Archive for the Alphabet Category

N is for Nature

Posted in Alphabet, Writing on April 13, 2009 by oneoveralpha

I like to take walks. Somehow, walking lets my mind wander in ways it can’t when I’m sitting before a computer. But for my mind to truly wander, I need to be alone. If a couple of mothers pushing strollers go by on my walk, or if some guy is yakking on a phone, it messes with my … zone. (I can’t think of a better word.) So I tend to walk around my apartment complex around midnight. On my walks I see brick buildings, hear cars rushing by on the highway, or sometimes the occasional train rumbling by, so my thoughts tend toward the technical.

I went home to the family farm for Easter, and took a walk. I much prefer walks at home because I can go during the day and there’s nobody around. All I hear is the wind rustling the grass, birds chirping, and the rare car going by so I know I’m not the only human left. My thoughts while walking at home are more basic, primal, elemental.

I believe that writers should try different styles, or genres because it strengthens their writing. I also believe that writers should be inspired by different things – the technical walks around my apartment complex and the element walks at home in nature. I know that neither is “better” than the other, but I do know which one I prefer.

nature

M is for Missing the Point

Posted in Alphabet, Writing on March 30, 2009 by oneoveralpha

I’m in three different writing groups. They have been very beneficial, either motivating me to write so I have something to share, or by catching my mistakes and lapses. “Why did he do X?” “Oh, didn’t I mention he was an android? Oops.” But not every writing group comment has been useful. Sometimes, people miss the point. I’ll give two examples.

One time a group was going over a short scifi story of mine. For one, older woman, it was apparently the first scifi story she had ever read. (Sad proof that not everyone is perfect. :P) Anyway, she had a lot of problems with it. At one point, a character talks about his blaster. “What’s a blaster?” “A kind of gun.” “Couldn’t you just say ‘gun?'” She didn’t just admit she was unaccustomed to scifi lingo and move on. Instead, she acted as if I was purposely filling the story with weird stuff just to confuse people. Over the years I’ve read a lot of stuff that – either in tone, genre, or style – I didn’t get. And I understand, I’m not the audience. I give basic comments, but I don’t blame the author for not reeling me into a, say, a gay romance aboard a French naval vessel of the 1700’s. That’s not my kind of story.

Another time, a group was going over a different story of mine. This story had two distinct parts. The first part mostly set the stage, giving some background information on the setting and the main character. The second part had the main point of the story, but you needed that background to understand it. Also, there was a sub-point to the story in how the two parts interacted. This one guy didn’t get that. His comments for just about every paragraph in the first part was, “This does not advance the story.” He seemed to feel I should just have the second part as the story, overlooking that nobody would know what the hell I was talking about. Him making the first comment didn’t bother me, what bugged me was he wouldn’t let it go. He made his comment – I didn’t think it would work but I think about it later – and instead of moving on to something else, he kept repeating it, seeming as though he was trying to bash me into agreeing with him. Towards the end I just sat there with clenched teeth, dismissing his comments out of hand, and wanting to yell, “You’re missing the point!”

I guess it just goes to show you can’t please everyone. One person thought I explained too much, another too little.

L is for Linkage

Posted in Alphabet, Writing on March 27, 2009 by oneoveralpha

About ten years ago, I started writing “Empty Calories for the Soul,” a story about a down on his luck pizza delivery guy named Felix. One day while grocery shopping, Felix comes across a box marked “The Meaning of Life,” and he learns a lesson. (Do you want me to give the whole story away? :P) Almost a year ago, after numerous rejections and revisions, “Empty Calories for the Soul” was finally published.

Five or six years ago I started a different story, “Duty.” The blurb I came up for this was, “Who cleans up the mess when the time machine malfunctions?” After numerous rejections and revisions, “Duty” is still without a home.

Now, the reason I told you about these two very different stories, is that they are linked. A few years ago when revising “Duty,” I added a chapter where one of the main characters orders a pizza. I thought it would be really funny if Felix delivered it. At first I figured it would just be an Easter Egg for fans of my writing. But the more I thought about it, the more comforting it became. I’ve written several stories following the same characters (See Tom and Jeremy) but this is different. It feels like an element of consistency through my writing. Not only are “Empty Calories for the Soul” and “Duty” different genres and styles, they also represent two different stages of my writing. I see “Empty Calories for the Soul” as an example of my first phase of writing, whereas “Duty” – especially since I’m still working on it – is an example of my current phase. I don’t know how else to say it, but the linkage is soothing.

After I added Felix to “Duty,” I figured that every pizza delivery guy I write about has to be him. Unfortunately, few of my plots need a pizza delivery guy. However, last year Felix did make a cameo in “Explore the Future.”

So, what does the future hold for Felix? Well, as I was thinking about this post, I couldn’t help but wonder what Felix is up to these days. Did he finish college? Did he ever ask Robyn out? Is he still delivering pizzas? One of these days, I’ll have to sit down and continue his tale. It’s funny that a character I first wrote ten years ago is still with me. I guess some links aren’t meant to be broken.

K is for Killing Trees

Posted in Alphabet, Writing on March 15, 2009 by oneoveralpha

A little story.

Let’s say I get an idea for a flash fiction story. I write it in my writing notebook at a coffee shop and then I type it up. And there is a magazine I want to submit it to but they only take mailed submissions. So I print out four copies of the story. One copy is my “Clean Copy” which goes in a folder in my filing cabinet. The second is my “Work Copy” which is what I will make any revisions on. It goes into a binder. The third is the one I mail off, and the last one goes into my “Submissions Log Binder.”

Say a month later I learn that it hasn’t been accepted. But, I’ve found another magazine that takes emailed submissions, so I email it off and print out the first page of the story, for my Submissions Log.

A month or so later I learn that magazine hasn’t accepted it. Now by this time I may have thought of some new ideas for the story, or possible even have gotten some feedback, so I take my work copy to a coffee shop and work on it. I then go home and type up the changes, then put that work copy in the filing cabinet. If there is another magazine that takes emailed submissions, I’ll print out three copies – Clean, Work, Submissions Log.

Then a month or so later I learn that magazine has accepted my story. When they publish it online, I print out the page for my “Publication Binder.”

Now all of this isn’t bad when the stories are only a page or two long, but it does get somewhat tedious. And for the fifty page stories, it can be a bitch. I’m sure there is a better way of doing this, but this is the system that I’ve developed over the years, and I’m almost afraid to break it. Not out of superstition, but I’d hate to have to go back through everything reformatting it to the new way of doing things. Yes, I kill trees, but they say admitting it is the first step.

J is for Juggling

Posted in Alphabet, Writing on March 1, 2009 by oneoveralpha

I belong to three writing groups. A friend of mine is in two of the groups with me. She takes the same piece she is working on to both. If she has time, she’ll revise it from the comments from the first group before taking it to the second, but if not it’s the same thing. I, on the other hand, take something different to each group; one gets chapters from my novel, the other gets sections from a novella. On several occasions, my friend has remarked about my ability to work on two different stories at once. If she only knew.

In the past month, I’ve written a couple chapters of my novel None of Them Knew the Color of the Sky which deals with life post-nuclear war. I’ve also written a couple sections of my novella “In the Blink of an Eye” which is about some diplomats in the not too distant future. (I couldn’t figure out how to describe it in a sentence.) In addition, I’ve been doing a major revision – requiring several new chapters – of another novella Duty, which is about cleaning up the mess after the time machine malfunctions. I wrote a flash fiction story “Relics” for my February Newsletter. I revised several flash fiction pieces to take to my third writing group. I’ve written a handful of blogs, and I’ve started work on a tway, The Invisible Cliff. I think that’s all the writing I’m juggling. 😀

“How do you keep your characters straight?” Well, the pompous answer is that my characters are unique individuals and it’s impossible for me to confuse them. A better answer is that I remember enough to get by. For example, for about a year I’d submit Duty, it wouldn’t be accepted, a few days later I’d submit it somewhere else. When I started revising it, I had probably been a year since I had read it. I don’t know how many times I as I read through it going, “I don’t remember writing this.” So, am I juggling or just not showing you all the balls on the stage around me?

I is for “I dare you”

Posted in Alphabet, Website, Writing on February 22, 2009 by oneoveralpha

I was going to do “I is for Insomnia” but then I realized I wanted to do an I dare you post, and since the Insomnia wasn’t really working for me, here you go.

There are two pages on my website that haven’t done too well. The first is my 5 Word Challenge, which is where I give you five random words and you have to write a short story (<150 words) that uses all five. Several people have told me that it’s a good idea, but I have a hard time getting entries – I think the last one I got was almost a year ago. It’s something I would like to keep going, but that requires people to accept my 5 Word Challenge. Are you game?

The other page, while it isn’t a contest, it is a challenge. The Six Shooter has six word stories. Difficult, but doable, yet I can’t remember the last time I got an entry for it.

So I dare you to try your hand at one, or both. What do you have to lose?

H is for Handwriting

Posted in Alphabet, Writing on February 22, 2009 by oneoveralpha

handwriting

My handwriting sucks, as the above photo – the handwritten version of what you are now reading – shows. The biggest reason I believe is speed. If I take my time, I can form fairly legible letters. The problem is that my brain thinks faster than I can write. Also, what I write (even things like this) I usually think out ahead so I can have a good idea what the next several sentences or paragraphs will be, and I push my hand to get it all down before I forget it.

For very brief periods of time I’ve thought about those programs that turn speech into printed words, but there’s several problems with that. For one, I hate people who talk on their cell phones in public. If I started dictating stories, I’d deserve to be drug through the streets. Plus, what if I was writing a story about robots taking over the world. Can you imagine the looks I’d get if I was sitting in a quiet bookstore screaming, “Kill all humans” into a microphone? Besides, my speaking voice is akin to my handwriting; quiet, mumbled, flummoxed.

I guess I’ll stick with my almost illegible handwriting. For now at least it won’t get me drug off to a padded room.

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