Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Author's Mistakes

Authors are people. (All of them I know are, anyway.) People who spend a deal of their time in some world other than 'reality'. So you shouldn't be surprised if they are sometimes confused when trying to deal with the real world. They are bound to make a mistake here or there. Following are some of the more humorous mistakes I have made.
A few years ago, I sent a short story to a magazine for consideration. It was rejected. At that time, I was trying to follow the adage, "When a story is rejected, shove it in a new envelope and send it to the next market." So I shoved it in a new envelope... and sent it right back to THAT magazine. I was so embarrassed a couple days later when I realized what I'd done and had to draft an apology letter to that editor for wasting his time. Oh! Color me blushing! (You know, I'm not sure I've ever sent another story to that magazine for consideration. Maybe I should. You don't think they have my name on some 'Never accept a story by this person' list, do you?)
Later, I saw a call for submissions and thought I had a story that would fit what they wanted, so I went online and got all ready to submit it. But I had to open the file, because I didn't remember how many words it was, and when I opened it, it was all set up for a rewrite! (Draft F, orange 16-pt Franklin Gothic font.) Did it really need a rewrite? I read through it, and only found one word I deleted, so no, probably not. So I changed it into proper manuscript form and sent it off. Can you imagine how embarrassed I'd be if I'd sent it off in a big orange strange font?
And then there was the time my dog ate-- No, wait. That wasn't me. Was it?
I get so confused out here in the big real world!

Excuse me. I'm going back inside one of my universes. If I get confused there, the characters always set me straight.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


This past week, I learned something about writing I hadn't known before: How intense it can be.
I've been writing a short story to submit for an anthology for the last several weeks. I thought the deadline for submissions was January 15, and I started the story around December 15, so... not a lot of time. But I already had the story and characters in my head, so how hard could it be? I'd just whip that baby out and get it sent.
Have I ever told you I tend to run off at the keyboard? Words can just roll out of my head, down my fingers and onto the screen. And they do like crowds. For instance, this anthology wanted a maximum of 6,000 words. My rough draft was just shy of 15,000 words.
But I wasn't worried, even though I was already into January. I couldn't send it off without at least one re-write, and I always find 'unnecessaries' during re-writes; unnecessary words, phrases, paragraphs, heck, even unnecessary scenes! So, even though I needed to eliminate 3 out of every 5 words, I didn't let myself worry.
During that first re-write, I eliminated 6,000 words, leaving me with just under 3,000 words that still had to come out before I got that story small enough. At this point, a piece of me began to fret. Where could I possibly find that many words to remove and still have a story?
Now that I'm done, I have a theory: Once you eliminate the first layer of 'unnecessaries' (or layer of dirt in your house), your eyes can then see any remaining 'unnecessaries' (or clutter, trash, dirt) that you missed during the first run-through. If you've followed me on facebook these last 2-3 weeks, you'll know that I did get that story trimmed down to just under 6,000 words, and got it submitted on January 15th. (In the meantime, the deadline was pushed to February 15, but that's another story.)
Where does the intensity come in? Actually, it made itself known on the 16th. I got up, had breakfast and went to my computer as usual. As I was considering what chores and projects to tackle, a piece of my brain said, "Pull up that story, I bet we can pull a word or three from-" and I responded with, "No, we're done with that story. It's time to move on." It turned into quite an argument inside my head. I didn't get any work done that day. When I mentioned this internal argument to a friend, she said, "That shows how intense you became with your work on that story.
Intense? Me? Not an adjective I usually apply to myself. Then again, I don't usually have projects with such a tight deadline, either.

It's nice to know that, yes, I've got it in me.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Years and years (and years) ago, when I was a young girl, fascinated with the notion of writing my own stories, I received encouragement from a cousin a couple years older. He told me such things as I would need to rewrite my draft, possibly more than once. I didn't want to hear it, but he was right. I found his stories funny, silly and delightful, and I basked in the knowledge that he was willing to spare a few minutes to encourage me in my endeavors.
We recently started communicating via the internet, and he revealed he had started writing again. (Again? I did give it up after a particularly horribly comment made by my first husband, and that was the blackest two years of my life.) I don't know how long he went without writing, but I was happy to hear he was re-discovering it.
And I guess we've come full circle. Now I find myself encouraging him. Have you thought about doing this with your story? Would it make more sense if your character did this? Your rough draft doesn't have to be perfect; rewriting is part of the process, remember?
Encouragement and suggestions from other writers are why authors join writer's groups and go to critique sessions. Another example is last year's critique sessions at Worldcon in Austin. I had been shopping around a fantasy, and kept getting rejected, so what I wanted to know was, is there something wrong with this opening that I'm not seeing? The comments I received gave me some direction for my next rewrite of that opening. I was thrilled.
If a writer's group or critiquer gives you the impression your writing is crap, don't go to that group or person again. My husband and I quit one writer's group because one person in the group kept pointing out our 'mistakes' without saying anything kind or nice about our efforts. That's not encouragement, and it's not helpful.

So, way to go, cousin! I really like what you've written, even though I'm not sure I like any of your characters. Your description in that story is great, it really sets the tone. Oh, and by the way... Welcome back to writing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cold Winter Days

It is almost noon, and it is all of 3° outside. Tomorrow will be more of the same for us; the high is predicted to be 5 above. Other locations within the 'lower 48' states are even worse off, but this is cold enough for me. This is the kind of weather where I would like to curl up in a blanket in front of a little heater with a good book.
What do you suppose a character in a book would do on a day like today? It would depend on who they are as a character and the plot of the book, of course. Are they warriors, out to battle an evil overlord's minions or a rampaging dragon? They may have no choice but to bundle up as best they can and keep moving forward. Farmers would have to tend their animals, repair any tools they'll need for the new growing season, possibly even chop more firewood for the fireplace.
Authors frequently think nothing of hampering their characters by throwing inclement weather at them. Some of them do a good job of describing cold rain seeping under a collar and running down the spine, or a runny nose and numb fingers and toes that will make it almost impossible to defend themselves if our intrepid travelers are set upon by wolves.

Occasionally, a kind author will allow a character to wait out bad weather by wrapping themselves in a blanket, sitting near the fireplace and reading a good book. Even warriors deserve a calm break from time to time, don't you think?