Guest Blog: Author/Editor Michael Haynes on His #StoryEachNight Experience
Michael Haynes has lived in Ohio his entire life but fiction has let him travel from Los Angeles to China to outer space. He has enjoyed writing since his youth and is particularly interested in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Among his writing idols are Isaac Asimov, Guy Gavriel Kay, S. J. Rozan, W. P. Kinsella, Roald Dahl, and Lawrence Block.
He has had short fiction accepted for publication by Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and Nature among other venues. (For complete bibliography, go to his Publications page.) He is an Associate Editor for the anthology UFO: Unidentified Funny Objects.
When he’s not reading or writing he enjoys watching movies, going to hockey games (even though his lowly Blue Jackets have not given him much to cheer for in recent years), and spending time with his wife and children. Professionally, he is an Oracle Database Administrator, but he promises not to bore visitors to his blog with tales of ORA-00600 error message troubleshooting.
Michael joins in with the festivities for #StoryEachNight’s one-year anniversary by contributing a piece on his long-time love of short fiction and how participating in #storyeachnight has enriched his own writing.
I’m a short fiction reader and a short fiction writer. It’s not that I don’t enjoy novels (I do.) and not that I can’t imagine writing novels some day (In fact, I completed a first draft of one during last year’s NaNoWriMo.) but the vast majority of the time I spend with fiction is in its short form.
This isn’t something new for me, either. I’ve always been a fan of short fiction. When I was a child, attending science fiction conventions with my parents, I was always drawn in the dealers’ rooms to collections of short fiction. I had literally dozens of those collections as a child/young adult, books mostly from the 1950s and 1960s collecting short stories from Galaxy, F&SF, Astounding, and other magazines.
Last December, I made a point of reading fifty new (to me) short stories. I did this with several reasons in mind, including getting more familiar with some of the short fiction markets which I hadn’t read regularly in the past. It was a useful activity but then the month ended and I had other goals for January and I didn’t specifically read a bunch of short fiction that month.
Then in early February I noticed Nicole Cushing’s #storyeachnight tweets. She explained that Ray Bradbury had suggested that writers read a story, a poem, and an essay each day. It seemed like a great idea and I picked it up as well, reading at least one short story and tweeting about it. Recently, I’ve #storyeachnight’ed my way through the most recent issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and (as of this writing) I’m only one story away from finishing reading the most recent issue of Shimmer.
And I don’t restrict my reading entirely to speculative fiction. Among my (rather sizable) collection of books and magazines I also have a number of collections of mystery and crime fiction as well as some collections from other genres altogether. I’ve read stories from those other sources for #storyeachnight as well.
Now, I haven’t been anywhere near as consistent as Nicole. She’s read a story each and every day for over a year. I’ve probably only hit about two-thirds or so of the days since I started. But it’s been a valuable part of my writer’s routine to have something out there reminding me to regularly take the time to not just read a short story but to think a small amount about my reaction to it and communicate that via a tweet or two.
And at least one of my stories, “A Minor God of Mischief”, had its style influenced by my having recently read (for #storyeachnight) a Ring Lardner story titled “Who Dealt?”. My first draft for “Minor God” was a boring, inert mess which I suspect wouldn’t have been accepted by its eventual publisher. But I rewrote the story in the one-sided conversation style of “Who Dealt?” (and, for those who remember his comedy routines, Bob Newhart). This change seemed to liven the story up and the publisher evidently agreed.
For a short while this summer, I was also doing #poemeachnight but I’ve gotten out of that habit. There, too, I think the effort was worthwhile as I spent some time thinking about the use of language in poetry and how that might work (or not work) in prose.
In the end, I think that Bradbury’s advice is worthwhile, particularly for anyone wanting to write short fiction or poetry. I’m glad that I saw Nicole’s tweets and joined in on the fun!