Friday, July 28, 2006

The Writer War

When you're a teenager, and a writer, you are faced with many stereotypes and obstacles. Several of these include having to endure the fact that you are young and your style has not matured, fighting the generalization that teenage writers compose only bad poetry, and reading the bad poetry of your less than accomplished friends.

But for an online writer, your problems are bigger than this. If you are any good at all, you will enter... the Writer Wars.

The Writer Wars begin when you find that you are not the only person to reach outstanding success and to accumulate a set group of readers. There are others. They are even better than you, with more addictive stories and a larger group of fans. And then some person comes up with the idea to host a website where people can vote for which story they like best.

The nominations come in. You see your name. You smile smugly. You see the other names. You recognize most of them. Some are newer at this than you, but worse, some are older, more experienced.

You have seen these names many times. People mention and recommend them to you. You've read their stories, studied their profiles, tried to track them down on myspace... you look at the voting sheet and you know that somewhere out there... the other competitors are looking at your name, at your story, and wondering if they'll be able to beat you in this popularity competition.

If you hadn't guessed already, it's that time of year again. I was contacted by the originator of the competition idea, who has recently started up her site again, and I am once again thrust into this authoric war.

I always lose. It's because I don't have as many fans (I honestly believe this, because as a writer, I am vain and arrogant, and believe my story to be the best, and there is therefore no reason for my continuing losage except that the other stories must have managed to garner more attention).

And thus the stage has been set. When the voting is open, the actual battles shall begin. It will be a tangled and stressful time, where you debate morals and cheating and reconaissance and in the end it doesn't matter, because there is always a clear favorite.

But this year... this year I rewrote my book four times. It's excellent. It's fabulous. And thus I have only two words for the competition:

Bring it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not even the rain has such small hands

In celebration of one of the most beautiful phrases ever, here is a poem by E. E. Cummings:

somehwere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
--e.e. cummings

Thoughts on the Mental Life of Writers

From brilliant science fiction writer William Gibson:

"I became so frustrated with my inability to physically move the characters through the imaginary narrative space, that I actually developed an early form of imaginary VR technology that sort of covered my ass... all they had to do was switch tapes and be in a different place, and I was spared the embarrassment of demonstrating that I didn't know how to get them up and down the stairs."

Gibson is obviously a Possessed writer, though his literary skill implies he is an Obsessed writer. Perhaps he is a rare, lucky halfbreed. More on this later.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Insurrection ramblings

Working on Insurrection (the third installment in the WW trilogy) is thankfully progressing much the same way WW and Apostasy did.

It's like the plot of the book is set on a long sidewalk at night. I've got a lantern, so I can see a few feet in front of me, but the rest is in darkness, lit up only occasionally by a streetlamp.

That's how working with it is. I take one step and another get's illuminated, with the ultimate goal being the next streetlight, which leads to the next and the next and in the distance is the blazing destination.

It makes one want to believe in the duende.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Interrobang ‽ ‽

While perusing the livejournal of a very mislead young man, I found mention of an "Interrobang." His only explanation of the word was to, "google it", so I did, and this is what I found:

(Lifted from Wikipedia)

The interrobang (‽) is a rarely used, nonstandard English-language punctuation mark intended to combine the functions of a question mark and an exclamation point. The typographical character resembles those marks superimposed one over the other. In informal writing, the same effect is achieved by placing the exclamation point after or before the question mark, e.g. "What?!".


* How much did you spend on those shoes‽
* You're going out with Marika‽
* You traveled to Paris in a submarine‽
* You slipped on a banana peel‽

The code for the interrobang is, in html (with no spaces) &# 8253

The entire wikipedia article can be found here.

It's a brilliant marriage, and as a writer, I am enthused. At last there is a justification for my computer's grammar check always being annoying with the squiggly green line...
‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽ ‽
(I'm excited)

Also of interest to note is the "irony mark". The article for it can be found here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On Plot

Often, in writing, I will come up with a story idea and not have any idea how the entire plot will go, I just have one small tidbit. But one sentence leads to another, and one idea leads to another, and soon I have a whole plot line set out ahead of me. The hard part is just trusting yourself to be able to develop these ideas, and having the courage to proceed into the unknown.

This lends credence to the following quote: "As you continue, which you will do, the way to proceed will become apparent." ~John Cage


In other news: I broke through on a story I was having a problem with. I set one of my characters out on a date in a Poetry Shack, and although I have been to a Poetry Shack, I have never been on a date, so I was a little stumped as to how to proceed. However, I remembered this quote:

When in doubt, blow something up. ~J. Michael Straczynski

As this was not a blow-something-up type of book, I opted instead for a bar fight, which successfully ended the date to rousing, comedic success, and I am now back on track with my hilarious, heart-warming story, Of Coffee And People.

Random Phrases

A hobby of aspiring writers: Collecting random phrases, such as

"Window on my shoulder"

Monday, July 10, 2006

Base Human Fear

The advertisements for M. Night Shyamalon's new movie, "Lady in the Water" has got me thinking about basic human fear, and about the horror genre in general, which leads me to this conclusion:

One of the base human fears, I would say, is a fear of wolves. Rather, a fear of the idea of wolves. Most people have seen enough discovery channel documentaries or enough docile wolves in zoos to understand that they are just beautiful animals. But that still can't override a fear of them, of what we think they might do.

Take the classic 1946 Walt Disney version of Peter and the Wolf. If you've seen the very old movie version with the blonde-haired boy, Peter, Sasha the Bird, Sonya the Duck, and Ivan the cat, you've also seen the Wolf, a vicious, frightening carciature of the wolf (Click here for pictures). This wolf has haunted me ever since I saw this movie. And witnessing the new adverts for Lady in the Water has brought back these fears.

There's something about a dark, fanged shadow that is faster, smarter, and much more capable of killing than you, coming at you, and you can't stop it.

Or perhaps it is this lack of control that we fear (which would explain the phobias about the living dead, mummies, and vampires).

Doesn't that just creep you out?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tips for writers seeking publishing

“There is no such thing as failure, only feedback”

“The first sign of a nervous breakdown is when you start thinking your work is terribly important.”

"This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address." -Barbara Kingsolver

"A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor." -Ring Lardner

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." -Albert Einstein

"Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself." -Harlan Ellison

"The only time to believe any kind of rating is when it shows you at the top." -Bob Hope

"The novelist must be his own most harsh critic and also his own most loving admirer and about both he must say nothing." -Angus Wilson

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly." -C. J. Cherryh

"It's none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way." -Ernest Hemingway

"You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money's in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed." -Larry Niven

"Only self-educated is educated. Others are merely taught." -Erno Paasilinna

"It is my contention that a really great novel is made with a knife and not a pen. A novelist must have the intestinal fortitude to cut out even the most brilliant passage so long as it doesn't advance the story." -Frank Yerby

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the yard and shot it." -Truman Capote

"Writing a book is a adventure. To begin with it is a toy and amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him out to the public." -Winston Churchill

The Abyss

“When you stare into an abyss for a long time, the abyss also stares into you.” – Nietzsche

This terrifies me. Can you imagine the abyss staring into you and knowing you? Terrifying...

That was the human in me speaking. The writer in me is going:

I have /got/ to work that into a horror story.

Sometimes... being a writer is the best thing in the world. You get to turn everything you feared or hated or were embarassed by into something you love.