estepheia: (Writing)
A wonderful speech! Neil Gaiman is awesome!

Spock

Sep. 15th, 2011 05:59 pm
estepheia: (Spock)
I absolutely adore this video.
If only I knew how to download it to my ipad for keeps, so I can show it to my colleagues....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOMJsZ_XrZc
The song is so so, but the vid never fails to cheer me up. :)

Has anyone else tried out Alan Watt's The 90-Day Novel?
I'm on Day 3 - I force myself to scribble away, in the hopes that my muse will come back to me.
estepheia: (Out for a walk. Bitch.)
... but, alas, I am not.
I finally finished the umpteenth draft of a short (120 pages) novel for 12- to 13-year-olds that I am very determined to submit to a publishing company. It's a story that came into a being as a Buffyverse fanfic, but now it's a proper story, no longer set in Sunnydale but in an unspecified German town that looks a lot like our current hometown. :-)

Finishing texts is not my strong suit, as you may have noticed, *cringe*, I run out of steam because I run out of self-confidence and hope, and I start second-guessing myself and... enough of that. Anyway, I finished this draft and finally sent it out to a handful of test readers of different age groups and a friend who is really brilliant when it comes to finding punctuation and grammar mistakes. I should be ecstatic. And I was - yesterday.

Today I'm grumpy. I also seem to have lost all my notes on the next writing project. Index cards, handwritten characters sketches, that sort of thing. I took the whole folder with me on holiday, and I can't remember if I've seen it since then, and that's the kind of small incident that is able to completely throw me off balance. *headdesk*

Keep your fingers crossed that I'll find the folder. The way the wires are crossed in my brain, I shall wonder until I reach old age whether the notes in that folder wouldn't have turned me into a successful bestseller author. :-)
estepheia: (Out for a walk. Bitch.)
But first, a brief update: Since my last post: daughter number 2 finally won a handful of medals (her dancing had inproved greatly, but she never won any competitions, so we were beginning to wonder if the adjudicators were blind); we visited an old LJ-friend in Munich (who has moved on to entirely different hobbies, but it was great to meet again); we drove to Italy for a week (we went to the Gardaland fun park twice!); watched Germany win against Argentina and lose against Spain (who, btw played lousy soccer, yesterday)... busy, busy, busy....

Can't say I like this heat. In Italy the heat was brutal, here it's not much better. Okay, okay, t's better than rain and cold, but it still makes me drowsy and stupid...

Now comes the whining:
In Munich I went to a poetry reading. I had submitted poems to a poetry competition and I was curious to hear the poems that had beaten mine. The Literaturb├╝ro held a public reading of the 6 poets who had been found worthy to fight for a place in the finals (to be held at the end of this year). Some of the texts were better than the ones I had submitted, or at least okay, but some of the poetry was rubbish. *sigh*

I am beginning to think that my kind of poetry will never be successful. My poems are too short. They are snapshots, mostly descriptive, and supposed to be just a tiny weeny bit witty in the English sense, understated. But it seems that agonized navel gazing or long long boring poems that repeatedly tread over the same ground please juries more. *sigh* I can't do long - not in poetry. In fanfiction? No problem, all stories automatically end up longer than planned. But poetry? I can't inflate a poem, I can't just pump more words into it. The whole point is to condense thoughts and impressions into the shortest form possible.

Another disappointment: I submitted my first crime story to a competition. Didn't make it into the top 30. *sigh* I had been pleased with the story, hadn't expected to win, but had enjoyed writing it and had vaguely hoped against all hope that it might make it into the anthology... *sigh*

Final disappointment: I am currently reading the winning novel of a fantasy novel competition that I took part in last year (and never expected to win). It has a gay hero, interesting ideas and characters, and I desperately want it to blow me away, but in truth I have to say that I find it pretty dull. *sigh* I checked out the Amazon reviews. Most of the reviewers are positive but not enthusiastic; they are reluctant to dole out harsh criticism, but they agree that the book should have been a lot shorter. Honestly? I would have liked to be beaten by something really fantastic. :-)

I know that some of you guys on my flist are published authors. You submit manuscripts on a regular basis, or you take part in competitions. When you look at the winners or at published stories or novels, do you sometimes ask yourself: Who the hell made that decision?
estepheia: (Writing)
I love teaching, if only because my course compels me to search the net at regular intervals. While looking for a catchy definition of "subtext" I came across a really good Glossary of literary terms and techniques. Here are two exerpts:

foregrounding a flashback A technique used in extended flashback in a past tense narrative, whereby the "hads" are quietly dropped several clauses past the onset of the flashback, not used for its duration, and re-employed a clause or two from story's return to its major timeline. Certain kinds of verbs, typically those with vague or imprecise relationships to time (such as linking verbs), function better than others for these "temporal pivots." When you foreground a flashback, you literally bring it forward to the temporal level of the story's major timeline; this allows for less cumbersome verbal structures (no "hads") and draws the reader more deeply into the moment. For more on verbs and their relationship to time, go to English 301, Lesson #6: The Habit of the Tale.


rule of three #2 (cronin) A rule, derived from rule of three #1, that anything important, interesting and useful in your story must appear or happen a minimum of three times. Of course, you don't want your story to be built of obvious triangles of three; the repetitions need to be veiled. Let's say your story involves having a baby. One of the metaphors you use along the way is an Easter egg--suggestive of birth, springtime, the pleasure of opening something up to see what's inside. Fine. Do you need to write a story about an Easter egg hunt? Of course not. (Though it's not the worst idea). Consider: a fortune cookie; a jewelry box; a room with a locked door. Any of these things could be deployed in the story to create a narrative echo and do the same kind of work. How about a moment when somebody goes gets down on his hands and knees to look under the sofa for a lost key? This could echo an earlier moment, a childhood memory, of hunting in the grass for eggs. Typically, the rule of three #2 is a good second draft tool; you look at the story you've made, and the psychological material you've made it with, and you can identify patterns of imagery that your unconscious mind has installed. Conscious awareness then allows you to adjust, amplify, and retool these patterns. For more, see narrative echo and go to Lesson #7: The Cosmology of the Tale.


(Justin Cronin teaches Creative Writing at Rice University)


Why, oh, why didn't I find his site when I started to prepare my course?
*goes back to reading*

ETA: His course guidelines are brilliant:

Do's and dont's: Do befriend the other students in the class; don't view them as competitors. Do take chances with your writing; don't assume you know this stuff already. Do say what's on your mind in class; don't be tactless. Do write for pleasure; don't have so much fun that nobody else will. Do pay attention to assigned lengths; don't obsess on the word count. Do write ahead; don't write at the last minute, because you never know when the muse will show up. Do write work that feels honest; don't write work that's just psychotherapy. Do think of yourself as an artist; don't drink too much, or fill your pockets with rocks and jump in the river, or wear your beret to bed.

LOL

Quotes

Sep. 8th, 2005 10:27 am
estepheia: (Poetry Slam)
If I write a crappy comic book, it doesn't cost the budget of an emergent Third World nation. When you've got these kinds of sums involved in creating another two hours of entertainment for Western teenagers, I feel it crosses the line from being merely distasteful to being wrong. - Alan Moore

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. - Elmore Leonard

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. - Elmore Leonard

I love to write. I love it. I mean there's nothin in the world I like better, and that includes sex, probably because I'm so very bad at it. - Joss Whedon

Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck. - Joss Whedon

I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf. - Robert Bloch

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You cannot try to do things. You simply must do things. - Ray Bradbury

First you jump off the cliff and you build wings on the way down. - Ray Bradbury

Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say. - Raymond Chandler

When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. - Raymond Chandler
estepheia: (Writing)
I hate writing scenes with a great cast. I always feel like a stressed out sockpuppeteer. I have six puppets in my scene but only two hands, and switching my hands from one puppet to the next, gives me whiplash. I feel like my characters freeze the moment I turn away to let another character do or say something. I know, the primary character's POV might be self-centered enough that he does not concentrate on all the other characters, but I am still dissatisfied.

Of course, I could just describe what everybody is doing. But can you imagine how lumbering my prose would be if my scenes were structured like this:

Something frightening happens
character A screams
chearacter B hides
character C observes what the others are doing and muttters 'Ohmygod, ohmygod'
character D loads his gun
character E looks out of the window
character F faints
Because character F fainted, character D rushes to F's side
character A continues to scream
character B checks if character F is okay...

You get the drift. *bangs head on desk*
If you write like that, you're slowly turning on the spot, and once you've turned 360 degrees things have changed, so you turn again, more or less on the same spot, instead of moving forward. I can't really do the TV/movie thing, i.e. have something happen, and then follow up with a quick succession of reaction cuts, because words are slower than images.
In an action/suspense scene that is a great problem because action has to race forward. There's no time to linger and describe everything in great detail, there's only time to draw a rough sketch (which is why it is handy if the setting was described earlier)...

The situation? Six characters are trapped in a trailer home and something huge, something they believe to be a monster, is repeatedly banging against the trailer, trying to get them.

So tell me, if you read a scene with several characters, are you actually aware of it if some of the characters blend with the woodwork? Is it normal and legitimate to use some kind of sleight-of-hand to keep the reader's attention focussed on only two or three of the characters, or is it cheating?

I solved the dilemma to some extent by inserting chunks of dialogue in which all the characters have something short to say (actually, they're yelling). Dialogue is one means of providing the reader with a sense of impetus and speed, whereas descriptions slow the story down. I can't afford detailed descriptions right now because I'm building up to a scene that's supposed to leave the reader as breathless as it leaves the characters. *bangs head on desk*

So, is it cheating if two of my sockpuppets kinda stop moving for a bit? Do readers even notice? Do other writers notice?
Do you have any sage advice on the matter? Tips and tricks?

Come on guys, share share share! ;-)
estepheia: (Out for a walk. Bitch.)
As usual, I'm the last to find out about the latest kerfuffle. I always loved CJ's writing, and I'm convinced that she has more than enough talent to make it as a professional writer. I also think that her request for money was a big mistake. Several writers and archivists discreetly display their pay pal buttons, heck, even I have one, but making a broad appeal to one's readers for money opens a huge can of worms and CJ should have known that.

I can see that writing fanfic can turn into something that closely resembles work. You put in many hours, and carry the characters around in your head even when you're not writing. There comes a point where you ask yourself if feedback is payment enough for all the work you've put in. Especially when money's tight and writing seems to be the only marketable skill you have. The trouble is: the market is harder to break into than Fort Knox. So why not ask your readers to pay for the pleasure your stories are giving them? Some of them pay good money for stuff like the Anita Blake novels or for vastly inferior official tie-in novels. Why shouldn't they pay for fanfic? If they could buy your book at the book store, they might. Yeah, I can understand CJ. But the problem is that what she's asking is illegal.

a) Thou Shalt Not Make Money Writing Fanfic (because we do not want to incur the wrath of the Powers That Hold the Copyright)
b) Thou Shalt Not Use LJ to Advertise
c) FANFIC comes from the word FAN. Sorry, but if you're not a fan and doing it for the love of it, then you should turn pro and try to make it 'out there' in the market. Good luck.
d) Why should fandom support one author in her quest to turn pro when zillions... okay, hundreds of able fanfic authors who'd also like to turn pro, write for free? They too have to work, clean the house, run their families, make their spouse happy, etc (in fact, I wouldn't mind a sabbatical year either).

Last year, when I was desperately trying to find the money to go to Writercon in Vegas, several people kindly donated money, making it possible. I was and am incredibly grateful to these wonderful people and to the organizers who set up scholarships, and not a moment passed while I was in Vegas that I wasn't aware of my good fortune. And I tried to give back as much as possible by sitting on panels etc. But it would never have occurred to me to ask my entire readership for what amounts to a one-year grant.

Like I said, CJ is very talented. She should sit down and write original fiction. And then, when she's got a manuscript done, she should submit. Again, and again. While writing the next novel. Until she's lucky. I know that, because that's what I should do too. [livejournal.com profile] shatten once said: "Writers write." He's right. If fandom and fanfic keep her from writing than she has to cut those ties and concentrate on her career. That's just how it is. LJ and fandom are time consuming.

And as for breaking into Fort Knox: Go read [livejournal.com profile] shatten's post on manuscript rejection.

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