Writing Fiction is Hard

10.26.2015 | 9:19 am

I like to write. Like to do it every day. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing this blog for more than ten years now. 

What’s been kind of interesting to see during this ten years is what kind of things I’ve been focusing on writing. At first it was jokey fake news more often than not. Then a phase where there it was all about pro cycling. Lately, I really enjoy writing long-form multi-part stories about my adventures (races, more often than not). 

And for the past week, I’ve been trying to write fiction for Ride 3

And that has been the most difficult kind of writing I have ever taken on. 

Maybe for that reason, I’ve found it really rewarding (and painful). 

To be honest, I haven’t finished the story (which means I’ve lost a bet). And to also be honest, it’s gone in a completely different direction than I originally intended.

But I think that it’ll be done by tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Keith (the editor and publisher of the Ride anthology series) thinks.

Meanwhile, here’s a little excerpt (for kicks, compare it to where it started). I’d love to know what you think too. 

Kokopelli (Excerpt)
by Elden Nelson

By the time Daniel had gotten to Dewey Bridge, he had drifted back far enough that the other three were nowhere in sight. Well, they either filtered water really fast and continued on, or they…just went on, Daniel thought.

He had warned them this was the last place they’d be able to get water ‘til the Westwater Ranger Station, but the day wasn’t hot yet, so Daniel could imagine these guys might have gambled that what they had left would be enough to get them to the Station.

It would not be enough, Daniel knew. “Not my problem,” Daniel said, even though he knew that, when it came right down to it, it would be his problem.

Daniel took one last tug of water from his Camelbak, clipped back in, and began riding. He crossed the river road (Highway 128) onto the desert doubletrack, got into the flow of the ride, and felt clear and strong. Not hungry. Not thirsty. Not tired. Not anything.

To achieve this state: this was why Daniel rode. He stood and and rowed his bike up a short, steep climb. Sat and got low for a short rocky descent. Climbs, descents, flat: Daniel loved it all.

Then as Daniel rode around a blind, banked downhill corner, he saw something in the trail. A big something.

With no time to ride around it — with a rock wall on the left and exposure on the right there was nowhere to go anyway — Daniel grabbed two big handfuls of brake.

People like to talk about time slowing down and everything happening in slow motion when you crash, but that is not what usually happens. Usually, you’re riding and then you’re sliding, with very little time to think in between.

That said, Daniel did have time for two distinct observations either right before or during his endo.

First, he noticed that the rider didn’t move, either before or as Daniel’s front wheel plowed into his torso.

Second — and Daniel was pretty certain this was something he realized as he was in the air, ass over teakettle — he noticed that the rider he had plowed into was Eric.

Daniel rode a lot, but he didn’t fall a lot, so he wasn’t very good at it. Which is to say, he stuck his hands out as he went over, taking his landing on the left hand.

Amazingly, he did not break his collarbone. He didn’t even break his wrist. His left pinky was probably broken, which is about the best possible bone break you can have when you’re mountain biking.

Daniel wasn’t aware of any of these minor injuries in the moments after he crashed, however. He jumped up, the adrenaline hitting him hard and fast. He was in full-on fight or flight mode.

What happened?” Daniel yelled, realizing as he said it what a strange and vague question it was.

Eric didn’t say anything, but someone did.

“I think he’s dead.”


  1. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 10.26.2015 | 10:01 am

    One writing skill you have definitely mastered: The Cliffhanger.

    And in a story where we can’t look up the results to ease the tension a little.

    I love it!

  2. Comment by Christina | 10.26.2015 | 10:21 am

    IS HE DEAD?!


    You can’t leave me like that and expect me to ask questions calmly.

  3. Comment by walter | 10.26.2015 | 10:42 am

    You got my attention this Monday morning – More please! I will definitely buy this story.

  4. Comment by BigJohn | 10.26.2015 | 11:18 am

    You may have lost a bet, but I think you’re be a winner on this one.

  5. Comment by Brian in VA | 10.26.2015 | 11:41 am

    The writing is excellent, Fatty! Ten years of practice has honed your skills to a fine point.

  6. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 10.26.2015 | 12:01 pm

    “He stood and rowed his bike….” Spellchecker autocorrect thingy going on here, or is this a new term in cycling?

    Other than this, the story line looks interesting and your writing is efficient and fun. I would definitely read more.

  7. Comment by walter | 10.26.2015 | 12:04 pm

    The term “rowing” your bike is common for singlespeeders while climbing. It describes the constant push and pull on your handlebars while standing up on your pedals, climbing hard up singletrack.

  8. Comment by NZ Ev | 10.26.2015 | 12:08 pm

    Excellent. I will buy this when the Ride 3 collection comes out!!!

  9. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 10.26.2015 | 5:29 pm

    At what point did he recognize the ‘large object in the trail’ as a rider?
    Is it me or does this sequence need some work?
    First, he noticed that the rider didn’t move, either before or as Daniel’s front wheel plowed into his torso

    Of course I’m a lousy writer so what do I know.

    But of course I’m good for multiple copies.

  10. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.26.2015 | 6:21 pm

    Hey Fatty, if I give you $1, will you add one of my lines into your book, just so I can say I’ve ‘been published’?

    “He pushed himself harder still, long blond locks of his hair streaming behind him, trying to close the gap between his friends. His bronzed chest muscles rippled with each ragged breath, a reminder of the two things in the world that could make him feel so alive – biking and her.”

    Oh, I should probably admit that I’m an aspiring romance novel writer. :-)

  11. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 10.26.2015 | 8:26 pm

    How ’bout Fatty just uses your ‘Fabio’ like image on the book cover?

  12. Comment by MattC | 10.26.2015 | 9:15 pm

    Ahhhh…the Chupacabra SPEAKS! Nice Fatty!! “I think he’s dead.” Yep…it’s the good-ol’ standard Chupacabra
    Operating Procedure (COP)…where he lures his NEXT victim in close by his calm demeanor.

  13. Comment by MattC | 10.26.2015 | 9:19 pm

    And @ Wharton_crew…why on earth where the long blond locks of streaming-hair trying to close the gap between his friends? Are they man-eating locks? (Feed me Seymore, FEED ME!)

  14. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 10.27.2015 | 3:53 am

    That’s why I like riding in the UK. The gun laws here mean that the trails aren’t littered with corpses.

  15. Comment by snpiperpilot | 10.27.2015 | 6:58 am

    That’s just flat out cruel

  16. Comment by Sara | 10.27.2015 | 7:40 am

    Love it – can’t wait to read the rest!!

  17. Comment by Don | 10.27.2015 | 10:14 am

    Pulitzer worthy. Hopefully there’s a “Gelande Quaffing” scene.

  18. Comment by Chicago Nick | 10.27.2015 | 12:43 pm

    Needs more zombies.

  19. Comment by rb | 10.28.2015 | 12:58 pm

    I love that you ask for input. THAT is some real courage. I applaud you.

    All this is now going through my head:

    What’s the air smell like? Is there a breeze? Whispy clouds or clear blue sky? Does the rider have a fine coat of desert dust on his arms and lower legs? Or is it one of those rare moist days that keeps the dust down? As he starts to work, what’s it taste like? a little salty with the sweat and suncreen running down his face? is it early enough that the sweat is cooling under his camelbak and getting clammy? Are their salt streaks on his gloves or did he remember to clean them? IS this day 1 or 2 of the expedition? Does he need a shower? Is his lack of hygiene why everyone gaped him? Did he have one too many last night, and is a shaking off the fog? Or did he not hydrate yesterday and is feeling the effects? Is he used to being dropped or is he usually the dropper? Is the ground loose over hard? Moab red compacted dust? Composited granite? Sandy washes? DO we have any trees or just the red rock canyons and cliffs?

    I don’t know if any of these things are truly important to anyone else, but I really need to know if I am going to put myself on the Kokopelli trail — which I have never ridden.

    post impact…is he bleeding? no breaks, but did his handlebar hit him right in the guts or leg (mine always does…perhaps I’m just bad at this…)

    why is he singlespeeding? is everyone, or just our hero?

    He seems bothered…clearly irritated with the others perhaps not taking on water…is the ride getting him out of his daily life? Is he worried about whatever is happening somewhere away from the trail? Is this a once-in-a-lifetime for the other folks or regular thing? IS he stuck guiding when he wants to be riding?

    I guess I need to get Ride3 for my answers? Looking forward to it!


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