Monday, November 26, 2012

The Rotating Door of Valuable Lessons

I have learned a valuable lesson. I think. But if I think so, then doesn't that mean I did? Well, I think so.

Approximately a month ago I sent a submission for an anthology call--a call that ends the 30th of this month. Meaning I sent it in a month before the deadline. How many people do that? From this side of November, I feel like I shouldn't have. I mean, a month is a long time to have a story floating in stasis. And couldn't I have edited it one more time before I sent it out?

Well, sure I could have. I doubt anything would've changed except a few commas or so but still ... the fact of having no more power to change or fix anything, that's what bothers me. Lots of IF ONLYs and WHAT IFs going on here. I mean, what if I have a genius insight on the 28th? I can't do anything about it now, that's what!

I thought sending it out earlier would get it off my mind but it hasn't quite worked out that way. I just have to wait a month longer between sending and getting my response back!

And so, yes, I have learned my lesson. Better to hold a story in my hand and flap it around uselessly than to send it to someone else where it can sit in a pile uselessly. If only for my mental well-being.  

This lesson, I believe, is one that shall serve me well in the future and which I shall apply to the contests and magazine openings of December--happily shall I go Christmas shopping, and confidently shall I spend my time wrapping gifts and putting sprinkles on cookies. Nary a fret shall I entertain until the last moment it is possible to entertain them.

Meaning that, yes, while everyone else counts down the seconds to New Year, I shall be busily sending submissions to all the places which will be closing in that same number of seconds.

Which assuredly will be followed by another very valuable lesson learned at the beginning of 2013...

Monday, November 12, 2012

So I am sick today, meaning that my voice has gone all squeaky. Meaning that my cat has been giving me dirty looks about why I'm talking funny at her. Which is not easy to explain to someone who's already suspicious that I'm cheating her out of a dozen or more catfood kibbles per meal.

I could take this opportunity to talk about voice or dialog or something but all the thoughts in my brain are separating like oil from water so I think I will just roll over and go back to sleep.

If the cat will stop glaring at me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Not OK!

There's a book I remember reading as a kid, full of dragons and princesses and wizards--all the usual fantasy kid stuff. Except that's got nothing to do with why I remember it, and honestly there's just one thing that still sticks in my head after all these years. While one of the characters is riding a magic carpet it suddenly takes a plunge, which could have been described in any of a dozen ways. The author chose, "it was like the bottom falling out of a cardboard box," which was descriptive enough even if it kind of bothered me for some unspoken reason ...

And thus did I discover anachronism.

This was an easy one to spot and an easy one to remedy; another good example would be the story of a well-known author who mistakenly thought a foot was equal to a meter and used them interchangeably in a novel. (Though you'd think an editor would notice?)

But even as a kid I knew the OK rule. That is, you don't ever use the word OK (Ok, so okay is a word--OK is an abbreviation. You got me) until after, say, the year 1850. Because it didn't exist before that. Knights and princesses didn't say OK. Nor did pirates, assassins, merchants, mercenaries. Or anybody who existed before the word was invented.

Let's just be reasonable for a moment: you shouldn't be writing dialog that didn't exist for your characters when, supposedly, they do.  You wouldn't use slang like "rad!" or "groovy!" or "sweet!" or "pwn!" for a character existing outside of these words' respective time periods. And though OK has lasted a fairly long time, it's slang, too.

For me it was always easy to find a substitute that sounded a bit more suited to the time period--or at least less slangy. Things like "sure" or "very well" or "all right" all mean the same thing as OK, while having existed historically.

(And don't get on me about translating your story from another language and therefore thinking it's OK to use OK as a 'translation' for some made-up word. Because it doesn't make sense to translate a period word for one that's not. And anyway, a lot of languages around the world these days use OK just as we do in English. There really is no straight translation for it!)

(And on the topic of all right--it's not alright. Alright's not all right, just like OK's not okay. And generally I prefer to use the word, okay, instead of the abbreviation. But OK just shows up better when writing for emphasis. Like I'm doing now.)

All authors want to write comprehensible, easy-to-read dialog, but if you are writing in a time period that's not your own--yes, even one of your own devising--you need to stay true to it.

Which means that taking even one word out of context is not OK.