So That’s How It’s Done

Elizabeth Bear writes in Storytellers Unplugged: Passion and the single blogger

And that’s what makes [certain blogs] readable–compulsive, even. Because they’re committed. They’re there laying it on the line. This is what I do, and this is how I do it.

And that? Is interesting. And it’s interesting in ways that apply to fiction writing, too. Because characterization counts. I mean, let’s be honest here: Shakespeare couldn’t plot his way out of a wet paper bag. And he knew it, too, which is why he lifted stories from everywhere and anywhere, with the peculiar light-fingered pickpocket’s touch of his. But the man could write characters–people–better than just about anybody.

A good weblog is about character.

New Subs

I’m going to have a go at tracking my fiction submissions on here. I’ve appropriately decided to label this, and all future posts of this sort, masochism.

I’ve sent two flash pieces here. I was at a talk in the spring sponsored by the Saltonstall Foundation, and the editor of this journal was one of the presenters. I’d been thinking about submitting to them ever since, even after seeing this potential vision of my future in the last two panels of this page from Raketenwerfer’s America’s Top Novelist, part 2.

Stars Must’ve Aligned

…if I’m reading this not two weeks after discovering this person’s name via the Great American Prose Poems anthology, which is yet another book added to my goodreads list before I’ve finished the 100 other things on it.

Charles Simic Receives Poet Laureate Post, Plus $100,000 Award
By Jeffrey Burke

Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) — Charles Simic, a Pulitzer Prize- winning writer, will receive two major honors today. He will be named the 15th poet laureate of the U.S. by the Librarian of Congress, succeeding Donald Hall, and he will receive a $100,000 award from the American Academy of Poets.

Rolfing My Inner Child

So you went and you found you a guru
In an effort to find you a new you
And maybe even managed to raise your conscious level.
While you’re striving to find the right road,
There’s one thing you should know,
“What’s hip today might become passé”

Tower of Power, “What Is Hip”

Note to self: Work that quote into a rewrite of this essay, written such a long time ago I’m almost embarassed by the prose.


I know what you’re thinking. All that screed about writing, and here he is blogging. Deal ;). I just wanted to take a second and brag.

I’m also part of an online flash fiction critique group, which I’ve been neglecting as I freak myself out trying to pound “The one with the mask” out of me. There’s a minimum monthly participation level that I crammed into the last day of July with one story and three critiques.

The story was based on a Carver-like piece of Vogon poetry I wrote awhile back, probably the closest to a decent poem I’ve ever written or am ever likely to write. No, I don’t consider that cheating at all, why do you ask? There was lots of editing that needed done. Anyway, I submitted it to surprisingly few criticisms, aside from people’s individual tastes on sentence structure.

The point again that this is the umpteenth time I’ve experienced the joys of just sitting the fuck down and getting shit on paper, sort of the literary equivalent of a bulemic purge, in order to beat a deadline. You’d think I’d learn that lesson, but I doubt I will anytime soon. Already, I feel myself “not feeling like it,” as far as the bits I have to do to carry “The one with the mask” those few precious steps toward completion.

Tough Love

Haven’t done the writing group update yet, seeing as I’m supposed to be plugging away at “The one with the mask” (which may actually end up being titled “Masked”). I gave them my 1,000 words, and I got the following back…

The Good

  • I wrote a scene where the protagonist referred to a past hospitalization (the implication being that it was a psych hospitalization), which was seen as a “realistic depiction.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve worked in the field, so I know how these things go.
  • People appreciate the humor. Again, it’s shocking. I know I write funny bits in my stories, mostly in the form of character thoughts or dialogue. They’re the ones being funny, not the story itself. But the group seems to really enjoy that aspect when it’s there. I suspect, though, that it maybe has more to do with my reading (we read our pieces out loud to the rest of the group) than the prose itself, but I could be wrong.
  • No one really had any nits to pick about the prose itself. Again, it’s kind of like the tone of my rejection letters: “Great prose, but the story blah blah blah…”

The Bad

  • I was afraid that I’d included some extraneous details in this section, although I didn’t exactly know what would be extraneous until after I’d finished. The group concurred on both counts.
  • I’d inadvertently altered the voice of the protagonist. One person noted that he had a “sweetness” to him in the beginning that disappeared. I wish I could say that I did that on purpose, because there were some darker themes to the section I wrote, but the crit was right. The truth is, there’s a noticeable jump in the protag’s voice between the first 1300 words and the next thousand. And the themes really stay at a certain level of darkness.
  • The same critiquer thought that I was wandering from the main thrust of the story. Again, she was right. Although I think I can fix that with some serious editing.

The Ugly
Again, no real “ugly” to speak of. Heck, one person in the group said she didn’t have any crits to give.

Afterward, we had the usual kaffeeklatch that went pleasantly longer than it typically does. I talked about how I psyched myself out by presenting a portion of the story last time that got such rave reviews that I was freaking out that I had to come up with something that would garner as much praise. Apparently, I’m not the first person this has happened to, which is the reason for the prevailing wisdom that one should only bring finished pieces to a writing group. I’ve always been in 100% agreement. It was just that all I had for last time was the start of “The one with the mask,” so that was what I brought. I guess you can call it my self-imposed consequence of not having something finished within the alotted time.

Deadlines, people–the reason I hooked up with a group to begin with.

Spreading the Blame

From Dar Kush:

Please remember [some stuff he was talking about in reference Ving Rhames’ character in the movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry] in the context of white audiences still apparently unwilling to accept the onscreen hetersexual coupling of Black or Asian men. IT’S NOT HOLLYWOOD–don’t think you can pigeon-hole it, lay this problem off on a few executives. Hollywood just tallies the box office, boys and girls. They have no agenda higher than making their Hummer payments. This is America.