Interesting Story Formats

I’ve long had a fascination with non-standard story formats, and by non-standard, I mean not typical stories – things like listicles, epistolary stories, etc. Here’s are some of my favorite ones.

WikiHistory by Desmond Warzel (originally published in Abyss & Apex 3rd Quarter 2007) reminds us that everyone has thought about the going-back-in-time-to-kill-someone idea. Likewise, everyone has met *that person* in an online forum. This isn’t actually a wiki, per se, but it’s definitely delightfully funny.

Footnotes by C. C. Finlay (originally published in F&SF in August 2001) is written entirely in, well, footnotes. Just like it says on the tin. Interestingly, the original paper to which these are the footnotes isn’t shown, which lets the reader figure it out for themselves, which I like very much.

43 Comments to “In Memory of Dr. Alexandra Nako” by Barbara A. Barnett (published in Daily Science Fiction on February 5, 2016) combines features of the previous two stories. Again, the original article isn’t shown, we deduce its contents based on the comments, and once again, there’s That Guy we all know….

This came to mind this week (although I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while) because there’s just been published a new story that I really like – a faux-interactive fiction in the form of editorial notes. In Stet by Sarah Gailey (published in Fireside October 2018) we get an excerpt of the ‘original text’ (unlike in Finlay and Barnett’s stories) but in this case the real story-behind-the-story takes place in the conversations between the fictional author and editor. It’s short but packs a punch.

So, there’s my list. Any particularly good ones that I’m missing? I’d swear I’ve read at least a couple that are instruction manuals or similar, but I can’t seem to find them in my (large and not very well organized) favorites file. Suggestions? Recommendations?

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PrepTober and Journals

This should probably be subtitled “I have a journal problem.” I’ve known this for a while, but today it’s been really driven home. The first step is admitting you have a problem, so here I am.  Also, CW for discussion of depression.

I am sitting on the loveseat, surrounded by cats (as so often happens) and within range of sight without really rummaging are at least 11 notebooks. Yes, eleven. Four of these are the big Blueline notebooks I use for keeping work notes and random writing notes. Three of the notebooks are 5×8 notebooks of the Moleskine/Leuchtterm variety. Two are cool Japanese spiral notebooks I bought in Tokyo a couple years ago. Two are recent Field Notes pocket notebooks, one still in its wrapper.

So what do I keep in this collection of journals, or what do I want to keep? At present, one of the 5×8 is my Bullet Journal, one is a journal for writing-related things (started after I took an interesting workshop with Fran Wilde in June on journaling and creativity) and the third is/was a Nanowrimo Bujo. I’m reconsidering that choice now, and thinking about putting the NaNo things in the writing journal. The larger Japanese notebook was for morning pages, although I’ve been incredibly lax about doing morning pages for a while, and the smaller one is current a sort of health and accomplishment log. The Bluelines are mostly work notes, although personal stuff creeps in and I end up spending time on the weekend teasing out the lists of things to do from the miscellaneous meeting notes, etc. One of the Bluelines is nearly done, one is the replacement for the full one, and one is going to be my actual writing for the novel I’m currently plotting. I also have a Field Notes planner, which I haven’t figured out how I want to use yet.

Clearly, I need a better system.

Part of the challenge here is that I struggle, sometimes more often than others, with depression. And part of the way my depression manifests is in lack of habits, and needing to think through and make decisions about even small things. I am also exhausted a lot. (I had to stop and take a nap in the middle of drafting this post, which is ironic in the extreme.)

I also have a hard time acknowledging accomplishments, which means I get down on myself hard for not getting things done, I make impossibly-long lists of things I’m trying to do or want to do or need to do (for some value of need), which I then don’t get done and, well, you see how that’s going to go.

For people who don’t deal with this sort of thing, I thought an illustration from today might provide some insight, and maybe will help you deal, or realize you’re not alone, or help you support and deal with someone around you who presents the way I do.

Today I got up around 9:30, which meant I already felt behind, even though I had *absolutely nothing* actually scheduled for today. (I had the aforementioned lists but nothing had been designated specifically for today.)


  • petted the cats (several times)
  • abluted (which spellcheck thinks isn’t a word but hey, I’m a writer, I can invent words!)
  • got sort of dressed
  • took my meds
  • washed a couple of dishes that were in the sink and unloaded/reloaded the dishwasher while coffee was making
  • sent a handful of work emails (while feeling bad for working on the weekend)
  • did some work admin stuff in Google docs & sheets (probably using most of that sort of spoon for the day)
  • ate breakfast prepared by PS
  • made another coffee and heated and ate two leftover low-carb muffins
  • searched for phone
  • found phone and placed call to gutter people who had left note yesterday about a ‘problem’ (immediately fraught with anxiety and money thoughts)
  • made lunch date for tomorrow (with people I love, but still an effort)
  • watched a bunch of YouTube videos on NaNoWriMo prep and BuJos (which is how this all started; I’m fascinated by the processes other writers use – I keep hoping I’ll find some magic pill to help with mine)
  • helped PS with a game mechanic and watched him game briefly; also chatted with him briefly a couple of times
  • picked up a few clothes off the bedroom floor, and carried two clothing items upstairs
  • made notes for work and added to Endless To Do List
  • started this blog post, got tired, tried to take a nap, ended up making more notes for this blog post.

It is now 5pm. That is approximately 7 hours worth of ‘accomplishments’. Today feels like an average-to-good mental health day, in that I haven’t just sat in front of the computer playing WoW all day, and a middling physical health day.

Was there more I could or should have done? Probably and absolutely, in that order. Is it any wonder the list never gets shorter, and I need so many journals and lists to manage it?

Tomorrow, more on what I decided about managing the lists and a bit of PrepTober.



Posted in BuJo, depression, mental health, Nanowrimo, Preptober, productivity, writing | 2 Comments

Worldcon 76

I’m sitting in my hotel at Worldcon. Nearly everything has shut down, and much of it is packed away. My flight is early tomorrow (too early) but by some happy miracle, various Star Wars movies are showing on TV, so I’m relaxing and packing and thinking about the weekend.

I got to spend some really good quality time with people I really like, many of whom I only get to see very infrequently or chat with online. I had splendid meals with friends, and went to some really good panels. I also spent a fair amount of time volunteering at Con Operations. I had a decent time but I’m ready to go home, and probably should have left today.

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Because some days you just need flowers.


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This weekend we went to see Solo:A Star Wars Story. I’m a Star Wars girl from way back – my first recurring con costume was Star Wars, back before Americans started calling it cosplay. (Before you start trying to get me into competing fandoms, I am also a Star Trek girl from way back. Go figure.)

I had shielded myself as much as possible from the trailers – I wanted to be surprised by the storyline and the characters. It was… okay. I understand, they were operating under some unique constraints – Han Solo is a hugely popular character, and they needed to work in all of the elements of his backstory that we already know about – the Falcon, Lando, Chewie, the dice, the Kessel run. Plus we needed to see how he became the smuggler with a heart of gold, and set up his reactions to events in the subsequent films. That’s a much more challenging assignment than in Rogue One where really the only thing they needed to accomplish was “get plans to Rebels” – how they got there was largely open.

So I think Solo works as backstory. As an adventure movie it was okay, but I was disappointed in it as a Star Wars movie. I wanted more emotional reaction – I was prepared to love this movie, but I just didn’t. I mean, it’s okay. I think if they’d spent more time writing a really good adventure-movie script, and then layered in the Star Wars stuff, that would have worked better for this viewer.

That said, I’ll probably see it again and see what I think of it outside of “ooh, a new Star Wars movie!!” so watch this space for an updated opinion. But for right now, it’s okay and worth seeing but it didn’t knock my socks off.

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Recommended Writing Books

This weekend at Balticon there was a really good panel on best books for writers. I’d been thinking for a while of doing a series of reviews of ‘books for writers’ and I was interested to see what the panelists came up with. The panelists were Val Griswold-Ford, Sarah Pinsker, Scott Edelman and Mattie Brahen (for whom I can’t find a website – comment if you have one!), moderated by Joshua Bilmes.

I tried to take as complete notes as I could, and several of us posted the list (or parts of it) on Twitter, but here, for those of you who prefer your lists in one place, is the list as I transcribed it. Corrections welcome! I will probably use some of this list to start my review series as, in the interest of full disclosure, I own…16 of these I think, and I definitely have opinions.

First, some classics:

  • Dorothea Brande – On Becoming a Writer
  • Brenda Ueland – If You Want to Write
  • Damon Knight – Creating Short Fiction
  • Robin Scott Wilson – Clarion, Those Who Can, Paragons
  • Flannery O’Connor – Mystery and Manners
  • Stephen King – On Writing
  • Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way (et al)
  • Janet & Isaac Asimov – How to Enjoy Writing: A Book of Comfort and Aid
  • Samuel R. Delany – The American Shore, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw and Starboard Wine
  • Ray Bradbury – Zen and the Art of Writing
  • Ursula K. LeGuin – Steering the Craft
  • Kate Wilhelm – Storyteller
  • Scott Meredith – Writing to Sell
  • Barry Longyear – Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop

Books that might not seem like writing books but could be:

  • Joanna Russ – How To Suppress Women’s Writing
  • The Inner Game of Tennis

Some newer ones:

  • Sherry Peters – Silencing Your Inner Saboteur
  • Madison Smartt Bell – Narrative Design
  • Jake Bible – Four Weeks to Finished
  • Jodi Henley – Practical Emotional Structure
  • Chris Baty – No Plot, No Problem
  • Victoria Lynn Schmidt – Story Structure Architect
  • Nancy Kress – Beginnings, Middles and Ends
  • Jeff Vandermeer – Wonderbook
  • The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction
  • Marg McAlister – Busy Writer’s One Hour Plot
  • Patricia Gilliam – Seriescraft 101: Creating a Novel Series Bible
  • John McPhee – Draft No. 4

If folks have other suggestions, I’m definitely interested, or if there are ones folks would be interested in discussing first, please let me know in comments or on Twitter.

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I am ridiculously pleased with dessert made from a banana, sugar free dark chocolate pudding and Reddi Whip.

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Blogging Habits

Well, I clearly have lost my daily blogging habit. Need to get back on that, especially as things are happening that I have thoughts about.  I used to be pretty good about it, back in the beforetimes. Time to be better about it, particularly with Hugo season once again approaching!!



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Long Weekend INCOMING!

It’s been One of Those Weeks, primarily at work (although also just busy in general.) Now the time has come for a blissful four-day weekend (thank you, State of Maryland) during which I have NOTHING PLANNED that doesn’t involve food with friends. Okay, I lie – I just also scheduled massages for tomorrow morning for the Big Man and me. But that’s it. Sure, there’s stuff I’d like to get done, and there will be writing and life-maintenance stuff, but all too often I set myself up for crazy too-busy weekends. This weekend, not so much. I’m hoping to get caught up on some of my Hugo watching/reading and like that, but all in a very mellow, relaxed way.

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Rogue One: Still A Pretty Good Film

As will likely come up a great deal over the next few weeks, it’s Hugo season here at the IO. Specifically, this means I’m busy reading and watching and listening so as to be an informed voter. (Voting closes July 15!)

Friday night, The Big Man and I watched Rogue One again. It’s up for a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, and we hadn’t seen it since we saw it opening weekend in the theater, so it was time to watch it again. That first night, I was absolutely willing to be swept away by the scenery and the music and the deep familiarity of the world of Star Wars. Even though the story has a tragic ending (sorry, spoilers don’t apply on films from last year!) the heroism and the characters worked for me – I was blind to the errors and problems, and was excited to see how a real female lead would be handled. (I have a Jyn Erso action figure on my desk, so it clearly worked for me!)

Are there issues? Sure. Is the CGI for two key characters a little weird? Yes, although it works – on first watch, I barely noticed it. In the bright light of my lounge, a little more obvious (and I knew to look for it), but still, not overly disturbing. Is it a little slow in places because of backstory? Sure. But for me, the greatest tragedy is that we’re introduced to a half-dozen really interesting and excellent characters, and now they’re all gone, so unless someone makes Star Wars 3.5 (assuming this is something like Star Wars 3.95) we’ll never see them again. And that makes me sad.

To round out a Star-Warsy weekend, last night we went to see the NSO conducted by the delicious Steven Reineke doing a program of the music of John Williams. (Happy 85th birthday, Maestro Williams – may you have many more!) Reineke is an energetic and enthusiastic conductor and he clearly loves his work. The program he selected opened with the Jaws ‘shark theme’ which, heard live, is very, very scary! The rest of the first half included pieces from other films (Harry Potter, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, ET, War Horse) as well as a piece Williams wrote for the Olympics in 2002 (I think).  I love how Williams uses the entire orchestra – the French horn and trumpet got a good workout last night, along with the flute and a lot of percussion work (nice style tympani player!) There was also some excellent work by the Choral Arts Society on several pieces. The second half began with the Star Wars overture, then did one piece from each of the seven films. It was excellent, and I’d almost forgotten how good the music is for some of the really terrible films (I’m looking at you, episodes 1-3). For an encore, they did the Cantina theme which had the audience in stitches.

This is the second time this spring I’ve seen Reineke conduct and would love to some more – we’re already eyeing next season’s programme.

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