Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vonnegut's Rules for Writing

Ripped from the pages of Wikipedia:

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:
Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

Start as close to the end as possible.

Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

My Brain Hurts

I apologize in advance for the rambling...

Too much is going on in here! I'm still thinking and working on the new story, "Her Bones, The Bones of the Dead," which I was half-hoping to finish in time for submission to Clarion (San Diego) by tomorrow's deadline. However, I've been UU-ing all weekend and feel a bit used up!

It sounds weird, but more than one person has told me lately that I'm a good leader and would make a good minister, the kind of thing I was thinking myself, late last year. I've pushed that into the background so I could stay focused on writing. Now, I've been asked to serve the UU in a greater capacity (though, of course, not as a minister), and I took three whole days to think it over before saying "yes."

I'm still writing because writing means a great deal to me. That is unlikely to change. I can't explain why. It's hard to describe although folks are always trying (read some of the responses to Jamie Grove's "Writing Is..." post to see what I mean).

I actually found myself wondering what would happen if I wrote about UU stuff. Maybe this is not entirely off-base, as there's at least one sci-fi story out there that deals with UUism in the future. Wish I could remember the title! BTW, Kurt Vonnegut, Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury, among others, were UUs.

Unitarian Universalism is trying hard to be the religion of the future, but they're not quite there yet. I was proud to be present for Rev. Bonnie Devlin's talk today, in which she charged UU folks to grow up and get off their butts so the message of UUism can get out there into the world.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing Advice from the Pros

Sage and humorous advice for writers, from writers. I needed to hear this today, as I am feeling a wee bit discouraged.

Common themes: don't use adverbs, stop beating yourself up, cut and cut some more, quit worrying about the dirty dishes, keep writing no matter what.

My personal favorite (for today, anyway)?

"Only bad writers think that their work is really good." (Anne Enright)

Do I Suck?

A rejection from Andromeda Spaceways already. I just submitted it three days ago! This rapid return disturbs me a little, especially since it's the same story I'm hoping will get me into Clarion West.

I'm holding out hope that it was rejected for a formatting issue rather than on the basis of quality. Apparently, Google Docs doesn't translate very cleanly into RTF; a very nice person from ASIM named Lucy notified me right away that the formatting was off a little. The double-spacing had reverted to single, bits that should have been centered (like the title and section break indicators they ask for) were not, and chunks of messy code replaced other formatting I used. Color me mortified.

While waiting for this new rejection (and maybe Clarion's), I have been trying very hard to ramp up my writing-and-research mode. I'm working (still) on the "birthday story," which was supposed to be a gift for my hubbie in January but is shaping up nicely, and I've subscribed to Locus and done more market research.

Argh. Maybe I'll go back to bed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Submit!

Getting a little cranked up by the Clarion buzz, so I submitted a piece to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, in Australia. The Internets make such things possible.

Now, I have a spreadsheet set up for tracking submissions, and I plan to fill it up. This gives me something else to look forward to while I wait for word from Clarion, even if this means more rejections.

I also considered submitting to Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, but since the story's protagonist is gay and OSC is against "that kind of thing," I think I'll pass. No need to beat my head against that wall, even if he's passed the helm onto another editor. Maybe next time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Clarion West, and a theft

I'm thoughtful and mostly calm about my Clarion West application, so far, not like last year's histrionics. I finally joined the online forum for applicants, so I feel connected to the collective angst.

For my application, I submitted a revision of the story that I used last year as one of two stories for Clarion (the other one), and it feels a little crummy to do that. First, if it wasn't accepted last year, why use it again? I'm convinced it's a promising story, and I made some changes for the better. Second, I realized I've been working since last year on two stories that I've not yet finished. To be fair, one is a novel, and I wrote several flash pieces in the meantime, but the output otherwise is pathetically low. One thing that NaNoWriMo taught me is to let go of some responsibilities so I can write more, but the increase in pace has been marginal.

So, what's the problem? Some of it, I think, is the fact that my favorite ideas, the unfinished ones, are ones that began with a seed, not a whole picture, whereas the finished ones hit me all at once. They were complete pictures that just needed to find a way out onto the page. I'm still floundering around trying to figure out what those unfinished stories are really about and how I want them to end. Now, I know that's not inherently a bad thing, but I get stuck and can't seem to get unstuck.

The other issue is discipline. If I don't work consistently, it's not going to happen. I spend way more time reading than writing.

Anyway, enough whining.

On another note, someone stole a big wooden statue of Buddha from my front porch. What kind of dick steals a Buddha? It galls me a bit. I don't feel especially angry, though. I hope thieving individual at least gets some spiritual satisfaction out of it, however tainted. I should write about it, if for no other reason than spite.

Friday, February 12, 2010

God, help me!

I'm over halfway through Dead Until Dark, and a part of me wishes I'd never picked it up. Morbid curiosity, I reckon. Lite reading, because I'm supposed to be concentrating on writing, but I still need something to read while I eat my oatmeal.

I'm not one for vamp books (trashier versions of romance novels, generally), but I do like some vamp television, especially Buffy. The True Blood adaptation of the Sookie Stackhouse series is my guilty pleasure, with an extra helping of guilt. I feel nervous about exposing my affection for it; will you think less of me? Hey, what I am going to watch, now that Dollhouse is over and done?

We at my house are not big TV watchers, but as a writer, I am obsessed with story anymore, and grab at it any place I can find it. Harris's book is one of those rare examples of those proving not as good as the adaptation, unfortunately. It sort of tanks along and is written so lazily that I'm blowing through it. Very low reading level, but by far better in terms of characterization and setting than Twilight (ugh). I couldn't choke down more than fifteen pages of that absolutely terrible book. Heroines need to have spunk, and vampires should bite people.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I rarely write about film, but I love the indie flick I watched last night (thank you, Netflix!) called Moon. It's gotten rave reviews from some, and terrible ones from others. From a storytelling perspective, I thought it was a delight.

This film had classic sci-fi style that I haven't seen since 2010. The film definitely has a flaw or two, but you gotta love Kevin Spacey as the voice of a robot, and the slow, slightly creepy style the film evokes.

The star, Sam Rockwell, gives it an "unknown" flavor, but he's had a number of wildly different roles over the years (notably, Zaphod Beeblebrox in the recent big-screen Hitchhiker's adaptation). He's slated as Justin Hammer in the upcoming sequel to Iron Man, and he was in Gentlemen Broncos, which is on my to-be-watched list.

Sam (name of the character as well as the actor) is the sole operator of a cold fusion mining operation on the moon, serving out a three-year contract. It gets lonely and cabin-feverish up there, with only a emoticon-faced robot to talk to, and Sam starts to go a little wonky.

Moon serves up some twists and turns, as well as a little humor, so avoid spoilers like IMDb if you want the full effect. My husband and I had to force ourselves to stop speculating aloud every few minutes concerning the outcome, even though it's loaded with foreshadowed story elements. Rated R, but only for the repeated use of the F-word.

Mr. B strolled in and out of the room while we were watching and was apparently bored by the lack of action. But not all science fiction is about action when there's a good story.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Ways to Avoid Writing

Having twentysomethings for friends makes RockBand a lot more fun, 'cause they can sing all the hip emo stuff I don't know.

Whereas I can sing along with The Who and Rush and stuff. What else am I going to do on a Sunday night? Grade papers? Write?