WARNING: May contain naughty language.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Old School

I never really studied English while I was in college. Thanks to some AP credit from high school, I was able to skip most of the intro classes. The only English class I ever took was on Creative Writing. I enjoyed it, but it was more of a "just one more thing to get done" class than anything else. I got my degrees, moved on in life and here I am - 24 years later.

Now that I've gotten into writing once more, with intent to actually sell my words, rather than amuse friends, I feel as though I've got a great deal of catching up to do. While I've always been a voracious reader, there are a lot of "classics" which I thought I was missing. After some weeks of research I'm pleased to discover that I'm not in that bad a shape.

I did, however, pick up a couple of books with intent to study and have just finished that exercise.

"Becoming a Writer" by Dorothea Brande (1934) and "The Rhetoric of Fiction" by Wayne C. Booth (1961)

There were some hilariously anachronistic words of advice in both of them, yet the fundamentals remain the same, even today.

I spent hours turning yellow page after yellow page, typing up notes into Evernote. Took a fair portion of the long weekend, to be honest.

When I finished with both books, I realized that while the "specifics" of writing may have changed a great deal in the past 80 years, the foundation has not;

1. Be original
2. Use good grammar
3. Make compelling characters
4. Make the reader care about them
5. Tension is the only thing which will ever force a reader to turn the page
6. Make the story worth the reader's time
7. Repeat as needed

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How Honest is an "Honest" Review?

As some of you know, I am more than a little OCD when it comes to Goodreads. If I can't actually talk to somebody about a great book or a not-great book, I turn to the next best thing -- posting my thoughts for thousands of strangers to view.

So, yeah. There are over 1,500 ratings I've left and almost 550 reviews written over the years. I think my Average Rating of 3.73 is a bit on the high side, but that's cool. I've always been an easy grader.

As of late, I've received a lot of requests to read and review ARCs (Advance Reader Copies?) or books which may not have been published yet. The typical caveat is "...in exchange for an 'honest' review..."

90% of the time, I'm delighted to tear into the words, enjoy the ride and toss out my opinions on the Internet. Easy peasy.

The trouble with the other 10% usually starts around pages 1 to 3. It is right around that point that I get fed up with horrific grammar, non-stop cliches, ridiculous formatting, implausible characters or any of the myriad other things which make my "Inner Editor" jump to his feet and scream incoherently.

My Inner Editor's name is Cletus and he is a total bag-o-dicks but what can you do?

The challenge comes next. What should I do? I've given more than my fair share of 1 star reviews in the past. And I felt terrible about it; to such a degree that I now just stick my head in the sand and pretend I never read it.

I suspect there are better, more nuanced ways to handle such a thing. Or perhaps I'm making a big fuss over nothing. By the same token, if an author is sincere in their desire to get feedback on their work, I sort of feel obligated - no matter how bad it might be.

As I stated above, it doesn't happen often and never a work by somebody I actually know - but I live in mortal dread of the day that will happen.

How would you handle this kind of thing?

PS: The image above (from a Wii game console) does look a lot like me.

PPS: I do, in fact, own a gunmetal-grey body suit in which I patrol Chicago nightly, clinging to the shadows, ever-vigilant for the threat of...no.

That's a lie.

Monday, May 16, 2016

So, there was the Horror Writers Association "THING" in Vegas this Weekend...

Right. So there was that. And it was awesome for a variety of reasons.

I've been writing with "intent to sell" for about 5 years now. I've made;
- 12 publications
- several major "events"
- numerous contacts in the industry
- countless friends
- Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox and Paradise Lost (several times)

I feel like I was baptized once gain in the Font of N00B this weekend at HWA.

Yep, I'm still gathering my far-flung thoughts but will report back WHEN ABLE.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Matter of Pespective

Fresh off the heels of an invigorating workshop (Paradise Lost - San Antonio, TX) I hit the ground running with regards to my dozens of "works in progress" and submittable content.

Just being in the presence of twenty-some-odd pros and semi-pros was enough to get my gears turning and my fingers typing. In the span of 24 hours, I revised at least four (4) short stories I've had in the trunk. I polished them to a shiny gloss, gave them each a tiny sack lunch, patted their collective heads and sent them into the WYLDE to seek their fortunes.

48 hours later, I'd collected an impressive number of rejection emails. While one or two of my works are still at large in the Interwebs, no doubt trapped in some slush reader's Inbox, most came home - bedraggled, soaking wet and bruised about the head and shoulders from editorial pummeling. I took them in, gave them some hot soup and sent them off to bed.

A few years ago this would have been a severe disappointment. The (inner editor / Imposter / self-critic / negative Muse named Noyoucantia) would have a field day with it. The usual self-doubt, crippling lack of external validation and YOU SUCK buttons; the whole nine yards.

But this was different. There were no "FORM - R" (template rejection letters) in the responses. They were, in fact, encouraging. Sure, my work was not right for them due to various and sundry reasons, but the editors (very, very busy people) took the time to read the WHOLE THING. Words of advice, valuable feedback and encouraging requests for future submissions were the common denominator in every single rejection letter I received.

So what?

Well, that means I'm getting better at the craft of writing. I'm improving.

I prefer to label rejection letters as "Notices of Not-Quite-Acceptance" and will continue to do so as long as I keep working at it.

Now. Onto the next submission. Its a little chilly out there - my manuscript will probably need some mittens and a jacket.