clhollandwriter: (Default)
A final gift idea, since there's only a week to go. The Creative Writing Coursebook is based on the University of East Anglia's creative writing courses, and is suitable for beginners and more advanced writers.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
For today, another gift idea: 642 Things To Write About. There's also a young writer's edition. Enough prompts to keep anyone going all year!
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Nothing on the new project this week, but I have written a couple of other short pieces, drafted a new poem, and got my submissions up to date. Short things, flash and poetry, seem to be all I can manage at the moment. Anything longer requires a sustained level of brain power I just can't manage after a day at work, certainly on the days I finish late. Being on a rota sucks.

The competition special issue of Writing Magazine is out this week, so I updated my deadline calendar for the rest of the year. As always there seems to be an increase in competitions for very specialised age groups - women over 40 or 60, or under 25, for example. It's a bit of a wasteland if you're anywhere in between. I wonder why organisers don't seem to consider that the rest of us might need support or encouragement. Maybe they think we're all too busy off having babies or something.

There's an increase in contests requiring ridiculous levels of fees, too - upwards of £12 in some cases. While I understand the need for contests to charge a fee so they can pay the judges and the winners, some of them seem to be plainly taking advantage. I'm a firm believer in Yog's Law - money flows towards the writer - and if it's flowing in the other direction there had better be a good reason. That's why I won't submit to regular markets with submission or reading fees, and if I'm entering a contest I set the fee I'm willing to pay at 2% of the prize unless winning is particularly prestigious in itself.

My writing books have all turned up now.



Although, to be fair, The Observation Deck was ordered before Swanwick and turned up without the deck (which is presumably why it was so cheap, although it wasn't mentioned in the product description). I'm working my way through them, and it's nice to have a collection to dip in and out of when I want to get my head into writing. It's also nice to know I can buy them without worrying about having to move house with them - and that any I decide not to keep will easily find a new home at Swanwick next year.
clhollandwriter: (block)
I read this last month, and like so many things meant to blog about it but didn't get around to it.

It reads more like a conversation than instructions. Lamott is both wise and funny. The main things I took from it were that it's okay to be a pantser (I seem to be having problems with this lately and have developed a fear of throwing myself in at the deep end) and it's okay to write a shitty first draft. Which I already knew but it was nice to have someone say it. So much of the writing advice out there these days is aimed at plotters, or pantser to turn them into plotters. Now I just need something to write a shitty first draft about.

I've also got Elizabeth George's Write Away on the TBR pile, and a book about writing crime and thrillers since I'm trying to broaden my horizons. And there's a stack of writing magazines I'm struggling to keep up with, although I'm thinking about giving up on some of those. That's a whole other blog post though.

Next month is NaNoWriMo. This year is the tenth anniversary of my first attempt, and I feel a little like I should celebrate by taking part. I'm not sure there's room in my life for a 50,000 word novel at the moment though. Certainly not one I write in a month. Although it would get me a shitty first draft.
clhollandwriter: (block)
I've always been a pantser, and love writing in that white-hot frenzy of inspiration that can come of this method of writing. However, it can result in a lot of words wasted as you end up excising scenes that aren't necessary, or cutting out waffle that was only needed to writ into the story in the first place. Case in point: the first draft of The Reflection of Memory came in a 17k. The printed version is a much more manageable 10k. That's a cut of around 40% of the original wordcount.

I've become a lot more risk averse as I've got older, and wasting time on unnecessary words is one of the things I'm trying to avoid. For a while this has manifested as a fear of writing anything at all, because there's not always a way to tell before you start if you're writing a dud. That's not healthy though, or productive if you actually want to write. So now I'm teaching myself how to plot. Trying to, anyway.

My first port of call is Evan Marshall's Novel Writing (called, I think, The Marshall Plan in the US). He has a handy breakdown of how many scenes and characters you should be thinking to put in a book of a particular length, how to structure the middle to keep it moving, and how to finish off. Some of what he writes makes perfect sense to me, for example where to add your "surprises" and plot twists to keep things interesting. However he thinks that there should be 5 viewpoint characters in a 120k novel (the length I'm provisionally aiming for), which seems like a lot to me. Especially since, in the 24 sections you get to start a novel at that length, the secondary characters come in at sections six, eight, ten, and twelve. That doesn't seem like a lot of space to get things moving. And you're supposed to plant the seeds of each one in the previous sections, but what if you're writing one of those novels with separate characters and plotlines that eventually come together?

It seems like this book is a good place to start, but I'm not convinced it will let me tell the story I want to. The next part is to dig into Jeff Vandermeer's Wonderbook, and all those random writing books I loaded onto my Kindle and haven't read yet. Maybe if I take the bits I like from each of them and shake I'll come up with a method of plotting that works for me.

Bad advice

Dec. 28th, 2011 12:40 pm
clhollandwriter: (Marvin)
My boyfriend very kindly bought me Publishing Poetry by Kenneth Steven for Christmas. While I don't usually post bad reviews of books, I'll make an exception given this one is aimed at beginners to publishing and contains some very bad advice.

Some of it will merely make a poet (or author generally) look unprofessional - such as not bothering with a typed letter when sending your collection to publishers, as handwritten is fine. Why bother sending a neatly typed collection if you're going to spoil it by not typing the covering letter? Also, I'd advise against daubing your work in the copyright symbol as Mr Steven advises. At best it shows a lack of understanding of copyright, at worst you risk implying to editors you don't trust them not to steal your work. Which you don't, otherwise you wouldn't put it there in the first place.

Other advice shows a lamentable lack of understanding of submission guidelines. Firstly, it's fine to ignore submission guidelines for the sake of convenience, for example by typing multiple poems on a page to save postage. (For any non-poets reading this, it's customary to submit a single poem per sheet.) Some editors might not mind this, but if their guidelines say otherwise it would be wise to query first.

Likewise, simultaneous submissions - if the guidelines say not to do it, don't. This applies to not sending your collections to multiple publishers unless they themselves say it's okay (Mr Steven's thoughts on this are "I don't believe in being unduly polite to publishers; they are very seldom polite to poets"), and also individual poems to magazines. It is not okay to send a poem to a large market and a small one, and if they both buy it "don't worry unduly" as the chances are no one will notice.

In the same vein, it's not a good idea to send to overseas markets those poems that did well in your home country. Mr Steven admits here "though whether this is strictly 'cricket' or not I don't know". No, Mr Steven, it's not 'cricket' - there are such things as rights. If the overseas market doesn't accept reprints, don't do it. It the poem is currently in an exclusivity period, don't do it. If you've sold UK rights and the new market wants world rights, don't do it. At the very least you need to be clear on the rights you're willing and able to sell, and willing to talk to an editor about this. Given that this is a book aimed at beginners I'd expect this sort of thing to be mentioned.

Don't get me wrong, there is some good advice in here (don't drink before a reading, understand your audience, keep track of where you've sent things), but it doesn't offset the really, really bad advice. Following that mentioned above is a very good way to get yourself blacklisted by editors and torpedo that fledgling career. This is not a book I'd recommend to anyone.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I'm currently suffering from a bout of "writer's meh." It's not that I don't have the ideas, it's just that I can't get enthusiastic enough to do anything about them. I hope that the new challenge up at LH, the "original zombie story" challenge, will do something about that as it sounds like fun.

I've just finished reading Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, which was an interesting read. He certainly made me think differently about sci fi, something I haven't written since I was a teenager. Now I've moved on to The Satyricon, just because. After that I'm not sure, possibly I'll have another look at Ursula LeGuin's The Language of the Night, which I bought for my MA and never finished. It's still got all my labelled bookmarks sticking out of it. I seem to have swung away from trash fiction lately, for no apparent reason. Now I'm on non-fiction (all my shiny new and second-hand refernece books I haven't read yet) and classics. It's probably a backlash against reading the last six Sandman graphic novels in one go.

In the spirit of being educational, my boyfriend's just bought the World at War box set and is watching that in the evenings. It's something they should show again, although it's too dry to keep the attention of most people these days. It's something that needs to be shown though. Apparently 1 in 4 people in the UK think that Churchill was a myth, and at the weekend the boyfriend encountered a teenager who actually asked (on spotting him playing a WW2 wargame) what World War Two was.

August 2017

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