I’m stressing myself out. I know it’s my own fault. I start a project, don’t quite get it done, and find inspiration for the next and move on. Then my unfinished work just sits in the dusty depths of my hard drive, waiting for me to pluck it out and cherish it again.

What I currently have on my plate:

  • One nearly finished novel (and I know I call it almost finished all the time, but it’s still almost finished) 129 pages done, God only knows how many more to go.
  • One novel only started, 21 pages done. (I don’t even want to think about how many more to go)
  • Two half-finished short stories, which I can’t seem to figure out the ending for.
  • One finished short story that needs some serious re-working, editing, and re-writing.
  • About four or five finished short stories that need editing and re-writing.
  • Seven ideas, all at different levels of development. Some I’m more excited to work on than others.

There could be more even, but I’m not willing to spend the next hour going through all my projects to see which are finished and which aren’t.

My point being, I need more hours in the day.

(Is that little clear pill from “Limitless” real? The main character was an author, remember?)

You are all probably sick of me going on and on about all the work I’ve made for myself and not finished. Therefore, in the future, I will not log onto here until I’ve written something worth while.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it where I’m going…   Happy Blogging Everyone. =]

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An invaluable way to hone and enrich your craft is to deconstruct others’ writing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say you should pick apart someone’s writing and belittle them into never writing again. What I’m talking about here is the process of breaking a story (or novel even) down into sections so that they’re easier analyzed. Look at how the author develops the characters, how they introduce the main setting on which the story will take place, how events leading up to the climax build suspense and urge the reader on, how the climax is constructed, how the story is resolved, etc.

So much can be learned by discovering the inner mechanics of another writers’ story. Think of the story as an engine. You’re a curious mechanic, wondering how someone could create a more efficient engine than you know how to do. Deconstructing a story is just like taking apart that more efficient engine to see just how it works, how all the pieces fit together just right, how they all work together to make something that purrs beautifully.

When looked at as a whole, a story seems to take on a life of its own. By breaking it down into more manageable pieces, you’re able to more easily see the little parts and pieces that move the story (and the reader for that matter).

Also, deconstructing your own stories can prove invaluable as well. You’ll be able to more easily see where your story went wrong (if it did), where you got off topic, where there are holes in the story, and areas that may need description or a little something else. Break the story down into scenes and ask yourself if you were to rearrange these scenes, would it still make sense? If your answer is yes, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Your scenes should follow a basic logical sequence of events. If, in the opening scene, your protagonist is already going after the villain, you’re not going to be able to hold the reader’s interest through the end. Make sure that your story flows well between scenes and that they are logically placed within the story.

Character development within a story holds so much importance, I feel it deserves a paragraph of its own. The author must know how to ease the reader into the character’s lives, and rather than just telling the reader about the character, the author must show the favorable characteristics through the character’s actions and words to bring the reader closer to the character. The characters have to feel real to the reader, otherwise you won’t hold their interest. They have to be able to identify with these characters on some level. The way these characters interact with others should be realistic as well.

Here’s an example of unrealistic interactions:

George came into the house, nearly spitting fire. “I thought I told you to have this goddamn place clean when I got here!” He growled at his wife on his way to the kitchen. “It’s a pig sty in here.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Luanne said lovingly, kissing her husband’s cheek. “I love you.”

Now, after being berated by her obviously angry husband, it would make no sense that Luanne would react so sweetly to his anger. There has to be logic behind her ignoring his comments. Instead, try something like this:

George came into the house, nearly spitting fire. “I thought I told you to have this goddamn place clean when I got here!” He growled at his wife on his way into the kitchen.

She bit her tongue, knowing speaking now would only anger him more.

“It’s a pig sty in here,” he said.

“Oh sweetie,” Luanne said lovingly, thinking of how she would exact her revenge when the moment was right. She leaned forward, hating even the smell of him, but keeping this from her face as she placed her lips on his sweaty, prickly cheek. “I love you,” she said, thinking, I hate you.

Luanne biting her tongue, thinking of revenge,  hating the smell of her husband, and that last little: I hate you, adds the logic missing from the first passage. We know from these things that Luanne doesn’t love George, and that she’s only putting up with his ill-treatment long enough to exact revenge.

Everything, and yes, I mean EVERYTHING must follow a logic order and make sense to the reader. If your monster sprouts wings and flies away suddenly, explain how a radioactive chemical spill allowed the creature to grow the wings, or monologue a character’s thoughts on their previous inability to see said wings due to darkness. If you’re going to surprise the reader, don’t do it at the climax. Doing so will lose your readers faith in your ability to suspend disbelief, and the entire story will come crashing down around them. If your monster is different from the norm, let the readers see it (or part of it) before the tension builds to the no turning back point.

There are numerous ways a writer can learn from deconstructing both their own writing, and others’ as well. It may seem a little pointless at first, but once you do this a few times, you’ll be easier able to see the scenes individually, without actually breaking down the story, and will thus be better equipped to write your own.

Comments are, as always, welcome. =]

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a post on something I’ve been thinking about more and more as I age. One thing I’m so very thankful for is my hands. Without them, it would be nearly impossible to write.

Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not trying to rub it in for anyone with a disability.

My hands are very near and dear to my heart. They do everything for me (and sometimes I wonder if they have a mind of their own) and without them I would be lost. If you really think about it, hand are the most basic and useful writing tool EVER.

I do my best to take very good care of my hands, keeping them moisturized, ensuring any wounds heal well, and avoiding too much strenuous labor that may pull muscles or break bones (which is not to say I won’t haul wood or something, but I do watch out for injuries). I’m oftentimes meticulous about my nails, how they’re painted, the length, and the shape.

Despite my efforts, I can feel them starting to change. I get aches and pains in my wrists, and the joints of my fingers get sore. My hands occasionally swell too. I was diagnosed with a circulation disorder, where my hands and feet often can’t hold heat, due to poor blood flow. Half the fingers on my hands have gone numb and white due to lack of circulation and cold conditions, on multiple occasions. It’s times like those that I really start worrying. I know that if an extremity doesn’t get blood for too long, it can cause nerve damage and may need amputation. Generally I run for the closest bathroom and run warm to hot water over my hands, but there are times when that just doesn’t seem to work. So I pinch and squeeze my fingers, literally pushing the blood back into the tips and getting it flowing again. I don’t know how I’d get used to typing and writing without a couple fingers.

For me, losing my hands, or even some fingers, could be devastating, and there are those out there who live every day without hands or without other seemingly vital body parts. Each and every day that my hands and fingers work with the skill and precision I need, I give thanks. I give thanks for their hard work and dedication, and for all the things I put them through, and they still won’t leave me.

Dear Hands,

Thank you so much for being there for me.

Thanks for all the help. Thanks for sticking

by my sides, right and left. I love you both.

-Lakin

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all took some time to reflect on what you’re truly grateful for, be it body parts, loved ones, events, items, or whatever. If you love something and are thankful for it, let it know. =]

Or let me know with a comment. It’s up to you.

I look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

I’d like to advise a bit on what writing supplies work for me, and why I chose some of the things I use.

First off, notebooks are extremely important. They’re used for so many things, like free writing, jotting down ideas, writing out scenes, writing first drafts, as well as personal writings on your views and opinions of the world around you.

I ALWAYS use composition style notebooks. Why?

I have this nasty habit of throwing things away that don’t suit my standards. Usually it’s not junk either, just ideas only half-formed before writing, or something that needs a little more character or setting development. I do it with my art too (being that I paint, sculpt, draw, and wood burn). If it’s not up to par, it goes.

The way composition notebooks are made suits me well, because when you rip out one page, another comes out with it. Knowing this, I no longer tear out pages with “bad” ideas or writing.

The reason I do this is to prevent myself from tossing something that could one day be re-worked and turned into a masterpiece. (Do you all know the importance of keeping everything when it comes to writing?)

Another very helpful supply I keep in my desk would be note cards. They’re invaluable for writing down notes on previous events (when writing a novel) as well as character notes and descriptions, and I also use them for jotting down research info. So long as you keep them close, they will be of great help.

I’ve gone through working on a novel or long short story and forgot important details from earlier in the story. Rather than scroll back through searching for the info I’ve forgotten, I’ll write down anything I think I may forget on note cards.

Be sure to carefully label them and keep them separated from one story to the next, otherwise you may end up a bit mixed up.

Highlighters are useful as well. I use them for highlighting things I read in articles that inspire me, for highlighting sections of my printed draft that need work. I also use them in the books on writing I’ve purchased to highlight great advice and tips, since they are only mine.

Ever have an idea that you want to think a little more on, but you don’t want to forget about it? Try using sticky notes. I like to write down my partial ideas on them and stick them around my office, to my notebooks, or just around the house. That way when I look at them, I’m reminded of the idea and can sometimes come up with the once elusive other half to them.

When re-writing edited work (I print the stories out and go back through them with a pen. I find it helps me to see the problems better when my writing is not on a screen.) I use a red ink pen. Sure, black or blue work just fine, but I’ve found that I’ll sometimes miss mistakes I’ve corrected with a black pen because it does not catch my eye as well as the red ink will.

Since organization is key (though not my strong suit), try keeping printed previous drafts, as well as ideas, in file folders. I keep mine in a filing cabinet, but even if you don’t, the tabs are still helpful for finding the right folder. I like keeping various copies and drafts of the same story in the same file, but you can separate between drafts or whatever.

And those are just a few. Try out different things. You may find a certain style of something works better for you.

Got any special tools that help you with your writing? Share them! I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing process, skills, and my office.

Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves and have a great day.

You’re all going to think I’m ridiculous, and a bit crazy, but I have this problem.

I have TONS of ideas, and not enough time to write them all. I want to. It would be great to have one story for every idea, but it’s not reasonable to expect myself to be able to write that much.

I realize there are daily online activities I do that can be cut in order to make more time for my writing, such as checking the news, checking out new sites, logging on to social networking sites, shopping, etc. As of tomorrow, I’ll work harder to stay away from these time sucking traps.

But I wonder, will my writing speed ever catch up to my idea creating speed?

Unlikely.

If I live to be a hundred, I’ll probably never write every single story I’ve written down an idea for. I’d like to though.

It’s not like I can just stop coming up with new ideas. And if I were to come up with ideas and stop writing them down, in order to write all the ones I’ve had for a while, that HOLY GRAIL of ideas just may pass me by. You know what I mean by that, right? The HOLY GRAIL of ideas is that one perfect idea that turns into the most amazing work you’ve ever written and gets you published, as well as riches, and world-wide notoriety. No one wants that one to slip by.

I’ve heard this is a problem (or un-problem if you look at it that way) that many writers have. Most of us have overflowing idea files. Do the rest of you not know what to do with them all too?

Part of my problem is that I’m not organized when it comes to my ideas. Nearly all of them are hand written, and spread across three different notebooks (composition, so I can’t just rip the pages with the ideas out). A good idea for me would be to set aside some time to go through and organize my ideas, say once a week or so that way I keep up on it.

Is this senseless whining or do you guys get what I’m saying here? It’s frustrating, to me at least. Though it looks like all I can do is increase my writing time each day and get more organized.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Please do share. The comment box is always open.

 

For those of you who don’t know, as of the 15th of November, white tail rifle season started in Northeastern Michigan. It’s a wonderful time of year, when you’re more likely than ever to be run off the road by a bunch of idiots drinking beer. However, it is good for the economy (because we get lots of out-of-towners and out-of-staters), and I just love spending a few day out at camp, drinking, playing cards, and just having a good time. Besides that, I love hunting.

Rather than join my husband at camp for the first few days of season, I’d opted to stay home in order to get some work done on my writing. But, I didn’t. I spent two days farting around on the internet, watching TV, running errands in town, and drinking wine. I wonder why I do this to myself, all the freakin time.

Any way, needless to say, it’s been a rather unproductive few days, and I’m feeling it, mentally that is. If you write, you may know what I’m getting at here.

I find that my thought process works much differently for writing, than it does for almost any other task, such as speaking, problem solving, personal interactions, general pondering, etc. When I get myself into that thought process, I could write for hours, days, weeks even, on end. I could write until my hands fell off, and still be bursting with ideas and new things to say. Lately, that very thought process has been a bit harder to achieve. I think it’s because I too easily allow distractions to break my attention to my work.

It’s taking me a while, but I’m slowly learning the conditions I need in order to write productively. Here are those I can think of:

  • No cell phones
  • No TV
  • No conversation (even in the slightest)
  • Generally silence helps, but occasionally I’ll listen to a certain style of music to inspire myself
  • No leaving the room (Basically I stay in my office, if I’m using my desk, or the bedroom or living room if I’m using my lap desk. Accept for bathroom breaks!)
  • No people (they too easily distract)
  • No pets (they generally crave attention that I can’t give them while writing, and they also distract)
  • No internet (Unless it’s for research purposes, and generally I’ll only stop writing if I absolutely cannot go on without certain information. Otherwise it must wait.)
  • Alcohol (I know what you’re probably thinking, that it’s all in my head that I write better drunk, and that could very well be the case. However, I feel that drinking loosens my grip on society’s norms, allowing eccentric ideas to flow easier. Which, as a horror author, IS what I want. And, I don’t drink every time I write, only occasionally, since it’s not very awesome to start at ten in the morning.)
  • Cigarettes (Only because I’m addicted.)
  • Comfy clothes
  • Moderate/comfortable room temperature

I may not have listed all, but that’s all I could come up with for now. Everyone has different condition requirements for productive writing, so what works for me may not work for you. I can only suggest, and of course not all my suggestions are the best.

It’s my belief, that the part of your brain used for writing is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. So after half a week of slacking, I’m having a hard time using my writing muscle. This issue should be remedied, come Tuesday, as Monday I’ll be back on schedule, and writing regularly again, in my optimal environment.

I’m sure most of you writers out there have heard of this, but I feel it should be mentioned as I’ve been discussing conducive writing conditions. When you’re not feeling well (emotionally or physically) and you write, the reader will be able to tell, and your condition/feelings will be reflected in your writing. Basically a good day makes for good writing, and a bad day makes for bad writing. Now this is just a rule of thumb. Say you’re home sick, eating your chicken noodle soup and lounging about the house, and you’ve just come up with this marvelous idea for a short story or novel. By all means, have at it. Write your story, or at least get your ideas on paper. If I had to guess, the rule is more for emotional distress, but for me, sometimes being sick can bring feelings of helplessness, and that upsets me.

As always, these are mere suggestions (and not very good ones at that), and I’d like to mention they may not work for everyone, and everyone may not agree with them. These are only what works for me. How do you find what works for you? Experiment, try things, just do it, and you’ll learn as you go.

I hope all my readers are having a great weekend so far. =]

Questions? Comments? Feel free! I love to hear back from you all. If you have any thing to add, or suggestions, or want to share your own conducive writing conditions, please do.

I’d like to look at the importance of character names today.

Some may think that a name’s a name, right? Or “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. No. Wrong, wrong, wrong (in literature).

Your characters names should in some way, shape, or form, reflect notable characteristics they have. The best way to have a plethora of names at your fingertips would be to buy a name dictionary or a baby name book. Mine’s called The Name Dictionary by Alfred J. Kolatch, and consists of both modern english (modern as of 1967, when it was written) and hebrew names. Besides just lists of names, this book also provides a background or definition of the name. (Or, if you don’t feel like spending the cash on another book, use baby naming websites, they are extremely useful and often will provide background on the name as well.) This is not exactly necessary for naming characters, the definition doesn’t have to match the character so much as the sound or the effect the name has on the mind should correlate.

Take for example, Stark, the villain from Stephen King’s The Dark Half. Stark has a rough, tough, brusque feel to it, instantly making us think: menace. I’d provide the definition in my name dictionary, but there is no Stark in there.

Say your character is older, a great place to start looking for these types of names would be with grandparents and older relatives. Throughout history names have come and gone in the sense of popularity. When I was growing up, there were more Jessicas, Heathers, and Lauras than you could imagine, and the same went for the masculine Tylers, Stevens, and Jesses. Though back when my Mom was younger, Stephanie was a popular names. Now days, it seems just about anything goes for a name (though it seems to me that you’d be hard pressed to find a Tyler or Heather younger than twelve). I wouldn’t be surprised if some “super star” named their kid “Spoon”, hell, you never know. The abstract and obscure names are hot right now, and soon enough it’ll be a thing of the 2010’s and the next popular names will crop up. You don’t need to concern yourself with what’s popular right now, unless you’ve put an infant into your story. Think of the age of your main character, then do a little research and see what was in style then. Back in the 1920’s, names like Ethel and Hazel and Blanche, were sensual or sexy names, for a young woman. Now days, (to me at least) names like that bring up images of grandparents and the elderly.

The research holds its importance in regards to period novels as well. You wouldn’t very well drop a Harold into a prehistoric novel, give him a club and expect your readers to believe it. It’d be best to choose a simple name which people would associate with the grunting sounds cave men supposedly made, like Grun, or Agon, or anything similar and simple, think no more than four letters, preferably two vowels.

Say your character is the epitome of innocence, a great name for a girl would be Hope, Charity, or Heaven. If you’re looking for a more sensual female name, Amber, Candace, or (ironically) Chastity.

Ironic names are useful as well. For example, I heard of a young woman (close to my age) named Chastity, who was a slut. I found it hilarious that her parents would unknowingly give her such a wholesome and sweet name, when she turned out quite the opposite. But be careful when using ironic names, you don’t want to confuse your readers with deep meanings to names they don’t understand. Chose something that has a definition of its own as a word, rather than a name with religious meaning or a derivative widely unknown. Try Justice for a woman on the run, or Grace for a clutz.

Another plethora of name ideas would be the news paper, and the real world around you. Say you’ve got a friend whose name you love, rather than offending her and using both her first and last, combine her first name with a different last name, or put your own twist on the spelling of it so it reads a little differently. But, please, for your sake, refrain from using names (both first and last) that you know to belong to a real person. Failing to do so could easily result in a law suit or at least hurt feelings.

Names are an important aspect of how your readers feel about the character. Think of naming your characters like setting the tone and mood for your story. There are certain names that give the reader an instant sense of who the character is. Carefully consider your character’s personality type before naming them. And of course you can always break the rules (sometimes I think that’s the only reason we have rules in the first place: so it’d be so much fun to break them!), and make exceptions, or put your own twist on things.

I this helps someone.

Comment, if you like. What do you think about naming characters? What are some names you’ve used? What are some names you like? What are some names you avoid, and why? The best part of my day is reading the comments you all leave. =]

When writing fiction, of course we all aim to create a sense of believability (aka “suspension of disbelief”). We hope that our readers feel their surroundings, smell the scents, see the vibrant (or dark) colors, feel the breeze tickling at their neck, and empathize with our characters. But how can your reader travel into this imaginary land you’ve created unless you’re willing to go there yourself? You can’t simply point to a door and expect your reader to open it. You must go with them, take them by the hand and guide them.

The point here being that how can you expect anyone else to believe your stories if you don’t believe yourself? You can’t. It’s simple as that.

These worlds we create in our writing (real or imagined) are essentially uncharted, and YOU as the author have the responsibility (and express entitlement) to travel to these lands very first and map them out for our readers. Explore, look for weak points, areas undeveloped that need work. Delve deep into these realms and take note of EVERYTHING, the smells, sounds, sights, feelings they instill, the taste of the air, the temperature, and I really do mean everything. You may not (and of course should not)  include every detail in your story, but make sure you have them in case you need them.

When we fail to believe in our own worlds (and characters), it’s notable. The reader can smell uncertainty in a story like a shark can smell blood in the water. No one wants to read a work of fiction that they cannot lose themselves in, being that this is the point of fiction: to provide an escape from the “real world”. How can you expect anyone to get lost in the world you’ve created if you haven’t even been there yourself?

So here’s what you need to do:

Close your eyes and think of the setting for your story. Imagine yourself there, walking around, meeting people (or not if it’s an isolated setting), touching things, smelling things. Notice the color of the sky, the grass, flowers, or the concrete, the buildings, the cars. Make yourself “go there” and make yourself believe. Make your setting as realistic as possible.

Real places have history, whether it’s the building or property itself, or the area in general. Come up with some for yours. Whether you actually use it or not is up to you, but make sure you have it in case the need arises.

Beyond realistic settings, our characters need to be believable too. Now, you can imagine your characters are sitting there with you, telling you all about themselves, or you can simply outline their defining characteristics and create a history for them as well. The “Character Biography”, I call them, and keep track of them, as you will likely need to refer back to them for important details. You will never meet a 30-year-old without a past, nor a two-year-old. Whether their past is detailed or vague, it still must be there. This also goes for your creature. If the beast has lived in the same area forever, there’s likely a legend or two floating around about it in the nearby towns, be sure to include this. Or if your monster is foreign to the area, explain how they came to be there, preferably without revealing the beast in its entirety. Not only does it help to build suspense, but it will also add a depth and reality to your monster.

Also, try your characters in the setting, be sure that they are appropriate. You don’t want a high-class lawyer walking around in the forests of Tennessee with her stilettos on, nor would you want a big foot monster tromping around in a tiny space ship. If you do want out-of-place characters for one reason or another, be sure to explain how and why this character ended up in this unlikely place. Like I said, take the reader’s hand and lead them yourself. Without you, the author and narrator, the reader is lost, irrevocably, and they will move on to another author that doesn’t leave them running blind from a one-dimensional, hardly scary creature.

T.E.D. Klein (a former editor of Twilight Zone Magazine) said it best like this: “Whatever his personal convictions, while writing his horror tale, the author must believe in it…performing the same magic on himself that he hopes to perform upon the reader.” (Quoted from William F. Nolan’s How to Write Horror Fiction, page 29.)

If you don’t see your surroundings, if you can’t smell the flowers you’ve put there, if you can’t hear the anger in your character’s voice, then how on earth can you expect your readers to?

Believe in the unbelievable, and you’ll find your readers are willing to do the same, so long as you show them how.

Any thoughts? Ideas? Opinions? Something to add? Please feel free. Or share how you make any aspect of your stories believable.

So far as literature goes, I tend to reach for fiction. However, being a writer, I do often buy/check out and read non-fiction books in order to further and better my craft. Yet there are so many books on writing out there, how do we know that we’re getting the best advice?

I find that as a rule of thumb, it’s probably best to choose something that is highly recommended, suited for your genre or writing style, and the author has a reputable opinion or career. I know, I recommend the same writing books over and over. If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know which these are by now. But just for good measure, and because I’ve recently added more books to my “Writers Must Read” list, and I’ve also been accumulating followers, here they are yet again.

The Writer’s Market (2012 Deluxe Edition) (Editor: Robert Lee Brewer-since I should give someone credit for the most useful book in the writing world)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edlestein, Ph.D.

Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association (fifth edition) by (of course) The American Psychology Association

The only one that offers an actual good read is Stephen King’s On Writing. It has a solid narrative that chronicles some of the more notable points of SK’s life, as well as his advice and views on writing. The other three are more reference books, or tool books as I call them. However, I find The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits extremely interesting to just browse. In it, the author outlines various personality types as well as influencing factors on a character’s behavior (such as emotional abandonment, mental disorders, and other issues). I’ve found that personally, the Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association, is probably the hardest to navigate out of these tool books. Don’t let the title mislead you into thinking it won’t be useful for the writer of fiction or anything besides psychology findings. There’s loads of information and tips for publishing writing. And if you don’t know anything about The Writer’s Market, and you are a writer (or are working your way there), I highly recommend at least checking it out from a library to familiarize yourself with the listings before sending a manuscript out. Be sure to check the pages in the front for tips on making your manuscript, query letters, and cover letters professional.

I find myself wondering, though, about the writing books written by less than reputable sources. I’ve come across a couple, and while I can’t remember specific titles or authors, I do distinctly remember sitting down to read them, only for the author to let me know I don’t have enough talent to make it in the literary world. I find many books on writing are snobbish and self-important. Many of these authors (I think) have been in the game so long, they don’t remember what it was like starting out. And they sit down, with ideas of helping others in mind, while they write a book on the craft that is so pretentious and rude, the new writer can hardly get through a chapter without feeling disheartened. These authors mean well, but hold literature to such a high standard, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to start a career using their advice.

Of course not all books on writing will cast self-doubt across your craft, but how do we recognize those that will before we purchase them?

My first piece of advice is to not buy ANY THING until you feel that it will help you. What’s the point in wasting your hard-earned money (especially since we’re all starving, right?) on something that will only make you feel worse about your work? So you’re going to want to talk to other writers about books on writing they’d recommend, and hit up your local library. I checked out SK’s On Writing, and read the whole thing about a year ago, then, just recently, I ordered it off the internet. And you don’t have to read the entire thing to figure out if it’ll help you or not. Pick it up and read the couple first chapters. If after reading three or so, you feel writing is so much more a daunting task than you thought when you opened the book, it’s probably not for you. Of course, the tough love route works well for some writers, and they would be well suited to the type of book I’m warning you to avoid, however they do not work for me, and that’s all I can base my advice off: my own experiences.

The most important thing to remember when reading a book on writing is that not ALL the advice will work for EVERYONE. There is no one size fits all instruction manual for writing. It is an elusive and vastly personal craft, therefore what works for me may not work for you. Remember while reading writing books to not take every single word to heart, you could end up hurting your skills more than helping. Being that we are all different, and our writing as well, for all writers to read and follow the same writing rules would be disastrous. We’d all write the same. There would be no variation, and no one wants a cookie-cutter book. In short, YOU are what makes your writing stand apart from others, YOU are what makes your writing special. Don’t allow the words of a self-important author who finds themself qualified to give advice to get to you. If you don’t like what the author has to say, simply close the book. YOU and YOU ALONE can recognize good advice when you read it.

I’ve just recently purchased a book titled How To Write Horror Fiction by William F. Nolan. I found it while looking for another I believe is titled On Writing Horror (or On Writing Horror Fiction, and I’m not sure who the author is), and being that the first mentioned was quite cheap and honed in on my genre, I bought it thinking it might help me a bit. I have yet to read it (it’s been a busy week), but when I do, I will share my thoughts and feelings about it with you all. That was what got me going on this topic.

What’s your opinion on books on writing? Do you think they help? Do you think they hurt? How have some writing advice books affected you, positively or negatively? Are there any books on writing that you can recommend? Have you read many books on writing? As always, please feel free to share opinions, thoughts, ideas, tips, anything. Again, I love hearing from my readers and appreciate all comments. =]

 

I always have a hard time figuring out where my work would best call home. I know, most magazine websites (since I’m talking short stories here) tell writers to buy and read a copy before submitting so that we can get a feel for the style of the magazine. But if I were to do that, I’d be broke (literary magazines usually run $10-$20 bucks a copy depending on circulation, content, and whatnot), and I’d have even more clutter to put up with than I do now. So how do we go about finding a magazine that wants our work?

First off, I find the Writer’s Market invaluable. It separates fiction and non-fiction, as well as consumer magazines, literary magazines, special interest magazines, etc. The problem I have is that there are probably ten horror fiction magazines, and most of them accept work on a seasonal basis. So where do I send my manuscripts? Literary magazines, mostly. When using the Writer’s Market, you have to read carefully. Some magazines won’t accept any horror, or fantasy, or romance, or dysfunctional family stories, or whatever. Many also have limitations on how many fiction manuscripts they can accept as well as the style of writing.

What I’ve done with my 2012 copy of the Writer’s Market (deluxe edition), was that I sat down shortly after getting it and read through all the literary magazines, their requirements and restrictions for fiction. I paid careful attention to those that accept horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, and marked them with little high-lighter tabs. That way I can easily turn back and find a magazine I felt might accept my work. I really cannot stress to you how helpful the Writer’s Market has been for me. Besides listings of agents, novel publishers, magazines, and contests, there’s also LOADS of helpful tips and tricks and priceless advice for the new/young/emerging writer.

Honestly, if it weren’t for that book, I probably wouldn’t have had half the work I’ve sent out read, and I don’t know anywhere else to find all that information, especially in one place.

There are other ways you can go about publishing though. For example, say you live in a small-town area, like I do. Small-town magazines and newspapers generally don’t get a lot of fiction submitted, and most would weigh more heavily towards an acceptance, knowing that you’re a local writer. The local paper here, doesn’t have a section for submitting work on their website, but check yours out, they might. I think the best thing to do if they don’t have any requirements posted would be to follow standard submission guidelines and write standard cover letters/query letters, and then simply send your manuscript in to the paper or magazine’s fiction editor. If they don’t have a fiction editor, then just send it to the general editor.

And my last, and probably least attractive, advice on publishing/placing work, would be that if all else fails, and you’ve got so many rejection letters that you’re wading through them, maybe it’s time to consider self-publication (such as the popular e-book, which I can offer little to no advice on, being that I haven’t even looked into it yet) or posting your work on an online forum. The only problem with blogging your work or posting it on facebook, is that NO publisher or magazine will buy it (on average at least) after you’ve done this. That’s because by posting it online, you’re allowing others to read your work and essentially publishing it yourself on your own forum, and publishers don’t want left over work that’s been read by God knows how many people. They want new, they want something no one has seen before. They want edgy, they want top of the line. This is why any of my work you read on this blog, will not be placed (until maybe I can get a collection of short stories together, and maybe not even then), and has already found its home here, as I’ve mentioned before.

Placing your work can be one of the most frustrating parts of life in the world of writing, but don’t get discouraged. Even hearing about how tough it is to break into this field and how many writers go broke or starve trying to get their work recognized, you can’t let it get you down. Have faith in your ability to create masterpieces with your words, and hang in there.

Don’t mistake my encouragement for belief that we all get our chance, our moment in the spotlight, but it’s impossible to get anywhere if you don’t just try. Taking on writing is a daunting and often lonely task, and sometimes we forget why we’re in it at all, but that’s not reason enough to give up on your dreams and aspirations.

I actually wrote this post because I am trying to place a few of my pieces. I’ve got to go through and see what’s ready to be sent out, then I’ll be on the hunt for a magazine that might want them. Hell, I think I may even try the local paper. At least it might give me some credentials. However the problem with that is some literary magazines take 90% (sometimes more or less) previously unpublished or new writers. If I were to have work published in the local paper, I would no longer fall into the new writer section, and may have a harder time placing my work with certain magazines. (There’s sooooo much to know in publishing, it’s often exhausting.)

Which brings me to one last point. It’s so important to pay close attention to directions for submitting work. One simple mistake can make your work undesirable, especially to the most discerning editors. Make sure you follow all guidelines. Check your font size, margins, spacing (I’ve sent out more manuscripts than I’d like to admit with single spacing rather than double, which is standard, simply because I forgot, and it makes my work less attractive to the editor.), did you number every page, is your name at the top of every page, did you address your cover letter correctly, double-check the magazine’s mailing address, and so much more need your careful scrutiny. Don’t let your work get tossed simply because you didn’t pay attention or forgot to do something.

If anyone has any advice for finding a home for manuscripts, please feel free to comment with any tips and tricks or opinions on the world of publishing. I love to hear back from my readers.