Mystery Mondays: M.H. Callway on Short Stories Vs Novels

It is my pleasure to welcome fellow author M.H. Callway to Mystery Mondays. Madeleine and I met online and have since become friends. Her novel Windigo Fire was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. She writes both short stories and novels, and she’s here to tell you about that.

SHORT STORIES VS NOVELS

I often give talks on how to get published to aspiring writers. One tip I pass on is to start writing shorter pieces. As an author, I found great encouragement when one of my stories was accepted for publication and/or became a finalist for an award. The boost gave me the will to continue and to believe that I had enough talent to pursue my writing dream.

That’s not to say that writing a short story is easy although it is easier than tackling a novel. To use a running analogy, it’s like preparing for a 5K as opposed to a marathon. You need good basic cardio to run a 5K and most people can finish, but running a marathon introduces a whole new level of complexity. It requires far more endurance, experience and will power – and you won’t be able to complete one without the right training.

Would that I had followed my own advice!

I had always wanted to write a novel so that’s where I started. In 2002, I began my learner novel. Ignorance was bliss so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I ended up with 140,000 words of mishmash. Patient author friends ploughed through my verbiage and gave me excellent advice. I revised the draft several times, reduced the length to 100,000 words and mailed it off to multiple rejections and a few near misses.

By now, it was 2006. The Crime Writers of Canada announced a short story contest and several of my friends planned to enter. We are always advised to write what we know and since I’d spent most of my career working in the civil service, I wrote a comic short story about two hard-working civil servants saddled with a new Boss from Hell. To my great surprise and delight, “Kill the Boss” won first prize.

“Kill the Boss” was picked up by Silver Moon Magazine and reprinted in Mouth Full of Bullets. It proved to be a turning point for my writing career, mostly because I’d devoted four years to improve my writing skills.

I spent the next few years writing short stories. In 2009, I decided to try novel writing again. That work eventually became my first published novel, Windigo Fire. Writing and publishing short fiction kept me going through Windigo Fire’s ups and downs and continues to do so while I wrestle with the next book in the Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.

My short fiction starts with a simple idea. When I write a short story, I’m a complete pantser though I usually know how the story is going to end. Often I have the closing line in mind. What I don’t know is how long it’s going to take to get to the end. I simply write until the story is fully told.

I find the process of writing short fiction immensely freeing. Also since I tend to write long, I’ve started exploring the novella form. In our digital age, we aren’t as constrained to rigid word limits as we once were because of the mechanics of print publishing. Nowadays, too, readers have less time, so I believe that the novella form has potential to become popular.

Readers can now find my published stories and novellas together in my new book Glow Grass and Other Tales. It’s available on Amazon in print and digital form.

I love to hear from readers. Do visit my website and leave me your comments at www.mhcallway.com. Or you may contact me at mcallway1@gmail.com.

M.H. Callway’s Books:

 

12000831_10154197942864018_1649104801334232488_oWINDIGO FIRE

A  Canadian noir thriller.

Danny Bluestone, a young Native man, overeducated and underemployed, is drawn into an illegal bear hunt to escape his stultifying hometown of Red Dog Lake in Northern Ontario.  Things quickly go violent and he must fight to survive both the killers and the wilderness.

 

 

glowgrassGLOW GRASS and OTHER TALES:

Revenge, guide dogs, cats big and small, beleaguered ladies of a certain age and a cop with a tarnished heart, meet them all here in Glow Grass and Other Tales.

The characters in the seven stories and two novellas fight for justice even when their sense of justice is warped.  The tales include winners of The Bony Pete and Golden Horseshoe awards as well as the finalists for the 2015 Derringer and 2016 Arthur Ellis Best Novella Award.

 

 

Mystery Mondays M.H. Callway on NaNoWriMo

Mystery Mondays welcomes M.H. Callway to talk about riding NaNoWriMo Tiger.

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is: read on!

I know M.H. Callway as Madeleine. We met online through other authors. Madeline has a special place here as she provided an endorsement for my second novel, BLAZE. It’s difficult to ask another author for an endorsement and Madeleine said yes right away. Her generosity with her time and thoughtfulness in writing an endorsement has pushed my writing career along.

So please help me welcome M.H Callway.

RIDING THE NANOWRIMO TIGER by M.H. Callway

Many thanks to Kristina for inviting me to her blog! I’m delighted to be here.  Today I want to share with you my experiences doing last November’s National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

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My friend and fellow author, TO Poet, encouraged me to join him and his friends for this 50,000 word marathon adventure. He has ridden the NaNoWriMo tiger no less than six years running.

So I jumped in feet first with little – well, let’s be honest – no preparation!

 

What is National Novel Writing Month?

November is pretty dull so every year hundreds of thousands of authors around the globe try to write 50,000 words to fill up the 30 days. Chris Baty and 21 of his writer friends came up with the idea in San Francisco more than 15 years ago. Thanks to the internet, participation has since gone viral. In 2015, writers located as far away as central Russia and Micronesia took part. No restrictions, no writing experience necessary.

How did y’all keep going? 

TO Poet set up a Facebook page for our team, the NaNoWriMo Misfits.  He kept us inspired with daily posts and we logged on to report our progress. Peer pressure proved to be a compelling motivator for me.

And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.  TO Poet’s coffee mugs rival goldfish bowls.

Why embark on this marathon?

Like most newly published authors, I’d spent the past 12 months promoting my debut novel, Windigo Fire,  through conferences, meet-ups, bookstores and libraries. On my own or with our group, The Mesdames of Mayhem, I literally did hundreds of events. I needed to do get back to work on the second novel in my Danny Bluestone series, Windigo Ice.

Not that my keyboard was idle. I managed to write a suspense novelette, “Glow Grass”, for the Mesdames of Mayhem’s second anthology, 13 O’clock.

What plan / approach to use? 

As a scientist and MBA-type, I knew that an overwhelmingly large project can be broken down into incremental steps. That meant 1700 words over 30 days to reach the required 50,000 word count. I did a couple of test runs to prove to myself that I could pull it off. November 1st dawned and I was off and writing!

How did NaNoWriMo go? Did you make 50,000 words?

I did indeed make the grade: 50,048 words to be exact.  Here are the stats from my trusty Excel spreadsheet: my daily output ranged between 1600 and 2200 words. On my last day, I wrote 3300 words just to get done – my record for the month! It’s “the barn door syndrome” familiar to runners: we get a charge of life-saving energy when we spot the finish line.

What worked with NaNoWriMo?

For me, NaNoWriMo was a lifesaver. I refocused on writing and pushed aside life’s nagging demands to make it a priority.

Meeting my daily word count meant turning off the editor in my head. I tend to be a deliberate, measured writer so NaNo felt immensely freeing. I got to know my characters again, resolved tricky plot problems, churned out fun action sequences and created an encounter between Danny and Santa, the escaped villain from Windigo Fire that was a joy to write.  I now have several ideas for the core theme(s) and a goodly chunk of words to draw on – or to store for Books 3 and 4.

What challenges remain? 

After the freedom of NaNo, the hard work really begins, the tough thinking especially. I had to put my “plotter” hard hat back on while surrendering my “pantser” plumage with a sigh. I reviewed the 50,000 words I wrote and organized everything into a plot-logical order.

Right now I’m developing the details of the crime at the heart of Windigo Ice. And fleshing out the villain who made his first ghostly appearance to me during NaNo.

A thriller runs 80,000 to 100,000 words so even if all my 50,000 words were useable, I’d only be halfway there. That’s the keyword: useable. Editing is the next big step so in February, we NaNo Misfits are will be supporting each other during our Edit Month.

Would you recommend NaNoWriMo to other authors?

Most definitely! I’m pumped about Windigo Ice and can’t wait to finish writing Danny’s winter adventures. It’s a great way to get refocused on writing and to bond with fellow authors.

In an ideal world, I’d recommend having one’s plot meticulously laid out so that one’s first draft would be done by the end of November. But no matter, anyone who participates will be infinitely farther ahead than sitting around worrying about finding time to write.

 

Madeleine’s BIO:

madeleineM. H. Callway’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Windigo Fire (Seraphim Editions) was short-listed for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Under different titles, it was nominated for both the Unhanged Arthur and the Debut Dagger Awards. Margaret Cannon of The Globe and Mail called her “a writer to watch”.

Madeleine’s crime fiction stories, many of which have won or been short-listed for major awards, have appeared in anthologies and magazines. Most recently, her speculative fiction story, “The Ultimate Mystery” in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing), was a 2015 Derringer finalist.

Madeleine blogs regularly about the weird things she encounters and about the wonderful people in her life. Visit her at www.mhcallway.com.

In 2013, she founded the Mesdames of Mayhem, a group of 15 established Canadian women crime writers. Two anthologies showcase their work: Thirteen and 13 O’clock. Stories in Thirteen were finalists for the Arthur Ellis and Derringer awards. Learn more about the Mesdames at www.mesdamesofmayhem.com

Madeleine is a longstanding member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime. An avid cyclist, runner and downhill skier, she has participated in the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer every year since 2008.  She and her husband share their Victorian home with a spoiled cat.

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Thanks for reading…

Next week we welcome Lisa De Nikolits