Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, February 25, 2011

In Celebration of the Anglo-Saxon Loogie

Last week I participated in the Bernard Pivot Blogfest, hosted by Nicole Ducleroir at One Significant Moment At A Time. The blogfest was a huge success, with around 150 participants, not to mention being great fun. Thanks, again, to Nicole for hosting!

One of the questions, though, got me thinking.

What is your least favorite word?

The first page of Beowulf; courtesy of Wiki Commons
Some common words included:
  • moist (I think this was the most common)
  • some assorted swear words
  • vain/vein
  • flesh
  • can't
  • sorry
  • lush
  • breath/breathe
  • no
  • hate
  • maybe
  • snot
  • glowered
  • chuckle

And, I had a short conversation with Leigh over email discussing the "loogie-like" quality of one of my FAVORITE words: slew. I still defend my word, whether it will involve a big wad of spittle or not!

Okay, besides the negative connotations with many of these words, most of them have something else in common. With the exception of moist (which I will NOT defend), vain and lush, these words all have Germanic/Old English roots (okay, well, technically glower might have been borrowed really early from Old Scandinavian, but it's not French, okay?)

Why do we oppose our strong Anglo-Saxon linguistic roots? Favorite words included those pulled from Greek, Latin, French, Spanish (one of mine was Yiddish, but I suppose we shouldn't look at mine, eh?).

My writing teacher last semester repeatedly said, "If there's something you can say with an Anglo-Saxon word, use it." And I agree. Otherwise it can sound pretentious (which is from French) or, perhaps, highfalutin.

An example, perchance:
The monarch's confidant departed for foreign countries, carrying beautiful presents of silver and gold.
The king's friend left for far-away lands, bearing shimmering gifts of silver and gold.
Now, how do these different sentences make you feel? Does the second inspire more emotion? Can you imagine the situation better/differently? With a couple exceptions, the words in the first example have foreign roots, and the words in the second have Anglo-Saxon roots.

Nutmeg seeds; courtesy of Wiki Commons
This may not be a popular view, but I think native English speakers have stronger associations with Anglo-Saxon vocabulary than other vocabulary (and I restrict this to native-English speakers only because I cannot speak from another view point). Other words are colorful, perhaps even more poetic, but they are the spices of our writing dish. You're not going to open your spice cabinet and eat the entire tub of Nutmeg, are you? (It's toxic in high doses! Don't do it!)

We shouldn't do that with our language, either.

Enjoy the meat, and flavor lightly.

And if it means talking about a slew of loogies instead of copious saliva then so be it :)

Do you agree? What's your favorite Anglo-Saxon word? Not sure if your word's Anglo-Saxon? Check here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Post: Hart Johnson – Wonky Trails

Today Charity and I are both pleased to host Hart Johnson, awesome naked mistress extraodinaire, and author of some upcoming cozy mysteries.

Hart and I frequently see virtual-eye to virtual-eye. We both came back to writing through fan fiction (though not the same subject matter, since mine is a Buffy obsession). So I asked Hart if she could talk about how fan fiction helped her get to where she is today.

Since I've started writing again, it's taken me a while to realize that my one way is not the only way. I can't just write a novel, query it, and become the next JK Rowling. Granted, I wrote fan fiction at the early stages, but I wrote it for me only, without any thoughts of posting it somewhere. Now, I'm looking for different ways to break in, and I'm open to suggestion.

This is part of the reason why Charity and I are hosting the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest. Many of us only focus on novel-length fiction, but we all have different means to get in the door. One way (though not Hart's) is to join us in our blogfest by writing short fiction. We're interested in helping each other build our resumes, hoping an agent will be more willing to take a chance.

All that aside, I'm pleased to welcome Hart Johnson to talk about how she broke into the market. For those of you who know her, you already know she never follows the traditional route... for anything :)

And so, without further ado....

First of all, I really want to thank Rosie and Charity for asking me to play. Most kids are worried what their mothers will think, so it's nice to have people take a chance. Seriously though, I've gotten to be good friends with Rosie and I think if it weren't for geography and maybe about fifteen or twenty years, we would have hung out together for real. That's one of the things I love about this blogosphere... meeting people you actually have... I guess it's similar processors to... because on paper I'm not sure we have so much in common, but we assess things very similarly.

Anyway, Rosie asked if I'd address my...erm... alternative route... I never do things the way they say you should. It's just not the way I roll, but somehow I've managed to slide in there sideways...

Thus... Wonky Trails

Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer... but it was the same kind of desire as wanting to be a model or an actor. It seemed some OUT THERE unattainable thing. I would plot stories and write a couple paragraphs and then bury them as even more embarrassing than the angsty poetry that filled several dozen notebooks in my teens. At 26, the summer between my first and second year of grad school, I suddenly had 'time on my hands' (when full time work and full time school cut back to only full time work *rolls eyes*) and even managed about 250 pages of an (amazingly bad) horror novel (set partly in Portland, and partly at Lake Coeur d'Alene—pic above). But I was under the disillusion that a person wrote as they went and was just inspired... and I didn't know where that dumb thing was going... the combo of getting busy again with school and not having a clue what came next was enough to drop it.

Enter a decade or so and a Harry Potter obsession...

Before Harry Potter I had maybe a dozen books I'd read twice. None more than that. But when my daughter brought the first one home from the library (she was a first grader) I fell in love. Santa brought the set (4 at that point) so I read them to me, and then I read them to her... and then I read them to her again when the fifth came out... and then my son wanted to read them all... So in the wait for Half Blood Prince, the writer in me was itchy to predict what would HAPPEN next... I found HPANA and a FABULOUS group of people who (I swear have changed my life) debated endlessly, supported by canon, finding the clues... and in spite of myself I learned that a well done book, and ESPECIALLY a well done series has a PLAN (buwahahahahahahahahaha –excuse me. That is my plan demon).

I had a WILD theory that because Voldemort had killed his father, (and because of some things in the timeline—death years) that Voldemort made his death eaters kill THEIR fathers to prove their loyalty to him... which led to Snape... Would Snape have had to kill his father? Well, OBVIOUSLY!

Nobody would believe me.

So I wrote it. I ventured into their fan fiction forums with my story from an Eileen Snape point of view... about her life... a brother sucked into Voldemort's realm... killed for his doubt... a plan for revenge...

And I learned what it takes to finish a story... and I wrote more.

I am a deep believer in fan fiction as a training ground because as a writer, you can work on a couple angles at a time. There are already developed characters, so you need to think about things like consistency. We had debated so much that we thought about things like WHY certain characters were the way they were (thus my goal of explaining much of Snape's bitterness... and how a WITCH allows herself to be abused by a muggle). That first story was a PREQUEL, so I knew where it ended... all the things we have in the books had to be consistent with my ending...

But I also wrote a 'book 7' before Deathly Hallows was out where I got to plot ahead. It is a really nice system for being able to not have to think about everything at once.

The REAL Book (because of course fan fiction is imaginary *shifty*)

 Not very far into the writing of The Other Prince (because of course it was posted serially), one of my readers, Rayna Iyer, told me I should consider writing a regular book. I'd had an idea niggling at me for (literally) years and I started to write down some of the details. I wrote a couple scenes, then got another idea... and FINALLY had an epiphany about how to fit the two ideas into a single story that had a lot more meat to it.

I continued to write the fan fiction because of course... my readers wanted me to! (the other bonus... you are accountable) but I also wrote Confluence... took 2 ½ years... and then another 6 months before I thought I was ready and queried my 204,000 word book *dies* (oh yeah... nobody said there weren't bumps)

That's about when I started BLOGGING

Now here I need to explain something... I envision myself as erm... dark and mysterious... I write SUSPENSE *shivers *...

But when it was time to blog, I sort of looked at what I had to work with, and honestly, I'm sort of a nut... possibly insane... definitely delusional... my strength is in my ability to PLAY. So I thought, 'fine, let's work with that.' Suspense readers are hiding under their beds shivering anyway, and I had networking to get to.

I found a few successful bloggers, and I stalked 'em like a good blogger... and I met some people... and I bet I hadn't been doing it three months when I heard 'you should write cozy mysteries.' (say what?) I stored that in my hat, or something, because frankly, the idea of mystery scared the crap out of me. It seemed like finely honed CRAFT, far more organized than... you know... me.

But last February an opportunity arose for an 'audition' of sorts... now most books are written in full and submitted to agents, revised, then submitted to publishers (with about a hundred layers of rejection built in) but some genres have such avid readers that there is a bit more of a... system... This exists for romance, and it exists for Cozy Mystery... The various editors define some parameters and give writers a chance to 'try out' with the first 50 pages. I had a referral to an agent to help me with this and... I GOT IT... It's a three book contract, the first of which is with my editor right now—hopefully the feedback will be positive, but I am waiting to start the second in case she envisions a different direction.

So see... while a more normal path might be and MFA program, or writing short stories for literary mags... I snuck in the side door. And what I've learned, is CONSTANT VIGILANCE! The way in may NOT be the one you expect.


Thanks, Hart!

While Hart was definitely lucky to have found the side door, I know I haven't found it yet.

Have you found a different door? Or are you trying to squeeze through the front with the rest of us?

Remember, join us for the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest, in which we help each other build that resume. There's still three more weeks before D-Day, so there's plenty of time to focus on a short piece of fewer than 1000 words!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Memories of Days Gone By

Yesterday, February 20, was my father's birthday. He would have been 61 this year. However, this is the third birthday in a row when he hasn't been here to celebrate it with my mother and me. So, as a small tribute, and in celebration, I want to share this short memory with you.

No eyelashes here...
I was pretty little in the early 80s. I'm going back long enough that my parents and I were living in Barksdale, LA, where my dad was stationed at the AF Base. We had a cute ranch house, a sliding glass door into the backyard, a screen door to the front, and that shaggy brown carpet that was so popular back then. I watched cartoons on the TV, using the remote that had 13 buttons for the 13 channels it was capable of getting. And I watched a LOT of cartoons—what kid didn't then? There weren't parental warnings in those days on how not to use your TV set as a babysitter. It was great.

I'm sure I had been highly influenced by the cartoons of the day—you know, like CareBears and Thunder Cats and the Get Along Gang. The ones with animals as the main characters, and the only way to visually indicate gender was to give the girl bears eyelashes and leave them off the boys (or give the girl cats Barbie-proportions, but the boy cats still didn't have eyelashes).

Check out Dotti Dog's lashes!
So when my mom told me one day that boys had eyelashes, too, I didn't believe her.

We waited for my dad to come home from work. I stood in the kitchen with my tiny kid fists on my hips and told him that boys didn't have eyelashes. I'm sure he laughed, or snickered, or something, at my non-reality-based kid logic, but he promised me it wasn't true. He put down his things, knelt on the floor, and let me see.

I have a strong memory of my father kneeling before me on the linoleum, one knee up and one on the ground, still in his blues, and closing his eyes. I reached out my tiny kids fingers and tickled the ends of his lashes, splayed out for me to examine. I probably could have stood there for five minutes, running my fingertips over those little hairs, fascinated as I was.

And then I probably told him he looked like a girl or something silly like that.

I can't tell you why this memory sticks out for me. It came to me again in one of those half-awake/half-asleep moments a few weeks ago.

In loving memory of my dad, John (20 Feb 1950 - 1 Oct 2008)

***CareBears and ThunderCats pictures courtesy of Wikipedia. Get Along Gang picture courtesy of search.com. All photos borrowed under the terms of fair use.***

What's one of your strongest childhood memories?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Post: Theresa Milstein

In honor of the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest, Charity and I decided to invite a few different authors to our respective blogs to discuss their journeys, including writing in mediums beyond the novel (which we all love, of course). What helped them develop and get their name out there?

So today, I'm pleased to welcome our first guest, Theresa Milstein from the Substitute Teacher's Saga. She's agreed to share some of her writing experiences, and especially how she came to write short stories above and beyond her novel aspirations.

**wild applause**

Short Story Journey

Short-story writing requires an exquisite sense of balance. Novelists, frankly, can get away with more. A novel can have a dull spot or two, because the reader has made a different commitment.
—Lynn Abbey

When I began writing nearly five years ago, it was a middle grade novel that wound up being 65k words. Then I made a leap to YA, and most of my stories hover around 50k. Since blogging, I’ve gobbled up advice on how to be a successful writer. One constant has been to write for magazines to get my name out there and build a resume.

One problem.

A few years ago, I had tried to take my first manuscript and turn it into a short story. After sending it to three or four places, I received all rejections. I didn’t understand that I couldn’t create a short story by pulling the first chapter (or two) of a novel. Longer stories introduce too many elements in the beginning and they don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Those rejections convinced me to stop wasting my time.

Sometimes I’d come across a writer’s blog, mentioning some contest or upcoming anthology that requested short story submissions. I’d comment, “Thanks for the link, but I don’t write short stories.”

It was with the same conviction as when I’d say, “I only write fantasy,” because every time I had tried to write a manuscript without a magical element, I’d lose interest.

Then I wrote this YA vampire manuscript Aura. Agents and editors said nice things about it, but they didn’t want to take a chance on another vampire story. I knew this was the possible outcome the day I couldn’t ignore the story forming in my mind and began to write it. After a bunch of rejections, I shelved it and began something new.

Then my blogging friend, Aubrie at Flutey Words mentioned an upcoming YA anthology called Fangtales from Wyvern Publications. They’d previously published Fangtales and Mertails.

Aubrie is the most prolific chick I know. She’s always got a long piece and one or more short pieces she’s working on. She submits everywhere, and it’s paid off because she has a list of publishing credits.

While I had ignored all her other links for short story submissions, I couldn’t deny this one interested me. YA and vampires. Should I take Aura and reduce it? I loved her voice and didn’t want the manuscript to gather dust in my hard drive. But if I revised it to make a story that fit the 2k-5k guidelines, would I be able to do anything with the full story in the future? By now, I also knew pulling chapters didn’t create a quality short story.

One thing I liked about Aura was her strong voice. Most of my female characters start off unsure, but then obtain moxie later on in the story. Not Aura. As I mulled over what to do with my old story, a new one began to form in my mind. One Saturday, I sat down and began to write “Allured”.

What type of writer are you, a plotter or a panster? I’m a panster. I get a first line or a basic idea of the beginning, and then I just write. There’s nothing more exciting to me than bumbling along like a rock skipping down a stream to see where my story takes me. I wrote the same way I did longer pieces, but had to be sparer with my words. Each one had to count so I could keep the word count under control.

But I had newfound confidence because as a blogger, I’d learned to write pieces at just around 1k. Now I just had to write at least 1k more, and make it fiction instead of nonfiction. I could do that, right?

I’d often eye my number of words at the bottom of the document. When I reached what I thought was the middle – the turnaround moment – I realized I’d be fine.

One thing I’ve learned from reading short stories is that there’s always some big unanswered question at the end. As I wrote, and the end became clear to me, I got more and more excited because I had a most short-story-like ending, which has less closure than a novel.

After I completed the story, I did the usual editing, and gave it to three readers who gave suggestions, and I edited again. The difference between a novel and short story is it all happened quickly. A short story has fewer plots, and therefore, fewer plot HOLES. There were fewer characters to keep track of, fewer words to mess up with spelling and grammar errors. Was I beginning to like writing short stories?

Whether or not my story is going to be accepted, I don’t yet know. The decision will be made in March. But if it’s not chosen, I will consider revising again, and search for another home for it.

In January, a short story anthology was advertised for 500-1000 words – the length of my typical blog entry.

No problem!

(Want to read the rest of Theresa's Story? Visit Charity's blog for the second part of the saga.)

A HUGE thank you to Theresa for sharing her story with us today. If you haven't already, be sure to check out Theresa's blog.

Has Theresa's story inspired you to try your hand at shorter fiction? Join us for the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest. Write a short story (750-1000 words) and get instant feedback from fellow bloggers.

Have you ever tried your hand at short story writing? Have you had anything published? Would you like to share your story? Email me at rlconnolly01 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest!!

First, sign up for the Hone Your Skills Blogfest! Mr. Linky is over to the right. Click Here or Here for details. It's your chance to get feedback on a short story to help you get it ready for submission. The submission part is optional, but you never know, right?

Welcome to my entry for the Bernard Pivot Blogfest! hosted by Nicole Ducleroir at One Significant Moment in Time.

1. What's your favorite word?
I go through phases—frequently—but I would have to say right now the word is OBNOXIOUS. :) I'm also really enjoying CHUTZPAH and SLEW right now. Come on. Say it with me. SLEW.... How fun is that? :)

2. What's your least favorite word?
SPRZĄTAĆ.** It's the verb in Polish meaning "to clean" and no matter what I do, no matter how long I study Polish, I can't wrap my tongue around it. A close second is any word in Welsh with "ll" in the middle. I'm sorry, folks, but I have to think too hard to make that sound.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Music. I tend to have different music associated with different characters or different scenes, and completely different playlists for different WIPs (WsIP?). I recently returned to an old WIP for serious re-vision. Walking to school, I turned on the old playlist, and the world of the story came flooding back in seconds.

And squirrels. I kinda love squirrels :)

4. What turns you off?
Robotic monotony. There are some automatic tasks that don't bother me, but only for limited amounts of time. One of my many daily tasks involves doing something so monotonous that my mind turns to mush, and it's very hard to get the creative juices flowing again afterward.

5.  What is your favorite curse word?
SPRICK. It's from one of my WIPs (WsIP?). It's strong, in the same vein as sh*t or so.

6. What sound or noise do you love?
The pitter-patter of little squirrels running across my roof while I'm working my my attic-converted upstairs study.

7. What sound or nose to you hate?
Car alarms. Seriously, folks, they're not deterring anyone. They're not getting anyone to call the cops and save your poor little BMW. It's just ticking me off.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Would it be silly and cliché of me to say something like ACTOR? I've always had an obscene fascination with Hollywood. Oddly enough, though, I have no desire to write screenplays. Go figure...

9. What profession would you not like to do?
Anything where people's emotional or physical well-being is in my hands: doctor, psychologist, etc. It's too much pressure.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Come on in."

**If you want to hear it, go to http://www.ivona.com, click the Polish flag on the left (white and red), copy the word into the box and click Play. I think you'll understand, unless you speak Polish.

If you didn't enter the Blogfest, do you have any answers you'd like to share? I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on these. :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Anti-Valentines Day Blogfest

Today's post is sponsored by Beth Fred.

The Anti-Valentine's Day Blogfest
Feb. 15 Post your worst Valentines Day or worst date story–don’t have one? Lucky you! Not only have you never wasted precious hours of your life but you get a chance to write fiction. Make one up!!!

Okay, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not this is true.

When I was in HS, I got set up on a date. It's a little unfortunate, since I can't remember his name, but let's call him Kurt. Kurt and I talked on the phone a couple of times planning the evening. We decided to meet at the mall on the south side of the city—a mall 35 minutes from my house. We would meet outside of the food court, and then leave from there to go to dinner. Kurt wanted to go to this great place for dinner that I'd never heard of, an Italian place with tasty breadsticks. Then we'd go see a movie. Seems like a pretty reasonable date, no?

So, we meet at the mall. First impression: lack of understanding of a washing machine. Holey, threadbare flannel shirt over a stained white T-shirt and wrinkled jeans. And I'm not positive he had showered recently, but I might be projecting that in my memory. Not particularly someone who cares about their first impression, though, that's for sure.

We agreed to leave one car at the mall and take the other one to dinner and then to the movie, and he insisted—being the man (this is important, I promise)—that he should drive. That was fine by me, because it was cold and beginning to snow, and my old 1967 Dodge Dart didn't have the most functional heating system. So we went to his car. It was a mess inside, with old, empty fast food cups, papers, blankets, and general dirty crap. He had to spend a moment cleaning off the passenger seat before I could get inside... after he had suggested that he drive.

Notice, we haven't even gotten to the real date yet.

So he takes me to the amazing Italian restaurant with fantastic breaksticks: *drumroll* Fazoli's. It was new to the area, and I had never heard of it before. I had been expecting table clothes and candles and nice food, not a counter where you order and then sitting while they appease you with breadsticks until the food comes. This, to me, is not a date spot. Sorry, but it's NOT. And while we're waiting in line to order he says to me, "Oh, and we're going Dutch, right?" My thought, "Wait, you want to be the man and drive your shitty car, but you don't want to be the man and pay for my cheap meal at this fast food place that's a perfect date spot?"

And I already knew this couldn't go well. Duh!

While we ate, it started snowing rather heavily. I suggested that maybe we skip the movie (no, I swear, I had NO ulterior motives), but he insisted that it wasn't that bad. Even as he drove at 20 MPH from the restaurant to the movie theater, he insisted we see the movie. But then we had a good 40 minutes at the theater to wait until we could ENTER the movie theater, and what did I do? Watch the blizzard roll in. I told him in no uncertain terms that I needed to go since I lived so far away and I needed a while to get home on the freeway, and he refused because we'd already paid for the tickets. I offered to pay for his, and he turned me down. So we watched the movie—luckily I don't remember what it was, but I do sincerely remember hating it, something along the lines of Scream 7052 or so.

How many ways can I use this picture??

Then he drove me back to the mall and seemed surprised when I dashed through the snow to my car without a kiss goodnight. Did I mention he was kinda gross? Even if he'd been the nicest, most cavalier gentleman EVER—which he wasn't, Mr. "Wait Until The Last Minute To Suggest Going Dutch"—I still wouldn't have kissed him because he was GROSS.

It took well over an hour to get home through the snow, more than twice the time it took me to get there. I got home, got in bed, started to pass out from sheer exhaustion from the crazy lack of sense of my evening, and the phone RANG! He called—even though I had told him he could never call after 9:30 because my mother went to bed early, and it was sometime between 1:30AM and 2—to be sure I got home okay. Then he decided to rehash all the positive parts of the date.

Okay, I'll give him this: he seemed concerned. But I was so tired and so annoyed and so at the end of my fuse, I hung up on him. And then I got in trouble the next day because the phone had rung so late. And then I screened all of my phone calls for months and avoided his number.

So that's the worst date of my whole life. I don't have much else that even compares, but I'll have to save it for the next anti-valentine's day :)

Any bad date stories out there that you'd like to share?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Voice Redux


In an effort to promote the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest, Charity and I will be hosting a few different guest posts over the month. Be sure to drop by this Friday for a post from Theresa Milstein, and next week from Hart Johnson.

* * * *

On Thursday, I had a frustrated/frustrating moment, when I revealed to you all my sheer inability to convey voice in 3rd person limited (although I wrote "omniscient", as my frustration overwhelmed the synapses between the cells in my brain).

You were all awesomely supportive, and I thank you all for your thoughts. Through the various comments and thoughts, I realized a few things that might help in developing a 3rd person limited voice. And, well, it would be highly unfair of me to keep it to myself....

So a 3rd person limited narrator whose voice is true both to the personality of the character as well as the narrator itself. I can't tell you which voice is easier to come by, but if you feel like you have a strong voice on your blog—not sure why this never sunk in with me before—then you've got a good start.

Synthesizing your voice with the character's voice is the next step. In order to do this, you need to have a good sense of the character's voice. A good way to do this is to write a few scenes in 1st person, even if those scenes will never see the light of day.

Of course, creating the actual synthesis is another task. Unfortunately it's not one I've had a chance to try my hand at since Thursday (I promise—you don't want to hear about how much work-life exploded into 80-90hr weeks). However, a few good examples:
  • Harry Potter: JK Rowling follows Harry through seven years, and the voice is true throughout each book. 
  • The Hating Game by Talli Roland. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with her skills with voice. I'm barely finding time to sneak in a few minutes with my Kindle App, but I can't wait to read it again. So far, the narrator has been close to three characters. With each character, the voice of the narration adjusts to personality of each character, but the narrator's voice is always there, too.

Does any of that make sense, or is it still too hypothetical?

What books have you read with great 3rd limited voice?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Yes, I already hear you groaning. Don't worry. I'm groaning, too.

It is the most unexplainable je-ne-sais-quois crucial ingredient to a book getting picked up by an agent or publisher, of a short story getting sold to a journal, or creating a compelling read in general. Yet no one can explain it. You've either got it, or you don't.

*more groaning*

Okay, fine. I'll concede that it's either there or it's not. But there are different ways to develop voice. It does exist, and we all have it, but we have to find a way to get it out there.

Let's start with the 1st person voice. I think it's easier—for me—to accomplish a compelling voice in first person. I imagine the narrator as an actual person, which is far from daunting since the narrator is also a character with a backstory and a personality. In other words, s/he has a voice of her/his own, and this comes out in the narration.

When I started writing again, most of what I wrote was in 1st person. Perhaps this was the path of least resistance—and may also be the reason why writing instructors prefer 3rd person—but it worked, sort of. Maybe the voice wasn't great (trust me, it really wasn't), maybe it was inconsistent, but it was there sometimes. And with some work, I could bring it out more and more.

Here's the problem: I recently decided, for various reasons, that one particular novel should be in 3rd person instead of 1st. I need to be able to track more than just the MC through her travels. (I could, potentially, have two 1st person narrators, though I'm not sure how I feel about that.) So I chose to try my hand at 3rd person and rewrite.

And the voice................. disappeared.


So my question(s): If a 1st person narrator's voice can be developed through the character his/herself, how does one develop a compelling 3rd person omniscient narrator? These narrators are amorphous, misty creatures, based solely off a voice that comes from the nether-regions of our imaginations. But who ARE they? Are they characters? My HS English teacher would say "yes". How do you define them? How do you create them in such a way to give them that je-ne-sais-quois factor, which is in and of itself amorphous and particularly misty?

I'm clearly missing something, but creating an amorphous, misty narrator with an amorphous, misty, je-ne-sais-quois voice seems... well, nothing is impossible or we'd only ever read 1st person literature.

What am I missing, folks? Please help me uncover the secrets to a compelling, 3rd person voice.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hone Your Skills Blogfest! (Come Sign Up)

Today is a special day. Charity Bradford at My Writing Journey and I have pooled our resources for a spectacular event.

In an effort to both push ourselves and support each other in the blogging community, Charity and I have decided to co-host the HONE YOUR SKILLS BLOGFEST.

The whole idea behind this blogfest is to improve our own writing skills by attempting a hone the story and the prose down to the basics while still being compelling. Not an easy task, to be sure. Check out this post from Charity for more discussion.

But we also need to remember that we do not write in a vacuum, and we cannot improve alone. We want help, but we also want and need to help each other. This is an INTERACTIVE blogfest in which we can share our own skills to help each other.

Here's the idea:
  1. On March 16, post a short story around 750 words, no more than 1000, in any genre you like.
  2. Read and give a critique for the person before and after you in the Linky List (and as many others as you can/want to). When you critique: a) find at least two things that really work, and b) at least two suggestions for how it can be tightened or improved.  
  3. (Optional) When you post on March 16, list one or two (online) journals where you plan to submit your piece after making revisions.
Charity and I, as hosts, will make it to everyone's post. She and I will also pick what we believe to be the TOP FIVE short stories. We will announce our top five the following Monday (March 21), and allow you to vote for your favorites. The winner will receive a $20 Amazon gift card.

Here are a few places to start looking for online journals.
  • Write 1 Sub 1's Short Fiction Markets/Contests page
  • See the sidebar on Charity's blog (down a bit) for SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Qualifying markets
  • Estrella05azul has some online and print publications in her far right column
  • Duotrope's Digest allows you to search publications by genre and story length

Are you ready? Are you excited? Sign up below! We're looking forward to your latest short story :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Making Ourselves Better Writers

Charity over at My Writing Journey had a fantastic post on Wednesday on tops to improve your writing in a post-NaNo life. She recommended using short story writing as a way to hone one's skills to become better a novelist.

It got me to thinking about my own writing and my inability to pack a story into fewer than 50K. Short stories have never come easily to me. I think it terms of macro plots with never ending twists and turns. Nothing in my brain is ever compact enough to fit into the short story model. Just ask my fiction instructor from last semester. My second story came back with a note to the effect of: "This is great. Too bad it's a novel in a short story's body."

Well, if nothing else, I have another novel idea on deck if I need it.

Anyway, I think I'm going to try my hand at short fiction again. We'll see how it goes.

What do you do to try and make yourself a better writer?

Then again, Charity's post got me thinking about a few other things, too. But you'll have to wait to find out what that's all about.

Tune in Monday for a Special Announcement :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

I'm excited to join another blogfest, this one to hit the cyberwaves in two weeks.

The Bernard Pivot Blogfest is hosted by Nicole Ducleroir of One Significant Moment at a Time, who is celebrating 500+ followers. Participating in the contest also automatically signs you up for some awesome prizes (still TBA).

Bernard Pivot, a French journalist, created the following questionnaire for a cultural series he hosted from 1991-2001. Here are the questions:
  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

So, on February 16, all who are participating will answer the questions, so we can all get to know each other a little better. Come and join the fun by clicking on the image to the right.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happiness is a Warm Draft

For some reason the original Beatles song is running through my head. I felt compelled.

This will be short for many reasons, the biggest of which is I'm running late and don't have much time, but I wanted to be sure to post today.

First, Nathan Bransford will be posting the finalists for his Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge sometime today. Hop over to his blog to read and vote for the finalists.

[poor segue]

So I mentioned last week that I have gone back to revising my first WIP. I realized I had to completely change the backstory to make the present story more believable. Well, in the process, my brain has been ON FIRE, creating this trajectory for my MCs. So much fun!

This morning, in my half-awake-half-asleep, please-don't-bother-me-because-the-sun's-not-up-yet state, I was plotting out a scene in a park with my four main characters. Now bear in mind that, in my original draft, the story is told in 1st person. Well, my imagination took me to a place where my supporting male character separated from the rest of the group—or security reasons, of course—and my mind followed him. The scene evolved, and not only did I like it, but I realized it might be rather crucial.

Thus, a new draft was born (I believe this one is marked number 592, give or take a few hundred). I started working on it yesterday morning, and wrote over 1000 words yesterday in time that I didn't have to be working on it. But when the fire is lit, it's hard to contain, no?

So, in the spirit of Nathan Bransford's Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge, I give to you my new and latest first paragraph.

Title: The Monarchy's Lies #592 (title subject to change, since I don't like it anymore)
Genre: YA Romance/Urban Fantasy

Anabelle Lindsky tugged at the collar of her shirt. She’d never felt comfortable with things around her neck—turtleneck sweaters, tight necklaces, even her fingers to check her pulse—but today was different. Today she would endure anything to get to the Mansion.

And, folks, I promise I'll get off my editing/revising kick soon. I'm just so excited about how this is going for me that I need to share. Thanks for reading. :)

What person do you normally use to narrate? 1st/2nd/3rd? Do you jump back and forth? Do you just know which will work best? How do you decide? Have you ever written something completely, and then started over in another POV?
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