Friday, June 30, 2006

Do you believe in evil? OR The importance of evil to plot

Soon, hubby and I are going away for the weekend - very exciting. Either camping, or Finger Lakes, or who knows??? Tomorrow is Canada Day so we got some time off.
The plan is to return Monday evening. Meaning, unless I'm in a hotel, I'll be quiet.

So to the question at hand: Do you believe in evil?
Why am I asking?
Remember that a few days ago I talked about how I feel I don't follow through with some plot lines?

Well, the reason this is all related (evil and plot) is because I was over at Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer and saw this quiz - A personality quiz about your religious and spiritual beliefs.

My result - Secular Humanism (100%)
It was the first time I've heard of that and when I read about it seems to indeed fit me and my own set of beliefs and how I live my life quite well.

The point here is not to get into an ideological/religious debate. It's just that the quiz and the result made me realize
(something I knew but never put into words) that I don't actually believe in the concept evil. Makes sense. If I don't believe in a force that is all good, I wouldn't, in the same manner, believe in a force that is all bad.

But, and here's the big but. This causes me to miss on some really really cool and interesting plot lines. For example, I noticed that most of my recent horror (a new thing in my writing life) comes from inner human struggle rather than outside evil force. And I think that in a few latest plots as well, this could very well have been what I was missing, what was required for the plot to be complete - evil. Yet, I couldn't follow through with it because I felt I was cheating myself.

I do envy those who can imagine evil, pure evil, in any form - physical, mental, metaphysical etc. They have more options. I now know why I tend to stick with science-fiction (oh, I can certainly imagine scientific things, or future societies) and mainstream (I can also imagine different, quirky, "evil" human behaviour).

At the same time, I have a hard time with horror/fantasy/religious concepts in my writing because of my very realistic, pragmatic world view.

And you? I think I can already tell which of you (those I know better) explore evil, spiritual, fantastic things. Alas, I keep to the ordinary.
Read the rest

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

My Last Stand

Yesterday was do or die for hubby!
You see, when I wanted to go see Serenity, he kept stalling and I only got to see it later, at home. This time, I told him, it would be dangerous for him if I didn't see X3 on a big screen.

So we went to a downtown mall last night, paid for parking, had a coffee and a rougie (that's what Canadians who cannot pronounce rougalach call it. And I was so excited that they had rougalach too. Usually it's only in Jewish delis/bakeries or in New-York that I find them).

But I'm digressing, so parking, coffee and rougie and up to the movie theatre. Sold Out!

I wanted to buy tickets for tomorrow but hubby started his stalling tactic again. Boy, when he doesn't want to see a movie...

Finally, when he saw this might be trouble he looked on the internet (on his crackberry) and found us another theatre, half an hour drive uptown. Suburbia land. Fine.

We got there. A cheap theatre, again inside a mall, but... the listing was wrong. No X3 was showing.

As I was walking the aisles of the dollar store (love dollar stores), hubby again went on the internet. After five minutes he called me. This time we drove outside Toronto, but this time we were successful.

A big Cineplex complex. Hate these. You know, with the arcade and the teens and it's all dirty and noisy and quite disgusting. Going to the movies used to be a civilized experience once. Now it's a vulgar scene.

Instead of watching the intended 7:30 show, we ended up seeing a 9:15 show. But we did and it was fun and that's what counts!

And the movie? What can I say? Not as good as the first two, but I had a good time!
Read the rest

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Giving in to public pressure

The public, that is all three bloggy friends who keep 'complaining' about the lack of picture, has won!

There is a picture of me on the internet, but those interested will have to find it on their own.

If you wish, I'll give you hints, clues.
The first clue - it has to do with a previous occupation of mine. So if you search for my name and that word, you'll get ME!

Wow! I'm a little obnoxious here. Never mind. Forgive me. I'm tired and a bit frazzled :)


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's the plot, stupid!

Saturday, after the launch, we went to a pub. A couple of friends I haven't seen in a while were there too. A husband and wife, collaborating to write their Fantasy saga.

So of course I immediately took advantage of the fun situation and started whining. "Something was off with my writing lately," I complained.

After some questions and probing on the wife's behalf (the husband preferred the more fun activity of drinking and less-deep discussion), we got to the bottom of it. No follow through with the plot.

What does it mean? I'm not even sure myself, but let's see if I can explain. I hold back on ideas never bringing them fully to the surface. They remain in the background and as such have minor influence on the plot. (A brand-new problem, just as I thought I've been through them all).

Why? I guess it's probably because I feel these plots were done before.

Then, my friend reminded me of something I totally forgot. According to some, there are only so many plots in the world. Pick a number, and you'll get a corresponding number of plots.

Here are, for example, the 20 basic plots as taken from The Internet Public Library:
  • Quest
  • Adventure
  • Pursuit
  • Rescue
  • Escape
  • Revenge
  • The Riddle
  • Rivalry
  • Underdog
  • Temptation
  • Metamorphosis
  • Transformation
  • Maturation
  • Love
  • Forbidden Love
  • Sacrifice
  • Discovery
  • Wretched Excess
  • Ascension
  • Descension
So yes, indeed, when it comes right down to it, I've used a number of the above plots, specifically sacrifice, love, metamorphosis (what's the difference between metamorphosis and transformation?), temptation and rivalry. But I have a problem calling them plots. I'd call them concepts, themes, premises, not necessarily plots.

I also realized something else about my "plot problems" yesterday, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

So what do you, fellow writers, think about basic plots?
Anyone have the same non-originality fears repressing his/her writing?
Read the rest

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Book Launch and Friends

Saturday I missed the Dyke March and went instead to the book launch of North of Infinity II.

I wanted to meet Mark Leslie and I knew two of the contributors - Karen Danylak and Rob Sawyer.

There are pictures! I'm even present in one. It's the last picture on the post, I'm to the left and you can only see my hair. Oh, and I think I'm eating a cookie.

It was a great launch with great people and talented authors!

One of my best friends, Ryan Oakley, was also there. Ryan had just won 2nd place on Neometropolis for The Transmigration of Judas Iscariot. I really recommend you to download Neometropolis (it's free) and read Ryan's story. It is excellent!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

You Have to Listen - Space Exploration is Not a Joke

End of the World
Uploaded on July 16, 2005
by jonbuys
I know that many who come here, to this blog, have quite an open mind. I guess it's almost a prerequisite for writers. Even more for those who write genre, which automatically lends itself to, if not believing, then being able to imagine larger/different than life things.

It always surprises me then when people take space exploration as a joke, as a sci-fi thing, as children's and geeks' wild imagination.

Naturally I'm sure you know what brought this about. Stephen Hawking latest address that we need to colonize the moon and Mars.

It made the news nearly some time after my mom sent me the original article above. All of a sudden Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing and Fox News were talking about it. (Didn't mean to put Cory Doctorow and Fox News in the same sentence, suffice to say they reacted differently).

But my point: Just because something has whiff of sci-fi coming from it doesn't mean it should be treated as a joke!

Ever since I can remember, reading and watching sci-fi, the importance of social and political change was part and parcel with the genre. If by depicting future dystopian culture, or by having the perfect world Star Trek provides.

Another theme that was also prevalent, we need for this planet to come together in peace. For the sake of working together on saving this planet, going to the stars, improving our lives here on Earth, and for Pete's sake, not killing each other.

I already told you on numerous occasions that I expected us to have a colony, or at least a permanent base on the moon by now. In my opinion, space exploration is paramount to our evolution as a society, as humans.

But I know, this is all terribly funny. Why should anyone take this seriously?

Well, maybe if people did take it seriously, our world would have looked different today. But if Hawking is taken lightly, who am I to talk???

[I don't tend to rant here, but after watching the jokes about Hawking, I couldn't help myself.]
Read the rest

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

100 Awesome Music Videos

Pitchfork presents 100 awesome music videos.
It's a great collection of videos that might not be there for long as they expect a crack down from those boring corporate types...

It's from the MTV era so the videos are from the early 80s on to 2005 (I don't believe I've seen 2006). And there's something for everyone - from Air, Dr. Dre, ZZ Top, Prodigy, Lionel Ritchy (puke) and what not.

Go, have fun :)


Flash Fiction Contests Around the Blogosphere

  • Jason Evans over at The Clarity of Night has a real short flash contest. Not a drabller (100 words), but close - 250 words. Any genre goes but it has to be based on a picture he posted in the contest announcement.
    Jason even offers prizes.
    Oh, and if you're curious, I'm entry #5 - The Highest Point

  • Fred will be hosting the next Taste of the Darkness Carnival (that's number 3). This is a themed horror carnival although there is no theme this time around. Submissions are due by June 28th, 2006. Horror flash stories around 300-1000 words.

  • And the WBA is joining in on the carnival frenzy. A sci-fi story of 250-1000 words is due by July 1st. The theme is Outer Limits. WBA Flash Sci-fi Carnival.
These are so much fun, you'd better try them out.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Big-Picture Writing Errors"

Writers Digest has a great article - Beyond Basic Blunders.

The article mentions a few with examples. And don't all of you grit your teeth at the same time.

Here are the errors:
  • Morning-routine cliché - "rudely awakened", "bleary-eyed" reminds you of anything?
  • Answering-the-phone cliché - no need to expand here
  • The clutter of detail - oh boy. I believe I once explained the whole process of coffee making in three pages...
  • Skip the recitals of ordinary life
  • Don't spell it out - explaining too much and more than once
  • Pass on the preachiness - but why? Preaching is fun!
  • Setting the scene - be visual without too much description - how's that possible? Go find out.
  • Coincidences - avoid too many of them.
My initial reaction when I read this over at Alison Kent's blog was to think that perhaps many writers focus on details and over describe because of plot issues such as a thin plot. Does that make sense?

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Another predictable research - Men misinterpret and oversexualize cues

Ask any woman and she'll tell you that without the need for a scientific research:
Call it ego, machismo or downright delusional behaviour, but men are more likely than women to "oversexualize" conversations and incorrectly assume sexual interest, a new study says.

The study doesn't explain why this happens, but don't we girls know why - it's called being friendly:
"Behaviour that looks like she is engaged in the conversation, may actually be taken as signs of sexual interest, as opposed to what she intends, which is friendliness,"...

What I did find interesting in this article is that this could lead to further studies that might explain the roots of sexual harassment and date rape.

The researchers claim that all men are susceptible to this. Some "more sensitive" men are less susceptible. Hence the article ends with advice to both genders:

For men the recommendation is to take a step back and remember that you probably misinterpret her reaction to you.

For women it's the following:
be aware this may well be a judgment he is making almost regardless of what you're doing.
Yes, yes, we know...



Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ten Elements in Your Writing

Tambo asks: What ten elements/words do you associate with your writing?

This was one of the most interesting and intriguing questions I've seen in a while. So here's my answer:

1. Pain
2. Emotions
3. Rationale
4. Science
5. Distorted
6. Flaws
7. Sex
8. Love
9. Weakness
10. Strength

What are yours?

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Why I didn't/couldn't write yesterday

I had quite the week talking about writing here so I'm going to turn personal just for a sec.

Thursday was one of the worst days I've had in a while. I've fought with just about any person I know, was quite b**chy to a few and selected close and beloved people and made several mistakes I hope to live down one day, eventually.

After all that I was promised a well deserved road trip on Saturday. Well, at least that's how hubby sold me on it.

You see, hubby has this little obsession about stereo equipment, the two-channel kind to those who know a thing or two about it. Yesterday he agreed to meet a guy in Port Huron to exchange amplifiers. Port Huron is just about three hours from TO. He didn't want to drive alone so he tried to make it sound like a fun road trip. I didn't buy it, but went along.

It was a gorgeous day - 34c (93F) - with the sun shining bright and well needed vitamin D in the air. Never mind that our back-yard looks like a jungle, our front-yard like a desert, the floor hasn't been washed in oh-so-many weeks, the eaves need cleaning, etc. Never mind all that, we left everything and started driving.

Around London I believe we took a detour and went to one of the best beaches I've been to. Some lying in the sun, a beer and a lunch and we drove straight across the border (after half an wait at the border of course where hubby tried to explain the purpose of our trip - we're just meeting a guy at the Tim Hortons' to swap amlifiers. I think the border "cop" was rolling his eyes after we left, I couldn't stop laughing).

Then another crazy thing happened after we had our coffees. In the Tim Hortons' parking lot, the Michiganer (what a nice guy btw) and hubby took the amps out of their boxes and examined them. You have to understand what these things look like. The amp hubby got from the American is a tube amp, meaning it looks like something out of old sci-fi movies where electrical components and computers have tubes that light up. The whole time I pretended not to have anything to do with these two weirdos btw.

Now we had to cross the border back with a tube amp. The little girl there, couldn't have been more than 22, got the same story as the US border guy. I must say she stood her ground pretty well and didn't forget to ask the most important question of all - Did you bring any alcohol or tobacco over? I could scream at her. I mean, this question seems to always be the most important one. Guns? Oh, don't worry about that as long as you're not bringing a Miller six-pack and a Marlboro.

On the way back we stopped at Paris, enjoying all the jokes we could about it. A dinner on a river-side patio and we were set. 12 hours later of which 6.5 hours were spent in the car, we got home. But you know what - it was a great day. I had so much fun.

(I took pictures but seems the card is corrupt :(

My lesson: it's important to indulge your partner/spouse's passions/crazes/hobbies. I do with his stereophile obsession and he puts up with my travels.
Read the rest


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Gender Gap in F&SF

Sorry, no time to write but just wanted to turn your attention to a big debate about gender gap in F&SF going on. Tobias has a post on it and all the links.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rejection Handling. I bet Ted Turner didn't get one!

I think I've heard of this before but it deserves repeating: is offering authors whose work has met similar rejection the chance to put it behind them... by printing their rejection letters onto rolls of customized toilet paper.

For this I'll even forgo my 'no quoting' rule and quote Sir Winston Churchill just as Lulu has:
Dear Sir, I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your letter before me. Soon it will be behind me.

For some reason though, I get the feeling Ted Turner never got a rejection letter when he tried to publish his memoirs:
Turner, the outspoken yachtsman, philanthropist, CNN founder and ex-husband of actress Jane Fonda, is writing his memoirs, "Call Me Ted: The Life and Times of Ted Turner," to be published by Warner Books in fall 2008.

Please pay close attention to the publishing company, that would be Warner Books. I guess it helps to have owned the publishing company (Time Warner owned Warner books until recently)...

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Editing versus Rewriting

This will be the last little post about editing for a while. Promise.

You see, it's just that Fred left a comment that got me thinking. He said that in both the previous editing posts ( Hack, Slash and Tighten - Taking a Machete to My Writing and How to - Ghostwrite, and More on Editing) we've concentrated on the technical stuff. We didn't look at any plot issues such as "plot holes, consistency and time passage" to name but a few.

Until Fred said that, I didn't realize I was actually dividing my editing into two: rewrites and editing. The rewrites come first usually and that where I (try to) take care of plot issues. Naturally, I also fix technical things as I come across as well. So I have just finished a huge rewrite, where I rewrote the whole beginning due to some... well... plot issues shall we say?

In any event, after the rewrite comes the editing (what I'm doing now), which takes care (supposedly) of the more technical stuff. Of course, it isn't a clear cut and dry division, but that's what tends to happen. Does it make sense? Benjamin says yes and that makes me happy enough. Thank you Fred for such an insight.

An aside: Benjamin reminded me that "the second edition of Tastes of the Darkness is now online at Third Eye Writers! It went on the theme of 'Betrayal'." Alas, I didn't participate this time due to lack of time, but it's fun and recommended for everyone for next time.

Finally (yes finally), Jennifer has a great post about some writing offenses. She includes some great examples. Always something to add to the list of things to watch out for.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How to - Ghostwrite, and More on Editing

Uploaded on Nov 20, 2004
by striatic
Slate has a great little article on How To Succeed as a Ghostwriter, full off useful links for those interested.

Back to editing. Yes, you can probably imagine it's on my mind.
I just remembered reading over at Tambo's last week about passive and active voice. She referred to a fantastic little section on the matter in OWL that explains it marvelously.

So I was thinking of piling up writers' kinks. So far I've got:
-repetition - seems to be an encompassing problem
-details - too much (complicating descriptions, slowing down action) or too little (straight dialogue)
-adverbs usage
-weedy/hedging words
-passive voice

What else?

Bonus: If you ever get stuck writing small-talk in a coktail party, here is Slate's handy guide to small talk.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hack, Slash and Tighten - Taking a Machete to My Writing

Yes, that would be me, ready to hack and slash.
I'm in the midst of a huge edit right now. In fact, I decided to slash 20%-25% off my word count. Some of it because I simply needed to lower the word count, some because it just needed to be done to make the writing better.

Editing is always better if we can identify our own tendencies and problems in our writing. I do wonder what others have identified in their writing because usually it's probably something I do too, only I'm not aware of it yet.

I'll start - my three worst offenses in writing:

1) One of my worst habits in writing, I think, is repetitiveness of both concepts and words:
  • I tend to repeat the same idea like: you have to die, i don't want to die, but you have to, but i really don't want to. Okay, okay, we got the message the first five times I'd written it.
  • I also tend to repeat adjectives and synonyms - she was a courageous woman, strong, powerful and tough. The problem here is that I tend to fall in love with sentences like that: Oh, but Melly, you practically used all the words in the thesaurus to describe X's 'strong' attributes; you're so clever. (Heck, even the title of this post is the same).
2) Another problem of mine is my tendency to slow down the action with long descriptions in between the action/dialogue. I can't even give an example here because it'd be too long. Suffice to say that too much musing and paying attention to surroundings Kills a fast pace scene.

3) Finally, my tendency to overuse adverbs. By definition almost, adverbs are unnecessary. What are adverbs if not parts of speech that modify verbs? And what are verbs if not actions already? So why modify them? Naturally, it is all case dependent, but most times adverbs are a form of repetition. For example, X quietly tiptoed around the house, should be X tiptoed around the house. Tiptoeing is already quiet!

Yes, yes, adverbs also modify adjectives and other adverbs, but I'm talking here about my tendencies of modifying verbs.

What I'm glad is that at this point I know my weaknesses and usually manage to take them out during the writing process, yet they still manage to sneak in. However, since I'm aware of them, the editing process becomes somewhat easier.

Read the rest

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Ring Tones for Teens, Catchy Songs, and Canary Music

As if to prove my point about aging, students are now using ring tones teachers can't hear. Since most of us gradually lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, teenagers are now using this in class. I tried. I can barely hear it, but I still do.

Scientists asked what makes a song catchy? That is, what makes a musical combination stick into our memory, plug itself into our brains even if we dislike the song?
No definite answer but a combination of: familiarity (similarity to music we already know), cultural connection, repetition both in listening (like hearing it over and over on the radio) and in having the chorus (or some short part of the song) repeat over and over, as well as a particularly appealing performance.

Don't ask me how but sexy songs induce larger Canary eggs:
A new study reveals that female songbirds alter the size of their eggs, and possibly their chicks' sex, in response to hearing a sexy song from a male.


Until Blogger's Back Up

There's a scheduled outage in about an hour, so there isn't much point for a serious post.

Once again we didn't have the best weather over the weekend. So far, and without fail, it either rained on the weekend or was much colder, like the past weekend. I long for the summer to take hold already.

Despite the weather I had a great weekend that started with Jon Stewart and continued with a very productive couple of days writing wise (actual writing and socializing).
I planned on going to the Book Expo on Sunday, but I did something to my back and was feeling very funny when I finally managed to get out of bed on Sunday.
(See, two days after my birthday and already I talk (and feel) like I'm a hundred-years-old. That aging thing just won't go away!)
I didn't go to the expo, but I'm much better today.

I'll work on a nicer post for later.

So here we go, the inevitable cycle begins again. Time keeps moving and I keep getting older. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It's Like a Concert

Yesterday was my birthday. Big deal, everybody has one and with 6 billion people in the world, I'm bound to share mine with one or two...

Anyway, hubby said we were going out. Where? Well, it's like a concert, he said.

For weeks before I didn't think about it much until the morning of. What does 'like a concert' mean anyways?

Loving surprises, I've been really good though. I haven't checked the visa bill, nor did I even look at events listings around the GTA. I was in the dark. But I couldn't stop myself from thinking now, could I?

My clues:
1) It's like a concert
2) It's pretty casual
3) We'd have to drive there (I had to pick him up early from work).

Before we said our goodbyes in the morning, I couldn't help myself and trying to get more clues, I said, "You know, a talent show is like a concert."

"What?" he said. "You don't want to see a bunch of six-year-olds dancing and singing?" ----Nice!

It was the third clue that started my thought process. I figured we'd have to drive out of town for this. I didn't think any of the theatre festivals started in Niagara on the Lake or in Stratford, but I wasn't sure. Casino Rama has concerts (I've seen what's-his-name from Supertramp there).

Then I combined the second and first clue. My thinking was that it might be a smaller venue, like watching a live band in a pub or something. (The smallest I've ever seen, by the way, was Stone Temple Pilots in a tiny pub in Vancouver in the early 90s, and then Smashing Pumpkins in a big pub in TO in the late 90s. Other than that, it's always been medium-big halls and stadiums.)

It was only when I picked up hubby from work that I found out. Jon Stewart. We fu**ing went to see Jon Stewart in Casino Rama. I mean, I love the man. He was so funny. It was the best show, the best surprise, the best everything. Ever!!!

On a side note, the World Cup, kicked off yesterday, on my birthday. Growing up around football (soccer), I've got a soft spot for it. I'm rooting for France. I like Zidane.


Friday, June 09, 2006

All Kinds of... Wifes?

I have to share - by far the best search term.
Apparently I rank 17 in Google UK for this phrase:


Please note how 'wifes' is spelled...
I don't want to even think about the intentions behind that one.

Markets - Short Stories, Contests, Blogs

Through Alison Kent:
Circlet Press has issued a Call for Submissions for Best Fantastic Erotica, Volume 2 to be edited by Cecilia Tan. The anthology will be a compilation of erotic stories of all the types with a sf or fantasy twist. There's a $5 fee.

From Nalini Singh I have two new blogs:
Harlequin VP Isabel Swift's blog
Get to know Avon editors on Avon Romance blog

And no sooner had Georganna from Writer's Edge returned to us than she posted a post which includes a wonderful market-database for short stories and poetry, a paying short story market directory and a blog.
Oh, and don't forget that Georganna also judges The Writing Show contest.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

What's a four-letter word...

What's a four-letter word that if you add 'ger' to it you get this:

Even though the front page says this:


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Consistency - How it Works

Gather right up, gather right up.
Right here, right now
Melly is about to reveal the secret.
The secret to consistency.
Gather right up...

Yeah, right, you wish! I wish!
But it's true. I've been asked, on more than one occasion and by more than one person, to "enlighten" (their words, not mine) them on consistency. What kind of system works to achieve consistent writing?

While most of those who had asked me about consistency related more to my blog, and while we all know that blog consistency and writing consistency are not one and the same, I guess that at least as far as my blog goes, I actually am pretty consistent. Okay, not when I'm traveling. But when I'm traveling I write a lot of my fiction. So there!

I have no idea what my system is. I don't think I have one.
Anyone who has been reading the last few posts about blogging habits and goals, knows that I tend to keep my mind working constantly, if it's about post ideas or story ideas. I constantly read fiction as well as daily news and science news. These readings give me even more ideas. I especially get a lot of ideas for my hard sci-fi stories from all those science articles I post here that almost no one ever reads.
Regardless, I keep all these ideas stored somewhere and when I feel like I'm blocked, I go through my notes and am reminded of my ideas.

But this only covers half of the problem of consistency - where to get ideas from. What about the other half of - how do you actually make yourself sit down and write?
The short answer is - I don't.
That is, I don't make myself, I just do.
Sure there are times I don't feel like it. Then I don't (usually, if no deadline).
Rest of the time it's not a problem.

So I'm not really sure what to say to those who want to make a career out of writing - fiction, non-fiction, blogging, whatever - but never feel like sitting and writing.

Two possibilities I see - the first, they haven't chosen the right writing for them. Let's say someone's blogging about gardening but she hates gardening. I'd recommend switching blog subject.
Let's say someone's writing sci-fi but has a real hard time with it. Then one day he tries romance, and pow, the words flow (and remember, he's a guy to boot).

The other option is that maybe, just maybe, writing isn't their thing. Maybe, just maybe, they got into writing because they thought it would be fun to sit at home and not going to work in an office or wherever. Well, guess what? There are other stay-at-home internet jobs. Perhaps they could be great eBay sellers?

So these are my two cents on the subjects. Any thoughts?

P.S. - I said the secret to consistency, not to getting published...
Read the rest

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How to - Publish a Book

Occasionally Poets & Writers have these great little how-to articles, divided into little manageable sections.

How do I publish my book? is one such how-to article. Of course, it's all much easier said than done. So if that route doesn't work for you, you can always take example of today - 666 - and make a deal with Satan. I wonder what kind of rights he offers...

Here are the sections, and I tried to summarize it even further:

  • Introduction - "Reading work by other writers is essential to developing your craft and helping you learn where to submit your work."

  • Small Presses vs. Large Publishers - the article recommends small presses because even though advances are smaller, small presses, as opposed to large publishers, "are often open to the work of unknown authors and do not always require writers to contact them through an agent." List of small presses.

  • Chapbooks - "A chapbook can serve not only as a platform for publishing, but also as a poet's calling card or networking tool."

  • Submission Guidelines - request and read the guidelines. Follow the required format and every other requirement such as: "a full manuscript or a sample of the work, a cover letter, a query letter, a synopsis, or a book proposal."

  • What to Expect from Your Publisher - There's a difference here between poetry and fiction. For fiction the contract might include "advance amount, deadlines, and word length."
    The process to publication - submission, revised version(s), final version, copyediting, design and cover copy.

  • What to Expect from a Standard Book Contract - manuscript deadline, length, publication date, cover price, advance against royalties, royalty rate and rights.

  • Marketing and Distribution - not much unless the author is published with a major house that also decided the effort is worth while.

  • Self-Publishing and Print-on-Demand Companies - "Self-publishing companies are companies that charge authors a fee to publish their books. Print-on-demand companies are companies that - again, for a fee - store electronic copies of books and print and bind them, in specific quantities, only when orders are received."

  • Vanity, or Subsidy, Press - a press "that charges a fee to publish an author's work, and then, unlike legitimate print-on-demand companies, retains the rights to the book."

  • Other Resources
  • Read the rest

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    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Is it True I should have Blog Goals?

    Darren, the Problogger, claims I should have blog goals yet I'm not so sure if that holds true for me. Obviously, blog goals would be something important if I were a problogger, but I'm not. So do I still need blog goals? In short, yes, and here's the why.

    As I've mentioned in the previous group writing project post about blogging habits, I quite like my blog and have fun with it. However, even I like my blog much better when it's successful, that is, when traffic is good, when there are many comments, when I know that a post I wrote brought all that about. So if I want to keep having fun, I, too, need goals.

    My primary goal then is to have fun - with the writing, with the topics, with the readers. I don't mean being light about everything but rather enjoying what I'm doing. Since I am, that's almost a no-brainer and yet so many who do go the problogging route forget about this one little goal. If a blogger had chosen a topic he's not passionate about, for example, and blogging becomes a chore, then he's in for it.

    My secondary goals are the ones that should help me achieve my primary goal and they are:
    • To steadily increase my blog's readership and inbound links

    • To increase comments and participation

    • To remain interesting and on topic
    How do I go about doing that, achieving my goals?
    • To increase readership and links I try to write good, helpful and consistent content and I promote my blog on other blogs through visits, comments and guest posts.

    • To increase participation I try to write about topics I know are of interest to my readers (as well as me). I notice what posts receive more comments and linkbacks and I apply what I've learnt to upcoming posts.

    • To remain interesting and on topic I use a few practices:
      1. I write posts ahead of time
      2. I save interesting articles I find for a later date
      3. I have recurring columns/features that I try to keep to as mentioned in my about page (I'm least successful in that).
    There you go - my goals and how I try to achieve them.


    Story Ideas in the News - Are you ready for 666 day?

    • For horror/thriller writers:
    Tomorrow is June, 6 2006. Which also translates to 06/06/06 (no matter which convention you use), or 666.
    Those interested in the "number of the beast" as mentioned in the Book of Revelation (or the The Apocalypse of John), or those believing it is Satan's mark can write interesting stories about tomorrow.

    Of course, I couldn't just let this 666 business go without saying what researchers think about it:
    'Revelation' author, John of Patmos, traditionally believed to be St. John the Apostle, was writing to other persecuted Christians in code, according to Stevens, so "many of the strange elements in 'Revelation' signify events, people or institutions familiar to first-century Christians.

    "The mark of the beast, 666, signifies those in thrall to the emperor and thus opposed to Christianity, and is most probably the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters for Nero," Stevens says.

    The article also mentions of the many conspiracy theories associated with the number 666. Too many good plot lines from this (another Da-Vinci Code perhaps?)

    Last on the subject - I once took one of those psychosometric exams and got 666 - do you think I'm marked?

    • For science-fiction writers:
    Instead of volunteering your unused CPU time to aide SETI, why not use it to help the US government patrol the Mexican/US border?

    Think of the possibilities: Mexico has a terrible plague going on and the borders are closed. You do your part - you watch the web cams that are stationed along the border all day while on the internet. One day you spot an intruder on the live surveillance footage. You call the free hotline but they have already been compromised and are most likely dead. In short, they don't answer so it's up to you to notify people to the danger. To save the world.

    Oh, I don't know. Or something like that...

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    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Starting Today: 1/3 Million eBooks Free for a Month

    Via I found that Project Gutenberg and World eBook Library are offering, starting today, a third of a million eBooks downloadable for free for a month.

    Project Gutenberg plans to repeat this World eBook Fair every year, increasing the number of books offered to 1,000,000 free books by the 2009 Fair.

    I know that Project Gutenberg offers mainly public domain books, but I'm not sure what World eBook Library offers. Perhaps more current works?

    This year's books are offered in over 100 languages.
    See press release here.

    Project Gutenberg has an admirable goal, to make such works as Shakespeare, Dickens and Bronte easily accessible. I know that I also may not have read certain books if they weren't available on their site.

    For fun I looked at Project Gutenberg's Top 100 Downloads and was somewhat dismayed and somewhat happy to see that even there popular current themes are prevalent.

    Here are yesterday's top ten downloads, of which I've only downloaded #6 and #9, although now I'm thinking of downloading #2 as well...

    1. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - Complete by Leonardo da Vinci (648)
    2. Kamasutra by Vatsyayana (455)
    3. Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases by Grenville Kleiser (455)
    4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (336)
    5. How to Speak and Write Correctly by Joseph Devlin (297)
    6. The Art of War by 6th cent. B.C. Sunzi (277)
    7. Forbidden books of the original New Testament by William Wake (260)
    8. Aesop's Fables by Aesop (251)
    9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (245)
    10. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (228)

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    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    From Light to Depressing Stuff - Terrorists Arrests in Toronto

    Not long after I had finished my previous post I found out about the foiled terrorist plot to attack/bomb targets in Toronto.

    Not so happy anymore...

    You can read about it in my other shared political blog With Stick and Stones. And that's all I'm going to say about it here.


    Weekend Light Stuff

    As I've mentioned before, my b-day's coming up, this Friday.
    Hubby promised some fun on Friday (I think it's a concert, but I promised not to peek into the visa bill) and I'm very excited.
    He also made sure I'll have something appropriate to wear - my family got me a skirt (among other things) - I so wanted a skirt - and sent it earlier.
    So what do you think about my skirt???
    I think it rocks!

    I was in such a good mood that when I reverted back later to my jeans and T-shirt uniform so that we could go out (hubby's parents took us out for my b-day), I was dancing and hubby caught me in the act.

    By the way, hubby thinks it's really quirky of me to cut my face off in the photos... He keeps laughing at me, that meany.

    Finally, it's been a while since we've had a weekend web game. This one is courtesy of Ballpoint Wren, called City Jumper. Plain fun!

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    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Take Chances With Your Writing, Maybe A Screenwriting Contest?

    Through Tobias I found Kelly Link's advice to writers posted here.
    There are too many good writers, she says. Writers have to learn to stand out by taking chances. Not by writing an eccentric prose style, but by writing different and surprising stories. Good read.

    And to the screenwriters out there who have been completely neglected on this blog even though it is about all kinds of writing, here's your equivalent of NaNoWriMo: The 14 Day Screenplay Challenge starting tonight at midnight.
    Via Crafty

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    Healthy News, One Spacey Item and Good Ecological News for a Change

    Canadians Healthier Than Americans -
    Add Canadians to the list of foreigners who are healthier than Americans.

    Americans are 42 percent more likely than Canadians to have diabetes, 32 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, and 12 percent more likely to have arthritis, Harvard Medical School researchers found.
    insured Americans and Canadians had about the same rates of disease. It was the uninsured Americans who made the overall U.S. figures worse, she said.

    Robot hand controlled by thought alone
    A robotic hand controlled by the power of thought alone has been demonstrated by researchers in Japan.

    The robotic hand mimics the movements of a person's real hand, based on real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of their brain activity. It marks another landmark in the advance towards prosthetics and computers that can be operating by thought alone.

    Mysterious glowing clouds targeted by NASA
    Glowing, silvery blue clouds that have been spreading around the world and brightening mysteriously in recent years will soon be studied in unprecedented detail by a NASA spacecraft.

    The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission will be the first satellite dedicated to studying this enigmatic phenomenon. Due to launch in late 2006, it should reveal whether the clouds are caused by global warming, as many scientists believe.

    Iraq's marshes showing fast recovery
    Re-flooding of Iraq's destroyed Mesopotamian marshes has resulted in what scientists say is a remarkable rate of recovery for its plants, fish and birds.


    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Melly's Eating Her Hat (but only half of it) - More on Writer's Block

    A while back, I wrote a post about writer's block in it I spilled all my anger at these two seemingly innocent little words.
    My claim was that us writers can overcome writer's block if we choose to. I blamed mostly laziness, I believe.

    Two days ago, I also wrote about hypergraphia, the drive to write compulsively. When I quoted the definition, I left out the last sentence and promised to explain later.
    Here's a refresher, with the last sentence this time:
    Hypergraphia - The driving compulsion to write; the overwhelming urge to write […] the opposite of writer's block.

    Lo and behold - writer's block as a disorder. Actually, writer's block isn't an illness, or an actual, real, neurological disorder like hypergraphia, yet, its causes might still be biochemical.

    There may be two types of writer's block - low and high energy relating to depression and anxiety respectively.

    Depression, known to afflict writers at a higher rate than the general population, can also mimic mild frontal lobe damage or change, hence the biochemical roots.

    Since it is known that depression causes lack of motivation, initiative and energy, as well any decision making capabilities and emotionally drain the person, rather than staying at a desk full of self criticism, interruptions might be welcome to combat this type of writer's block.

    This kind of depression is also usually treatable. Not only that, it is more often than not also bipolar and the writing happens at the other end of the depression. And I'll leave that at that.

    Anxiety is the other trigger of writer's block and the one that personally I believe I may suffer from on occasion.

    How anxious one is, is usually in direct relation to the size and importance of the project. Anxiety, almost like stage fright, can cause too much or too little motivation, both possible sources of blocks. Guilt only makes it worse, by the way, and procrastination is the major symptom.

    Another symptom of anxiety-induced writer's block is the ability to write one type/genre, say, blog posts, while being blocked for another, say current novel wip. Outlines and brainstorming can help against such a writer's block but one shouldn't neglect other possible causes that may affect the mental state such as proper lighting in the winter etc.

    And procrastination? What do we do about that? One way to battle procrastination caused by anxiety is to think of another project, bigger, more demanding and frightening. The idea is to trigger anxiety that working back on your original project you avoided would be a way to procrastinate that new big one. Your original project becomes the fun project, the one you waste time with and avoid deadlines, the one that's easier to work on. Apparently it works.

    Finally, it is a fact that talented writers are more likely to be blocked than poor writers. So if you're blocked often, you must be real talented...

    New York Times
    Boston News
    Read the rest

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