Archive for the ‘Writing Fiction’ Category

I’m naive, I admit it

March 28, 2010

One of my goals has always been to be published. By a major publishing company. With an editor. And, most importantly, a nice advance that could (maybe) pay my bills for a bit. I also always sorta expect a publishing house to be helpful in pushing me (or any author) in the right direction regarding publicity of said work.

Then I read this blog by Mitzi Szereto.

Then I read this page by Jim Cox at the Midwest Book Review.

Then I talked to a couple of other friends of mine who are knee (well, shoulder) deep in MFA Master/PhD programs.

And I discovered how horribly naive I really am about the whole publishing mess. Any hope that a publisher would help a writer succeed appears blind and destined for failure. Want to do readings? Book’em yourself. Want to get reviewers to read the thing? Send them copies.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me (and you’re probably not, so you’re fine), you don’t really interact well with people. Or maybe you are like me which means that, like me, you have some work to do. for the first time, networking is taking on a clear importance and meaning.  Friends (or at least people who want to remain acquaintances and who may later ask you for a favor) are essential.

But how do you make friends, especially in a world where you are literally a tiny fish in a MASSIVE sea? I come from a small ass town in SE Michigan. I have lately moved to Cleveland.  Not exactly the center of the universe or, especially, the literary universe (Though Dan Chaon lives about 10 minutes away, and I guess Harvey Pekar lives somewhere in this town, so there’s some people whose names are at least noticeable on bookshelves). Given such a situation, it’s easy to look around and wonder how the hell you’re supposed to meet/greet/schmooze anyone.

Well, first, send stuff out. Obvious answer. People like you enough to publish you, on their dime, that’s a great first step in fostering allegiances to call on when needed. Second, use the web. Search for blogs and websites related to your interests/writings/etc. And comment. Say stuff. It’s easy, even if you do look like a naive nit (such as I on Mitzi’s blog). And just know that it’s going to happen. Don’t be an ass. Just be you (unless you are an ass then try to be something less you).

As I crawl, drag, stagger towards finishing the (first) re-write of my first novel I have considered hurling into the world, I’ve started taking these steps. And credit goes to people like Mitzi Szerato and Jim Cox for erecting islands of illumination in the publishing darkness. Eventually, I hope to provide something similar. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away and trying to be a bit less naive.

And I’ll try to shake more hands.

Rubbertop Review – submissions

December 7, 2009

Rubbertop Review is a journal published by the University of Akron that focuses on contributions from residents of Ohio.  They accept Fiction, Poetry, and creative non-fiction (was there a time where non-fiction was just non-fiction?) and their deadline for submissions is February 1st.

For more information, including addresses to send work to and guidelines for work submitted, check out Rubbertop Review’s website.


March 4, 2009

looking at the page, words are in my head, but I want to be eating ice cream. Just another day trying to be a “writer.”

head met wall and all steam was lost

February 24, 2009

No update in awhile. Just family stuff cropped up again recently and it’s taking long and longer for me to recover and my writing in general has suffered. Editing has fell by the way side, new writing has ground to a halt and my blogging has become scarce.  I’m working on putting up some more links and what not but I’m woefully short on finding things to say about my own work beyond that I’m struggling again.

What makes it worse is that the struggling becomes self-perpetuating. The less I write the harder it is to get started again so I continue to not really sit down and write. Part of the reason for trying to sit down and work on this blog every day was to help nip that in the butt. Figuring that any writing would be good writing (well, good for me anyway), this was sort of my failsafe but I’ve even let this fall off at times.

But I’m trying to get back on the horse.

It just doesn’t feel right

February 9, 2009

I’ve been working on my short story turned too damn long project some more today. In a weird way it is frustrating because it is coming pretty easily so far. It’s strange that this would be frustrating but I had expected it to be a much shorter work, something I could turn out in a few days and then move on from but, instead, the thing is just flying along. I’ve broken the 10k word mark with ease and more of the story is unfolding in my head and making sense and all I wanted was some quick little thing I could send off.

What’s also frustratinng is that it feels so mundane.  That’s a bad thing for a writer to say but it’s true. This isn’t to say the story doesn’t seem interesting or the writing sucks. I like the story and I like what I have written so far. But I can tell it’s not great. I don’t see anything in it that really seperates it from the ton of other stuff that I read that I enjoy but then give to the used book store for credit. I love Haruki Murakami and Richard Brautigan and, occasionally, bits of Pynchon,  and Vonnegutt and a slew of others and they all have this quality that you can tell they are doing something remarkable with the page and the word.

Reading over what I am writing, thinking of where it is going, and it just doesn’t have those qualities. It’s unrealistic to expect them. These are truly great writers who are exceptional at their craft.  And I should be happy if I can just get this project finished and find an agent for it. But there is still a hope that I can do something that would make me feel like I belonged with the heroes of my literary world rather than taking up space at the used book store.

a whole lot of words going on (uh-uh-huh)

February 3, 2009

In a fit of decisiveness or lunacy I decided to adopt page minimums for how much I read/write/edit every day. This decision took all of a minute and a half and most of that was in deciding whether or not the writing portion could be broken up over several projects or whether it must be one project.

Like most things jumped into with more ambition than forethought, I have quickly found that I may have overstepped my abilities a bit. The reading and editing parts are the easiest. I decided that I would read 100 pages every day. This may not sound like much but it forces me to sit down and just take time out from the day and focus on one thing. The focusing part is something I have had trouble with recently but this part has went well.

So has the editing which I set at 10 pages per day. I have never been an enthusiastic proofreader/editor/re-writer but I know it’s a process that has to be applied. And while I dread it and put it off I have found that when I sit down and start working on the stuff, the ten pages usually go by pretty quickly.

And then there is the writing portion.  Some foolish part of me thought that this would be the easiest part. I think I am a hideously slow reader, so I figured that might be difficult for me and my dislike for slogging through the grunt work is something I am very self aware of. But writing? That should be easy.

And now I’ve tried to actually do it. Sit down and churn out ten pages in single spaced, times new roman (it’s my personal formatting choice).  I’ve gotten about three pages cranked out today and it damn near killed me. what’s doubly discouraging is that I used to be able to sit down and turn out pages like I was a fax machine. Everything felt as if it used to come so easily that I never considered the possibility that one day it wouldn’t.

Though I must also admit that I write much better now than I did then. The story would come out but it lacked polish and style. But having found how so much easier it is to proof read, I wouldn’t mind going back to a time when I could then get to the proofreading quicker. Maybe it’s yet another sign of me getting older or maybe it’s just the natural progression of a writer. But it seems like we are never wise enough to know what we have and what to do with it until we have to make sense out of something else.

This Market and That Market and all of my Money

January 30, 2009

I know I am not alone.

At some point I think everyone who has ever thought of being a writer, who has wondered if maybe they could get something published somewhere, anywhere, has went out and bought at least one of these books. These books promising to give you every place imagineable to submit your work and to provide easy to follow instructions for submitting your children to these unseen judges in the most beauty pageant spotless and combed fashion to encourage being Chosen.

At some point I think we all allow ourselves a moment to dream.

And then we plop down twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five dollars for The Writer’s Market or The Poet’s Market or one of the numerous siblings and printed shirt tail relation that offer page after page of addresses, contact information and preferences. It’s a weird personals section in reverse where the confident simply post an ad saying, “Please Me” and we jump to our feet to submit our pained, inadaquate selves for their judging.

I have a couple of these books on my own shelf. I have went through them all, trying to comb out the ones that look most promising. I have used different colored post-its, paperclips, hi-liters, and corner folding. I have typed countless web addresses, some still working some never having worked, and these books still sit on my shelf. And every year I consider getting the newest edition, as if I would ever be able to pick up on the updates.

Now I use and look for projects/requests that fit me or which I think I can make myself fit. Things with deadlines and clear requirements. Things that are set up closer to how personal ads should be set up or at least closer to how they should feel. Sending these emails feels productive.

But those books on my shelf, with all of their creases and paper clips and many colored hi-lites, are still there and they still represent the first time I really looked at the idea of not just writing but of being a writer…and dreamed.

A lot of red ink

January 23, 2009

I am finally bringing myself to sit down and begin the task of editing/re-writing a novel I finished a few months back. In the spirit of using the blog as confessional, this is a project that I took far too long on completing the first draft of. Most of the idea was pretty much in my head from the start, I did the normal pre-writing stuff that usually doesn’t help much in the end (and it didn’t this time, either, other than helping me keep the characters straight) and then I began to trudge through the process of writing.

Which is odd because writing it, when I actually sat down and worked on it, wasn’t that much work. The words came fairly easily and, when I would make myself sit down and do it, I could get through good chunks of it at the time. It was just forcing myself to sit down and work on it that was the problem. And after the initial thrust took so long to repeat, I was just sort of burned out on it and didn’t want to look at it for awhile.

So I didn’t. Until a couple of days ago. Then I hefted the thing out of my messenger bag (I want to call it an attache and give it some degree of respectability but I also can’t help but think of it as a big leather man purse) and have started going through it with the trusty red pen and an open notebook that I’ve used from teh start to keep my notes in. Two things became immediately clear.

One, I see why I wrote it so quickly. It needs a lot of work on the re-write. The ideas are solid but the language and construction need some definite overhauls. I have already came across whole paragraphs where I like what I want to say but disagree entirely with how I’m trying to say it.

Second, it has amazed me how far I have come as a writer since I had written the opening pages of this thing so long ago. Even if I would have sensed there was something wrong upon a re-reading then, I don’t believe I would have had the requisite skills to zero in and fix it. Or at least attempt to fix it. Now I can feel myself viewing it from a different level of experience and ability. And I also see why it takes me longer to write something now as I actually notice how much more effort and time I take in constructing something.

While it feels somewhat encouraging to be able to take a clear notice of this evolution in my writing, the red blanketing my manuscript is also a sobering reminder of how much work still lies ahead of me. But I feel like I know where I am going now. I have a map for these territories. Here there are no longer monsters.

Larry McMurtry:The Book Is Dead

January 22, 2009

Over at the Houston Chronicle they had this short interview with Larry McMurtry that focuses on books and culture. His 29th novel is to hit bookshelves later this year and he’s beginning work on the second book of his biography (the first, Books, was published in 2007 and the third, Hollywood, has yet to be written). He also owns a used and rare bookstore in his home town of Archer City called Booked-Up.

Within the interview McMurtry uses his upcoming speaking engagement at Rice to touch upon the fact that he sees few young people come into his store. Nearly everyone is “over 40” and this has caused him to worry that the our “Book Culture” is in its final stages. Despite an early love with stories, he mentions how kids hit an entertainment blitzkrieg when they get around eleven or twelve years of age. A world of MP3 players, video players, movies, cell phones, the internet, satallite radio, and television come together as a horde of mice attacking the child’s time and attention with each taking away its fair morsel.

Which might be true.

But I also think that it might be overstating it a bit. I don’t see a lot of young people at the used bookstores I frequent, either. But I don’t think this is because there is a severe lack of young people reading, only that there is a severe lack of young people willing to go to a store that isn’t in a shopping mall.

For when I go into Borders, I see plenty of young people. Being a bit of a crotchety old man, I’m often annoyed by the sheer volume of young people taking up space in the book aisles. Though, to be fair, I’m fairly annoyed by anyone in the book aisles taking up space. But the point is that they are there. Granted, there is a larger number of them filtering over to the graphic novel and manga sections, both of which were recently expanded at my local Borders, but I think we are past the point of denigrating the graphic novel as a lesser form of reading.

Also, I think the written word may have a larger place within our society now than nearly ever before. While this may no longer be a golden age of letters, the young are not bashful about picking up their keyboard and putting their thoughts to the page. With the imprint that blogging, instant messaging, chat rooms and message boards leave on the virtual and real worlds, I would wager that there is a greater segment of our society today putting the written word to daily use than ever before.

Whether there is quality riding along with this quantity is debateable but I think that is more of a question of the technology and the forum having existed outside of the social norm until very recently. Instead of embracing these forms of communication and expression, bringing them into the mainstream and incorporating their strengths into legitimizing their forms, we have allowed them to remain on the outside where their influence is still felt but not controlled in any real way. Bloggers are still looked upon with suspicion while the other forms are looked upon as amateurish time wasters.

But kids are reading these things and kids are writing these things. These are places that are engaging, demanding and are beginning to carry formidable weight. So while the internet might take customers away from the bookstore, it isn’t taking people away from the written word. Despite the thunderhead of etnertainment distractions that descend upon the young, they still find time to write and read something they are interested in and which they find accessible.

What I think this really shows is that the literary world needs to change with the world around it. I’ve talked about a couple of e-books in past blogs and the majority of us know of Project Gutenberg but it needs to go further. Literature needs to be created solely for the internet browsing crowd, incorporating HTML, flash, etc. to create the dynamic reading experience that people have come to expect.

This isn’t to say that the conventional printed word is dead or that it doesn’t have a place in society. I can’t realistically see any point within my life time where I will quit wandering into a conventional bookstore and buying a conventional book. This only to say that the world of literature has a new frontier into which to expand. Having these alternate forms emerge is an opportunity to expand the influence of the written word and to stave off the demise McMurtry prophesies.

The Empty White

January 16, 2009

Been trying to write more lately and I find myself staring at the page more than actually getting anything done.  Even if it’s something I’ve already started and I’m trying to continue, the space after the last word on the page just seems to grow and grow until it envelops everything.

Eventually I give up and play spider or chess. I get addicted to beating either chance or the computer at its most rudimentary settings. Yesterday I was up til four in the morning playing chess with a partially done short story open in the background. I would move a knight or lose a pawn and eye the white void beyond the chess board.

it’s a weird feeling to have ideas to have a good sense of where that idea is or should go and even how to get there but still find myself wholly unable to make the journey.