Sunday, January 27, 2013

Visiting Trudy’s Universes

I named this blog for my various universes where I place my stories, but I’ve seldom actually taken you – my readers – into any of those universes. So today, I thought I would at least introduce you to my universes.
A is for Atlans. My first 3 shorts published on are about the Atlans, and the 4th is tangentially associated with them. The Atlans are a race of women who establish their own culture on a planet when their space-faring parents abandon them as infants. After centuries of thriving, their ‘home island erupted, sending small boats of Atlans out into the world. Separated, they land wherever they land, and shortly establish a village of their own. Each village wonders if any others survived, and eventually, when they feel their village is strong enough, individuals are sent out to see if they can find any hints of other Atlan villages.
M is for Mac. Mac is the main character of my serialized space opera ( The SS Fireball is a large exploration/military ship in Space Fleet. Mac is short, shapely and very desirable. She’s a heavy worlder, a heavy drinker, and quite a brawler, having the strength of an Earth elephant. I’ve tried something different in the way of point of view. Mac is the main character, but the story is told from the point of view of the crew members who surround her. Therefore, each scene is colored by the expectations and beliefs of the observer.
SE is for Space Exploration. In this universe, I try to imagine events that might happen as we Earthlings explore our own solar system in the next hundred years – or maybe two hundred, if our current rate of progress holds true. It is in this universe that my age thwarts me a bit, as all my science is old, having been learned over 40 years ago. I try to research my ideas, see if they will even hold up with modern science. Maybe, maybe not. I currently have a couple shorts done in this universe, 3 or 4 more that I’m trying to work up.
Okay, that’s 3 of my universes. There are still a lot more, but we can talk about them another time.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

To Format or Not?

There are basic formatting ‘rules’ for manuscripts that please almost all editors and publishers. When I first started writing, in the fourth grade, I paid no attention to them. I was a kid, writing for my own enjoyment.
Through the decades, as I thought about sending my work out, I learned those formatting rules. They’re not difficult to employ; 1 inch margins, double-spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman, with contact information in the top left corner of page 1.
I don’t start a project with those parameters. Rough draft requires imagination, which doesn’t like to be tethered. So my initial drafts have tiny margins, 20 pt font (whichever one I feel like using) in a different pale color for each day’s work, single spaced. To me, that lets the rough draft appear ethereal, not quite set firmly and easily changed.
As I go through 3 rewrites and a polish, the margins get wider, the font gets smaller, a different type & color. When I’ve got most of the knots out of the story, my contact information is put in place, and by the end of the polish, the project is in ‘standard manuscript format’. I can send the project out to find a new home knowing that it will be judged on its merits, not on my inability to follow these standard rules.
Over the years, I’ve wondered why so many market guidelines insist so vehemently that these rules be followed, to the point of spelling them out in their guidelines, possibly several times. Now that Tommee and I have opened our slush pile, I begin to understand.
Our guidelines are minimal; all we list is ‘standard manuscript format’ sent in a .doc or .rtf file. Although we want to find new authors, we thought they would know what we meant, if they had any real interest in becoming published authors. Perhaps we were giving them more credit than they deserved. Some of them, anyway.
The 3rd or 4th submission came as a docx file, which meant we had to dig out the laptop to open it. (We normally only use the laptop when we are traveling, because we don’t like the keyboard.) We let that slide, and gave the submission due consideration.
Since then, we’ve had submissions that don’t have any contact information in the file, that are only partially double-spaced, the paragraphs are not consistently indented…. But we want to encourage new authors, so we considered them and included the comments ‘Not in standard format’ and ‘Please include contact information within manuscript file, in case your email gets lost.’ We hope they will learn, otherwise, we are wasting our time making comments.
But some of them are not interested in learning. One responded to our comments, breaking another guideline for new writers; “Do not respond to rejections to argue they made a mistake.” S/he did state that s/he didn’t care a fig about formatting, the fact we responded showed that her/his submitting email had not gotten lost, and that so-and-so liked her/his work.
We are not so-and-so. But we may need to follow the example of so many other publishers and summarily dismiss any submissions that cannot follow our guidelines. We are pondering that idea now.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stuck in Rewrite

There are several steps to writing, but one of the first steps (not necessarily THE first step) is to scratch out a rough draft. It can be great fun, to let my imaginary imagination wings take flight and show me a new world filled with new people. Occasionally, the rough draft can also be a real headache, as words simply refuse to come to describe what my mind sees, or – even worse – my mind isn’t focused and therefore doesn’t see anything.
But the fun outweighs the headache (or I wouldn’t continue writing). It’s easy to see your progress with a rough draft, because your word count goes UP. Even if you have a bad day, by the end of a week, your word count will most likely be greater than what you started the week with. You feel like you’ve accomplished something.
For me, the 2nd draft is where I add in every piece of description, explanation, background and all the modifiers I can think of, just to make sure everything is understandable to the reader. My word count can double from rough and 2nd drafts, so obviously, I’m doing something.
Then come the further rewrites. I generally do a 3rd and 4th rewrite, and then a polish. Occasionally, I do a few more rewrites. I have one story in its 9th or 10th rewrite, and I’m still not happy with it.
Rewrite is not as much fun as roughing, but it seldom drags badly, either. It’s during these rewrites that I check for redundancies, passive verbs, -ing verbs, adverbs and that my pronouns refer to the correct antecedents. I might lengthen or shorten sentences, rearrange paragraphs. I might delete words, phrases, sentences, or change a 6-word phrase to a 2-word phrase.
It’s harder to keep track of your progress when your word count is going down. If you try to judge your progress by the difference in word count, it might take you days to cut a thousand words. That always made me feel stuck. So I started counting the number of words in the section I rewrote that day. I probably went through a section of 1200 words or more to wind up with 1000 words by the end, but each one of those words were carefully considered, so I have done a bit of work.
As you can see, 1 rough draft needs several rewrites. Most of my time as a writer is spent re-writing. I try to balance this out by working on 3 projects at a time; 1 short story rewrite, 1 novel rewrite, and 1 rough draft. Somehow, this past week, I have found myself doing 3 re-write projects, with no time left in my day for the rough draft. I suppose it was bound to happen, but it still leaves me feeling kind of ‘stuck’. Re-writing doesn’t set my imagination completely free. But it does still use it, so I do get some pleasure from re-writing. And since my short stories generally range around 5000 words, I should soon be done with that project, and can then return to that rough I was working on.
I won’t be ‘stuck’ in re-write much longer.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Many Hats of a Writer

I’ve been writing stories since the fourth grade, maybe even before that. I read a bunch even as a kid, so I knew that spelling and punctuation were important. It did take me a few years to figure out that rewriting what I first put on the paper was a good idea. All in all, it was fairly easy for me to include the ideas of editor, copy editor and proofreader under the hat of writer.
Then I started trying to get my stuff published, and that brought new hats. I had to research agents and markets. Research and submitting wasn’t a difficult job – portions were similar to my day job – but it did take time away from actually writing, and I had to periodically squash the resentment that cropped up. Still, it needed to be done, so I did it.
Then MoonPhaze started publishing my stories, and I suddenly needed to add a new hat to my wardrobe – marketer.
They tell me there was a time when writers didn’t need to market their own stuff. It’s just another hat for authors to wear these days, and I think a new writer’s success depends a great deal on how good a marketer they are, not how good a writer they are.
I have no background in marketing. I don’t have any idea how to get started in this field. I have read books and blogs by other authors, watched youtube videos on marketing. The youtube videos I’ve watched so far all seem to be ads for companies who want to sell you their services. The books seem to be out of date. The blogs seem to be internet-centric, and want me to spend all my time doing internet things; tweaking my blog site, my website, my pinterest boards, doing the social network thing, tweeting … a whole long list.
Be on my social networks several times a day? I’m not great at small talk, so what do you suggest I say? Especially since this is supposed to be part of my marketing plan. I can’t go on Facebook 3 times a day and just say, “Have you read my latest story yet?” People would quickly unfriend me, and I wouldn’t blame them.
Also, the more time I spend trying to get my name in front of potential readers by tweaking my presence on the internet, the less time I have to write. It seems a vicious circle; if I don’t write, I have nothing to market. If I follow this advice on marketing, I have no time to write, and soon would have nothing to market.
Marketing may be just one more hat for authors to wear these days, but it’s not a hat I care for. Maybe I’ll get used to it, in time.