Today marks the beginning of Inktober, an annual art challenge. I explained in 2017 why I, a writer and a truly terrible pencil/ink artist, would try this, and how it is good for me. This year I’m doing it again.
Today’s prompt was “poisonous,” so I drew a cute little snake. I was actually pretty happy with my pencil sketch; Inktober and Sketchtember really did a lot for me. Continue reading
Two days ago I got the notification that the NYC Midnight Short Story contest final results were up. I delayed opening the email, because I knew my third round story had not been as strong as my first two and I didn’t expect to do well. I finally clicked through, scanned just enough to confirm that there had not been a miracle, and I closed the page. Another email came with my feedback — every story in the contest gets feedback from multiple judges — and I didn’t even open it. I was busy, it wasn’t going anywhere, and I already knew there were problems with my story.
Yesterday morning, I opened the feedback email. Their feedback format is to collate the positive notes first, followed by the collated critical notes. I read the first couple of sentences on what the judges liked, then read down — and I realized that I was barely skimming, skipping over all the nice compliments to look for the coming negatives on what the judges felt needed work. Continue reading
Okay, I’ve seen a number of people post this now. Many are people who don’t know each other. And I’ve seen the sentiment echoed from all demographics, people getting student discounts and people getting senior discounts. It’s everywhere. Here’s the thing:
And I’m going to step into the Old Ben mentor trope for a moment and pontificate, because it seems there’s something critical being missed.
At least in my own case, if a title presents itself early in the process, it’s generally a good title. If I don’t have one by late in the story or, God help me, by revisions, I will never come up with a title I like, and there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Sometimes you just get lucky. Last week, a perfect title presented itself for a story which doesn’t even have a proper premise yet. Oh, and the perfect title even brought along a friend for a potential sequel.
But that’s not typical.
For this present story, I’m getting dangerously close to just wallpapering a room with pages of a thesaurus and bringing in a blindfold and darts….
Fair warning: Today’s post is less art and more business. I’m going to very briefly touch on why I self-publish.
I didn’t start out as a proponent of self-publishing. When I first knew I wanted to grow up to be a writer, it was simply “vanity publishing,” and to be honest that’s still out there. Vanity publishing was expensive and mostly low-quality material that couldn’t get a second look from “real” publishers. Those who used a vanity press rarely made money and were not taken very seriously.
That’s changed now, and there are a lot of reasons why self-publishing is now “legit.” And I’m not even talking about admitted outliers like Hugh Howey making $150,000/month and walking away from seven-figure offers. Sure, those success stories are awesome and I applaud! but there are other benefits to self-publishing as well.
There’s a lot of research involved in any historical piece. I heard Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat, say that she had spent over two hours looking up historic ikebana seasonal arrangements, just to put the correct flowers (hydrangeas) in a scene. I myself spent considerable time researching the histories of such commonplace things as daikon and goldfish. But sometimes the source material is hard to come by, especially in English.
A friend joked about my copious free time. “I mean, what do you have to do, really? You’re self-employed, so you can totally slack off there. And you’re writing a book, and that can’t be hard. I mean, really, how long can that take?”
He was joking about all of it, of course, which is why he’s still breathing. But he put forth a question which many people do ask less ironically — how long can writing a book take, really? (Seriously, just look at fans complaining about George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss needing time.)
That’s the wrong question — as NaNoWriMo and the 8-Hour Book Challenge prove, writing a story may not take long at all. But writing a good story does.
This is the story of how I submitted a substandard short story to an editor this week and am sorta proud of it.
It’s been a turbulent week, and it’s only Wednesday. You may know that my day job is animal (and human) behavior, and I have two dogs who are both family members and sort of business partners. Last week, I got a call that my sleek, shiny, very active Laev had tested positive for lymphoma. Monday afternoon, we met with the oncologist, confirmed Stage 4 (of 5), and had her first chemo treatment. On Tuesday morning, my other dog Shakespeare was diagnosed not with an infected tooth as expected, but with very fast-moving bone cancer, and he was given as little as 3 weeks to live.
The problem with writing is that it’s wholly subjective. Qualitative. No hard data.
Where we can do quantitative analysis, we can make reasonable judgments even when our emotions aren’t in alignment. “I felt great about this today, but we actually had only a 70% success rate.” Or, “Oh, man, today has been a total downer and I hated this session, but we nailed it with a 90% success ratio.”
That’s very nice for behavior analysis and free throws. Not so useful with writing.