Wow...exceptionally productive Monday. I finished my re-write of Clearing from the weekend, re-read it about 73 thousand times, and sent it off to Greatest Uncommon Denominator. Although it's focused on the relationship between a scientist and his computer, it's not as geeky as it sounds. it's really kind of sad. In my mind, it feels much more literary, so I thought I'd try a slipstream magazine first. I really want this one to sell, and I suspect I'm willing to re-write it several more times to do so.
Also, I made some edits to the Hotel Guignol screenplay and sent it off: a seven-ish minute piece called Welcome Back, Mr. Callaghan. According to their website, they are getting about 300 screenplays a day, so my odds are pretty friggin' slim. But, hey...it was fun, and I learned a little about formatting a screenplay. I have to say, I enjoy writing literature more. Screenplay writing is cool because you really have to visualize it, but it's too...I dunno. Cut and dry. "Bob stands up and walks to the table. There is a crystal ashtray on it. Inside of the ashtray is a leprechaun. Bob: Hello, leprechaun." it puts kind of a weird filter on the creative process, I guess.
I got a rejection this AM from Wanderings for Clearing...it was another very verbose, very useful note from the editor. He said he thought it had some very good writing, but dragged at points and didn't come to the point fast enough. Singsong, which was rejected by Potter's Field 3, had similar points of criticism, so at least I'm consistent. However, I think Singsong was forced...I didn't really enjoy writing it. Another bad analogy: I felt like a comedian who comes up with a funny punchline and then throws some cheap window-dressing around it just to set it up. Clearing, I think, is a good story...I like it, and I think it's worth polishing. So, that's how I've spent my afternoon: stripping away unneeded details, and really trying hard to tell the story, not just leading the reader around aimlessly. I like my re-write, I'll take another look at it tomorrow, maybe look at markets tonight before bed.
This morning was spent in Halloweentown...here is a nifty sign I just finished to hang outside of my garage (hard to see, but that's a bite taken out of the corner):
I haven't written dick since I finished the first draft of the screenplay for Hotel Guignol...I have been doing a lot of thinking about my next project, which I count as writing. Sort of. "Literary Pre-Execution Brainstorming". See, that's the kind of sick shit that comes to front of mind when you work for a bank for ten years (something I've warned both of my kids against). I am of the opinion that managerial double-speak and mandatory corporate cheerleading sessions are far, far scarier than the most depraved, most secret horrors that King, Lovecraft, or Barker could come up with on their best day.
Also, I've been diverting my attention. My wife had trouble with her right arm a while back, so she switched to her left (non-dominant) for many tasks, including using her mouse. Within three or four months, she noticed she was able to sketch everyday objects freehand much, much better than she ever had, and she attributed that to using the other side of her brain more. In a different but somewhat related turn, I have noticed that, since immersing myself in creative writing earlier this year, I am more, well...creative. As a result of that, coupled with my sick love of all things creepy, I have officially gone batshit crazy on Halloween preparations. In the past two weeks, I have acquired a fog machine and built a custom fog chilller (to keep the fog low and heavy), built a blood fountain out of styrofoam skulls, and bought or made headstones, spiderwebs, skeletons, lighting, wall hangings, dried flowers, and signs. I'll put up pix after Halloween...should be...interesting. Yes, interesting. Not the word my wife uses, but...you know.
I read a short but interesting article in the New York Times Friday...a writer (formerly for Redbook) talks about some of the basic tenets her friend and editor taught her over the years, and how it shaped her writing:
"She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader: good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later, I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own."
OK, so based on my feedback from Champagne Shivers (which was pretty basic stuff: grab attention earlier in the story, cut the non-important junk, etc), I'm making a change to my writing strategy: I need to read more. And not just read, but study. As I look back over the past year, it seems like I've done a lot of reading, but I realize that it's been mostly business-oriented publications and an Ayn Rand novel I've been stuck on for six or seven months (damn you interesting but extremely long lectures on objectivism!!! (shakes fist)). I'm putting Atlas Shrugged down as a challenge for another time, and have started reading/studying a collection of Asimov stories I've had for a while but haven't cracked. I'm devoting half of the time I've been using to write to learning how to write. Also, I need to sit on my stories longer; I think I've been submitting first-draft, B material as finished because I'm impatient.
Also, got a newsletter from the Clark County Library District last night: Neil Gaiman will be here in Vegas in November doing a lecture, reading, and book signing! Woo Hoo!
So, in an incredibly short turnaround (less than 48 hours), I heard back on Potter's Field...as could be expected with that short of a turnaround, they don't want it (crowd: aw-w-w-w....). So, there's my first turndown, which, of course, sucks-- but...I'm really, really happy with the response. I got some very specific and direct feedback from the editor on what I need to work on, and I am extremely grateful to Cathy Buburuz for taking the time, particularly at a point in my growth as a writer when I need it most.
I knocked out a quick-n-dirty screenplay for Hotel Guignol over the past two days. I've never done a screenplay before and had to keep bouncing between CeltX and some screenwriting websites to see how to do it...so, yeah...that there tell's ya what kinda quality we put into our screenplays over here in Nevada. Nuthin' but the best. I just picked a couple of real-life actors in my mind and had them play out what would be a somewhat entertaining (at least to a simpleton like me) 10 minute Twilight Zone, and typed it up. I don't have real high hopes for this one, obviously, but I'll probably go ahead and submit it nonetheless (after some cleaning up, making it a bit more grabby, etc). It was a fun exercise.
I think some of the feedback I got from Cathy will apply to the screenplay, so I'll edit with that in mind...unfortunately, it also applies wholesale to the stories I already have out, which lowers my already-low odds with them. But, that's how it goes...I have no illusions about being Clive Barker, and certainly not on my, what, fourth story ever; but it doesn't damper my motivation to learn.
First order of business: Catherine J Gardner was kind enough to give me a "I Love Your Blog" award! Which, per process, entails me now nominating seven blogs in turn (except Cate...against the rules)...so...I don't spend a lot of time reading blogs so this might be tough; but there are a few that I do like and read regularly, including a few that I've picked up since I started blogging on this site (including CJG's):
Felicity Dowker, Jamie Eyberg, and Aaron Polson all have great blogs that I enjoy reading; it's very motivating to read other struggling authors' notes on writing and life. I'm sure I'll find more once I dig deeper into blogger.com, it's a struggle to find the time right now, though.
My wife Amy Brooks, a Government Relations professional and Econ grad student has a nifty blog called What I Read Today, featuring interesting things she reads throughout the week and some things of note from her schoolwork.
As much as I fucking hate MySpace, I check up on Roman Dirge periodically.
Everything else I just kind of read ad hoc looking for info or chasing something interesting down a rabbit hole...I'm not a regular anywhere, except Slashdot, but that strains the concept of "blog" a bit.
So, thanks again, Cate!
Secondly, I took another look at Singsong Friday night, and then again Saturday, and again today. Made some very minor tweaks, and it's off to the mercies of Potter's Field 3. I need to start working on something new in the next couple of days...hate losing momentum.
I've been sick all week, and the Nyquil just kicked in...time for bed.
A little singsong with the dead. And-a one, and-a two...
Just finished the first draft of a piece called Singsong for Potter's Field 3. Ever chip away at a story you really liked, but feel like you just can't wait and have to rush in and get to that really cool ending part? Yeah...I need to let this one sit for a while (what was the phrase Stephen King used in "On Writing"; simmer? ferment? fester?) before I look at it again. Has potential, but, again, it feels like I spent a lot of time kissing and groping at the beginning, but was too anxious to drop trou and get to the end, and it seems a bit rushed. I'll take a look at it later this week.
Maybe I'll work on a short screenplay next...I love old, creepy hotel stories; something about taking people out of their element and putting them together (or alone) in a place where anything can happen that just begs for stories to be written. I think I even have a copy of CeltX installed on this PC.
In other news, we did some Halloween shopping Sunday...I got a bag full of latex scars and makeup and liquid latex and blood all manner of nasty shit. I didn't do anything last year, so this year I'm gonna make up for it and be a failed suicide.
Ran through a couple of iterations of the story I finished last night. After re-reading it, I only made minor changes to the story...last night I thought the continuity was out of wack, but on reviewing today, it worked (with some minor adjustments). I called it Clearing, and it is now sitting in the inbox for Wanderings Magazine. So, 1 sold, 2 pending.
I'll take another look at my slush pile tomorrow and decide if I want to start something anew or re-hash one of the 14 unfinished stories I've been dragging around since, oh, probably about 2000. No idea why it took me so long to finish one. Actually, I know exactly why: I never felt it was a 'good thing' to write short stories, but wasn't at a point in my development as a writer to finish a novel.
Not sure if I'm there yet, but I think I'll be walking down that path before the end of the year.
Just put the lid on my first draft of a short (3.2k) story about robots and dementia. Kind of a first, its the first time I've written a story and didn't have a title in mind. I still don't know what to call it...I kind of changed gears halfway through and may end up doing some major changes when I go back and read it this week. I started out more sci-fi/thriller, but as I explored the main character, he ended up being less of a neurotic prick, and kind of a sad guy, so i ran with that. It's another weird mix of speculative and more traditional lit fiction, not sure where to send it. Probably someone more interested in genre work...not sure if anyone else would want it.
Speaking of lit fiction...still have a story with Glimmer Train. I think I'm pretty well outgunned there...I have their current edition, and it seems to be lit professors and experienced authors. But, what the hell. Until I hear back from Glimmer Train, I'm 1 for 1.
As much as I don't relish the thought of managing yet another website, I'm liking the ability to read other author's blogs easily and keep all of my links and posts somewhat aggregated instead of pouring over RSS feeds in Outlook...so...we'll try this out.
My plan is to x-post the more news-type posts related to my writing and authorishness to my vanity domain http://jeremydbrooks.com/...I guess at the end of the day, I want that to by my professional brochure, and this to be my social workspace, and I'll try to keep my family domain mostly about, well, family stuff. We'll see how that goes...as for http://gristleandsmoke.wordpress.com/ ...well, I still like the concept of a web serial and I have fun when I'm writing about Buckeye the dead antique collector, but I keep running out of spare time to visit them over there and write another episode. Maybe I'll give it another month of trying to make time, and if it doesn't work, I'll take it down and maybe make it into a short story.
I've found quite a few Blogger/Blogspot sites written by authors in much the same boat I am in (short story subs, working toward full-length novel/novellas, maybe trying to make a living at it eventually), and I have enjoyed reading their journals chronicling them going through much of the same things I am every day: measuring days in word-counts, keeping track of submissions, trying to balance a normal life around this obsessive hobby we share of making shit up and writing it down. Makes me feel like maybe I'm not as nuts as it sometimes seems.