Kelly Dwyer


Category: What I’m Writing (Page 1 of 2)

The one you can’t get out of your head

I’ve been working on a novel for several years now. My writing process has been filled with fits and spurts of frantic production, and periods of rejecting the project all together (sometimes for more than a year). I’ve often referred to this novel as the project that I get to make all my mistakes on before moving onto something brilliant. But I cringe slightly at the metaphor, because I truly believe there’s still something in this book that is wonderful and extraordinary. There’s just a certain tone to the way the scenes play and the way the environmentals build that feels like nothing else I’ve written or read. Every time I try to put it aside and buckle down on other projects, I just can’t help but come back to it. My personal black hole.

It’s hard to stay motivated on the project. I’ve had several mental setbacks, most often dealing with real-world news events that so closely mirror some of the elements in the book that I worry about how it would be accepted, if it would be too gauche so close to a tragic event. I worry about whether it’s even possible to publish the book, since several of my naming conventions have recently been used in other media to describe similar entities or elements in the book…that I came up with in 2007 (grrr). Either of these things can be handled with care and sensitivity – adjusting the story slightly, or simply having faith that the fictional elements of the plot are strong enough to compensate for what now seems like reliance on reality.

It’s also hard to know how to approach the book again after having shelved it for so long. It’s nearly 70,000 unedited words, still missing a completed climax and ending. A monster of a manuscript. The plot is gnarled and twisted after so many revisions that a massive retooling and restructuring is needed before I can fit those fantastic scenes and elements where they really need to be. Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to cram so much information and so much action into this one novel that it needs a prequel for the reader to make sense of it all, or to even become invested in the characters. But that’s not right either – I just need to find a way to charge the scenes with background and engagement every step of the way.

It’s been helpful recently to get back into reading other novels and short stories (which I rarely do when I have the time to sit down and write). I’ve been able to step back and consider some of the elements of my plot that come off as too familiar, tropes that have been used too frequently in the exact same plot outlines. It’s a lovely challenge for me, something that keeps my mind dreaming and scheming during swim practice and play dates and the monotony of second trimester bed rest with this pregnancy.

Telling my husband that I’m working on it again is almost painful – I avert my eyes from his predictable sigh of exasperation each time that he discovers I’m taking the plunge yet again. He’s my most ardent supporter, my sounding board, the one who picks up the pieces when I’m falling apart in misery over something that’s just not working. It’s like admitting to a regression for a terrible habit that we both thought I put behind me long ago. I think the angst and agony over this project is rooted in the length of its presence in our lives, the fact that it’s my first novel, and that it’s a story that we both really love that just hasn’t found the right form yet.

I fortify myself to dive back into the stygian depths with an ample amount of Trader Joes peanut brittle and large quantities of ginger ale (about all my pregnant stomach can handle). Please ensure a ready supply of wiggly, squirmy, giggly “Mama Hugs” from the four year old are available to sustain motivation and forward progress.

Corpus Pretereo on sale now

It’s available! Escape Collective Publishing has released it’s first anthology, Corpus Pretereo, this week for the Kindle. Click through to to purchase the anthology and it’s collection of fascinating short stories exploring the idea of “Escape the Body,” including my own “Curl of the Wave.” The Nook version will be available within the week. UPDATE: Here’s the link to the Nook version of Corpus Pretereo.

‘Corpus Pretereo’ from Escape Collective

In a few short weeks, Escape Collective Publishing will be putting out it’s first anthology, titled Corpus Pretereo, which will include my short story, “Curl of the Wave.” I’m delighted to be one of the 15 authors included in this premiere anthology from this cooperative group of writers. The available format for the anthology will be limited to ereaders (more specific details about file formats to follow). If you have a moment, click through to read a little more about their philosophy about why they only publish online, and the benefits it allows them to afford their authors and their organization. Look here soon for a link to the anthology as soon as it’s available for purchase!

“Curl of the Wave” accepted for publication

I’m delighted to announce that the second short story I ever wrote was accepted for publication today! I’ll post all of the relevant details here just as soon as I review and sign a contract. Put it on your calendars to look for “Curl of the Wave” in a themed anthology to be published this fall!


I think I may have scared the boys a bit this morning. There might have been an excessive amount of manic whooping and hollering and small children swung up in the air around the living room in my arms before the hour of 7:30 am. Which, the boys would be certain to assure you, is not the usual activity level that I reach prior to, say, around 10:00 am most days. They have informed me that they feel quite lucky if I ooze my grumbling, surly sugar-deprived lump of flesh out of bed and manage to cuss at the tea pot rather than at them. Lucky mornings seem to be rarities. But this morning was quite a lovely surprise.

I’ve earned an Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Science Fiction #28 anthology, edited by the legendary Gardner Dozois, for my short story “Sunlight,” published originally by Abyss and Apex. The anthology includes 33 short stories selected for publication, and then a list of around 300 or so stories published in 2010 that earned Honorable Mentions. My friend, Alan Smale, also earned two nominations for stories last year. The list includes Elizabeth Bear, Orson Scott Card, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Kij Johnson, George R. R. Martin, Cat Rambo, Alastair Reynolds, John Scalzi, Michael Swanwick, Vernor Vinge and Gene Wolfe. I’m a bit star struck, and rather delighted, I must admit.

The book will be available for purchase on July 5th, and you can even go to Amazon now and look inside the book for my name (not the full story though; for that you need to hop over to Abyss and Apex). Yup, I promise. It’s really there.

Rethinking the rewrite

I received the nicest rewrite request from an editor of an upcoming anthology yesterday. In thoughtful and complimentary words, he accurately pegged exactly what I’d felt were the highlights and failures of the story I’d submitted. AND he specifically said that he’d like to read any future work I might have. I’m a bit thrilled. It’s not often that editors send out rewrite requests (from what I’ve read on writers forums and discussion groups).

Now, of course, comes the point where I need to buckle down and add some catchy and gripping plot elements to an otherwise mostly-atmospheric story. The framework is there. The story lends itself to embellishment and structure well. I just need to make up my mind about…well…what it’s really about. And get it down on paper. And edit it. And resubmit. All by a mid-August due date. I’ve written about my hesitance to rewrite before, but really, it’s all about having the right motivation. And a little positive feedback can do wonders for a writer in a dry spell.

I wrote this particular story two years ago at the Outer Banks, sitting on a chair facing the water for a few hours one hazy afternoon, watching my guys building sand castles and body surfing. There’s nothing quite like the overwhelming sensory overload of the beach to crystalize a little creative inspiration. The wind buffeting, the surf pounding, the sand blasting, the sun baking. They drive all those mundane, pointless thoughts from your head about whether you remembered to turn off the water to the slip and slide in the backyard almost 300 miles away, or if the vacuum will wake up the kid during nap time, and reduces you to a simple existence of frolicking, resting and hydrating. I can practically taste the old bay seasoning underneath my fingernails as I crack a crab claw larger than my son’s fist, the first sip of crisp cold beer in the shade, and warm dark chocolate fudge, folded meticulously on cold marble slabs heavier than my car.

Can you tell I’m in beach mode? OBX, I’ve missed you. We’re headed back down on Friday for a few days. We haven’t ever been mid-summer, preferring to go in early September when the crowds thin and the beaches are wide, beautiful and empty. Cross your fingers for us that the traffic won’t be too miserable.

My first two reviews…and one of them is quite nice!

I’m flying high today, rediscovering motivation that helps me find the time to write amidst chaos and upheaval, thanks in part to discovering that Locus and SFRevu recently published reviews of Sunlight!

Sam Tomaino from SFRevu posted a lovely review back at the end of October. “A very touching story…” Hooray!

Lois Tilton from Locus Online had an interesting, if direct, observation about the story. “A warmhearted, obvious sort of YA story. I was annoyed more than interested by the prosthetic mechanics that so obviously needed a friend to keep them maintained.”

I appreciated the fact that she read the story and understood the heart of it was in the relationship between Leo and Ray. I didn’t think it was particularly unrealistic to show that the implementation of first generation technology (like battle-ready prosthetics) is often poorly designed, not very well conceived for long term care and maintenance. Or that an old veteran might be forgotten and unable to help himself.

A long shot…

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to read that Abyss and Apex has recommended Sunlight as a qualifying Hugo eligible short story this year! Those of you attending Worldcon in Reno in 2011, head on over to Abyss and Apex and give Sunlight a read. It might be a long shot for an underdog, but it’s still fun to dream…

It’s official!

My very first short story publication, for the very first story I ever wrote, to the very first magazine I submitted it to. I’m still pinching myself…

“Sunlight” will be published in Abyss and Apex magazine in their Q4 edition this year. I’ll post a link as soon as it’s available online.

And just to point out the incredibly small world that we all live in, Alan Smale (also listed in A&A’s recent acquisitions) and I used to sing catches and rounds as part of a wandering troupe at the MD Renaissance festival so many years ago. Check out his incredible work, reviews and upcoming stories online at


I’ve been submitting a brief short story to several magazines over the past few months without a sale. It’s been a good learning experience for me on several levels. I am proud to say that I have not at any point been particularly hurt by a rejection (although I do coincidentally seem to have a bit of a grumpy day after getting one), and that I’ve received several rather valuable and complimentary reviews and pieces of feedback from very generous magazine editors.

The story, Freedom, was written as an atmospheric piece, something that captured a mood and environment. All of my editors (the wonderful and amazing family members who read my stories!) mentioned that they wanted more from the piece. More story, more plot, more details, just more. So I’m faced with the idea that it might be worth it to reinvigorate the piece with, I guess, “more.”

The thing is, that I have a really difficult time doing rewrites. I hear the piece in my head, I type it out on the computer and that’s it. I very rarely totally restructure any story, because then it wouldn’t be the story that I set out to write. In fact, I’ve got at least 4 other short stories sitting in limbo right now because I know they need to be reworked, but I just can’t figure out how to bring myself to do it.

So I’m going to use Freedom as a learning experience for this as well. I’m going to try to dissect the piece down to it’s elements, and then do a little day dreaming about the environment and the characters. I know there’s another great story in there somewhere. I just need to find it, I suppose…

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