Sunday, March 20, 2011

Surprise From the Bottom Drawer

When one writes regularly over a period of time, one generally gets better at it. I can testify to this, because I've come across stories I'd started – or even completed – years before, and when I read through that old attempt, I've recognized it as something I wrote, but it seemed so poorly written. Surely I had never been that bad a writer!

Over a decade ago, I self-published a chapbook using one of my Atlan stories. I didn't print a lot of copies, but even so, I knew I couldn't sell it to any other market, so the story went in a bottom drawer, never to be seen again.

I wasn't the only person to remember that story, however. My good friend Tommee has decided she really doesn't like retirement much. She's never been into soap operas, never will be a clean freak, and even reading has become somewhat old by now. Like me, she never thought that last one would happen. But anyway, she's decided to start a small press. We've talked about it over the years, now and again, and she's decided to go for it. She asked to use my old chapbook story as her first attempt, while she 'figured out the bumps and potholes' of how it's done.

She's supported me over the decades of our friendship, and I wanted to return the favor, so I said okay. Then I cringed. That story had been the best I could make it, ten or more years ago, but… I decided to take a final look at it, give it another polish.

I've gotten about half way through it, and … there hasn't been much to polish. A word here or there is all I've changed, and I understand when that's all you're doing, it's probably as good as you're going to get it. So … either it was fluke that I managed to write it so well so long ago, or … I've been pretty good at this writing stuff far longer than I thought I was.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Change of Scenery

I've read this piece of advice from several different authors; leave the house from time to time – go to the library or a coffee shop and do some of your writing there. Supposedly, a few hours writing in a different location, away from the usual distractions of your home can help you concentrate on your writing. In fact, Joe Haldeman – well known in science fiction circles – says that he takes a bike ride several miles to his favorite coffee shop, where he does his writing – longhand – in a notebook. I was left with the impression this was the only way he could write, but I might be wrong about that.

I haven't mastered the 'working in a coffee shop' method of writing. While it's true a coffee shop doesn't have the distraction of housework that needs to be done, it does have the distraction of 'goodies' that want to be eaten, and I don't need those empty calories. I also am so shy, so nervous around strangers that I find myself constantly looking around me to see who has come in, who might need the table I'm using… No, I'd rather work in the solitude of my own home. With one exception.

My hubby gets a little upset with me when we go on vacation. "You're here to relax, not work!" He doesn't seem to understand that writing hasn't become work for me. I enjoy it. If I didn't have to sleep, I could do it 23.75 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, spending my vacation afternoons and evenings on my laptop, working on my stories, is almost as much fun as spending our mornings in the theme parks.

That's my occasional change of scenery, I guess. The resort where we stay is already clean, so I don't have (as much) housework nagging for my attention. And it does work; in my first five days here this time, I've got 2 stories ready to mail out to contests. That's more than I got mailed out in the last four months. So, if you can handle the coffee shop scene, by all means, try it. I'll continue with my 'working' vacations.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trying Something New

Last month, I sent one of my pieces to a critique group I had recently joined. At our monthly meeting, I nervously waited for them to 'shred it to pieces'.

All told, they were very gentle. Yes, they had some problems with it. The problem mentioned most often was that I didn't give enough description to let them 'see' where the story was taking place. Since not all of them normally read science fiction, and my story was taking place on a small space ship, I can understand why they might not be able to picture the mess room, the bridge, etcetera.

Then one of the latter to comment suggested that possibly I could turn it into a radio play. I blinked as cogs aligned in my brain; only a day or two earlier, I had become aware of a contest for radio plays, any genre. I had set my mind the task of trying to figure out if I had a story I could readily convert to a radio play.

Apparently I did.

The deadline on that contest is looming, so I'd better get back to work on that conversion. Hope I remember what a 'script' looks like.