Arsenal of Words

The Writing of Arthur Klepchukov

Category: Writing

Dream Tense

I love how fiction warps the mind. Today’s example…

I think I only dream in present tense, though time is surreal in dreams. When recounting a dream, I think I do so in past tense, though with the occasional foray into present tense. Surely some dreams are exciting enough to relay in real time. The dream experience happened, though the events never quite did, and past tense usually fits. Though that seems more like a storytelling convention rather than treating dreams or dream experiences like the actual past.

So when a character recounts a dream to another character, would they do so in past tense? Even in a story written in past tense? Or would that be past perfect? Or depend on the frame in which the dream was introduced? Would they slip into the present tense for dramatic effect? Would a narrator recount a character’s dream in past tense? Depends on if it’s in scene or summary. And the tense of the story. And how much weight you’d give to things that never happened (in the context of fiction itself, which only ever emotionally happened).

And if you really want to dive into the rabbit hole, consider a story set in the future, told in the past tense, with an ending that begs the question how it could be relayed in anything but the present? In retrospect—ha—this is a strong reason to use the first person point of view; it’s a way of staying grounded to a particular character when time and reality are uncertain.

How a Neglected Setting Led to my Quietest Flash Fiction Publication

Photo of three-story, pastel-colored buildings with empty balconies by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash
Photo by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash

Can flash fiction be a pensive cup of slowly sipped tea, among all the espresso shots of flash fiction? Pull up a chair on the balcony and let’s find out. My latest publication, “Imperfect Balconies,” appears in Nevermore Journal. The story is free to read online. Here is the opening:

Imperfect Balconies

When I lived in the hushed city, I spent countless lonely hours seeking company on my balcony. On move-in day, sunlight poured in through the glass wall panorama, golden and warm like a fresh cup my fingers could cuddle. This balcony glowed. A welcoming box that peeked out at hundreds of other balconies, possibilities, lives. 

Read story online in Nevermore Journal

My efforts to get “Imperfect Balconies” published:

  • ~1,000 words
  • 2 drafts
  • 26 submissions
  • 21 rejections, 7 encouraging rejections, 2 never responded
  • 4 withdrawals

I share blog posts like these because every story has a different journey. So if you’re in the doldrums between drafts or facing another rejection, may this encourage you. This process has taught me that publication is always more than one step away. Read on about this story’s prolonged journey and you may find what will get you over the next hump.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Writing a Screenplay with My Best Friend Led to Our First Story Publication

Wooden camping table on fire at night; photo by Claus Grünstäudl on Unsplash

What makes a boy grow up to become an arsonist? My first co-written short story, “sparkbirth,” is now published in Down & Out: The Magazine. Here are the opening lines:

sparkbirth

When I turned eleven, Mom forgot to buy more birthday candles. So instead of eleven little sticks, I got two. She pretended 1 + 1 made 11, but I knew when I was getting the finger. Funny, she never forgot to buy scented candles that littered our apartment. And I never forgot what a lit candle does to a dark room when I should’ve been asleep.

Read more in Down & Out: The Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 2

My efforts for “sparkbirth”:

  • ~1,800 words
  • 3 drafts
  • 1 co-author
  • 1 submission
  • no rejections or withdrawals before publication

I had an excellent time working with Rick Ollerman on my 2018 story “A Damn Fine Town.” After Rick published my story in Down & Out, it went on to be included in The Best American Mystery Stories 2019. He encouraged me to submit another story for Down & Out. This was the first piece I’ve written that fit the bill—it wasn’t purely literary or science fiction.

Read on about my process.

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“afterglow” and “Dialing Islands” Published in MacQueen’s Quinterly

afterglow photo by Leandra Niederhauser on Unsplash

Happy New Year! My latest flash fiction publications, “afterglow” and “Dialing Islands,” are published this morning in MacQueen’s Quinterly. Both are free to read online. Here are the openings of both stories:

afterglow

She wonders aloud what his orgasms are like. He lacks the clarity to inhabit what just happened, but he wants to try before the sweat dries. He shuts his eyes, and reopens them defiantly. No, darkness makes it easier to fill the void with anything but the present. And he wants to linger.

Read story online in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 6

Dialing Islands

Clyde. I always call you first. Your home number was the second I memorized after my own. You sat atop all favorites on the speed dial of every phone I’ve owned. You’ll call back, even if I leave another empty voicemail. “Heeey, it’s Clyde. Leave a message at the…” Beep. I breathe. I can’t. Someone needs to listen.

Read story online in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 6

How did these stories find a home?

My efforts for “afterglow”:

  • ~300 words
  • 1 draft
  • 8 submissions
  • 5 rejections, 1 encouraging rejection
  • 2 withdrawals

My efforts for “Dialing Islands”:

  • ~700 words
  • 2 drafts
  • 3 submissions
  • 1 rejection
  • 1 withdrawal

These are very lucky numbers; I have some stories at 30+ submissions and 5+ drafts. I chalk these publications to previously working with the talented and thoughtful editor, Clare MacQueen, and having a sense of what she might like. 

Read on about my process.

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Awarded 3rd Place in Library Film Festival

aisles of ideas is a 2-minute short film that answers “what does the library mean to you?” Watch aisles of ideas below or on Vimeo:

The film premiered at the KCLS Reel Fest on Monday, September 28, 2020 and earned 3rd Place!

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Attend my Short Film Premiere Monday, Sept 28

What does the library mean to you?

That was the question posed by King County Library System (KCLS) Reel Fest in January. I had 2 minutes to answer on film. I got my family to help.

Together, we made “aisles of ideas.”

We shared my experiences reading inspiring words, writing, submitting, and seeing it go quite far (no spoilers).

Our film is a Reel Fest finalist.

We’d love for you to watch it. Join us for its free online premiere on Monday, September 28 at 7pm Pacific.

How Leaving San Francisco Got Me Published… in a San Francisco Zine

How do you say goodbye to a brief universe inside you? Find out in my latest flash fiction, “Glimmering Sidewalks,” published in the first zine from The Racket: Quarantine Journal.

What amount of effort went into getting “Glimmering Sidewalks” published?

  • 300 words
  • 2 drafts
  • 15 submissions
  • 14 rejections, 6 encouraging rejections

These numbers are on par with my other flash fiction publications.

I share blog posts like these because every story has a different journey to readers. So if you’re in the doldrums between drafts or facing another rejection, may this encourage you. This process has taught me that publication is always more than one step away. Read on about this story’s journey and you may find what will get you over the next hump.

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How Long Did It Take for My First Submittable Acceptance to be Published?

From Whispers to Roars literary journal logo with hand shushing a lion

How much does chivalry really cost on a summer night where young ideals are alive and well? Find out the dollar answer and its unexpected justification in “The Price of Chivalry,” my most recent short story publication, available now in From Whispers to Roars: Volume 2, Issue 2.

What amount of effort went into getting “The Price of Chivalry” published?

  • 1,200 words
  • 5 drafts
  • 24 submissions
  • 19 rejections, 8 encouraging rejections
  • 3 withdrawals
  • 1 acceptance that didn’t involve publication

These numbers are on par with my other short stories, but larger than my relatively quick flash fiction publications.

I share blog posts like these because every story has a different journey. So if you’re in the doldrums between drafts or facing another rejection, may this encourage you. This process has taught me that publication is always more than one step away. Read on about this story’s prolonged journey and you may find what will get you over the next hump.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Loathing Travel, Public Transit, a Tuscan Residency, 24 Rejections, and a Writing Conference Led to My First Published Short Story

belinda-fewings-977695-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

What happens when a luggage thief picks the wrong target on the early-morning airport train? Dive into the mind of a snarky antagonist in “A Damn Fine Town,” my first short story publication, available now in Down & Out: The Magazine, Vol. 1, Issue 4.

What amount of effort went into getting “A Damn Fine Town” published?

  • 1,600 words
  • 5 drafts
  • 26 submissions
  • 24 rejections, 4 encouraging rejections
  • 1 withdrawal

These are grueling numbers compared to how lucky I’ve been in earning relatively quick flash fiction publications.

I share blog posts like these because every story has a different journey. So if you’re in the doldrums between drafts or facing another rejection, may this encourage you. This process has taught me that publication is always more than one step away. Read on about this story’s journey and you may find what will get you over the next hump.

Read the rest of this entry »

How a College Freewriting Prompt and Being Woken by a Downtown Songbird Led to My Shortest Publications

Small bird perched on wire in the city
Small bird perched on wire in the city

A brief conversation with a lone songbird in San Francisco. A vulnerable state before free fall. I explore these ideas in my latest flash fiction publications “Dawnsong” and “lying is the girl” out now in KYSO Flash, Issue 10 (Fall 2018).

What amount of effort went into getting these two stories published?

My statistics for “Dawnsong”:

  • 100 words
  • 1 draft (I know, I know, I’m surprised too)
  • 10 submissions
  • 6 rejections, 1 encouraging rejection
  • 3 withdrawals

My statistics for “lying is the girl”:

  • 100 words
  • 3 drafts
  • 6 submissions
  • 4 rejections, 2 encouraging rejections
  • 1 withdrawal

These are lucky numbers, especially given just one draft of “Dawnsong” and the small number of submissions of “lying is the girl.” Read on about my process.

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How Writing and Submitting Short Stories Improved My Novel

Why should a novel writer devote precious writing time to short stories? After five novel drafts, two years of submitting shorter fiction, and seven publications, here are my reasons.

  • Do Something With All Those Ideas
  • Understand the Impact of Every Edit
  • Feel A Sense of Completion More Often
  • Practice Finding Comps
  • Strengthen Your Query Letters
  • Give More Than One Story A Chance

Read my guest post over at The Spun Yarn for how and why I juggle multiple projects, even when one is something as ambitious as a novel draft.

Read: how writing stories helps my novel.

“Reading Willow” Published in The Common

Reading-Willow

What expectations transcend distance and life changes? I explore that in under 400 words in my latest flash fiction publication, “Reading Willow” in The Common.

What amount of effort went into getting “Reading Willow” published?

  • 2 drafts
  • 5 submissions
  • 2 rejections
  • 2 withdrawals

These are lucky numbers, especially given that this story didn’t earn any encouraging rejections. Read on about my process.

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“Why I Write” Published in Fiction Southeast

“Why I Write” is a brief reflection that earned me the Kevin Smokler Scholarship to the 2016 San Francisco Writers Conference. Today it takes on a second life over at Fiction Southeast, as part of their Why I Write series.

Why do you write? Read my answer in just 250 words over at Fiction Southeast.

Chris Tusa, the Editor, was quick and easy to work with! Though this piece was accepted almost eight months ago, I appreciated the follow-up email announcing it’s publication—on a holiday no less!

Fiction Southeast is also open to submissions in numerous categories.

“bleedin’ peach” Published in KYSO Flash

a red peach

What can a newborn teach his father about shaving? To find out, read my latest flash fiction publication, “bleedin’ peach” in KYSO Flash.

What amount of effort went into getting “bleedin’ peach” published?

  • 3 drafts
  • 2 submissions
  • 1 encouraging rejection

These were exceptionally small, lucky numbers. I have stories that are approaching 30 submissions, so it’s lovely to experience quick publication magic in this case.

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Starting Shut Up & Write! D.C. Meetup

I’ve attended and hosted Shut Up & Write(!) meetups in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2013. Shut Up & Write(!) is a powerful concept. Whereas most casual writing events are focused on socializing, we get together and write. Our meetups are free and open to everyone. There’s no obligation to share or network; just do the work.

Shut Up & Write at Mo Joes

A few writing friends in Berkeley.

I’ve missed the writing community I left in San Francisco. But the Maryland suburbs by D.C. have their own creative charms. I’m reaching out to a local arts center, attending nearby writing meetups, and exploring what The Writer’s Center in Bethesda has to offer.

But there’s no Shut Up & Write(!) here. So I’m starting one.

I reached back out to my Bay Area friends, Cat and Rennie, the masterminds behind the concept. They were happy to help set up a new meetup group. As of this post, there are already 39 members. We have the first location happy to host us—the lovely Barking Mad Cafe in Gaithersburg (right next to a Little Free Library, no less). I’m eager to grow our writing community here.

barking-mad-pano

A glimpse of where I’ll be shutting up & writing for the first D.C. area meetup.

Are you in the D.C. area or know someone who is? I’ll be hosting the inaugural meetup near me in two days (Feb. 22) and then every foreseeable Thursday. Let’s make words together.

“Rivet Here” Published in Necessary Fiction

Rosie the Riveter - We Can Do It! poster

I’m proud to share my first online publication, the 500-word flash fiction “Rivet Here” in Necessary Fiction. This story is about a new kind of relationship that blossoms in a small town when all the men leave for World War II.

What amount of effort went into getting “Rivet Here” published?

  • 4 drafts
  • 15 submissions
  • 11 rejections, 3 encouraging
  • 3 withdrawals

Keep reading for the details and some reading recommendations.

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The Cost of Accomplishment

What do you focus on when you make New Year’s resolutions or broader goals? I tend to fixate on what I’ll gain. It’s less motivating to acknowledge what you’ll have to give up to make those gains, but it’s just as crucial. Consider all your goals. If they are to become accomplishments, they have to happen in some order. Order implies priority. Priority implies a few things first. What won’t make it over the finish line?

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My anti-resumé.

Speaking of sharing rejections, check out this anti-resumé.

monica byrne

landscape2

Within an hour of our IndieGogo campaign meeting its goal, I got a call telling me I’d been awarded a North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship. It’s a huge, huge honor. It’s also the fourth time I’ve applied for it, and to me, that’s part of why it’s an honor.

A couple years ago I was having dinner with a playwright, Bekah Brunstetter, and her director David Shmidt Chapman. We talked about how rejection is just part of the landscape for all beginning artists, no matter how talented or hardworking they might be or how successful they might appear. David said he’d love to publish his “anti-résumé” someday—a list of all the things he didn’t get.

Ever since, I’ve wanted to publish my own. So I’ve gone through the last six years’ worth of spreadsheets in both prose and playwriting, to literary journals, workshops, conferences, theaters, graduate schools, play…

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How I Won NaNoWriMo in My First (and Last?) Attempt

NaNo-calendar

Last November I wrote over 50,000 words of a new novel and won my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Are you on the fence about participating this year? Do you have the same skeptical reaction I did every year? Let this post provide catharsis for your worries and guidance for making a decision on how to spend this November. Read on for my strategy for winning (e.g. writing 50,000 words by Nov. 30) and a reflection on what I would and wouldn’t repeat.

Read the full post on Writer Unboxed

128 Submissions, 93 Rejections, 1st Publication

Today, my submissions journey reaches the next step! I started submitting stories to contests and literary journals over two years ago, founded a critique group, curated a submissions calendar, and wrote contest roundups for Writer Unboxed. But this week and with this email, I achieved my next goal:

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