Freedom of Writing, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing prompt

A Writer’s Life

Where do your ideas come from?

Seriously, what sparks your ideas to create? From a blank page/screen flows a myriad of words, strung together in just the right way to evoke emotion of every kind. To stir the ability of every reader, to forget where they are and immerse themselves in imagination.

When I think about this, I really understand the power of language. Writing is a superpower, especially in the hands of a Master. Ok now I am humbled. I have a long uphill climb to reach that lofty peak. Will I make it? Who cares, the fun is in the journey … right?

So that journey. That’s where the ideas spark, bake, incubate, grow, die and flourish. (Not necessarily in that order either.) You hone your craft, realize your style, and find your voice. I wish it were so simple! Angst, doubt, and fear cloud reason. They insist you’re a hack. That tiny voice nagging in the background, you know the one; it tells you the story on the back of the cereal box is more brilliant than anything you write! (I haven’t read a cereal box in years.) Yet, you keep writing. Why?

Personally, if I don’t, I’ll have an aneurysm from the pressure of the squirrels multiplying in my head. Or a heart attack from bottling up my emotions. So I write. 

My oldest son messaged me the other day. “Mom, I had a four-day weekend. In my head I finally worked out what was wrong with my story, but I didn’t write a word. I’ll never make it as a writer. I’m too lazy.” Did I mention angst?

This made me think why writers don’t write. It’s not lazy. It’s working forty-plus hours a week at a job that has nothing to do with a writer’s life. It’s being surrounded by people who don’t write unless they must and people who don’t outwardly show creative curiosity. I told him I get it. When you write, you immerse yourself in that process. It’s difficult to get started when you know your life is going to interrupt that process multiple times.

Personally, it took nearly two years of full time writing for me to enter a space where I could immerse myself, yet keep a bead on the world around me. It took stepping out of the working world. It took distancing myself from the people who distract me from my purpose. It took surrounding myself in an environment conducive to unleashing my creativity. My son doesn’t have that luxury… yet. His time will come. Until then, it’s all fits and starts.

Yet, I know not every writer or creative requires this, or do they? I know experiences, travel, interaction with the world, produces the ideas. But the time spent typing the words (or handwriting) requires stretches of solitude. The immersion into the process. 

Definitely the writer’s life isn’t for everyone, but I’ll be damned if I go do something else ever again.

SLRandall, writer and artist
https://awriterwrites.org/
https://artistbyaccident.com/

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Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Open Comment Week

Use the comments section to discuss anything of interest to you that is related to the writing life.

I’ll begin…

And now for something completely different.

Four billion years ago, the bit of iron pictured above was part of a larger chunk in the asteroid belt. Sometime between 160,000 and 90,000 years ago, homo sapiens sapiens evolved and began imagining things.

Quite recently -February 12, 1947, actually- H. s. sapiens noted 200,000 pounds of that iron arriving on earth and wondered what it was and where it had come from. The resulting fireball was brighter than the sun. The artist Pyotr Medvedev, who at that moment was painting a landscape on the street, opened his mouth in amazement. “We thought it was an explosion of the American atomic bomb, since it happened shortly after the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.”

The event was significant because it marked the end of the iron bit’s natural history. H. s. sapiens imagined many scenarios and eventually they calculated the physical laws that whimsically sent it here, they analyzed it (93% iron, 5.9% nickel, 0.42% cobalt, 0.46% phosphorus, and 0.28% sulfur, with trace amounts of germanium and iridium; minerals present include taenite, plessite, troilite, chromite, kamacite, and schreibersite, if you must know) and they even figured out its origin and then they displayed it in their space travel gift shop on a deliberately unnaturalized beach they called Cape Canaveral. One H. s. sapien, me, had it mounted for wearing on a chain around his neck.

This piece of iron is no longer subject merely to the universal laws of physics. It now also wears according to the whims of one H. s. sapien who began his novel, The Phoenix Diary, by stating,
“The consequences of the Big Bang should have flowed like rows of falling dominoes; the physical universe should be predictable. But it ain’t, because intelligent life forms are messing with it.”
This piece of iron is proof of that statement. The H. s. sapien feels vindicated.

Sikhote-Alin Meteorite
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editing, Writers Co-op

A to X Writing Advice, Courtesy of Copy Chief Benjamin Dreyer

Benjamin Dreyer is the VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House Publishing Group. Below is his list of the common stumbling blocks for authors, from A to X.

  • One buys antiques in an antiques store from an antiques dealer; an antique store is a very old store.
  • He stayed awhile; he stayed for a while.
  • Besides is other than; beside is next to.
  • The singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep.
  • blond man, a blond woman; he’s a blond, she’s a blonde.

A capital is a city (or a letter, or part of a column); a capitol is a building.

  • Something centers on something else, not around it.
  • If you’re talking about a thrilling plot point, the word is climactic; if you’re discussing the weather, the word is climatic.
  • cornet is an instrument; a coronet is a crown.
  • One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to a place.
  • The word is enmity, not emnity.
  • One goes to work every day, or nearly, but eating lunch is an everyday occurrence.
  • flair is a talent; a flare is an emergency signal.
  • flier is someone who flies planes; a flyer is a piece of paper.
  • Flower bed, not flowerbed.
  • Free rein, not free reign.
  • To garner is to accumulate, as a waiter garners tips; to garnish (in the non-parsley meaning) is to take away, as the government garnishes one’s wages; a garnishee is a person served with a garnishment; to garnishee is also to serve with a garnishment (that is, it’s a synonym for “to garnish”).
  • gel is a jelly; it’s also a transparent sheet used in stage lighting. When Jell-O sets, or when one’s master plan takes final form, it either jells or gels (though I think the former is preferable).
  • Bears are grizzly; crimes are grisly. Cheap meat, of course, is gristly.
  • Coats go on hangers; planes go in hangars.
  • One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).
  • One insures cars; one ensures success; one assures people.
  • Lawn mower, not lawnmower.
  • The past tense of lead is led, not lead.
  • One loathes someone else but is loath to admit one’s distaste.
  • If you’re leeching, you’re either bleeding a patient with a leech or otherwise sucking someone’s or something’s lifeblood. If you’re leaching, you’re removing one substance from another by means of a percolating liquid (I have virtually no idea what that means; I trust that you do).

You wear a mantle; your fireplace has a mantel.

  • Masseurs are men; masseuses are women. Many otherwise extremely well educated people don’t seem to know this; I have no idea why. (These days they’re all called massage therapists anyway.)
  • The short version of microphone is still, so far as RH is concerned, mike. Not, ick, “mic.” [2009 update: I seem to be losing this battle. Badly. 2010 update: I’ve lost. Follow the author’s lead.]
  • There’s no such word as moreso.
  • Mucus is a noun; mucous is an adjective.
  • Nerve-racking, not -wracking; racked with guilt, not wracked with guilt.
  • One buys a newspaper at a newsstand, not a newstand.
  • An ordinance is a law; ordnance is ammo.
  • Palette has to do with color; palate has to do with taste; a pallet is, among other things, something you sleep on. Eugene Pallette was a character actor; he’s particularly good in the 1943 film Heaven Can Wait.
  • Nounwise, a premier is a diplomat; a premiere is something one attends. “Premier” is also, of course, an adjective denoting quality.
  • That which the English call paraffin (as in “paraffin stove”), we Americans call kerosene. Copy editors should keep an eye open for this in mss. by British authors and query it. The term paraffin should generally be reserved for the waxy, oily stuff we associate with candles.
  • Prophecy is a noun; prophesy is a verb.
  • Per Web 11, it’s restroom.
  • The Sibyl is a seeress; Sybil is Basil Fawlty’s wife.
  • Please don’t mix somewhat and something into one murky modifier. A thing is somewhat rare, or it’s something of a rarity.
  • tick bites; a tic is a twitch.
  • Tortuous is twisty, circuitous, or tricky; torturous is painful, or painfully slow.
  • Transsexual, not transexual.
  • Troops are military; troupes are theatrical.
  • vice is depraved; a vise squeezes.
  • Vocal cords; strikes a chord.
  • A smart aleck is a wise guy; a mobster is a wiseguy.
  • X ray is a noun; X-ray is a verb or adjective.
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About Writers, humor, inspiration, Literary critique, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Ten Things Writers Do That Cause Me To Sigh Heavily

Originally posted on Penguin’s Book Country by Carl E. Reed, March 21, 2012

In no particular order here are ten things writers do that cause me to sigh heavily:

1.) Use words that sound like the opposite of what they mean: Puissant doesn’t sound mighty, powerful or potent to this speaker of 21st-century Anglo-Saxon dialect and noisome immediately invokes the aural, not olfactory, sense (for me).

2.) Misuse words: Penultimate is not a synonym for “ultimate” (it means “next to last”, as in the number nine in a series counting up from zero to ten), and a semi-automatic weapon (fires one bullet every time the trigger is pulled) is not identical with a fully automatic weapon; i.e., a machine gun. For that matter marines are never soldiers, troops or dog-faces (I’m looking at you Stephen King!), they’re marines, Leathernecks, Devil-dogs, jarheads or grunts. (That last word applies if your marine is also an infantryman.)

3.) Write mediocre, albeit serviceable prose: Has this ever happened to you? You pick up a book and begin to flip through it only to realize almost immediately that there’s no there there; the writer’s voice is as homogenized and ennui-inducing as vanilla frosting on cardboard masticated by a muppet. For god’s sake stop writing in a defensive crouch! Get out there and say something on the page with all those words you’re time-sharing with the rest of the human race. You may fall flat on your face but I’ll respect you for trying; I truly will. Bullet-proof prose is boring prose.

4.) Litter your text with untranslated foreign words and phrases: A word or two here and there is fine but entire sentences? Paragraphs? As Isaac Asimov once remarked: “I’m flattered that you think I’m fluent in every language ever spoken by humans, including the dead ones, but please—don’t flatter me that much.”

5.) Characters who are forever staring off into the “middle-distance”: I swear to Harlan Ellison, if I ever read again of a character who “stares off into the middle distance” in order to communicate thoughtful reverie to the reader I’m going to fling the book off into the middle distance.

6.) Characters who are described as looking like famous people: “She had a raspy, Kathleen Turner-like voice; he was beautiful and energized as Ernest Borgnine on a bender”. Lazy!

7.) Insult your reader’s intelligence: Everyone else is smarter than you are. I thought you knew that? Never write down to your audience—despite the bad advice you may have been given by demographic-obsessed marketers, burnt-out grumpy editors and well-meaning friends and relatives urging you to “dumb it down.”

8.) Stop your narrative dead in its tracks by injecting too much back-story too soon: If I want to read a history book I’ll read a history book. I bought Demon Balls & Lost Sabbaths because I thought something was going to happen here . . .

9.) Over-use adverbs while under-using evocative adjectives and vivid descriptive nouns: Kill as many adverbs as you can while polishing those adjectives and vivid descriptive nouns. In the first instance, trust your reader—kill as many adverbs as you can bear to live without. If a character has just shouted or ended a sentence with an exclamation mark I probably don’t need an “angrily” speech tag to underline that fact. In the second instance give us more vivid, picturesque speech: Writing “she walked inside the house, threw her purse on the table and bent down to kiss the dog” is not a better sentence than, “she walked into the mildewed cottage, threw her satchel purse on the table and bent down to kiss her beloved beagle Bacon-barker.” Stop worshipping at the altar of minimalism—it’s a false religion with a blank-faced idiot god.

10.) Then suddenly out of nowhere!: The use of the word “suddenly” always reads as the injection of cheap drama and comical, amped-up surprise to me: “She was walking along the winding cobblestone path when SUDDENLY a black-masked bear jumped out of the bushes and demanded her Odor-eater shoe inserts”; “He sat there smoking when SUDDENLY an angel of the Lord appeared and smote him about the head and shoulders with a kielbasa.”

What are the things other writers do that drive you crazy?

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marketing, Writers Co-op, writing technique

FIRST LINES

First lines should (obviously) suck the reader into the next line and launch the tone of the story.

“Alan Smith watched the man who had been shot through the brain.”
Serious.

“The home looked like any other on the street. But it hadn’t been there yesterday.”
Mystery sci-fi.

“Roy’s Reconditioning Camp for Cats was doing better than expected.”
Humor.

My favorite first line is from Catch 22. “It was love at first sight.”
Great!

Oh, and my least favorite first line:
“Since the publication of the eleventh edition in 1949, each new edition has been marked by a significant shift in publishing technologies, starting with the advent of phototypesetting in the 1950s, whereby text was rendered on photographic paper rather than as lines of metal type, the norm since the first edition.”
– The Chicago Manual of Style Gag me with a spoon.

Good first lines entice the reader to read on. What are some of your favorite first lines, including ones that you have used in your own stories?

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blogging, book promotion, marketing, Podcast, Writers Co-op

PODCAST INVITATION

  • by Joseph Carrabis

This is a wonderful opportunity to help trauma survivors get their stories and work out to a wider audience.

For those who don’t know, Katie Koestner was on the cover of TIME Magazine at the age of 18 as the first person to speak out nationally and publicly as the victim of “date” rape. She is now the Producer and Host of the Dear Katie: Survivor Stories podcast.

My function is two fold. One, to find any creatives (not just authors) whose work deals with trauma and healing, and engage them in podcast conversations regarding their work and their lives post trauma. Two, to help find trauma survivors who’ll share their stories for the main Dear Katie podcast, review episodes before they go to air, edit, and make suggestions as necessary.

Please leave a comment if you or someone you know has written a fiction or non-fiction book, article, or story about surviving trauma. Include the title of the published work, the publisher, a synopsis of the story, and a link to where I can find it online.

Thanks.
– Joseph Carrabis

My own work in this area can be seen in the material listed below. Your work doesn’t need to mirror or echo my subject matter to be considered; it only needs to be well-written and deal with survivor issues.

Post Title – Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club; Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories I joined the Katie Koestner organization as Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club, and Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories.

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

This Space Not Reserved

If you drop in from time to time to see what’s being discussed, feel free to stir up a discussion of your own. If you have author privileges, put your post in “Draft” and I will post it on Mondays – on a first-come-first-posted basis. If not, email it to me at
GD(at)Deckard(dot)one
(If you replace the parentheticals with “@” and “.” you’ll have my address. If email-collecting spam ‘bots see it, hopefully the code will thwart them.)
Enough ifs.

This weeks’ commentary is completely open. Open comments week ocurrs when nobody can think of anything to post. Personally, I’d like to hear that Sue channeled Matsuo Bashō to write a haiku, or Boris became apprenticed to Mel Brooks, or that Perry fly fished with Lee Wulff. Or see a link to a new Space Cowboy song. Or watch a Youtube of Victor plugging his latest novel on the Tonight Show, or one of Curtis in Africa accepting an award for his charitable contributions. Or Mimi’s creations becoming NFT art.
But enough ors.

Comment on whatever aspect of writing you care to.

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About Writers, editing, Writers Co-op, writing technique

What IS a Good Story?

While working with editors to screen stories submitted for publications, I find many are rejected because the submission is not a story. It is a scene, a statement, a monologue, maybe a rant. Sometimes, the rejected submission is beautifully worded sentences that literally have no point beyond themselves.

It is not true that any account of a series of related events or experiences constitutes a story. I know that is the definition of a narrative. But for our purposes, it is no more a story than is the space in a building between two adjacent floors. We need stories with conflict, or tension, or surprise, or extraordinary characters or character behavior, or controversy, or mystery, or suspense, or -you get the point. Something that interests a reader and draws them in. And, will give readers reason to buy the next issue of the magazine or anthology.

Google “what makes a story good” and you’ll get thousands of returns. Many writers and teachers of writing offer useful advice for crafting a story. But that advice is useless to the writer who has no story of interest to tell. Editors reject stories with form letters that say nothing. But among themselves, they share reasons such as,
“The writing is good, but the story is uninteresting.”
“A boring telling – no effort is made to pull the reader into the story.”
“I’m sure this entertained the writer more than me.”
“Uninteresting with a predictable ending.”
“No. Not a story.”

Obviously, we all know a good story when we see one. Maybe I’m attempting to categorize an observable element although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. But if someone could succently state what a good story is, they would be helping all of us to get more work published.

What do you think?

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Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Find a Critique Partner

A critique partner is a good idea. It’s hard to read your own story with an impartial, critical eye. Sue Ranscht and I are currently reading each other’s WiP to provide one another with outside perspective and mutual support. I can only hope that my critiques are as useful to her as hers have been for me. Thanks to Sue’s honesty, I’m re-writing my set up. She pushes me to write deeper.

If you are considering critiquing another writer’s work – but, you know, you hesitate to criticize another writer’s work – here are some tips to get you thinking in a useful direction.
Read thoroughly. Don’t skim or speed-read. Surface-level feedback (“I liked it!”) sucks as useful.
Consider using a “compliment sandwich” approach. Start your critique with positive feedback, then offer any criticisms or suggestions, and conclude with additional positive input.
Use clear, specific language.
Make suggestions, not mandates.
Don’t let personal preferences cloud your judgment. Easier said than done, but try.
Practice striking the perfect balance between praise and being constructive.
Watch your tone! Email is notorious for giving the wrong impressions.

Sue has offered to connect you with a writing partner, right here on the Writers Co-op. See:
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/2022/04/24/lets-exchange-critiques/

It also helps to find a writing partner if you stay in touch with people in the writing life. Browse these links.
https://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php
https://www.agentquery.com/
https://www.critiquecircle.com/landing
http://winebird.com/
https://www.critiquematch.com/
There are a ton of other such sites, but I have zero interest in those that charge a fee for use, exist mainly to collect personal data, or don’t strike me as currently active.

The easiest way to get a writing partner, of course, is to email a piece of your work to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. You are thereby agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work. But that’s why they’re called a partner.

NOTE: The image at the top of the page has nothing to do with this discussion. I just liked it.

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About Writers, Literary critique, Writers Co-op

Let’s Exchange Critiques!

Writers Co-op is about helping writers. We’re here to offer advice, resources, and experience about marketing, publishing, and the writing process itself. I’m sure there are other ways you can think of in which Writers Co-op can support its community, but I’m here to offer the one every writer needs even if they think they don’t: thoughtful, constructive, kind critiques.

How many of us are fortunate enough to have a dedicated set of beta readers who eagerly await each installment of our latest Work In Progress? Who among us has even one friend to call on who will read the 400 page draft of our brilliant literary fiction with an editor’s eye, sharing their thoughts in enough detail to help us polish our work to a professional gleam? How often have you wished a real writer would take a look at what you’ve written and offer a little free feedback?

Of course, it’s possible you are absolutely certain what you have spent months writing in the solitary mental confinement of your favorite room or coffee house or poolside bar is absolutely perfect just as you’ve written it. *snort* Guess again. Don’t get me wrong, there are probably many positive things to say about your manuscript, but there are probably at least a few things that need clarification or further description or a little rewriting to maintain continuity and interior logic. Sure, it’s all clear to you — you wrote it. But if you’re looking for a critique, you’re hoping for an audience. If a member of the audience says it’s not clear or it’s confusing, you’d do well to pay attention.

So here’s the deal:

If you have a piece of writing you would like a member of Writers Co-op to critique, whether it’s a short story, essay, poem, novella, novel, or a portion or chapter of a longer work, attach it as a .docx or .pdf to an email and send it to me at stranscht@sbcglobal.net. Please put “Critique Exchange” in the Subject line. (Just to be clear, by submitting your work for critique, you are agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work.) I will match you with a critique partner who groks your genre and is able to take on a critique at that time, and they will send you their work to critique while they critique yours. The writer who needs the most time to complete their critique will set the deadline for both of you. Writers Co-op expects you both to honor that deadline or Writers Co-op will have the option of disallowing further participation of the author who fails to meet the deadline.

Now, a few words about writing and receiving critiques. Write the sort of critique you would find most helpful. Like I said earlier, thoughtful, constructive, and kind work for me. Snark and sarcasm might be fun, but they aren’t actually helpful or kind, so please restrain those urges. As for receiving a critique, first coat your skin with Armor All, then consider Neil Gaiman’s sage advice:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ~~~ Neil Gaiman

We’re excited to invite you to take advantage of this service. You might even know other writers who are searching for this opportunity and would be grateful if you shared this post with them.

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