Friday, December 28, 2012

The Dangers of Having an Opinion

It's the new millenium and if you want to break into this wacky field of publishing new writers must dip their toes into the potential quagmire of Social Media.  It is the cheapest way to get your name out into the world.

It is also the fastest way to put your foot in your mouth, or having painstakenly gained a following, lose it because you are a human being with your own personal values.

The recent shootings in America has rekindled the old gun-control arguments.  I have an opinion on this.  An author I like to read has a differing opinion.  Needless to say, it has affected me and I wonder if I will read any more of this author's works.

This is the risk you take when voicing opinions on Facebook, Twitter, or blogs. Not such a big thing if you are an established author with a sizeable following, but when you are a small fish in a big pond, you might want to reconsider.  Every fan has the potential of selling an author's work to others by word-of-mouth.  Should you lose that fan, well, the opposite might happen.

One might argue this is my fault, that I'm not mature enough and should get over it.

Immature?  Then I should get over all the evil things Hitler did because, after all, he did pull Germany out of economic ruin, right?

Only a moron would bring Hitler into it.  /unfriend

An extreme example, but you get the picture.

I'm not telling anyone what to write on their blogs,  just be careful. Like it or not, at it's heart writing is a business, and like all good businesses, sometimes we have to make concessions to keep the customer happy even if it means biting our tongues now and then.


Congratulations Suzanne, and thanks.

When, at the end of 2011, Suzanne Church first told the SWG her intention of writing a blog post every week, we were skeptical, if not critical. After all, if you are writing a blog post, you aren't writing fiction, right?

But she did it writing some 52 posts in 2012.  Not just token "This is my post" paragraph either, but full blown essays on the topic of writing.  So, on behalf of the Gang, I would like to thank Suzanne for her efforts and congratulate her on a job well done.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Five Ways to Write During the Holidays

The holiday season always throws me off my writing game.

I love to cook. I love to eat. I believe holidays should involve several food comas.

When do I squeeze in writing?

Whenever I can.

Five Ways to Squeeze in Writing During the Holidays:

5. Brainstorm in the shower

No matter what's on the celebration agenda, you have to have at least one shower a day. Why not use that time to brain storm your current writing project?

This week, I plan to brainstorm every day, to come up with a rocking premise for Tesseracts 17.

4. Go for a walk

More specifically, go for a walk and bring your phone. Use the sound note recording feature to write while you're on the walk. You can find time to transcribe the details later.

Remember the food coma? Well if you don't go for the occasional walk, you're going to gain a billion pounds by the end of the holidays.

3. Exploit your captive audience

Last week, I suggested you read your comedy aloud to your guests to see how well the jokes fly. Reading aloud is always a good idea. Sometimes you'll get more ideas about how to edit, and you might even notice the occasional glaring error.

Not that you, or I, have any of those glaring errors. Right? :)

I've been working on a particularly nightmarish story for Night Terrors III and I hope to read it aloud to my guy during the break..

2. Submit a story before 2012 ends

If you're like me, you probably have one story that's ready (or a couple of reads away from ready) to send back out. And you'll feel better about your submission rate if you send out one more before the year is out.

I always find that submitting a story awakens my writing muse, and I almost always want to scribble down a few ideas, or a story start right after. Use this submission exercise to get the juices flowing and meet your hundred word daily quota.

Remember that story I'm going to read aloud and then send along to Night Terrors III? Well their deadline is January 1, 2013. So I'll either sub the story before Dec 31st to increase my submission count, or use it as a first sub for 2013.

And the number one way to make time to write during the holidays:

1. Make writing time your present to yourself

You know the scene. Everyone's ripping open presents and showing off their cool stuff. And if you have kids, they likely want to immediately play with said cool stuff. That's when you cash in one of your time-to-write cards

What are these cards?

Write down the words "I will write uninterrupted for one hour" on ten cue cards/old Christmas cards, or whatever using a BIG BLACK MARKER. Then wrap the cards and place them under the tree, with To: Your Name From: Santa on the gift tag.

Once I'm done posting this blog entry, I'm making up the cards and putting them under my tree.


Trust me, the more time you make for writing, the less guilty you'll feel by the end of the season.

And even if you only use one of those ten cue cards, you'll have the other nine to help you have a fresh start in 2013.

Do It Now:
Make those ten cue cards, wrap them, and get them under the tree. (Of course, if you don't celebrate Christmas, there won't be a tree, but you can still give the present to yourself in a non-Christmas/Christian manner.)

Start thinking about your writing resolutions for 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dying Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard

I looked up the quote that is the title of this blog, but no one is sure who actually said it first. But it is very true. Comedy is hard.

Hard to explain, hard to write, hard to deliver, and most importantly, it's extremely hard to get right.


Because if it was easy, everyone would be writing comedy.

Types of Comedic Writing

The Pun

Brad Carson, another Stop-Watch Gang member, is a master punster. While puns aren't my standard comedic MO, I do throw one into a story occasionally. If you're going to use a pun, make sure it fits in the story, or it will stick out like a sore thumb!

I would make a pun here, right now, but my thumb's still aching from the last one.

The Recurring Gag

Sometimes a joke will repeat throughout a story. Usually two times, but it can occur more often (although it might then feel "tired" if overused). I used to say to my kids, "Once is funny. Three times is annoying."

For instance, in one of my stories, the main character wakes up in yesterday's clothes and spends the remainder of the story looking rather ragged. Every time he meets an adversary, they usually say to him, "You look like crap." By about the second or third time, it's not funny for the protagonist, but the phrase is funny to the reader.


Think Monty Python.

Then go a step further.

For example:

What if five guys decide to make money by robbing the rich old guy in the neighbourhood? But once they break in, they discover he's a werewolf. And after the old man eats the first robber, his vampire friends arrive for their weekly poker game. And the remaining robbers have to hide in the bathroom (because maybe vampires and werewolves never pee), and then an army of silverfish pour out of the tub and it just so happens one of the robbers is terrified of silverfish, so he runs screaming into the midst of the poker game where the vampires suck him dry.

Okay, that doesn't sound absurd enough (yet). I will have to think about how much more absurd the situation could be. Robot zombie silverfish perhaps? :)

Satire and Sarcasm

Satire and sarcasm are my bread and butter.

In my authorial voice, my characters tend to be smart alecks who make blatant snaps at their friends whenever possible. Probably because I tend to employ sarcasm more often than not in my everyday life.

Sometimes, the best way to write a comedy is to take an overused story (like Cinderella or the Odyssey) and totally make satirical fun of it.

For example:

What if Cinderella is a guy who used to be a boxer and now he scrubs floors in a fish processing plant at night. And when he isn't invited to the ball, maybe he loses his rubber glove and it's found by a the gay millionaire owner of the fish processing conglomeration? Maybe they end up falling in love over a pile of fish guts?

Again, that doesn't sound very funny to me (yet), but sometimes comedy is all about trying new ideas and seeing if they float (Yay!) or sink like boulders (back to editing).

The Old Standard

Some jokes never get old. I've used many a classic, such as, Why did the chicken cross the road? and Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Yes, I had the audacity to use both of the above jokes in my chickens-take-over-the-world story, "Yummy Mutants" which appeared in Oddlands Magazine. As a matter of fact, I used every single chicken joke ever written in that story.

Which leads me to...

Go High or Go Home

If you're going for as funny as you can possibly be, then don't hold back. Add another joke. Then five more. Fill that story to its maximum joke capacity.

For example, in the Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein, Brooks uses just about every comedic trope. The man was a genius at never letting up when it came to packing in as many possible versions of comedy as possible: the sight gag, the running gag, the pun, the cliché, the absurd, the spontaneous, the eclectic, and the satirical.

And Marty Feldman simply cannot be beat in terms of comedic timing.

If you have not seen the movie, make time. See how many of the tropes you can spot.

Once you stop laughing and get back to working on your own comedy, I suggest you read your work-in-progress aloud. To an audience.

If they don't laugh, you have some work to do.

If they do laugh, but in the wrong places, then you have even more work to do.

Like most arts, your comedy will improve with practice.

Make a few edits, then read the new version to a different audience, and hope that you hear more laughs the second time around.

Lather, rinse, repeat. And repeat again.

Repeat a whole ton more.

You might get sick of the story, but that's okay. Because comedy is hard work, and if you're laughing every time, then you're on the right track.

To use yet another movie reference, Shrek is funny every single time. (The original movie, not the sequels.) The writers took a very long time to ensure they got the comedy right.

Do It Now:
If you've never seen Shrek or Young Frankenstein, then beg, borrow, or buy yourself a copy and watch them ASAP.

Write the first 100 words of a comedic piece. Read it aloud to someone. (It's a holiday, you're bound to have friends and/or family around.) Make notes of the funny parts when they laughed and when they didn't. Edit accordingly.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New cover art by Costi Gurgu

“Inner Diverse” by Nina Munteanu—second book of "The Splintered Universe Trilogy"— is released today by Starfire World Syndicate.

Cover art and design for this second book are by Costi Gurgu.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writers and These Things Called Blogs

If you're reading this post, then you read blogs. (Or at least you read this one.)


Yes, I'm asking a direct question. Responses to this question can be entered in the comments section. (You might as well scroll down there, anyway, because there's juicy stuff in the Do it Now section this week.)

Still not sure? Well allow me to answer the question.

Why do I, personally, read blogs?

(1) To catch up on my writer friends' lives.

My circle of writer friends live all over this lovely planet. One big cluster in the Toronto area (since Toronto is fairly close to where I live), many scattered across Canada (which is a huge geographical area), several scattered across the United States (because they are our big neighbours to the south), and a few scattered across Australia (because I attended Clarion in Australia).

Since visiting all of these people is financially and logistically impossible, I see them at occasional conventions, and keep up between cons via social media (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LiveJournal, Blogger, and the like).

Five years ago (pre-Facebook), LiveJournal was more active and I would read my friends' blog posts on a regular basis. Today, I catch snippets via Twitter or Facebook and then search them out via links to their blogs. Back then, having a blog presence was more important for a writer.

Now, most writers have a presence on as many social media as time permits them to update on a regular basis.

What if all of your friends live close by? Or you simply don't want to endure the nuisance which is posting all of your personal crap onto the internet?

Post anyway. Even if the process feels a bit silly, or makes you a tad uncomfortable, or you don't seem to have the time.

Do I have to?

Short answer: Yes!

Which leads me to the second reason I read blogs:

(2) To learn.

If you're a writer then you have information in your head about how this whole writing thing works. You understand on a fundamental level How To:
- put words on paper
- express ideas
- stay motivated
- endure rejection.

I've learned what I know (currently) about my craft from:
- workshops
- books on writing
- writing and receiving critiques
- reading other writers' blogs
- writing.

Notice how reading other writers' blogs is in the list. Writers write about the process. They whine when they're in the middle of the book and full of doubt. They jump for joy when they submit a round of edits to the publisher. They brainstorm when they're toying with a particularly difficult concept.

I find it comforting to share these moments with others. Hearing about their activities gives me hope that I might also experience these joys and frustrations. If not, (or if my experiences are slow in the making) then I can enjoy them vicariously in the mean time.

The old adage: Misery loves company is true. Especially when the majority of your work as a writer is done alone, in a quiet (or loud) place, butt-in-chair, pounding away at a keyboard.

So how else would you love all of that misery-company if not by reading blog posts (or posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.)

Which leads me to the third reason why I read writers' blogs:

(3) As motivation.

During NaNoWriMo, when all of my friends are posting their word counts, I get a little competitive. (Okay, a LOT competitive!)

At the end of the year, as people post their summaries of number of words written, number of stories sold, number of rejections received, etc. I also reflect. And my competitive juices flow like a river in spring.

Reading about how hard other writers work, gets me to thinking about how hard I will need to work to (hopefully) be at least as successful as they are.

Have I convinced you to read blogs?

Have I convinced you to start your own blog?

The cool part is that blogs are free to set up. (And it looks as though Blogger is winning over LiveJournal on the popularity/ease of use front.)

If you are a writer, and you've ever considered starting a blog, there's no time like the present.

You've got 19 days left in 2012 to come up with a good name for the blog and then set it up so that you can begin 2013 as a blogger.

You might not blog much at the beginning. You might not be able to think up a topic every week (or every month, or every day, whatever frequency you decide to aim for).

Keep blogging.

Keep writing.

And one day soon, you might find you have a following.

Or not.

What matters is that you try blogging. Even if only for a few days/weeks. Blogger does allow users to delete a blog if you feel as though the exercise wasn't right for you.

You'll never know unless you try.

Do It Now:
Like last week, write down the names of two authors who inspire you. (Yes, get a pen and paper and write them down if you skipped this part last week, or find the piece of paper if you did write them down.)

Now Google the authors to see what sort of presence they have on the web.

If the authors have blogs, read a few entries. If they don't, you might want to check out the following "popular" blogs for writers:

Neil Gaiman's blog. Need I say more?

John Scalzi's blog . Search on "taping bacon to cat" and you will not be disappointed. :)

Jane Espenson's blog archives . Although she is no longer an active blogger, you can find a ton of great writing advice in the archives here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Finding Your Voice

In my post on Beginnings, I defined voice as:

The tone or feel of a story, portrayed via word choice.

Voice is like the "flavour card" in front of the ice cream selections at Baskin Robbins, a few words that describe to you how the ice cream will taste.

Why is voice so important?

Let's face it...there are only so many stories to tell. Boy meets girl, hero saves the world, person follows existential journey to enlightenment, space ships explode, blah, blah, blah.

I've also heard the three main archetypes of stories described as: (pardon the somewhat sexist word choices)
- Man vs man
- Man vs nature
- Man vs himself

What sets your spaces ships exploding story apart from all of the others is a combination of your unique characters in your unique situation solving your unique twist, and told using your distinctive voice.

How is voice constructed within the prose?

As I said before, with the choice of words, and the order they appear on the page.

Usually, the sections of descriptive prose are the essential elements of the voice.

The description passages in your story are the places where you truly develop your own style or voice. Ultimately, your goal is for a reader to read a passage of your work, and then say, "Wow, that reads like a typical [author name] story."

I don't want to break any copyright laws, so I will provide examples from public domain works.

Easily Recognizable Voices:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,..." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Despite the fact that this man breaks my total over-use of the "it was" construct, this opening is considered archetypical of Dickens' style of linguistic creativity mixed with satire.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,...
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

This has to be one of the most famous romantic moments in written history. Shakespeare's style is a mix of the rhythm of speaking in the sixteenth century and his profound poeticism. His prose is rich and unmistakable.

Voice is tough to pin down, but I hope you're getting the idea.

If you review my post on Point of View I discuss how sticking tightly to the Point of View of your protagonist can affect the voice of the story.

If you re-read my post on Editing Dialogue, I point out that each character must have their own distinctive voice. Because character voice is also a crucial element of voice in general, I give you an example:

Dialogue Example:

A space ship explodes. Three characters in your story watch this explosion and each one of them comments on the event.

Person A: Emily, whose mother is on the ship:

"Oh my God! Mom!" Emily bursts into tears.

Person B: Gus, who set the explosives:

"That's how we do it in Bravo company, boys," said Gus.

Person C: Gus's talking robot sidekick, Planki:

Planki beeped, then said, "Sir, I suggest we leave orbit before the galactic police arrive."

In each example, the speaker has a different reaction to the explosion. Emily is crushed, Gus is proud, and Planki is worried.

Good dialogue should have a distinctive voice for each character, so that even if the dialogue tag isn't included, you should be able to tell who is speaking from tone and context.

Regardless of the specifics within dialogue, your voice is your calling card.

I've heard enough editors speak on panels at conventions who all suggested that the voice of the story is what piques their interest enough to purchase that short story or novel for publication.

The only way to truly find your own voice is to write.

And write.

And then write some more.

As you collect stories and plots and passages of description, a pattern will emerge. You will discover that aspect of your own voice, what makes you distinctive.

For most writers, this voice is a bit of a task master, compelling us to write. Often.

So get your butt in that chair and write some words down. And then write some more words. With any luck, your voice will surface.

Do It Now:
Write down the names of two authors who inspire you. (Yes, get a pen and paper and write them down.)

Now write three words to describe each of their voices. (No peeking in one of their novels for clues.)

Now write three words that describe your voice.

Keeping in mind those three words, write 100 words of throw-away fiction that encompass what you consider your voice.

Revel in the joy of naming your voice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rejection: The Necessary Evil

By the power of the people (via last week's poll), this week I will discuss rejection.

Rejection sucks.

Goes without saying, right? We all know how horrible it feels to be a pretty girl/handsome boy (depending on what floats your boat). But fiction rejections are a little different.

When someone rejects your story, they are not rejecting you (like the pretty girl/handsome boy did). They are rejecting your story.

Say it with me. Raise your right hand, and in a confident and determined voice say, "I am not my story!"

Feel a little better?

I know it's only a little, but bear with me.

When a market (an agent, editor, magazine, anthology, whatever) rejects your story, they are simply stating that your story is not right for their particular needs at this particular time.

For instance, (I love this example...I tell this story all the time) once I saw on a call for submissions to the anthology, Requiem of the Radioactive Monkeys, and I thought to myself, how cool would it be to write a story for that anthology?

So I wrote a piece of flash (they were calling for a maximum of 500 words) and sent it to them. They didn't buy my story. Sad face.

Things first got worse. I faced the there will be a flood of rejected radioactive monkey stories and no one will buy mine because they will be so sick of reading about the lives of radioactive monkeys.

So I waited.

And waited. But trust me, good things happen when writers wait.

When enough time had passed, I re-worked the story to about 1,000 words and started shopping it around and bam! Sold it to Doorways Magazine. Unfortunately, I don't think Doorways is still in circulation, but it was cool horror magazine while it lasted.

In this case, being rejected by one market opened up the opportunity to be accepted somewhere else, and to refine my story to a more comfortable/appropriate length. Trust me, often the next market might even be better than the one where you were rejected.

That has happened to me several times. And I know it breaks the rule of sending to the best markets first but sometimes, depending on when markets are open or closed and where you have other stories in queues, you can't always submit top-down. (But you should when possible.)

And now for some personal rejection-bragging... As of this morning, I have accumulated 314 rejections for my short fiction & poetry and 15 rejections from agents and/or publishers for my novels. (I honestly thought the numbers were that's making me feel a teeny bit better this morning.)

These rejections are like badges of honour. You should flaunt them, because it shows that you're trying. That you're sending your work out there.

No one will buy your story and publish it if the story sits on your hard drive and never experiences the opportunities out there in the world.

Writers must treat their stories like baby birds. Once they're ready we shove them out of the nest and hope they can fly.

Even if sometimes they hit the ground with a painful thud!

As I mentioned in my post on submission trackers you must keep detailed records of the places where you've sent your work.

For two reasons.

Reason 1: Bragging Rights

If you're going to brag about your acceptance and rejection rates, then you must keep accurate records of where they have been submitted.

Reason 2: Double Submissions Are Embarrassing

In the publishing business, editors really don't appreciate you sending a story back to a place where it has already been rejected (even if you've made substantial changes). Believe me, in three or five years, you might forget that at one time you sent that story to Magazine X.

So, are you still sitting at your computer (or reading your tablet), wringing your hands, feeling overly terrified/uncomfortable/some other yucky emotion at the notion of sending out your story?

You are not alone!

As a matter of fact, for one of the writers' groups that I belong to, some of our members find the task of submitting to be completely overwhelming.

But we have a collective cure (or at least a deterrent) for this affliction.

At our annual group dinner, if any member has gone one calendar year (since the last group dinner) without submitting a single story/query then they must wear a corset or bustier to the dinner.

No exceptions. (Seriously, even if you're a guy!)

So, you probably guessed it, we don't have a lot of guys in our group!

And to be honest, I've been known to wear a corset to the dinner simply because it's fun. But that's besides the point.

So if you're having real trouble fretting about rejection, set yourself a horrible punishment for not submitting.

Rejection is part of the gig.

If you choose to be a writer, you must develop a thick skin for rejections.

Remember, chocolate can be a strong ally in the battle against the rejection blues.

Do It Now:
Go to or Duotrope to find a market for a work that is sitting on your hard drive, ready to be thrown into the world.

Found one?

Great! Now send that puppy out into the world.

Don't forget you must send it out in a professional manner. For details, read my post on Market Listings.

Good luck, to you and your story. Let it fly and be free!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's Take a Poll

The right time to poll your followers, friends, family, whoever is anytime.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a little.

The great thing about a poll is that you can receive feedback on a difficult question. Especially if that question (or dilemma) is preventing you from moving forward.

Yes, I am referring to the dreaded Writer's Block, henceforth referred to as WB.

I've been whacked by WB more than once. I can only speak for my own experience, but I'm guessing that other writers feel similarly lost when:
- every idea you have seems hollow/lame/thin
- every writer around you seems to be as prolific as a bunny in heat
- every time you sit in your writing chair you have a sudden need to vomit (or snack, or drink, or make an important phone call, or shave the rabbit)

Sometimes trolling for feedback can help to re-energize your spirit, get you past the WB and back into a writing rhythm.

Okay, you've been convinced to poll. Which leads to: What question should I ask?

Here's where I admit that I have a degree in Mathematics, and that half of what makes for good OR horrible statistics is asking the right question. (Experimental design is hugely important, but I don't have the room for a full-on lesson here.)

Ask The Right Question

Examine and determine what you really want to know.

Because if you ask the wrong question, then your poll might make you feel worse than you did before you asked in the first place.

Poll Prompts:
- Once you establish situation blah, what should Character X do next?
- My ending could go one of two [or more] ways (spoiler alert!!). Which one will make you wish me dead and which one makes me look like a Pulitzer-eligible genius?
- I have five ideas, but only enough time to write one. Which one grabs your interest?
- I'm using a placeholder for my protagonist's name. Which possible name resonates with plot line Y?

Of course, numerous great poll questions exist. Feel free to Google your favourite blogging writers to see what sorts of polls they've set in the past.

Allow for Outside Answers

On both of my blog platforms (LiveJournal and Blogger) the built-in polling features only allow for either write-in answers OR choose-a-bullet answers (not both). That's what the comments section is for!!

If you're so stuck with WB that you're needing some outside inspiration, then allowing for answers outside the box is hugely helpful in the brainstorming department. Others might come up with a unique angle you were too blocked to consider.

Then again, too much choice can lead to feeling overwhelmed, blocking your ability to move forward.

Include a Deadline

Let's face it, sometimes deadlines are the only motivators that work for many of us.

Would you pay your Hydro bill if you didn't have a deadline? (Especially when they have the power to cut off your electricity if you don't pay by a certain date.)

Make sure your poll has a clear cut-off date. Then you'll be sure to get the feedback you need within a reasonable amount of time.

The Fun Factor

Maybe I'm weird (okay, I know I'm weird), but I love to fill out polls. Clicking those buttons can be exciting. Especially when I believe my opinion will matter.

And hey, don't we all assume that our opinion matters all the time.

It does matter.

So if you're feeling the itch to fill out a poll today, feel free to answer our poll to the right.

Yep over there---->

Still itching? Visit my choose-a-title poll on my personal blog.

Do It Now:
Please consider answering our poll, or visiting my choose-a-title poll on my personal blog..

It's NaNoWriMo. Get back to work and write another thousand words. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Titles - AKA the Bane of My Existence

Titles are crucial.

Titles set the stage.

Titles grab the reader, enticing them to read more.

Coming up with a title sucks.

Serious, epic, suckage.

To be effective, a title must:
- capture the reader's interest
- say what the story is about
- establish the story's voice

Yes, that's right, I'm repeating myself. You might have noticed that the three items above are exactly the same requirements of the beginning of a story, as discussed in my post on Beginnings.

The reality is that a title must work as hard as the beginning of a story. Because if the title doesn't catch your reader's interest, then they aren't going to read the beginning, are they?

Capturing the Reader's Interest: The Hook

The title should have a "hook" that reels the reader in, like a fish on a line.

Sometimes irony provides the hook. Title example: Calm Chaos.

How exactly can chaos be calm? You want your reader to jump into the story to find out.

Sometimes an intriguing quote provides the hook. Title example: Destiny Lives in the Tattoo's Needle.

What sort of destiny can be inside a tattoo's needle? The title essentially poses a question or theory that the reader will want to explore.

Feel free to read about other types of hooks in my post on Beginnings.

Saying What the Story Is About

Often, the title of a story or novel will give the reader a good idea of the upcoming plot and/or theme of the work.

Including this aspect in a title makes the marketing department sigh with relief.

Librarians will be able to remember in a snap what your book was about and recommend it to potential readers.

Establishing the Story's Voice

I know, I promised to do an extended post on "voice", but still have not delivered.

Quick definition: Voice is characterized by the tone or feel of a story, portrayed via word choice.

Voice is like the "flavour card" in front of the ice cream selections at Baskin Robbins, a few words that describe to you how the ice cream will taste.

Wherever possible, the title should illustrate to the reader a sense of how the story will feel. Will the tone be sarcastic or literary? Is the main character a pill or a logic-crazy savant? Will I flip through the pages like candy in a state of insane tension or will I pause and reflect on the lyrical prose after each rich chapter?

At this point, you're probably wondering why titles are the bane of my existence, my nemeses. And they really are.

As a matter of fact, over the last few months I have been agonizing over the title for my upcoming short story collection. We're talking multiple brainstorming sessions, emails back and forth with the editor (and the copy editor), long car rides with my partner, sessions with the Stop-Watch Gang, dinners with fellow writers, the whole enchilada.

Do I have a title yet?

Not a freaking chance!

***This is where you come in, my dear readers/audience/friends/enemies/others.***

I need a title for my collection. SOON!!

For a list of the titles of the twenty stories in my collection, check on my personal blog (maybe not tonight, because it's getting late) but in the next few days (assuming I hit my NaNoWriMo targets each day).

I would appreciate any and all suggestions from the ether.

If/when/once I manage a short list, I will post a poll, probably on my personal blog.

***Thanks in advance for all of your help.***

Titles are essential. You need to rock them, big time! Even if you want to kill them at every opportunity.

Which I do.

Pretty much.

Do it now
Skim through your current work-in-progress for the coolest sentence that would make a great title.

Think about some titles for my collection and post them in the comments section.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Masked Mosaic Cover

Here is the new cover art for Masked Mosaic, the new anthology of Canadian-themed Superhero fiction of which my story, "A Bunny Hug for Karl" will appear.

Here is the accompanying blurb:

Thrilling Tales of Canadian Superheroes… and Villains!

75 years ago Canadian cartoonist Joe Shuster co-created the world's premier superhero: Superman. Over the decades the genre has gone from camp to counter-culture, from pop art to postmodern, from noir to new wave. Today's superheroes feature in bestselling novels, hit TV shows, Hollywood blockbusters ... and Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories.

Mexican luchadores wrestle primordial evil in Vancouver … The Intrepids battle Nazis in Nova Scotia … A mysterious masked man rescues an adventuring heiress in a steampunk Gold Rush–era Yukon … Zombies and ancient Viking magic are unleashed in downtown Toronto … A godlike oracle wanders Calgary with her cyborg handler … The fearsome Iron Shadow stalks the streets of Kingstonia … The Coachwhip and Cat-Girl fight crime in lurid wartime Montreal …

In these 24 all-new tales Canada's most daring writers reimagine the super genre from its outer limits to its pulp origins, exploring the diverse landscape of Canadian identity and geography.

With stories by:

Marie Bilodeau ~ Chantal Boudreau ~ Kristi Charish ~ E.L. Chen ~ Michael S. Chong ~ Kevin Cockle ~ Emma Faraday ~ Patrick T. Goddard ~ Alyxandra Harvey ~ David Nickle ~ Silvia Moreno-Garcia ~ D.K. Latta ~ Michael Matheson ~ Derryl Murphy ~ Jonathan Olfert ~ Rhonda & Jonathan Parrish ~ David Perlmutter ~ Lisa Poh ~ Jason S. Ridler ~ Rhea Rose ~ Mike Rimar ~ Jason Sharp ~ Emma Vossen ~ A.C. Wise

Featuring an Introduction by Mark Shainblum, creator of Northguard


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Just Because You Can Write, Doesn't Mean You Can Read

In the title, I'm not referring to the act of reading to yourself. I'm speaking about reading your fiction out loud to an audience.

I spent this past weekend at World Fantasy Convention (WFC) in Toronto. By the way, I had a fantastic time and thought the Toronto organizing committee put on a fabulous show!

At WFC, I attended several readings. Some readers were up-and-coming authors, others long-standing, renowned professionals, and other writers fell somewhere in between with respect to their careers.

After sitting through several good ones, an absolutely brilliant one (Robert Shearman - if you have the opportunity to go to one of his readings, you must attend.), and one during which I fell asleep, I thought I had better share my two cents on the best way to rock a reading.

Five Steps to An Awesome Reading

5. Choose Wisely

Truly sage advice.

Even though you might be working on the most brilliant novel of your career so far, and you would really like your loyal fans to hear a glimpse of the words that will be separating them from their hard-earned money, think before you select what section of this brilliant work you will read to them.

Wise Choice (A) - Impulse Buying

I can't recall who said so, but one important criteria when choosing what to read is to pick something the audience can run out and buy as soon as your reading is over. Because if they loved your reading, then they will be eager to hear the rest of the story and the dealer's room is conveniently located steps away.

Hey, there's a reason they put the candy bars right beside the checkout at the grocery store.

Wise Choice (B) - Snappy Dialogue

Choose a section with some fabulous dialogue. With the caveat that too many accents can be a problem. I stink at accents, so I tend to deliberately NOT choose sections of dialogue that involve my pathetic attempts at foreign accents.

As you read the back and forth between your two amazing characters, the audience will be more involved, as though they're overhearing a conversation full of juicy gossip.

Wise Choice (C) - Less Description, More Action

Don't select the section that involves four pages of description of a tree. Those might be your most lyrical and critical-acclaim-worthy words, but without some forward momentum, your audience might sleep through your brilliance.

Better to choose a scene involving some action. Death, dismemberment, comedy, explosions, whatever makes the audience sit up and say, "Wow." Think about the sorts of moments that are often chosen for movie trailers. These are the moments you should select for your reading.

4. Practice First

Before you ever read that section of your novel/story/poem aloud to an audience of your peers/fans, you should read it aloud to a safe audience. Inflict this first-pass torture on your partner, your kids, your writers' group, your stuffed animals, whatever.

Last weekend, I had one reading of my story, "Death Over Easy," from Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper at the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing party.

I had never read that particular story to an audience before. So I did a quick practice run with the Stop-Watch Gang at our group's dinner. Not only did I figure out where to stop reading, but I also worked out the voice I would use for Death.

3. Less is More

I have used this phrase before, especially when writing dialogue. Well the less-is-more philosophy also applies to readings.

The last thing you want is for your audience to get bored. Who doesn't loathe the glassy-eyed, I-stopped-listening face?

I prefer to read short excerpts from several stories during a half-hour reading slot.

This snippet approach provides several advantages:
- the audience will get a sense of the breadth and depth of your portfolio
- short breaks between stories prevent glassy-eyed-boredom sickness
- you can entice them with snippets of fiction available for purchase as well as pieces that will be coming soon

The disadvantage to excerpts is that you will disappoint those audience members who wanted a complete story. Then again, they might be more inclined to buy the book/magazine/anthology to see how it all turns out, and that will fill you with the warm-and-fuzzies.

2. Wear Your Actor Hat

The audience members know you're a writer. It says so on the invitation/flyer/pocket program. But the writer-persona part of you that sits silently at a keyboard for hours at a time living in your own head is not all that entertaining.

So sorry, hate to break the bad news.

Let's face it. We've been spoiled by the over-abundance of entertaining actors/action all around us via television, movies, live theatre, even YouTube. When our readers absorb our words, all of that action, all of those voices come to life in a myriad of ways inside their heads.

If your reading isn't half as interesting as the inside of their brains makes you out to be, they might be so disappointed in you that every time they read your fiction, from that point forward, a piece of them will remember that you are not all that interesting.

And that's the kiss of death.

Take an acting class. Study news anchors and actors to figure out what makes them so compelling. Attend other authors' readings. Not only to see what the other authors did right but also to commit to memory and then avoid what they did wrong.

Of course, the practice aspect that I mentioned earlier works hand in hand with wearing the actor hat.

1. Be Yourself

Giant, unrelenting gobs of yourself.

Those audience members have come out to see an author. You have one cool job. You earn money to make stuff up.

You have the dream job. You make people happy. They look up to you.

Dig down, deep, to that piece of you that is so enthusiastic about writing that you are willing to sit with your butt in that chair for hours every day, simply to put words out there.

Be Shakespeare and Dickens and King all wrapped into one amazing package.

The more you give them, the more you rock their socks off, the more they will seek out your fiction. The more likely they will become regular readers.

This is your moment to shine. Do not let them down!

Do it now
Read one of your stories out loud to someone you trust. Watch them to see where the glassy-eyed-I'm-bored look begins.

Tonight spend five minutes watching something (anything) on television. Make a note of what the actor/news anchor/dude in the commercial did to either grab your attention or lose it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo: A Primer

Today is October 30th. In two days, the madness that is NaNoWriMo begins.

What's with the crazy capitalization weirdness?

NaNoWriMo = National (Na) Novel (No) Writing (Wri) Month (Mo).

Still have no idea what I'm talking about? Here's the 411:

- in thirty days, you must write 50,000 new words
- that's 1,667 words each day
- people all over the world participate
- not a word can be written before November 1st at 12:01am your time
- to "win" you must finish the 50,000th+ word and submit your story for verification by November 30th at 11:59pm your time

There are a thousand nuances to do with NaNoWriMo, and the website explains it all better than I ever will, so feel free to browse there.

Why bother?


Many of your writer friends will be posting on their blogs and Twitter and Facebook. You will find word count meters, rants about writers' block, and the occasional meltdown where they questions their career choice. The energy level surrounding NaNoWriMo cannot be matched if you're the type of writer who works better with a deadline.

Cool Tracking Tools

NaNoWriMo has plenty of shiny counters, graphs, and such to keep you motivated. I'm a numbers girl, so I am soooo motivated by all of the pretty charts and counters. Your NaNoWriMo buddies will be posting their charts too, so you'll have plenty of motivation, jealousy, superiority, and all of those other helpful emotions.

Theme Songs

People post songs, skits, etc on YouTube to chronicle their own NaNoWriMo journeys. My personal favourite is by iTalkToSnakes/Oh, hey Kristina!. She has two versions:

The original

The updated version


Most major cities (or geographical areas) have regional groups. I belong to two, one for Toronto and one for the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area because I spend time writing in both places.

These regional groups have meetings, parties, write-in's, did I mention parties? At these get-togethers, all of us crazy writers race each other, challenge each other, complain, party, or whatever. The leaders of these regional groups, called ML's (Municipal Liaisons) will bring swag to the meetings.

Yep, swag. Stickers are my personal favourites because I like to decorate my laptop with them.

The Novel at the End

I almost forgot! By the end of the NaNoWriMo craziness, you will have written a novel. Or part of a novel, at least.

Having personally "won" NaNoWriMo several times (that means I hit 50,000 words before the end of November), I can attest to feelings of:




Then, you look at the pile of dishes, the dirty laundry, and all of the other things you neglected during November and the feeling goes away. So make sure you have the celebratory cake before you look too carefully at your surroundings.

Have I convinced you to join in the frenzy? Are you itching to get at the keyboard?

I sure hope so. Because the more, the merrier.

If you would like to be one of my writing buddies, search for canadiansuzanne on the NaNoWriMo site.

Good luck to all of you who plan to give it a whirl. Oh, and if my weekly blog posts are a little late this month, just remember, I'm very busy. Yes, this is my apology...see the Do It Now section. :)

Do It Now:
Jot down a few ideas for plot and character so that you can delve in to the first few pages on Thursday morning.

Apologize to all of your family and friends now. Trust me, you do need to do this before the beginning of November.

Go to the NaNoWriMo site and set up your account now, so you won't be wasting time come Thursday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seriously, That's What You're Going With?

In my July post, She Ran Her Fingers Through Her Long, Blonde Hair, I made some suggestions on how to describe a character's traits. In my April post, Point of View Part 2 - Examples, I provided some examples on how to maintain a character's perspective and personality through the choice of Point of View (POV).

Both posts discussed different aspects of a character--their physical traits and their perspective. Most important, as a writer, you must consistently maintain all aspects of your character.

Yep. All aspects.

If your character has red hair and green eyes on page one, then they had better have red hair and green eyes on page 100 and page 500. (Unless your character must suddenly dye their hair as part of a get-away scheme.

Character traits can fulfill multiple purposes in your novel.

Individual qualities help the reader to distinguish character A from B from C (Bob hates snakes, Joe loves donuts, Dave is claustrophobic).

The dialogue will blossom into full-colour if each character has a unique way of speaking. (Bob cracks jokes, especially when he's nervous, Joe over-uses food metaphors, and Dave likes to use big words to prove how smart he is.)

For example:

"Oh, look, my favourite snake," said Bob. "I don't know why the asps didn't drop out of the ceiling sooner!"

"Anyone got a rat?" said Joe. "Because we could wave a rat in front of it, distract it, you know? Or a donut? For all we know snakes love donuts."

"Seriously?" said Bob. "Donuts and Rats? Is that what you're going with?"

"Don't move!" said Dave. "Although only 4% of bites from
Vipera aspis are fatal, the victim can experience extreme pain."

Imagine, having to delete each dialogue tag. Would you still be able to tell which character was speaking? If you can't (not even a little) then you should probably put more thought into the individual speech patterns for your characters.

Another writer technique is to jack up the tension and give your characters more to fight for by using their weaknesses to torture them.

For example, since Dave is claustrophobic, torture him by forcing him to crawl through an air vent, or hide in a tiny closet, or crawl under a collapsed building to save his true love. Make sure the reader remembers that Dave is claustrophobic, because then the trapped-in-a-tiny-space scene will be infused with all-the-more tension.

The more heroic, stubborn, enigmatic, romantic, or determined your character behaves, the more your reader will root for them. Think Harry Potter and all of the ways that he overcomes adversity to face obstacles like Voldemort.

If your character is stubborn with her friends, stubborn with her parents, and stubborn at work, then she had better be stubborn when her BFF arrives in the ER and needs an advocate. During that crisis, she had better show some cracks due to pressure, but she also has to act in a consistent manner.

Because if your character loses consistency, then you will lose your reader.

"It's the structure that saves us," is one of those mantras I live by. Keep track of all of your characters' weaknesses and strengths, loves and hates. Use a notebook, a spreadsheet, or one of those writing software programs to track the details.

Feel free to use these traits just as often to put your character in dire situations as you do to provide your character with the tools to save the day. And your reader will be flipping pages waiting to hear what happens next.

The reader will care about your characters. Ultimately, that's a writer's main goal.

Before plot.

Before setting and atmosphere.

Before marketing demographics and sentence structure.

Make the reader care. Because when you're consistent with all of the pieces that make up a character, the reader will feel as though they know your character, and would invite them for coffee if they could.

Do it now
If you haven't already, jot down a list of all of your character's most important traits.

Now write a scene where your main character is forced to either:
a) confront their worst fear,
b) lose the person they couldn't possibly live without, OR
c) lose a piece of themselves that matters most. (surgeon loses his hand, musician loses their hearing, etc)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Collaboration: Salvation or Torture?

Collaboration (as defined by the Encarta Dictionary that comes with MS Word) is "the act of working together with one or more people in order to achieve something."

Some writers enjoy collaborating. They will seek out other authors who write with similar styles and the two (or more) will work together on anything as short as a poem and as long as a series of novels.

It's not a requirement that the two writers have similar styles. After all, no two voices are exactly alike. But when the two styles differ by too much of a chasm, then the passages written by one writer will be painfully obviously different from the passages written by the partner.

The good side: Collaboration as Salvation

Time Constraints

Remember last week, when I talked about how hard it is to say no? Well sometimes we don't want to say no to a great opportunity, and then we end up with too many projects and not enough time to complete them all.

Collaboration to the rescue! Your partner could be finishing the rough draft on project X while you're doing the edits on project Y. With this assistance you are more likely to meet the two deadlines.

Energy Constraints

I'm not a spring chicken. And I've had a pretty rough year with respect to health issues, from pneumonia in June, to some significant arthritis pain right now that's making it painful to sit at the keyboard. (Plus some test results I'm awaiting that are adding massive stress to my plate.)

If the two of you have been churning through a project, then each of you can pick up the other's slack when health is an issue. The only real problem occurs if you're both knocked on your back at the same time. (But that's pretty rare in my experience.)

The Second Opinion

Last weekend, I enlisted the assistance of my partner to navigate a few copy edit roadblocks. Without his help, I honestly believe that I would be no closer whatsoever to submitting the edits to the publisher.

The two of us literally spent hours grinding through the three toughest stories. On a couple of items, I believe we argued for over an hour about one word. I'm not exaggerating. ONE. WORD.

He kept me on track. He forced me to push through. He made suggestions to sections that I was too close to, no longer able to see the forest for the trees. And even though the going was tough, at the end, we both felt energized by the experience.

The bad side: Collaboration as Torture

You Don't Play Well with Others

Remember back in grade school, when part of your report card explained how well you interacted with your classmates? Well, if you were the sort of kid who always received a "needs improvement" rating, then perhaps collaborating isn't right for you.

If the thought of someone else messing with your baby, writing passages you hate, editing out parts you loved, and generally making you feel as though they're ruining everything, then RUN, don't walk, away from collaboration.

Compromising Can be Difficult

Writing is full of decision making. And in many instances, you might have to compromise over what you originally thought you wouldn't budge over. These compromises can turn a healthy working relationship into a teeming stink pile of resentment.

I remember Sean Williams speaking on collaborations. He said one of the most important decisions is choosing the person who has the final say. Because in some instances, you may never come to a consensus, so someone will have to make the final chose over an issue.

The final say extends to incorporate the final edit. Before you begin the collaboration (don't wait until the last minute), you must clearly decide (preferably in writing) which one of you will have the authority to do the final edit of the manuscript. Otherwise, your "final read" might turn into a hundred "final reads" and no one wants that!

Essentially, you must pre-decide who will be forced to compromise over a tough call.

You Haven't Yet Found the Right Writer

Collaborating on a project as huge as a novel is almost as difficult a commitment as moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Sure, things have been churning along nicely, but then all of a sudden, he's leaving his dirty socks on your favourite chair or she's leaving the cap off the toothpaste, and to your utter frustration, you get home after a tough day at work and they've eaten the last slice of leftover pizza!

"OUT!" you shout. "I can't take one more minute of your blah blah blah!"

If you're considering collaborating on a large project, do a test run on something shorter, just to see how well the two of you can work through the rough patches. You might learn a valuable lesson that could save you hours of anguish. Better to put the quick effort in first, than to ruin a friendship later.

Like most things in live, collaborations have advantages and disadvantages. Be sure that you know yourself, and you have a good idea about the other person, before you commit to a collaboration project.

Do it now
Look over your hard drive in search of a story that stalled you. One with promise, but that you never had the heart, desire, or any idea how to finish.

Consider whether you would like to email this work-in-progress to a fellow writer who might enjoy the challenge of bringing the story to life.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saying No, Even When You Don't Want To

Writers need to write.

The urgency bubbles somewhere deep inside and when we get inspired, the craving is like a freight train pounding through town with broken brakes ready to flip over on the next sharp turn. Those moments of inspiration (especially for projects that appeal to us like candy) keep us busy, keep us occupied, and keep our heads in the game.

Then another opportunity comes along. Maybe you've been invited to submit to an anthology, perhaps even for the first time.

Oh boy, you think, what a fantastic opportunity. I so have to write a story for that one.

Simultaneously, a big-time publisher like Harper Voyager opens a short window for unagented submissions until October 14th and your novel's pretty ready and you simply must throw your hat in the ring.

Over on your friend's blog, you discover that the deadline for Ontario Arts Council grant proposals is Oct 15th and having the money to take some time off work to really write would be so incredibly amazing that you drool at the idea of that action.

But what about those copy edits that your editor has been tapping their foot waiting for? And this week, your writing group is expecting a submission.


How in the heck am I going to manage all of these deadlines?

Go big or go home

Choose the project that will generate the biggest benefit. How you measure benefit is up to you, whether it's prestige, money, or some other yardstick that is crucial to your writing goals. But aiming for the top is always a good idea, especially if one of your goals is to keep pushing your writing career to the next level.

Start with what's ready

Most of us have several projects in the hopper. Short story A has been close to submission quality for a while now. Novel B just received a rejection, and it's pretty much ready to submit again. Idea C has been percolating in your brain and you've been looking for an excuse to pound out that narrative.

If one of these projects is ready (or close) to submit, you could truly benefit from subbing it while this opportunity is knocking you in the nose.

Burn the candle at both ends

Times like these don't happen every day. Think of the pressure as the looming exam tomorrow. Most of us have stayed up until the wee hours cramming for a big test. (Although, I personally have always chosen a good night's sleep over those last minute prep sessions because I do NOT think clearly when I'm exhausted).

Only you know your limits. Work within them. Do not take this blog post as an excuse to push your body beyond what it can handle. Safety first!

Say No

I don't like to say no. Most people don't. But sometimes you have to open your eyes to the reality that you simply cannot do everything all the time.

Especially if you want to do the task properly, completely, at a top-notch professional level.

Which takes me to my week, and the choices I had to make when faced with all of these pressures.

I re-read the Harper Voyager guidelines and learned that the novel I've been shopping lately, the one that was recently rejected, is about 5,000 words shy of their minimum word limit.

Not wanting to miss this short window of opportunity, I considered my other complete novel, written a couple of years ago. Well I opened it, and it did meet the work count requirements, but it needed so much editing work, there was absolutely no way I could finish it by October 14th.

So I SAID NO to the Harper Voyager opportunity. Sad face.

And this week, when I wrote the first half of this blog post on Tuesday, I also SAID NO to finishing and posting it. Double sad face.

Suffice it to say, sometimes you have to say NO!

Saying NO sucks. But sometimes it's the right thing to do.

The alternative is to drive yourself crazy. And no one wants that.

I only have two hands and one brain, and there are only so many hours in a day.

Do it now
Take at look at your current to-do list. Can you say No to any of them?

If you can't eliminate the item, can you put it aside for a longer time frame?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Mowing the Lawn

I could've just as easily titled this post shovelling the driveway or raking the leaves because today I'm going to talk about repetitive drudgery.

And believe it or not, I won't be talking about copy edits, because I covered them last week.

The thinking process in writing is as equally important as the writing process--hands on the keyboard, butt in chair, and all of that.

I find that doing repetitive tasks is the key to unlocking the ponderer in my brain. That's the little troll who lives in my skull, who weaves magic phrases and whispers nasty delights that become fodder for my fiction. I won't call him my muse because that term sounds too whimsical for the ponderer.

My troll is a contemptuous (insert expletive here) who knows how to push my buttons. But I need him, so I allow him free reign.

He's also a bit of a prima donna, so he must be handled with kid gloves.

Hence the lawn mowing.

Whenever I perform a repetitive task, my brain is allowed the liberty to bask in the zen of the repetition. It's one of the few times I'm not so overwhelmed by other thoughts that I can singularly focus on not focussing and the pondering begins.

When I'm aware of the thought process, I first remember where I last left my characters and listen to:
- what they might say to themselves or others
- who they might turn to
- what they might do next
- which feelings might willingly (or unwillingly) erupt

The really cool moments happen when I'm not even aware of my thought process. After I've shovelled the driveway (and had a shower and some hot chocolate) I will sit down at my computer and bam! Suddenly I am absolutely sure of what to write next.

The troll did all the hard work. All I have to do is write his ideas down.

Sometimes the troll and I work together. These moments of cooperation are more likely to happen when I'm performing a task that is slightly less monotonous, but often something I do every day like showering, doing the dishes, or driving my car.

So the next time you stare out the window and realize just how desperately long your grass is, and that the neighbours are going to squeal on you to the municipality soon, don't despair. Don't procrastinate. Rush out there and mow your lawn!

Your neighbours will thank you. Your spouse will thank you (or release you from the dog house). And best of all, the next time you write, you'll be more productive.

Don't have a lawn to mow, or leaves to rake, or a driveway to shovel?

Do the dishes, clean your bathroom, vacuum the carpet, brush the cat (or tape bacon to it, because I heard that worked for John Scalzi).

Give your ponderer the chance to be brilliant. You can thank him later.

Do it now
Read the last few pages of your current work-in-progress, then mow the lawn. (Or do the dishes, or whatever.)

After your repetitive task, sit down and write. Even if it's only for five minutes. You might be surprisingly productive.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Time as the Healer of All Slights

This week, my biggest writing task is to work my way through the second round of edits for my upcoming short story collection.

Thank you. Your waves of sympathy are greatly appreciated.

On my first slog through the edits, I found the experience easy in some places (as if) and horrifically painful (more like it) in others. I asked myself many of the typical insulted-writer questions:

How could the editor so totally miss the point of my story?

They didn't miss the point. They were simply making a note of a particular aspect that wasn't as clear as it could be in the story since it didn't make the entire journey from my head to the page.

Of course that character did "X"! What else could they have possibly done under the circumstances?

Plenty, apparently. Perhaps the reason the editor was thrown from the story is because the gut reaction of my character wasn't gutsy at all, more like totally out in left field.

This suggestion isn't a copy edit! There's no way I'm changing the voice of the story. It will be completely ruined if I do. Right?

Not exactly. Because even though this edit feels like the most egregious edit of all freaking time today, on second (or tenth?) pass it actually is a tiny fraction of a good idea. Sort of. I guess.

This story was published (some more than once) or critiqued already. Many, many eyes have smoothed it over, so I'm certain it's perfect. Why mess with a good thing?

Because even a good thing can be a little better. Kind of like a dapper suit on a handsome man. He's gorgeous even when he first wakes in his flannel PJs, but put him in a Hugo Boss tuxedo and wowie! Hold the phone!

I've read this story out loud for many audiences. If I change it, won't they be disappointed, or claim that it isn't the same story at all?

Alienating your audience/fans is a legitimate concern. But chances are if I make the story better, then my readers will be happier. They might even send me fan mail, telling me how amazing I am and how much I've grown as a writer.

Yeah, I know, wake up Suzanne. You're dreaming!

Better is the key word to keep in mind. Everyone, from the publisher to the copy editor, to you, the writer, wants to put out the best possible product. The old adage is true--that's why it's endured: practice makes perfect.

The first time I worked through the edits, I experienced nausea, stress, frustration, incredulity, and a whole host of emotions. Just ask any of my writer friends because I think they all heard one (or more) of my many rants during the process.

But I took my time. I pondered. I changed passages, reverted them back, then changed them again. This process is completely normal.

The process of a successful edit takes time.

Lots of time.

Time is your friend. If you're working your way through a major edit, don't rush the process.

Sometimes shelving a work-in-process for a while will give you:
- fresh eyes
- perspective
- ideas you wouldn't have though of on first (or fourth) pass.

So give your project the time and consideration it deserves. And make sure you complain to your friends and not your editor, because you don't want to be labelled as difficult to work with.

Oh, and make sure you wait a couple of days and read over all your comments and edits one final time before you email the file back.

Because it's harder to take words back than to swallow your tongue.

Do it now
If you've been working on a project you're sick of, save it and leave it for a week. (If at all possible.)

Say out loud, "We're all trying to make the story better." Oh, and mean it.

Apologize to those of your friends you've been ranting to over the last while.

Okay, people, this is my official apology. I've been a pain. Thank you for your continued patience and support.