Friday, November 25, 2011

Writing in the Moment

I decided to take a creative writing class in the spring semester.  I decided to do it because, being human, I don't know everything.  Shocking, I know, but it does happen.  There are two reasons for taking this class.
  1. I love feedback.  As a writer, it is invaluable.  Taking this class will expose me to a lot of different viewpoints and opinions.  This is a good thing
  2. It will expose me to a style I've never tried (playwriting).  Even if I never write in this format after this class, I'm a firm believer in the more you know, the better.  Plays are dialog driven, so if nothing else, it will help learn some good dialog techniques.
The class only has one textbook (which I have already purchased).  I'm generally not one to read classroom textbooks unless I have to.  Usually, they are dry and boring.  Not so with this one.  It actually practices what it preaches, good creative writing.  Even if you are not a student, I would highly recommend it as a useful tool in improving your craft.  The book in question is: The Practice of Creative Writing : A Guide for Students by Heather Sellers.  A new copy will run you about $40 on, but there are used copies for less.  I bought the new one as I wanted a clean copy for when I need to mark in it.

Among the numerous bits of information that I've picked up from this book is the concept of "writing in the moment".  It is the practice of imagining a scene and writing the "action" and not the "thought".  It is actually more difficult than you would think.  You have to focus on the movement.  You let the action of the scene explain what is going on.  Instead of saying "Joe thought the sunrise looked pretty", you would say "Joe marveled as the sky slowly change from the dark of night, to a vivid blue, as the sun rose over the hillside".  Although the second sentence is a little long winded, it evokes more activity than him just thinking about how it was a pretty sunrise.

As I've said, it isn't easy to maintain that type of image.  With more practice, I'm sure it gets easier.  The book lists several aids to help you center yourself in an image while writing.  One of things it suggests is sketching the scene (if you are artistically inclined).  If you lack the requisite artistic talent (or just don't want to), the book lists several questions you can ask yourself to help solidify the scene in your head.  If you don't see the scene clearly, then neither will the reader.  Another thing about the scene, it isn't a static image.  Even standing still, people, and their environment, are in motion.  Don't write static images, they are boring.

The other thing this book strongly encourages is to read.  Sounds easy, right?  Not necessarily, you need to read and pay attention to what works and what doesn't.  What scenes evoke good images and what scenes make it difficult to image.  When you run into either of those, really look at how the writer used the language.  Reading what others have written is a really good way to learn the do's and don'ts.

Till next time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


One of my favorite words is "Albatross".  The first time I heard it was a Monty Python skit where I guy was trying to sell an albatross.  He was walking around with this gigantic "dead" bird yelling, "Albatross!  Allll-batross!"  He sold it to another person who then turned around and tried it sell it himself.  It was one of those things that just stuck in my head.  Every time I encounter writing that I think is ungainly and isn't going anywhere, I think of that skit.

I've used that term to describe an essay that my sister was writing for college.  It was huge, ungainly, and I could tell that she wasn't really interested in writing it.  She took a step back and ended up re-writing a majority of the essay, which turned out to be quite good.  Well, up to this point, I never used that term to describe something I had written.  That was, until I started going through all the feedback I had on Goobasaurus Dex.

It isn't that the people in my reading circle don't like it; it is just that there seems to be a consensus that it isn't where it needs to be.  The feeling of an albatross hanging from my neck is my own.  I feel that it is turning into something huge and ungainly and I need to take a step back and re-evaluate where I want to go and what I want to do with it.  Some radical changes need to be made and it may end up being more than just a simple picture book.  As I told a friend, I felt that maybe I was trying to cram it into a format that it wasn't meant to be.  That would explain why I felt it was turning into an Albatross.

So, the next thing I need to do is take a step back, leave it on the back burner, and let my back brain chew on it while I focus on something else.  I did a little of that with my second story, "Sir Grumpsalot".  With that one, I ended up deleting over half of it and rewriting the ending.  I ended up with a much better story as a result.  Goobasaurus Dex may take more time to figure out than Sir Grumpsalot did.  We'll see.  I've got another story to focus on that I'm really excited about, plus an upcoming creative writing class to focus on.

The story in question is called "The Forgotten Arch" and I am planning on submitting it to a competition through for National Writing Month (which is November).  I have till the end of the month to upload it to their service and enter it.  I don't expect to win anything, but you never know.  I've had a lot of good feedback from everyone in my reading circle so I'm positive that I am going in the right direction.  The last time did a competition for National Writing Month, it was for full length novels and they had 30,000 submissions.  Whether I win anything or not, the important thing is that I am taking the chance.

So, some negatives on one front, but positives on another.

Till next time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mister Sandman, Spin Me a Dream

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the dreaming mind can be an interesting place to get story ideas.  It is unfettered by any restriction.  There are no filters.  Luckily for me, I remember most of my dreams.  Sometimes they can be interesting and sometimes I rather not mention what happens...let's just say, I'll plead the Fifth on them and go onto the ones that don't contain incriminating or embarrassing information (I did dream that I was a girl once...that was weird).  Saturday night's dreams were ones that I could say fall under the jurisdiction of "interesting".  If I can disentangle the weirdness from the worthwhile, I might have two separate story possibilities.

The first dream had a lot weird stuff in it that I will have to discard because, quite frankly, it made absolutely no sense.  The interesting (i.e. usable) part involved a kid (teenager?) turning into a dragon in his kitchen.  Needless to say, people were running for their lives and the kitchen was trashed.  He was pretty mad when it happened, so that is probably the trigger.  He also didn't realize that he was going to turn into said dragon, so it was kind of a shock.  If I can get more details ironed out, it might be an interesting story.

I think I was actually writing in the second dream because it was from first person and I was hearing the internal dialogue.  That equals very cool in my book.  It started with the theft of something called "the Crown of Julius Caesar" from an auction/museum.  Not sure what it looked like or even what it really was.  I don't even think there was anything like that in existence.  Anyway, the thief apparently had some special powers or something because he was able to knock out the lights/security system and then escape essentially unseen (super speed?).  It almost seemed like mutant/comic book style abilities.  There was a scene where he was being interrogated by the police, but they didn't have anything on him.  They just suspected him for some reason.  In the dream, he was able to "disappear" from the interrogation room while the police were watching him.  Like the first one, I would need to disentangle it from the weird nonsense before I could even use it.  Definitely a back-burner idea.

Speaking of dreaming, I've started writing a little bit on my dream involving the "Stone of Unity" (mentioned in a previous post).  The scene I'm working on I'm actually considering submitting to a competition. is having a short story competition.  I'm not expecting to win anything, but I'm still planning on submitting something.  The story cannot be more than 600 words, so we're not talking anything super-long, just enough for a short scene.  I ended up with a account because I had posted a couple poems on the non-defunct website (which is now just a web-archive of its original content).  Anyway, at one point, had ownership of the site and, as a result I ended up with an account on  This can come in handy if I ever decide to self-publish.

In other news, I just enrolled in a creative writing class at the local junior college.  I think it will be a good experience and I'm expecting it to improve my writing.  So, starting in January, you can expect posts regarding what I am doing in class.  One of the requirements of the class is to keep a journal.  I'm thinking of asking if I can use my blog for that.  We'll see.

Till next time!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Submission Gear Up

The submission process can be a time consuming process.  You have to do the final revision(s) of your story, research the publishers who might be interested in your story, and finally write a cover letter for each.  Don't forget postage!  To avoid licking all the envelopes, I use large, white, self-sealing ones.  I like the white ones for two reasons.  One, they look nicer than the manila ones and two, they're more noticeable.  Of course, once they go out in the mail, it will be a "hurry up and wait" situation, but ultimately, it will be worth it.

Right now, I'm gearing up for another submission.  I'm just waiting on a couple of my readers to get back to me.  I try not to remind them to read it as I know all of them are busy.  That and they are doing me a huge favor, so I try not to complain...too much.

The story in question is titled, "Goobasaurus Dex".  It's a children's story about a little dinosaur, named Dexter. Dexter is a kind of a wild little guy who just can't help playing hard with toys.  Unfortunately, those toys belong to his friends.  In order to avoid getting into trouble, he blames it all on a "Goobasaurus".  As with all lies, it gets hard for Dexter to keep his story straight and he ends up telling each dinosaur a different story.  I mean, who wants to say the same thing every time?  This is the Goobasaurus we're talking about!  His friends ultimately catch him in the act and he has to fess up and apologize.  I've gotten some good feedback from my readers, but unfortunately, they're opinion won't convince the publisher to print it.  We'll see how it goes.

At the same time I'm gearing up for submission on Goobasaurus, I found a couple other publishers for my first two stories.  They are also both children's stories (I've mentioned them in previous posts).  I'll have to re-read them and see if I can improve them before I send them out again.  So far, nobody has picked them up, but it could just be that I haven't "found the right home" for them yet.  As with all things, patience is a virtue.

Till next time.