Sunday, March 30, 2008

Editors, Coaches, and the Analogies of Sports

Writing Tip of the Day: March 30, 2008
Treat your editors like the coach from any sports team
because the editor knows their audience and only rejects writing
with a good reason--even if you never learn the specifics.
Awlrighty then! Guess I'd better decide which wall to paper with those pending rejections. What I'd rather do, though, is not waste anyone's time.
What I take from this tip is, try as I may I simply won't satisfy every editor, er-- coach. And at very least, I need to know the market, er-- fans I target and give him or her the least amount of reason to sack me. Especially if I'm likely to never know why my dunk didn't slam.
This goes back to research, OK-- studying the playbook and doing what's required to complete a hard-won pass. No. That doesn't mean I'm not going to earn my fair share of penalties, or not have a foul called against me. I'm sure there's still a lesson or three for me to learn the hard way. But! I can work to keep near upsets at a minimum or a flag from even being thrown. Because the referee doesn't have to change his mind based on the instant replay. If he even decides to review it.
Since those 4th quarter Hail Marys are risky, I'd prefer to stay ahead of the game and remain a heavy favorite. So, I'd best get busy. I've got a full court press to maneuver, the clock is ticking and it's minutes to the buzzer, er-- deadline.
Oh yeah! I can do sports analogies. But, it took a bit of research.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Power of Editing

Writing Tip of the Day: March 28, 2008
Never resist editing, because your writing isn't etched in stone
and can always be improved for the reader.

When I put words to a page, whether handwritten or keyed into a Word Doc, I work merely to extract my thoughts and put them into some semblence of order. Editing is the next logical step in making oneself understood. I edit first, to make sure the storyline is clear. And second, for how a reader comprehends. There are times I want my prose bold and/or straightforward. Other times I wish it to remain cryptic.

I have also characters [The Ancients] whose voices go well beyond the average sixth grade reading level and I do not wish to them dumbed down. This is when I share snippets. I need to get the feel for someone else's perception. I will either understand and agree with their point of view or disagree entirely. And to me that simply means, I need make myself better understood. I then re-edit accordingly.

Though many write first for themselves, making sure a reader actually reads past the first few paragraphs, is in the power of the edit.

There are two problems in this area I acknowledge and need to overcome. One is I share my snippets too soon. Had I left them alone for a few days, revisited them with fresh eyes and more editing, I could have avoided certain critiques and not wasted someone else's precious time on less significant errors.

Problem number two: In nearly every early draft of my Forbidden World Chronicles storyline, I he/she'd my numerous characters all over the place and offer up their true names only during subsequent edits. I then work to ensure a balance and use of proper names and pronouns.

What's the trouble? I've pulled old files in order to find a scene I've already addressed, and while reading found I had absolutely no idea who was talking. I worked knowing who it was that talked, and wrote solely by what he or she did or said. I have since realized, on more than one occasion, I may never recover the exact character's identity. I will surely work on a safegaurd.

With the advent of web logs, the power of editing is most important when bloggers service their readers with feeds to subscribe to updates. I risk losing readership with duplicative or unwarranted strings of notices generated by my not finding or correcting an error only after I updated.

Say I update a new post to Soul Echoes and see an error while I view it 'in a new window.' Immediately, I go back and edit the misspelled word or spacing, and then re-publish. Is another e-mail generated to my faithful readers? A few blogs I subscribe to have the post in the body of the e-mail. If they rely solely on the email, they will read my error(s). If I'm luckier, they will click on the link and read the corrected version.

With all that posed, here is a good, more modern day, web-related axiom by which to live; [as offered by Devon Ellington. See Ink in my Coffee, The Scuffy Dog Review, Mystic Lit]

"Revise before you post."

At very least, make it a regular practice and utilize the blog editor's Preview function.

One final thought.

I'm not really sure how reasonable this is, but~~ As I drafted this post, the following occurred to me. If we had only the briefest of moments to make ourselves understood, and but one sheet of paper to capture the most important of our thoughts, with equally limited time to edit, what might those words be?

For me, that's another post!

Thank you for visiting and sharing my thoughts,

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Expectations of the Apprentice

Writing Tip of the Day: March 25, 2008
Rarely does anyone skyrocket to the bestseller list.
Most writers persevere, learn the craft of writing and expect to apprentice.

I acknowledged my stubborn perseverance in The Quality and Value of One's Work. So, for this post I'll focus on apprenticeship; on the craft of writing.

Earlier this month I edited a piece down to a specific word count and into what I feel is a final draft. I focused on construction, tense, and unnecessary words. I kept my ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ words to a minimum. I feel it's ready to submit for publication. My first attempt in many years.

I purchased the 2008 Writer's Market. I also found, because the Writer's Market is not the be all and end all of listed publications. Mainstays such as, Family Circle, Women's Day, and Martha Steward Living are not listed in the General Index. So, the Public Library and/or local newsstand is next as my research continues, throughout the rest of the week.

As the list of potential magazines grows, so does the requests for submission guidelines. And, while I wait for those to fill up my mailbox [some publications provide them online] I'll draft out a query or cover letter; whichever they require.

I've heard and read the numerous stories of the countless rejections many writers suffer prior to finding the editor that eventually said, "Yes." I met an editor and book doctor at the annual Columbus Writers Conference, a few years back, Patrick LoBrutto, if I'm remembering correctly [I'll have to pull my notes and tapes] , who turned down The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a key point in his seminar. He uses it as regards the retrospective folly of one's ways; that even editors make mistakes.

I expect to collect my share of rejection letters. And, while I'm not sure whether I'll slip them one by one into a file or use them to proudly decorate my walls, I will persevere and continue to learn. I'll use this blog as part of my apprenticeship. And who knows, one day I may just ride a rocket tail all the way to the top of that best sellers list.

What Shapes a Writer?

Many writers write to inform and serve society well. Others do not. There's a vast amount of misinformation out there and we've suffered a fair share of historians that mislead or rewrote the truth. It would not be unreasonable to want to question the slant of ancient writings; along with anything written up to the 21st century. Strong and oft-times biased convictions shaped their words, as did interpretations made by unfamiliar tongues. But that's a whole other topic of discussion; with many implications.

The following questions and comments posed here focus on the imaginative, creative writer. Though I can truly speak only for myself, I believe what one experiences in life--one's needs, desires, or the lack thereof--shapes the words and dialogs of those who feel so inclined to capture and share them. But what drives the desire to share them? What shapes the minds of those who create breathtaking, yet imaginary vistas and/or faraway worlds?

My thoughts are shaped by my experiences, or again, the lack thereof. I'm shaped first how I grew up in the family dynamic. This is where we're told what to do or better believe. I'm shaped secondly by what I chose to read and decided to believe. Though my larger work-in-progress involves time displacement, others worlds, dimensions, and that which cannot be seen by the physical three dimensional human eye, it also offers my perspective on life; as we know or understand it to be.

It's based on peoples' endless questions, throughout equally endless time, of where do we come from and where do we go after death? Who am I? Who is God? Is God dead? Is there life on other planets or are we alone? Does the Big Bang Theory really explain it all? How did the dinosaurs really die? These are just the questions off the top of my head. I remember there being more, but-- I wondered simply whether we're asking the wrong questions. I believe the real question should be, why don't we know?

With all that posed, why am I so inclined to write it all down? And what even constitutes a writer? Is it merely putting pen to page or fingers to a keyboard? Does keeping a diary or journal make one a writer. That may well depend on the contents, and whether the owner intends them for eyes other than their own. I would argue that shopping lists don't count.
Does it require a concerted effort to capture and organize one's thoughts in order to share a story, regardless whether it's ever published? It is solely a desire to see oneself published? If there's a novel or screenplay in the works, then I'd say there's a writer behind it the effort.

The rule of thumb seems to be: anyone who writes is a writer. But he or she cannot claim to author until their work is either published or read by other people. I believe what's most important to consider is whether any given individual views themselves as a writer. And what ultimately shapes a writer, is the discovery of self, and a little to do with the want of being heard.
As for me? I remember a point, sometime while or after reading The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Earthsea Trilogy, the Dragonriders of Pern, and the Foundation series, when I said to myself, "I can do this!"

I bought a package of notebook paper and began to shape my thoughts; all written by hand. Varton is the main character. But when I couldn't figure out, after going into a land from whence no one ever returned, how he would communicate with those left behind, I boxed up all the files an literally put it on a shelf. Though I have since figured it out, I moved on and have spent years fleshing out my Forbidden World Chronicles; a storyline some might think consumes me.

They're wrong. It merely lives in and to some degree, has helped to shape me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Quality & Value of One's Work

Writing Tip of the Day: March 24, 2008
Believe in the quality of your work and the value of your message
and at the same time, recognize surprises always happen in publishing.

To me there's a 'stop second guessing your work' in that suggestion. And I'm more than willing to entertain, OK-- I'm ready and waiting, for those above-mentioned "surprises." But, jovial banter aside, if I didn't believe in my work, I wouldn't be so persistent. Yes, I've suffered periods of time where it all sat on a back burner. Life Happens! But I've always come back; it's reason never wanes.
There are varied quoted statements regarding, 'the writers who never give up are the ones who get published, i.e.,
A professional writer is an ameteur who never gave up. ~Richard Bach
I know I'm just that stubborn. I also know some people are annoyed by that trait. But that depends entirely on their use of me. Regardless the slant, I've found it of value; at times. It's not like I don't know I occasionally stumble over my own stubbornness. But that's a whole other Oprah Show.
I so believe in the value of my work, that I've risked bearing my soul when I offered up copies to be critiqed. I've put my ego aside and shouldered their comments or suggestions. I may not always agree. To me that simply means, I need make myself better understood.
I've unbelievably said no to a date, "Not tonight," to a guy [my family was determined to fix me up.] because he continued to call on nights I determined, "writing nights." OK! I wasn't really 'into him.' And, fancy smancy cars don't impress me. I refused to let him [or them] dissuade me from what I wanted to accomplish.
It's a lonely art; chiseling your thoughts. If I'm to reap the potential rewards, I need eagerly believe and value my work. And never give it up.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Privilage of Writing

Writing Tip of the Day: March 22, 2008
Seek to maintain balance because writing is both a privilege and a business.

I will leave alone the "business" side of this equation; for now. I've yet to earn an income from writing, so I'll focus my effort on the matter of "privilege."

Another word for privilege is freedom. A thing, first and foremost, this country was founded on. But many writers, seemingly worlds away, have been and still are silenced. Their license to be either creative or informative does not exist.
With the freedom provided by the advent of the world wide web, the complaint is 'now everyone and their brother with a blog, thinks they're a writer.' That said, I'll trust I do not end up in that category! Oh, I admit I'm still not all that savvy about blogging. I've yet figure out the new blogroll ditty. That will come with time. I will also admit, I'm still practicing the craft. But, I also have the freedo to do so.

Though I'm a little more forgiving of obvious misspellings--our lives are so busied these days and most are quick to want their perspectives known, and are merely in a rush to do so--I do see a problem in some blogs as regards words used wrongly. Ive seen way too much their or there used instead of they're, and vis versa; in whatever the combination. Or here instead of hear; to instead of too. And one that grates on that proverbial last nerve, ideal used in place of idea. Though the list could go on [see Commonly Confused Words (I fell victim recently, to envelop/envelope. And I do know the difference!)], they are simple, yet all too common mistakes. And as writers, we cannot rely solely on any given spell checker.

I also have difficulty with the fact that something has gone terribly wrong with the spoken word as well. Though I have since seen it in writing, if I hear conversate (or conversating) one more time instead of converse [same with ideal/idea], I'm likely to scream. And Heaven help the person on the other end of my rant.

Okay. I've digressed; somewhat.

If we are to utilize our privilege, our freedom to write, then as writers we must also take up the responsibility of proper thought of the words we use. Regardless the prose or form of verse, words have life. And they should never be taken for granted. Especially when we've such a privilege.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Impact of Words

Writing Tip of the Day: March 21, 2008
Whether you write an email, a manuscript, a query letter or a book proposal,
never forget the positive or negative impact of your words.
The positive or negative impact of words. Yes. I do seem to be stuck on this topic. As I've said in a previous post, we brandish words about, at times, with rare thought to the consequences. And once said, we are forever left defending them. Right or Wrong. Night or Day. Light or Dark. Matter or Anti-matter. [OK--- So I stretched a bit!]
Words are one's legacy. They are echoes of who we are, were, and/or strive to be. Words are said or written, in the moment. Breath by never-ending breath. Words make or break promises. And until we are all Enlightened, and on the same page, we will be forever judged by them. If we were to consider words as sacred, each and every one, how more careful would we be?
We use words to judge or patronize. We offer them in prayer or to praise. We offer them up to gossip and hate; to seduce and/or ensnare. Words are the most powerful means of communication; whether spoken or etched upon finely crafted pulp, in stone, or across a digital screen face.
Historians have used words to either chronicle, embellish, and/or hide the truth; depending on whether they be the conquerors or conquered. Writers plaque their readers with riddles and mind games. They use words to entertain; taking readers to another time, imagined worlds, or far-and-away lands. They also use them to report, inform, expose, or enrage; to teach, provoke thought, or confuse. And then they sign their works; whether by true name or nom de plume. While yet others brag about or ridicule anonymously via the world wide web.
Positive or Negative. We are all the Judge. And therein lies, regardless the verbiage, responsibility to use them wisely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Power of Words

Finely crafted words charm the attentions of readers. They inform or entertain. Give voice to the imagined, or elicit the heartiest of laughter. They can cut, provoke, divide, and inspire. And may bring irony or injustices to light, or a hardened heart to tears.
I've written how ill-spoken words inflict the worst of wounds. [Quill of the Heart ~ Never Get It Back], and are easily manipulated [The Coming Year~2008]. A thorny business, Spin. Whether vocalized or captured by keystroke, words are spun moment by moment. There is no silence. And they trigger emotions that might otherwise go unfelt, unvoiced, or unacted upon. Carefully chosen, they affect and ensnare. Consider the following article: Invasion of the Movement Snatchers.
Words are vulnerable when taken out of context, and inevitably lead to conflict when left open to interpretation. They are too easily dismissed, if twisted beyond reason. And should be challenged if intent is in question. A tricky business, Words. One that none should take lightly.
Writers [or those still aspiring to the claim], are the words they choose to fashion. They have a responsibility to their craft and are judged by the use or misuse of words. Though with practice comes understanding, whether words of fact or fiction, praise comes only with being understood.