Friday, October 31, 2008

Early voting ... or not

My husband and I went to the local library today to cast our ballots. That was the plan. Until we saw the 50 people lined up outside the library doors. Because I had only 90 minutes until I had to leave for work, we decided to brave the lines early Tuesday. It serves us right for putting off the early voting until the last day, but I really didn't expect more than a handful of people doing the same thing. The turnout for this election is going to be enormous.

On the good side, however, I got a book in the mail today that was recommended to me right here in this very blog early in the week: "The 10% Solution" by Ken Rand. It's short -- about 90 pages of big type. (But the last thing you want for a book about how to shorten your writing is a long book.) So I'll read it tonight and tomorrow and then tackle the editing on my current story. See what happens.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Verbs, verbs, verbs

I ran across an article yesterday by James Van Pelt on writing mistakes made by rookies. Because I qualify as a rookie, I read what he had to say from start to finish. One point in particular caught my eye, which is that rookies rely too heavily on linking verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.

Immediately after reading that, I opened the story I'm currently working on and looked specifically for those verbs. What I found shocked and horrified me. Every other verb had a "was" attached: was driving, was speaking, was walking. Ack! I had no idea I even did that. I changed all that I could to simple past tense: drove, spoke, walked. Suddenly my story lost 100 words. That's an issue with my own writing I'm now aware of and can avoid. Thank you, Mr. Van Pelt.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Halloween's a comin'. My boys have chosen to dress up as Jason, and one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My baby girl will be a devil. We're likely going to Boo at the Zoo tomorrow morning because I'm working Halloween night and won't be able to take them trick-or-treating. That's one of the major drawbacks to working in journalism: The newspaper comes out every day, so there are copy editors working every day, too. That really cuts into family time. I've asked off for Christmas Eve, but I'll likely work Christmas Day and Thanksgiving.

I've been reading a lot of short stories lately. I haven't even picked up a novel since I finished The Thin Man. I have recent issues of Asimov's and Fantasy and Science Fiction on the dresser by my bed. I intended to pick up one of the mystery magazines the other day -- Ellery Queen or Hitchcock's -- but didn't get around to it. I'd like to read some stories in other genres. I mean, who knows ... maybe I'll be interested in writing a mystery at some point.

I've finished the first draft of "The Other Body" and am now trimming every bit of fat that I can find. I want to get it down to 7,000 words, which is a cut of about 800 words. I can usually do that without damaging the flow of the story, and I usually manage to improve it. So far I think I can honestly say that every story I've written is better than the one before it, and I'm excited to see what I can do next.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Well I was wrong

My gut was wrong ... no rejection e-mail this week. No acceptance either. Still waiting for another week. I guess that's a lot of what this writing thing is all about: waiting.

I took the kids this morning to Kaiser's free flu-shot clinic. I was expecting a mad house (apparently so was Kaiser based on the police officers directing traffic), but it wasn't bad at all. We were in and out in half an hour, and that was including 15 minutes in the waiting room after the shots to make sure there were no severe reactions. My arm is sore now, but it's worth it to avoid a week of fluish misery.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This will be the week

I have a feeling in my gut that between now and Friday, I will get my very first rejection letter. Actually, in this case it's a rejection e-mail, but close enough. I suppose it will be a badge of honor in a way -- something I can hold up and say, look I too submitted a story. The question is, what do I do next?

The natural next step is to send the story out to another market. And I might. But I'm also weighing some advice that was given to me by someone who has broken into the professional markets. He suggested I not submit anything for a couple of years. That way I can just work on improving my writing and at the end of those two years, I'll see where my early stories went wrong and be able to improve them. Then I can send them out.

That's good advice, and I appreciate that this particular writer took the time to give it to me. But by the same token, I feel a bit that not sending out anything I write is like giving up. It's saying, I'm not good enough, and that's a grimy sort of feeling.

I think I'm going to run my stories through the critiquing process and judge on a case-by-case basis what to do with them. I think I have a good enough eye to see whether a story is as good as it can be. If it's not, I'll hold it back from submission. So when I get my first rejection letter, likely this week (gut feeling), I'll read back through it to see whether I can make it better. If not, it'll go into a folder for a months. Waiting, but not forgotten.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A tough revise

I'm having a hard time revising the story I intend to enter into the Writers of the Future contest. This is the third rewrite on this particular piece. Maybe that's why it's tough. I'm bored with it. I wonder whether that's a normal problem with writing: You work with a certain block of material so much that eventually, you just don't want to look at it anymore. I'm thinking I'm going to put this story away for a couple of weeks and work on something else. Maybe by then I'll be able to generate some excitement for it.

I picked up the Oct/Nov issue of Asimovs this morning. I'm starting with the novella by Nancy Kress. I loved her Hugo nominee and Nebula winner "Fountain ofAge."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cold rainy Saturday

The forecast here in Denver included some possible snow, but so far we haven't seen any. It might come tonight after the temperature drops. It's already a chilly 40 degrees out there.

I'm working on two stories right now. I'm revising one based on a few well-thought-out critiques and will be sending it off for the Writers of the Future contest in the next month or so. The other story I'm working on is in first-draft mode, and boy I love it. This one is probably my best effort so far in my short writing career. Here's how it starts:

Eddie lost control of his other body somewhere between the gas station and the grocery store. Instead of picking up skim milk and beef jerky, he detoured to the nearest Wells Fargo and proceeded to rob it. Where the black ski mask and gun came from, Eddie didn't know.

He slumped in his booth, sipped his decaf and hummed to the music piping into the mall; white Christmases were overrated, no matter what Bing Crosby said. The restaurant smelled of grease, salt and too many bodies packed in a small space. Some kid was launching fries at his back like soggy missiles. He hoped his other self didn't get arrested. That would be tough to worm out of.