Despair and Anguish

My 100-word Christmas story for 2021.

Despair and Anguish
by Lester D. Crawford

I sit at the edge of the world, a world filled with despair and anguish, a world where all hope is lost. A devil draped in a flag came to spread evil and hatred everywhere, taking everything, consuming everyone. All is lost, and I am spent.

Then, before me appears a dragon of red, green, blue, silver, and gold.

“I am sent by the Spirit of Christmas to give you purpose,” says the dragon. “Use your heart to fight the evil. Giving and forgiving, loving and sharing, kindness and compassion will bring hope back to you and to the world.”

Years ago, Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall inspired me to write a 100-word Advent Ghosts Christmas story. Now, every year, I write a 100-word Christmas story. It’s always fun.

Read stories submitted by other writers here: Advent Ghosts 2021: The Stories.

Suddenly a Short Story

I finished a draft of my dystopian world story’s first act. As I wrote the last line, the story felt complete. It’s not — there’s a lot more to the story — but the first act made itself its own story with an ending that brought me catharsis.

The first act explores the main character’s normal world. From the beginning, she has the item that will change her world at plot point one at the end of the first act and thus toss her into the actual story in the second and third acts. The midpoint revealed the inciting event as a flashback. It made a complete story arc.

As I wrote the last line, I had a flush of excitement. I had created a short story. I immediately decided it needed to go out on submission. If it doesn’t find a home, I still have the rest of the story to tell. If it does, I’ll still finish the story and publish it later, probably as a novella.

To that end, I edited the story to the best of my ability and then sent it to beta readers for their input. I look forward to submitting it. I currently have a short story making submission rounds. Maybe they’ll both be picked up.

Dystopian World Short Story Word Cloud and Pages (pages not intended to be readable)
Dystopian World Short Story Word Cloud and Pages (pages not intended to be readable)

Write a Dystopian World is Depressing

I’m making progress on my dystopian world story, but that progress is slow and difficult. The world is based on what some people want our world to be like. The extreme despair of that world makes it depressing to write. I cried writing the last line of the first chapter.

Figuring out this story has been more difficult than any story I’ve written. The outline is less complete than any of my previous outlines. There’s much yet to be understood about the characters and their world. However, things are coming together and the holes in the outline are slowly filling in.

Now is not the time for emotions. Stay focused. Stay vigilant. Danger lurks. Save the crying for when it’s done. Then, rejoice.

Story in the Works

I’m waiting on a review of my anthology. I finished a short story that is out on submission. Now I’m designing a new story that takes place on a dystopian world.

The society of that world is the antagonist confronting our hero. As I create the story, I’ll look for specific characters to personify that society, which is based on policy objectives of certain extremists active in our real world.

The story is challenging, but it’s an excellent opportunity to practice the writing craft skill of worldbuilding.

Starting a New Story

The anthology The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins I edited during the 2021 Clarion West Write-a-thon is off to beta readers. Now I’m working on a new story that is not part of The Dragon Universe — it won’t have dragons.

I mind mapped my ideas for the story and built a story structure to channel those ideas. I need to refine the MICE quotient and chiastic structure a little more, but I’ve already written a few pages to see how it flows. It’s looking good.

This will be a fun story. The plan is for it to be a short story under 6,000 words. I’ll see if I can keep it that short.

2021 Clarion West Write-a-thon Finished

I completed a couple of editing passes on my The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins collection of stories, participated in a couple of Write-a-thon classes on Zoom, and watched several other presentations. The Write-a-thon has been a skill building and inspiring event. Thank you Clarion West.

Now I continue with the final editing pass of Utopia Origins before sending it to beta readers.

Utopia Origins Word Cloud and Pages

Using the Pieces I Have to Assemble a Book

I tend toward long stories that require time to produce. Because of the long turn around when writing such stories, progress on enhancing my writing craft skills was slow.

As I finished a draft of a 600,000-word story (which I broke into five 120,000-word books), I reached a point of understanding the writing craft that made me rethink everything I had been trying to accomplish. I needed to write shorter stories that would allow me to practice the finer details of craft that had finally clicked for me.

I began writing short stories — well, stories as short as I could make them. This allowed me to repeatedly practice in less time than long form stories allowed all the skills needed to write stories.

The stories came in at 8,100 words, 7,200 words, 18,700 words, and 50,600 words. Then I felt the need for a story that would lead into the stories I had already written. It came in at 18,800 words. I submitted the stories to various markets as I wrote them, but I have not yet made a sale.

After reviewing this collection of stories, which are related and explore the origins of a world and characters I plan for a future long-form story, I decided I can use them to create an anthology. This would give me a book I could publish that would be 103,400 words (plus or minus what editing does to the word count).

I’m now editing that collection and having a fine time doing it. I’ll see where this path leads me.

Don’t Self-Reject

Don’t self-reject. Let the professionals do that for you.

I keep repeating to myself: If I don’t submit, I’ll never sell a story. I share this advice with others as well. I’m not saying submit crap — it needs to be your best work — but don’t let the fear of rejection stop you. Even the most successful writers receive rejections. It’s a part of the job.

I finished final edits on my newest novella, so now it’s time to submit it. I don’t expect it to be accepted, though (keeping my expectations under control is one of my coping mechanisms). I’m not convinced I write anything anyone wants; however, I have received rejections with personalized comments that indicated some of my stories have been close.

My stories may be too normal. They’re not odd, experimental, or mind blowing. Many of the stories published by the various markets don’t appeal to me and I don’t write those kinds of stories; all though, occasionally I am pleasantly pleased with what is published. I write what I like to read, stories that make me feel good, stories that give me catharsis.

I’m hoping for a good outcome with this submission, but I’m also preparing to submit the story to the next available market on my submission plan. That is my job.

I’ll do my job and let the professionals to theirs.

High level view of the pages of my newest novella.
Pages of My Newest Novella

The Road Not Taken

As I worked on my current writing project, I wrote the line “Patrick realized he had chosen the wrong path for his life.” I then described the path he took and the path that in hindsight he wishes he had taken.

This reminded me of the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I often think about the poem and ponder how I came to be where I am today, what roads I took, what roads were the wrong roads, and where would I be if I had followed those other roads. Now, as I work on a second draft of the story, that theme pulls at me and cries out for more attention.

The story already had a theme about doing the right thing but not necessarily knowing what the right thing was until too late in the process. This new theme blends with the original theme in the sense that a choice was made and then later events called the choice into question.

The road most people’s lives take is the result of random opportunity and desperate grasping for any job so they can simply survive another day. In my life, though, there were a few moments when two roads diverged and I had to choose. Did I choose wisely? I often doubt I did. Regardless, I have to accept where I ended up.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

TED-Ed animation of the poem.
TED-Ed analysis of the poem and its interpretations.