Thursday, March 31, 2011

Planning VS Winging It

Here is another article of mine which was published by Kalkion in 2009.

Some writers sit down and plot out their entire story before writing it. They make chapter by chapter outlines, character biographies, world maps. They know most of what’s going to happen before they ever put pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard.)

Some writers simply sit down and write. They start with an idea and plunge in headfirst. Letting the energy flow, writing the first rough draft with a kind of wild abandon, not always knowing where they’re headed.

Both methods have their merits, though there are many who would extol the virtues of careful planning over free for all writing.

It’s true, preemptive planning might save time and leave you with fewer drafts to write, without the task of playing connect the dots. If you find the thought of sitting down at a blank screen with very little idea of what you’re doing so unsettling that you find any excuse not to write, you are likely a planner.

If the thought of doing extensive plotting and world building before you ever write a word makes your brain freeze up, you may want to write first and worry about detail later.

Either way, eventually you will have to deal with detail. The point is simply to choose whichever method gets the idea mill churning. If you’re a beginning writer, it’s a good idea to try different methods of writing to discover the one which works best for you.

Personally, I’ve tried the planning method, it doesn’t work for me. If I try to sit down and actually think about what I’m writing beforehand my brain becomes as blank as the computer screen.

The harder I try to think, the worse it gets. So I prefer to sit and wait for the ideas to come, then write them as they do. This makes for a messy first draft, I admit, but it’s the only process that works for me.

In the end, the finished product is more important than the path you took to get to it. So whatever works for you, be it careful organization or delightful mess, go with it. Don’t let anyone else try to influence you, find what works and stick with it.

Because if you can’t get words to paper, what’s the point?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Writing Rollercoaster

This is an article I wrote in 2009. It was published by Kalkion in 2009.

It all begins with an idea. Something that tugs at you and keeps you up at night. And you think to yourself, okay I have this idea so maybe I’ll try writing it down. And so you write.
Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, but you write. When it’s done you say to yourself, okay I wrote this thing and I rewrote it and then I rewrote it some more. You put a lot of effort into it and you think it’s pretty good.

You send it out to a magazine you like the looks of and you wait. And wait. And wait. You check the mailbox every day, waiting.

When the letter finally comes, your hands are shaking and your heart is racing and you’re thinking, this is it. So you tear the envelope open and you read, “Dear Contributor, thank you for your submission but we can’t use this piece at this time. Good luck placing it elsewhere. Signed, The Editors.”    

It’s a big letdown after how you’ve built things up in your mind over the last couple of months. Disappointment hits hard.

So you have a choice. You can either stuff the story in a box, along with the new one you started while the first one was out in the wind, or you can try again. If you’re a writer the answer is obvious.

It’s heartbreaking, that first letter, and even more so when more of the same follow suit. But you plug away because you must, it’s in your blood now and you can’t get rid of it.

You push your way through the rejection letters, the writer’s block, the nagging voice in your head saying you’re wasting your time, the looks from family members when you talk about your stories.

You smile when people say things like, “Oh you’re a writer” or “Well, if I had more free time I could write too.” You pretend not to be offended by the lack of respect for your writing time. You grin, you bear it, you write.

One day you open the mailbox or the email and you get the letter addressed to you personally, by name, and your heart leaps. They still don’t want your story, but you feel closer somehow, that handwritten signature on the bottom means something to you.

It’s not far from that to the first letter asking for a rewrite. Yes, a rewrite. Even though the letter clearly states this is in no way a promise to purchase your story, you rejoice.

Your first thought is to share this joy with friends and family. You call anyone you can think of to spread the good news. Then you write like you’ve never written before, so sure this is your big break.

The wait is even harder this time but you tough it out, using the time to gloat to all those nay sayers. You’re walking on clouds.

When the letter comes you’re so excited you can hardly open the envelope, so sure a contract must lie therein. Instead you find a letter saying they’ve decided not use your story after all. No reasons, no explanations, just thanks, but no thanks.

People you use to bore with talk of your writing are suddenly popping out of the wood works, politely inquiring as to when they will be able to see your story in print. You can only stall for so long before you must shamefully admit that your story won’t be published after all.

This is a moment to test the strongest of wills. You rack your brain, trying to understand what you did wrong, while simultaneously enduring the look of ‘I told you so’ in everyone’s eyes. 

If you make it past this point and still have the will to pound out on the keyboard, to burn the midnight oil, to wear out stacks of pencils, you are finally on your way.

And when the day comes that you actually find yourself staring with stunned delight at a real, live acceptance letter, you have permission to jump for joy. Feel free to dance barefooted in the kitchen, to laugh and cry at the same time, to call everyone you know and politely rub their faces in it.

In short, be a bit of a jerk. You’ve earned it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Fairy's Plight

Here is story I wrote in 2004. One night I was half asleep and the story played out in my mind. So, I got up, I wrote it down, and then I went back to bed. The next day I looked it over once, then I sent it off. It was published in 2005 by Kwil Kids Quarterly. My first published story.

The fairy landed on the bright yellow petal of a sunflower and sat to rest her weary wings. She turned her sapphire eyes to the azure sky, searching for the dark shadow of an ebony wing.

The raven had chased her far, a day and a night from her home, and there had been little chance to rest. Exhausted though she was, she knew there could only be a moment's respite from her flight. Even now, she could hear the hateful beating of his wings, a beating that was mirrored in her heart.

She rose to hover over the flower and saw his fiendish form approaching with the swiftness of death. Away she flew, her wings fluttering with all her strength, her body trembling in terror.

Into a wooded glen, where the shadows were long upon the earth, she flew. Here she hoped to hide herself from his piercing gaze.

But he was close behind, his shrieks piercing her soul like the cold tip of an arrowhead. No matter how she tried, she could not escape, for he was always a bare pace behind.

The sun set on the second day. Darkness fell. The fairy pushed on, too filled with horror to dare glance back. As stars filled the night sky with their cold light, she sank to the earth. She could fly no further.

As she lay upon the ground, she cried to the moon spirits for aid. Then the raven was above her, blocking the light until all she could see was the abyss of her own demise.

She waited for the fatal plunge, but it never came. A falcon dove from the heavens and tore the raven away. Her prayers were answered. Her life was spared.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Flight of Dragons

My first novel, "Flight of Dragons" will be coming out in October from Champagne Books.