview since it’s so amazing. The Writer’s Knowledge Base (WKB) has articles from over 4,000 websites. All hand-picked by Elizabeth Spann Craig. 4,000! Crazy, isn’t it? I thought it would be fun to list the top ten sites with the most content in the WKB. You’ll find them here. A new one is added to the list every day until we get to the top spot. And don’t forget that you can get daily or weekly emails with categorized links to great articles on writing via the WKB email service.

Ok, enough of that. Let’s dive into the interview.

I first learned of Dennis Doty’s take on short stories via Jeremy Menefee’s blog post. My jaw dropped at the insights contained there. While Dennis was anonymous in Jeremy’s post I knew I had to talk to “D” and get some more info. Thankfully, Jeremy was willing to connect me to “D” and Dennis himself was game for an interview. I hope you find as much value here as I did.

When did you start writing, Dennis?  

My first published byline was an article in a local newspaper in 1989 followed by another in a local business journal in 1990. After that I didn’t write until I took up fiction in 2004 and honestly didn’t pursue it regularly until the fall of 2015.

With the lure of writing novels, how did you arrive at your approach of learning the craft via short stories? In other words, what was the “A-ha!” moment?

The “A-ha” moment came after I set out on this path, in fact, around the time I started my freelance editing. I started out writing short stories. I never was a believer in starting out with an Iron Man event. I think that it’s best to first learn to swim, ride a bike and run a foot race. Short stories are the means I’ve taken to learn the skills needed in writing a novel. I realized with my freelancing, how many pitfalls in writing I had avoided and how fortunate I had been in having to face the rejection of only a few hours work instead of months or even years.

What makes writing short stories so great for learning?

I like the gratification that comes from a completed story. I think most authors do. With short stories, I get that gratification much sooner and more often than someone who sets out to write a novel, and as I said a moment ago, it tends to make the rejections hurt a little less when you haven’t poured your heart into a story for months or years only to have publishers or agents say, “Not for us, thanks.”

It was only after I had begun to really perfect my craft that I came to realize how fortunate I had been. All stories, whether long or short form require a beginning with a solid hook, a middle with plot and character development, and a satisfying denouement. Several successful writers have mentioned that it takes somewhere around a half-million words to become proficient at the craft. For a novelist, that’s around six books. For a short-story writer, the same word-count will produce around two-hundred stories.

It’s easy to see that our novelist friend will have written six solid hooks, six good plots, and six satisfying endings and it will have taken him roughly three years to do so. A short-story writer, in the same half-million words, will have produced roughly two-hundred stories of magazine length, each with a hook, a body and an ending.

Not only, does the short story writer get more practice on the essentials, but he or she is certainly going to have a much easier time finding beta readers willing to give honest feedback and help him or her improve their art.

Are you a plotter or pantser?

I’m a pantser. With short stories, I often have an idea in my mind of where I want to begin and how the story will end, and sometimes it follows that intended course. When I sat down to write my first novel, all I knew was what kind of a man my MC was, and that he was coming home from war to a world that was forever changed. That story ended up taking turns I didn’t expect and the finished first draft was a hot mess of two stories combined.

I’m just now experimenting with some hybrid forms to see if I can’t write from some kind of an outline for novelette and longer works. I think that’s just another skill I need to develop.

What makes short stories great from a business perspective?

Without getting into the pros and cons of Indie versus Traditional publishing, let’s assume that both the novelist and the short story writer I mentioned before decide to go Indie. Let’s just go with six self-published novels and two-hundred self-published short stories.

Our novelist will put his work on Amazon priced at $14.95 per copy. Our short story writer will likely offer his work at $1.99. Sales won’t be great for either until they have amassed a body of work, but suffice it to say that our short story writer is going to reach that magic number of titles a lot sooner where his backlist begins to sell his front list.

Looking only at sales and profitability, let’s assume that both sell exactly one copy of each title.

Our novelist sells all six titles at list and earns $53.82 after paying twenty percent for printing and another twenty percent for distribution.

Our short story writer sells all two-hundred titles in ebook format only at $1.99 each, and releases four collections with twenty-five stories each at $15.95 in paperback. Selling only one copy of each story and one of each collection, our short story writer will earn twenty percent on his ebooks and sixty percent on his paperback collections for a total of $117.88.

They’ve both written the same number of words over the same length of time, but the short story writer has earned twice as much money for his effort. Additionally, if a title doesn’t sell or is a slow mover, he has significantly reduced his risk because he is more diversified.

Was the business side of short stories an afterthought or calculated in advance?

Totally an afterthought for me, but one that I have blogged about and highly recommend to writers whom I edit or mentor.

Where can we find your stories?

My first published short story was in the anthology, “A Journey of Words” by Scout Media. I currently have a story, “White Buffalo Woman”, appearing in the Spring issue of “Saddlebag Dispatches” and they’ve accepted another for a future issue. Likewise, my story “The Snow Bride” will be appearing in the Summer issue of Cheapjack Pulp.

I’ve posted a couple of stories and essays in my blog and elsewhere on my webpage at www.dennisdotywebsite.com as well as on my author page at www.facebook.com/authordennisdoty1.

How’s your novel coming along? 😉

As I mentioned, the first novel was somewhat of a hot mess and is temporarily relegated to the rewrite file. I’ll get back to it, but it isn’t a priority right now.

Oghma Creative Media who owns Galway Press the publisher of Saddlebag Dispatches has asked to see any short stories or book proposals I wish to submit. I can’t tell you how good that feels, as well as how validating to my process. After discussing it with them, we agreed that I would stick to my plan to write a minimum of two dozen short stories this year while working on a novel in between.

In addition to the first novel which will eventually evolve into two separate novels with the same main character, I have a Western/Fantasy novel currently around 20,000 words. I’m doing some world-building for it, and there’s a third traditional western which I have three complete chapters done and is going well. I think I can work it in between short stories and have it complete and ready to submit by late fall of this year.


Is there anything you wish I had asked?

In addition to my own writing, I do freelance line editing and proofreading and I co-administer a writing group on Facebook. It’s a small group of less than one-hundred members who are serious about learning the craft and we work hard to mentor them and help improve their writing. One of the ways that we do this is with a regular feature of the group called Friday Flash Fiction Challenge. We give a prompt which may be a title, a theme or a character and they have two weeks to write a story of 750 words or less and submit to the admins. Each submission gets a professional acceptance or rejection letter just like they would in the real world. This helps them get over the fear of rejection which holds so many writers back.

Every story gets feedback from each of the admins. We also select a winner who gets to choose a writing related ebook from a list of titles available on Amazon and a runner-up who gets a free professional edit on their story. We’ve only been doing this for about six months, and already, three of those stories have been accepted for real world publication.

I’m as proud of their achievements as I am of my own – maybe more. If any of your readers are interested in such a group they can feel free to contact me by PM or email from my website.

Mar

11

Website Redesign and New Features

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on March 11, 2017 2:42 pm

Hiveword has a new website today.

It feels so good saying that because it’s been a LONG time coming. As a bonus, there are also some new features!

As for the old design… Well, I guess it wasn’t really a design at all. And boy was it ugly. It didn’t convey that Hiveword is actually a suite of tools for writers with a novel planner, a module of expert guidance from a writing coach, and a repository of great articles on writing captured from around the web.

But the best part about the new design is that your eyes probably won’t bleed with the new look. It is MUCH prettier in my opinion. But more importantly, it lets everyone know what Hiveword offers. And that’s a good thing because there was some confusion before about the different offerings and how they relate. (I should point out that the redesign only applies to the main website and not the Hiveword application. That will come later.)

Anyway, enough about the pretty website. How about those new features I mentioned?

First of all, the Writer’s Knowledge Base (WKB) got a facelift and has a much cleaner look than it did before. It also got some new functionality. The WKB now has a browsable directory of articles thanks to recent article categorization work. So, you can explore by topic or you can search the WKB as before (after all, it is the “Search Engine for Writers“). Soon, you’ll even be able to get new categorized articles delivered to your inbox.

Secondly, the redesign includes two other features that are already well-known to folks with a Hiveword account: a character name generator and a place name generator. Now, these generators are available without an account. Plus, they work great on mobile devices so you can use them wherever you go.

I hope you like the changes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the design or the new features.

Dec

26

Hiveword Outage Notice

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on December 26, 2016 1:53 pm

UPDATE 2: If you are having trouble getting to Hiveword then this update is for you.

Hiveword is indeed available but the nature of the upgrade (a new hosting provider) means that the location of Hiveword on the internet changed. There are directories all around that world that know how to find Hiveword (or any web site). But when the location changes, the change of address has to ripple through all of these directories. Tech babble, I know, but worst case it can take up to 48 hours to update everywhere.

These directory updates are out of my control but there are some things that you can try to re-establish contact:

Option 1:

Do a hard reload of your browser tab. Go to hiveword.com. If you don’t get that beautiful honeycomb palette color scheme that you know and love then try to force your browser to do a fresh lookup for Hiveword. From the same “no Hiveword” tab do the following:

Windows: Ctrl + F5
Mac/Apple: Apple + R or command + R
Linux: F5

With any luck you’ll be back in business and should have no further issues.

Option 2:

Try going to Hiveword from another browser. This works best if you haven’t used Hiveword from this browser in a while. This is not a great solution, obviously, but it’s a decent workaround until the address changes propagate. You can try your original browser again tomorrow to see if it updated.

 

Sorry for the trouble. It’s the price of progress, I guess. I hope you notice how Hiveword is a bit snappier. Once you get in, of course. 😉

 

UPDATE: The migration is complete.

 

Hiveword is getting a performance boost! Unfortunately, it will require an outage to make it happen.

Hiveword will be down on December 27th starting around 8am Eastern Time. It will likely be down for several hours. This outage affects all of the Hiveword products: Hiveword Plus, Knockout Novel, and the Writer’s Knowledge Base.

I will give notice on Twitter when it’s going down and when it’s back. Of course, you can always just go to Hiveword.com to see if it’s available.

Thanks in advance for your patience!

Nov

16

Hiveword Birthday Giveaway!

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on November 16, 2016 7:53 pm

hwbirthday

It’s hard to believe that Hiveword has been helping writers organize their stories for five years. Other Hiveword tools such as The Writer’s Knowledge Base and Knockout Novel have been doing the same for roughly the same amount of time.

So, in honor of Hiveword’s momentous day we’re giving away three subscriptions of Hiveword Plus and three copies of Knockout Novel to six lucky winners.

See here for how to enter. The drawings happen on November 28th. Please tell your friends and help spread the word. Thank you for your support all these years!

 

Sep

16

Hiveword review by Lynn Viehl

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on September 16, 2012 9:53 pm

Lynn Viehl posted a review of Hiveword today on her blog.  Check it out at http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2012/09/hiveword.html. Thanks, Lynn!

Jun

16

Blog Transition Complete

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on June 16, 2012 2:25 pm

My blog is now migrated. Woohoo!

Thanks for your patience and sorry if you noticed any hiccups.

How do you like the new design?

Jun

14

Switching Blogging Software

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on June 14, 2012 8:31 pm

This is just a quick note to let you know that I’m switching to WordPress in the next couple days. If you’re an RSS subscriber (thanks!) then you may see my older posts in your feed again. I’m going to try to prevent that but if it does happen it should be a one-time deal.

In fact, repeatedly seeing the old posts in the feed is one of the reasons I’m switching. Sorry if you experienced that in the past.

The other reason for switching was because I felt penned in with my current software. I simply didn’t want to use it and thus blogging was rare.

Now, though, I feel free as a I work on getting the WordPress blog ready. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Plus, I have a backlog of ideas and tips to share so please stick around and check them out.

Nov

26

Hiveword Novel Writing Software Launched

By Mike Fleming (@hiveword) on November 26, 2011 8:13 pm

Online novel organizer

If you’ve used the Writer’s
Knowledge Base
 (WKB) you’ve probably noticed that it’s “Powered by Hiveword.”
It’s true, too. The WKB has shared its existence with an unseen twin that has only been referenced in hushed tones. Sort of like Voldemort, I suppose. But not any more. I’m pleased to announce that Hiveword has finally busted free and is waiting to help you
organize your novel in one place on the web.

Hiveword allows you to track multiple stories whether those stories are novels, short stories, or whatever. It’s geared toward tracking fiction so each story can have characters, settings, and scenes.

Screenshots: Story Detail, Story List

Characters

The data sheet for each character is very rich in detail with sections for Basic, Physical, Psychological, and Miscellaneous attributes. Each section has various fields for fleshing out the character. While I suppose the number of fields could be intimidating the reality is that the only field that has to be filled in is the name (and that’s filled in automatically for you with a placeholder name).

Screenshots: Character Detail, Character List

Settings

Settings don’t lend themselves to tons of fields like characters do so there are just fields for the name of the setting, aliases, and notes. Aliases, by the way, allow you to track multiple names for a setting. For example, the “New York”
setting might have an alias of “The Big Apple.” Characters can have aliases, too.

Screenshots: Setting Detail, Setting List

Scenes

Scenes, of course, are where everything comes together. You see this reflected in Hiveword with a big area for the scene summary along with the critical linkages to characters and setting. You can select a setting from the dropdown list of settings. You can can also indicate which characters are in the scene and which one has the point-of-view (POV).

There are also pages where you can list all of the characters, for example, where each one has important details right there in the list.

Screenshots: Scene Detail, Scene List

Hey, what about my data, Mr. Hiveword Man?

Excellent question! Thanks for asking.

Most sane people are concerned (and rightfully so!) about entering their data into a system and not being able to get it out. It’s called “lock in” and I don’t like it, either. Hiveword has you covered, though. Each story has an export link. Click it and you can instantly download all of the data for that story in one rich text (RTF) document. The RTF format is readable by just about all word processors so have no fear.

Exporting is also a great way for you to make your own periodic backups. Grabbing a backup every now and then will give you peace of mind but you can also rest assured that Hiveword is backed up daily.

Screenshot: Story exported as RTF

Future Plans

What you see in Hiveword today is just the beginning. I have BIG plans for it and can’t wait to get them done so that you can start benefiting from the new features as soon as possible.

Try it!

You can try Hiveword now to see how it can help you you get more organized with your stories. No more scraps of paper here and there. There will eventually be a small monthly fee but I’m not sure when that will actually happen. My intention is to keep Hiveword ad-free (which I do for the WKB as well) mainly because I find them annoying and I think you’d find them distracting while you’re trying to create.

Of course, the good news is that I haven’t written the billing code yet and don’t know when I will so Hiveword will be effectively free for who knows how long. So, there’s no risk in giving it a try; you can always export your data at your whim.

Thanks for reading. I truly hope you find Hiveword useful.

What are you looking for in a novel organizer?