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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to Publish Hypnotically Storys with Supreme Balance

Or: "How to Avoid Becoming Something of a Meme, a Trope, and a Laughingstock all on the Same Day"

Those of us hoping for a published byline one day have (hopefully vicariously) learned some valuable lessons this week. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Our work deserves our respect. Good writing requires more from us than just stringing words together on a page. We need to study our grammar and usage with a mind to improve them. If we think our work can't be improved, then we probably aren't paying attention to these things. A story or book worth publishing is worth getting right. 
  2. Editors deserve our respect. If they won't accept our offerings, there is a reason. Maybe our copy needs some proofreading, and possibly some heavy editing. Sacrilege! This is nigh unthinkable when we think a project is finished. Think it anyway and hire a copy editor.
  3. Our fellow writers deserve our respect. If someone offers an honest review, try accepting the result with grace and gratitude. If we cannot render this essential courtesy, then we should keep our mouths shut.
  4. Our audience deserves our respect.  We should offer to them our best efforts, not something we pushed through a vanity press because the publishing industry didn't want it. If we cannot respect our readers enough to give them our best, then our stories should probably remain in our journals where no one will spurn or criticize them.
Writing is a business. If we have a problem with any aspect of this business, we should consider the source. Here's a hint about that: the source isn't the evil reviewer who panned our work. It's the work itself. Arrogance is never an appropriate response, and bouts of overweening martyrdom won't help our chances. Success in publishing often hinges on strong relationships within the industry. We writers should be building bridges, not burning them. 

Which of those are you doing?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Writing with Voice

"Voice is the imprint of ourselves in our writing. Take the voice away... and there's no writing, just words following words." -- Donald Graves

Ah, the holy grail of writing. The all-elusive Voice. That thing which hooks our readers, propels them through the pages, and compels them to keep going. Where does it come from? Does it define our work, or is it defined by it?

Perhaps it is the substance that Randy Ingermanson calls our "content". That inner wisdom woven together from our experience in the loom of our imaginations into the tapestry of our stories. Or something like that.

Yes, but how to develop our Voices as writers? Like the physical voice, our writing voice needs to be exercised in order to wax strong and melodious. Like our stories, it begins with its roots in the plain and ordinary. Through vigorous exercise, we build it and give it shape into the extraordinary.

One supposes it all goes back to the Writer's First Rule, no?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dumb Looks are Free

He flashed a glassy grin  toward the beauty, who  wondered what he'd been smoking. Not for long, though; the acrid scent hanging in the air like an accusation finished the story that his tattletale dumb look had begun.

“How many times, Bill? I toldja mushrooms are for eating, not smoking!”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alphabet Soup for the Soul

Having completed my first week in the freelance writing arena, I can say one thing with absolute authority: Wow.

Yes, indeed. There's an undeniable thrill to being able to set your own hours, pick and choose your projects, and more or less be your own boss. That's the good news. The bad news is what comes along with those undeniable thrills, and that's unfettered frustration.

Writing web content should be easy work for a writer, really. You choose bite size chunks of information and weave them together to show the average web reader something they possibly hadn't noticed or understood before. Do it in plain English that makes sense and people will love you for it. Best of all, they demonstrate this affection by showering you with hard earned cash. Right?

Well, sure. Unless one of your editors happens to be a computer who keeps rejecting your prize winning prose because it contains oft-repeated phrases that, if they were all legally copyrighted, would prevent anyone from ever publishing anything in the English language again. Then you find yourself mired in a hellish sort of alphabet soup, desperately trying to dig your way back out before the looming deadline devours your soul and spits it back at you after only partially digesting it.

Apparently, you also find yourself seriously wondering if, by comparison, writing that novel wouldn't be such a waste of your time after all...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Writing for "Real"

I submitted my first two freelance articles for approval. As of today, I write for actual pay. Livin' the dream, as it were... well, half the dream anyway. I'm ghost writing, so technically I don't get a byline and there won't be any publishing credit.

Still, as far as I'm concerned I've got the half of the dream that matters. It's hard to beat freelance work for the independence and flexible hours! Now: if my boss weren't such a bloody slavedriver, maybe I could get a vaction...

Oh, yeah. My second assignment hasn't been reviewed yet, but here's what the editor said about my first one:  "Writer shows potential - Will need to see another article to evaluate properly."

Given the hell and high water I had to wade through to get that assignment in, I'll take that as a compliment thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Day in the Life: The Saga Continues...

My lovlie has dropped off the radar. I assume she's been trapped in a meeting someplace. As I cope with this and mull over my fledgling writing career, the clock sneaks around on me. Father Time taps me on the shoulder and informs me that it's time for another product rotation.

Woot! my Patriotic Duty beckons, so I shut down and stow my computer in my briefcase, which I deposit into my locker on the way to the meat cooler. I drag a cart back to my work area and get busy... and three (maybe four) cases of meat later, my work is done.

It's a slow morning. I don't even need to put more ground turkey out yet! So, it's back to the vendor room for another round of mulling things over. I've gotten good at that part.

Feeling a little bit sluggish, I swing by the break room for a cup of coffee. I notice a hand printed sign over the sink. It reads: "WE NEED MONEY FOR THE COFFEE FUND FREELOADER!" How nice. I was going to get mine from the vending machine, but now I'm curious, so I examine the coffee maker. There's a (rather large) fellow sitting behind me who gruffly inquires as to what I might be looking for.

"I'm just trying to figure out where we're supposed to put the money for the coffee fund," I inform him.

He replies by poking a spot on the table in front of him, as though he expects me to just drop money on the open table based on his glorious majesty or something. I ignore him; I don't even know his name. I'm generally not interested in the names of people who act as though the world owes them something. I certainly didn't owe him a thing. I'm not a freeloader, either. I decide I'm not in the mood for coffee and wander back to the vendor room.

I've got stuff to do that excludes getting shaken down for coffee money. I don't drink that much of the stuff anyway.

A Day in the Life...

The road to happiness needs better maintenance. I've been  working on getting a more optimistic outlook. Really. Sometimes it just seems that life keeps getting in the way. Mostly little things just strung together in a hopeless tangle. Not always, though.

It starts this  morning with a not-so-little thing. I open the door to leave for work and I find a three day notice on my door, claiming that it was posted yesterday but I certainly didn't lay eyes on it till this morning. Wonderful. I wanted to talk to the manager about my rent yesterday, but I had enough trouble just cashing the check so I could pay half of it and explain when she can expect the other half. But no, she can't even wait for me to do that. Gotta demand payment in full, with late fee, within three days. Great.

Well, can't do anything about that first thing in the morning... except to keep working so I can eventually pay. So I traipse in to work with my friend. I help him with some projects at the local base commissary, mostly stocking chicken and turkey products.

The poultry shelves were demolished again as per usual, but that sight actually brings me joy. It's part of the evidence that I'm actually doing something worthwhile in all of this: serving the people who serve my country. This is part of my actual job. What gets me down is all the junk I have to put up with that isn't part of my actual job... like reorganizing inventory for the management's convenience. That was yesterday's circus event.

Or like fifty gazillion vendor stockers dragging gargantuan over stacked pallets of product and all of them trying to use the same corridor at the same time. I've never seen this fiasco before, but I suppose it's got something to do with being the day after a major inventory. They let their stock run low so there's less to manage during the count. Now they're scrambling to stock back up again and get on with business as usual. The problem is this: they're all using the tiny stretch of hallway that the meat cooler is attached to. I have to pull *my* stock outta there and they're all in my way.

Wonderful. They've got two pallet jacks and a small cart full of cardboard someone didn't bother to take out, all parked right where my carts need to be. Great. I can't park the cart with my sanitizer water in the usual spot, because somebody pushes it outta the way to drag another over stacked pallet through. Gah. Fine. Whatever.

Yep. Sure could use some of that serial optimism. Hey, at least my friend is the one in the cooler re-palletizing the junk I had to offload into the Draper Valley section. Let him do the heavy lifting while I do the stuff I'm actually getting paid to do.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to get paid for putting up with all those clueless stockers getting in my way, I'd be a very happy man today.

Hey, that's optimism, right?