Tag Archives: flow

Writing: Reviewing Reviews

Because I write mostly short stories and poems, reviews are few and far between. A magazine is less likely to be reviewed than an anthology and an individual story even less likely. I’ve never seen a review of any of my poems and I suspect the only way one would get a review is if it was a collection of poetry in a book or chapbook format.

Reviews can be a curse in their own right, with more negative than supportive comments, and it’s a chance any artist takes when putting work into the public forum. Still, I would rather have a review than not. A review can stir up discussion or controversy and some people will decide to form their own opinions (as I often do with movies) than take a reviewer’s. The reviewer is a buffer: I know reviewer A never likes xyz, but I do so if they hate it, I will most surely like it.  A review can be used to weed out what you’re going to read or buy. And reviews do give publicity of a sort, whether negative or positive.

Under the review umbrella are a host of chameleons: those written pieces that actually don’t review a piece so much as recap it. I have read reviews that give no indication of whether a story is good or bad, written well or not. All the reviewer does is reveal some of the plot line or all of it. These are not reviews. A review should have an opinion on the storyline and writing. There are the damning with faint praise reviews: this is not very deep, a piece of fluff but was enjoyable nonetheless.

Some reviews take into account that it may be the writer’s first major work. Some discuss the style of writing but don’t go as much into plot, while others will look at the depth and intricacies of plot, the sophistication of writing style and the expertise of the writer’s knowledge in the area in which they are writing.

I know of a few writers who do not read their reviews, afraid that the comments, possibly scathing, will puncture their egos like a helium balloon. I’m happy–well, maybe not happy–to read any review. Perhaps I will learn something about my writing and what I need to fix or change the next time around. Perhaps the reviewer will like it and I’ll feel encouraged. So far, there have been very few reviews of my work, the most probably being “The Fathomless World” in Cone Zero, and those again fell into mostly recapping the stories.

It’s important to note though, that many reviewers are just like you and me. It’s their opinion. Some reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. I always figured I could be a good art critic because I can look at/read something and personally dislike it but examine the technique and skilled unbiasedly and see if the artist knows their stuff. Still, I would get down to what I don’t or do like about a piece as part of the review.

Some people love steampunk. Some hate elf and unicorn stories. Some hate free form verse or poems about flowers. Others dislike first person stories, or plots involving government overthrows and secret spies. These likes and dislikes will always flavor a review, but the good reviewer will be able to examine the writing as a whole. Aspects that reviewers might touch on are: depth and variety of characterization, plot flow, conflict and resolution, plausibility and depth of storyline, atmosphere, description, language, voice (authorial as opposed to characters), overall readibility and whether the author’s voice insinuates itself, etc.

So, in the spirit of reviewing, if someone would like to review something I’ve already written, please let me know and I’ll send it to you. This is a limited time offer (in case there are millions out there.) I will also post the review, whether favorable or not and then probably crawl away into my hole and rethink my view that I’d rather have a review than no review at all.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, movies, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: The Process

The writing process is a different beast for every writer. There are those that have a set time every day and write within that time. How I envy them. Me, I abhor schedules at the best of time, which is also my bane. This blog is about as regular as I get. It’s one aspect of the “write every day” rule. The writing process can also be different for every story.

Some stories nearly write themselves in a few days. Some are long struggles. Often the ones I think are going to be easiest (such as writing a fairy tale) turn out to be the worst for getting the idea flowing. Some stories take forever for different reasons. “A Kind Hand,” which I finished last year and is fantasy, took me about eight years to write. I would work on it in fits and starts and stop again. It slowly progressed with a lot of agonizing along the way. And every time I went to work on it, I had to read it again and then try to match the voice I had started in. I also quite like the way I was writing it and didn’t want to ruin it.

In this case I knew the ending because it’s based off of a particular tale about the Germanic hearth goddess Berchta. But in between the ending and the beginning I needed a flow of events that raised the tension. Like many fairy tales, the original tale was fairly bare bones and short, jumping to the one climax. I needed to put flesh on those bones. I got closer and closer to finishing and finally last year worked out the full story. I think I sent it out once but in the meantime also had a friend read it. His comments included that there needed to be more tension so I made the character a bit scarier, upped the ante at the end and sent it to Shroud, and it sold.

My longest running story ever, from start to finish is “Awaking Pandora,” which I’m working on right now. It’s science fiction, which I don’t write as often. I started it about fifteen plus years ago, while visiting a friend in New York. I was struck by all the barges and the prison barge around Manhattan. So I started the story and began writing and writing and realized, if I wasn’t careful, it was going to become a novel. But I didn’t want a novel. I knew it was still going to be a long story.

With this story the problem was that I really didn’t have a finally resolution. I had a conflict, conflicts in fact, but I didn’t know how to solve them. So it sat as I ruminated. I’d pull it out once in a while, read the whole thing, rewrote a bit what I’d started and then let it sit. I discussed it with a friend or two, trying to find an ending. Then, a year ago, there was an anthology looking for novelettes, stories between 10-20,000 words in this case. I tried to finish it but just couldn’t get there. I did finally finish the first draft last year.

Now, again there are two anthology markets that this story could fit into but I’m running out of time on the first. I’ve spent the last month writing and rewriting, taking the comments of two friends. The story was running at 9800 words and is down to 8600 but one market has a limit of 6,000. I’ve looked at it so often, changing word, changing sentences, deleting some, moving some up, some down, expanding and changing.

I’ve changed, more refined, the ending twice and it’s not quite there. I passed it by a third friend last night who said she just couldn’t chop some out as it would take rewriting to remove some aspects and make it shorter (partly because I’ve already removed extraneous words and removing more means redoing the flow). Again, I think this is a good story and I like my characters though I already cut the extraneous ones as too many for a shortish story. I have this weekend to make the thing work as I have to mail it latest by Monday.

It’s a long process, agonizing over a word, a line, a paragraph, a character. Then the conflict; is it enough, does it need to be earlier? This story has been easy for getting description and mood in, and characterization was fairly effortless, but plot. Yikes. Well, I’m back to the writing board and the true test is whether I’ll sell it or not. One last shot at getting the plot right and trying to cut out another 2,000 words and away it will go.

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, life, myth, people, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Dancing and Its Allure

I’ve been dancing or taking dance lessons in one form or another for many many years. When I was a wee child of four I took tap dance for a breath or two, enamored by the colorful outfits more than anything. I barely remember it and my mother had some health issues then and couldn’t keep me at it.

At various times as an adult I took jazz dance, Afro-Brazilian, samba and many years of belly dance. I’ve taught belly dance for the past year and a half and am accomplished enough, though I would not consider myself excellent. I would need to be much more fervent about practising every day and taking advanced workshops, which are often too pricey for me. But the moves are second nature to me and no matter if I’m dancing in

The thing about most of these dance styles above is that they are performance dances. You don’t dance with a partner and they’re meant to be watched. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t dance them with others and sometimes this has happened in belly dance, where musicians will play a piece, several women come out and dance and sometimes mimic each other’s moves. A dance can also be choreographed for a group of dancers in any style, whether ballet or belly.

Though these dance forms can be choreographed but overall you learn various moves and then can mix and match as you please. Put a shimmy after a chest drop, or go from a hip circle to a chest circle to snake arms and back to a chest circle. There is no set routine and move.

I took a dance step into the unknown this year and have just completed a beginner’s class in Argentine tango. This is like all dance, a dance to be enjoyed and of course one that can be performed and watched. Where I went from formulating my own moves I was now learning to follow. Of course, I could have learned the lead part but chose to stick to one. And tango is indeed always a partner dance. It’s as far as you can get from belly dance.

Tango involves subtle but clear movements by the lead with a hand and palcement of the foot. And it is mostly if not all about the feet, the step and the movement of them in tandem or separately. What I find interesting is that the lead chooses what step you might perform but the follow gets to do the more elaborate steps.

For many of us it was our first time but it seems that quite a few had taken at least beginning tango before and some were intermediate dancers. There were some leads who moved too fast, some who didn’t indicate the move clearly enough and follows who would anticipate or not follow. That was my biggest problem; I tended to try to anticipate the move. If you’re learning one step, that’s fine because you’re just repeating the step. But if you’re learning to dance tango, which means the order of the steps can change, then anticipating will have you going in the wrong direction from your partner.

Only a couple of the leads (all men in this case) were arrogant about their knowledge, which ticked me off. They were intermediate dancers and I was a beginner for the first time. It’s one thing to ask your partner to relax and let you lead; it’s another thing to keep correcting in an arrogant voice and then tell your partner that she’s nervous. I wasn’t nervous but I was learning and trying to memorize the step, try to get the tempo right and try to follow.

The instructor, Peter, of Dance Addicts (in Burnaby) is a good instructor, funny, relaxed and easy to approach. Because he is such an accomplished dancer and lead, following him is a lot easier. When I can afford it, I’ll take more tango. It will take a while to become accomplished enough at it. Like belly dance, or any other style, all dance takes practice.

Dance is always about flow (whether it’s jerky, stop and start or like water pouring) and grace. Belly dance and tango have a commonality in that they are both sensual dances. The accomplished dancer doesn’t just have feet being placed in the right spot tot he right style. They also have a particular style and grace, which is shown throw line of body, personalizing/flair/sensuality, tempo, movement of feet, hands, arms and head. Dance is always about the whole body, whether part of it is active or passive.

Only the last two classes of the eight-class session in tango started to feel like dance. We weren’t just getting the steps down, but putting them together to music. I closed my eyes for several dances, trusting in my lead and did find it made it better. Instead of anticipating  I tried to feel what his body was telling me in the direction to move. It was fun, it was work. I have a ways to go yet but it’s another form of dance and one thing I do love, it’s dance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, life, music, people