Vision: A Resource for Writers Issue# 51 May/June 2009, MMG Fisk, E Chayne, EM Hartshorn, W Squibbs

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Content: Vision: A Resource for Writers Issue # 51 May/June 2009 Featuring: Margaret McGaffey Fisk Elizabeth Chayne Erin M. Hartshorn Wayne Squibbs Linda Loegel Martha Ramirez Ruth O'Neil Deb Buckingham Adrian Krag Patricia Fry Erin M. Hartshorn Valerie Comer
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Masthead .................................................................................................................................................... 3 About This Issue ...................................................................................................................................... 5 From the Editor: .......................................................................................................................................... 7 University of North Texas' Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference ........................................ 9 Questions for Writers #2 ......................................................................................................................... 13 Fun with Random Generated Ideas and Short Stories ...................................................................... 30 Mar's Market Analysis #3: Strange Horizons ...................................................................................... 36 How Does the Short Story Market Work? ............................................................................................ 46 Editing Tools in MicrosoftTM Word .......................................................................................................... 49 Critique: Pitfalls, Spokes and Ropes (Part 3) ..................................................................................... 54 Long Live Structured Poetry ................................................................................................................... 61 Learning to Write Well ............................................................................................................................. 66 Childhood Memories and Writer's Block............................................................................................... 71 To Be or Not to Be ................................................................................................................................... 74 Plan Versus Pants.................................................................................................................................... 77 How to Find Writing Work That Fulfills Your Passion ......................................................................... 80 NASA Website .......................................................................................................................................... 85 Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott ................................................................................................................... 91 New on the Shelves ................................................................................................................................. 94
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Vision is published bi-monthly and pays .005 (one half) cent per word. I will be happy to look at any articles that will help writers. We pay one half cent per word for material. Guidelines for Vision If you have any questions, or would like to propose an article for an upcoming issue, feel free to drop a line to either of the editors below. We look forward to hearing from you! Lazette Gifford, Publisher and Editor [email protected] Features' Editor (Reviews): Margaret Fisk [email protected] Copy Editor: Ellen Wright Copyright information
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Issue 51 March 2009
Entire contents Copyright 2009, forward motion E-press.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is expressly prohibited, except that the entire issue may be freely distributed, so long as it remains complete and unchanged.
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5 About This Issue Issue # 51 May/June 2009
Welcome to issue # 51 of Vision. We have a number of great articles in this issue, from Margaret McGaffey Fisk's review of Strange Horizons to Linda Loegel's Long Live Structured Poetry.
Make certain to read the second Questions for Writers section, too! It's fascinating to see how differently we all work! We are an eclectic and imaginative bunch, and one of the great things about articles like this is learning that there is more than one way to do anything.
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So thank you to all the people who have helped, both in writing articles and answering questions.
As always, remember that I am looking for articles about writing. I do accept reprints as long as you have the rights to them.
I look forward to hearing from you!
[email protected]
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From the Editor: The Nutshell Stuff By Lazette Gifford Copyright © 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved
We're coming close to the middle of the year. My goal -- stated in the first Editor's Note in the January/February issue -- had been to write, edit and submit. I have, as usual, done well on the first two. I am doing somewhat better on the last -- three submissions (or sorts) to agents, which is a first for me. Two of them were for the Knight Agency's Novel in a Nutshell contest. I have to admit, that was just the kind of fun I enjoy. The contest was to write a novel description of no more than 150 words and three sentences. The three sentences was the tough part. It meant a lot of creative punctuation. I ended up with two entries. I do not expect either to be among the twenty winners, but it was a great exercise for me. It made me look far closer at how to describe something for a query letter than I ever had before. Here is the one for Kat Among the Pigeons: Katlyn is a member of the fae clan that guards the line between human and magical lands, a secret she has trouble hiding from her new human boyfriend even before she unexpectedly finds the fate of the world in her hands. She isn't magically strong (and unlike other fae who comprehend all animals, she only understands birds and cats -- not a good combination), but when she isn't able to reach other fae, she must deal with things that shouldn't be on this side, including trolls, ghostly horsemen and a phantom city pushing into the human world.
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With nowhere else to turn for help, Kat and her boyfriend frantically fight the enemy with the aid of a lazy tom cat, an African gray parrot that only speaks in verse, and a wise-cracking cockatiel with a bad attitude ... and she's trying very hard not to think the world is doomed.
And this one is for Glory:
In a future where humans cling tenaciously to the threads of civilization, a murderous, shape-
shifting creature from Egyptian myth builds sacrificial circles so he can bring more of his kind
through to rule the world. Discovery of the circles brings Earth Security Investigations Agent
Gloryanna Del Mar rushing back to the small Tennessee town where she first formed a
clandestine bond with the Goddess Isis -- and where she also lost her husband in an accident
With the dangerous convergence of the Egyptian New Year only days away, Glory prepares to secretly use her magic to battle the creature, but experiences a new complication when another ESI agent arrives -- though she soon learns that the handsome and enigmatic Talis Ford has his own unusual abilities which may help save the world, if she can keep him out of the hands of enemies who want his power. Working on these was really quite fun, and unexpectedly taught me about how to make query words count. They are not perfect, but they were fun and they turned to be a great learning tool. Which is my way of saying that you never know when and where you are going to learn something new about writing. In a case like this, it would not have hurt to do the work of the contest, even if you did not intend to enter. Be on the lookout for things like this -- short, fun little exercises that can help you hone your work. You never know what is going to help!
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Press Release: University of North Texas' Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference
DENTON (UNT), Texas ­ Since 2005, the University of North Texas' Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference has awarded four book contracts to emerging authors. This summer could be your chance to get published. The conference, which will feature NPR host Ira Glass and be held July 24­26 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, is accepting manuscripts, essays and articles for its literary competition. Additionally, the conference has teaming up with the Writer's Garret, a prominent non-profit writing organization in Dallas, to help writers prepare their entries for the competition. The conference and competition are sponsored by the Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism, which will become part of the university's newly announced Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism when it opens on Sept. 1. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board granted formal creation of the
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Mayborn School earlier this month upon recommendation from the UNT System Board of Regents.
Selected entries will get the opportunity to work one-on-one with industry professionals in conference workshops, which will be held July 24 (Friday) before the official start of the conference. These entries also will compete for $15,000 in cash prizes and the chance to be published.
"This conference presents an enormous opportunity for unknown writers to get recognized and published," said George Getschow, the conference's writer-inresidence. "There are established writers who have tried unsuccessfully for years to be published. This is a rare opportunity."
Two copies of each entry should be mailed to the Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism at 1155 Union Circle, #311460, Denton, TX 76203, attention George Getschow. Entries also must be submitted electronically to [email protected] The deadline for submissions is June 1 (Monday).
Essays and articles should be no longer than 20 pages. A non-refundable entry fee of
$30 applies. Twenty manuscripts and 50 essays will be selected for workshop
Literary contest winners will be selected from a group of 70 finalists. The winner of the manuscript competition will receive $3,000 and the option to enter a book publishing contract with the UNT Press. The top three entries in the categories of personal essays
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and mini-memoirs and reporting and research-based narratives that focus on people will receive $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
The best articles and narratives and personal essays will be included in the 2010 edition of Ten Spurs, the conference's literary journal.
To register for the conference, visit Conference fees are $295 for the general public. Student fees are $225. Educator fees are $270. Conference seating is limited. For more information, call 940-565-4564. The conference is open to the public with no requirement to submit competitive essays or a book manuscript proposal.
Contestants seeking a competitive edge may participate in workshops sponsored by the Writer's Garret in Dallas. The first workshop "Pre-Mayborn Creative Nonfiction (CNF) Workshop" will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 19 (Sunday). The workshop will be taught by Stephanie Elizondo Griest, a prominent novelist and a 2009 Mayborn Conference speaker. Griest's workshop will be held upstairs at Paperbacks Plus, which is located at 6115 La Vista Dr. in Dallas.
"Preparing for the Mayborn," the second workshop sponsored by the Writer's Garret, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 2 (Saturday) at Paperbacks Plus. Dan Burns, the 2008 winner of the Mayborn Conference's manuscript competition, will be leading the workshop. Getschow, UNT's writer-in-residence, will be a special guest at both workshops.
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For more information on the Writer's Garret Pre-Mayborn Workshops, including pricing, call 214-828-1715, e-mail [email protected] or visit
For more information about the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference Literary Competition, contact Jo Ann Ballantine, conference manager, at 940-565-4778.
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Interview: Questions for Writers #2
By Lazette Gifford Copyright © 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved No two authors are alike in how they work, but it can be helpful see how each experiences creativity and how they handle the actual work of writing. With that in mind, I've started this new section for Vision. Over the next several issues, I will send out a set of writing-related questions to several professionally published writers and present their answers in this and future issues. I hope you'll find them interesting! These are the questions for this issue: 1. In general, how much pre-work (outlines, character studies and other research) do you do before you start a novel or story? 2. Are there some types of writing you leap into without preparation and others that you do extensive work on before you begin the actual story? The answers are wonderful!
C. J. Cherryh 1.
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Easy. Generally none. I get paid for writing, not outlining or doing character studies. I look up only what I'm going to use. A good example would be the short story "MasKs," in which I outlined the major 5 phases of the story, realized I needed some place names, and managed to get an accurate (fairly) map of modern Venice, Italy, off the internet. In the evenings, aside from my regular work, I looked up a few interesting matter like the power of the doges and the history of Venice, and compared it with what I already knew---then just wrote. For Faery in Shadow, I got a Celtic dictionary and spent my off time reading up on Celtic archaeology---had one book in the bathroom, to tell the truth. But I just wrote.
On Heavy Time, I needed to know the behavior of asteroids, so I got a computer program that tracks asteroid orbits and let it run overnight, which told me a lot by its printout. The rest was imagination and paying attention to NASA bulletins.
On Paladin, however, I did something I've never done: the publisher kept delaying specifics of what he wanted, so I outlined to fill the time I was waiting for a go-ahead; and when the answer finally came, I filled in dialogue, changed the tenses to past tense, and pretty well had the book written except for editing.
And on Cuckoo's Egg, I'd been bitten by a brown recluse spider and been shot full of Medrol. I was in a wheelchair, higher than a kite, unable to sleep for more than 5 minute stretches for 2 weeks, and filled my time by writing this book entirely in the sleepless two weeks. I never want to do that again.
Usually I don't do character studies at all: I envision the characters, toss them into a room together and see what they say to each other. It's often so colorful it has to go into the book.
So I think that sort of answers both questions in one!
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Webpage: RSS feed blog: publications: [to come] with Lynn Abbey and Jane Fancher
Julie Czerneda 1. In general, I don't outline first. I do a great deal of research, especially into the science of my premise. That begins years before I start a novel. I spent about 5 years researching Species Imperative before writing a word of it, and kept that up as I wrote. My character and world building is usually more as I go along, although I'd say I have a reasonably good feel for those, in my head at least, before I start. I like the surprises that arise as I write. For short fiction, I do outline and whatever research I need to write about the topic beforehand. 2. Timely question. I leapt into HIDDEN IN SIGHT, for example, with no preparation at all. Lately? My last three books, the Stratification cycle of the Clan Chronicles, were prequels to work already in print so I did an immense amount beforehand. After all, I had to be sure I had everything right before I started. For that, I spent several months studying the existing Trade Pact trilogy, then had to invent the new world -- nailing down everything from technology to naming systems, including maps of the geography and way too many ecology notes. Because Stratification lays the groundwork for the conclusion, Reunification, which I won't write until
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2010, I had to also be sure everything to come was properly foreshadowed and/or supported. The final book of the cycle, RIFT IN THE SKY, was outlined scene by scene in a storyboard format.
Every scene. Before I wrote one word. Phew! I have to say, it was an experience and I believe did the trick. Will I write that way ever again? I don't know. At the moment, I'm gathering my notes and researching a standalone fantasy, my first, called A TURN OF LIGHT. I feel compelled to build a scale model of the hamlet where the story occurs, complete with little buildings. Which I suppose is the ultimate answer. You do what's necessary for the story. The best approach is rarely the same.
Margaret McGaffey Fisk 1. For a short story? None. Pre-work tends to lead to novels. For novels, when the idea solidifies, I write an initial synopsis then translate that into an outline. Along the way, I write down who the main characters are, their physical appearance (or what bit comes to mind), and any back story that comes up. That's all I need to start writing, but if I can tell in advance that I need to know more about something, I will do some basic research, or if I know the timeline will be an issue, I'll map that out. Those last two are usually dealt with as I'm writing.
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Length is the big decider there for me as I mentioned above. However, there is one other category which comes up now and again, usually on the short story side, that changes everything. Idea stories are usually triggered by something coming out in the sciences or a new social discovery (maybe just new to me). In those cases, I'll require enough research to ground me in the project, and often have at least a basic outline. This is because something other than the plot or characters is driving the story so I have to push the story rather than it pushing me.
Margaret McGaffey Fisk Curve of Her Claw From the Ashes The Author's Grimoire Lazette Gifford 1. I love doing pre-work, and I'll do it at any chance I can. I love research, note-taking and outlines. I have found that as my life gets more complex, the better it is for me to have things worked out so that I don't lose track of what I'm trying to accomplish. I have also found the added benefit that my stories are far more complex than they used to be because I work out more detail ahead of time.
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I sometimes do quick outlines -- little more than a line or two per chapter -- and other times I do very complex outlines and notes that might be 40 pages or more. No matter how much I do, I still enjoy writing the novel itself, and I still find that it surprises me. The outline is just a roadmap: it tells me the direction I want to go, but not what I'm going to see or what the characters are going to say and do in the situation. And when they go off on a detour, so to speak, I have the map to get them back where I want them.
I rarely do any pre-work for short stories, and I sometimes leap into novels without any background work, especially if it is something written in a story universe I've worked with before. However, if I want to create a new alien culture or work with anything remotely related to history, I'll leap at doing research and notes. I enjoy it, and the more I read and research, the more ideas I get.
Farstep Station, Available at
Sherwood Smith 1. Depends--is the book part of a series? A collaboration? Or is it a very complicated one? Some need maps, charts of tides and winds, daily calendars cross referencing events, and chapter-by-
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chapter notes. I don't do character studies, though I will write down details for ease of continuity, especially if there is a big cast.
The leap in without prep are called the "white fire stories"--they write themselves. (Research might come in the rewrite!)
Steve Miller 1. I usually don't do character studies, make paper dolls, or write biographies for my characters; part of what enriches the writing experience for me is the process of discovery that occurs while I'm at the keyboard or in the scene-thinking space. I have outlined but don't usually; and the research I do is ongoing -- I'm *always* reading about astronomical oddities and theories, I'm always looking at information about nifty aircraft and spacecraft, and if I know someone is knowledgeable about guns or knives or whatever I try to listen. I will sometimes prep the sub-brain by ... let us call it mood reading. For example if I'm going to be working on a YA story or one with an important YA character I'll go reread some Heinlein and Norton and McCaffrey -- say six books, one a day, and then take a day off before I start. 2. Generally not extensive work beforehand (see above, I don't consider reading a few books as extensive work!), though I do find that when I'm working in the Liaden garden I sometimes do have to reread a couple of books to both recover the texture of the characters and to remember where the big story arc was if I'm doing a kind of interstitial story.
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Jim Burk
1. It depends upon the material. I never seem to have a problem with character, only with background or plotting. 2. Some science fiction requires a lot of study and ditto with something like a police procedural (I'm thinking of writing a mystery and need to have a feel for the sort of info an FBI agent in Wichita would be communicating to other offices, for instance.) In fantasies, once I know enough to know where I'm going, almost no research at all.
Jane Toombs 1. When I have an idea, the first thing I do is name the two main characters and the villain, if there is one, so I have actual names to work with. Then I write a synopsis, so I have a general idea of where the story is headed. This is a loose synopsis in that I deviate from often as I write the story, But I find the structure of this synopsis useful in keeping me from straying off into dead ends. If I need to do any research I delve into that before actually beginning the story, Which doesn't mean I might not have to do additional research if the story brings up new issues. I do not do character studies ahead of time, because by the end of three chapters I know the main
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characters very well I don't know how this happens, but by then they've either shown me or told me who they are and what motivates them.
Yes, of course. I don't do historicals much any more, but when I did write them my research was extensive to begin with and ongoing throughout the story, If I used a real historical character, I often skimmed a biography to find salient points. For example, I used General William Sherman in one of my Moonrunner books, so I needed to get a grip on him as a man . What I discovered was he'd been fostered out by his father as a young boy and eventually married the daughter of the foster family. He and his wife had been friends since childhood, which accounts for the revealing letters he wrote to her. In these letters, he told her how he hated war and how he planned to aim his march through the South at ending the war as quickly as possible. The men under him called him Uncle Billy among themselves, but his middle name was Tecumseh, and his friends called him Cump. Would I have known that without reading the biography? I'm a registered nurse, so when writing contemporary stories and use medical personnel as characters, no research is necessary if their jobs are only incidental to the story. Research on current medical procedures is only necessary if I use a hospital setting.
Lee Killough 1.
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I do a *ton* of pre-work, though how much depends a bit on the kind of story...on how much of the setting and its workings will need to explain/show to the reader. With a story close to the here and now, I don't have to work out so much societal detail, though the living pace, landscape, and flavor of a major city is going to be different from that of a farm town or resort town. If the story is set on an alien world, though, I really go to work, starting with constructing the planet's solar system, working out day/year/gravity/etc for the planet. Draw maps of the planet, sketch representative flora and fauna. If there are aliens, I draw sketches of them, too, and work out details of their society from Agriculture to Weights and measures.
I always do character studies. The character doesn't come alive for me until I know his/her parents, pets, siblings, biography, likes and dislikes, where he lives. If he drives a vehicle, I decide what it is and paste a picture of one into the bio. I may diagram his house/apartment. I want to know his job. If he is a police officer, as the protagonists of my mysteries tend to be, I work out the structure and politics of his department.
Yes, it is a lot of work and runs the danger of burning up so creative energy there is none left for writing the book itself. But list-making is part of my nature, and so far, creating extensive background has worked for me. Far from exhausting me, it invigorates me, making my setting and characters come alive even before I start actual writing on the book. My mania for wanting to be sure of all details led to making a world-building list...which led to my chapbook on worldbuilding, Checking On Culture, that Yard Dog Press published.
2 No, I can't just leap into stories. While other authors do, with great success, the couple of times I tried that, the stories ended up stumbling in the wilderness and dying of starvation. I need a
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definite destination, and while I'm intrigued by the twists and turns I discover in the road along the way -- and willing to follow them to see where they go -- that finish line has to be out there where I can keep aiming for it. , Checking on Culture, an aid to building story backgrounds The Leopard's Daughter, a fantasy of ancient Africa
Elizabeth K. Burton 1. I'm strictly a "pantser." I get an idea, and I either jot it down for future reference or start writing it. The characters are usually the first to arrive, and they're like Topsy--they "just grow" as we progress. This entails going back and revising mid-project sometimes, rather like when you marry someone in haste and discover six months later they aren't who you thought they were. In recent years, I've started using a writing program called Scrivener, though, which helps me keep things organized that previously were tucked into various files. For example, over the course of four books set in my fictional world of Karlathia, I've developed a language for one of the races. To ensure the syntax is logical, I started a dictionary for it. There followed a geography and a list of flora and fauna. In other words, I do things backwards. On the other hand, I'm a voracious reader on all kinds of
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subjects, so I may already have at least the basics of, say, weather causes and effects stored in the wetware files.
My tendency is always to start writing till I get to a point where my knowledge base is insufficient to let me continue. That's less of a problem when you're creating a totally new world, but when I do something contemporary there are always points where I need to go look stuff up. Again, the writing program is a godsend, as it allows me to keep not only textual material and links to relevant websites but even graphics and videos in a project file.
Elizabeth K. Burton The Everdark Gate
Jack Scoltock 1. In general.... I don't do any pre-work at all. The idea comes and I go from there. I rework it and rework it until I'm happy to put it on my hard disc. On second thoughts I did do prework for my three non-fiction books. All history- Spanish Armada, World War 11 and a white Star shipwreck. I had to do prework there. In my fiction
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stories I don't- I let the story carry me on where it goes I haven't a clue and this makes the process very exciting.
My first answer I think takes in everything in the second.
The Meltin' Pot From Wreck to Rescue and Recovery, published by the History Press is to be launched on March the sixth, and already released by the Inishowen sub-aqua club who found the B 17 bomber.
Challenge of the Red Unicorn is out in March aswell. Published by
Jim C. Hines 1. I need an outline before I start writing. For a short story, it might be a quarter-page note of major plot points, whereas a novel gets a 3-4 page outline with about a paragraph per chapter. I'm a Writer of Very Little Brain, and I need the outline to help me hold the story in my head as I write. Of course, most of the time as I write the story, I discover that my outline is broken. Either the plot doesn't make sense or the characterization doesn't work or I come up with a more exciting twist for the story, at which point I stop to rewrite the outline. Most of my novels go through at least three different outlines before I finish a first draft. I'll usually make some preliminary
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character notes as well, though they tend to be shorter. I develop the characters over the course of the story and its subsequent rewrites.
In 14 years of writing, I can think of one story I leapt into without preparation. I didn't know what to write about that day, so I looked down at my keyboard, grimaced at the crumbs trapped between the keys, and started writing a paragraph about grimy keyboards. It was an interesting exercise, but not a terribly good story. Everyone's process is different, but for me, I need to have a sense of where my story is going before I start writing ... even if that sense turns out to be completely wrong and the final story goes in a completely different direction.
THE STEPSISTER SCHEME, by Jim C. Hines ""These princesses will give Charlie's Angels a serious run for the money and leave 'em in the dust."" -Esther Friesner Read the first chapter at
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Darwin Garrison 1. The kind of pre-work involved for a novel or story depends on whether the work is being done on creative speculation or by invitation. If I'm creating something from scratch, I'll first have an "idea". I will then write the idea down in a journal or tap it into a word processor to save it for future reference. After that, my concepts tend to float around in the dead space of my mind, gathering momentum and cohesiveness until such a time as I'm ready to write them (or at least pen down some cohesive scenes). At that point, I'll start gathering whatever research I need to have to hand in order to maintain plausibility and suspension of disbelief for the readers. In science fiction, this is often some sort of pending research, possible avenue of innovation, or theory regarding the functionality of the universe. For fantasy, things like speeds of walking or horseback travel, period foods, clothing, historic societies, etc. Not that there are walls between what you need. Often, societal information feeds forward in to SF and tech feeds backward into fantasy. In any case, I keep track of the data as required for reference. For invitational or requested writing, there are often "themes" or pre-defined content that needs to be incorporated up-front. For example, the Jim Baen Memorial contest looks at most 60 years into the future of space travel (i.e. near-future science fiction). That puts certain requirements on the fiction itself that requires me to some reading and research up-front. I then take the swirl of possible tech to extrapolate a setting before I bring my characters onto my mental stage and let
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the real story happen.
That's something of a point to be made. Without characters, there is no story. The setting is there to support the characters and help build tension. People sometimes forget that and get too caught up with the "gimmick" and lose track of writing characters and character-driven plot that will allow the reader to sustain their suspension of disbelief. 2 I'm a write-first and plan later sort of person. Interpersonal interactions drive plot, generally speaking. However, setting and characters are symbiotic, so I can't write too far ahead without having my rationals and research in place. It becomes something of a hop-scotch exercise of write, read, search, repeat.
Dick Schwirian 1. I write Historical Fiction so I do a lot of research before attempting to write anything. Since I write about events as well as characters, there is limited plot flexibility. The characters, who, after all, are real, are of primary interest: Who they are, why they did what they did, how they interacted, etc.
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As noted above, historical plots are pretty much a given. However, the small interactions betwen characters are not part of the historical record and permit some subjective interpretation. I do an outline first, but do a lot of ad-libbing as I go.
Darrell Bain 1. Very Little 2. I begin all my writing with a simple idea or theme and the story develops as I write. Once the characters become "real" to me, I know the story or novel is a keeper and I'll always finish it.
If you are a published author -- not self-published (though you can be both) -- and would like to take part, email me at [email protected] and I will add you onto the list!
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Workshop: Fun with Random Generated Ideas and Short Stories By Lazette Gifford Copyright © 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved
The month of May at Forward Motion means a lot of short story writing as the SAD Dare begins. Originally, SAD meant Story-a-Day -- however, before the first week was out, Holly Lisle (the person who began this madness), decided daily stories just were not going to happen. Now I tend to think of it as Stories All Day just to keep the acronym. Despite this being a difficult dare, SAD is very popular. It is not easy to keep up with the story count, even with the lowest level of ten stories for the month. Ideas, limiting the size, and rushing through to complete the tale are all difficult aspects of this exercise , especially with the limited time frame involved. On the other hand, sometimes that time limit is just the thing to get a person to try writing short stories and finish them because they know this isn't going to take a significant part of their writing life. Some writers need the practice at writing short stories before they can feel comfortable with them, and a dare of this type is a great way to leap in and give them a try. For this workshop, I am only going to apply the four base pieces (Character, Setting, Situation, Goal) to randomly generated story ideas to show how easy it is to go from nothing to fun idea in just a matter of moments. Step 1:
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The first step is to choose your random idea generator. While this step is optional in most story writing exercises, it is an essential part of the SAD fun. (Yes, we are masochistic writers sometimes.)
Many of the on-line random idea generators apply to specific types of genre writing. Here are just a few:
An adventure generator (Gaming related, but might inspire a story):
Writing Challenge generator (For this one choose the three or more elements options):
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These are just a few. If you join in the SAD fun at Forward Motion, you will find a far longer list. They can help quick-start a story, which is very important during a Dare where you have to write more than usual. They are also great for the days when you would like to write something (especially something short) and just need a little nudge to get started.
So, let's look at writing a story!
Using the first generator on the list, I got this prompt:
The story's protagonist is female and a storyteller. An hourglass plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in an attic in the far future. The story is about thirst.
Here is the trick with story generators: Most of the time, not everything will work. However, if any part of the prompt has inspired you to write something, then it has done its work. For the Forward Motion Dare, you are allowed to discard any single part that doesn't work with the rest.
In this rare case, all of it seems to work together.
So let's look at the pieces of this one and see how this might work into a story.
Step 2: The Story
There are four basic parts to the story. Let's look at what can be done with the generated idea!
Part 1: Character
A female storyteller is an easy character to work with, though first thoughts are usually toward writers, but, do no limit yourself to thinking of the storyteller designation as a set-in-stone job description. If you expand a bit, you'll realize that even the boy who cried wolf was a storyteller.
Look at some of the possibilities:
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A writer A reporter A historian Someone who has had visions of trouble to come
Oh, and is there any reason why the person has to be human? If this is the far future, maybe she's alien, or a hybrid of some sort... or even an elf. Why not?
Part 2: Setting
The time is the far future and the place is an attic, which is really a very easy setting. But where is the attic? Her house? Her grandparent's house? Someplace on an alien world? I found myself thinking of an attic as a hidden room at the top of a building. Try considering the attic in a symbolic way as a storage area for unused items. Don't be limited by your first thoughts.
Part 3: Situation
Here is where you really engage your imagination. Woman, attic, hourglass... even the thirst can work into this one. It isn't often that I get a generated story idea that works fully together. So here is what I see -- a woman in the far future, hiding in the attic of some house, counting out the hours with an old-fashioned hour glass. Why the hourglass? Was it something she found there? Or does she have it because she can't use anything electronic?
Part 4: Goal
Okay, here is where you really get to let your imagination take off. You have a woman living in the far future. She is in an attic, she's thirsty, and she is using an hourglass. Why?
That's always the question, isn't it?
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If she is using the hourglass, she's counting down the hours to something. Did she see a vision of destruction? Was she warned to take cover during some trouble? Is she waiting for someone to come and lead her back out?
Is she even alone?
We assume that she is hiding, and if so, what from? What is she protecting? Is it only herself, or does she have some other purpose in being there?
What happens when the last sands of the hourglass run out?
Part 5: What to take, what to discard
This story has the possibility of everything from comic to tragic. It also has a lot of leeway, depending on what you discard and what you warp.
The story's protagonist is female and a storyteller. An hourglass plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in an attic in the far future. The story is about thirst.
You could change the character to male, of course. You could change storyteller to anything at all. Drop the hourglass and you can tell a story more firmly set in the far future. Take her out of the attic. Set the story in the far past or the present. Discard the idea of thirst... or change the idea of thirst to something else. A woman sits in the attic in the far future. She finds an hourglass and books. She thirsts for knowledge.
Taking a challenge to use a story prompt does not mean the story will not be your own. It is, in fact, proof that ideas are commonly shared, but the presentation of those ideas is uniquely our own. If you are looking for a way to step outside your usual writing ideas, using a story generator is a great way to experiment.
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Now it's your turn!
Find a generator and see what you can get from it. Remember to think in basic terms when you get your idea: Character, setting, situation, and goal. Once you can look at an idea and see the possibilities in it, it becomes increasingly easier to create your own basic ideas. This is a good exercise in learning how to turn your mind to finding the pieces you need for a story
Mostly, though, remember to have fun.
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Market Analysis: Mar's Market Analysis #3: Strange Horizons By Margaret McGaffey Fisk Copyright © 2009 by Margaret McGaffey Fisk, All Rights Reserved
Finding new markets is only the first step of the research process. A crucial part is to consider what can be learned from the material already published by the editor or editors. This column will contain analyses that evaluate a specific publication based on one or more issues (or at least a month of content for webzines without designated issues). This issue will analyze Strange Horizons.
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Strange Horizons is considered by many to be one of the top speculative fiction markets. Not only
8.5 years (founded
in September
does it pay professional rates as set by SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) but it also has gained high whuffie status, that indefinable quality composed of the respect a magazine has
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, slipstream, etc.)
attained in the speculative fiction market. As far as publishing decisions, Strange Horizons has
Cost Per Issue
Free webzine
followed the path of Realms of Fantasy, another pro market, where the majority of the content is
Author Payment
Pro Rates ($0.05 (5 cents) per word)
non-fiction. Each issue consists of one story, one poem (or two by the same poet), one or two articles and columns, and three reviews. All of the non-fiction specifically appeals to the speculative fiction market base, be it an article on the social aspects of online gaming or an academic evaluation of a recently released speculative
Susan Marie Groppi
Publication Schedule
Issues Reviewed
6 issues from February 23rd to March 30th, 2009
fiction novel. Strange Horizons is published as a free weekly
Essays in Issue
magazine on the Web, along with archives of older issues, barring author requests for removal.
Reviews in 3
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Their funding comes from donations, affiliate programs, grants, and sponsorships. The staff is composed of volunteers to ensure the ability to compensate their writers and artists at professional rates. This magazine embraces a broad definition of speculative fiction, ranging from the traditional fantasy and science fiction to slipstream and magical realism. They are not interested in most horror stories, and provide extensive information in the guidelines to help you understand just what they want to see.
Stories in
Poems in Issue
Flash in Issue
The writing itself, in the six issues I analyzed, shows very few pieces that I would classify in the slipstream category; only one fiction work, a flash, seemed a crossover of science fiction and fantasy. The remaining fiction breaks down as follows: three fantasy and one with a science fiction feel.
The poetry section adds modern tales into the mix, some with no more than a nod to the classics
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as their speculative aspect and one with no speculative element that I could detect. Unlike the fantasy-heavy fiction section though, the higher number, four of six poems, have science fiction elements whether dealing with the search for scientific breakthroughs or the consequences of genetic meddling. The articles and columns follow the fiction trend of being more fantasy-oriented, though as many are interviews as opposed to addressing a fantasy or science fiction topic directly. The reviews are evenly divided between fantasy and science fiction, with some surrealism tucked in there. Beyond the genre groupings, the overall content represents a handful of categories with regards to the impressions each piece leaves. Of the nonfiction, the majority of articles, columns, and reviews are, unsurprisingly, analysis. The remainder fall under information, interviews, criticism, and philosophy, except for two reviews and one column which I would classify as mood pieces. That category also describes most of the
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stories. That's not to say the stories are incomplete, just that my takeaway on them is more of an atmosphere than that the plot or characters are predominant. The remaining fiction piece is a mystery, and so more plot-focused. The poetry separates into only two categories: one idea poem and five which join the majority of the fiction works as mood-focused. Beyond the focus of the works, the point of view and tense choices can also be important to consider. In these issues, the fiction is more third person than first, but not by much. The poetry is primarily first person or first-person plural, with only one piece in third. Of the nonfiction, the articles and columns are more likely to be in third person, while the reviews are split evenly between first and third, with one first plural and one omniscient tucked in. The tenses, in comparison, are pretty mixed. Most categories are split between past and present.
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Poetry changes that a little by using past and present in the same poem, and having one future tense work. Reviews also deviate from the trend, with seventeen in present tense and one in both past and present. Length is another key aspect to analyze because it takes a truly spectacular piece to push an editor, or editorial team in this case, beyond what they prefer to publish, even if the guidelines allow for it. None of the pieces in the reviewed issues extend past 7,500 words, regardless of category. A short story comes closest at 7,455 words, but that is actually split across two issues. The average length for articles is 3,704, columns 1,600, fiction 4,200 (excluding the flash that is 994 words), and reviews at 1,700. The poetry is all short, with the longest one approximately thirty lines. Meanwhile, the maximum for each category is as follows: 3,904 words for the longest article, 1,778 for the columns, 7,455 for fiction (the already mentioned story in two parts), 301 for poetry, and 3,291 for reviews.
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With the more analytical aspects out of the way, I found several fiction pieces very powerful. Only one fell flat. Though it had vivid descriptions and an interesting main character, I just don't feel that the end tied up everything brought into the story. I think it might have done better in a longer form. However, every other fiction piece is marked in my notes as a favorite, from the one about a spider god in modern times to the odd crossover flash. While not normally drawn to poetry, I found many of the poems caught my attention. The speculative edge is rather thin for a good number of them, but the way the poet blends mythology or science into more modern, every day situations is rather fascinating. Many of the reviews are what I would classify essays rather than reviews per se. They offer literary analysis of the book in question, drawing in both cultural influences and what is known of the authors. Others are pure opinion pieces that speak of how this particular book provoked a reaction in the reviewer. I have to say that overall
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they are successful. I gained a reasonable understanding of the books, and there are several I'm interested in reading. The articles and columns target a broad range of readers, with an author interview, biographical pieces, and both writing and gaming works. There's something for most people interested in the speculative fiction world. So at this point, you might be wondering what your chances are with this magazine. As I said at first, Strange Horizons is a well-known, pro-level market. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are only three new authors providing content across the six issues analyzed. One of the columns and two of the reviews are written by authors who, based on their bio, have no significant experience. The rest break down into pro-level writers with a number of professional publications to their name (whether academic, novel-length, or short stories) and newer authors who listed some publications in smaller markets. However, the fact that there are three new
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authors, and there have been new authors on the fiction side in the past, means that they will seriously consider your story regardless of your current experience. The submission process is entirely electronic. While the fiction department has an online submission form and an auto responder, the other departments are looking for email submissions. The other departments also do not have an automatic response system and so should be contacted if you go beyond their wait time with no word. Because of its status, Strange Horizons receives a large number of submissions. However, at least in the fiction department, if the editors have time and something about your story strikes them -- good or bad -- you're likely to get a personal note. That's rare in markets of this level, and can be very helpful. In general, the staff tries to make things easy on submitting authors. The guidelines for each type of submission are extensive. The articles section explains the types of information that they're
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interested in while the fiction one details what they've seen too often as well as what they would like to see. Though difficult to break in to, Strange Horizons is open to new authors and is certainly worth the effort.
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Advice for young writers: How Does the Short Story Market Work? By Elizabeth Chayne Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Chayne, All Rights Reserved
Have you ever wondered how the writing world works? Well, you know the writing part, and the final magazine-in-your-hand part, but what happens in between? How do you get an editor to notice you? The writing process is, when all is said and done, somewhat unglamorous. Editors do not prowl the streets searching for new writers the way music companies search for new rock stars. Editors usually know of the existence of a writer when the writer sends them stuff (manuscripts, not pears and apples!). Rarely, very rarely, an editor may see something written by you published in another magazine and write to you to ask if you're interested in writing something for her. There are two ways a writer can make the first approach. You can query (which means writing a letter that basically says "I wanna write for your magazine. Can I?" in polite tones), or send your submission directly. Many print magazines take a long time to produce, so an editor may start work on an issue months or even a whole year before its actual Publication date. What does this mean? It means that if you've written a piece about Christmas, there's no point sending it in on November 1st because the Christmas issue is probably already in storage, and just waiting for December to mail out.
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After the submission or query reaches the editor's desk (and sometimes it doesn't for months and months), the editor will read through it, and consider whether you're the writer he wants or not. He may ask other editors to read your story before he makes a final decision on it. If he decides to use your piece, then he'll send a letter to tell you so. If not, you'll get a polite letter from a computer, saying something along the lines of "Thanks, but no thanks."
Why the delay between the time your submission gets to the magazine and the time the editor actually reads it? The first hurdle is the slush pile. The slush pile is the place where all the unsolicited submissions end up in big print magazines. Volunteers or student interns are usually the people who shift through the gigantic pile of stories. Stories they consider okay are then handed on to an editor. You have to realize, though, that a slush pile is big... very big. And it gets bigger and bigger every day as more and more submissions come in. Your story can lie in the slush pile for months before anyone even opens the envelope. Seriously.
And then the editors are busy, too. They have lots and lots of submissions to get through, but they also have to worry about a lot of other things too (like the layout of the magazine, perhaps).
Once you do get the okay letter, you have to sign a contract which states what rights you're selling to the magazine, what price they're paying you, and other details.
Then, finally, finally, you get to see your story in the magazine and maybe get paid if it's a paying market.
Sounds like hard work, doesn't it? And this is what hundreds of writers writing for hundreds of magazines go through every day!
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Further Reading
The Young Writer's Guide to Getting Published, by Kathy Henderson (Writer's Digest, ISBN: 978-1582970578)
A book that describes the publishing process in more detail, if you're interested.
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Editing Tools in MicrosoftTM Word By Erin M. Hartshorn Copyright © 2009 by Erin M. Hartshorn, All Rights Reserved
I recently did a crit for a friend, and after she got it back, she asked me what editing software I had used to mark it up. She was very surprised to hear that it was all done in Word, using two functions: Track Changes and Comments. Their names reflect what they are used for: Track Changes can show additions, deletions, formatting changes, and where changes have been made; Comments allows text to be added -- comments or questions -- without affecting the word count or pagination of the document. If your manuscript is copyedited electronically after acceptance by a publisher, the odds are that they'll use these tools, so it's a good idea for you to become familiar with them now. My directions here are going to be based on the version of Word that I'm using (Word X for Mac, aka Word 2001); your version might use slightly different wording or locations. If you're using the newest versions (2007 for Windows or 2008 for Mac), with the new ribbons (rather than menu bars), you may have to look at Help to find these functions. Track Changes On the Tools menu, scroll down to Track Changes. Choices will include "Highlight Changes," "Accept or Reject Changes," and "Compare Documents." Right now, we're going to focus on the first one. If you select it, a box with three check boxes pops up, allowing you to track changes while editing, to highlight changes on screen, and to highlight changes in the printed document. At the bottom, there is a button for options.
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The options controls how changes are shown. The most common arrangement is for inserted text to be underlined and deleted text to be struck through, generally both in different colors to call attention to them. These colors are determined on each computer where a document is viewed. For example, I use violet to show insertions and teal to show deletions, but on somebody else's machine, they might be blue and red. (There is also a "by author" choice for color, which allows the publisher to know whether changes were made by the developmental editor, the copyeditor, or the author.) This box is also where you'll decide whether to show changes made to formatting (in case things need to be italicized or unitalicized, perhaps) and where to call attention to changes -- left margin, right margin, or outside border. Choose what you want shown and how you want it displayed, and then click "OK."
Now you're back to the box with the three check boxes.
The first choice toggles whether or not changes are being monitored. This can also be toggled in the status bar on the bottom of the document. Near the lower right corner is a button next to "TRK." Click, and the button turns green. Congratulations -- now your changes are being tracked. Copyeditors may make some changes without turning this on, for simplicity, such as replacing multiple spaces with single spaces, or removing spaces before a paragraph return. You need to select this check box for those options you selected to go into effect.
The second choice determines whether these changes are shown on the screen as you type (in those colors you selected, remember?). Toggling this back and forth will show
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you the final edited version or the version with all the changes showing -- helpful if you want to compare original wording with suggested revisions, for example.
The third choice is exactly like the second, but for printed copies.
Choices made, click "OK," and you're ready to type. You might want to practice this on a copy of one of your own stories first to get a feel for how it works before you try it on somebody else's. The advantages of using Track Changes include nothing gets lost (all deletions are clearly marked, and the words can be retrieved) and small changes such as commas aren't missed. A disadvantage shows up with moved text -- it's marked as deleted in one place and inserted in another. Since the inserted text is seen as "new" by Word, further changes to the text aren't called out, so words or even sentences that may be added or deleted are harder to spot.
Accept or Reject Changes
Once you've got a file back all marked up with pretty pixels, whether from a critique partner or a copyeditor, what do you do with it? One thing you can do is read through it without the changes showing on screen to see how it flows. If something strikes you as off or still rough, show the changes to see what, if anything, was done in that stretch of text.
When you're ready to decide what changes to keep and what to eliminate, go to the top of the document and select Tools | Track Changes | Accept or Reject Changes. You will have the choice of viewing highlighted changes, non-highlighted changes, or the original text. I usually use "Changes with highlighting." Click "Find," and Word will take you to
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the first change. Once you click on either "Accept" or "Reject," Word takes you to the next change, and so on throughout the document. When you're finished, click "Close," and you'll be taken back to the original document.
If you're critiquing and you've changed your mind about a change you suggested, simply highlight the addition or deletion before going to Accept or Reject Changes. After you reject those changes, Word will give you a chance to continue with the rest of the document. Simply click "No" and go back to your critique.
If you want a copy with all the changes incorporated, simply click "Accept All." (Save in a new file, just to be safe!) This can be handy if you have crits from two different people that you're trying to compare. Instead of going back and forth between two documents, accept all changes in both documents, and then use the Compare Documents feature to see where they differ.
Compare Documents
If someone has made changes without tracking them within a file, as long as you have the original file, you can still see what's been altered. First, make copies of both files just in case Word does something flaky. Open the altered file, then select Tools | Track Changes | Compare Documents. A dialogue box will open, asking you to choose a file to compare with the current document. Choose your original file. Deletions and additions will be marked in the colors and styles you have chosen under "Highlight changes" (see above).
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Comments are simplicity itself compared to Track Changes. The Comments function is accessed through Insert | Comment. Pretty simple, yes? To see Comment markers in text, make certain that you have set your options to show hidden text. Comment markers will have the initials of the commenter (as entered into the user information in Word), followed by a number. Older versions of Word show Comments in a separate Comment Pane; when printed, they print on a separate sheet at the end of the file. More recent versions of Word allow the choice between this behavior and having Comments printed in the margin next to the text.
If you find Track Changes too cumbersome, you can make all your editing suggestions using Comments. However, check with the person whose manuscript you're working on; going back and forth between text and Comments too many times can be rather onerous.
There you have it -- two professional editing tools you can use to electronically mark up manuscripts. Play around with them, practice using them, and when someday you receive a copyedited manuscript back from a publisher via e-mail, you'll know exactly what to do about all those funny-colored words in the file.
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Critique: Pitfalls, Spokes and Ropes (Part 3) By Wayne Squibbs Copyright © 2009 by Wayne Squibbs, All Rights Reserved
The Growing Critter The situation: You've seen old stories tightening up under your own guidance. Your fingers now hit the keyboard with solid purpose, you know the difference between a first draft and something that has been edited to death, and you're developing your own polishing schedule to hit the sweet spot. Everything is coming together and you want to share, share, share what you've learnt.
Pitfall: Overwhelming the Author Picking up on every single fault in a novice piece of work will horrify the writer and it'll be virtually impossible for them to digest every lesson. Solution: Consider: you give a critique in which you talk about reworking dialogue, using more description, adding more action and strong verbs, altering the pace of the piece, eliminating back story and exposition, going deeper into the characters, strengthening the resolution, and altering much of the sentence structure. The overall picture is of a hopeless story which needs completely reworking. The author isn't likely to tackle that and will probably ditch the story and learn nothing from the crit.
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However, if you pick up two or three major points and throw in a few little 'uns as you go along, your crit will be easier to take. Mention, for example, the dialogue and back story, touch a little on exposition, and alter the text here and there for more impact. The author is much more likely to run with this and learn new techniques by subsequently applying what you've discussed.
Pitfall: Passing on what you've learned with the insistence of a high-speed train. You believe that a writer should never ever, ever, ever start a sentence with an 'ing' word and that any use of 'was' is unforgivable. People could easier wrestle Catholicism from the Pope than separate you from the rules of writing. Having appreciated the value of honesty in critique, you charge forward with advice like: 'Change everything! How can you not see it? You should read more, you need to do x, y, and z, and do it now!' I've been on the receiving end of advice such as: 'Never write a sentence longer than the width of the page.' (!) Rules, conventions, and notions that you've picked up, even the ones which make perfect sense and can be easily explained, can act as straightjackets if taken too seriously. Solution: Try to crit a surreal or Dadaist piece and you'll see that the rules don't always apply. Surreal stories are an extreme example and obviously most conventional rules simply wouldn't help. However, it's also the case that some generally accepted notions of writing are not absolutely essential for regular prose. Even grammatical rules can be broken to good effect. Strictly adhering to learned beliefs is a temporary phase, a necessity. Briefly, this phase will have a heavy influence on your writing and critiques, but in the end any decision over how seriously you want to take the rules is a
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subjective matter. Therein lies the brake mechanism for your charging train -- all advice given in critique, no matter how sound-seeming, is a reflection of other people's approval and disapproval and favoured beliefs. Any critique, when you get right down to it, is a purely subjective appraisal.
Critiques are heavily influenced by the critter's own writing style, especially if said critter is going through a 'keen on rules' phase. Awareness of the inherent subjectivity of critique isn't enough to guard against it -- you cannot attain objectivity in critique. Every part of every critique will always be subjective.
Grammatical rules are not based on opinions; these really are objective. Even so, it can be argued that flouting the rules of grammar is a style choice which, of course, returns you back to subjectivity.
There is no solution, as such, but the subjectivity issue can be openly acknowledged. A lot of critters include reminders like 'I don't have Direct Access to the truth of all literature,' or 'Ignore me if you think I'm talking twaddle.' Everyone develops their own way of saying it. Knowledge of the inherent subjectivity of critique can help a critter to ease back on the rules.
The Experienced Writer The situation: Now you're motoring. You've made a few sales. You may have received the ultimate one-word accolade in critique -- a 'wow!' response. People are regularly lavishing praise on your work. The friends and family who used to say your writing was good have now said, 'Crikey! You really can write!'
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New critters can't find fault with your writing, mid-range critters can, but you don't listen because where you've broken the rules you've done it with panache. Experienced critters no longer pick at your prose and merely offer a little brainstorming on the central concept of your story.
Pitfall: "Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!" Solution: Enjoy!
Pitfall: "No, really, Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!" Solution: Okay, the 'top of the world' thing can be taken too far. In fact, you should still listen to new critters, whose reading overview will be a good indicator of how the public might react; and you should also listen to the mid-rangers, whose reminders and cajoling might catch you on something you've forgotten, or become blasй about. And you should definitely listen to the experienced critters because, hell, those guys know what they're talking about!
The Experienced Critter The situation: Now you da man! (Or da lady!) You recognise voice and style choice, and touch lightly on areas of concern while offering plenty of advice and decent explanations. You read each piece at least twice before offering comment, pick up loads of niggles but offer only what the writer needs at their current level of ability along with plenty of encouragement. Sometimes you jump in to correct someone else's critique or clarify a vague comment to keep a novice on track.
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You may or may not have received a 'wow!' response to your writing, but you've collected reams of 'wow!'s from authors gushing about your critiques. It feels good!
Pitfall: You don't know when to stop. It's easy to figure that because something is up for critique, it must be inherently crittable; i.e. that it has weaknesses. That isn't always the case and it can be difficult for experienced critters - who could probably provide crit-points on most published works -- to remember that. Solution: A story which has been posted on a public forum, or read aloud in the local pub, comes with much less authority than a story which has been published, especially one published in the form of a hardback or paperback novel. It might be the case that what you're looking at is of a higher quality than a lot of published works. First, you have to accept that this is possible. Of course it is -- every novel that has ever been published went through a brief existence as a polished piece of writing which was 'yet to be published.' The only difference between those two states was a little time and the fact that an industry professional recognised the market potential in what was there (and likely a little postcontract editing). The point being -- the quality was already present, in an unpublished work. You might find yourself reading such a piece in your crit group. It'll help in recognising the market value of what you're critting if you keep an eye on the markets. This will allow you to make comparisons. Obviously, reading novels and short stories in your preferred genre will be helpful to you as a writer, but knowing what is out there will also be helpful in recognising the point at which someone else's work is ready to fly.
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There are two types of paying market: semi-professional and professional.
Semi-professional markets usually pay in the region of US$30 for a short story. A lot of semiprofessional ezines/webzines have archives, or at least teasers, available for public viewing. By reading some of these you can get a good handle on what is being accepted.
Every author should look first to the fully professional markets. There's no point in aiming low. Don't even consider the semi-pro until you know, for sure, that the pros aren't going to take the piece that you're offering. Having said that, if you've got a quirky, profane, extraordinary, or otherwise 'out there' piece which you wrote for a laugh and which you know, for sure, won't go down well with the pros, the semi-pro market probably has a home for it.
Professional markets pay good money. For a short story written by an established novelist they'll pay into the thousands. Less established or first time authors can expect anything between $50 and $1,500. Often, formulas are used -- 3c/word or 5c/word, with minimum and maximum payments established in the submissions guidelines. These markets, too, sometimes have material freely available to browse. If they don't offer freebies, it can be worth purchasing their product to improve your understanding of what they're paying for.
By looking at the markets, an author can gain knowledge of what may be acceptable and where. They'll also notice that crit-points come to mind as they read published work. No piece of writing is beyond critique.
The knowledge of what is acceptable to the markets will help in knowing when to ease back in critique and say, 'This is good to go.' Most writers are not professional editors, and never will be, but knowing a seller when they see one will help in their own writing and when giving critique.
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Final Pitfall
Pitfall: "I'm not selling anything. Really, I'm not. Everyone says my writing is sound, even my crit-partners. What the hell is going wrong?"
Solution: Keep submitting, keep learning. Get to know the markets you're submitting to as intimately as possible -- it's likely that you're submitting to the wrong places and your stories don't sit well with the theme/house style/conventions/guidelines of the places you're sending them.
Also remember: Nearly every author is awed by the sheer scale of journey ahead, no matter how much ground they've already covered. That's a good thing because it means whatever you're writing now is highly unlikely to be your greatest work. Serious achievement is good motivation for taking your craft forward. Take yourself far enough and sales become inevitable.
Final Words Learning the craft of writing is a fantastic journey and exchanging critique is one of the most rewarding aspects. Unfortunately, an awareness of the pitfalls in critique doesn't necessarily mean that you can avoid the occasional slippage. Never to mind: while some of the holes have steep sides, none of them are inescapable. Most writers have landed awkwardly at the bottom of quite a few, scratched their heads, climbed out -- or been helped out -- dusted themselves off and continued on their way. Hopefully the pointers here can accelerate the escape process, or even encourage some nifty side-stepping.
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Long Live Structured Poetry By Linda Loegel Copyright © 2009 by Linda Loegel, All Rights Reserved
Poems that rhyme are past their time Some folks would have you think, But I still feel such poems are real And not at all extinct.- Loegel A structured, metered, rhyming poem not only produces a sound that is pleasant to the ear but also offers a challenge to the poet to work within a given structure.As an added challenge, a poem doesn't have to be long to tell a story or evoke a feeling. Consider the following poem by Robert Herrick called Upon Julia's Clothes: Whenas in silks my Julia goes Then, me thinks, how sweetly flowes That liquefaction of her clothes. Next, when I cast mine eyes and see hat brave vibration each way free, O how that glittering taketh me! Liquefaction. What an amazing word. Add to that vibration and glittering, and in just six lines Robert Herrick paints such a vivid picture one can almost hear the rustling and see the billowing of Julia's silk gowns. Using only four lines, John C. Bossidy aptly illustrates the snobbishness of Boston's upper crust in A Boston Toast: And this is good old Boston, The home of the bean and the cod, Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots, And the Cabots talk only to God.
Here's a four-line poem, by Edwin Markham, titled Outwitted:
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He drew a circle that shut me outHeretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle and took him in! This poem has a story, contrast, conflict, and resolution, all in thirty-one words. The following beautiful poem, Jenny Kissed Me, by Leigh Hunt describes one poignant moment in time:
Jenny kissed me when we met, Jumping from the chair she sat in. Time, you thief! Who love to get Sweets into your list, put that in. Say I'm weary, say I'm sad; Say that health and wealth have missed me; Say I'm growing old, but addJenny kissed me! Working within a metered structure presents a unique challenge which free verse doesn't offer-- putting a given number of syllables in a line with the proper stress on each syllable.In the poem Jenny Kissed Me, there are only five multisyllable words:Jenny, jumping, into, weary, and growing, so in this poem stressing the syllables in the proper place does not appear to be a problem.
In Robert Herrick's poem, the one word liquefaction has four syllables and is stressed in such a way as to retain the tetrameter structure.
I had to work out this problem in a Shakespearean sonnet, written in iambic pentameter.This required ten syllables to a line and every other syllable stressed.
Way deep within my lonesome, beating heart Rich soil awaits the fragile, tiny seed Which will, when planted, give my life a start, Fulfilling every yearning, every need. - Loegel
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There was a further requirement that every other line must rhyme.I could have gotten the same message across had I written:
Down inside my empty heart rich soil awaits the fragile seed that once planted will give my life a start fulfilling my every need. However, I find very little challenge in free verse as I'm not bound by any strict rules of structure.It took me two minutes to compose the above stanza in free verse; yet, the original stanza took hours to get not only the right words but the right syllabic stress in each word, and then a rhyming scheme on the last syllable of each line.Definitely an interesting challenge.
The rhythm of a structured poem creates its own music.Take, for example, my original lilting little poem at the beginning of this paper:
Poems that rhyme are past their time Some folks would have you think. You can almost skip to its beat.Feel the rhythm, too, when you read these lines from Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five, Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year. A structured poem rolls right off one's tongue.Listen again to Leigh Hunt's poem: Jenny kissed me when we met/Jumping from the chair she sat in.Now imagine if it were written without a specific meter:Jenny kissed me when we met/Jumping up from her chair.The second version is jarring, an abomination to the ears.Rhythm is everything in poetry.Its cadence carries one on a
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wave of feelings unmatched in any other form of the written word.The poem's rhythm can put the reader in a lighthearted mood, such as in A Boston Toast, or in a somber mood, depending on its structure.For example:
My childhood's home I see again, And sadden with the view, And still, as memory crowds my brain, There's pleasure in it, too. I range the fields with pensive tread, And pace the hollow rooms, And feel (companion of the dead) I'm living in the tombs. These are the first and last stanzas of a ten-stanza poem called Memory, written by Abraham Lincoln.
Another poem I'm especially fond of is The Blind Men and The Elephant.It tells a story with a moral and uses a good deal of dialogue to personalize the poem.Also, the poem was written by John Godfrey Saxe, my great- great-great-great-grandfather, born in 1816.Here's the second stanza:
The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: "God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!" Another benefit to rhyming poetry is the mnemonic value of making things easy to remember.How many of us would know how many days there were in July if it weren't for Thirty days hath September....?
Free verse is a fine form of poetry, there's no doubt about that.There are times when the full impact of a poem can be felt only when presented in free verse.However, metered,
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rhyming poetry not only presents a challenge to the poet to work within a given structure, but also such poetry literally sings to the reader and touches his soul.What more can one ask of a poem? ·
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Learning to Write Well By Martha Ramirez Copyright © 2009 by Martha Ramirez, All Rights Reserved
My debut children's book was released in the year 2008. I have set many goals and have learned a great deal in this past year alone. I didn't know there was such a thing called the craft. I wasn't aware this so called craft is how most successful authors practice their writing. All I knew is that I held a strong passion to write and a willingness to achieve my goals. A strong desire burned within me, not to just write, but to write well. Some authors attain this talent without being aware of it. Others study it to better their prose. Regardless of whether you're born with what it takes or if you learned along the way. The craft is is what will bring every author to success. What exactly is the craft? Good question. If you look it up it is referred to as an art, skill, an occupation requiring special skill. I like to think of it as a way of writing. Here are some helpful reminders on learning to write well. I found them to be invaluable: "Show don't tell." If you're into writing and into writing well then you have heard it far too many times before. You show don't tell what your characters are feeling. He was angry vs. He clenched his fists. This is one of the most important rules I've learned. Delete the passive voice from your vocabulary. The passive voice is usually near words such as: was, were, and had. Be on the lookout for passive verbs. Sentences should be written in the active voice (subject first, then action). i.e., Ruby likes Ernie NOT Ernie is liked by Ruby.
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Remove fluffy words. Take out all unnecessary words. Examples: There were, some, started to, began, that, tried to, really, could, that, then. Try not to be predictable. Don't repeat the same words.
Get rid of most "ing" verbs. The ones that have another verb nearby. Original: He was playing ball with his son. Replace with: He played ball with his son. You'll notice a lot of ing verbs have the word was before it. Was is a passive verb.
Leave out most adverbs. One or two is fine, but it is necessary to not chose ly ending words in place of descriptive words. ly words tend to tell and NOT show. Using adverbs indicates you are an amateur. Use action rather than adverbs.
Know the protagonist's objective. What is his/her sole purpose? What motivates the lead character? Every lead character has a goal, what is it that he/she wants to accomplish? If this is clear at the beginning, readers will care about what happens to the lead character. They'll be willing to push things aside in their everyday lives to find out what happens next. Wouldn't you want to know if the lead attains her/his goal?
Always include a character chart for your records. A chart is essential for information such as: eye color, occupation, personality traits, pet peeves, goals, fear, etc. Anything that is needed to know. This will help keep the story accurate. You don't want your lead to have blonde hair one chapter and be a brunette the next. Think of it as a summary of describing a person. Do this for each of your characters. I found it to be very helpful.
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Create believable Characters. Breathe life into all your characters. Make them real in your story world. Make the reader care. No room for cardboard characters. They should be unique with realistic goals. Create trouble. How will the lead character respond?
Scenes. Each scene should move the plot forward. No Hi how are you? small talk or unnecessary dialogue. Debating on a scene? Which one adds more conflict, more questions?
Dialogue. Remember to use shorter sentences and apostrophes. i.e., I am not happy. Instead write: I'm not happy. People usually talk in this manner.
Chapter openings and chapter endings. You must grab the reader in order for it to be a page-turner. How do you do that? Can you end with a question? Maybe conflict? Remember nothing should be easy as pie.
First draft, write from the heart. Second draft, write with your mind. Have you ever seen the movie Finding Forrester? If you haven't gotten the chance yet, I suggest you rent it today. The lead character learns of this advice, a very true and helpful technique. It's one of my all time favorite movies. It will touch your heart and inspire you. Pour your heart out the first time around (first draft). Don't worry about grammar or punctuation. There's time for that later. Let your creativity flow. Put your editing cap on while writing your second draft. This is your chance to nitpick and look for errors.
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The ending will break you or make you. It is up to you to compel your readers. Chose your last line carefully. The best endings stay with readers long after the book is closed. Read other books and see how the masters end their stories. Learn, but do NOT copy.
Last, but definitely not least, every story MUST live off of conflict. We are glued to movies who breathe life with conflict. Books are no different. It is conflict that makes us turn each page. Without it the story becomes boring. And boring is the exact opposite of what it should be. Whether it is external (physical) or internal (psychological) struggles, it MUST exist. NO conflict, NO struggles, NO story. DO NOT make it a walk in the park for your characters.
Keep learning. Keep reading, whether it is books on the craft or books written in your favorite genre. The more you read, the more you learn. The day you think you know it all is the day someone will teach you something new. Happy writing. Martha Ramirez You may visit my website at: and visit the "writing links" page for more helpful tips. Favorite book on writing: James Scott Bell, Revision & Self-Editing, Writer's Digest Books, ISBN# 978-158297-508-5 Plot & Structure, Writer's Digest Books, ISBN# 978-1-58297294-7
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Gail Gaymer Martin, Writing The Christian Romance, Writer's Digest Books, 978-1-58297-477-4
David Morrell, The Successful Novelist, SourceBooks, INC., ISBN# 978-1-40221055-6
Debra Dixon, Goal, Motivation & Conflict, Gryphon Books for Writers, ISBN# 978-0-9654371-0-3
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Childhood Memories and Writer's Block By Ruth O'Neil Copyright © 2009 by Ruth O'Neil, All Rights Reserved
All writers, no matter how experienced, face one little problem on occasion. That problem is known as writer's block. There have been times when my husband has taken our kids out in the evenings leaving me with pen, paper, peace, quiet --and not an inkling of something I can write about. It makes me so mad because I feel as if I'm wasting precious moments; I have been given a gift of time and I can't use it. However, I did come up with one way to use these times and put them to good use. I started writing down memories I had from when I was a child. I bought a notebook where I could jot down just enough of the memory to trigger my brain so I could write more extensively about it at a later time. I also bought a blank journal so that when I did have writer's block, I could write out these memories in a special place to either use in my writing later or just share with my children. Sharing memories with my children is important, especially memories about my mom who passed away when my oldest daughter was only thirteen months old. They don't have any memories of her of their own, so I have to give them mine. There were stories that my grandmother had told me as a child that I wish had been written down and I didn't want this to happen to my kids. I wanted them to be able to remember my stories even if it was only through the written word. All of these thoughts allowed me to accomplish something during my bouts of writer's block. To prepare for the next time you are struggling to even write your name, always have a pen and paper nearby so you can jot down any memory that comes from the recesses of your mind.
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You can even take some time to sit and actually think, especially when you first begin because you will probably have a rush of thoughts come all at once.
And don't be afraid to pull other family members into your writer's block project. One Thanksgiving, when my sisters were planning to spend the whole weekend at my house, I told them ahead of time to be thinking of things that happened when we were kids. I asked them to write down whatever they could think of before they came and after dinner we could compare notes. They helped me remember many silly and stupid events that happened while we were growing up. They talked and I scribbled furiously.
Shortly after thanksgiving, I was able to use a lot of the memories my sisters and I had relived. It was my dad's sixtieth birthday and his new wife wanted me to come up with something fun for the party since she wasn't around when we were children. I was able to make a whole book of memories because I had taken the time to write them down. Although my dad had forgotten (or didn't know) many of the little things that had happened, several other family members did recall and asked for copies of the book.
While this particular project was rather large, there have been many little stories or articles I have been able to write from these memories. While reading over new guidelines or theme lists, these memories are triggered and I have been able to turn lessons I learned as a child into stories that will hopefully help other children.
The possibilities of using your childhood memories in your writing are endless. This was one way I have been able to get around those trying times when nothing is coming to my head.
So, if there are times when all you want to do is write, yet nothing seems to flow, think about writing down memories from your own childhood. When you have had enough writer's block
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moments, you may find you have written down memories enough to write a novel, a cookbook, your memoirs, or even a personal, special gift for your family members.
Go out and get a new notebook and jot down all the ideas you can think of so during your next bout with writer's block you can pull out your childhood memories list and begin writing. This might solve your writer's block problem and may lead to ideas you can use in the future.
First published in Fellowscript November 2007
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To Be or Not to Be By Deb Buckingham Copyright © 2009 by Deb Buckingham, All Rights Reserved
The time it takes you to read this article will be long enough for you to decide if you are serious about your writing career. You have to feel it to believe it. This is a story of one nurse, me, who felt that stress wasn't the way of life and something creative needed to take place. Something must happen in order for me to feel complete. You see, death and dying is something that is part of life, but it shouldn't be a way of life, but that is what it became for me. I'd go to work and bring it home. My six year hospice nursing career left me burned out and needing a change. I told my husband it had to be something that didn't stress me out, at least as much. It had to be something creative. It had to be something that when I spent time with it, it would leave me wanting more. After researching the possibility of opening my own yarn shop, we decided that wasn't what I wanted. Talk about stress! So, in May of 2008, I joined a writer's group. I had been writing since High School ­ poetry mostly ­ so what the heck, I thought. I'll see where this takes me. After befriending many serious writers, well into their projects, I decided to join them in the novel arena. So, I began my first novel. I bought every book I could get my hands on that would teach me the art of writing a novel. I spent countless hours reading other authors bios to get a feel for how they ran their day-to-day writing career. Fortunately for me, I had, and still do have, a husband that supports us. So, for me to make this decision, well ­ it was easy.
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The months have passed by quickly and my novel is progressing nicely. However, every once in a while my husband needed to remind me that I was a writer. His consistent encouragement kept me grounded.
Sometimes I still found myself in the help wanted section looking for a real job; one that I had to punch a time clock. Wait! Halt! Hold the phone! No! That's exactly what I didn't want, I reminded myself.
You see, I'm an extravert who needs people to stimulate her day. So I took to writing at coffee shops where people surrounded me. My group decided to join me and we began an every Tuesday event. We would show up with our laptops and write for the afternoon, drink coffee (which becomes your best friend as a writer), and ask those questions that would move our stories forward.
My project developed and by the time I knew it, I was into January with a first completed draft.
I was excited! So through the endless hours of editing, attending my writer's groups, and registering for my first Writer's Conference, I felt I was on my way.
I'm an author. Yes, that's right! I've finally come full circle after a year of convincing myself that I truly am an author.
I've completed my first manuscript, 69,000 words, and 310 pages. Wow! It feels fabulous!
Now, begins the task of sending out the query letters. I've taken that task very seriously and have once again, done my research on what works in today's economy. The agents are bombarded everyday with aspiring writers, just like us, wanting to be read.
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I sit here in my newly decorated Home Office that we call my writing room, and look out through the open window where the mountains glisten with newly fallen snow. The raisin scone scented candle burns slowly in its new swirled holder. I realize that my life has come to a place I can feel comfortable with, a place I can be content.
So to be or not to be is the question I have for you. Are you a writer? Or are you a person who is too nervous to take that first step. I encourage you to take that one step and find yourself a writer's group that you feel comfortable with. Interview them if you have to. And dive into that one craft we all call... writing.
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Plan Versus Pants By Adrian Krag Copyright © 2009 by Adrian Krag, All Rights Reserved
I start with an opening line and a single character and I type until my fingers bleed and the keyboard shorts out. My critique partner begins with a blank wall and three boxes of colored sticky notes. For me, writing is like reading a story. I begin with only the slightest inkling of where it's going and the ending is always a surprise. I wrote nine books before anyone told me there was another way. My friend plans a novel like a military campaign: Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3 and each assigned a number of objectives and page count. Below the acts are the chapters, each with its assigned conflict and tensions building events. Yes, you guessed it: I'm a pantser, she's a plotter. Yes, we have communication issues. Probably our biggest difficulty is with schedule. I can write a hundred thousand words in two weeks then have no idea how to fix it. It takes her six months to fill up the wall and she seldom gets around to writing all the infinitely well-defined blocks. She writes perfectly, I write fast. With fifteen unpublished books in my laptop, I'm beginning to wonder if a compromise isn't in order. With seven walls of her house covered in hand scrawled notes she's willing to listen to my suggestions.
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Our goal is to tell a story and that requires an audience and finished work. A story, like so many things is much more than the sum of its parts. As Dr. Frankenstein learned, sewing the parts together is not enough to make it live.
My problem is just the opposite. My stories all live without form, like a many headed hydra with an amoeboid body. I can't just go in and rewrite a bad section. There are not sections. It's all just one big story.
I don't suggest that I know that answer for everyone. I think creativity and formulas are incompatible, but I think some hybrid of the two styles is necessary. Most successful stories have a beginning, middle and an end. The human mind, (most potential readers have one), becomes engrossed in a story through scenes and the scenes are tied together with transitions.
As I consider the things I have written I was surprised to find that they all fit into a three act model if you push them hard enough. Careful inspection reveals scenes and if I look for it, even structure. This is not surprising, since I learned tell stories from those that I have heard, read and the movies I have watched. I wasn't raised by wolves.
My critique partner isn't an automaton without creative passion. She joined the profession because she had a talent for storytelling. The capability of weaving an engrossing tale is in every fiber her being. However, the constraints of writing a perfect scene can stifle creativity.
Most of all, the story is the thing. If you can tell a story, you can write. With comedy, the difference between an audience falling asleep and falling off their chairs with laughter is more timing and delivery than material. With horror movies, it's the music and the lighting and the fear in the eyes of the characters. With romance it's the yearning and the desire that the heroine feels, and that we feel with her.
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Ever listen to an anecdote that wanders all over? The timing is a mess. The theme, if it exists, is poorly defined and what happens? The punch line falls flat. A problem pantsers have is maintaining focus.
Plotters have a different set of difficulties. Mapping all the scenes on the wall has the advantage of knowing in advance what foreshadowing is required, but if it is not done well this sometimes leads to a novel that seems contrived.
Well, what's the answer? Maybe there isn't one answer. I'm sure that my solution isn't going to work for everyone. Maybe the only real truth is that plotters need to avoid the anal retentive traps that excessive planning puts in front of them. Pantsers need to understand how our work fits the successful story model and trim the extraneous branches.
If there were a single correct process, writing would be engineering, not art.
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How to Find Writing Work That Fulfills Your Passion By Patricia Fry Copyright © 2009 by Patricia Fry, All Rights Reserved
As president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and editor of the monthly SPAWN Market Update, I often respond to writers' questions. One of our most frequently asked questions relates to finding writing work. For example, Lydia wrote, "My dream is to quit my job and become a full-time writer. Can you tell me how to get started?" Jon asked, "What does it take to become a freelance writer? I'm disabled and want to do this work from my home." Rachel writes, "I'm a college graduate with a degree in journalism, but I can't find work. Can you give me some job search advice?" Whether you're looking for corporate work, want to write for a newspaper or yearn to do freelance writing or editing, the opportunities are plentiful. If you can construct a sentence and you're willing to approach job hunting with gusto, an open mind and a lot of creativity, you will find work. Here's my checklist for job hunters: General Advice
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Subscribe to online writing-oriented newsletters and join online writing
organizations that offer job listings for writers. Many of them also keep you current on
publishing trends. Here are a few resources to get you started: SPAWN
(, NAWW (, Writer's Weekly Newsletter and website
(, Freelance Writer's Report and
Writing-World (

Become familiar with job search sites for writers. These include,

Network constantly. Attend writers/publishers' events and ask people how they
got their jobs/assignments. Participate in interactive web sites for writers. Find local
organizations through your library, bookstores and in the calendar section of the
newspaper. Locate online sites using your favorite Search Engine. Type in "writers
groups" or "writers," for example. I found a potential publisher for a client's book recently
while networking with a fellow writer. A few years ago, a writer friend suggested I contact
an editor she knows about trying my hand at technical writing. I ended up writing a
dozen articles for this magazine during that 12-month period.
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Volunteer your writing services. A little volunteer work might land you the job
you seek. Offer to write the church bulletin, a company newsletter or a press release for
a charity organization, for example. Not only are you gaining experience and adding to
your portfolio, but you're showing off your talent and skills to all of the right people.

Read the classified employment ads every week and apply for every job that
has "writing" in it. Post your resume on some of the major Internet recruiting sites such
as And search their databases for job opportunities.

Create a portfolio and keep adding to it. Make copies of your published articles,
brochures, etc. to show prospective employers/clients.

Build a website and post your portfolio and resume there.

Keep writing. Write every chance you get. Practice, practice, practice.

Be open to all types of writing. You may have your heart set on becoming rich
and famous writing your own novel or landing a job as the editor-in-chief for Reader's
Digest. In the meantime, however, accept the work that comes your way. Do some PR
work for your neighbor, ghost write a book for a client, revise some technical manuals.
Get paid and learn new skills.
If You Want a Writing Job in the Corporate World

Study the materials from companies for which you'd like to work and see if
you can improve upon them. Show your ideas to the appropriate department head.
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Join business organizations and service clubs where you can network with
businessmen and women who might hire someone with your skills.

Sign with a temp agency as a writer. This may be your foot-in-the-door.
If You're Hoping for a Job With a Major Newspaper

Hire on at a small newspaper while waiting for your big break. There's an
ongoing turnover at newspapers, so they're always hiring. This is not a glamorous job,
but it's a step in the right direction. I got my first job writing a business column for a local
newspaper. First, I studied the newspaper to see what was lacking and saw a need for a
business column. I went out and interviewed a couple of new business owners and
wrote up some sample columns. When I approached the publisher with my ideas and my
samples, he hired me on the spot.

Cover a story on speculation for the newspaper of your choice. Watch for the
opportunity to write about a local high profile issue and offer it to the newspaper for a
fee. Attend meetings and events that aren't being covered by staff and offer to report on
them. Your effort is bound to get the editor's attention.
Create Your Own Work

Write articles for magazines. For this profession, you'll need writing,
organizational and research skills as well as patience and a great deal of self-discipline.
You'll also need the following tools: a computer, Writer's Market and A Writer's Guide to
Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press,
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Become an editor. Start by approaching busy freelance editors and see if they
need help accommodating their clients. The editors I know often turn clients away
because they're too busy.

Find a mentor and be willing to do the work necessary to reach your goals.
Many people who ask me for guidance in the writing field are not willing to take the
necessary steps.

Don't give up your day job. If you need the money and can't keep waiting for
THE job to come along, go to work and write in your spare time. "What spare time?" you
might ask. This may be one of those situations where you have to make some sacrifices.
I once wrote an entire book in 8 months while working full-time. How? I got up at 4 every
morning and wrote for two hours before going to work. I also devoted my weekends to
Use this checklist to generate other ideas. The point is to keep on keeping on. My writer friend, Kathy, earns a living for herself and two sons writing technical manuals. After struggling long and hard to find this job, she advises other writers, "You cannot win if you do not play."
Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 29 books including, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, (Matilija Press, Jan. 2006). She is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) Follow Patricia's informative publishing blog at
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Website Review: NASA Website Reviewed By Erin M. Hartshorn Copyright © 2009 by Erin M. Hartshorn, All Rights Reserved
( If you're a science writer or a science-fiction writer who likes getting the rivets in the right spot, NASA's Website ( is a one-stop shop for all your space travel needs. It has everything from the composition of the various planets and moons (as well as whatever other physical constants you might desire) to a video walk-through of the international space station, as well as links to their own YouTube channel with all the footage you could desire of and from the space shuttle. Start from its homepage: It has tabs across the top dedicated to different segments of the population, from the general public to teachers to kids to the media to elected officials to employees. If you look at the general public page, it has graphics on the right side of the page for the various areas of emphasis: shuttle and the space station, Moon and Mars, the solar system, aeronautics, history, and technology, to name a few. Daily headlines appear on the left (such as the fiftieth anniversary of the Mercury Seven), with images, TV & video, interactive pages, and a calendar below. There's a lot to choose from, but it's all organized clearly and simply, so you can find what you want to know. Need some quick biographical facts to flesh out an article? Information on the astronauts, engineers, and NASA leadership (such as the Director of the Johnson Space Center) is all available on the NASA People page (
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Or maybe you want to know what the hot topics are so you can pitch an appropriate article? There's a search cloud for "What are people interested in?" that includes tabs for today, the last 30 days, and the last 12 months. You can also sign up to receive NASA updates by email so you can be on top of what's happening without visiting the Website.
If you're interested in history, a rather neat overview can be found on "This Month in
Exploration," covering 100 years of aeronautical advances, from airplane inventions to gravity
probe launches. Need a quick little filler piece for "On This Day" or want to check out what was
actually happening with space exploration during the time you've set a secret-history science-
fiction piece? This is one place to look.
NASA History
( is another. Currently featured on the History
page: a cut-away image of the Project Mercury ballistic capsule, locating all major systems; a
message from President Obama on NASA's Day of Remembrance; and the presentation of a
moon rock to astronaut James Lovell.
For more in-depth history, there's the History Division's own site ( with a topical index including Aeronautics, Anniversaries, Biographies, Centers & Offices, Exploration, Human Spaceflight, Photo-Video, Reference, Satellites, Space Biology, Space Policy, and Space Science. Clearly, there's overlap here with what's available on the main NASA site, but if you want a concise history of animals in space (, a set of timelines for NASA's work (, or a short list of the various lunar explorations with links (, this is going to help you find that information. You can even find PDFs of press kits (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Apollo Soyuz Test Project), press releases, and mission transcripts (
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In fact, history is only one of the subsections of NASA to merit its own separate site. Others include such things as astrobiology (, the Office of Biological and Physical Research (, Aeronautics Research (, and NASAJobs ( The various NASA facilities do not have individual Websites but can be found on NASA's umbrella site -- the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (, for example, or Goddard Space Flight Center (
NASA information goes far beyond static pages and PDFs. NASA has blogs, podcasts (both audio and video), and RSS feeds for those who want up to the minute information. NASA is even on Twitter ( -- and some of its probes have their own Twitter feeds (MarsPhoenix, Hubble, CassiniSaturn). Two YouTube channels are devoted to NASA information -- if you want to know how the space shuttle maneuvers when it's getting ready to dock with the space station, this is where to look: NASA TV ( and ReelNASA ( In fact, that's just what I did last summer when working on a short story for the Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest; I watched several videos about the docking process to make sure that the few details I actually included were accurate.
All offsite NASA presences are linked from the main site, making it easy to find whatever you're
looking for, even elsewhere on the Internet. The podcasts and television are linked from the
"informal learning" page (, which
also features the Digital Learning Network (, resources for museums and
index.html) -- very useful for science writers -- and schedules of actual educational events (such
as space camp or "100 Hours of Astronomy").
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Want to make sure the exploration vehicle that you're designing would include functions useful
on a new planet or moon? On the interactive features page
(, check out the lunar electric rover
(, the Mars exploration rovers
(, or the Phoenix Mars lander
( Need to design a spacesuit? See the clickable
( Or maybe
you want to see how the space station is set up, what's connected where, and how the
astronauts live aboard it (
NASA research and science has far broader applications than flybys of Cassini and Pluto, or
creating extra-efficient batteries so a rover can keep working long past its project dateline.
They're looking at harnessing energy generated by the oceans' tides
( They use telemetry gathered by
satellites (including "sea surface temperatures, precipitation, and vegetation cover") to track and
predict disease outbreaks (
They've even helped adapt space optics technology for vision screening
( Whether you need a short science
news bite, or you want to consider how you might extrapolate science applications for your
If you're looking for classified information, you're not going to find it here; that's not what a public Website is for. If, however, you need to know about the people, places, and things involved in America's space program, the NASA Website is a good one-stop shopping trip. A word of
Vision: A Resource for Writers # 51
caution: it really helps if you go in knowing what you're looking for. There is so much material that it would be easy to spend weeks doing nothing but hopping from one link to the next, gawking over all that's available. As much fun as that might be, it won't get any words written -which is the point, right?
Links listed in this article:
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Vision: A Resource for Writers # 51
Book Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Reviewed By Valerie Comer Copyright © 2009 by Valerie Comer, All Rights Reserved
Bird by Bird--Some Instructions on Writing and Life By Anne Lamott Reviewed by Valerie Comer Anne Lamott grew up with a writer for a father, a man whose writing friends came over for drinks and dinner. She felt her father wasn't normal, and that she wasn't, but she started writing herself at the age of seven or eight, trying to make sense of her own world. Lamott has about a dozen books to her name but has spent much time as a writing instructor. She says that Bird by Bird--Some Instructions on Writing and Life, first published in 1994, contains everything she knew about writing up to that time. The title comes from words her father said to her brother, who, as a 10-year-old, had put off writing a report on birds for months until he panicked the night before it was due. How would he ever get it done now? And their father said, "Just take it bird by bird." The book is divided into five unequal parts. Part One: Writing. This isn't specifically about writing novels, but learning to express the thoughts that churn around in our heads. She discusses simply sitting down at approximately the same time every day, quieting your mind, and writing, allowing the first draft to be as bad as it needs to be. Somewhere in the draft, she says, you'll find a sentence or two here and there
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that you can use. She has several suggestions of things to write about if you aren't in the midst of a story.
Lamott urges writers to get to know their characters and not to worry about plot, that it will come from the characters themselves. One of her character techniques is to write their dialogue and to find their individual voices. They'll also tell you about the conflicts while they're at it, and how to find your way through the various drafts.
Part Two: The Writing Frame of Mind. First, Lamott says, we need to look around us and learn to see the reality of people, looking into their souls with compassion. She suggests seeing nature and life through the eyes of a child, everything new and exciting.
If you've got a habit of starting but not finishing stories, Lamott suggests that it may be because there is nothing at the core of them about which you care passionately.
Part Three: Help Along the Way. Ultimately this book may offer the most comfort to those who write seat-of-the-pants (SOTP), and to those who need to let go of rigidity and give SOTP a try. Lamott likens her process to being aligned "with the river of the story, the river of unconsciousness, of memory and sensibility, of our characters' lives, which can thus pour through us, (a) straw." To do otherwise, she says, puts us at cross purposes with the river.
Lamott doesn't believe in writer's block, but that the writer is simply looking at a problem from the wrong angle. Instead of being stuck, it's emptiness, and therefore the writer needs to fill themselves in whatever way rejuvenates them while continuing to write something--anything-just to keep the juices flowing at all.
Part Four: Publication--and Other Reasons to Write. Lamott says that writing a book about your life experiences, even if it's for an audience of one or two, can be worthwhile and
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therapeutic. As an example, she wrote about her father's struggle with cancer while he was going through it, and shared the draft with him as she went along. The truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice, she says.
The journey towards publication is more rewarding than the destination. She reminds us of the line from the movie Cool Runnings, in which the Jamaican bobsled team coach says, "If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it."
Lamott says, "I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do--the actual act of writing--turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward."
Part Five: The Last Class. Lamott says that becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. Writing is a way to make sense of the universe and to work through personal questions and issues. She considers writers lucky because they are able to build sand castles with words and create a place where their imaginations can wander.
This book isn't about writing technique so much as about attitude and learning to enjoy the process. Her humor shines throughout and makes Bird by Bird a refreshing read.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life By Anne Lamott Published by Anchor ISBN 0-385-48001-6
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New on the Shelves Forward Motion for Writers has many published authors as members. Here are just a few of the currently available materials that they have had published!
Lazette Gifford
Silky & Silky 2: Lord of the Land Follow Silkation's life from a young slave boy to a powerful lord of the land, with danger always close at hand, and magic both his gift and his bane. As Anthica faces dangers from the outside, can Silky's enemies turn away from their old hatreds to help keep their country safe? Silky is also available as part of a bundle of Lazette Gifford's fiction and nonfiction works.
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Shana Norris (Site Member shana)
Something to Blog About Shana's debut YA novel is available from Amulet Books and most bookstores as well as and Details here. Something to Blog About by Shana Norris - February 2008 Amulet Books ISBN-13/EAN: 9780810994744 - Price: $15.95 - 256 Pages
Holly Lisle
The Ruby Key (Book I of Moon & Sun) On the most dangerous night of the year, fourteen-yearold Genna and her twelve-year-old brother Danrith go into the forest to find a healing tree sap that could save their mother's life. But they don't come back. Instead, they are drawn into the world of the dangerous nightlings,
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and into a bargain with the immortal nightling kai-lord--find a missing child, or they and their mother will die. (Scholastic, May 1, 2008)
Order your copy at your local bookstore, or at:
B&N BooksAMillion Amazon
Can't find the discipline
How To Find Your Writing Discipline A Three-Day Plus 20 Minute Do-It-Yourself Writing Bootcamp You want to write. You've always wanted to write. But you: Can't find the time Can't find the initiative Buy it here
Justin Stanchfield (Site Moderator Justinvs)
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Space Cowboy This debut young adult novel is now available from Usborne Publishing Ltd in the United Kingdom. Check it out here. Justin also has a short story in Issue #13 of Black Gate, written with Mikal Trimm, called The Merchant of Loss
Tamara Siler Jones Valley of the Soul Detective Dubric Byerly returns in the third and final installment of this medieval fantasy-meets-thrilling mystery, genre-bending series from the author of Ghosts in the Snow and Threads of Malice.
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C. E. Murphy
House of Cards
Isolated from her tribe, Rhenna of the Free People walks alone, guarding the borderlands. But the mountain-dwelling shapeshifters, allies of her people, are disappearing, and word has come of a new evil. Known by their red stones and the chaos in their wake, the followers of the Stone God have made their ascent, spreading anger and war.
For more information, Check Here
Wen Spencer
Endless Blue The Very Large Object That ATE the Other Very Large Objects!
The Sargasso. Space ships go in, and they don't come back. But
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as the all-destroying Nefrim drive humanity from the stars, everything depends on one captain's desperate gambit: to dial his stardrive to zero--to "fall off the map"--and plunge into the ocean-covered pocket universe that is the Sargasso. Within is a secret that can change a galaxy. And, though escape is a trick generations of trapped starfarers have tried and failed to master--now the fate of two universes depends on Mikail Volkov being the first to GET OUT!
For more information, Check Here
Lynn Viehl Stay the Night: A Novel of the Darkyn Outlaw, immortal vampire, and art thief, Darkyn Lord Robin of Locksley has evaded authorities for the last 700 years. At the moment, he's falling for undercover federal agent Christina Renshaw, who has no time for an affair. She hopes to snag an elusive art thief, but soon has no choice other than to join forces with Robin. When the chase becomes dangerous, both will have to choose between losing each other and losing everything they value... For more information, Check Here
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Jack Scoltock (Site Member Jakers) Golden Weddin' and the B.V.M. is available from Virtual Tales here. An excerpt from one of his historical writings also appears in Literature Reading with Purpose Course 2, a learning resource for New York students published by McGraw/Hill. Maria Zannini (Site Member mz) Touch of Fire This futuristic fantasy was released in May 2008 by Samhain Publishing (ISBN: 978-1-60504-031-8). It starts life out as an ebook and will go to print in Winter 2009. You can read an excerpt and buy a copy here.
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Robert A. Black
(Site Member ShutterBob)
Lunar Pioneers
This YA novel was named winner of the Youth Moon Fiction category for's Best of the Moon awards for 2008. For more details about the contest, go here. For information about the book, click here.
Stephanie Green (Site Member Lysistrata) had a very productive ending to 2008 and beginning to 2009. Check out her work below: Books: 33 Mistakes Writers Make About Blind Characters
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In 33 Mistakes Writers Make about Blind Characters, you learn about: What it's really like to be blind How a blind person tackles daily living ­ eating, dressing themselves, working, cooking, putting on makeup, travelling and playing sport. Resources and technology available for people who are blind Treatment of the blind throughout history Famous blind people and their feats ­ you'll be amazed at the achievements of these people! Available from Holly's Shop. You can get more information at her Website.
Chelsea Campbell (Site Member Kaerfel) has sold her first novel The Rise of the Renegade X to Egmont with a planned release date of April or May 2010. You can read the whole exciting story about how she sold her book on her LiveJournal:
Jennifer R. Povey (Site Member NinjaFingers) has a short story Working the High Steel appearing in the Warrior Wisewoman 2 anthology by Norilana Books due for release in June 2009.
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Trulie Peterson (Site Member september88) debuts in the fairy tale anthology StereoOpticon: Fairy Tales In Split Vision from Drollerie Press with a short story Spellbound.

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