Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dancing the Dance of Draft Completion

After several days of hard work I finally finished the rough draft of a new story.  I don't know if I'll polish it in time to submit it to the market I have in mind, but there's another market I think it could fit well.  It came in at 6700 words and I'm hoping to edit out about 2000-3000 of them.  Although I'm eager to work on it, I'll make myself go outside and water my poor, parched garden before everything withers to a pile of dry leaves and let it stew.  I might even leave it alone for the next few days if I discipline myself.  There are definitely other things to work on--Signet, Mayhem, Sin--not to mention I've got some pleasure reading to do (market research, I'm calling it market research so hush) and I've got a novel to finish and critique.

But the new story is so shiny and attractive!

Back away from the sparkly, Kami.  See the Do Not Touch sign?  Besides, it'll be even more shiny and attractive tomorrow.  Trust me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bookkeeping and Guidelines

Rather than have centralized control of the subs/rejections, would INKers kindly add their subs and rejections as they go out/come in?  I think this would be easier than recounting from scratch each time.  I just added my two subs and I'll be sure to add the rejections when they come in.

Yesterday while researching markets I found this little gem as part of the poetry guidelines (usual disclaimer, guidelines change, errors are mine, yada yada) for On Spec:

Naturally you're thinking, well, that's just his personal taste.  You bet.  All editors have their own personal opinions of what they want to see.  I'm no different.  If you don't like it, send your poetry to another magazine.  Better yet, start your own magazine.  You'll soon see you're no different.

Having said all this and making myself sound like a cranky old fart, please send in your poetry.  I want to read it.  Really.

In an earlier part of the guidelines he notes (paraphrased for brevity):  If you want examples of the kind of poetry I do admire here are a few names: [lists almost twenty names.]  Have you at least heard of some of these people?  Do you admire their work, or at least relate slightly to it?  If you haven't and don't, then don't bother sending me your stuff.  I'm probably not going to like it.

He also notes that there are certain kinds of poetry he's not interested in.  His challenge--if you can write better than Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Alfred Noyes, Li Po, Mallarmi, Baudelaire who perfected the kinds of poetry he doesn't want to see, then naturally he'll publish it but unless you've published extensively in magazines devoted to those forms you're probably not the genius you think you are.

This is true for prose too.  If you insist on sending stuff to editors that they don't want to see, you're going to get rejected unless you're an effing genius, and if you're not extensively published in places that actually want what you're trying to ram down the throat of the editor that doesn't want to see it, you're probably not the genius you think you are.

Well said.  And now, back to writing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do you hear that? That silence? That would be the sound of me finally caught up with my writing tasks.

Not to say I don't have several more to work on, but the big ones, the main ones I've been fretting over for the last few weeks, are done.

Short story edit: check
Submit to INK: (late but) check
OryCon Writer's Workshop website info put together: check
Website info sent to webmaster: check


And now on to the new goals.

Two short story edits
Two short story submissions
Some novel work

It's all good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Throttled by the Wire

I didn't quite make the INK deadline Friday. I worked a solid five hours on my story and got up to the last few pages, but then the story took a needed sidestep which included adding a new scene. And by ten minutes to midnight, I knew I was in no shape to write a new scene, so I tossed in the towel, emailed INK with mea culpas and a request to submit late, and went to bed.

I am, however, pleased with the story. It is shaping up nicely, and depending on what INK does to it at our next critique session, it might be my best short story to date.

Which isn't hard when I only have three completed.

But still, three!

Today I'll be finishing off the story and doing one last read through before sending it off to INK. And then I'll let myself relax for all of five minutes and pick up tomorrow, hopefully with my novel. It's been over a month since I worked on it last and it is calling my name.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Under the Wire

I'm actively working on my submission for the next INK meeting. It's going to be a hustle, but I think I might get in finished in time. Did good work on it this morning. Have more time to work on it tonight. And then lots of time tomorrow, so I have no reason not to have it submitted by the midnight deadline.

I have to admit, getting Kami's submission today was a nice kick in the butt.

I'm looking forward to hosting the meeting in the Secret INKcave. And I have a new kind of pretty tea to share. I received one of those glass teapots for flowering teas, and the flowering tea to go with it for Mother's Day. INK will have the first chance to see it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When Opportunity Knocks, Answer the Door

For those of you with novel or short story openings that you're pretty settled on, there's a fine opportunity on Flogging the Quill right now.  He's whittled his openings down to a spare few and is requesting more submissions.  In a writing world where there are long queues and daunting slush piles, this is a great time to hop in before everyone else notices there's a call.

Even if you don't submit an opening remember to check in and please comment on those openings.  Writers need all the reader feedback they can get.  Besides, as always, by dissecting and commenting on someone else's opening, the flaws in your own become more clear.  Yay learning, yay comments, yay to everyone growing and improving!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

INK Summer Schedule?

I would like to propose an INK "Summer Schedule" meeting venue in which INK would get together for its regular 7 p.m. meetings around town beginning with the June 20th meeting until we go back off Daylight Savings Time. Coffee houses, bookstores, cafes; places that would be conducive to writers and writing, where we can meet, talk, offer advice, and include group exercises.

Thoughts? Or is this just a bad idea?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thinking About Critiquing

I've been thinking about critiques lately. Since my last ones, actually, which I felt were a little too rushed. My own fault, there. I just didn't give myself enough time.

This isn't the first time I've dwelled on my critiquing skills. As a matter of fact, anyone who has known me long enough knows that I quite often struggle with this. It is simply that I want my critiques to match my thoughts of the piece, and for all that I'm a writer, I find it quite difficult to make the two match up like I'd like them to.

As I was reminded today, critiques are a balance of recommendations and constructive criticism, and the wording is everything. I tend to feel passionately for not only what I'm reading but my thoughts on what I'm reading as well as how it compares to my own training and experiences, and this combination has a tendency to make my comments come across too authoritative. What I tend to forget is there is no 'right way' of writing. My opinions on a piece are just that, opinions based on my own preferences and biases and skills. But rather than present my opinions as opinions, I think quite often I state them as The Rule.

What rule? Whose rule? Mine? Little, unpublished, over-schooled me? The rules of those I've read, that fairly small smattering of books of a rather narrow slice of reading possibilities? The rules of my writing professor (and let me tell you how the 'no -ly adjective' rule has stayed with me)?

The other realization I've come to is that familiarity can truly breed contempt. Not that I find anyone I critique contemptible or their work contemptible. Quite the opposite. I tend to become emotionally invested in a piece, no matter what faults I find in it personally. But my language tends to become contemptible the more of one person's work I critique. Being friends with a fellow writer is all well and good, but that doesn't give me carte blanche to word my critiques with a familiarity that could read as snarky and mean. How useful is that, anyway? Whatever point I'm trying to make gets lost behind the snideness and the sting. The only person I'm amusing, and rather cruelly, is myself, and critiques aren't for me, but for the writer whose work I'm reading.

Thinking back, I can see my tendency of snide familiarity in just about every writers group I've been a part of, and quite frankly, I'm a little ashamed of my presumption and arrogance. What else could inspire such behavior? I know I've been pretty arrogant in my day.

Well, I'm starting a new chapter in my critiquing life. One based on humility and recognition of a work for what it is rather than how it matches my idea of what a work should be. And to do this, I think I need to get in more critiques than I do now. So I'm giving serious considering about joining Critters in addition to my critiquing for INK. I'm also thinking about trying out for Lucky Labs as well, though I think I need to double check their meeting schedule against my summer camping trips to make sure I wouldn't miss too many meetings if I was accepted to the group.

I'm rather excited about all of this, even given my rather harsh interpretation of my own critiquing skills. One of my goals of being a member of INK was to improve my critiquing skills, and I think this realization goes a very long way to doing so.

So, here's to improvement! Because becoming a better critiquer helps those I read as much as it helps me!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Daily Writing Course available, free!

Ever have trouble with plots and subplots? Characterization keeping you up at night? Having issues with suspense and tension?
You can read a ton of books, take writing courses, get critiques like you always have, or you can spend a couple of hours a day for a few days or even a week watching the work of writers who have mastered all these skills.  Infamous for their ability to suck in a new viewer, sneered upon even more than romance writers, you gotta hand it to them.  Soap opera script writers know what they're doing.

Their plots and subplots are written very well and are extremely well-balanced.  They have to be.  Remember, they have to keep an audience interested enough that they'll wait through some of the most obnoxious commercials aired on tv, second only to late night infomercials, to continue watching.  During the dread commercial break a viewer can easily switch to a different soap or plug in a non-commercial-laden DVD. 
Their characterization is strong.  The viewers may know who the bad guys are, but not all the characters do know who the bad guys are and that makes for a lot of fun.  (Take a lesson from that right there.)  They write bitches like no one else and put honey in their mouths when those bitches are a wooing.  If you have trouble writing good guys that aren't boring, look no farther.  Each character has a distinct voice, goals, agenda--they're well-rounded and unique.

Suspense and tension?  They've taken it to extremes that have become laughable in the tv screenwriting industry, turning the cliff-hanger into a cliche' and drama into new heights (or lows, if you prefer) of melodrama.  What's beautiful about it as far as learning how to do it from a writing perspective is that the snippets of plot are broken down into very short frames and you can examine the tension arch in bold relief.  

The writing has to be good or there would be no audience.  In matter of fact they have a huge audience, one any writer would envy.  They have to be able to pull in a new viewer in just a few seconds in the middle of the story, with no recap because they never know when a new viewer will come in.  That alone I find fascinating, that the writing can bring in a viewer into the story even though that viewer has no idea (initially) what's going on.

I bet you think I'm joking but I'm not.  Give it a try.  Just remember, they are addicting.  Whole magazines and forums are devoted to them.  There was even a paranormal one I came very close to becoming addicted to when I last had the flu.  It's worth the risk for a quick, dirty and efficient lesson in effective writing techniques.