Archive for the ‘Thoughts about Writing’ Category


Ease Discouragement in 90 Minutes or Less

I caught The Avengers on HBO today. Despite my deep and long-lasting love for Ralph Fiennes (I fell in love with him when Quiz Show came out), I’d never seen it before. I watched The Avengers on PBS when I was a kid, and so many bad things were said about this movie before and right after it came out, I spared myself the disappointment.

Thirteen years later, it’s not disappointing. It’s encouraging and inspirational. Why? Because it’s so unbelievably godawful.

Watching a bad movie has always been a writing inspiration for me. Usually that’s because I can watch a complete story in only a couple of hours and figure out as it goes exactly why the story is bad and why the whole thing doesn’t work. It’s a type of story analysis that I think applies well to any type of storytelling. I like spotting what’s terrible, what isn’t bad, what could have been improved and how.

The Avengers offers inspiration for another reason. If you’re feeling discouraged about your writing (or anything), especially if you’re suffering with the not-good-enough-blues (and most writers get this at some time, even well-published ones), watch this movie. It’s a film that’s filled with a stunning amount of talent. Great actors, horrific film. Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Jim Broadbent, Sean Connery–the movie still sucks.

It’s a shining example of a simple fact that’s easy to forget–even the best at their craft don’t hit it out of the park every time. It’s good to be reminded of that when you feel discouraged. Most award-winning, box-office-record smashing actors made one or more real stinkers (and some make them now and then today). Great writers have also written crap, but usually that crap isn’t published. (Okay, sometimes it is, but that’s another discussion.)

If you’re feeling down, watch The Avengers. It’s fun to watch these well-known actors in such an awful movie. And even if if doesn’t completely lift your discouragement, you’ll still get to see the sublime Ralph Fiennes acting refined in a bowler, you’ll get to see Uma Thurman being badass in a leather pantsuit, and you’ll get to hear Sean Connery deliver cheesy lines in that fantastic voice of his, like my favorite line in the film: “John Steed. What a horse’s ass of a name.”

If you think it would make you feel far better to read a bad book by an otherwise enjoyable writer, I also have a recommendation for you. I read The Exorcist when I was in my twenties. I’d already seen the movie years before, but was surprised how good the book was. Legion, the sequel to that novel, is even better, in my opinion. So when I found some other novels by William Peter Blatty in a used bookstore years ago, I grabbed. them. I enjoyed The Ninth Configuration, though I didn’t think it was quite as good as the others. But an older book was painful to read, despite its short length.

Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane. This story was published 5 years before The Exorcist. In 5 years he went from Killer Kane (which I found truly, truly dreadful and almost incomprehensible at times) to The freaking Exorcist. And he’d published a few novels before Kane, none of which I’ve read. Kane was re-released after the success of The Exorcist, I suppose to cash in on its popularity, but it shouldn’t have been. If you’re feeling discouraged about your prospects, try to wrangle up a copy. After a few pages, you should feel better.


Uncle Joe’s Activism to Appear in Eric’s Hysterics

I had a lot of fun with this one. I wrote it several weeks ago as a very short piece of prose.  I thought it was weird and funny. After a couple of rejections, I opted to revise it into what I hoped would be a darkly comic poem. It’ll appear at Eric’s Hysterics at some as-of-yet undetermined date. This marks the 16th accepted piece I’ve written this year, and the 25th acceptance for the year overall.

I’ve actually used the character of Uncle Joe once before in a Twitter-length micro-story that appeared in Trapeze Magazine in April. That might make you think Uncle Joe is  likable guy that’s fun to have around and that I might wish I had an uncle just like. You’d be wrong. 🙂

This week I resubbed a couple of stories, after revising one a little more, and worked on a very old story that I’m not having much luck with. I saw some places where I could tweak it and make the theme more coherent from beginning to end. I didn’t do a very good job of that, I see now. I also revamped the opening a bit and did a little cutting, ever amazed at how unnecessary things can still pop out after having read it as many times as I have. I still have high hopes for it.

An idea came to me last week for a story, so I started on it as my story for the month. A few days ago, another idea slammed me hard enough that I did some research for it. Neither of these ideas are the most original things ever, so I have to find an angle that raises them above the ordinary if they’re going to be anything but the same old, same old. Fortunately for me, that usually happens at some point after I start writing.

I know which “in revision” stories I want to look at this week and try to wrench into shape, too. I’m having better luck with that now that instead of looking at the list and thinking about them all, which is overwhelming, I decide which one or two I’m definitely going to work on. Then I can go right for those and get much more accomplished.


January – June Recap

Now that the first 6 months of the year have officially gone the way of the dodo, here are my stats. I’m happy with them, I feel good about them, and I’m very glad I signed up for the W1S1 challenge, without which I probably wouldn’t have managed to finish quite so much.

Written: 30 (and 3/4)

  • Micro-fiction: 8
  • Flash (1-1000 wds): 7
  • Short Stories (1,000-7,500 wds): 15
  • Novella: (15,000+): 3/4 completed


I’m really pleased with those numbers.

Submitted: 73 times

Withdrawals: 7

REJECTIONS: 39 (I had to look that number up. You really do lose count after a while, because you just don’t care anymore.)

ACCEPTANCES: 18 (10 of those written this year during W1S1)


There’s no way I can squint at, stare at or sneak up on those numbers that I don’t feel diddly-damned great about them. My writing production will probably slow down a little for the next couple of months, since I’ve only committed to 1 story a month for at least July and August. But I intend to get the stories this year that I haven’t revised fully yet on out the door, so my submissions should stay pretty active. Hopefully the publications will, too. 🙂


Thinky Thoughts on 6 Months of Write 1 Sub 1

With just over a week left in June, I’m pretty sure I’m coming up on the end of the first month in which I probably won’t meet my W1S1 goals. I’ve made plenty of submissions this month, but haven’t finished a single thing. I still have 2 stories I feel I must finish before the end of the month, and I’m committed to doing so. But that will still leave me 3 short for June.

While I’m disappointed, I’m not upset, if that makes sense. And I’m facing the fact that, while looking at the few months that are coming, I’m probably going to have to dial back to the 1 story a month version, rather than 1 weekly. There may be months where I write more than 1, but I think trying to commit to more than that will unravel the already frayed threads up in here. 

Whatever happens come July 1st, I’m thrilled with what I’ve accomplished. And I’m thinking that committing to just 1 a month while working on getting my backlog polished up and out the door might be a better approach in the last half of the year. I’m really proud of some of those still in-revision stories, and want to send them to some pro markets I haven’t ever tried before, which, to be honest, is all of them but one.

My statistics so far this year (which I mean to jump by 2 stories and 2 submissions before the month is out):

  • 28 new stories (#29 is a novella that’s still in progress)
  • 17 of those submitted
  • 9 of those accepted (including one accepted twice, and a first-place, non-publication contest win)
  • a whopping 11 still “in revision” and not sent anywhere
  • only 3 of those currently under submission somewhere
  • several more ideas for stories that I haven’t had time to write yet, but will!


Of the old stories of mine that I pulled out, revised and sent, I find myself even more pleased:

  • 6 submissions
  • 5 acceptances
  • 1 still under submission


I even pulled out some old poems, a few of them previously published, some never submitted, and a couple humor pieces that don’t really qualify as fiction:

  • 11 submitted
  • 3 accepted
  • 2 still under submission


I’m happy, even if I don’t make the 5 stories this month, believe me. In less than 6 months, I’ve had more acceptances (17) than I had in all the years prior, simply because I made myself submit. I probably wouldn’t have submitted nearly as much without my participation in W1S1, even though I was committed to doing more this year. The challenge gave my goals an automatic number and structure, which I feel helped beyond measure. It’s been fun so far, and I’m looking forward to the last 6 months just as much as the first, even if my goals aren’t quite as ambitious.


Genre vs. Literary

It used to bother me a great deal when writers I respected felt the need to knock one or the other (always the side he didn’t write in–go figger). Many writers I respect still do this. Either they claim that literary stories are all navel-gazing bullshit wrapped in pretty but meaningless words, or that genre fiction is the reading choice of the mostly ignorant and culture-deprived.

Broad brushes suck. Some literary fiction is fantastic, and some isn’t very good. The same goes for genre fiction, whatever the genre might be. I don’t read romance or mysteries because I don’t care for them. Yet I don’t insist that romance and mysteries are for mouth-breathers. Stop. It.

I write both genre and literary stories and poetry. I will hold my hand up and admit that I can write a competent to pretty darn good horror story easier than I can write a competent to pretty darn good literary one. I’m still getting there, and one is more of a struggle than the other. But I’m enjoying the journey, I enjoy the writing, and that’s what matters the most to me. That matters far, far more to me than what some other writers think of my chosen topic, believe me.

Every story I write or read doesn’t have to change my life. But when I want one of those, whether by attempting to create it or by consuming it, that doesn’t mean I see all genre fiction as disposable, forgettable tripe. I refuse to be either embarrassed by my genre stories, or by all the literary fiction I attempt to write. I’ll write what I feel and what I love that very day, and it will be what it is.