Sunday, September 30, 2007

October Goals

New month starts tomorrow, time to decide on what I want to do. This one's pretty easy, in a difficult kind of way.

1. Finish FJR. The rough draft. Done. Complete.
I write everything out by hand first, so by complete, I mean that I have typed it into the computer as well. Then, on the first Monday of November I'll hand the whole thing over to my first readers...whoever may volunteer...and not touch the stinky thing again until probably March.
2. Finish critiques.

That's it. Simple, to the point.

I can't wait to work on something new. November should be fun.

How September Turned Out

Well, September's over.

I changed my goals halfway through: to just finishing as much of FJR as I could. I was shooting for something like 50 pages. I got about 30 in and another 11 on the round story chapter...so total for pages was about right, just not all on one piece. Not too shabby.

Didn't get too far on the whooping J.K. Rowling's Minesweeper score though. Thanks John.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

For the Deadline Naysayers

Ha!

Guess what I finished just now? Three guesses, but you'll only need one. The round story chapter, you got it. I win! Finished before the deadline!

Now I'm going to soak my aching fingers in ice water.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

That Deadline Thingy

All right, so I started out really strong with the round story, and I know exactly where I want it to go.

However, I seem to have dropped it in favor of the novel that I really want to get done by November. This equals trouble for the round story bit because it seems that I have not done a damn thing after I said I was doing so well. Ah well, since it's due on Sunday, I have decided that I will set aside my own novel and finish the round story. Should be fun, and more in keeping with the 'last minute' tradition established by our ilk.

Oh, and I still need to do the critiques for Sunday too.

I will beat back the fiendish Deadline through the use of previously suggested options...

I just don't know how I'll type while punching the Deadline in the nose, stomping on its feet, and running faster than the poor bastard behind me....

Monday, September 24, 2007

What 'Heroes' Teaches About Editting

Last night Shane surprises me because he's bought Season 1 of Heroes. And so, of course, instead of working on my novel like I've planned all day, I decide that watching the show would be more fun.

After a little while, I definitely felt like I was watching way too much T.V. but I discovered something cool on the extras: the unaired pilot. We watched the actual pilot and then we watched the unaired pilot.

In the unaired pilot, the original radioactive man (remember Ted?) is a Middle Eastern character. That's probably the biggest change. And Parkman's whole beginning is rearranged around this Middle Eastern plot, not Sylar. Watching this, the flaws are obvious...not to mention a little too close to home and a little to 'current events' to make for a more universally appealing show. There were some parts I really liked--like the fact that radioactive dude was not a Unibomber rip off. I wish they could have kept the Middle Eastern flavor without the terrorist element--that would have made it more believable for me.

As a writer though, it was interesting to watch the edits going on.

I love Heroes and I think the creators made a fantastic, entertaining product. And they did that by editting. By looking at what worked/what didn't and deciding which way to go...in the end demanding more work from some of the actors (double-time for the guy playing Parkman) and completely scratching other characters. Big plot changes. Terrorists=gone. Serial killer Sylar=in. That involved budget makeovers, physical rewriting, and re-acting for the actors.

So, if T.V. shows can do all that, effecting so many people, why are so many writers scared to re-work their work? It doesn't involve firing people if you make a mistake...it requires the delete button on you computer. Just you and your work. Next time you're in a critique group, or you get your work back from someone you've asked to read it and they make suggestions that are fairly large. Don't freak out, please. Consider what they said. Try it out.

You may be brought back for a second season.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Emotional Drain

I’ve just finished a rough area of my novel where the characters have to deal with an intense emotional crisis. Now, it seems like these are the fun scenes to write – the scenes where everything comes to a head. But it’s been such slow going.

Putting people, even imaginary ones, through hell is just no fun. First, there’s the actual pain that must be caused. Second is the reaction to said pain. Third is the challenge of writing a pain-charged scene without coming across as preachy or sentimental. It’s tiring and trying.

The page count slows down because the ‘internal editor’ kicks in saying things like “So-and-so wouldn’t do that!” “How whiny are you trying to make this?” and “Sappy, sappy, sappy.”

I’m not quite done with the scene that I’m working on, but I’m over the hump. I know what needs to happen. Now there’s just saying good-bye and then it’s off the subplot and on to the main story arc. (Yes, that was just the subplot, but it drives a lot of what happens next in the main narrative.)

So, what do you do when you want to avoid sounding whiny, preachy, and now-the-reader-must-cry?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Doing the Math

Today I did the math to discover how far I had to go in my novel before I'm finished. By my guesstimation I have around 15,000 more words to go. That's not much. So, if I write 500 words a day (two pages) I could conceivably have the rough draft of FJR done in 30 days. One month.

The trick is to do the two pages a day, right?

Plus finishing the round story chapter.

So, we'll give the official due date for the novel's rough draft as Nov. 1. It gives me some extra days, plus it gets me done by the time the holidays start rolling around. And it's done before the baby gets here.

Where to Find Markets

There are a lot of questions out there about where to find places that will publish your work. Really, all you’ve got to do is snoop around a little bit and you’ll find a place. But (!) to make your snooping easier, below are wonderful resources for writers looking to publish short stories, poetry, and essays.

These are the links to the literary world! (Sounds a lot cooler that way…)

If you are a sci/fi/fantasy/horror/any-combination of those, then this website is a great resource for genre-specific fiction:
http://www.spicygreeniguana.com/

If you wish to one day win an award—or at least get published in a magazine that wins awards, the following is a list of all the magazines that have published stories that have won the pretty prestigious O. Henry award. While the O. Henry is just for short stories, many of these magazines publish other things (read: poetry).
http://www.randomhouse.com/anchor/ohenry/magind.html

If you are looking for really comprehensive lists of lit magazines—both online and in print, the following four websites are for you:

http://www.newpages.com/npguides/litmags.htm

http://www.pw.org/links_pages/Literary_Magazines/

http://www.duotrope.com/index.aspx

http://www.litline.org/links/index.html

I highly recommend that you at least browse the website of the magazine you wish to submit to. At the absolute verrrrrry least, read the WRITERS GUIDELINES. If you are a WRITER then the GUIDELINES are for YOU. This is not a trick. If you send something electronically to a magazine that does not have e-mail, then woe betide you.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Domination and Submission

"How do you go about submitting your work? Do you have a system for keeping track of markets and/or pieces you've sent out?" --Ali

She asked this like it would have a simple answer....

What I do, when I'm looking to send stories out, is I first browse through various market sites (for some great resources, check out the links in "Where to Find Markets). A lot of them recommend reading an issue before submitting, and I completely concur with that advice. It makes it a lot easier to 'get' what they're looking for. However, there are some ways to get ideas for the right market without paying for 2,000 subscriptions.
1. Check out the websites. Most have at least one sample story--and here's a clue: they don't pick ones that are weak for their example...
2. Look at the "Best of..." and "O. Henry" anthologies. See what stories are from what magazines. This is the best of the fiction that's being published, again they are practically handing you exactly what they are looking for.
3. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES! They are not lying to you. They are not trying to bluff you. They are telling you what they want. Do it. If it's not for them, don't waste your time, your postage, or their future good graces.

Once I've browsed through--making notes on a scrap piece of paper regarding what story should be sent to what market--I write a cover letter. I paper clip the letter to the story that I'm sending to that market. (There are one or two magazines that flip out over paper clips, but don't worry, they'll tell you in the guidelines--but don't staple anything.) If it's an e-query, I note it on my scrap paper and save everything together on the computer. So, basically, I organize everything together.

Then I have an Excel spreadsheet where I have a different tab for each of my stories. Every time I send one out I note the following:
1. Name and address of the magazine, and the website if it has one
2. Name of the editor I addressed the letter/envelope to
3. Date I sent the work off
4. Magazine's estimated response time

I also have spaces for when the work comes back:
5. Date I received reply
6. Editor who actually responded
7. Whether or not it was accepted
8. Whether or not it was a form response--if there are sweet little notes like "Send us more!" then I make sure that the magazine is up top the next time I do a mailing.


I also mark whether or not it's a simultaneous submission, so I know that I can keep sending a story out if I want to. It's important when doing simultaneous submissions to keep track of who is who because if the story is accepted somewhere, you'd better talk to the other people fast...so they don't hate you. Generally, those magazines asking for exclusivity (read: no simultaneous submissions) are faster than those who allow them...but not always, so you have to keep on them. After their alloted review time is up (it's in the guidelines...), write them to follow up--politely, don't be a jerk. Sometimes things do get lost in the mail.

Change in Plans

Okay, so I've decided to throw the September goals out the window and readjust a couple things.
1. I will finish the round story chapter (umm, I think I have to...)
2. I will write as much as I can on FJR--hoping at least 50 pages...

And that's it. I was going to have a new chapter of a new novel done, but (!) I realize that the baby is going to come very soon. Much sooner than I think and I want to be through the first draft and hopefully half of the second draft by the time junior comes along. Judging by my recent pacing...I have to step it up in that department.

So, it boils down to: Write like a mad fiend...or Whit on caffeine.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Why Creative Writing is Absolutely Necessary

"...learn just what you need, then get the hell out of academia before you get sucked into that solipsistic, mind-fuck parallel universe..." --John

Q: Why is creative writing necessary?
A: So you can construct effective, moving sentences such as the one above.

Scary vs. Stupid

"Here's my challenge: take some risks this month. Think about that thing you've been thinking you should do, or write, but you've hesitated because it's risky."--Ali

When I discussed this challenge face-to-face with Ali I had a really hard time thinking about what I was scared about as far as writing goes. Because, really, I've gone into this whole writing thing pretty cocky and just kinda jumped in with both feet. I've submitted. I've been rejected. I've been accepted. I've written things outside my comfort zone. I've done public readings (probably the most nerve-wracking but I've done a lot of theatre too, so I didn't sweat too very much). These are the reasons I love writing, because I can do these things and I'm not incredibly nervous.

Though submitting my novel is quite tremor-inducing.

But it's not done. So submitting it would be stupid. I mean, I like to think that someone would look at it and say "Damn, I can sell this on the first ten pages." Let's face it. Such is not the case. (Though the first ten pages are, of course, brilliant.)

Now I'm trying to think of something that will help me prep for the BIG submission process. The only thing I can think of is continuing to submit short stories. Because then I'm still exposing myself, if I can put it that way in a public forum, and opening myself up to the varied/wandering/opinionated opinions of others. The other thing I thought of would be to write a query letter--apparently incredibly important to the submission process--and make other people read it/give their opinionated opinions.

So, does the challenge count if I do this, and all it does is alleviate those original fears I had?

Monday, September 3, 2007

So Much for That...

Well, crap. Didn't get the round story done. Now I'm behind on my timeline for the monthly goals. Crap. Double Crap.

But, the good news is, I have worked on it. And it's really, really cool. If I do say so myself. And I do. Now the problem is I want to just keep going and going and going. How will I hand it over? It's kind of an addicting world for me. Crazy people all over the place, those are the best kind to write about.