As a writer do you know where your biggest weakness lies? It’s a useful point of consideration. Anything can be fixed, but the first stage of improvement has to be accepting / realising exactly what the issue is.
My biggest writing weakness is linked to one of my main strengths. I rarely struggle for ideas. If writing was purely about dreaming up concepts / themes I’d be very successful.
It’s also a bit of a curse. I’ll be working on a project, and some other idea will pop into my head. I quickly scribble it down so I don’t forget it. While I’m scribbling those couple of sentences my subconscious starts building on the new idea. I get so excited about this new idea that I start writing more, and more, and of course the original project I was working on stalls.
I lack focus. I need the discipline to stay focused on the original idea while limiting myself to just writing down the new idea in a single sentence. If I can achieve this I’m sure my productivity will increase. I’m also sure my writing will improve.
The extent of the problem is severe. I divide my writing into three folders:
Submitted (Finished work)
Basic (Representing the ideas I have restricted to a couple of sentences)
Developed (The stories I launched straight into and of course still haven’t finished)
I have thirty three high level ideas in my ‘Basic’ folder.
I have thirty started stories in my ‘Developed’ folder. Thirty? It’s kind of ridiculous. Some of these incomplete stories are 7,000 plus words.
I wanted to post this for two reasons. Firstly, I’m publicly acknowledging the issue in an attempt to maintain discipline. Secondly, there could be another aspiring writer out there who has the same issue, and just maybe this entry might make them feel better. If that’s you then you’re not alone.
To say the writing of this story has been a complete bitch is probably one of the greatest understatements known to man.
Finally - yes, finally - I've managed to write the story I wanted to write.
The brief was to write a story connected to the number thirteen. Max word count was flagged as 6000. I managed to bring it home at approx 5300.
Its been sent to the editors of the project, and no doubt I'll get a list of further revisions to be made. I'll worry about that when it happens. For the time being...I'm happy!!!
I submitted ‘ A Mother’s Child’ to Andromeda Spaceways In Flight Magazine a while back.
It was subsequently rejected – Bastards - with the following comments:
“This is good but not exceptional. There are too many characters. You need to familiarise yourself with our magazine.”
I have to say that the submission service at Andromeda is excellent. Each submission is assigned a unique number. Once you have your submission number you just visit the tracker page on the Andromeda website and you can see exactly where your story is within Andromeda’s reader process.
They basically have three stages. Stage 1 is an initial reader, stage 2 is a second reader, and stage 3 is the editors. It’s worth noting that there are more than one editor.
It seems like a robust process, and very transparent, which is a writers dream.
The feedback from Andromeda was also appreciated. It tells me that the story isn’t a complete dead loss. It’s one I’ve always liked and has had favourable reaction at Triggerstreet.
I had read Andromeda before submitting, and I thought the work well placed. However, I didn’t consider the number of characters when I was reading editions of Andromeda. A Mother’s Child has four main characters. I have to admit that the stories I’d read in Andromeda had one or two, three at most. The stories were also at limited locations while ‘A Mother’s Child’ had several locations.
It was a lesson learned in what to look for when trying out a magazine to see if it would be a suitable vehicle for my work.
I would submit to Andromeda gain, but I’m not revising A Mother’s Child for Andromeda. Reducing the characters would necessitate changing the story, and I wrote the story I wanted to write, and more importantly read.
Good luck with your own submissions.
I first stumbled across Mr.Leonard's ten rules years ago. Now I've got my own blog I thought it would be a good time to reproduce them here.
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. (Mr. Leonard said, "Never." He didn't grumble, "Never." He didn't mumble, "Never." He said, "Never.")
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
I have always found the above inspirational. Point 8 particularly. I don't care what colour a character's eyes are unless it has some significance to the story. Over descriptive work - as a reader turns me cold - so there's no way I'll go into uneccessary detail as a writer.
The above are of course guidelines and not absolutes. You interpret what you need to interpret. I generally stick by the "he said / she said" rule, but I will occassionaly modify it so as not to be too repetitive.
Duotrope has been added to the Useful Links page. Any new additions will be at the bottom of the listing. Duotrope is a subscription service but it's more than value for money. Go check it out.
I received an email a couple of days ago from the editor of Firewords. The enthuisastic tone of the email inspired me to finish the second draft of the 13th Camera. I'm much more pleased with the work than I was previously. The ending has completely changed, and this occurred organically during the re-write process as opposed to being a concious change. This is normally a good sign with my work.
I don't think it's fully finished yet. The first page needs a tighter re-write that's for sure.
On Friday I worked from home due to the bad weather. I could have made it in, but looking at the forecasts and the advice of my train operator there was a high chance of facing disruption on my return journey home. Never a good thing.
I stayed at home, and this did prove to be the right choice due to line problems experienced later in the day.
The weather hasn't got much better over the weekend. It's now Monday and the boy's school has closed. Except it's not as simple as that. My eldest has exams which means school is open for him at least. The school buses are cancelled because the county council has deemed it unsafe to run them. So let me get this straight: School is closed on safety grounds, school buses are cancelled on safety grounds, but if your child has an exam school is open and you have to get them there yourself irrespective of how treacherous the roads are.
I'm lucky that I have the facility to work from home. I'm lucky that I have an understanding boss. I'm working at home in the morning, and I've taken the afternoon as holiday so I can take my lad in for his exam. I'll stick a shovel in the car in case we get stuck and I have to dig us out.
What about the parents who can't work from home, or don't have an understanding boss? Whichever government minister determined exams in January were a good thing needs shooting - metaphorically speaking of course.
There will be some kids who miss their exams. Their only option is to take the summer re-sit. It isn't fair.
Re-write progress is slow, very slow. I'd say I'm happy with 98% of the story. There are approximately 2 or 3 key conversations which need more work.
The difficulty is finding the right pitch for the character viewpoints. Stating points too directly can be like hitting the reader over the head with a sledgehammer. On the other hand if the writer is too subtle then the reader misses the point, and it could be argued that no point is made at all.
I'll get there. One word at a time. One sentence at at a time. I've set myself a target to complete the re-write by Sunday evening. If I stay disciplined this is achievable. That would also give me time to re-write the story as a short play. I keep getting this nagging feeling that it should be a play.
Francesca (Co-editor on Project 13) emailed today to say she loved 'The 13th Camera.' Why of why was I getting so stressed out about it I have no idea. There's more work to do on the story. The version I sent Francesca & Nick was hot off the presses so it wasn't perfect and needs some polish. But, hey, feedback so far is positive.
Re-writes here we come. I'm going to have a couple of days away from the story while I progress other works.
It's 2:15am I'm tired. Totally knackered to be honest. I was up at 6am yesterday, so I've been awake now for just over 20hours. I finished The 13th Camera. I still don't know if it cuts it. One minute I love it, the next minute I hate it. So I've sent it to the Project 13 editors. I've explained the situation to them and asked them to give it the once over and to let me know if it's any good, or whether it's a complete travesty.
It's one of those stories that will likely be good or dreadful. Every time I think about it the word 'eccentric' springs to mind.
I need sleep. First I'm going to have a rewarding drop of whiskey - Highland Park 12 year old. Tomorrow, I'll start work on other project 13 stories while I'm waiting on Nick & Francesca to get back to me.
Right, where's that whisky & where's my bed.
I'm out of here... I'm not checking any of the above so if there's typos it's tough...
M J Wolfson - That's me.