Friday, August 19, 2011

Untitled WIP

I've been working and stalling on this one for a few weeks now, but I think it's a fine piece thus far. If I can whittle it down to something below 5,000 words, it will be my gateway attempt to get published.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Putting it out there

Earlier this summer, I let down my self-conscious guard and put my work through an online writing workshop called, where in exchange for critiquing the work of other writers, you can submit your own work for criticism by your writing peers. The experience was an exhilarating, frightening and  an overall wonderful one.

I submitted a 7,000 word story about a man who runs a machine --at a health insurance company-- that induces guided, therapeutic dreams. Eventually, he takes advantage of the technology and begins indulging his patrons' fantasies through the machine. It's a simple story about a common man with shaky moral grounds.

When the story finally reached the top of the submission queue a few weeks back, my nerves were a little on edge, but the critiques started trickling in the day after the story went live on the site and most were positive. Actually, almost all of them were. The best part about's online nature is that people aren't looking you in the face, making it easier for them to be honest, as opposed to sitting across from you at a local writers group. Each critic offered their opinions and suggestions, the majority of which were useful. Someone one said that my word choice was bland. Another said that the potential abuse of the technology in the story was to obvious. Several hated my protagonist and claimed he was unlikable and hard to root for (I took this as a positive, that I could invoke such an emotional response in people by writing such a questionable individual). Many pointed out embarrassing typos and spelling errors. 

I received 20+ critiques, but after the first dozen, I already knew where the story and my writing stood. Many of the suggestions that the critics make, might not make a lot of sense or be helpful, but when someone tells you for the tenth time, your ending blows, you can be pretty assured that editors and publishers will come to the same conclusion. It puts your story on a spectrum, or a scatter plot graph that you can draw a line through. The story becomes easier to reshape, fix and strengthen. Best of all, the critiques shake loose those malformed ideas that didn't quite make it to the blank page as you had intended.

Get your work out there! It's important to your growth as a writer, even if it makes you want to huddle in a corner for a few days.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

REVIEW: Storyteller by Kate Wilhelm

A few posts back, I had mentioned how reading one particular book led me to shunning writing books. Almost immediately afterwards, a fellow writing comrade, and friend, lent me "Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Workshop." I begrudgingly took it, still bitter from the last book. Turns out, I no longer have 3 writing books I regularly refer to, but four.

Wilhelm's "Storyteller" is half memoir, half no-non-sense writing guide. She recounts her days at the famous Clarion science-fiction writing workshop where she instructed along the sides of people like Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and Howard Waldrop. You don't get to hear about a lot of those people, but it's a testament to the workshop's success. Instead, like a good writer, she keeps the name dropping to an absolute minimum and focuses on the workshop's struggle and conflict to survive since its conception in 1968. As if channeling Mr. Miyagi, before you realize it, you're learning about writing through her short anecdotes about her students and their struggles with writing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rewrite epiphany

Last week was a milestone week for my writing career. I not only finished a story, but I completely rewrote, revised and submitted it to the workshop for critiquing. The former two activities I have done before, but putting the work out there to be reviewed by my writing peers --not classmates, friends or loved ones-- is new to me. Honestly, it felt good to let it go out into the wild, almost like a I'm a working writer or something.

Recently, I came across a gold mine of personal scribblings from high school and early college: short stories, essays and failed journal entries. Apparently, I was wise enough to write down my thoughts on the night of the September 11 attacks, an ineloquent volume of WTF?. Thumbing through the pages I laughed, lauded and cringed. Mostly cringed. Before my stint in journalism, I had a 'never-look-back' mentality towards my writing that was obvious in this self-reflective, treasure trove. When the last period was placed, Ctrl-P, done. Looking back would have been to look in the mirror and analyze every flaw. I avoided it like people avoid checking their bank account balance. I was certain my writing was an extension of my very flawed self.

Somewhere along the path of this current rewrite, I let go of most of that. As I fixed mistakes and added layers of polish, the story started to stand on its own, no longer propped up by my ego. The piece just became "work" and I was able to look at it more objectively. Problem avoidance was a disease I had rid myself of a few years ago and all I needed was to apply that same mentality to my writing. It worked and now the story is out their waiting to be praised or slaughtered. I'm okay with either.

I will post a synopsis of the feedback I get in a few weeks.

Friday, June 3, 2011

24 hours, 23 writers, one novel.

This past Memorial Day weekend, myself and 22 other writers took on the project of writing a complete novel in 24 hours. Local social media bon vivant, artist and writer, John Herman, assembled a team of writers from around the country to descend on one Google Document and collaborate with one another in crafting a story. Simultaneously, the project was being projected in an art installation at the NewMediator Art Show at Nighthawk Books in Highland Park, New Jersey. People could spectate and watch the novel progress at the speed of writing, like watching a photo develop.

At midnight, Friday night/Saturday morning, Herman unveiled an outline that he and a several other participants concocted through an online survey. The genre was "slip-stream," a mix of science-fiction and fantasy, and each writer was assigned a chapter to write. Each chapter had a different character, each with their own quirk, and an event that they had to be involved with to keep in continuity with the rest of the story. Other than that, the writers had a poetic license to fill in the gaps.

By the end of the day, I was antsy and clammy feeling all over (this is how I get under deadline), and I felt stricken with the essence of my entire NaNoWriMo experience. All in one day. It was fun and frustrating, but in retrospect I would do it again. As Herman mentioned in the book's forward, it is creativity fossilized in amber.

The book was available the next day via PDF, Nook and Kindle for FREE. Go here for details and download.

Here is an excerpt from my chapter in "Overfly":

Friday, March 11, 2011

Keep Charlie Sheen from distracting you from your writing

Chances are, if there's a keyboard under your fingertips, the interwebs are throwing several pieces of distracting fecal matter at your corneas every second. Tweetdeck may be one of the biggest productivity killers since television or masturbation, while Facebook is a hypnotizing abyss staring back at you. "Oh! Look. Charlie Sheen is winning all over someone's face... again." It's hard to escape the deluge if you enjoy using a computer. Even harder if you're a writer.

Right now I am writing this post in JDarkRoom, a simple text editor that blacks out your entire screen, leaving you alone with your words/count. Mano y mano. No distractions. When I first heard about this fad of programs, I filed them under the "Things I might toy with" section of my brain, but have since come to rely on them heavily. I'm a man with vices, the internet being my first love since I was 11 (I'm 28 this week), with whiskey at a close second. While these virtual distraction free zones don't discourage the latter, they certainly help with the former. If I want to check what BS Wil Wheaton is hocking on Twitter or ogle Fleshbot's latest "Top 10 Amateur (insert obscure ilk of person here)(insert sex act here) Videos", I have to save and exit out of the program before I can do any of that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Retreat and count my wounded?

NOTE: wrote this on Friday and never got a chance to post it. The weekend is gone and only a 3rd of what I set out to accomplish, was accomplished. Instead I watched "Bicentennial Man", "2012" and "Dick Tracey". I'm what's wrong with this country. 

Oh, sweet cancer on a stick! Have you seen this? The photo montage on the front page is a hilariously, awful display of writing exhibitionism. I like how cutesy they make writing look. "Look at us! We're writers! And we have cute slippers." But they're housewives using their time productively, and I'm never against that.

The manuscript I was working on, has come to a screeching halt. There was a death in my family this week, so naturally my mind has been elsewhere. Or at least, that's what I keep telling myself. The reality is, I'm out of my depth. Despite having viewed five seasons of "The Wire" and "Dexter," plus a few James Ellroy novels under my belt, I have no idea how to write an interesting killer. I have no idea how to create intriguing clues that are gritty enough but aren't to campy. How do people do this?

I've decided to spend my moneyless weekend revising my novella, critiquing for Critters and researching detective stuff. Hopefully I can over come this stumbling block.

The funny thing is, I have another idea that I've been nursing for months that is a detective story, but it involves robots. I can see through that one as clear as day. It's an environment that I'm much more comfortable in, as well... THE FUTURE. When robots kill people, there's a lot more room for outlandish clues and to fudge police work/procedure, I guess.