Sunday, August 30, 2015

Return Of The Notebook.

A couple of years ago I started carrying a notebook with me. From time to time I'd write descriptions of things I saw, interactions between people, quotes, signs, and story ideas. I figured it might be a good resource to keep, a way to get my brain working creatively. For a while I kept it up to date. Sometimes I felt like I was forcing words onto the page, and I was concerned it might read as pretentious - an insincere effort to describe things that weren't as interesting as I'd imagined (or pretended) them to be.

And so it fell by the wayside. Occasionally I'd think of something I'd seen, reach for the book and write it down. But the entries were sporadic at best. Months would go by without any new words in there. And then, a few weeks ago, I picked up the notebook and read through it. And I enjoyed what I read.

While the notes are not intended to be shared, I needn't have worried about how they came across. I enjoyed them, they relit memories of events. I recalled forgotten incidents and moments. And best of all, I found a few story ideas congeal in my brain.

So I've started writing notes again. I don't keep it with me all the time - it's a little impractical, but I'm using it regularly and the notebook is filling up.

I have Numbers Two and Three all lined up and ready to go.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Know Your Product.

I've spent the week analysing a bunch of short stories.  All these stories have been published in the one market. I've been rejected there a bunch of times and come close a few times, but it's a market to which I long to sell.

Editors are buyers. And they buy according to quality and taste. Magazines have particular bents, particular types of stories they publish. And so I do my research.

I believe I have the quality, but I've been wondering whether my stories are lacking a certain element that this particular editor likes. Or whether my writing style simply doesn't sit right with the editor.

I've completed my research, and I've come to several conclusions.

Now to see whether I can successfully apply them to my writing.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why Neil?

"We knew about failure. We recognized failure. We knew it was there, we always looked for it. Everything we did was based on decisions on failure rather than success." ... "We grew up telling each other we were making mistakes when we made them. And that is how we learned."

- Chris Kraft.

"There is a time to be conservative and a time to be bold. And judgement, good judgement, tells you when to be what."

- Max Faget.

"The guy was really cool - cool, calm and energized. Neil was at his peak when he was operating at his peak. He was never in a frantic mode, but he was quick. I was very comfortable with him, not that I could predict everything he was going to say or decide. I think you had to work with him to understand him. He could make an analysis of a problem very quickly."

- Dave Scott.

"I wasn't chosen to be the first. I was just chosen to command that flight. Circumstance put me in that particular role." ... "I just don't deserve it."

- Neil Armstrong.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Typo?

We all make typos. And they can be difficult to find.

There was one story I wrote which passed through about five readers. Each made comments on it. I wrote and rewrote and edited that beast many times. I sold it to a quality market, where it then underwent further edits with an experienced editor.

So you can understand how surprised I was to open my contributor's copy only to find a typo on the first page of my story. I hadn't even read the published story yet. The mistake just leaped out from the page at me.

I checked the piece I had submitted. I checked the final version before publication. I checked the very first draft. And the typo was in all versions. No one, including myself, had picked it up.

Typos will beat the best of us, but there's no excuse for not using a spellchecker.

I was recently trawling around the internet, checking out writing websites and author's pages, and I was surprised to see some dreadful writing and really obvious mistakes on some of these pages. Not all these authors are known. Many are 'emerging' writers, by whichever definition you choose. Some I know of, although none personally.

It seems to me though that it's hard enough to get published at pro-levels without making it more difficult for yourself. The story might be superb, but editors aren't going to get that far if the page is unreadable. Not everyone can punctuate properly, but at least check your spelling. Oh, and for that one writer on that one blog in particular who complains they can't sell a story?  You should try commas and other punctuation marks sometimes.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Senseless Act.

I had some great moments with the students in my writing class this week.

I had them write a paragraph, a short one describing a particular place. Very few included senses at all. Then I got them to re-write it, and to include senses. Sounds, smells, sights, textures. And some of the pieces I saw were really good.

I spent six years living in Tokyo, so it's a special place for me. But just a few weeks ago , while walking past a restaurant (not Japanese), I was hit by a particular aroma that made me think of a certain street in Japan. While many senses can trigger memories, smells are particularly good at doing so.

Of course there are more than the five senses we all quote when asked. There's also the sense of balance, hunger, thirst, temperature, and so on. And referring to these in your writing help make the words and the worlds come alive.

And that's an important way to connect with a reader. Senses are familiar all of us, and they will trigger a response at some level.

And in writing, an emotional response is a good thing.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Is That A Light Up Ahead In This Tunnel?

I actually did some writing this week. Not a lot, but some. And I even got some words I was happy with.

I've started teaching a new semester of students in my high school writers' class. It's an elective for 14 year olds who want more English, and perhaps don't want all the usual elective subjects like sport, or technology. Now in its second year, it's proving to be popular. And I'm seeing some great results from the kids.

But this week, while teaching kids about openings to stories, I had a few ideas of my own. So I wrote three openings. Three random pieces from nowhere that have given me ideas. And I plan to expand them into fully formed tales.

I may be coming to the end of my motivational slump. And that's something I feel good about. I hate feeling guilty about not writing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Drought.

I haven't had a story sale since late last year. A few good, personal rejections. A few not so personal rejections. A few rejections that were so impersonal they almost hurt. For a number of reasons, I had reason to think one or two of these would be acceptances. I was wrong.

In the meantime I have had a couple of publications. Good magazines, with high profiles and reputations. There was even a decent review.

But the drought I'm experiencing isn't only in regards to sales. My motivation seems to have dried up as well. Not a writer's block. I have ideas, and I know how to 'make' ideas, just the willingness to sit down and write those words.It's been months since I've sat down to write new words. Well, new fiction, at least.

I started the new semester at work this week. A new group of students in my Writer's class. I've started showing them how to structure stories, and I learned a couple of points myself.

I'm hoping this is what it takes to push me back into the writer's chair. And yes, I realise it's something I need to make myself do.