Monday, April 26, 2010

Voices In The Night

My three dogs sleep in the bedroom with my wife and I. The following conversation was overheard at around 3:00 am.

"I'm bored. Let's watch TV."
"Oh, yeah...say, why don't we just put on 'The-I-Don't-Have-Opposable-Thumbs-Show'?"
"I'm just sayin'. We could wrestle? Wanna wrestle?"
"No."
"Dad's asleep, he won't care."
"No."
---------silence--------
"Hey, Leo, I think there's someone outside."
"What? No, don't do this."
"I think I just saw a shadow. Yeah, there!"
"Please don't.."
"There's definitely someone out there."
"Stop before you....g-r-r-r-r-r"
"He's at the door!"
BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK

--------silence following much disturbance and shouting--------

"So, that was fun."
"I hate you more than the vacuum."

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Did You Find?

I have just sent Chuck Zaglanis, editor, my latest revision of  THE RAVENING. He had been threatening me, saying that if he didn't receive it soon, I would have to start watching "Glee". I already subject myself to "24". One Fox show is enough, don't you think?

But it occurred to me during the revision process what a friend technology has become for the writer. I won't spend a long time here dwelling on the internet, but instead let's look at a simple feature of Microsoft Word. I refer to the "Find" box. By entering the following search terms and examining each occurrence, my writing was stronger. Passive voice...be gone! So what are these words or phrases?

"that", "had been" "seemed" "was" and "and then".  Hmmmm...I seem to be missing something here. Ultimately, I've found doing this is more powerful than using Microsoft's pathetic "grammar check".

Unfortunately, I think I neglected to do this for the last part of the manuscript.  I hope Chuck isn't reading this.

Oh, and before I forget, consider using Wordle as well. Wordle is a cool little website that allows you to make word clouds. Try pasting an entire manuscript into the box and let the site do it's job.

It is one way of seeing what words you might be overusing and abusing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Penguicon...Really? Yep!!!

What do "Digital Storytelling", "Writing Groups--How To Start and Keep One Running" , "Non-Obvious Reflections of Contemporary Culture in Science Fiction" and "The Emergence of the Female Superhero" have in common????

Me!

Yes, it must be convention time...and your's truly will be on the above panels and annoying fellow writers and fans at other events during the upcoming Penguicon April 30-May 1. at the Troy Marriott.

Also in attendance will be such luminaries as William Jones, Patrick Rothfuss, Spider and Jeanne Robinson, and numerous other folks including Cherie Priest, The Ferrett, Jim C. Hines, Daniel Hogan, and many others whom I am looking forward to seeing again or meeting for the first time. Seriously, there's going to be a horde of interesting people coming together and some serious gaming fun. The organizers have done a great job of creating an interesting and exciting event with something different happening constantly.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Writing about writers writing about writing

Writers love to read about writing. I think it's more a reflection of our own neurosis than any genuine desire to improve ourselves. This is made especially apparent when one considers the crap that's out there.

That being said, I've done a search and have found some interesting links. Probably the most interesting being the one from the Guardian, which compiles several rules about writing written by writers. Among those listed are Elmore Leonard, Anne Enright, Neil Gaiman, and Richard Ford. Some of the rules are on the light side ("Don't be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov" "Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if he is one of those who committed suicide") and some are bit more serious ("Do it every day. Make a habit of putting observation  into words).

I also spied an interesting essay by Molly Young, who wrote in response to above Guardian article. I even found an interview with Ms. Young asking her about the piece she wrote in response to the article.

Some of the essays I read fell into the realm of education. This one was fascinating. It demonstrated how writing badly was a way to demonstrate or to learn how to write well. Don't laugh, take a look and think about it. The opening paragraph alone is worthy of repeating:

"Deliberately writing badly can be an effective way to learn to write better, because knowing when it's bad is an essential element in knowing when it's good. In terms of learning theory, the negative examples produced by writing badly help define what the positive examples are (Davis et al. 227)."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Who Needs Integrity?

"So, let's say that the publisher is the wholesaler who peddles the goods to the consumer, either directly or through a retailer. The author supplies the wholesaler."

She examined me with scorn. "That's a horrible way to look at it. What about art?"

What about art? I always ask fellow writers about their goals. Without exception, serious writers say: "To be read."

But when we start talking market, they become flustered and angry, feeling as though someone is trying to control their creativity. Yep, it's sad when the real world intrudes upon the fantasy, when we realize that writing is hard work and when we understand that compensation is often based on market forces such as supply and demand.

"I want to be read, but I don't want to compromise my integrity," she said.

"You find a need and you fill that need," I replied. "That's why you look at submission guidelines for publishers and why you examine what your audience wants. I can appreciate integrity, but how much integrity do you need to masturbate? Isn't that what a writer is doing when he or she writes for herself? The person who says 'I write what I want to write,' is a person whose gone blind and, or, has hair on his palms."

"You're crude," she said.

"I'm just expressing integrity."

"There has to be more than the market. I spent a good deal of money on a college degree. My MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) is worth more to me than an editor's red marks on my manuscript."

"That's the problem with going back to school, eventually you have to re-enter the real world and actually find application for what you've learned. You know, I once did a search for MFA and the job market. Pretty much the only real place for an MFA to use that degree is in education. Unfortunately, higher education is a hard nut to crack, especially since many schools are hiring less and less full time instructors and instead going with adjuncts who they can work harder and pay less..without benefits."

"You really are a cynical sonovabitch."

"I'm just channeling my inner Raymond Carver," I said. "Or one could find work somewhere in the shrinking publishing industry. Maybe work in helping edit a magazine. But then that takes us back to the marketplace, doesn't it?"

"I just want to write," she said.

"I want to be a movie star," I answered.

Mr. Demille?