Saturday, October 24, 2009

Calling it Quits: Read-a-thon Failure

One can never determine with certainty whether something is to one’s liking without trying it first. This is why I decided to participate in Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-thon even though I run with a personal apocryphal version without stating it officially and keeping with the update posts and such. I started at 9.00 am and seven hours later I called it quits and watched “9”.

My focus is non-existent. I see something shiny, hear something catchy and I forget what I am supposed to be doing and dedicating full attention to the shiny thing. Then there is the fact that I bore easily and when those two amazingly unhelpful qualities mix together you get a much unmotivated reader. From practice I know that two hours is as much I am physically able to provide for reading, but it never hurts trying.

However there is that matter of external forces at work that kept me from chugging in more pages for the seven hours I was struggling. Despite me generously giving computer access to my small sister on a weekend, she preferred to use me as a climbing facility and ask how far I am and how stupid this was etc. etc. etc. Apart from that my grandfather decided to use me as a custom searcher for spare parts in the local area and the cherry on top of the cake were the household chores. Around the 7th hour I got a major headache and no reading is possible. So here is the breakdown:

Dunraven Road: 248 pages – I managed to finished that the very least. It was dark and I kinda liked it. Certainly of the more realistic and modern gothic vampire fiction.

Flesh and Fire: 50 pages – I decided that this book is simply too amazing and totally undeserving to be devoured in one sitting, but enjoyed in small sips like wine.

Frankenstein: 50 pages – I was just getting into the story, when the headache struck. Damn it and it was just getting good. I love the language and phrasing. Pure music.

So I didn’t carry on with this properly, but if you would look at the sum of all pages you will see that I pushed my reading with a whole week’s worth, if we take into account that Halloween Week will be the Busy Week of Hell academically as well as creatively. This Saturday has been productive after all, but count me out for next time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Life Notes: 23.10.2009

I have been substituting reading with watching television, which naturally means that I am behind on my reading. The sudden buzz around the book circles that dabble more into books outside the speculative fiction that there will be a 24-Hour-Read-a-thon offered both a great way to at least chug up 3-4 short titles, restrain from using the computer and forget that the week leading to Halloween will kick my ass academically and creatively. I know I shouldn't be doing this for various reasons, but I don't want to play safe all the time.

As it happens my camera is enjoying a country tour with my mother as she is on a commercial tour with Russian executives in preparation for the winter tourist season 2009 and summer 2010 season. So I will be giving you the list with cover titles stolen from the Internet. I am a bit under the energy bar to post summaries and such, so click on the images for information.

I am not sure I will cope with everything, because I know how slow of a reader I am, but nevertheless this will help my schedule for November immensely.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Draft Notes: 22.10.2009


It has been a rather slow writing week after the cold entered the game that I like to call “Juggle with Life” and right during that time my Movie Fever manifested and still hasn’t eased up at all. I am a creature propelled by cravings and desires and when I have an itch nothing can stop me from scratching. I probably lost 60 hours from last Wednesday till now in TV shows and motion pictures, but thankfully the urgency to watch is waning.

First, I would like to start with the short story, because I decided I didn’t want to wait to the last minute possible to submit and finished “Lunar Hues” at 4, 340 words yesterday, though that may not be the actual word count, because I have been editing an older version instead of the one my mentor has critiqued. It will take me half an hour to adjust it, but nevertheless I am done with this one so far. I feel it’s the best one I have delivered, visually and stylistically. I hope my mentor will have the time to look over it, but since she is busy nesting I don’t have the heart to bug her that much.

4340 / 4340 words. 100% done!

About the novel… I have a few problems with SMH that result in this mental wandering in my creative landscape. First I am not sure what genre I want this one in and since a central tool with characterization is debauchery I hesitate on how to proceed. My auto censorship is flaring every time I decide to go daring and create a grizzly exploration of the human mind and moral compass, but then again what would happen if it just comes off as pornography. I think I am having the early doubts that I am the wrong person and this is the wrong time for such a story, but I can’t really control my sub-consciousness.

These hesitations on genre [either it will come off as paranormal romance or as shocking literary contemporary magical realism] reflect on my protagonist’s behavior and his voice, which is hellishly specific to get into right away as it is. As you can everything is chained together. I know what I want to do as genre [the shocking magical realism] and yet I have to fight with my inner censorship and possibly read books that are written in a more serious tone and possibly read “Dangerous Liaisons” to get my character as manipulative as possible. I have another novel in for research that I discovered recently.

As far as research goes I need to look into Amsterdam, Paris and Oxford as city, where the plot spreads. I didn’t do this sooner, because I knew that everything I would ever need as in research ideas would reveal itself later on.


10451 / 80000 words. 13% done!

So are interested in what SMH from the vague details I provided? And do tell how you approach research.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On Rejections


I had the misfortune of being caught in an angry shower last Tuesday, which apparently has short circuited my brain activity. A week passed in catching up with TV shows and movies, but I am back bouncier, more organized and full of analogies on writing topics.

This Monday test subject is the rejection letter aka the Axe, the Depression Pill, the Scythe that killed Creativity, the Big NO. Here is the deal and the faster you come to terms with the harsh day order the better you will adapt to the whole concept. Rejections are as common as the air you breathe and if you want to be published, say hello to rejections. It's a fact of life, which I am sure I am repeating for the trillionth time. So get over it or I am pretty sure publication won't come easy to you.

A few days ago I received a rejection on three stories aimed at the same anthology. Actually this one is the inspiration for this post. Thankfully these submissions are a mile away from my field and the initiative very spontaneous, so this rejection didn't stir up the hornet nest I call doubt, but rather poked my brain matter. Here are my brilliant and repetitive thoughts on the matter. Writing is art and you tell stories. Publishing is trade and you sell adventure, magic and love. From this point of view, the rejection is the minor setback to finding the right buyer.

A rejection is a rejection and every writer gets these. It's the way authors behave that separates writers from writers. For me there are two coping techniques: reactive or proactive.

The divas react, raise the dead from their graves with their screams, write dissertations to editors in the ever famous 'I am always right tone'. Up until the last MTV VMAs I had no code name for these people, but now Kanye West applies with full force. *pause for laughter* I am speaking about a lot of talk about greatness and no professional behavior to portray that.

The martyrs, now we carry our wounds with pride, because rejections wound our ego and self esteem, even if we are the only ones that see them. Also we go back to the beginning of the cycle that led to the rejection and hone our craft.

Rejections will always prey on our weaknesses and writers are miniature galaxies brimming with personal tragedies. It's part of our charm to be vulnerable and emotional. Everybody has doubts. I fear I will never see my name on a respected novel, because my native language is not English, but if you look at Ilona Andrews you will see she made it. I have a friend, who is dyslexic and still manages to make the magazines and sell stories and hopes to overcome her disability and write a novel. I hope she does, because she will sky rocket. There are countless reasons for this craft to be hard and make you want to quit. Rejections are the big bad bullies that taunt, tease and gloats.

However let's break them down on a functional level. Yes, rejections:

~ make you hurt
~ make you detest how business has corrupted this art form
~ make you hate your craft at times

but they also

~ weed out all those that are unfit for the industry from lazy writers to pseudo writers
~ harden your skin [totally applicable in daily encounters]
~ teach discipline and determination
~ is another reason to get back on your ass and write

So soldier, carry your battle scar and march on forward.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Link-Up Tuesday on Wednesday


Tuesday caught me on the down and unproductive side, so I decided to immerse myself in TV shows and get a break from the whole Internet buzz. Monday I was super busy, so I missed on my post. Today I will try to post a writing post after this link-up post.

Let's check what the Internet has as useful advice for writers.

~ Book View Cafe has posted a very informative post about Ways to Ruin Your Career and has backed up the claim with a very detailed example, which should teach us why manners are oh-so-important and always in style.

~ Mark Charan Newton has started posts on how to get a Novel deal speaking solely from his experience as a book speller. So far there are two instalments: Part 1 & Part 2

~ Over at the Deadline Dames there are two fresh posts that would be a news to people following the web. One is posted by Jackie Kessler on Agent Myths and the other is by Devon Monk and discusses what being a writer is and involves as side responsibilities.

Last, but not least I found this small gem on editing from Ask Nicola, co-founder of Sterling Editing. This video is invaluable to all those that keep struggling with dialogue:

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Write What You Know" means learn more


Monday, Wednesday and Friday are topic days, whereas Tuesday is reserved for interesting links and Thursday is my official word count progress day. The weekends I get to think only on fiction. I am not sure why I sidetracked, but thought it was worth mentioning.

Today, I chose to discuss an ancient writing advice that is handed out to every newbie and I guess it pretty much stands next to “Read, read, read” and “Write, write, write”. Namely:

"Write what you know"

Todd Newton discussed this one, accenting on writing a character in the opposite gender, but I was inspired by author Laura Anne Gilman on Twitter, who tweeted:

"Write what you know" means learn more.

I saw this re-tweeted by Tim Lebbon, who added ‘bloody well said’ and I have to agree with him, because otherwise literature no matter what the genre wouldn’t progress at all.

But before I get to the matter at hand, I propose a detour to analyze what this popular advice slash mantra implies. At first glance this is as obvious as it goes. A mechanic, who desires to publish mainstream, might be compelled to put his professional knowledge to good use, while a doctor or a nurse would have no issue at all use their years of experience as a weapon and advantage, while penning a medical thriller.

But the advice isn’t intended for the applicable knowledge given to us from life, but the breed of story we want to discuss. If a novice writer at the beginning of his/hers career has spent his whole life being fascinated by the coming-of-age traditional fantasy epic to the point he/she is intimate with the ins and outs and developments in the genre, then it’s advisory to start there. It’s exactly our interests, hobbies and inner culture, which program our starting parameters.

Although well intended I think that at one point this advice stops being helping and limits the writer’s development. To return to the alchemist analogy, I will say it’s similar to do varying interpretations on the same recipe with the same elements. A beginner alchemist knows only a limited number of ingredients and although it would be accepted to work with those elements until he/she practices other skills, it would be pointless to produce distorted echoes.

But what do? The advice stated, sticking to well traded grounds.

I have two propositions.

One: observe, learn and expand your own horizons. The Internet has countless web pages dedicated to various topics. To give myself as example I spent an hour researching homemade explosives for a 500 word flash fiction and I also spent a few days on bipolarity for another short story. For “Lunar Hues” I studied the various mid-phases and so on goes the list. Learning to write what you don’t know comes from reading those that do, especially when that means crossing into a different genre. As an alchemist one must observe nature, where most ingredients grow and see how the wildlife reacts to them as well as study those alchemists a few ranks up the ladder.

Two: write what you don’t know and boldly experiment. There is that risk that the cauldron might explode upon you vomiting something unreadable and befuddling, but in the end one might stumble upon a find. As an example here I would give with much detest Meyer, who has never read anything about vampires, which translates into not understanding the myth and the story involved with these mythological creatures and yet she earns millions from sparkling vampires. It’s pretty much how my relationship with mainstream and the romances is. I am curious to experiment with them, but without getting too far from my comfort reading zone.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Progress Report


Going back to yesterday’s topic I would also like to mention that it’s never easy to set and follow through your own deadlines, especially, if your motto states: “Sloth I abide”. For me it’s a mixture between this and a state of being scattered all over the place. I have yet to discover a formula to allow to do all the things I want to do and getting it done cost me two whole days with no writing accomplished.

But today I accomplished my goal and here is my word count stat for the time being:

5593 / 80000 words. 7% done!

SMH is the working title, which I will keep a secret as well as the genre and main story line and the characters. It’s going to be a very hush, hush project, since it’s a niche novel in general and I would be more comfortable to talk about it in detail, when I am done with the rough draft.

3500 / 5000 words. 70% done!

“Lunar Hues” is my current short story project and I think it’s safer to discuss since I am on the second edits and the deadline for it is safe distance away. The story is about shifters in a post apocalyptic world and I hope the anthology I am submitting to, doesn’t pull a submission change under my nose like it happened last time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On Deadlines: Definition, Breeds, Usage


Having earned a snippet of free time today I will speak about a topic, which more likely will resonate with writers and bloggers alike and that is deadlines. There is nothing radically new I have to say to those that have an idea what is to lead a social life and maintain a platform on blogs and other social media as well as trying to be a responsible fiction writer. Deadlines are the necessary or otherwise welcomed evil.

In straight text, deadlines represent the outward force that points a barrel at the writer’s head and gets those fingers typing. To continue my alchemist analogy, a deadline is the lit hearth. It simply forces the alchemist at work to get those ingredients in the cauldron and stir, mix and add new ones to the recipe at the according time intervals.

The deadline, always imposing as it is, sharpens the focus and usually under the urgency it creates prompts bravery to just write the story and experiment, when you don’t know all the right ingredients. It promises, if followed through, that the writer will type THE END. With no deadlines or no hearth if we are to continue with the analogy, the alchemist will have to get that cauldron heated by the sun, which will take a long time to accomplish anything. Or worse, keep revising the same recipe without ever experimenting to see the result.

Published authors, no matter what format they write in, face the external deadlines. The hearth has been lit, it’s burning and time is trickling in the hour glass, so they have to start typing or else. Novelists are bound by publisher contracts, while pro short story writers get pressed by official anthology deadlines. However, more than 50% of the writer population is unpublished. These writers do not have a hearth pre-lit especially for them, but they still have to get something done and their inability to set up and follow through internal deadlines is what leaves so many people saying they are writing a novel for as long as several years.

My philosophy here is that the deadline is not something that pops up from outside and gets you into writing gear. An alchemist doesn’t wait for a lightning to strike the hearth in order to use the fire. Deadlines have to be set by the writers, daily, in order for this writing gig we all fantasize about to become a reality. In this line of thought deadlines are actually a side tool that aids the writing process itself the same way the chisel needs the hammer to bring out a statue from a stone.

Setting deadlines is never easy, never enjoyable and it involves making time to write, making changes to one’s daily routine and setting priorities. See how everything is connected and one thing leads to another leads to another leads to another. In order to become proficient with all the skills and tools a writer has in his/hers possession one must first perfect the ways to create the proper mood for writing to happen.

On a side note, finishing a story is only one deadline marked. Submitting it timely is a deadline on its own, which is just as important. This is a lesson I learned from a missed deadline for a zombie anthology I was prepared for a week ago. Since officially a deadline was not announced I had allowed my daily routine to stir my mind into another direction, which resulted in a closed submissions’ status for this particular anthology.

So my advice. Get a note book and start making “What-to-do” lists, until writing deadlines both external and internal become imbedded in your mind. It’s what I am doing and I am accomplishing far more than before the notebook idea.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Link-Up Tuesday: Start bookmarking


Monday whizzed by like a flashflood and whisked me away on a journey outside the contains of the Internet, which left me with 150 more posts over at Google Reader, which I think have multiplied to 300 today.

I had a nice plan for a topic yesterday. Initially it was on novel beginnings, but then my mind stirred into different waters and I wanted to discuss either cover letters or on deadlines, since my sudden zeal to submit to anthologies involves an abundance of both. I was a bit bummed that I missed one deadline for a short story I had completed a week ago, but busy routine kept me from submitting. Clockwork punctuality is an asset I highly value as one of my strengths, but the free time I did manage to snag here and there was spent phoning my Internet provider to be informed that the servers for the whole city and region were down.

So I am moving along schedule and giving you Link-Up Tuesday, where I post what writing related posts caught my eye.

1. David Hewson speaks about the dreaded writer’s block in his post “Dealing with the so-called writer’s block”. I can full heartedly agree with the man. I would like to add that the majority of reasons behind calling in sick with the writer’s block is that you can’t always say the things you want to say the way you want them to sound. I find it quite vexing to have a spectacular visual and being able to relay it in its entirety, which results in a dwelling without much being written aka a writer’s block.

2. Nicola Morgan over at “Help! I need a Publisher” has been discussing lately why and how to benefit from the social networking as a means to create a sort of reason anybody using the World Wide Web should interested in you as a person and as a writer. This post is dedicated to the joys of Twitter.

3. Maria Schneider over at “Editor Unleashed” has posted a list of the top 10 blogs for writers to visit. So far I haven’t been able to investigate, but it’s bookmarked and will be read in great deal, when free time presents itself.

4. Last but not least “Literature Network” lists seven great tips for being a great writer. I have to say that there are some of the funniest advices that we all felt tempted to do and every single one has been argued logically enough to be believable and applicable for certain cases.

There is probably more, but I am looking at the very least 4 hours of battles with Google Reader. Next time I will have more for sure.

Friday, October 2, 2009

On beginnings and Warm Welcome

Everything has a beginning. Every journey, every story, every blog starts somewhere. There is that page one, the fated first step inspired by an idea and filled with resolve and purpose to do what a person has set out to do. But in life as in fiction it’s rarely about the end destination as it is about the road, the emotions and the events that transpire. Nevertheless that beginning is brimming with hope for an adventure and the realization of something good.

These are the exact same sentiments I hold for “Through a Forest of Ideas” as I am typing this introduction. Writing has always been a passion. There is mystique to pressing the pen on the page and bring a story into creation, the steady way a photographer develops his film and wills his view of the world from the darkness into being. And there is also that charm about the trance inducing clattering on the keyboard I find irresistible. There is always adventure and the whole plethora of human emotions involved as one embarks on a journey through one’s imagination and is willing to stretch, expand and rediscover one’s horizons.

However there is more to the enchantment of story telling. Penning anything from a poem, a short story to a full grown epic is a trial and error process I compare to alchemy. Every form and every format offers and sometimes even hides the tools and elements the writer needs to intoxicate his/hers readers and although there are a few basic formulas as in introduction precedes build-up and build-up is followed by culmination, there is a frighteningly vast creative freedom to do as you please. Every story told is a recipe forged through labor, care and dedication to the craft. Some recipes produce ambrosia, some recipes vinegar, but so is it with writing.

“Through a Forest of Ideas” is my public recipe book as I progress from apprentice to an alchemist in my own right and search the great wilderness that is my imagination for the ingredients I need.

For all the people, who have been introduced to me through my blogging before, I thank you for returning and exhibiting interest in what I have to say. I hope that you will meet a more mature writer. For those that are new to me I extend an invitation to stay and see whether you find my musings on the craft insightful or the very least entertaining.