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Archive for December 10th, 2008

Just keep swimming

I’m having to relearn a lesson I thought I had down pat. It’s something I know in my head, but obviously haven’t accepted in my heart, yet. That lesson is to keep writing. Finish up a story, send it out, write the next story. By the time you’re on the third story you should have either the rejection or acceptance letter from the first story. Send it back out and start work on the fourth story. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Seems that for the past half year I’ve been holding my breath. And before that I was stymied by the night job. There has been some activity, but it’s been aimless, or at the very least not as driven as I normally am.

I now have only three weeks to finish up my one story this year and submit for the Writers of the Future. It’s been a basic goal of mine to continue to submit to WotF while I’m still eligible and to submit at least once a year. Time is running out.

Writing, like most other crafts, is a progressive gaining of skills (IMHO). And you only learn by doing. I’ve been falling down on this point lately.

In my defense, I have been building other skills that will be applied to my writing, but it’s that getting words down in support of finishing stories that will really get me published. As a former instructor of mine said, “Well, it’s all and good that it’s in your head, but I can’t sell that. I need to show the client something.”

(edited) To quote Tobias Buckell, the first rule of Write Club is everybody must write. That’s my first New Year’s resolution, to either disqualify myself or submit to WotF in at least two quarterly contests.

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Digital Book reader

Good morning.

During one of our previous meetings, one of our members brought up the subject of Digital book readers. I can’t remember who it was that brought up this subject, but I am being hounded for idea’s for Christmas. I was wondering if anybody has found a good digital book reader, or does someone have a good suggestion on what brand to get.

Thanks

Chris Hogan

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Everyone writes differently. That’s a statement that seems at once redundant and asinine. Because of course everyone writes differently, and, of course everyone to some degree writes the same. I’ve seen tons of essays on finding your writing voice, and in my opinion they are all hogwash. Whether you speak in sotto voce or in a medium forte, so long as you are writing from your heart, with intensity and desire, then your voice is already there. You’ve got to tap the well of emotion inside of you and pour it out onto the page or screen, let it surge through your fingertips, let your mind buzz with excitement. There’s your voice, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find it was with you all along.

Take me, for instance. When I write fiction it’s mostly edgy; horror or dark fantasy. Even my humor tends to have moments that might make you squirm. My true writing voice, the voice that I sometimes struggle to let loose, is generally unabashed and sometimes brusque, but if you’ve ever read my blog, you might know that my writing voice can sometimes come out (to my ears at least) almost preening, trying to tone it down, to write softly and in an inoffensive tone. If I were to write with my own voice all the time, the way I generally feel, well, let’s just say it’s more Motorhead than Air Supply; more Die Hard than Dances With Wolves. My style–or my voice–can be like a hammer pounding words down on the keyboard, in feeling as well as in application. But even at that, even with all the energy that I pour into my writing, it sometimes still doesn’t ring with energy because I didn’t pour ever ounce of verve I could into it. My writing can be brusque, but for it to be good, it must also have vigor. And only my soul can provide that. My hands and mind are as dumb to it as I am to a Meryl Streep flick.

Now, I have written softly, yes. Some of the best things I’ve ever written, like the story “A Scent of Rain (Southern Fried Weirdness Anthology, 2007),” were written with an almost feminine touch. I daresay even romantic, although I doubt I could ever write romance. But even then, even when my writing voice was fundamentally changed, I still wrote with a high level of excitement and intensity. Vigor. I know some of you will say that no matter what style I’m writing in, my voice remains the same. And I say Okay, sure. But if you’re not writing with vigor that voice you struggled so long to find might as well have its mouth sewn shut.

Nevertheless, there’s an urgency with my writing that, if I’m true to myself, will come out as I write. The problem is in being true, letting it all hang out, so to speak. And that’s what I’m really trying to say here: be true to yourself, in life as well as in your writing. Your writing will seem more real if you are,  it will seem less forced, more readable and infinitely more entertaining for the reader.

It’s for this reason that I sometimes simply can’t work on a specific piece. If I’m not feeling it, I can’t write it. And I know it by the time I’ve written four words. It’s just not there. Some people can make it happen, but not me. For me, there’s got to be an explosion, such as Ray Bradbury explains in Zen in the Art of Writing:

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.
After the Explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

The world is full of would-be writers. Everyone who knows how to spell has at least once in their lives thought of writing a book. Some even sit down and wonder what a book they would write might be about. They write a word, and then two, and then buzz out a page or two of rubbish, thinking it pretty good. I did. You, as a writer, probably did at one time, too. For some of us, that moment of writing rubbish caused a little sort of explosion within us, however, and we realized there was something there that we truly loved, and it gave a spark to that chunk of coal deep within us that was for so long missing that one essential ingredient that could finally make it burn: fire. And, like the heroin addict, we went on and on and on trying to replicate that high. Thankfully, and unlike with heroin (or so I’m told), that is a high that we can experience over and over. And it’s one we should foster, welcome, and never pick up a pen without. That energy is what makes writers like Twain and Hemingway the children of gods. That fervor is what makes the books of Poe and King, Melville and Mitchell (haha!) so damned good. I’m feeling it right now, writing this blog post.

Anyone who can feel can write. But to be a writer, a person’s got to press their emotions up into their eyebrows and hold them there, as high as they can, let their heart beat wildly and their breath come in jagged spurts. And then–don’t write–pour. Unshelve your emotions. Run the gamut. Scream to the heavens and challenge the hordes. Give yourself over.

One more quote from Bradbury before I leave you:

If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is–excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health.

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