In addition to our Write the Story! project, we thought it would be fun to do something that is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your writing skills. The Drabble.
A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is to tell a complete story within limited words which encourages word choice, conciseness, and editing skills.
Drabble Me This! is a monthly contest. Each Saturday of the month, we will post a single word prompt. Members will write a 100-word story. During the week, all members will have the opportunity to “LIKE”an entry. The weekly contests will end on Friday nights, a tally taken, and the post removed. The next week’s post will go up the following Saturday morning. At the end of the month, we will post the winning Drabbles from each week plus an Admin choice on the WU! Blog and share the post across our platforms.
A quick history of the Drabble
The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel, Drabbles emerged within the British Science Fiction Fandom in the 1980s, The Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words. (From folklore.com)
October 2019 Drabble Me This Winners
Week One: Prompt “Mirror”
Twelve jurors sat around the table debating the case. John Smith summed it up, “The video clearly shows the murderer was left handed. The suspect is right handed. Despite all the evidence, I don’t see any way to convict.”
“I know how it was done,” Bob Jackson said. “Look at the room in the video. Everything in it is symmetric.”
“So what?” Kelly Myers asked.
“So the suspect arranged for it to be filmed using a mirror. Everything is reversed, but we don’t notice. The power cut off just after, so he had ample chance to change the angle afterward.”
Week Two: Prompt “Empty”
Friday. Four-forty-five. Fifteen more minutes and it’s freedom from the drudgery of my nine-to-five. What I’m really looking forward to more than freedom is the package from Momma. Douglas called and told me it arrived. I’m stoked. A package from Momma means a tin of home-made chocolate chip cookies, my fav. Soft, chocolaty, and yummy. I can practically taste them now.
All the way home, visions of Momma’s cookies dance through my head. Come on traffic, move. Douglas isn’t anywhere around when I get inside. I know why when I pick up the tin – the cookies are gone – it’s empty.
Week Three Prompt “Letter”
Your body deserved to be burned in the hottest of fires.
Would it hurt for you to offer a bit of warmth? Would it have bothered you to think of something I might have liked? Did you bother to think about me during the day? Of course not, you soulless bastard. I couldn’t express to you how I felt in life. Only after your death do I have the drive, the guts to tell how you deserved to die.
Signed, the Idiot.
I folded up the letter and stuffed it in an envelope to watch it burn in the fireplace.
Week Four Prompt “Clock”
You twist me in circles, for days, months, and years. I check with you over and over to make sure I’m not off course or running too late or too early. Maybe I should take comfort in your consistency, but I feel myself slip farther away from being me because you rule my day. The alarms go off with a predictability that scares me. Sometimes I wait for the blows, the ringing in my ears that’s about to come. The ticking is the next bomb that will explode. The bruises you say I deserve. What will it be this time?
Week One Prompt “Mirror”
I felt it as soon as I opened the door. Something was wrong. Energy, painful and unwelcome, danced along my skin. The lights I’d switched on, usually so bright and welcoming, had done little to dispel the darkness.
When my eyes adjusted, I saw them. Hundreds of forms of gossamer white. Angry and pulsing with rage and fear. Red eyes turned to me.
Why? From where? My blood ran cold. The mirror. From the sale. Samuel had declared it to be a portal for the damned. I hadn’t believed him.
I needed to get out. I knew I never would.
Thanks to all who participated and who read and voted. This has been a fun project and we are looking forward to more drabbles!
If you would like to participate and are not a member of our WU! Facebook group, please join us!
Please note: The Writers Unite! Admins are selected on a rotating basis for the Admin Choice. The drabble selected is at the sole discretion of the admin. In those months containing five weeks, an Admin’s Choice selection will not be made.
Host Paul W. Reeves of “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA has provided many interesting and informative interviews with authors, some members of Writers Unite!, who have impacted the world of writing. We will be posting these interviews periodically so that you can enjoy listening to the experiences and advice these authors offer.
Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with award-winning author and writing coach Les Edgerton from the first interview they did on February 26, 2018.
Les Edgerton, a highly prolific and gifted author and teacher from Indiana, called in to discuss his books, the writing process, his life, and his writing classes.
From his Amazon page: “Les Edgerton has published eighteen books, the latest being “Bomb!” from Gutter Press and the black comedy crime novel, “The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping” from Down & Out Press. One of his most popular books is the writer’s text, “Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go.” His own favorite is his collection, titled, “Monday’s Meal,” which received a glowing review from the NY Times in which he was compared favorably to Raymond Carver.”
To learn more about Les Edgerton and to order his books and register for his classes, please visit the following websites:
A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul W. Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.
IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!
In addition to our Write the Story project, we thought it would be fun to do something that is one of the best exercises you can do to hone your writing skills. The Drabble.
A drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is to tell a complete story within limited words which encourages word choice, conciseness, and editing skills.
Drabble Me This is a monthly contest. Each Saturday of the month, we will post a single word prompt on our FACEBOOK group, Writers Unite! Members will write a 100-word story. During the week, all members will have the opportunity to “LIKE” an entry. The weekly contests will end on Friday nights, a tally taken, and the post removed. The next week’s post will go up the following Saturday morning. At the end of the month, we will post the winning Drabbles from each week plus an Admin choice on the WU! Blog and share the post across our platforms.
A quick history of the Drabble:
The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel.
Drabbles emerged within British science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words.
The Drabble Me This Rules:
Every Saturday morning, the admins will post a single word prompt.
Members may submit only one 100-word drabble based on the word prompt per week. Word count must be one hundred words or entry will be deleted.
All members may vote by using the LIKE button only. (The other reaction emojis are invalid.)
On Friday night, an admin will tally the votes, the submissions saved on Google drive, and the post removed.
This procedure will continue each Saturday during the month.
At the first of the following month, we will post the highest vote-getter from each week and an Admin choice on the Writers Unite! blog and share across our platforms.
Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” — Isaac Asimov
From the early days of pulp science fiction, the 1920s and 1930s saw the popularity of science fiction begin in earnest with Philip Francis Nowlan’s first Buck Rogers story, Armageddon 2419 published in 1928. In 1937, John W. Campbell was named editor of Astounding Science Fiction and thus began what many consider the Golden Age of Science Fiction. There is a debate on how long that Golden Age lasted, some feel into the 1950s, but there is no debate that the novels from that era stand today as classics in the world of science fiction.
Among those classics, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series followed over the years by the dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, an exploration of the future evolution of humans, and Robert Heinlein’s military sci-fi novel Starship Troopers.
During this time the first attempt to separate science fiction from fantasy began when Hugo Gernsback, at the time editor of Amazing Stories used the name scientifiction to describe the genre. He defined the term as “…a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision…”
Notable authors such as John W. Campbell J, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, and others added their own opinion to Gernsback’s definition over the years. One point all of these authors agreed on was that the basis of science fiction is scientific theory and technology. Robert Heinlein’s term ‘speculative fiction’ written in a 1947 essay has remained the term most used to this day. The attempt to redefine the genre never completely took hold although speculative fiction is still being used.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a new term arose. New Wave Science Fiction was used to describe a more literary and artistic feel to a sci-fi novel. Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris dealt with human limitations. In 1965, Frank Herbert introduced an incredibly complex and intricate future society in the amazing novel, Dune. Phillip K. Dick, whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? spawned the film, Blade Runner. These years also saw an explosion of social and feminist science fiction as exemplified by Ursula K. Le Guin.
The last forty years of science fiction has introduced us to a myriad of sub-genres such as steampunk and cyberpunk as seen in Neuromancer, William Gibson’s first novel published in 1984. Themes such as the environment, the Internet, biotechnology, nanotechnology, post-apocalyptic worlds, and the increasing list of sub-genres like steampunk, biopunk, and others have opened the genre to new horizons.
The most recent trends in science fiction discussed atSpeculate, the Speculative Writers Festival in 2019 were as follows.
Climate Fiction – Dealing with climate change
New Space Opera – A grander, more technology-based and character-driven version of the old Space Opera.
Generation Ship – Where original colonists and their descendants travel on slower spaceships. A recognition of the vastness of space and that faster-than-light speed is impossible.
Gender-Focused – As we see in our society now, the question of gender fluidity is central to the story.
In reviewing the amazing and innovative stories that form the history of science fiction, it is evident that from the beginnings of Buck Rogers to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, science fiction continues to evolve with compelling stories to tell.
Common Characteristics of Science Fiction
While there are many aspects of science fiction that are shared with other genres, there are some characteristics that are unique to the genre. These identifiers should be present in the story.
1. Time Frame – This is the one area where there is some flexibility. While most science fiction is set in the future, a sci-fi story can be set in the present or in the past but other identifying characteristics must be present.
2. Advanced Technology – In the early days of science fiction, advanced technology while imaginative was not as difficult to create. In present day, technology advances at an exponential rate. It is considerably more difficult to imagine technology for advanced civilizations and stay ahead of current tech. Consider the tech, computers, communication, spaceships, ground transports, etc. that you want your characters and those they encounter will have, and be consistent.
3. Worlds and world-building – Probably the most formidable and most exciting aspect of writing sci-fi is alien world building. Some authors spend weeks building and creating their worlds. When you are presenting a futuristic Earth or an alien world and civilization, pay attention to detail. Think about how your characters will live, eat, breathe, and what kind of clothing and transport they will have. Every detail is important and will add depth and reality to your story.
4. Characters–Creating a cast of characters for your story can be as much fun as world building. As we know from some favorite movies, there is no limit to the imagination. Again, pay attention to detail. How they breathe, ambulate, dress, communicate, and appear.
5. Plausibility – This is possibly one of the most important characteristics of your writing. Remember that your reader has one frame of reference, the current world they live in. You need to keep your worlds, characters, and technology within a scope that most of your readers can understand. This does not preclude you from being innovative, but always remember to be plausible. Another thing to remember is to allow your characters to live in this world—nothing that you provide them with, from weapons to transport should surprise them. It should be normal. These guidelines apply to all genres except for fantasy where you can suspend belief. Which is a good thing if you are writing science-fiction fantasy.
Writing science fiction is challenging and exciting. Pay attention to these aspects of the genre and have fun!
We will be covering world building, character development, and plots in upcoming articles.
Asimov, “How Easy to See the Future!”, Natural History, 1975
Asimov, Isaac (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954–1978. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. chapter 24. ISBN978-0-385-15544-1.
Recently an author published a story on Amazon.com that included a brand name in the title. With the investigative algorithms that they utilize, Amazon caught it and politely asked the author, who complied immediately, to correct the error. Much effort ensued to change titles, ISBN numbers, and cross-references across the author’s extensive body of work.
In this case, it was a simple matter of oversight. The author never considered there was an issue. The brand name was so commonplace, it never occurred that using it would be a problem. A lesson that illustrates the care needed to be taken when writing.
This is not to say you can’t use brand names. You can. However, the context that you use them in is essential.
In an article written by Michy and posted on the “Accentuated Authors Services” website, she notes the following:
• If you have a character crying in your story, she should ask for a tissue, not a Kleenex. • If a person is cleaning the bathroom, they should be using bleach and not Clorox. • Babies should be wearing diapers, not Pampers. • When you order a soft drink, it should be cola not Coke. • If cleaning ears, one should use a cotton swab, not a Q-tip.
The point is that brand names should not be used in describing a generic product that may have numerous other brand identities. However, don’t despair, brand names can be used when identifying something specific. Michy writes that if you are in a football stadium and the Goodyear Blimp flies overhead, it is perfectly acceptable to use its correct name. For a mystery writer like me, she also mentions that if you are identifying evidence in a crime, it is okay to use the brand name and type of a tire or an automobile or other items because it is unique to the situation.
What you must not do is use a brand name in a title. As we learned at the beginning of this discussion, algorithms exist to find such occurrences, and usage will be caught by the company or publisher through Internet searches.
There are times, however, when you can use brand names. If you mention that a character drove a Ford Thunderbird as a young man and loved the car, that is acceptable, but make sure it relates to the plot. The most important thing to remember is never to use a brand name in a derogatory way. Bad-mouthing a company or product is one quick way to receive a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney.
Another critical factor to remember is that brands are fleeting and can date your story quickly. That is why choosing the generic word for a product, if one exists, is essential. You want your reader to relate to the product more than the brand. The fact is using too many brands can lead to your story reading like a commercial. Brands can be distracting, so use them wisely and infrequently.
There is one other area where company names and brands are important. World building is not just a tool of the science-fiction or fantasy writer. All writers build their world, and it is essential to be accurate about location when setting your story in an existing town or city. Remember, some of your readers could live there, so be precise with places and street names, and especially business names.
I tend to be quite careful about the names of individual businesses when I write. I often set my novels in New Orleans, and I will mention Jackson Square, Café du Monde, Preservation Hall, and other iconic landmarks or businesses but set the action of my story in fictitious locations. Again, this is to keep the possibility of any negative connotation being associated with a real business or brand. You should not, however, use the names of private companies. If your scene calls for action at a restaurant which is in a specific area and there is an actual restaurant there, make up a name for it.
Using the real names of well-known landmarks provides realism to your stories and enhances the reader’s experience. I once had a reader tell me that my description of a small town in California was exactly how she remembered it from growing up. She knew the town square, the ice cream shop I mentioned, and the corner drugstore, and said I must have spent a lot of time in her hometown. The fact is I had never been there, but I utilized Google Map’s street-level view to provide the ambiance and setting for that scene. Her reaction shows that an accurate representation to your reader brings them into your story.
Writing can be a challenge. With so many factors to consider, we must remain cognizant of the issues that can harm our stories. If you do, you will not have to worry about those pesky brand names.
When you think of indie publishing or self-publishing, what’s usually the first thing that comes to mind? You usually think—not quite as professional, right? Maybe not as much earning potential? Well, I’m glad you stopped in because we are going to break these misconceptions today! One thing that traditional publishing does have the advantage of is that it is a bit easier to become nationally recognized through a traditional publishing house, but we will cover that in Part Three of this series.
Issue One: I won’t be taken seriously as a self-published author.
This is something that many indie authors fear. We struggle with it and convince ourselves that we need to keep sending manuscripts to big publishing houses so we aren’t “settling” for indie publishers. Well, let’s talk about that for a minute.
Self-publishing is quickly moving to the foreground for a lot of reasons. There are some who will say that a self-published author isn’t a professional writer. The main reason for that is they don’t gain the preconceived success that comes with traditional publishing. But that’s all it is—perception. There are writers with book deals who are just scraping by, and there are self-published writers who are raking in upwards of forty thousand a month. I don’t know about you, but I would call that success! It all lies in your perception and the work you are willing to put in. If you don’t see yourself as a professional writer (even if you have a day job), then you won’t put in the work of a professional writer. Ultimately, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, then you need to take yourself seriously and work hard at honing your craft and producing your best work! Which brings us to the advantages of indie publishing.
Issue Two: There’s not as much earning potential.
This is so far from the truth it hurts! The reason this is a popular notion is because of the instant accreditation you can get through a traditional publishing house. Publications and critics will see traditional publishing as a sign of quality because the work comes from a credible source. So you will have initial purchase orders, but as we covered in part one, purchase orders don’t necessarily translate into sales. Let’s look at how indie royalties work.
There are two ways you can go—completely self-published where you handle every aspect of creation, publishing, and marketing, or there are indie publishers who pick up some of the legwork. We will delve into the differences between the two in the next part of this series. Either way you go, the royalties end up pretty similar. Amazon royalties can vary depending on where and how you are publishing.
Through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you can sell print books. After their cut is taken out for printing costs and a little to wet their beak, you are left with around 23-35% profit. Which isn’t bad when you consider that you won’t have an agent taking 15% of your profit from sales.
For ebooks through KDP, as long as you are priced between $2.99 and $10, you will profit a whopping 70% of your sales—something you will never see from a traditional publisher. With population growth and the widespread use of the internet and social media, that leaves you with literally billions of people that you can potentially reach. That’s easier said than done, though. That is why it is of the utmost importance that you build your marketing skills and practice them daily!
With an indie publishing company, you will, on average, keep a flat rate of your profits, and it can vary from 40%–60% of your sales. You also get the benefit of purchasing physical copies of your own book at cost, not retail price. So, with that being the case, say you decide to sell your book at $5 a piece. With 60% profit, you will make $3 per book sold. Meaning you will only need to sell 333,333 copies of your book to make a million dollars. I say only, but we all know that isn’t easy, either. However, it’s a lot better than the 1.3 million copies you would need to sell to make a million with a traditional publisher.
Some benefits that I didn’t cover are that when you completely self-publish, you retain all of your rights and are free to do what you want with your work. This could come in handy in a lot of scenarios. Also, the rate of publication is exponentially quicker. You can have your book on the market in a very short time after the final edits are complete. As you can see, there are many benefits to self-publishing—it just takes a little more work than traditional publishing. So, if you are willing to put in the work, then you will be poised to reap the benefits!
Thank you for reading, and stay inspired! Stay tuned for Part Three in our Benefits of Indie Publishing.
Many of us dream of getting that acceptance letter from one of the big publishing houses. We wait by the mailbox or constantly check our email in a child-like fervor, hoping to see “Congratulations” come through. We think that once we get that acceptance, life is set, we’ve made it, and we are now successful authors, right? Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are so many hoops to jump through with traditional publishing, and for a brand-new author without an agent, you will almost certainly get the short end of a short stick. There are a few exceptions to the rules—those like J.K. Rowling, who found massive success with her first series, but that is a rare case. Yes, we all want to hit that goal, but we need to plan for reality and write like we’ve got that success waiting for us. Let’s look at some of the drawbacks of traditional publishing.
Royalties vary greatly for traditional publishing contracts. They can be from as little as 3% to as much as 15%. It would be exceedingly rare to get anything more than 15%. They have overhead costs, binding costs, and distributing costs that drive your earning potential way down. For a new author, you will probably get between 3-5% royalties. If you got the high end at 5% and your book sold for $15 per copy, that means you would make $0.75 per book sold. At that rate, you would have to sell 1.3 million copies of your book to make a million dollars. Sounds doable, right? What they don’t tell you is that the big publishing houses don’t really do much marketing for you—that is still mostly up to you. If you want to get the best deals and have someone set up events for you, you have to hire an agent before even getting signed with a publishing house. Your agent will go to bat for you negotiating your publishing contract and could get you a slightly higher percentage. They will set up events for you and get you different speaking gigs, but their focus isn’t even marketing, so that’s still up to you. Not to mention the high cost that comes with having an agent. They are an invaluable resource, but most authors can’t afford one before signing with a big publishing house, so most of us lose out when entering into new contracts with publishing houses. The advantage that traditional publishing gives you is that they will get you into many of the bigger-name retail stores. However, even though they get your book in front of those buyers, that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Most bookstores and retail outlets will place an order for your book through the publisher, but they usually require that they retain the right to return unsold books to the distributor. This is damaging to your royalties and this is how.
The bookstore puts an order in for your book and the publisher sends it to them through their distributor. Even though there is technically a purchase for your book, the publisher holds payment until they are certain of how many copies were actually sold. This process could take months. So, if the bookstore purchased 5,000 copies of your book and only 1,000 copies sold over the course of six months, then the bookstore sends back the other 4,000 copies. Once the publisher receives the unsold copies, they will release payment for only the 1,000 copies sold despite the large order that was originally placed.
Now, for people who have money already or are already somewhat successful authors, the book advance is great! However, for new authors and people without much money, it can be damaging. Here comes the tricky part regarding if the publisher had paid you an advance on your book, which they do a lot of the time. Say that 1,000 copies were the first copies of your book sold. It took six months to sell through them plus the time it took for the distributor to receive them and verify that they are there. Now, the publisher recoups their money from the advance before you even get to see a royalty payment. So If those copies that you sold don’t cover the advance, now you’ve waited around seven months and won’t receive any royalty payments because your advance wasn’t covered. So you can see how purchase orders from a bookstore don’t necessarily translate into sales. This is where marketing comes in. Most of the time, the big publishing houses won’t put much, if any, money into marketing your work unless you are an established author with a good following. So you are still left to market your book with your own resources and you are taking such a small percentage of the profits for your own work!
So sure, traditional publishing does seem like a glorious pursuit, and sometimes it can be! The reality of it is—it’s not as glamorous as you would think and is actually somewhat unfair to the author who puts in a large majority of the work to get a small fraction of the rewards.
Stay tuned for part two of this series where we will dive into the reality of indie publishing and the benefits we can reap from it.