Blarg!

Bill's blog. Writing, guitars, gratuitous Simpsons references, you'll find i​t all here. Almost certainly a waste of time for both you and the author. On the internet, that's actually a plus.

New column at Writer Unboxed: The Hack's Guide to Writing a Perfect First Chapter

photo by Jacob Haddon

photo by Jacob Haddon

Go check out my new column at Writer Unboxed. It's called "The Hack's Guide to Writing a Perfect First Chapter," and it's full of the insider tips and practical advice you've come to expect from the Hacks for Hacks brand. 

  • Raise the stakes. I mean for you, personally. I wasn’t kidding when I said this chapter could earn you fame and fortune, or sabotage your whole career. Now, check your heart rate. Place a postage stamp on the back of your neck. If it absorbed enough flop sweat that you can stick it to an SASE, your mind is ready to start writing. It’s not desperation, it’s INSPIRATION!
  • Introductions. It’s time for your readers to meet your characters. Where do they work? What are they wearing? What’s their favorite food? What are their crippling insecurities? What do they want? This information is all just preamble to the burning question all readers have: Are they now, or have they ever been, a member of the Communist party.

Find me at Illogicon this weekend!

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It's time again for one of my favorite cons of the year, Illogicon in Cary, NC. I'll be paneling with some smart people, and doing a reading on Saturday night. Come say hello! Mention that you saw this blog post and I'll give you a high-five.

Here's my schedule:

Friday, 4pm

  • Do You Even Geek Sports and Fitness? – Reynolds
    Apps, gamification, heart rate computer bands, zombie runs… There are more ways than ever to improve the health of our physical meat sacks in the nerdiest of ways!
    Panelists: James Maxey (M), Calvin Powers, Matthew Penick, Mur Lafferty, Bill Ferris, Ian Malone

Friday, 9pm

  • Box of Office Bombs – Smith
    Sci-fi, comic, or fantasy movies aren’t niche and they’re getting some mega-budgets. Why do so many under perform?
    Panelists: Jason Gilbert (M), Bill Ferris, Michael G. Williams, Samantha Bryant, Jay Requard, Ian Malone

Saturday, 12pm

  • Anti-World Building – Smith
    When what you don’t say says more than what you do. Sometimes too much detail in your world-building can be immersion breaking
    Panelists: Holly Walrath (M), Alyssa Wong, Jason Gilbert, Bill Ferris, Clay Griffth, Susan Griffith

Saturday, 7pm

 

New column: Passive Aggressive Christmas Gifts for Writers 

photo by cedwardmoran on Flickr

photo by cedwardmoran on Flickr

My new column is up at Writer Unboxed, just in time for your holiday shopping: Passive Aggressive Christmas Gifts for Writers. Here's an excerpt:

  • For an unpublished writer: A new display shelf where they can put all their publications. Let the shame of an empty shelf motivate them to succeed! When this shelf inevitably becomes cluttered with junk mail and their kids’ homework, clear it off for them and say, “Got to leave space for all those best-sellers and cult classics!” Cost: $50
  • For your insecure friend: Breath mints, especially if they don’t need them. Cost: $2
  • For your hipster friend who still writes with a typewriter:A truly hideous paperweight for all their typed pages. Every time they feel the joy of completing another page, they’ll have to look at the ceramic monstrosity you gave them, thus slowing their momentum the tiniest little bit. Be careful, though—if it’s too ugly, your hipster friend will think it’s cool. Cost: $20

Go read the whole thing before the stores close!

Passive Aggressive Christmas Gifts for Writers

2017 Awards Eligibility Post

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This year, I only had one short story publication, but it's a really good one, and you wouldn't regret voting for it for a Hugo or Nebula. It's called "A Crawlspace Full of Prizes," and it appeared in the sixth volume of Unidentified Funny Objects.

Amazing Stories had this to say about it: 

“A Crawlspace Full of Prizes” by Bill Ferris – One of my favorites in the anthology, even though it is told in second person, which rarely works for me. You are surprised when a strand of tickets comes out of your faucet after you brush your teeth. More appear after doing the laundry and other chores. Then, when you try to put a box of Christmas ornaments in your crawlspace storage, you find a counter with prizes for redeeming your tickets. The sort of booth you might find at a carnival. This is one of those gems I mentioned at the beginning. Highly recommended.

And here's Tangent's review:

"A Crawlspace Full of Prizes" by Bill Ferris sets up a situation where you start to get tickets—like those you get from playing Skee-Ball at an arcade—from your various home appliances. You learn that these actually can be redeemed for various prizes, most of which are things from your past, like "perfect recall of your high school prom." This is magic realism that's more strange than funny, but I think overall the story works well, and gets extra points for succeeding while being written in the second person.

Again, "Crawlspace" is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula in the short story category. Whether you vote or not, however, I hope you enjoy(ed) the story, and I'm looking forward to writing more of them in 2018.

New column: Motivate Yourself with Ten Tips on Self-Motivating Yourself

photo by aronbaker2

photo by aronbaker2

Check out my new column on Writer Unboxed: Motivate Yourself with Ten Tips on Self-Motivating Yourself.

Some days, the words flow from your fingers like water. Other days, they—ooh, look, somebody posted a picture of their dog on Facebook! If you’re feeling burned out, I’m here to help you get fired up to get back to work.

  1. Set a regular schedule. To paraphrase Stephen King, the muse will visit you more often if she knows where to find you. Set a regular writing time for yourself. It makes the joy of creating new worlds and characters as much fun as a day at the office or going to school, except you’re doing it at 5 in the morning. (Though some people prefer evenings, when they’re already exhausted from their other responsibilities.)
  2. Jog your memory. Read what you wrote yesterday and challenge yourself to do even better today. Based on the fact that you’re reading an article on self-motivation, surpassing yesterday’s output should be a pretty easy bar to clear.
  3. Rekindle the romance. There’s something you loved about this project that made you want to exchange all of your free time for it, right? Think of your writing time like a date with your special someone. True, sometimes it feels like you’re dating a cruel taskmaster who inflicts constant pain on you, but some folks pay professionals lots of money for that type of experience.

Read the whole thing here.

My new column is up! The Author’s Guide to Twitter: 280-characters Edition

Read my new column, "The Author’s Guide to Twitter: 280-characters Edition" at Writer Unboxed. It's good. 

Here's an excerpt:

Recently, Twitter allowed some users to write tweets of up to 280 characters instead of the usual 140. Issues like harassment, online bullying, and potentially inciting nuclear war are important, but they had to wait so Twitter could make sure jerks like me would have more sand in their sandboxes, apparently. It is my gift, it is my curse. I take this responsibility very seriously, and I feel a certain noblesse oblige to help other writers who have been or will one day be granted this awesome power. If you’re an author, a writer, or just someone willing to visit this website and click the banner ads, it is your solemn duty to read this column and learn how to wield your words effectively in this expansive new landscape.

The Author’s Guide to Twitter: 280-characters Edition

New short story: "A Crawlspace Full of Prizes" in UFO 6

ufo6_ cover.jpg

My latest short story, "A Crawlspace Full of Prizes," is available now in Unidentified Funny Objects, Volume 6. It's one of my favorites. It's a classic tale of an everyman who, while going into his crawlspace to put away the Christmas decorations, finds a fully-staffed prize counter to a Dave & Busters.  

Here's an excerpt:

Thursday, you walk around to the rear of your house to the crawlspace to put away a box of Christmas decorations for the year. You expect that behind the three-by-five crawlspace door will be the crawlspace, since it's right there in its name and everything. But instead of the musty smell of garden tools and old maple boards from that cutting board you tried to make but gave up on, you find a neon-lit room with day-glo carpet. Top-40 radio blares over loudspeakers that sound nicer than anything you've got in your den. At the center of the room is a glass display case filled with little plastic spider-rings and Pixy Stix, as well as other assorted knick-knacks, candies, baubles, and gee-gaws. You couldn't be more surprised if a bear had jumped out of the crawl space. A bear would've at least made a certain kind of sense. You mention this to Sean, the surly, skinny, pimply teen wearing a green polo shirt and nametag, standing behind the glass counter. You also ask him what the heck he's doing here, anyway?

"Because it's my shift," Sean tells you. 

How did he even get this job? This is your house, you protest. Surely there must be a mistake. Sean will have to leave this instant. And where are you supposed to put your Christmas decorations?

If there were competitions for such things, Sean's reply of, "I don't know what to tell you," would win gold for Least Helpful Phrase in the English Language.

You can buy your copy of UFO 6 at Amazon.

New column: Only 45 Shopping Days Until NaNoWriMo!

photo by grapefruitmoon

Check out my new Hacks for Hacks column, fresh from the oven: Only 45 Shopping Days Until NaNoWriMo! Here's an excerpt:

We’re halfway through September, which means it’s almost October, better known as Secretly Start Working on your NaNoWriMo Novel Month. You probably know it by its acronym, SSWOYNANOWRIMONNOMO (which, by coincidence, is also a curse in a long-forgotten tongue, so don’t say it out loud lest you fall into the dreamless sleep of a thousand years, which will wreck your daily word count). Here’s the thing: Nobody is going to stop you from starting your NaNoWriMo novel early. Yes, I know the NaNoWriMo songs and stories about what happens to early starters, but we’re adults here. We can admit that Halifax the October Hobgoblin won’t steal all the vowels from your keyboard; that the Dropbox Gremlin isn’t going to replace entire chapters of your book with its erotic haiku while you sleep; and that the Eternal Editor will not demand you rewrite the entire manuscript if you ever want to see your doggo alive again.