Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Awesomeness--Now in Bottled Form!

So I didn't get around to blogging yesterday, though I wanted to. That's because I was trying to do MORE IMPORTANT THINGS, such as ACTUALLY WRITING. Yes, real fiction writing is more important, sorry. Whatever secret formula I employed yesterday, it worked, as I finished the short story I was working on then plowed straight through another from beginning to end in 3 hours! Actually, that deserves a few more exclamation points.


There we go. Yeah, it was surprising to conceive, plot, and write a story out all in one sitting--can't remember the last time I did, if I EVER have. If I could bottle and sell that, guess who'd be first in line to buy it? The story I finished took me about 7 days for 4500 words, which isn't bad. A few days and I'll send it out for a call at the end of the month. Yay!

The one I started and finished came out to roughly 2000 words, which was my estimate when I started. I never estimate properly--for example, 2000 is how long I thought the 4500-word one would finish up. Strange how (mostly) everything worked out as I intended it to....

I decided to do this 2000-word story on a lark--there was a call for dark versions of Grimms' Fairy Tales so I did a little research and an idea hit me. And I wrote it.

Yes, I have said before that I dislike reworked fairy tales. On a related note, hubby and I tried to watch Oz the Great and Powerful or whatever it was called and JUST COULDN'T. I wanted to barf the whole time, and rolled my eyes whenever he wasn't looking. I don't think we made it halfway through... Never even liked the Wizard of Oz; don't think I've ever watched it all the way either because, honestly, do I have to? If you know the plot, as I suspect you do, it's just painful to watch the bad makeup and corny acting and heavy-handed moralizing and offensive use of people with dwarfism. Nothing about that movie was ever "magical" to me. In the case of the new film, corny acting and bad costumes and flying monkeys in bellhop uniforms aren't an improvement.

I guess for me the world of Oz was just too juvenile or unbelievable or flat-out unpleasant to want to visit. Yeah, even as a kid. I shudder at the thought of skipping down a yellow brick road and always wished I could cut that lion's nasty mane of Goldilocks curls.

Okay, I'm over it. Getting off topic here. Anyway, so I'm not crazy about fairy tale retakes, and yet I did one of my own. Does this make me a hypocrite? No. Well, not entirely. Here's the difference: everyone has read Cinderella or Red Riding Hood or the more popular fairy tales. The ones we know best largely involve female protagonists who get into situations with thinly-veiled sexual undertones (a "slumber" that can only be broken by "true love's kiss", being cornered by a "wolf", the consequences of pricking your "finger" on a "spindle", eating a poisoned--read "forbidden"--fruit). Naturally none of these ladies can save themselves. Naturally, a lot of rehashes replay these stories with a feminist bent, so that they do.

It's gotten to the point that seemingly every fantasy writer in the world has tried their hand at this, if only to be able to say they did. Or to try and do it better than the last person? Please. Cinderella is Cinderella. Your version is not going to be more memorable than the one that's been pounded into our brains since toddlerhood. And if you're going to retell a story you can only change so much of it, meaning that ultimately you end up following the same old plot line with a few alterations. This is just the inevitability of retelling a well-known story--in order to keep it identifiable, you can't change everything. In order to make it new, you DO have to change SOMETHING.

How to write a retelling of a fairy tale without initiating the *yawn, Snow White again?* reaction? Here's my solution: don't do Snow White. Or any of the popular tales. I certainly can't add anything worthwhile to the loooong list of Snow White/Cinderella/Red Riding Hood retellings. In no small part because I have no passion for these stories. Although I suspect the passion has been flogged out of the stories themselves, not out of me.

So I took one of the more obscure stories because this way no one has preconceptions about it. There aren't 5000 other versions to compare it to. Bwahaha.

This seems like a good time to mention that a lot of original fairy tales do present female protagonists who not only take care of themselves, but their families, while saving the day. And there are so many other undercurrents of meaning in these stories that can be interesting and useful to a fiction writer. I picked the story that spoke to me best--my interests, my writerly abilities--and that's probably how I banged the whole thing out in a matter of hours. Because--haha--I already had a basic shape, just had to change things up a bit and write them down.

This call will be coming due at the end of July, so I have some time to sit on it and fix it up. I could've put off writing until all my submissions for June are sent out but, actually, sometimes you have to just write what's at the forefront of your mind, get it down on paper (digital paper for me) and get done. So I did.

And, as you can maybe see, I'm rather overly proud of myself for it, too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All Avenues Exhausted, Time to Climb on the Roof

Okay, so now I have tried everything, be it my desk in my cohabited room, the couch in the TV room, the dining table where no one eats, the table on the back porch. Even the badly-lit unused bedroom has fallen prey to my attempts to find a place where I can SIT and WRITE and not be DISTRACTED.

Firstly, I thought no one would be able to find me there for, oh, the whole day when really it took 2 hours before my hubby came in looking as though he thought I might've run off to join the circus. Which hadn't happened ... although ... then again, it's not too much different, is it?

Regardless, 2 hours isn't enough time for me to get much done in. Not that the badly-lit room full of other people's junk was the most conducive environment, but I just needed to find somewhere quiet so I could focus on a submission that's due in a few days. I swear, next time they can't find me it'll be because I'm in the crawlspace under the house. That should work out pretty well, right? Well, if there's enough space to open my laptop.

Really what I need is a desk and a computer and a cubby hole with nothing else. Nothing on the walls, no stuff to distract me. Well, maybe snacks and music, but those are necessary. I've noticed I can work quite well at a walled desk at the library--if there's not someone on a cell phone next to me. And people who don't write don't understand how far off track a single small distraction can get me. Even if you're not trying to distract me by scrambling eggs in the room where I'm trying to write, sorry, but you succeeded anyhow. That's how it is.

Now that we're in summer and my last round of submissions has returned to me unaccepted, I have to get to work on some more. Yeah! Besides I have a half ton of things I need to get around to, including: plugging into a tree, listening to psychic double-speak, revisiting Pygmalion, finding the fingerprints of ghosts, using time travel to create a masterpiece, becoming a mask, falling in love under lunar trees, tracing the cause and effect of chaos, digging where archaeologists don't want you to--oh, or at least writing about them. What's more, going through my list of stories to submit, and then scanning the documents I have filed as stories, there's a disappointingly large amount of them unfinished, for various reasons (most of which lead back into the territory of being distracted constantly while working, to the point that I moved on to something else I thought I could finish). I could probably complete most of them, and I should so they can make the rounds, too.

I will admit I have a story on file that I started in 2011, I do believe, and though I like it a lot, I still haven't figured out how to end it. Mysteries of life.

But hey, here's hoping that can happen before Fall Term starts!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Editing in Evidence

The term is almost over and summer's almost here! If that doesn't lift the spirits, I don't know what will!

Unfortunately, however, summer is only three months of awesome--three months which I intend to overfill with personal obligations. I will be writing a paper, and working (hopefully more) and trying to churn out some fiction, which I can then fold into amusing origami shapes and send to potential publishers ....

Meanwhile, since it's been so long since I've done any fiction writing, I think I'm going to brush up on my basics again. Besides wanting to watch/read art related stuff, I want to pick up the ever-handy Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and maybe also Browne and King's Self-Editing Your Fiction. Strunk and White is THE guide to writing, whether you're a reporter, biographer, student, or fiction writer. I've read it a handful of times, and it's always helpful to go back to, just to get a reminder of things that may have fallen to the wayside. That said, it's a very general guide, and doesn't give a lot of advice that's immediately useful for fiction. Although the co-author, E. B. White, was the guy who wrote Charlotte's Web, so he knew what he was doing writing this little book.

Browne and King's is more useful if you want actual blow-by-blow assistance with fiction-writing issues. They do a good job of everything from sentence structure to giving tips on how to effectively guide a story. These authors, both fiction editors by profession, know what publishers will and won't accept, and how you can shape your story accordingly.

Maybe I'll also hunt up a couple other editing books, who knows? It's always good to get a new perspective. I've read dozens of such books in my life, and can also recommend Ursula K Le Guin's Steering the Craft, or Stephen King's On Writing (which is half biography but sneakily makes its point about compelling writing in this aspect too...).

For the most part if you read books on editing they'll give you the same dozen or so tips. Maybe spoken in a slightly different way, but this just means that the same issues crop up for authors, editors, and publishers when it comes to What's Good. That said, I wonder if this changes? I mean, Strunk and White is from, like, the '20s or '30s, and Browne and King was published in the (gasp!) '90s. Are they still relevant? Well, judging from the fact that EVERYONE still recommends that you read Strunk and White at least once in your life ... I guess that one is.

On the other hand, I've read editing books by people who don't have the experience, or who you've never heard of, and though they'll give you the same pointers on adjectives and POV, it doesn't feel quite the same coming from some random person who may/may not have the credentials to back it up. It makes me wonder what an Idiot's Guide to Fiction Writing might be like. Hmm, maybe I'll see if the library has a copy of that...

Hey, how did this post turn into an editing advice corner? I think it has to do with the fact that I need to get down to some editing of my own pretty soon. But hey, maybe this could be useful to someone else, too!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Playing with Fire!!!

Wahoo! I have survived writing 2 (count em, 2!!) papers! It's lovely and exciting and ...

Oh yeah! Playing with Fire is out!!! I've been meaning to do my happy dance for a couple days now ... anyway, check it out right here. Oh, and there's a final version of the cover--a little different than I posted earlier. Looks cool!


I think I said this before, but this is one of the first SF stories I've ever written, and the first to get published. And, now I'm batting 3 for 3 in stories sold-to-female protagonists. Interesting. I wonder; if I went by a male pen name, would this still be true? Hmmmm.... We shall see.

Anyway, the anthology looks really good (and affordable--hey!) so take a look! As far as authors are concerned, they pretty much only care for you to read the story and worship it, but I suspect that the lovely people over at Third Flatiron Press would appreciate it if you bought a copy, to make writers like me worth the price they paid. :)

Oh, no, I'm not cheap. You can't buy me with just any old kind of granola ...!

I also feel really smart because I just realized that Third Flatiron Press is named after a mountain called Third Flatiron. Which is a part of their logo. And here I thought it was just a pretty picture ... sigh ....

Ah, well. Back I go to the paper-writing ....