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“How I Do It” – Boogieman In Lavender

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                          By Jeff Baker                                               

Not every writer writes short-stories. The form has been described as “difficult” and “challenging.” Some fiction writers don’t write short-stories. I write almost nothing but short-stories. I haven’t discussed the process very often, and I don’t always do it the same way, but this is more or less how I do it. (Sometimes.)

First, there’s the idea. Ideas are easy. Everybody gets them. It’s what we do with them that counts. About four years ago we had a storm here and the power went out. It was Friday evening, we had no place to be the next day so we opened a couple of windows and hit the sack. As we lay there in the dark, I noticed that without the lights from our various charging gadgets and from the TV, the VCR and cable box (to say nothing of the streetlight a couple of houses down) it was really dark. I started to play around with the idea of the darkness as a living entity. Sometimes I get up and write down ideas I have in the middle of the night, but with the lights out I waited until the next day. I wrote the idea down and forgot it. And then…

…A year or so later I saw a call from a prospective magazine specializing in LGBT fiction and they wanted ghost stories. The darkness idea popped back into my head and so did a title: Something in the Dark. And suddenly I had the situation and the characters: Happily ensconced gay couple in the house where the darkness dwells. A subtle M. R. James-type story. And right about then the prospective magazine folded and I put the story on the back burner.

And yet another year or so later I found a market for the story. And a deadline. I had a couple of months to write the story. So, I followed my usual plan:

I wrote out what I call “a half-assed outline.”  Sort of a combination outline/synopsis. It wouldn’t have got me any grades in any writing class I took in College, but it works. It helps me to know what happens when and to whom. Then…

I wrote out the parts of the story I already had. (Thank God for word processing programs!) When I have everything I already know written down it’s just a matter of writing up the bits that pull the various sections I have together. This is done in a crazy exhilaration of progress and approaching deadline. Then, there’s the proofreading and spellchecking and making certain the finished draft is ready to be zapped out to a market.And sometimes, I do it in a different way than all that!

The important thing is to keep working at the writing, and to keep writing.

Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror around the thirteenth of each month. His non-fiction appears in Lambda Literary; the story he discusses here was read on the podcast “Monsters Out Of The Closet” for December 2018. He posts fiction on his blog He wastes time on Facebook at Jeff Baker, Author


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