Right here, at my desk, madly editing. That’s #amediting for all you techno-tweeters out there. Yes, for over a year I’ve been focused on editing and revising this stinky old Contemporary/Romantic/Intrigue/Suspense (just what IS the darn thing?!?) originally drafted during 2009 NaNoWriMo. I started 2017 planning to get the thing edited and submitted to first readers by the middle of the year. Then I wanted to start sending it out to potential agents at the beginning of 2018. Ah, the best laid plans….
Actually, I’ve done pretty well. My first readers got the manuscript last fall and I recently started sending queries to agents. But my gawd! The editing! Will it ever END? The document I’ve been working on has been labeled “FINAL” for MONTHS!
And then I saw this on the interwebs:
That’s when I stepped away from the editing and really got down to the querying. I’ve got the book all nicely wrapped up in a pretty gold ribbon, waiting to be sent out into the world. And I’m turning my attention to my NEXT book, to begin the process all over again.
Yes, the new book has already been drafted, but happily, it’s not a first draft. But there’s more editing/rewriting in my future. A lot more. There’s that Thomas Edison quote about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I’m not claiming any sort of genius over here, but I think that any creative process has a spark of genius in it. That ability to take something in one’s brain and convert it to something others might be able to feel and/or experience is pretty darn close to being a miracle. So maybe that Edison quote can be paraphrased to reflect the writing process.
In the meantime….
Pen name = Nom de plume.
I recently published a short piece of horror fiction under my pen name Arlene Stuart. It set off a firestorm of questions.
Okay, it was three questions.
First, hunh? Yeah, I know. Delusions of pretension over here. Like I’m Mark Twain or J.K. Rowling.
Second, why? It’s fairly common for authors to use different names for different genres. I’ve published a fair amount of non-fiction under my legal name (clips are here) and I’m working on a Middle Grade historical novel that I hope to publish. But I also have a few romances drafted, ranging from clean to a little smutty. Plus the short horror. It’s pretty simple — I want to keep the non-fiction and kids’ stuff separate from the smut and scary stuff.
And third, why Arlene Stuart? Family members will recognize both of these names. “Arlene” is my birth middle name and “Stuart” is my grandmother’s maiden name. So, in a sense, I’m honoring both myself as a youngster, and my ancestry.
But there are hoops to deal with. When I submitted the horror story, I noted that I was using a pseudonym. Unlike J.K. Rowling when she started to write mysteries, I’m not trying to keep it a secret. There’s no worry that I will be outed and then have to deal with the backlash. I told the anthology editor that I wanted to put this other name on the story and she handled the blurb perfectly. Which, of course, gives me direction for the future.
There are the post-publication the questions, the puzzled looks, getting paid, and autographs. I’ve compared myself to Mark Twain, which clears things up some. His nom de plume is way cooler than mine, though. And as for payment, hey, we live in a digital age. I didn’t get a check; I just provided a PayPal e-mail address. Easy peasy. As for autographs, I haven’t gotten to address that, yet. I imagine I’ll just sign “Arlene Stuart”.
Ironically, if I’d used my real name, I would be first on the list of authors on the back cover. Oh well.
The universe is a funny thing and the biddy running the operation has a wicked sense of humor. In my last post, lo these many months ago, I whined about the fact that I’d written two lovely stories, submitted them around a bit and they had fallen flat in the publication arena. I had sighed and put them away with resignation and move on to editing a NANO novel from 2008.
Then, precisely two weeks later, I got an e-mail from a friend. Darling, darling friend Kirstin sent me this:
Subject: Final Call: Nevada Anthology — Women Writers Who Give Back
Nevada Anthology: Women Writers Who Give Back
Editing literary magazines, organizing readings, and teaching are rewarding but time-consuming endeavors. Each moment spent cultivating someone else’s poetry or prose is another moment away from one’s own writerly work. The sacrifices are real, yet most editors, organizers, and teachers are happy, albeit exhausted, to contribute to their communities. A forthcoming anthology will showcase poetry and prose written by Nevada women who contribute to other writers’ educations, publications, and writerly communities.
- Length: send four to seven poems -or-prose less than 3,500 words
- Previously published work encouraged. Previously unpublished work is just fine, too.
- This call for submissions will close at 11:59 pm on February 7th. Late submissions cannot be accepted.
This project is funded in part by a grant from the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
It was like this call for submissions was aimed right at my head. I didn’t duck. I submitted those two stories I had set aside and Heather Lang accepted Shot to Hell, the flash fiction horror.
Haven’t touched a copy yet, but here’s the cover AND I’ve been paid. I think I’ll use that filthy lucre to buy some wine to toast that comedienne the Universe Biddy and my friend Kirstin. Sláinte!
Short stories are a great training ground for novel writing, but are they worth the energy?
I had this wonderful idea, with a great setting, interesting characters, and a theme. I had a submission goal. I thought the story was lovely, a perfect fit for the publication. Heartwarming and tender, my story even had dogs.
It was rejected.
I had another story. It was based on a true incident, but there was nothing special about it. Then the truthiness was edited away and a supernatural aspect came into it.
Length became an issue. It was too short for a short story, so it became flash fiction. I set an arbitrary word limit, which, while researching potential homes, was either too high or too low.
My critique group had questions, issues, and feedback comprising more words than the story itself.
I went to a conference and one speaker talked about shaking things up and changing the POV. He was also the editor of a literary journal and encouraged submissions. I changed the POV of my story to 2nd and it just sang to me. The freshness! The drama! I submitted to the journal and waited for months and months and months.
It was rejected.
So here I have two perfectly lovely stories collecting dust. When do you let a project go? Do I just tuck them away in my bottom drawer, never to be seen again? Or do I keep sending them out? And if so, where?
There isn’t much demand for short romance or shorter supernatural. My initial, and only, attempts at publication were both aimed at paper publication. Is electronic publication a paying, valid, or even respected alternative?
Paper magazines are going away. Newspapers are going away. Even books are going away. But are they being replaced with electronic alternatives? No one is really saying.
Lots of questions and no easy answers.
The Todd Borg book signing and reading at Sundance Books in Reno was essentially just like my experience with seeing Stephen King. Except for the crazy fans and the multiple lines and the waiting and the scrambling for seats. Oh, wait, yes, there was a scramble for a seat.
Todd Borg is a local author with a mystery series featuring a South Lake Tahoe P.I. and his Harlequin Great Dane. The books are packed with local settings, humor, and are just fun to read.
I roped my friend Nancy into going with me because I knew she was a fan and she can be bribed with lunch.
Sundance Books is a gem of an independent bookstore located in a historic old house in downtown Reno. It’s one of my favorite places and if they had ample food and a bed, I’d probably move in.
They are huge supporters of local authors and artists and even lil’ ol’ me did a reading at Sundance a few years ago (see here).
Todd was just like Stephen King – He’s a great speaker, knows how to tell a story, and is effing funny. His talk was aimed at the writers in the crowd and I appreciated that. He chose to read a funny scene involving the dog, which Nancy appreciated.
But unlike Stephen King, Todd was also open to a follow-up question via e-mail. Granted, I’ve never tried to e-mail Stephen King, but I thought it was great that Todd Borg took the time to answer my question.
As one ages, one starts to worry about one’s mental faculties (and one starts to refer to oneself in the third person). To that end, I’ve taken to doing a daily crossword puzzle on my iPad. They might be New York Times puzzles, but if they are, it’s sure not the Sunday puzzle – I can usually do one in about 30 minutes.
I figure it’s a good investment of time and interestingly, I’m also finding that the exercise is trickling over to my writing. A crossword puzzle is an excellent way to think about different words meaning the same thing (what’s the word for that?) or, on the flip side, the many different meanings a word can have. That’s got to help a writer, right?
One of the exercises I did in an on-line editing workshop involved writing a poem and then re-writing it using different words. Suddenly, a thesaurus is a beautiful thing. Mental exercises like that will help my writing now and help my mental acuity well into my, well, gee, 80s?
Finally, after over six months, the rejection arrived. Because it took so long, and the reading period ended months ago, I wasn’t surprised. But it still hurts. I thought the piece was a perfect fit. I thought I had a bit of an “in” with the editor. I thought my story was brilliant.
I’ll be researching new markets and re-submitting in a few weeks.
Such is the life of a writer. And this was only flash fiction. Imagine a novel. I’m still trying to imagine COMPLETING a novel.
#amwriting #amediting #amrejected
This is my motto. It’s a core philosophy adopted in college some 30-odd years ago, and still declared on my Road ID.
I’ve always interpreted the phrase to mean “Keep things clear,” and it’s been a part of my life for so long, I take that meaning in every aspect of my life, from writing, to work, to relationships.
To me it means I should be clear in my goals, clear in my wants and desires, and don’t depend on someone else’s interpretation of my meaning.
It’s a useful tool in storytelling, when one is outlining and sketching out the bare bones of a story. I have come to learn, however, that a lot of depth and color of setting and character is lost with that classic “Just the facts, ma’am” mindset. So eschew, but don’t eschew too much.
In my personal life, being clear has meant the difference between an evening at a loud bar in uncomfortable shoes and bra, and cozied up with a good book on the couch in fuzzy pants. “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want.”
And just to be clear (see what I did there?), this is what MS Word’s thesaurus says about these two simple words that have been governing my life for so long:
Clear as mud, no?
Avoid complication, shun confusion, and steer clear of smokescreens. All good mottos for life.
Gawd, I was BRILLIANT when I was 18…
Actually, that’s not really true. Yes, I have a lot of projects piled up around here. But when I’m working on a particular project, I’m very focused and it consumes me.
My problem isn’t lack of ideas. My problem is carrying those ideas through creation, editing, and finally, completion.
Some people would say that I should focus on just one project and get the darn thing done. In a perfect world, I would do that. But I quite obviously don’t work in a perfect world. I’m currently bogged down in the minutiae of the middle grade project, and it gives me a break from frustration to work on one of these romances. I’m taking some of the solutions to problems I’m having with Project A and using them in Projects B and C. Project D is in an extremely rough phase and I plan to use lessons learned in the other projects to avoid those same problems completely in Project D.
I’ve lived with these projects for many years and know I’ll eventually get back to all of them. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the process. While a nice big contract is an admirable goal, it’s the journey that’s half the fun, right? RIGHT?!?
If you’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing (and if you haven’t, why not?), you’ll know that he talks about a writer needing tools in her toolbox. I’ve always loved this image. My particular toolbox is one of those clanky, metal ones that can be lugged from place to place, not the one like my father owns that sits on the floor in the workshop. I can take mine with me, open it up, and pull out tools as I need them. Some of them are a little rusty – my grammar and comma usage, in particular, really need some buffing. But I’m working on that – a grammar blog (http://www.dailygrammar.com/) drops a lesson into my e-mail every day.
My newest tool is shiny and unused, given to me by Joan Dempsey. I recently participated in one of her editing workshops. Ms. Dempsey puts a lot of information out there and getting the most from it involved a fair amount of sitting and thinking about my process. It was enlightening. And let me tell you, my process is pretty scattershot. I’m of the NANO School of Writing – throw that shitty first draft down as quickly as possible and then go back and edit and edit and edit. And edit. Then edit some more.
But after going through the workshop process and analyzing my way of working, I have a shiny new tool — a checklist specific to my needs and way of working. I KNOW! What a concept!
I can’t wait to break it out.