Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Well that was a full month.

First, a poetry collection assembled by assorted disparate members of my writers’ group has come out. It contains several pieces previously seen here as well as a range of similar-ish things by other writers. I’ve only flipped through it so far but as poetry goes it stands out for being accessible and straightforward as well as poetic. Also, the cover art is gorgeous.

You can find Over Land and Rising at Amazon.

November is home to literary events Wordstock and Orycon here in my ‘hood – that is, three-plus days packed full of writerly events, panels, workshops, and of course shopping. I discovered the urban fantasy Enter the Janitor, which is just as much fun as it sounds like, and a couple of authors I look forward to getting to know. My to-read pile has grown beyond all reason (not that it was reasonable before) and I also learned a few potentially useful things in terms of writing.

Among those things was some insight into the fun world of submitting. The short fiction panel at Orycon opened up a whole range of markets beyond what I already knew – which is good, because the piece I last mentioned having submitted to Uncanny Magazine has now collected four rejections – one of them personalized, with feedback. One of my upcoming projects is to launch that one into a second round of submissions.

Also in the world of submitting, “The Way Home” is finally finished. This time last year, it wasn’t; this time last month, off it went (just for fun) to F&SF whence it was promptly returned. However, that was not only expected, but perfectly timed. “The Way Home” is now available on Smashwords and has been submitted to the Library Writers’ Project, my community’s annual dose of local library love with which I have twice so far been successful. Wish me luck on this one – “Way” is my heart-piece, a bit odd-sized and weirdly shaped for conventional publishing, and I hope it finds a home here.

Then of course there was Nanowrimo. I really didn’t expect much of this; my last Nano fizzled at 25k, and this month was full of travel and literary weekends and wine. It was somewhat to my own surprise that I managed to write 25 days out of 30, even on airplanes – and at 8pm on the very last of them, verified 50,219 words.

All shitty-first-draft, but that’s the point.

I noticed this round that writing without concern for quality allowed all sorts of ideas to come flying up out of the muck. I went places I might not otherwise have considered, opened new doors, tried out new directions. All of these will help the executed projects in the end. On the down side, it was exhausting. 50k in a month is not a sustainable pace for me, though it’s certainly good for a jolt every now and then. My challenge this month is to work out what IS a sustainable pace. 5k a week? 3k? 500 words a day? (not doing so well so far, this being the 5th, but I think vacation is just about over.)

So what’s next??

Nano encompassed two projects: an idea for the BBC playwriting competition I mentioned last time, and something involving wizards, gender roles, and an unkindness of ravens. Both stories have a rough structure, an arc, a beginning-middle-end. Both need a LOT of work to be readable. The deadline for that competition is Jan 31, and my writers’ group has expressed a desire to perform scenes together, so my next task is to get that script into some sort of functional shape.

Once that’s done, then we’ll see about those wizards.


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It’s well past time for an update, isn’t it?

This time last year I posted that I was possibly close to done with a piece that had been on my mind for half a decade. Turns out, I wasn’t: the draft I was finishing then went to a beta reader, got heavily revised, and then went back around my critique group. Now I’m pretty sure it’s almost done. One more read-through, maybe, and it’s off to F&SF.

I also currently have a piece in the queue at Uncanny Magazine. Yes, I finally caught an open window, with a piece of the proper length, a piece that my critique group at least thinks is very strong. It will be at least another couple of weeks before I hear back, and I’m trying not to have any expectations.

Tomorrow, NaNoWriMo begins again. I haven’t participated the last couple of years, and the last time I did participate I only managed about 25k words. Not nothing, but not what I was going for. This year, my projects-in-process are all wrapped up, and I have a number of potential new ones in mind. I’m not sure what I’ll tackle tomorrow: a radio play for the BBC’s International Radio Playwriting Competition, or a sequel to one of my finished works, or maybe a new story that’s been kicking around my brain for a while. Maybe a bit of everything, as none is likely to reach 50k words on its own.

In the meantime, in honor of established tradition, my previous Nano projects will be free on Smashwords with coupon codes below.  Share and enjoy!

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A while ago I was considering participating in an anthology for charity. My sister provided original art for their first volume, and money raised selling the book went to a group supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence. Volume 2 called for origin stories: old religions told newly, entirely new ones invented, character origins, however writers chose to interpret the phrase, “In the beginning…”

Intrigued by the concept, I quickly produced a story which my writers’ group described as “Just So Stories meets OMNI Magazine.” It’s fun and cute, and also brief at 500 words – too brief, as it turned out, for the anthology has a 2000-word minimum. I sent a message asking if the minimum was firm.

While waiting for a reply, I began to have second thoughts about my submission. I hadn’t read Volume 1; what if the editors had no taste, and my story ended up collected with a bunch of clunkers? They also hadn’t (still haven’t) selected a charity. What if they chose one I could not support? I considered sending the story off to a pay magazine. Mostly, though, I did nothing.

Finally, word came back that the minimum was firm. The editors offered to help me “expand” my story. No thanks, I thought; not going to mess with a good thing. I turned back to the pay magazines – only to find that every single one was closed to submissions.

More nothing. Then F&SF opened last month. I dawdled and postponed. I really wanted to submit to Uncanny Magazine, a new-ish publication specializing in new ideas and new writers not getting seen by the mainstream. I supported them on Kickstarter in their first year and have loved the result. But they remained closed. So I did nothing, intending to send the story off to F&SF and yet not doing it.

Then, today – mere days after I signed up to support the magazine’s Year 3 – Uncanny Magazine opened to unsolicited submissions. I flew to the web page, ready to roll.

And encountered their 750-word minimum.

Fine. F&SF it is.


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Recently my sister invited me to submit a story to a group that sells themed anthologies for charity. I haven’t read the group’s previous work, but the theme of the next collection intrigued me, so I wrote a story with intent to submit.

After a couple of false starts and a lot of nothing, I finished the story. My writers’ group delighted in it. I went back to the charity group – with second thoughts now, as a charity hadn’t been selected, and what if I didn’t like it, what if I’d rather sell my story – to find that I had only a quarter the preferred minimum word count.

I’m not going to quadruple the story’s length; that would entirely not work. I messaged the group, to ask if the minimum was firm: the answer was “kinda” and “we’ll get back to you.” They haven’t.

Do I wait? Do I submit elsewhere in a hurry, and hope for a response before the charity group’s deadline? Do I submit without concern for the charity? The magazine I would most like to appear in is not currently accepting submissions, but what if they open next week? Next month? Do I submit to one of my old standbys, because why the hell not? Last time one magazine got back to me in 24 hours…

It’s possible that this is why writers are crazy.


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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

In truth, I’ve fallen well behind of late. Job and life circumstances pushed my writing aside, and even though the schedule is clearing up, after so much time it’s hard to get back on the horse. I almost have to force myself to sit down and type, and I’m rarely happy with the result. There’s a reason conventional wisdom advises daily word counts: it’s easy enough to slack off, and so much harder to get started again.

Still, I’m getting there. And in spite of so little activity I am not without news. My local library put out a call to local authors in the fall, inviting submissions to the e-book catalog. Through an agreement with Smashwords, the library would purchase the chosen books and make them available to patrons. I have a “why not?” attitude when it comes to this sort of thing, so after some consideration I selected and submitted “The Edge.”

A few weeks ago I received notification of a purchase on Smashwords. Very little data accompanies these notifications; I assumed it was a friend who’d let his coupon expire and was embarrassed to ask for another. Then, yesterday, I received this:

“Congratulations!  Your book, The Edge, has been selected to be added to the library’s e-book collection as part of the Library Writers Project.  We had nearly 150 submissions to the Library Writers Project this year and yours was a standout.  Your book will be featured on the Multnomah County Library OverDrive web site, which is accessed by 20,000 unique users monthly.”

By this time I’d forgotten about the project. Of course it was a delight to receive the email: “Congratulations!” and “standout” and “20,000 unique users” are all wonderful to hear. But the real treat is this:

“The Edge,” at Multnomah County Library

My book. My library. How cool is that?


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It appears that reading about writing helps me write.

‘Generation One’ came almost whole out of reading How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story formed and guided ‘Dreamscapes’ and ‘The Edge.’ All kinds of things came out of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Now, I’ve been dry for close to five months. Finishing ‘Nicky’s Dragon’ was a struggle. ‘The Way’ has started and stopped a dozen times. So has ‘Cambaria.’ No new ideas, no new beginnings.

This week I picked up Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, a collection of essays by genre writers on topics from title to character to setting to sitting down in front of the keyboard and getting things done. This week I wrote 4000 new words on an old idea, fresh and alive again, and a thousand or so on two entirely new ones. I wrote a half-dozen blog posts, and added content to a bunch of character bios on Fanlore. I’ve hardly gotten any actual work done; I’ve written in notebooks waiting for the bus, in the car, on my home computer for three hours at dinnertime, an entire morning at my job. I don’t want to stop.

It’s probably a coincidence. But that doesn’t mean that next time I get stuck, I won’t pick up a book.


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About Art

“… It’s not about the artist’s name or the skill required, not even about the art itself. All that matters is, how does it make you feel?”

I love it when a show goes meta.

The above quote, from the new Netflix series Daredevil, could be about the painting on display, or the show itself, or all television, or all media, or all art. People like to talk about talent, or skill, or quality, but the truth is that none of it matters. Few argue that the Twilight series is well written, and yet it has its impact. Not many consider television to be high art, and yet – as fans of Sherlock or The Sopranos readily demonstrate – it makes people feel.

A name can attract attention. King, Rowling, Lucas, Mirren, Wiig. One gets a sense of what to expect from a name. Skill also helps. The gorgeously constructed filmic world of Blade Runner, the artistry of The Night Circus, the vivid color of a Van Gogh painting, all require some ability on the part of the creators. And of course the medium makes a difference: television, music, sculpture, print, all have varying levels of accessibility to different audiences.

But in the end, none of it matters.

An artist’s name may get your attention. Their skill may impress you. The piece of work itself may be of a type you typically enjoy. But if that piece doesn’t move you, doesn’t touch you in some way, then it is a failure.

Daredevil is a television show. It is associated with names – Marvel, Daredevil, D’Onofrio – that may attract some viewers. Fans and critics consider it a well-made example of the form. Released on Netflix, it is easily accessed by a wide audience.

But none of this explains – and none of this generates – the emotional response the show has received. That is something else entirely.

And all that matters about art is how it makes you feel.


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