The Mondays

IRES_RNAfold
“It looks like my story line is going… where?”

It is Monday. I am writing, yes the curse of November may be lifted yet. So what is going on? In the short fiction course I am taking we are required to (finally) write a short story. I am working on it. In the course I am a week behind, it has been busy, but these is writing going on.

This week we are finally looking at editing and I hope to get some insight into that, since it is still an elusive skill to me. The hyperlink story, brought to you by me and Ville where we deliver a story in 100 word chunks (or drabbles) via a challenged title has taken time, since each story is so packed with information or needs to deliver very precise. Also it is a hyperlink story, so each drabble connects to some others, while it may not be clear. This could be strutted easily if there was a plan prior. Yet we do not have. So structure is only applied while and after writing. Indexing took some time, then side drabbles run in parallel now to support other stories. It is becoming more and more fun, but if anybody would ever get something out of it I do not know.

So if you ever have time I invite you to read it if you want (you can find it all in The Cave (see link on top); some discussion or feed-back on hyperlink stories is something I am looking for.

Did you ever write in that format? Is it a rewarding forum? Or is a classic tale with a real beginning, middle and end better?

Advertisements

The Mondays – Iteration

Do it, do it again, keep doing it until the deadline (or you are sick of this final draft):
Do it, do it again, keep doing it until the deadline (or you are sick of this final draft):

An attempt thwarted by bad spelling perhaps. In any case I was one day late and even though the editor said they carefully considered it another short story got rejected for publication. Its is ok, as an academic where in peer-review publications seldom there are comments, or in grant application where 1 out 10 applications (or less) gets funded, rejection is a continuous process. It is a constant in the formula.

On Saturday scenes my “following” is not big, but the opinions I do value. Fellow writers with more experience and mostly native English speakers may read and comment. This particular short was not shot down, so it gives hope to polish it up and send it out again.

The iterative cycles of draft to the final version (whatever that may mean) are important. I surely understand the power of the long, slow push and hope I have the stamina to get through my own manuscript several times to call it done and done. One good practice I keep forgetting to implement is to read my stories out loud, record them and listen back to them. I guess because it is not natural to do so.

Us writers* are also readers. Of course we are. We start young and read many years before we really start writing. When we are very young we listen to stories, and via the media we still watch and listen a lot. I say it is not natural to listen to a story only (at least for me, there a many book-on-tape addict out there I am sure), because when we read we get so lost in the words and the story. We add our own imagination to it. We read between the lines. The words get their own identity. From that place I write. Word come as a flow, and even though I look up once in a while to see where I am going, my eyes are on the few meters ahead of me. I never forget the total picture, but the scene and the moment-of-the-words is the now. So I should break that mold and listen to the words I think. At least as a researcher I should explore the method.

I am curious about others and their methods**, so I will wait for comments while I sip my Monday morning coffee and stare over the fields of my imagination…

*) Hear me oh others, with my puffed up breast and my tail feathers blazing. I am a writer! (It felt a little pompous to include me in the “Us writers” thing. Maybe I misspelled Us, yeah lets leave it at that…)

**) And I will ask as well, a guest post blog is coming up. Very exciting stuff!

The Tuesdays – Keep applying pressure

Sisyphys (1548–49) by Titian
Sisyphys (1548–49) by Titian

Wait a minute! Did this guy not promise to write blogs on Mondays and Fridays? Geez! Yep I did.

Yesterday, and actually all weekend was full of writing. As I mentioned many times already, two EU grant applications (one with the deadline this month, the other one was due last week Tuesday) take up some time, and I really wanted to make progress in a short story that I am writing: “Jumpers” for a competition due the end of this month as well. It is only maximum 2500 words, but I want to put some serious effort in.

In addition, the short story will be expanded upon to be a chapter in my work in progress: The death of an Emperor. Some snippets of that in its most raw form I posted already on G+. I may have to take it down at some point before publishing, maybe not, I have not decided yet. I feel right now that if the characters come alive enough  in this short story, I may follow up ‘Death of an Emperor’ with a book about the rebels on Ganymede in the wake of the Emperor’s death (no spoilers here, the Emperor dies).

So basically despite the busy week I managed to push something out and made progress. Sometimes that is all you need, some progress. Once in a while I  see posts that remind me of the proverbial pissing contest: “I wrote 6000 word today!” Well congratulations, I managed to do 300. I will crawl in the corner now and whither away with my unwritten literary thoughts. Of course the person is not at the moment a full time researcher, with 3 young & magical children, a heroic wife, 2 EU grant applications (‘oh shut up already, one is even already submitted!’), and trying to write a book, short stories, blogs and is not suffering from a mild addition to Renaissance  kingdoms. Oh and Opaque Dreams has to be finish some time as well (I started those poems in 1997). But we will get there, slowly we push in one direction and things will move.

I noticed this in my daily work as well, just keep applying pressure in one direction and in time things move. Sometimes fast, and then keep up, some times slow, and then keep applying pressure. Breath in between. Ask for help, collaborate where you can, but push all the time.

So I managed to ramble something. Yes it is Tuesday, but any day just writing something is more than thinking about writing something. Remember that not everything you write is good, but it is better than no writing at all.

See you Friday when I try to address the Introduction. It is all about hooks and cliff-hangers is it not?

The Mondays – its monday

7010758-cup-of-coffee-splash-cityIt is really Monday. Deadlines are crushing my brain so I need to get some words down here, just of release the brain of the pressure of not writing here. Funny is it not? We write because we like it, yet for a lot of people, writing a story or a book is not yet bound to publisher’s dead-lines. We are not all hounded like George R. R. Martin for not being faster.

So in our professional world we all have things to do. Where do you find time to write you stories? I am writing 2 EU grant applications now, and a short story “needs” to be finished today so I can submit it to a magazine, which has a deadline. For me I find it hard to push me to write if there are not these time crunches heading my way. Though I am not as productive as I feel I should be I, having a weekly scene for G+ #saturdayscenes helps my story get along nicely. I tried last year #NaNoMoWrite, but that seemed to much pressure. I will try again this year, we will see. So am am off to my 5th cup of coffee of the morning, outline a lecture, finish a EU grant application by tomorrow and I will submit a short story by the end of the day. Even from the bus if I have to.

Because we write and it is so much fun! It is just a typical Monday morning today (yes the power went out as well for a while ;o) I wish you all happy writing this week!

(Credit goes to Jenna Sun for the image!)

The Mondays – Editing

http://blog.kbuuk.com/2014/05/14/8-tips-for-self-editing-your-novel/
The red pen. So feared, so crushing my hopes. Stifled is my voice by hurdles of grammar…

Edeting. Editing is a necessity for a non native English speaker. However, I understand that it is also hard for English natives. I understand, I am horrible in (or at) Dutch grammar.

You see it took me 3 Google searches and several minutes of my time to look thing up in the above paragraph and if further grammar errors are present in this text please send me you suggestions.

I used to write by hand, mainly for the poetry and short stories and I frequently got annoyed by not knowing the English word, a suitable synonym or just the correct spelling that I switched to computer based writing. When Firefox introduced the spell check in the browser life got again a bit easier. Though annoying, as if tripping over a stone, at least the major spelling mistakes are filtered out. Well that is what I thought. Then you share some text with other writers, some of them editors and apparently ‘tow doves on a wire’ does not make any sense. Frustrating.

So then back to older texts and re-reading them; sure enough many grammar mistakes and errors in spelling. Typos in most cases. I can recommend to read this book: The Well-Presented Manuscript by Mike Reeves-McMillan and must admit that I am not good at the clean writing from the get-go. I need to polish afterwards. I have never had my text proof-read by a professional editor, my wife is American and experienced proof-reader, so I ask for her opinion. However, where some of my doubts slip in are if the order of chapters is correct. Or if I should break up the chapters or leave them as they are. Maybe I should delete the whole thing? Like a painter at one point it is done (enough) to move to something else.

While I looked for the image for this blog, I came across some other useful tips (I am sure there are numerous blogs of respectable and capable editors out there, but I just stumble here). You can find the 8 tips here. I found them useful. Never thought about tip 1: reading my text out loud. I will start doing this, and putting it on Soundcloud so I can listen back to it myself.

What do you do to get past the editing stage and evoking the feeling within that the manuscript is super awesome and ready for the world? I would love to hear you comments so I can learn. Or if you are an editor I can afford, that too (or to?)…

The Mondays – about flash-backs

filepicker_Zrrws6IxR0GItZA4dei2_Every_Flashback_Has_A_Silver_LiningEditing. I thought last week I wanted to write about editing today. However, I just submitted a scene to #saturdayscenes on Google+ where I start with a conversation and then right after that a flash-back. I like saturdayscenes in that respect because it forces you to get something written which is half decent, while you get feed-back from other writers, luckily many more experienced than I am.

One critique I got was that, especially inexperienced writers, use flash-backs a lot. It felt personal at that point, simply because I am an inexperienced writer. I then read  some articles about flash-backs and writing tips. I will not copy the ideas and advice here, but you can check them out here and here. I think the articles offered me some good insight in what I do wrong and how to address these issues. One comment to my scenes was: “short flashbacks are a part of your writing style…” In the critique that I got the majority of the commenters thought that the short flashback worked for the scene. I did not get the feeling people loved the scenes (to be fair, not much happened).

My intent for that chapter is to give the reader a window in the relationship she was in just one day before she has to meet her former lover again. The meeting will be very formal and very public. I want to have the reader carry her baggage with her. Now that I read more about flashbacks I am happy I did not finish the chapter yet. It would have been a sinus-wave of past and present, while the present would have no flow. I already have a chapter like that, but there a father is re-reading the journal of his long, lost daughter. To make it even worse, some chapters are in the past, some now and some later. ‘Now’ is the defined by the event that binds all vignettes.

I think I need to sharpen the writing tools and learn how to bring in short bits of information to the reader via conversations, comments by others or short memories of the character to bring out the tension for the meeting.

Or

Split the chapter in two: past and present in two different sections. I cannot put it somewhere else (I think) for the book will be a set of vignettes. Now how I will present the vignettes is topic of research I will leave for another day.

So what are you thoughts on flash-backs in books? Do or don’t? And how to do it best?

The Mondays – part 1

“I decided to give my gun a name, so it would not look so strange when I talk to it. I call him Incentive.” Daydreaming in the bus. Not that I was daydreaming about really buying a gun or naming my imaginary gun, it came up in an imaginary interview I was conducting with two people I actually do not know.

Winters in Finland can be quite cold at times, so I take the bus. It is a good time to read book(s), since the winter-bus-time is about 5 months and I have 2 hours a day to kill. The rest of the year I try to cycle as much as I can. It is about an hour cycle each way, not great for reading book(s). Now my bike is broken and under repair, so I am reluctant to start a book. Either way on the bike while bikeling or on the bus while busling I daydream. Many silly ideas fly by, some good sentence and ideas for stories.

I also decided that in order to get some content to this blog that at least I should do something once a week. So since Monday mornings are already filled with a tired stare at the screen while tanking up on coffee, I decided I should dedicate this time to write my blog. So now I am writing in this blog about writing a blog. Not really Keats, but oh well…

O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
So withing daydreaming I can find sentences I would like to remember for use in poems or stories, yet larger ideas for (bigger) stories are usually born while writing from those ideas. Short stories, as I used to write them, followed an opening sentence I felt important to pen down. Now I am writing chapters for a book I hope will someday be a book, I noticed I am inspired differently and look ahead more. More like driving a care then riding a bike. Which is a wrong comparison, since writing short stories is like speeding down a hill without breaks, while writing a chapter is more like cycling uphill with a kid’s tricycle (at least for me).
I am curious about how do you scoop ideas from your head, from initial ideas to sentence to sentence?