Tuesday, May 31, 2005
So I finished the story, did the rewrites, edited the whole thing and left it alone for a while as I often do. I feel that the words get acquainted with the page and with each other better this way. Fine, maybe it's the distance that gives me a new perspective.
Today I got back to it and I was horrified. It's not that the story was bad, not at all. However, right at the very beginning I introduced a cat and throughout the story the cat was mentioned until the very end. The problem? you ask. The problem is that the cat didn't play any role in the plot. It was a red herring and as such was drawing attention from the main issue - the story, the theme.
Two options - the first is to delete any and all references to the cat (maybe not so dramatically, but severely), the other is to integrate the cat into the plot.
And that brings me to one more piece of advice - don't get attached to your writing. Learn to delete. Remember the plot structure we've talked about a few weeks ago where we discussed how plot should advance the story forward. Therefore, anything that doesn't do that - kill it. No mercy. It's for the best...
Unlike most other publishers who prefer to see only the first three chapters, they require the whole manuscript to be sent along with a synopsis.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Lee Goldberg asked James Reasoner a few questions about his productivity, the role his wife plays in the writing process and about outlines.
James Reasoner writes on average eight, that's 8!, books a year and sometimes 12 books a year. He also had to say this about outlines:
I like a six to eight page outline. That's loose enough to allow for some improvisation but detailed enough so that I rarely write myself into a corner. But I've written plenty of books from outlines that are only a page or two long.
This magazine also has a very specific target audience - men, and publishes only articles written for that audience paying a flat fee of $50 per article.
The problem was that I was spending too much time blogging and reading other people's blogs and not enough time writing.
My own little horror story have suffered greatly from this as my protagonist have been roaming the corridors the for a week now without getting killed. And she is going to.
I should take my own advice and schedule my time better, stand by that scheduling and get myself going.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
How's that, you might ask.
Read the following and tell me which of the two versions you prefer:
"I can't believe you just said that," she said, her tone mad. Her hands were shaking their anger, her mouth tightened and her eyes shot irate piercing arrows at him.
"I can't believe you just said that," she shouted. Her hands were shaking and her eyes shot piercing arrows at him.
You will learn, in time to turn off the editorializing and the flowery words. What are flowery words? Beautiful, amazing, magnificent etc.
You can write: "He looked inside her striking eyes as the breeze blew gently her gorgeous hair."
Or, you can write: "Her long, silky dark hair flowed gently as he gazed into her deep green eyes."
- If you need to explain it with an adjective, you haven't written it well.
- If you are using more than one adjective to describe the same thing you'll tire your readers.
The markets will range across All Kinds of Writing - magazines, short story markets, newspapers, book publishers, competitions etc.
Today's market - Chicken Soup for the Soul
I mean, who hasn't heard of these inspiring stories? A best seller anthology that pays $300 for your non-fiction stories. Worth your while to give it a shot.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
I'll share my discipline with you:
- Writing - I write a set amount of words a day
- Rewrites - once I finished with a piece, I set myself an amount of time for rewrites and editing and I keep to it
- Submissions - I always have a set amount of my material submitted at a set amount of places, for example: I always have 10 queries out and 3 short stories
- Research - depening what I need the research for (research for a fiction story is different from article research where your facts have to be supported by good resources) I spend an alloted time to learn a subject, look for information and collect it
- Market research - once a week I do a bit of market research to find new places to submit my material
- Writers' group - once a month
- Blog - daily
- Deadlines - Once I get an assignment, it precedes everything else. This includes editing such as rewrites for an editor, or proofing the manuscript before print. If you're actually getting paid for your work, you'd better do the work.
Of course, once you get successful there will be more elements to your writing career such as book signings, book tours, book readings etc. Again, some more fun than others. But let's start at the beginning.Categories: writing, discipline, work
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005
2) A novel - that's long isn't it? Well, yeah. But no worries, it's not so much. Don't forget - many writers do this everyday. You can too. Here's how. Divide your work, give yourself a schedule. If you have an outline, combine the schedule with the outline, but if not, just decide on how many pages/words you want to write a day. So let's say the average novel nowadays is about 100,000 words. If you can write 1000 words a day, about 3-4 pages, then you will have completed your novel within 100 days (about 5 months if you don't count weekends). That's doesn't sound so bad now, does it?
3) You get stuck. Usually the reason writers get stuck is because they don't know the ending. If you know the ending, you have what to strive for, even if you don't have an outline. So always know the ending.
4) You think what you've written so far sucks. You may or may not be right, I can't tell you. However, what I can tell you is that unless you write, you won't improve. And no better practice than finishing your novel.
5) Maybe this new idea you have is better. Maybe not. But you must finish this one first. If you're afraid you'll forget the new idea, write it down in a notebook, you can always write another novel after you've finished this one, and the more ideas, the easier it will be to start the next one, but if you continued to jump from one idea to the next, you'll never finish you novel.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
You can't help it. You have a great idea, you sit down and start the novel. You may even get through the first few chapters but then time comes where you just stop working on it and move on to another idea you have. This one, you're convinced, is the winner, the one you will finish.
Why does this happen to beginning writers, you ask? A combination of things: 1) You get bored with your own idea. 2) The task of writing a novel seems daunting all of a sudden. 3) You get stuck and aren't sure where the plot should go from here. 4) You're convinced that what you've written so far sucks. 5) You're convinced this new idea you have is so much better.
What to do?
Here is what, here is why these things happen and how you can tackle them:
1) You're bored with your idea because all you had was one idea and you've probably exhausted it after a few chapters. You feel like you're repeating yourself. My solution - don't start a novel with just one idea in your head. Take a few ideas (at least two) and write about them. They will either come together on their own, or you have to find a way to intertwine them. This way you'll have a lot more to write about, become less bored and add even suspense to your writing as you're trying to combine the ideas.
Tomorrow I'll continue dealing with the rest of the problems that stand in writers' way to completing their novel.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
All of my writing, without exception, has to do with my life. It can be the characters that I write and who have a lot in common with the people I know. It can be the plot ideas from things that happened to me or people I know. It can be facts I put in articles of things I know and experienced. The sum of my experiences is always portrayed in my writing somehow.
That's why one should always be aware of what he/she is going through. Aware of their surroundings, of how people behave and talk, note people's facial expressions and their mannerism. Views, sights, colors, smells, are all things we should notice to become better writers.
So far we talked about the action in your life. What about the passive experiences - what you read for example, interesting news articles, a new science discovery, a strange thing that happened in a different country, are also things you should pay attention to.
All that can help in building plot lines, characters, articles. There's nothing like writing a great knowledgeable article, but then also adding some pepper to it from an unexpected source.
We can never tell what experience can become our next winning story or article. One can wake up in the morning, watch the tree branches from their bedroom window, notice as they sway in the wind and come terribly close to the power lines. The ideas from just this little things are vast: one can choose to write an article about the necessity to prune tree next to power lines, another can choose to write a short story about a fire caused by a tree falling on a power line and the struggle of the protagonist to recover, and so on. So from two minutes of waking up in the morning I've supplied you with a few days' worth of writing. It's up to you now.
Notice, be aware, and write.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Not being a very organized person, my writing tends to reflect that. Somehow though, usually at the end of my work, it all comes together. But the process is messy.
So far it never bothered me, but now that my novel is in its midst, I know that it is going to be hard to connect all the different sections and the disjointed plot lines together and bind them in a way that would make sense.
I am not going to give up though. I will continue, and I will finish it.
Next week I will put an excerpt of my work-in-process, a short one, in this blog. You're welcome to check it out.
Monday, May 16, 2005
The answer is, as it almost always is, that depends.
Some writers work better with an outline, some don't. You have to find out which of the two types of writers you are. Chances are that your personality would carry through to your writing process. If you're organized and meticulous in other aspects of your life you would probably need an outline, maybe even a very detailed one. If you are not that organize, maybe an outline is not for you.
Regardless, it's a good idea to know where you're going. If writing an outline, even a short point-form one seems like too much, then at the very least you must have a full idea. Otherwise, there is a good chance you won't be finishing what you started.
A full idea means not only something vague, but an idea that is developed, at least partially, and that you know what you want to do with it and where you want to take it. Endings are otherwise very tough.
So guess what. To find out what kind of writer you are you know what you're going to need to do. That's right. Write.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
- The New-Yorker publishes a new short story each week
- Sci-Fiction not only publishes a new story each week, but also has an archive
- The Atlantic Online has a few stories always on their site
- Strange Horizons is another weekly ezine that publishes a story a week and where you can access previously published stories
For the longest time all I could hear about intellectual property was how to find ways to protect it. Conversely, John Scalzi landed a book deal after posting his novel on his site.
John Scalzi wrote the original post and it seems that he and Cory Doctorow both don't feel the same as what we've been hearing so far about intellectual property.
They see intellectual property as something that would be protected anyways by those who can and want. And those who can't or don't want to protect it - won't. Meaning, if someone wants to steal something, they'll find a way, but most people who can afford to buy books and music will always do so.
The very interesting comments from the original post are worth reading.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Being a published short story writer, it never seizes to amaze me the magnitude and latitude of ideas that can be conveyed in short stories.
I have just finished a little story about a little crisis in the life of a little man. He cheats on his wife. That's his solution. I won't tell you the end, but I will tell you that the story brings out questions of age, mid-life crisis, love and fidelity into the spot-light. I don't know if the story answers any of these questions, but it sure makes the reader think.
Now I've started (almost finished) another short. This time a horror story. I think. Maybe the protagonist is merely crazy, but that happens often in horror. The lines between what happens in our minds and what happens in real life blur to such a degree that it's hard to tell the difference anymore.
Shorts are cool, cause they are just that - short, and yet, portray so much.
I found this great little article about what authors make, expect to make and the lifestyle of a successful novelist.
New paperbacks have a short shelf life, somewhere between one month and four
months, according to Romance Writers of America, which met in St. Louis the last weekend of April. Hardback books last longer, selling for up to a year. The writers are all looking for a sliver of the more than $1 billion that readers spend on paperbacks each year, according to the association.
About 70 percent of the buyers are women, and about two out of three readers purchasing the books didn't plan to do so when they entered a retail outlet.
The main pointers to learn from this article:
- be patient
- don't give up
Categories: writing, business
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Let's say you just stick to the 101 best sites as listed in Writer's Digest, it's still a 101 pages.
I say this. Well, this is what I do.
I stick to my favorite five sites. That's right - 5.
If I need more resources, I go to my 101 trusted site list and choose new sites. Or Google exactly what I need, want.
Categories: writing, resources
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Let's go back to that job we never got for a moment.
Having your manuscript/query rejected is similar to that. After all, this our job. And if someone doesn't want to publish our stuff, that means we didn't get the job.
There can be many variables that affect your rejection from an editor: wrong market, not following guidelines, acting in a manner not befitting a professional, not to mention personal taste.
You must make sure you control what you can. All of the above to varying degrees can be controlled by you, the writer. It is the writer's job, your job, to make sure you send your manuscript to the right market, after all, you won't send a resume to a job posting for a financial adviser if you are a programmer. You must make sure you address the right person, just like when you send a resume, you should always follow the guidelines. I mean, you won't email a resume if the posting requests the resume to be faxed, and so on.
But if you did send your manuscript to the perfect market, and followed the guidelines, and acted professionally, and you're pretty sure the editor accepted similar stuff before, don't forget that you are still competing against many other writers.
And there is also the possibility, remote as it can be, that you're not good enough. Not yet that is.
What to do?
I'll tell you what not to do first. Don't sulk. It hurts, I know, I have the letters to prove it, but you must keep going. Plowing away.
So what to do?
Go over the manuscript, make it better, and send it to someone else. And above all - keep writing!
Categories: writing, publishing
There's nothing like a good story that takes you places you haven't been. Emotionally, spiritually, geographically, culturally, scientifically... well, you get the picture - no?
Okay, so I have a confession to make. If a book really touched me, I tend to cry at the end. Not because of the ending, but because it ended and it's no longer a part of me.
This is my aspiration. This is how I want to write. I want to touch people. Not in the sticky, flowery, sugary kind of way, but in the way that will leave them altered somewhat, or at least thinking.
That is my aspiration. What is yours?
Categories: writing, fiction
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Well, you know what a query is - a question, inquiry.
Exactly, so in the world of writers and editors, writers are the ones who query editors regarding their work and they tend to mean one of the following three things:
Article query - It is usually the practice of most magazines not to accept unsolicited articles. They prefer you query them first. Meaning - write the editor about your article, or article idea, and pitch it for them. Yes, indeed, I said pitch and I mean it. Like a sales pitch.
That doesn't mean you can just email the editor, her name is on the contact list after all, and tell her about your brilliant article. Editors prefer that you follow their rules for querying, and you should find out first what the editor's rules are. Those rules are called 'writers guidelines.'
Usually the query includes a summary of the article, resources and sources used, word length, a short description of the writer including relevant experience pertaining to the subject and any writing credits. Many editors also ask for clips or sample writing.
Book query - Some book publishers will accept queries from new authors and some will only deal through an agent. Book queries to agents and to publishers are only slightly different. Again, each publisher and agent has their own guidelines for queries and one should follow them to the letter, heck, to the comma. But usually book queries include a synopsis, first three chapters, book length and some information about the writer such as relevant experience and/or publishing credits.
Response query - This query is a touchy subject to both writer and editor. While it is a mere question - have you looked at my manuscript and do you have an answer for me - it can put the editor in a nasty mood. Again, follow the editor's guideline closely. Do not query before the time mentioned in the guidelines, and when you do, always be gracious, yet professional, about it.
Categories: writing, query, queries
Monday, May 09, 2005
If you look at my links you will notice one of them is for spec writing, that is speculative writing. What used to be Science Fiction and Fantasy has now evolved into speculative writing and has embedded elements of many genres.
It is enough to look at some very mainstream fiction to note how the authors of this respected literary venue also dip their hands into the genre elements. Noble winner Toni Morrison has clearly delved in to the supernatural in Beloved. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or 1984 by George Orwell are pure science fiction books that have become classics. One of the best selling authors of all times, if not the best is Stephen King, whose horror writing is as critically acclaimed as it is plentiful.
The point? Don't shy away from genre fiction if that's where your heart lies.
Direct Links to:
on Amazon.com Amazon.ca
on Amazon.com Amazon.ca
on Amazon.com Amazon.ca
Categories: writing, fiction, genre
You've been sitting in front of the monitor, trying to convince yourself that this is the last game of solitaire and that after that you'll write, write and write. That last game was fifteen games ago. Since then you tried. You really did, but that blank document stared you in the face and you thought that a million more games might clear your mind and give you that all inspired idea you've been waiting for. And yet, nothing happened yet.
So I have the cure. I really do.
Fiction or non-fiction - no problem.
The trick is to start. Once you start, the ideas will flow. They will never come from a deck of cards, though, trust me. Be it real or virtual deck.
But how to start, you say. This was the problem in the first place.
Fiction. What I'm about to say in the next few lines may sound blasphemous to some. But it works. I promise. Let me whisper it first so you won't fall off your chair: Formula Plot. Yes, that's right. I've said it and now the cat's out of the bag. Sometimes, when all other options have been exhausted, this is the only one left. But don't you worry. I promise that once you start, your ideas will kick in and that formula plot you started with will be but a fading memory replaced by your original thought.
Non-fiction. Even simpler. Read the newspaper. Find something you like. Write about it. Yes, it's that simple. I'm not suggesting, heaven's forbid, to plagiarize. I'm merely recommending starting to research a subject you found interesting in a newspaper. While researching and writing, you will find a new angle, something you haven't thought of before. You will have a completely new article, book idea, essay before you know it.
And that's the trick with ideas.
You have to work with them so they work with you.
Categories: writing, ideas
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Did you even know there was a difference between plot and story?
Let me help. While 'story' is what you want to tell, the chronological sequence of events, 'plot' is how you tell it, your artistic rendition of it.
This differentiation is important because as the author _you_ decide how to tell the story. You emphasize certain events while ignoring others. You tell the events in an order of your choosing -- chronological, flashback, reverse, episodic, chain of causality and effect, or any other way you decide -- and you also pace events as your artistic muse aspires.
A plot is not only the framework of the story, the plan, but it is also what makes the story move forward towards its conclusion, and what makes the readers want to continue reading. While the story describes the issue or issues, the plot describes how these issues are played out and resolved. The plot gives the story its meaning and effect.
The most common structure, regardless of the chronological order of the story, is the following:
Exposition – the author introduces the main characters and orients the reader to the setting, such as time and place.
Conflict – conflict has become a broad term in literary works and it now includes almost any problem the protagonist may have. It can encompass a struggle between the protagonist and another creature, obstacles society puts in the protagonist's way, a battle against nature, a mystery unraveled, or internal and emotional issues being solved.
Rising Action – once the conflict is presented, the crisis occurs and the suspense builds. Complications arise, decisions are made and actions are taken, all developing the central conflict and opening it up to different resolutions.
Climax, or turning point – if the action was rising up until the climax, then the climax is the highest point of the action, from which tensions will fall. Emotions are at a peak and the action taken is the focus of the story.
Falling action – after the climax, all events leading to the resolution are the falling action. Characters sort out complications and display their emotions following the climax, all of them guiding the reader to the resolution.
Denouement, or conclusion – the resolution. Problems are finally solved and the conflict resolved for good or bad. The importance of the denouement is to give the reader a sense of completion and satisfaction. The resolution need not necessarily be good in order to achieve that sense, although for young readers the resolution is often an agreeable and a moral one.
Many regard the above six part plot structure as a three part plot structure of rising action (includes the exposition and the conflict), climax, and falling action (includes the resolution). Regardless of how you look at this basic structure, many authors follow it, but it is not set in stone. What is important is to remember the main function of the plot – to keep the story moving forward to a satisfying resolution.
Categories: writing, plot, fiction
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Okay, but here's the deal. Today, Saturday was so beautiful and sunny. I walked for an hour in the sun, handed in a short story to my group mates in the process, came back home, made steak sandwiches and sat outside reading the newspaper. I tried to find Hitchhiker's reviews, but couldn't find any. Can you believe this? Am I this late? I have no choice but to find reviews on the web.
So that was my first post ever, and I know it wasn't so much about writing, and maybe more about my life, but man, those steak sandwiches were good.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Regardless if you spend your vacation time in a resort or on a camp site, chances are your mind, surprisingly enough, is teeming with fresh new ideas. The plot of the story you've been writing has just taken on a new twist in your head, or the lack of a proper environmentally friendly soap hits you and you want to explore the subject and write an article about it.
You may or may not be traveling with a laptop, handheld or any of these other gadgets that would make it easier to write while away from home. But even in the most remote place, you can still have a pen and paper and fifteen minutes for yourself to jot down those creative new ideas. You will forget them otherwise. And there is really no need.
Categories: writing, general
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Are you a beginner writer?
Let's first establish what kind of a beginner you are.
If you have written all your life but only recently decided to see if you could do this for a living, get published, or make your words publicly available, please see my post: I wrote something, now I want to publish it
On the other hand, if you have just decided to start writing, then let me congratulate you. You have joined the ranks of many writers, a large, diverse and supportive community whose members are as intelligent as they are kind, as witty and quick tongued as they are helpful and resourceful.
You may not know yet what you want to write. You probably just started and at first you wrote some fiction, then some poetry and now you've written an article about the terrible twos. It doesn't matter. Get those words out.
Like anything else, writing is a large portion skill, and a small amount talent. Get that skill going. Practice. Practice your writing. With time you'll focus more on what you want to write, develop your own style (or not, but that's a different subject) and finally master the art of writing.
Here are some helpful guides that can help you:
or buy it at Amazon.com Amazon.ca
Categories: writing, links, beginners, resources
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Don't panic. It's really easy. Much easier than you think. Not to get published that is, but to reach editors.
First, classify what it is you've written. A novel, non-fiction book, short story, article, personal essay... etc.
The next step is to find the right market. Well, the www is your best pal. Many sites list many markets. For example writersweekly.com has an excellent database of magazines and journals which you can search. Another example is Writers Write extensive guideline database.
So now you have access to markets and guidelines. Hold it right there. Don't start group emails or anything of the sort. Remember my Help!!! Queries!!! post? If not, go over it. Most important is to read the guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter.
You sent your piece of genius writing to a market? Don't think you can rest. Few things you need to do:
- 1. Track your submissions
- 2. Write more
- 3. Write more
- 4. Write more
Categories: publishing, beginners, markets
Sunday, May 01, 2005
- This blog aims at writers. Fiction writers, non-fiction writers and freelance writers.
A lot about writing. A bit about science. Somehow, it all comes together.
All Kinds of Writing is, as the name suggests, a blog about writing. It is a blog about writing fiction, non-fiction, short-stories, novels, articles and anything I find an interest in, or that I feel others have an interest in.
But All Kinds of Writing is also written by a very real person who has interests other than writing and even, believe it or not, a life. Therefore, on occasion I promise that you will find a personal post about something that happened to me, a news item that I found intriguing or that affected me, not to mention science posts.
This is how I see the breakdown of weekly posts, although I don't promise a schedule:
-Writing post for beginners
-General writing post
-Science news item or science related post
-General news/personal rant/fun post
What do you think?
Anything else you would like to see here?
Writers/bloggers or anyone who feel like it can submit a post.
The feature will probably be sporadic at first with the intention of it evetually running once a week.
Since this blog is about All Kinds of Writing, the only guideline for submitting a post is that it can be of any kind of writing - from fiction to jokes.
My preference is for posts not to exceed 500 words.
If accepted, I will not edit the post unless I am asked to.
The post will naturally contain any information the guest wants to put in such as website/blog link, email, or similar info.
If you wish to be a guest poster, please email me, with questions or with a submission at:
allkindsmelly [at] gmail [dot] com