Why Befriending Writers Should Bring Out the Competitor in You (Insecure Writer’s Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure
Writer’s Support Group
. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG.

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

 

Like me, many of you are no doubt friends with authors. Some of those friendships are mere acquaintances, perhaps, others closer than that. It seems obvious, of course, to be a writer and have friends that are also writers. I mean, why not surround yourself with those who understand why it is you delve deep into your prose, obsessing over the rhythms and cadence of every sentence?

I am inspired by my writer friends. They too have embraced the self-publishing wave, opting to become their own imprint. From their footsteps, I was inspired to take my own leap into the self-publishing world. Many of my writer friends helped me along the way, and continue to do so.

But I confess to being envious. Envious of the plaudits they’ve received, and the attention they’ve garnered elsewhere. However, I am not a man who wallows in jealousy. It’s a stupid, pointless emotion that gets you nowhere. If I’m envious, it only fuels my competitive streak. So when a friend gets a great review on Goodreads, I am excited for them, but there’s a part of me that says, “C’mon, Gus, you can do better!”

That I can do better doesn’t mean I want to one-up my writer friends in the my-book-got-better-reviews-than-yours, or, “Hey, look, my short story got picked up by Glimmer Train, and yours didn’t, NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH!!!” It means I have to work harder, and write better. That competitive streak has fueled me to crank out more than 10 short stories in the past couple of months, as well as plug forward with my work-in-progress.

My point is we should draw inspiration from our fellow writers, because we share the same trials and tribulations, as well as the triumphs. And it doesn’t hurt being competitive with one another, as long as that competitive nature fuels your creativity, not your jealousy.

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Guest Post: “Writing Cramps” by Christina Hart

Hey everyone,

Busy, busy, busy, as the good people of Bokonon would say. Yeah, it’s been a hellacious busy time here at Out Where the Buses Don’t Run. Work (real work), writing, reading, life, things have been hectic, but in a good way. Unfortunately, my blog’s taken a hit. Hence the reason why there have been no new posts lately. Some new posts will be coming soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a terrific guest post from Christina Hart. You may know her from her insightful and funny blog, Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door. Christina’s been kind enough to share with us a guest post, entitled “Writing Cramps.” In her words, “it’s 463 words, and summarizes the joys and difficulties of the writing process. It explains how characters can lead you through the process, how you can teach them to stop bitching about the process, and vice versa.”

“Writing Cramps” is a great guest post, and I think all of us who are writers will take much from it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

About the author:

Christina Hart is a writer who has worked for several online women’s magazines and blogs, while running her own blog, Daily Rants With the Bitch Next Door. She has self-published three books, including a poetry collection, a novella and a short novel. She is currently trying to get a fantasy novel published and survive the ups and downs of life while writing her way through it all. 

So, without further ado…

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Writing Cramps

By: Christina Hart

Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door

 

While writing can be magical at times, it can also be almost crippling. The joy of finishing a novel, the despair of never finishing one. We all suffer from writing cramps at one point or another. So what’s the trick to enjoying it full time? Are there any tricks? Is there one trick that works for everyone?

No.

The trick is simply to love it; whether it loves you back full time or not. You need to be in a committed, long term relationship with your writing. You need to understand it’s like any other love: there are going to be good times and bad times. There are going to be days where you don’t want to get out of bed and write anything at all. There are going to be days where you feel like your work in progress is on a train to nowhere fast. You’re going to feel like that train dropped you off in the middle of nowhere when just yesterday you were in a place full of warmth and promise.

So what’s the trick?

The trick is getting back on that god damn train whether it stops for you or not. The trick is being dedicated enough to be willing to run for it, jump for it, or risk your life for it. Okay, maybe it’s not that intense. But it certainly feels like it sometimes.

The trick is to keep on running, despite the cramps. Run through them. Write through them. The rest will come; if you’re willing to put the work in. Finishing a novel is like running a god damn marathon alone. You only have your characters to get you through this. And if they’re not helping you, poke them until they do. Get them pissed off. Put them in a situation where they have to do something.

Our characters are like our children. Or maybe we’re theirs. They either teach us what’s right or we’re going to have to put them in a corner until they learn it on their own. For me, I tend to let my characters lead the way once I’ve nurtured them to the point that I trust their decisions. Maybe it happens right away. Maybe I feel like they walked into my life and I already knew them. Maybe I have to invent them, only knowing them from their childhood. Maybe I don’t understand why they are the way they are until later in the story. Either way, it’s a process. And it can be a fun one or a troubling one. Either way, it’s an adventure.

Write the book you want to read. Introduce the characters you wish you knew, or maybe wish you were.

And don’t let that train stop even if everyone on board wants to get off.

Posted in guest blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Want to Write Better? Let Ernest Hemingway Help!

In my never-ending quest to learn valuable tricks of the trade, I stumbled upon the best app a writer can use to effectively help them understand how to write better. It’s called the Hemingway App, and it’s very simple to use. You cut and paste some random text, and let the Hemingway App analyze the text for the following:

  • Sentences that are hard to read
  • Sentences that are VERY hard to read
  • Adverbs – dreaded words that end in “-ly”, like “effortlessly“, “really” and “overly,” for example.
  • Words or phrases that can be simpler
  • Uses of passive voice
  • Readability (think grade level)

I recommend reading the text that appears on the app first, to get a better idea of how the app works, before you copy and paste your own text and let Hemingway App analyze how good a writer you are.

To show how this works, I took a screenshot of an analysis the app did on a short story I wrote a couple of years ago:

hemingway snap

Overall, the story possesses good readability. If anything, I was guilty of using too many adverbs. Then again, how many is too many adverbs? Some will say a few, others will say none at all. Regardless. the analysis left me with a great feeling about my writing, and it helps me to see where some strengths and weaknesses lie.

This app appeals greatly to me, for the simple reason that it’s got the name Hemingway associated with it. Hemingway was my first literary hero. I devoured The Complete Short Stories and The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories one summer during high school, and then moved on to his novels. From Hemingway, I learned the importance of choosing the right word, even if it means opting for a simpler, more direct method of prose than a more dynamic, floral prose often practiced by some of his contemporaries. He still remains one of my greatest literary heroes.

So if you’re looking for a tool to help your writing become more focuses, more leaner, more meaner even, you might want to give the Hemingway App a whirl. It’ll be fun, at the very least.

Posted in Writing Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

“Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming (Progressive Book Club)

(Author’s Note: This is the February entry for the Progressive Book Club I’ll be posting a review for a book I’m reading once a month for the PBC. If you’re interesting in taking part, head on over to the Guidelines and toss your hat into the ring.)

“Bond…James Bond.”

Published in 1953, Casino Royale marks the introduction of one of the most enduring pop culture characters of the past half-century (and, by the looks of it, this century as well), as well as the emergence of perhaps the finest author of the spy thriller, Ian Fleming.

Casino Royale takes us back to the height of the Cold War, when the counterintelligence agencies of Western and Soviet governments waged a nasty battle of one-upmanship against each other. Having been a survivor of the earliest skirmishes of the Cold War, Fleming does a masterful job of painting the scene, of parlaying the importance of giving the enemy false information, and being on a completely heightened state of awareness that danger always lurked around the corner. In creating James Bond, the Double O agent with a license to kill, Fleming sows the seeds of not just one of the great heroes of literature, but possibly one of its greatest anti-heroes: Bond is a charming sociopath, quick witted, refined, ruthless, callous, misogynistic, and ready to kill at a moment’s notice. It’s only when Bond survives the most gruesome torture that his hardened heart turns sentimental, and the callous misogynist learns to fall in love. Enter Vesper Lynd, of Section S, a gorgeous, raven-haired beauty sent by M to assist Bond in his mission to bring down “Le Chiffre,” a dangerous SMERSH (KGB counterintelligence) operative with a lust for violence and a weakness for gambling.

The novel centers around the ongoings at the title location, a ritzy hotel in Paris, where Le Chiffre holds court at Casino Royale, blowing millions of francs. MI6 (British Intelligence) and the CIA would love nothing more than to see Le Chiffre lose every penny, and have SMERSH put a bullet in him so as to spare them the embarrassment of a Soviet agent engaging in decadent excesses. James Bond, a master cardsharp at baccarat, is sent with a cache of millions to try his luck against Le Chiffre and bankrupt him.

But Bond’s enemies are on to him – Le Chiffre’s two goons have made him – and 007 survives a bomb blast by mere seconds. Worse yet, his luck at baccarat may be running out. Can Bond draw the right cards to bankrupt Le Chiffre, or lose millions and bankroll Le Chiffre’s counterintelligence activities?

The bulk of the novel takes place during the baccarat game, and while it’s not important to know how the card game is played, Fleming keeps the pace going at a brisk tempo with the right blend of exposition (he explains the rules of baccarat without slowing the story down) and tension (there’s an attempt made on 007′s life during the game that’s pulse-pounding).

At less that 200 pages, Casino Royale moves along very quickly, even when the novel falls into sentimentality, when Bond loses his hardened edge and falls madly for the vexing Vesper Lynd. The action is fast and furious, and while Casino Royale doesn’t contain a lot of the brutish violence that would later become a trademark of the Bond novels and films, there’s still enough action to satisfy the action junkie in everyone.

The triumph of Casino Royale is Ian Fleming’s prose, taut, yet sprinkled with passages that are both flowery and prosaic. Fleming balances the two worlds Bond lives in, the refined, elegant world of Bentleys and expensive champagne and Beluga caviar, and the gritty, savage world of being a government assassin with a possible short life span. Fleming’s Bond at first isn’t as assured as we’d come to expect, but the final page, when we begin to see Bond not as James Bond but as 007, suggests a man becoming comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with the brutal nature of his nasty industry.

Posted in progressive book club | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Call For Submissions – Uno Kudo, Vol. 4

 

Many of you are likely aware that I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with the art & literary collective known as Uno Kudo. My short stories “That New Car Smell” and “Room 505″ have appeared in both Uno Kudo, Vol. 1 and Uno Kudo Vol. 2, respectively

Here I am holding my copy of Uno Kudo, Vol. 1. It's a beauty.

Here I am holding my copy of Uno Kudo, Vol. 1. It’s a beauty.

The good people at Uno Kudo are pleased to announce they’re currently accepting submissions for Vol. 4. But don’t just take my word; here’s Bud Smith, one of the editors, with all the details about how to submit, and what you should submit, for Uno Kudo Vol. 4.:

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Hello writers and artists!

Submissions are OPEN for Uno Kudo volume 4!

send your work, now: Feb. 7th-May1st 2014.

SUBMIT: unokudo@gmail.com

Writers: Uno Kudo is looking for your most vivid work: short stories, poems, creative non-fiction, to be matched up side by side with artwork that will knock your socks off.

Artists: Please send art as a 300 dpi Jpeg 12″ high. Also send links to your websites. In this edition we will be using more stand alone art but we will still be matching up art to some of the stories and poems so it would be really awesome to see the expanse of your work.

Please send writing as a .doc file. No word limit. No theme. No holds barred.
In the subject line, please write either:

ATTN: Fiction/Title and author
Or
ATTN: poetry/Title and author

That’s a big help for the editors/readers who will select your work.

Poetry: send up to six poems (separate Word docs are fine).
short stories: send one, no word limit. No holds barred.
flash fiction: max 500 words each, send up to three (separate Word docs are fine).

Submissions are now open for our yearly print anthology that combines art and writing in wild ways. All profits from the sales of Uno Kudo 4 will again be donated to PEN International, a charity that fights for the rights of oppressed artists worldwide. Uno Kudo will be published in book form, available through Amazon, and available as a digital download.

We’d like to see something that has not been published elsewhere. We’d like to see something that is not sim. sub. We’d like to buy you a beer. All those things.

Thank you!

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So what are you waiting for? Get your pens, your paintbrushes, your cameras ready! Uno Kudo needs your art and your words!

Posted in Uno Kudo | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“This Shit Writes Itself!”

Some news regarding my writing progress, both good and bad. It’s actually all good, but what’s news without a little drama, no?

The bad news lately is that my current WIP has stalled. Not for a lack of trying. It’s just stalled. It’s still fresh on my mind, but there’s been little movement. And I’m not freaking out about this one tiny bit.

The good news is that I have been sticking to one of my goals for 2014: write 8-10 hours per week/1000-2000 words per week. By doing so, I’ve managed to either complete or begin drafting four short stories over the past week, all of which will be submitted to print and online journals. A brief description of what I’ve worked on:

  • Beloved Son” – a woman’s idyllic life glosses over the horrific pain and guilt she harbors over something she wishes never happened.
  • Bipolar is the New Diabetes” – this one speaks for itself; it’s an experimental piece of fiction, a humorous look at mental illness told in an open letter format. And, seriously, if you can’t laugh at your screwy mental makeup, then you might as well get fitted for a straight-jacket and some Benzadrine.
  • Shake, Shoot, and Squeeze” – a college-aged drinker competes in a “tequila triathalon,” with disastrous results.
  • Storefront Church” – a man is forced to confront the terrible life choices he’s made in the unlikeliest of places.

What I’m loving so much lately is how organic everything seems to be taking place. Rather than me finding the words, the words are simply finding me. I know, it sounds trite, but it’s true. I honestly didn’t really put a lot of thought into the tone or topic into these pieces I wrote; I simply had some ideas come to mind, a few scribbles here and there, then flesh them out further, and, voila, a short story.

It’s all keeping my mind sharp, and my writing fresh.

I believe it was William Shakespeare who coined these immortal words, words that I use to take comfort in and inspiration by:

Word, Bill…word.

Posted in creative writing | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Best Response to Bad Criticism (Insecure Writers’ Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure
Writer’s Support Group
. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG.

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

As writers, as artists, as creators, we put our work out there for public consumption. Whether it’s one person who reads it, or thousands (we hope!) who read your new short story published at New Millenium Writings (okay, I’ll stop dreaming now…), you’re putting your work out there, for people to enjoy, to digest, to appreciate.

Some people will not like your work. And will not hesitate to tell the rest of the Internet that your writing sucks.

I got some bad reviews for my blog collection, Out Where the Buses Don’t Run: Seven Years of Rants, Raves, Dirty Jokes and Bad Ideas From a Small But Loud Corner of the Blogosphere. I knew my brand of humor essay wasn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I went ahead with self-publishing my collection nonetheless. It’s one thing to win the praise of friends and family, it’s another to win the praise of complete strangers. Still, getting some bad reviews stung, especially when the reviews seemed so far off the mark. One reviewer criticized me for my “stories” having no form, no plot, and bad characters.

You have to resist the temptation to lash back at your critics. I mean, screw ‘em, what do they know, right?

That’s exactly what Josh Homme, he of Queens of the Stone Age, said in an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast recently.

(Yeah, here I go again quoting sources of inspiration from unlikely sources of inspiration. See: Bourdain, Anthony)

When asked about the creative process, Homme pointed out that no matter what he does, he’s never going to be able to please everyone, and anyone who aspires to please everyone is running a fool’s errand. To take that one step further, he addressed some of the criticism he’s received in the past:

I work and I work until I’m 100% satisfied that what I’ve done is the best work I’ve done, and once I’m done with that, there’s nothing I can do to control whether people like it or not. If they like it or love it, that’s great. If not, then the CD makes for a nice drink coaster.”

What Josh Homme said can also be applied to writing. Write to the very best of your abilities, exceed them, even. Write knowing that the short story or novel or poem you’ve written has been written to meet your high standards (that is, assuming you have high standards, and you’re not one of those waterheads who thinks it’s perfectly fine to just write something you’ve just pulled out of your ass as a first draft and throw it up there, without a single edit, on self-publishing platforms like CreateSpace or SmashWords…), and no one but you will know what you’ve undertaken to create what you’ve created.

Yes, we all want our work to be appreciated, but, face it, that’s not going to happen. Just like we’re going to get rejected by agents and publishers, we’re also going to get rejected by reviewers. So be it. You wrote the best book you could write. If a book reviewer doesn’t like your novel and posts a review somewhere, that’s their right. But that reviewer isn’t going to take away from you what makes you a writer. Their bad review doesn’t make you a bad writer. Far from it. You wrote the best you could, and you’re probably writing something even better as we speak. Keep at it.

And just like that person who disliked the new Queens of the Stone Age album – and, really, who is that idiot? …Like Clockwork is amazing – has been encouraged to turn that CD into a nice new drink coaster, I invite that person who gave my book a bad review to make some nice artwork out of my book. Or donate the book to a friend or to their local public library.

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments