Lovely Fall Break 

I am currently on fall break. While I have a lot of things to do, I also want to make sure that I take time to rest. The first part of the semester has been very intense, so I want to be sure that I don’t burn myself out.
I am also trying to recover some writing time, meaning that I’m trying to rediscover a time to simply draft.  I only need a little time–anywhere from half an hour to one hour–but it needs to be consistent.  I’m more dedicated when I can tie my projects to something that I already have to do. For example, I finished Kristen Britain’s The Green Rider just this weekend by reading a little bit each day with the nightly snack that I eat each day.

This is what I need for my drafting–to find a simple time when I’m at my most creative and just draft.  I may just have to do something similar to what I’m doing now, which is to compose on the phone.  It is more convenient, but it is also much slower.  Hopefully, I’ll find a good time/activity to help me get back into not just creating projects/revising projects, but also drafting projects.

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Whale Song Revision

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MTSU Writing Center, Image Source: Tucolla.Wordpress.com

Another short (and late) blog post.  I went to the writing center yesterday as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post entry and it was EXTREMELY helpful.  I had a short-story entitled, Whale Song that I’d sent out for a while before becoming frustrated by the rejections.  Specifically, when markets gave feedback on the story, they mentioned that the protagonist felt very “high-handed” and didn’t come across as sympathetic.

During the session, I mentioned this and brainstormed ways to combat this impression while keeping the core of the story intact.  With the help of my consultant, I was able to think of ways to both change the character as well as the structure so as to better tell the story that I wanted.

I will post an Author’s Note here when the revisions are complete.  There is an anthology that I’m hoping to submit the story to and its deadline is Nov. 1, so (in addition to the graphic novel and the rough draft of the short story I’m trying to create), I will be revising the story with this deadline in mind.  I keep you posted on my progress.

(Not) a Short Fiction Market Renaissance

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Science Fiction Fantasy Writers Association Qualifying Markets Word Cloud, Image Source: KLWagoner.com

I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast and one of the presenters mentioned that there is something of a short fiction renaissance market happening right now.  The presenter mentioned that there were more fairly well paying markets for short fiction (speculative–sci-fi/fan) right now and that in the past there used to be only the big three (such as Asimov’s, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog).  As someone who is currently “in the trenches,” I have to take a bit of an issue with that characterization of the market.

With all due respect to the presenters on the podcast, they are named authors.  They don’t have to worry nearly as much about the fierce competition from all of us unnamed authors trying to earn recognition and money in this system.  No matter how much people may say having a recognizable name doesn’t matter, it does.  I received another rejection letter yesterday (it noted that the story was well-written, but the publisher decided not to publish it (one of these days I may do a postmortem on a rejection letter in a blog post, but I digress).  That lowered my average acceptance rate (tracked via Duotrope) to 7.9%,.   Try going to your boss and telling him or her that you have succeeded in 7.9% of your tasks and because you’re doing more than others, you deserve a raise.

Also, what the presenters on the podcast don’t realize because they are both named authors and they don’t have to try to make a living at selling short fiction/this isn’t their primary “gig” so to speak, is that only half of the markets are available at any given time. Sure, there are a lot of markets, but many of the higher paying markets that they are alluding to are either “on hiatus” or “temporarily closed,” or worse yet, “permanently closed.”  Some even have fairly ludicrous submission requirements just to limit the number of submissions that come in.  Nearly half of the places where I’ve submitted stories to in the past are currently unavailable for submissions and those that are available either pay little to no money or are brand new on the market place (& usually can’t afford to pay writers or pay them very much as they have no audience yet).

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Fantasy Scroll Mag Cover (currently listed as DNQ on Duotrope at the time of this writing).  Image Source: nerds-feather.com

For example, Lightspeed, a well paying market is temp. closed and has been for most of the year.  The Leading Edge (where supposedly a couple of the named authors on the podcast got their start as listed in mag’s description on Duotrope) has 0.00% acceptance rate of authors who have tracked their submission through Duotrope and currently has an astounding 444.9 day(!) response time to authors who submit stories to them.  That’s a year and half (approx.) for short-fiction.  Imagine waiting 444.9 days for your next burger and fries!  One magazine is only open for submission 4 weeks out of the year (one week in Apr., June, Sept., and December) and if you miss those periods, too bad.  One magazine is only open for submissions between for about 24 hours every Monday/Tuesday, and I could go on.  Looking at my list of submissions, I see so many Temp. Closed, On Hiatus, Closed, Defunct, and Does Not Qualify (DNQ–the publisher has made some change, no longer lists guidelines, no longer accepts submissions from unagented writers, etc) listings that it gets harder and harder to find places that I haven’t sent the story (that actually pay money).

So, while I enjoy listening to the podcast and I have learned a lot about writing, and being successful in writing, I simply must take issue with the characterization that we’re in short fiction market renaissance.  I respectfully submit, having been in the trenches for way longer, that the waters are as turbulent as ever for writers trying to make a name for themselves through short-fiction markets so as to make the jump to the more lucrative novel writing profession.

Trying Something A Little Different 


I’m trying something a little new with my writing–I’m actually trying to write daily, but since I don’t have my computer (more on that in a different post) I’ve gone back to pen and paper.

What I’m trying now is to write a little bit a day and then over the weekend when I have more time take the writing on pen and paper and transfer it to the computer.

This is actually only the first week that I’ve tried this so I’ll report back here next week on how well I thought it worked out. I’m trying to be a more reflexive writer and be more aware of what works and what doesn’t.

I need to work on my consistency–I’ve known this for a while now, but I haven’t really put any strategies in place to help me, so I’m trying this out in the hopes of becoming a more consistent (and successful) writer.

Rough Draft vs. Working Draft

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Image Source: WikiHow

Rough Draft = Present Tense (Visualizing the story)

When I write the Rough Draft for my stories, I’ve discovered that I tend to write in the present tense in order tell myself the story.  This where I “Tell, don’t show.” When I write my rough drafts, I could almost call these “discovery” drafts because I’m discovering the story and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  I’m trying to accurately put on paper the visuals that I see in my head and that means that I’m not worrying about the audience.  I’m trying to make sure that my plot makes sense (what’s happening in the story), the characters make sense (their motivations and why they do the things I envision), and the setting makes sense (where everything’s happening).  This is where all the notes that I’ve taken/written down about the story get put into the structure of a story (Exposition, Opening Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action/Resolution) to see if they work correctly as a story.  I’m simply relating to myself what I “see” in my mind and trying to accurately form/shape it into a story.

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Image Source: CUCSA cucsa.org.uk

Working Draft = Past Tense (Dramatizing the story)

The Working Draft is sort of my shortened name for a “Work-in-Progress Draft.”  This is where I do the REAL work for the audience.  This is where characters names get finalized, this is where dialogue becomes more than a place holder and is what I believe that the characters really would say.  This is where vivid details and description comes into play, this is where I really begin to try to “Show, don’t tell.”  I try to find places to show emotions, to appeal to the five senses, and to foreshadow events crucial to the rising action and the climax.  This is where my goals as the creator meets the needs of the audience.  How can I best tell my story (that I came up with in the Rough Draft) that engages and exhilarates the audience?  What techniques or effects can I use to maximum effect?  This is where I do the “hard work” of writing.  And the cool thing is that it isn’t set in stone–if I’m happy with the draft, I can stop and move onto the editing and submission phases, but if I’m not happy, I can go back and fix what isn’t working (which I did for the ending of Silence Will Fall) or I can start all over and re-draft the whole thing again from scratch–which I plan to do for Rocket-Man.)

I believe that a lot of my trouble (& I would suspect other writers as well) comes from the fact that for stories where I don’t lay the groundwork and do the rough draft (or the outline, or any of the other myriad words for prewriting), I find that the Working Draft RARELY (if ever) matches the vision that I had in my head for the story.  And the opposite is true, I find that the more I use rough drafts and the more I use prewriting strategies, the more confident I am in the writing process and the more enjoyable the Working Draft stage becomes.

They Call Me, Mr. Lobot

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Image Source: Star Wars

Earlier this spring, just after school was out for summer, I found myself wanting a pair of bluetooth headphones.  My wired headphones (Sony) lasted quite a while, but finally went to the great headphone round-up in the sky some time ago.  I’ve found that, for some odd reason, my engagement with my writing improves when I’m listening to music.  It improves tenfold when I can shut out everything else with headphones and just become one with the music.  My uncle was HUGELY into classical music and every afternoon and evening when I came home from school, I did my homework with music playing in the background.  I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a dancer and I don’t think that I can dance (I only move in time with the music; I’m not sure that on any planet where there’s human habitation could you even begin to call what I do dancing–probably not on any alien planet, either, but I digress).

As an adult, I’ve found that I use music sporadically–sometimes I put it on and the projects seem to go much better, smoother, and easier.  Sometimes, either I feel I don’t need it, I’m not in the mood, or (like previously) I don’t have the right equipment (i.e., no headphones) and I’m not nearly as effective as I once was in writing (& then I wonder why nothing comes/or I can’t get to come out the way I see it in my mind–go figure).  I really wanted a pair of Apple Airpods, but they were too expensive at the time and were going to take six weeks to ship, so I looked on Amazon and found a pair that I really liked and that were fairly cheap as I plan to get Airpods later in the year.

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Image Source: Apple

So I bought a pair of Senso Active Bluetooth Headphones (pictured below).  However, I didn’t realize that the bluetooth earphones were as big as they were.  When I put them in and then looked at myself in the mirror (with my bald head), I discovered a distressing fact: I looked like Lobot from Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back.  For this reason, I’ve not really worn them for any length of time until today.  Today I discovered just how much that I’ve missed the music and how much music plays a role in my writing/creativity.  All those years of listening to classical music during the school year and doing my homework and all those years of jumping around to WJTT Power 94 in the summer has really “wired” (or perhaps “re-wired” my brain) as I seem to enjoy a boost to creativity to my writing when I’m listening to music and it is a palpable increase.  Even as I write these words, looking for all the world like Lobot, music is coursing through my ears into my brain and the words are flying out of my mind and on to the computer screen.  My bloody fingers can’t even keep up; if it wasn’t for auto-correct, then this post would be filled with typos.

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Image Source: Amazon.com

The point I’m trying to make is that even though I look foolish, the boost in creativity (& hopefully productivity) is well worth it.  So call me, Mr. Lobot.

Hope I’m not Overdoing It

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Image Source: Pinterst (Calvin and Hobbes, Created by Bill Watterson)

Every since I was a lowly undergraduate, cruising the English Department offices at U.T. Knoxville (& later U.T. Chattanooga) and seeing all those wonderful English related comics strips taped to professors doors, I’ve thought to myself that I’ve always wanted to something like that “when I grew up.”

I’ve never been one for customizing my “workspace” as the colleagues who I worked with at the public library can attest and I’m rarely at my workspace to begin with if I can help it.  However, you could always find one or two comic strips (like the one I found above by Bill Watterson) adorning my workspace in some capacity–either on the desk itself or in a drawer or stuck unobtrusively to a wall.

Now that I’ve completed a year at MTSU, I’ve begun to do the same with the small cabinet  that I was assigned in the Graduate Teaching Assistants office.  However, for some reason, I also find that I want to add copies of the first pages of my published work.  I hope I’m not trying to “show off” or “impress” the other G.T.A.s (nothing good comes of me trying to show off–I’ve learned that  through HARD experience).

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Image Source: Greensoul

Yet, I feel the need to customize my space, and to say, “hey, I’m a creative writer and this is what I do.” Perhaps, it is because at this level, creative writing is somewhat frowned upon.  There’s this idea that you’re not a true academic, that you’re not truly one of us, if you’re not writing papers for conferences, for (academic) publication, and for scholarly pursuits.  Perhaps, customizing my workspace is my need to say, “no, my creative writing is just as hard and matters just as much as your academic writing, maybe more so, because I’m doing both . . . your academic writing and my creative writing.”  I just hope that I’m not overdoing it and setting myself up for a fall.  It would be awesome to be able to put clips from both cartoon strips and my own published writing on my very own office door one day.