The Lady or the Tiger, or Two Ladies? Or Two Tigers?

Admittedly, that title got away from me.

I am currently debating whether or not I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in 2016. At this point, I have less than a week to decide. I have an idea for a story, some brief character concepts, a general sense of what I would write…

…Here comes the but(t)…


Wait, that doesn’t look right. Anyway. I haven’t finished editing my book from last year. There. I tried to poorly diffuse my shame with a butt and it still didn’t work. And it kills me, guys, because editing is a slog. It’s boring. I hate editing.

I do not know what to do.

I brought this up to a fellow NaNo participant, and I asked, “Do you think I should do it and then have two unfinished manuscripts?”

Without even pausing, she said, “Two. Absolutely.”

I want to agree, but at the same time, I’ve tried to move away from unfinished projects. I always end up with accumulating a stack of ‘to do’s instead of feeling accomplished. And, sure, in many cases I come back and finish, but it doesn’t feel quite as gratifying as having something done and then getting to share it openly.

Now, with that in mind, however, most of the things I do finish are short pieces: short stories, flash fiction, poetry, fanfiction, that sort of thing.

So I pose this to you, dear reader: which is better? One finished manuscript or two unfinished manuscripts?

Now excuse me. I’m going to go wallow in artistic angst (which mostly consists of watching youtube videos).

Editing a Monster: Index Card Therapy

I’ve mentioned before that I’m still editing my monster of a novel I did during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And y’all? I do not like editing. I am not good at it. Ask me to write something – anything – any length – and I’ll do it. Ask me to take that mountain and whittle it down into a terrarium, and I lose my damn mind.

As I consider this crazy, meandering thing, I’ve found that I have a lot of characters. So I’m trying a technique that uses a tool I’ve read about many writers employing when they are working on books: index cards.

Here is the process I’m using. For now. Until I get tired of it. But you might find it helpful!

  1. Take an index card. Write the name of your character on the blank side, including possibly a picture if you have one or a brief physical description.
  2. On the back, it’s bullet list time. Write down what part you want that character to play — are they the hero? The villain? Someone’s foil?
  3. Next, write down what they want, ultimately. Their best case scenario. Where they seek to find themselves.
  4. Write down a few of their favorite things and who they are most linked to in the story.
  5. Write down what you like about the character. Maybe it’s their dialogue. Maybe it’s just the fact that they seem like someone you would want to be friends with (or, on the other hand, someone you’d like to be running from).

Now, take the cards and lay them out on a table or flat surface. How does your cast look? Did you struggle to find things to write about them? Are there characters you could put together into one MEGA AWESOME CHARACTER FUSION? If your book was a movie, would you want to see it?

Over the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I’d like to talk more about my editing process. If there are any aspects to this you would especially be interested in hearing about, leave me a comment here or head over to my Facebook page! Or Twitter! Or homing dolphin!

A Little Something

Trying to sort of organize myself creatively speaking, so here is just something small. A pair of haikus inspired by the nice break in weather we’ve been having in Pittsburgh.

:: #Sunset at #RiverviewPark in #Pittsburgh with #deer flocking around the #Observatory.

A photo posted by Katie Pugh (@bohemianonrye) on

The sun still shines down
But it has become friends with
The promise of fall.

The still-green grass grows
Slower now, preparing for
The leaves’ homecoming.

Microfiction: Four Stories About Love

(This was fun! Stay tuned for whatever is coming next!)

There were three people on opposite sides of the park. An expanse of green spread out between them, dotted by picnic baskets, umbrellas, babies taking shaky steps. Above, a blue ocean of sky. They couldn’t see one another well, but they waved all the same.

They made up stories about each other. The old man was a war veteran. The young boy was his grandchild. The two women and the girl were a new family, brought together by love.

The stories were happy ones, and there were some truths in there, but it didn’t matter. It was a perfect day.

The yeti said ‘I love you’ with mushrooms brought to the seashore, and the mermaid always smiled. He would kneel down and she would braid his long, mossy hair with seaweed, and he chased the gulls away when they dove at her shimmering tail.

The mermaid said ‘I want you here with me’ with abalone and clams. He would build fires at night on the beach and dig tidal pools for her to lounge in, and they watched the stars shine and fade.

And even when her breasts sagged and his hair fell out in clumps, they still remained together.

“Please don’t go,” she said to him, through the tears only a seven-year-old in love could show. “Please don’t move. I’ll let you play with all my toys. As much as you want.”

“My parents are making me. We’re going to Alaska. I’ll send you pictures,” he said, as stoic as a nine-year-old can be.

“But you’ll come back, right?” She blew her nose on his sleeve, even though he made a face. “You’ll come back and see me?”

“I think so,” he said, believing the words.

And every month, there was a postcard with a moose in the mailbox.

They lived in the house together, all five of them, and there was always tea and fresh-cut flowers and blankets in the winter. The house smelled like lemon, and when any of them hurt or felt pain, the other four would enclose them in a circle of love.

Of course, there was talk of the strangers in the beautiful house on the hill. About how their love was something to be feared, something to avoid.

But the yellow walls and brown shutters held tight and fast. Inside, the five needed only one another, and they were happy in that knowledge.

Microfiction: Ending and Beginning

“I don’t want a last meal. I want a bath.”

The guard vouched for him. The prisoner was old, what could be the harm? The guard, who had been a young man when he started in death row. The guard, who had grown to know the man who would die for a crime he didn’t commit.

When he took him to the small bathroom, his final act of mercy was unlocking the cabinet of cleaning supplies, dropping the keys down the toilet. The bleach and ammonia would do the rest.

“Thank you,” the prisoner said as he started to breath.

Fie found the ring in the carrot patch. She slipped it into the pocket of her dirty coveralls before going back to the weeding.

Then, it was a bouquet of roses in the cabbage patch, blood red and fragrant as day. She let them sit, save for one, which she placed in her wide-brimmed hat.

As she dug around the sweet potatoes, she found small, foil-wrapped chocolates, dirt clinging to their ribbons. The truffles melted on her tongue.

“I was already yours, you know,” Fie said, kissing the scarecrow’s cheek. “I’m not going anywhere.”

His silent stitched mouth continued smiling.

Microfiction: Program

The doctor made the robot to look exactly like her. It wasn’t perfect – on the contrary, it had all her acne, her gray hairs, her fifty-two scars. Its voice had her gravelly rasp, her eyes the not-quite-color of evergreen. By the time she was done, she could barely stand to see it.

“Now what?” the robot asked.

“Just go be me.”

“To what end?” Its head inclined, curious.

“I want people to think I’m okay. I don’t want them to watch me die.”

The robot nodded.

“Just pretend until you can’t anymore,” she ordered, ushering it out the door.

Microfiction: Squeak

Tippy kept a home for the ghosts of small pets. When the Jehovah’s Witness knocked on her door and saw Boogers the rat run through her ankle, he passed out cold.

She brought him inside, and, shooing away the ethereal birds from the couch, set him down. He woke up to a cup of tea, a biscuit and a surly specter guinea pig named Horace.

“I don’t understand,” he said, as a non-corporeal boa tried to wrap around the sofa leg. “Why…?”

“It’s easy for little lives to be forgotten,” she said. “Someone needs to remind them of their importance.”