Tag Archives: viewpoint character

Writing: Demise & Panic

In the writing world, whether mainstream or speculative writing, survival depends on sales. For some literary magazines put out through universities, grants and other funding are often delegated to be able to pay the writers. But still a magazine of any style hopes to have a high viewer rate and sell subscriptions, guaranteed revenue for the future. In the case of a university funded magazine, the funding might be cut if the subscription numbers go down.

With individual or private magazines, they are sometimes owned by companies or individuals. In all cases they need to make money to survive unless a rich person is altruistically funnelling money into a labor of love and though they hope to sell out, don’t have to, to keep going.

With the recent panic in the economic rivers, we see various businesses tossing themselves on the banks, gasping for survival, their eyes goggling about and seeing little. In some cases the rivers are still flowing but a ripple has moved through, frightening everyone to make for land before the drought hits. Hmm, it makes me wonder. Is there a need to hunker down, to cut staff, to close offices or is it all anticipation of the worst, and that anticipation is what brings about the apocalypse?

Well, whatever the case, it’s hitting the speculative writing world as well. Realms of Fantasy has just announced that their April 2009 issue will be the last. http://sfscope.com/2009/01/realms-of-fantasy-closing.html I’ve always wondered how all the little paper magazines survived, and have suspected (but have no basis in fact) that sales were never great. The era of the great pulp magazine is truly gone, those sales were dependent on a relatively untried format and genre, the mass marketing of such and more successful when TV was infantile and the internet not even a spark in Daddy Gates’ eye.

Of course, if you’re running a magazine in the US and you sell to 10% of the people, that’s still a respectable number, compared to 10% of Canada’s population (one reason why a writer always wants to sell in the US first). So in some ways the speculative/SF/fantasy markets are hurting as well. Fantasy and Science Fiction has also announced that they’re going quarterly from monthly.

For us little writers it does mean that pickings will be slimmer, especially for the still generic brand writer. Alas. What to do? Well, as I have seen over the years, magazines come and go, publishers consolidate, shrink and grow. Everything is in a constant flux and publishing is an incestuous business with houses often changing hands, being swapped for a better fit. So it goes. I’ll just continue to write and submit.

I’ve also finally fired myself up and started writing on my novel again. Not hugely productive but productive nonetheless. The only way I can keep myself from being distracted is going off to cafes and restaurants and spending some money to sit there and write on my laptop. Luckily I work well with ambient noise. If I’m at home I fritter away the time on all sorts of things, never quite getting to that novel.

I started again two weeks ago and have about 8,000 words. To make it feel like I’m actually accomplishing something I’m writing through one viewpoint character’s chapters  before going back to do the other two. It means I’ll have to smooth over the chapter transitions but then this is first draft. I’m not worrying too much about perfection at this point, but just writing and getting the story down. It feels good to be moving ahead. I’m into the second chapter of one of my antagonists.

By the time I finish the book and am looking at marketing it to publishers, maybe things will be more stable. Maybe they’ll want a book that takes place on another planet that deals with economic, political and religious downfall. It might echo this world, but if it does, it’s not intentional. In the meantime I will watch the markets and continue to submit. Really, every few years there is a culling and if one can just find another stream, we’ll survive (So I used all sorts of metaphors here. What the heck, I’m not being paid for this.)

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Writing: Talking Heads

When you write a conversation between two or more people, you have a dialogue. However, for many new writers a common problem is what we call “talking heads.” Dialogue goes back and forth between Dick and Jane but there is no setting, no description whether of the room or of their actions or mood. The reader will become lost, not being able to differentiate from one character to the next, or in being able to tell what is going on besides talking.

Using “Dick said,” “Jane said” with every line of dialogue becomes overly repetitive and boring to read. It also doesn’t show what the character is doing or feeling while they are talking. Writers will sometimes fall into: “I love that coat,” Jane said excitedly. “It costs a fortune,” Dick replied morosely.

Adverbs ending in “ly” can slow down the action. They’re also used to “tell” when the writer should be “showing” instead. Using the above examples with showing could result in much more information: “I love that coat,” Jane said as she ran over to the rack and pulled out the purple Armani.

Dick scowled and kicked at the faded carpet.  “It costs a fortune.”

Here we have Jane’s excitement shown by her actions. Dick’s disapproval is shown in his expression. We now have mood and something of setting, though not a lot. This could be extended to the next lines: Jane turned and looked at Dick, noticing his hunched shoulders. “How can you say that? It cost less than your golf clubs.”This now adds more on their relationship, and notice I didn’t even have to say “Jane said.” It’s obviously Jane because I’ve mentioned her. I’ve also now made it her point of view. By noticing Dick’s shoulders, we are seeing through her eyes. Once in a character’s point of view, you need to stay there and not jump back and forth from one character’s POV to another, or you risk giving your reader whiplash and further confusion.

You can get through a few lines of dialogue without description but very few. Even a half a page is too much without something. The reader needs tone of voice, emotions or actions. Adding tone of voice is a delicate thing. You don’t want every piece of dialogue to have: he expostulated, she snarled, he growled, she simpered, he bellowed, she screamed. It gets a bit much, bringing melodrama where it shouldn’t be.

All in all, you can have a dialogue heavy scene and still show action and setting and emotion. It takes practice and balance. Variety is part of the solution. Falling into a pattern of he said/she said, or having dialogue that always ends in action is a pitfall for repetition. The important thing is to keep the action active and to stay away from passive language.

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Writing Bits: Grants

I’ve just found out I sold a poem, “The Drowning Ones” to ON Spec. I’m not sure when it will be out but I imagine in the next year.

I’ve also been asked to write a skewered fairy tale for an erotic anthology, I believe. I’m waiting for more details at this point and nothing is for sure.

I finally received my study assistance grant from the BC Arts Council. I had applied for this to help defray costs of the Kansas CSSF workshop. It wasn’t as much as I asked for but talking to writer friend Linda DeMeulemeester, she received one on the same day and less than what she’d asked for. I believe with first time appliers they probably do give a smaller amount, testing the waters, you could say. The caveat is to turn in a report on the workshop for which they gave the grant, as well as receipts.

It’s much better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to have received this (makes me feel like a real writer) and it opens up the possibility of applying for larger grants to take time to write, most likely working part time. I’ll be looking into that in the near future so see if I can get going on the novel.

I also finished a story that came out of being in Kansas. The words “exegesis” and “apocryphal” stuck in my head while there. You have no idea how often writers can use these words. So I have sent a story out on its fledgling flight, titled “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha.” It is indeed a mouthful.

“A Kind Hand,” Which took ten years to finish, was completed in Kansas (I was there for novel writing but some short fiction was written as well.) I’m now trying very hard to get the first draft done of “Awaking Pandora,” even longer in the making and will be a novelette when it’s done. The first was fantasy and the latter will be SF.

I’ve also been ruminating on the novel and think I can now start writing through the chapters on my antagonist. I plan to write his through story first, then go back and write the second antagonist’s through story. Then I’ll go back and write my major viewpoint character and slot them all together. I’m sure there will be enough to iron out. But breaking it down into smaller chunks will make this more doable for me and now that I have a better idea of all the story arcs I think it will be fairly smooth sailing.

Since returning from Kansas I’ve also been writing at least 200 words a day in fiction. A couple of days were major rewrites and I counted those. I hope to keep up writing at least that amount every day.

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