Tag Archives: prose

Writing Life: Owning Your Writing

Never apologize.

Every great writer had to start somewhere.  Every brilliant mind had a beginning, and every block of stunning prose has met its share of criticism.  We, as writers, feel the need to defend every word, comma, and turn of phrase.  When someone comments on our writing, our use of “yes, but” can make us seem defensive.

Criticism is important.

Don’t underestimate a good bout of criticism; accepting and employing changes that improve our fiction also improves us as writers.  Its important, vital, even.

What I’m telling you, though, is that you should never apologize for your writing.  If someone doesn’t like it, and can’t give you a reason, you shouldn’t apologize for that.  Not everyone will love your work, and its something we all have to come to terms with.  Life goes on.

Also, never hand your work to someone and say “I’m sorry for the quality,” or “it’s not as polished as I want it to be.”  It sets people up to either expect it to be terrible or feed you useless compliments at the end to make you feel more confident.  Trust me, I’m guilty of doing this as well.  I’m trying to get out of the habit of apologizing for my work before it’s ever read, but it’s a bit hurdle for some of us.  Confidence in letting others read your work, especially people who are close to us, whose opinions mean the most to us, is something that develops over time.  And if it doesn’t, you really just need to rein in the apologies.  =P

Moral of the story?

Your writing is important.  It means something.  Don’t make out sound like less than it is just because you’re afraid someone won’t like it.  Accept criticism with grace, employ it where necessary, but don’t apologize for your writing!

Do you ever apologize for your writing?  What’s the hardest part of accepting the opinions of others?

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Filed under Writing, Writing Life

Flash Fiction! – Felix

Felix

To those who seek to put this terrible event to record;

My name is Felix. Count Felix Alran Malrais III. It was by my order that the Temple of Satreas was burned. I pen this letter now so that the reader may know my commitment to my actions. I wish not to apologize, nor to grovel and beg for my life; the noose that awaits me at first light will not deter me.

My guards burned the temple at my order.

The rumors that catch the wind like sparks from that fire spread lies and perversions, and if the last thing I do is quell those rumors with a shocking truth, then so be it. As if to say they rule the lives of those in devotion to the Great God, the priests of Satreas refused to perform a wedding ceremony for me and the one that I love.

Loved.

It wasn’t enough, this public humiliation and refusal. My intended was not befitting of my station, nor was he some vapid woman licking my mother’s shoes and fawning over trinkets to gain favor. He. Yes, he. ‘Let the rabble do as they please, but the Aristocracy must always set an example.’

They called us impure. Should that have bothered me? It didn’t. Purity holds no weight with me.

It was when the priests of Satreas assaulted the servants’ village of my father’s estate, dragging my help out one by one, combing every family for him, my Dacian, that I knew I would have to punish them, make an example of them. I thought they would only humiliate us further in some trivial way, but instead they took Dacian. For four days I hunted for him, interrogated every priest, tore apart the temple and the outlying buildings, ransacked every room….

Dacian’s body was found on the fourth day in the pond, swollen and pale, floating in the weeds—I’ll never forget what he looked like when he was dragged out for as long as I live—incidentally, that won’t be very long, will it?

I never thought that heartbreak could lead to such uncontrollable fury, and yet, I knew what I was doing. The order I gave to my guards was deliberate. I wanted the priests of Satreas to suffer as I had suffered—as I knew that Dacian had suffered.

I knew that my request was unorthodox and would be met with disfavor, but such violence from the priests of a temple my father commissioned—I never thought….

No. I never thought.

The Temple of Satreas is now a pile of rubble and cinders, still smoking. I feel no remorse. Tomorrow I hang, hopeful to greet my Dacian in the next life—a better life.

Signed,

Count Felix Alran Malrais III

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Filed under Letters from Blackford Hill, Writing

And a cheery update to you, too.

So, here’s to getting back into the swing of things with the new year!  I’m devising a posting schedule for myself so I don’t fall so far behind again, because really… I have no decent excuse.

As of right now, I’m working to finish and polish Ossuarium because a family friend (also an author) has taken great interest in the storyline and is intent on getting me published.  Unfortunately, settling in here has been difficult, and home sickness has been beating me over the head, so I haven’t done much of any writing since I’ve been here.  It’s depressing.  BUT!  I’m sick and tired of being brought down, and I’m not letting it happen anymore.  I have a life and a future and friends and I have every intention of reminding myself of that daily.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself anymore.

Of course, I had this breakthrough revelation on December 29th (or so says my notebook), but immediately got so ridiculously sick that I couldn’t get out of bed or function on a basic human level until yesterday.  So.  Awesome.  I’m a little late in starting, but at least I didn’t forget. LOL.

SO!  I plan on picking a day of the week and writing a flash fiction piece every week for that day so that I can post it on my blog.  The more samples I have, the better, right?

I’m also taking my ’30 Days of Paganism’ (which went nowhere because I had to move) and converting it into a brand new blog.  I’ll link it here, and I’ll be posting on both regularly.

While I’ve left Inkwell Imaginings for the time being, Jessi at A BA in BS is keeping transcripts and creating webinars of the writing workshop content.  I think the schedule is still bi-weekly, so every other Tuesday or so I’ll be posting the webinar.

Hopefully all of this will keep me fantastically busy and I can forget how little of a social life I have. LOL

I apologize to everyone for not commenting on your blogs.  Hopefully this time when I say ‘I’m back’ I can actually hold to it. =P  I missed you guys!

Love,

Kit <3

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Filed under Life, Paganism, Writer's Group, Writing

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days :: via Jeff Vandermeer

With National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, I thought I would offer an author’s perspective on the ‘novel in a month’ craze.  So, this is Catherynne M. Valente on Jeff Vandermeer‘s blog from way back in 2008.

***

Jeff did a piece called How to Write a Novel in Two Months a little while back, and when I read it, I smiled, because I’ve run that race, too. I wanted to post my thoughts on speed-writing, as I have many—and now, through the power of bloggery, I can put my essay right next to his! It’s like some kind of crazy magic. And because Jeff nailed a lot of the nitty-gritty, things, I can just blather. Best of both worlds!

So here’s the thing–I am a fast writer. I think this is a skill I developed in college, a combination of stress and a vital part of my personality: I am incredibly lazy.

Because I am incredibly lazy, it is very easy to convince me not to work, since I don’t want to work anyway. Which led to an abnormal number of papers completed the night before they were due…and then the early morning hours before they were due, then the not so early morning hours*…And if even once I had failed to turn in a paper, failed to churn out twenty pages on gender anxiety in Gawain and the Green Knight, if I had even once failed to get an A, I think I would have rethought my methods and come to some sort of conclusion about work ethics.

Didn’t happen.

So what my brain learned was not what it should have learned, namely that this sort of thing is about as risky and dumb as huffing whipped cream canisters. My brain learned that there was no deadline it couldn’t meet.

This is a dangerous thing for a brain to know, and I recommend failure to meet deadlines to everyone. Human behavior means doing something until it doesn’t work. This sort of thing still works for me. I do not expect it to work forever, and frankly, it giveth and it taketh. You get the work done fast, but your body is shredded and you end up with the interpersonal grace of Gollum on a meth binge.

But you’re not going to listen to these warnings.

The 30 days is an arbitrary number–it is kind of an absolute minimum for me**. I haven’t pushed myself to see just how fast I can turn out a novel, but I don’t trust myself with less than 30 days. I’m not crazy. Obviously, Nanowrimo influences that number (50k in a month, at something like 1400 words a day, is not actually very hard if you’re a fast hand at the keyboard and don’t have a day job) and now it can be told that I did Nanowrimo in 2002…sort of. See, those were heady days. I was 23. I was all balls-out and brazen and come-here-world-I’m-gonna-take-a-bite-out-of-you.

You know, totally different than now.

So I just did it on my own in early October (at the same Rhode Island Starbucks where Tobias Buckell started his first novel, as we discovered this summer) and I clocked in at a lot less than 30 days. The result? The beginning of my career, and how I met Jeff.

The key, really, is to never learn you can fail.

I really enjoy timed writing–with deadline from without (editor) or within (online project, personal goal, etc). I think it’s because I enjoy obstructions. Things created within boundaries, where the boundaries become part of the object, creativity fueled by restriction. It lights me up inside–your mileage may, of course, vary. This is not how I write every novel–it took me six years to write The Orphan’s Tales. As I said, I don’t recommend this: first of all, no one will think you can have possibly produced anything good in that time, because time spent = quality, obviously, and no other factors come into play. Second of all, you absolutely have to play by this first rule. No exceptions, no hall passes.

Rule #1: Be a Genius

Guys, I cannot stress this enough. See Kerouac’s Belief and Technique for Modern Writing. Rule #29? You Are a Genius All the Time. (Yes, I have that list nailed above my desk.)

I don’t care what kind of writer you are. I don’t care how many rejections you’ve had, I don’t care how long you’ve been doing this. For 30 days, you are a genius. Everything that flows from your fingers is pure light. You do not have the luxury of not being a genius–not being a genius is laziness and sloth and you just can’t tolerate that shit right now.

Writing this fast is an act of unadulterated, stupid, blind faith. Faith in yourself, in your voice, in your story, in your sheer ability. If your faith falters, you lose time. In my experience, if you’re working on a 30 day cycle, you can afford to lose maybe three days (non-consecutive, if you lose three straight days you’ll never recover) to self-doubt, internal criticism, and not being a genius. More than that and you’re running up against words-per-minute, and when you get down to it, typing speed is actually a big factor. Us Millenials who grew up in chat rooms have generally fabulous-fleet skillz, but seriously, this is no time for long-hand.

2. Tell Everyone

Make sure everyone knows what you’re doing. This will provide the heady ingredient of shame to the proceedings, and I find that shame is an enormous motivator. If you fail alone, in private, no one will ever know, and you can claim that writing a novel in 30 days is impossible, for hacks, etc, with impunity. If you post to your blog and tell all your friends, you have to admit to it if you fail. This is assuming you are not subject to the major reason for speed-writing: you have a deadline and you watched Alias reruns instead of working until the last possible second.

It’s also important that your partner and social group knows not to expect you to be anything like human for the next month. Fortunately, you’re a genius, and geniuses are never expected to conform to primate behavior standards***. Just, you know, apologize later. If you are very lucky, you might have a partner or friend who is willing to provide any combination of the following salves for your chafed genius muscles: food, quiet space/leaving you the hell alone, a clean house, inspirational backrubs, crazy-ass genius sex.

But probably not.

3. Be Crazy

Jeff said that one ought not to try for much more than a transparent style when writing at breakneck speed. I, rather predictably, disagree. If anything, I’d suspect this doesn’t work so well for complex plot than complex language, but that’s likely because I find language easier than plot. Pick what you’re best at, and make that the focus of this marathon. I rather think that no technique is better suited to beatnik-pomo-style crazy writing than this–let go of your internal editor, of the ways writing is “supposed” to be (hint: it’s not supposed to be done in 30 days), any ideas your English professors might have given you about literature, and just open your brain onto the computer. Direct flesh-to-motherboard communication. Remember, this is blind faith we’re talking about. You are St. Teresa, and you are here to be transfigured. This is radical, revolutionary trust that what you are creating is worth the world.

You may not actually end up with a novel at the end of the month. But you’ll have something. Kerouac said not to be afraid to be a crazy dumbsaint of the mind. Quite so.

4. Sacrifice Your Body

Come on, you weren’t using it anyway.

The fact is, this sort of thing is a horrific strain on your human suit. You stay up late, you eat whatever is easy, you have to ice down your wrists at the end of the day. You burn your brain out, no joke. Make time for recovery afterward. Get out of the house occasionally, to Toby and my Starbucks, or the front lawn, or a laundromat. Look up at the sky. Accept the fact that you will fall down on your household chores–which is why this sort of thing is usually a childless writer’s gig–and that several times, you will literally want to die rather than write another word. Keep going. Talk to marathon runners. Rejoice, and conquer. Die, if you have to. Then get up and get back to work.

5. Don’t Fail

You don’t have time to fail. You don’t have time for writer’s block. You don’t have time to wibble.

And if you don’t fail this time, you’ll never learn that you can fail, and every time you don’t fail, your faith in your ability to not fail will grow until one day you’ll wake up and you won’t be a failure at all. It’s kind of awesome, if you can manage it. But the key is not failing, and the key to not failing is stupid dumbfuck faith that you won’t fail. Life is circular like that.

 

The reason I don’t credit Nanowrimo is not because I don’t think quality can be produced in 30 days. That would be a silly opinion, considering. It’s because they don’t think quality can be produced in 30 days. Their whole site is about producing crap and having it be okay to produce crap. It is okay. But I don’t have time to produce crap. Life is too short to produce crap. And the only way I know how to do this is to be absolutely convinced that what I’m writing is gobstoppingly amazing.

And I can only maintain that sort of conviction for short bursts. Say, 30 days.

______

*This is where being a classicist REALLY pays off. Ain’t no English class (see what I did thar?) can lick you–you know most of it before you set foot in the room, and your base of knowledge is broad enough that you can sound damn smart in a number of varied fields. I in no way mean to imply that in graduate school I did the research and the composition the day the paper was due. That would be crazy.

**I’ve done the 3 Day Novel competition–they expect you to produce something like 30k words, and that’s a novella at best.

***DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL. You are not that kind of genius.

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Filed under Life, Writing

WOO!

NaNoWriMo site launch was today!  I’m still waiting on my profile to be updated to give me my very handy-awesome ML powers, but it seems like everything is coming along steadily.

Anyone participating in NaNo is free to add me as a friend.  <3  I’m super excited.  I’ve even got my novel concept finally coming together.  I had three or four in the running last month, but I decided.  =P

My very awesome relationship with the Southbridge public library is  only getting awesomer!  (Awesomer– new word.  Check it out.)  Margaret and Ashley loved our ideas for Inkwell Imaginings, and they’re excited about NaNoWriMo and the write-ins we’ll be holding there.  They even mentioned that they were sorry they couldn’t PAY Jess and I for the workshops we’re presenting!  PAY!  I never thought the work was worth that, but now that I think about it, I am working harder on this than anything I’ve ever been paid for. Lol.

Anyway, excitement aside, I’m going to be super busy over the next two months.  I’ll keep everyone updated!  I might even start my NaNoWriMo video blog again this year.  It’s faster than typing, but we shall see.  Those might be posted here instead of text updates.

I loveth you all!

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Inkwell Imaginings Workshop Schedule

We’ve got the schedule for II made up!  Anyone interested in being present via Skype, let me know, and we can get this all situated.  All meetings start at 6pm EST.  Inkwell Imaginings is also on Facebook, if anyone is interested in joining the group for updates.

Inkwell Imaginings

Writing Workshop Schedule

October 25th: Character Creation and Development. A workshop to create believable heroes, villains, and supporting characters, and bring depth to your story through them.

November 8th: Outlines. A rundown on outlines, how to use them, the pros and cons, and the many ways of making use of organization and prewriting.

November 22nd: World Building. A workshop to discuss how far world building should be taken, detail levels, and creating a believable world from the ground up.

December 6th: Grammar. A crash course in basic grammar and the big “no-nos” an editor will slap you for making.

December 20th: Dialog. How to create dialog that flows naturally. No one likes reading a book and thinking, “People don’t talk like that.” Make use of dialog and what it can bring to your story.

January 3rd: Building a Scene. Bring your story to life by learning how to create a scene that’s compelling and moves your story forward. “The basic unit of fiction is not the sentence or the paragraph, but the scene.” — Unknown

January 17th: No Inkwell Imaginings due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

January 24th: Writing Flow and Style. A crash course in how to find your style and gain an ear for the flow of language in your fiction.

February 7th: Contacts, Resources, and the Publishing Industry. Learn the importance of networking, the process of submitting your fiction to various markets, and what’s expected of a writer in the world of publishing.

Any questions, email:

Kit —> katiemacconnell@gmail.com

Jessi–> jessipeterson@gmail.com

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Opening Myself to the Terror of Submitting My Work

I mentioned in my last post that I’d be working on a submission for Steampunk Tales, and I was hoping to have it finished by the end of last week.  So did not work out that way.  I’m still working on the details and hammering it to death, but I feel like the piece I’m submitting will be worth something, even if that ‘something’ isn’t what they’re looking for.

Also, Fantasy Magazine is opening their doors for submission of fiction starting October 1st, and my good friend Pat has challenged me to write a piece and submit with him.  I highly doubt I can make it before October 1st, but I’ll make the effort.  After all of this, I think I’m going to take a break from taking on challenges for awhile.  Whew.

Also, Inkwell Imaginings, the writing group I run with Jess, will be expanding to every Monday night staring October 4th.  We’ll be running workshops every other week, with the first scheduled for October 25th with focus on character creation and development.  We’re working on obtaining guest speakers for our critique circle nights, whether it be for a physical visit and interview or Skype chat.  Also, if anyone wants to JOIN II on Monday nights, but isn’t in the area, we are working on setting up a video chat conference to allow for it.  Feel free to let me know if you’re interested.  It might get our butts in gear on that front.  =P

Once again, looking for published writers or people in ‘the business’ who wouldn’t mind chatting with a library writing group and answering a few questions over Skype or a chat client.  We can’t offer compensation, except for our love…. which we hold in very high regard. <3  =P

Attendees interested in joining through Skype, also let me know.  We need motivation to get this going, but we really haven’t got the need for it yet.  Don’t be shy!

Any questions, feel free to email me at katiemacconnell[at]gmail[dot]com.

Love you, guys.  =]

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Steampunk Tales and Kit’s Busy-ness.

WELL WELL WELL!  I suppose I should update you guys, since my posts haven’t been very quality-oriented lately.  I do apologize, and I apologize even harder for sporadic/lack of comments to all of your blogs.  I have NOT stopped reading, or stopped loving you guys.  I’m just swamped to hell and back.

Here’s my list of crap I’m trying to accomplish:

1.  Job hunting. This might kill me.  I’ll keep you posted.  I’m poor and sad and ready to shankabitch.

2.  Ossuarium. I know I owe you guys chapter 4.  I am working on it, though I’m also considering taking it down after I let everyone read chapter 5.  Following Mckenzie’s lead, since I also intend to get this published.  I appreciate everyone’s feedback thus far, and if you want to keep reading through chapter 5, you’re welcome to.  =]

3.  My initial WiP. Which is not going anywhere right now.  I need to get back into gear with that one.  I may put it aside for a few months.

4.  NaNoWriMo. November approacheth.  I’m working on a vague outline for my NaNo project, just so I can fuck about in October without worrying I’m wasting time.

5.  Submission for Steampunk Tales. Hoping to have this short story done and submitted by the end of the week.  Working my ass off on it.

This list isn’t in any particular order, since certain things take priority at certain times, usually with job hunting always sitting pretty at the top.  I’ve also gotten back into reading comic books with the 13 issue run of Quicksilver and the House of M series.

Busy, busy, busy.  I’ll attempt to keep you kids updated, but I’ll probably continue my sporadic and random postings in between. <3

I LOVE YOU ALL!

<3 Kit.

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Novel: Fiction or Non-Fiction?

My boyfriend and I had the following conversation at 3am, and now I’m curious as to how other people view the term “novel.”  His argument is that some definitions of the word are vague on whether it’s simply fiction or if it works in non-fiction as well.

He’s in green with no name, I’m Snuff Film Sweetheart in bold, with purple text. I apologize completely for the train wreck of AIM text… it really just refuses to format properly.


someone asked me today if a novel had to be fiction

i was discribing nanowrimo to him


wikipedia seems to agree with me that the answer isnt completely certain, whats do you think?

Snuff Film Sweetheart

Merriam-Webster says it’s fiction.

2novelnoun
Definition of NOVEL

1
: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events
I’ve always considered novel to be fiction.  It just seems weird to lump non-fiction into the ‘novel’ category.

does it? they call political commentators “novellists”

does that definition identify it as fiction?

i guess it depends on how you interpret the word invented


Snuff Film Sweetheart

I think the word invented is pretty straight forward.

cant a non-fiction book be an invention of the author?

Snuff Film Sweetheart

A non-fiction book would be derived through experience.

In the definition, they aren’t speaking of the physical product of a book being invented.  In that case, it would technically be applicable to a non-fiction work.

But the invention is the prose narrative.

The actual subject matter.

arent those two different things?

Snuff Film Sweetheart

The book and the narrative, or the narrative and the subject matter?

the narrative and the subject matter

Snuff Film Sweetheart

The narrative would be relaying the subject matter.

So, in this case, they tie together.

right, so in the case of non-fiction writing, the narrative is an original creation of the author

Snuff Film Sweetheart

But the subject matter isn’t invented.

It’s a recount of experience.

true

Snuff Film Sweetheart

The subject matter can exist independently of the narrative, but the narrative can’t exist independently of the subject matter.  It’s just a tool to relay that which as been experienced or fabricated.
I’m sorry, experienced/researched, to be technical

So I think in saying that the prose a non-ficton author puts on paper is considered his own invention is kind of stretching the definition of the term when used in the context Merriam-Webster has.

And it’s 3 am, so I could be off the mark and jaded by opinion

—-

wikipedia defines narrative as fictional or non-fictional

Snuff Film Sweetheart

Narrative IS fictional or non-fictional.

But a novel is generally defined as a work of fiction.

but it’s a relevant opinion, and i think that’s the point, its an ongoing debate so no most sources won’t directly define the word novel as fictional or non-fictional

even nanowrimo is vague: “In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.”

but it also says they define it as fiction

Snuff Film Sweetheart

So that’s not vague at all. XD

true


i’m not convinced tho, it seems to me that fictional and non-fictional narratives have the same roots, going back to early 18th century romantic works

Snuff Film Sweetheart

Wikipedia also makes it pretty clear that modern use  of the word “novel” differs from more archaic usage.

If you read through the timeline, the word novel has grown into what’s mostly accepted as a means of encapsulating fiction.

that probably has a lot to do with the rising popularity of fiction

Snuff Film Sweetheart

Likely, but still valid.

yeah, it is

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Fiction Press Account Retrieved!

SO!  I discovered my old Fiction Press account!  I have everything on there that I’ve posted on here, PLUS my NaNoWriMo 2008 winning piece!  (Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s incomplete and AWFUL, but it shows I’ve made a little progress.  But just a little.)

For your viewing (and laughing) pleasure, I give you Katie Fox: A Wonderland of Awful Prose.

Enjoy. Lol.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Writing