Humblebrag

So hey, I graduated and whatnot. Well, I went to graduation ceremonies. I have yet to actually receive a diploma so I don’t feel like it’s official until I get that. But technically I’m a master’s degree holder. Supposedly.

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Psh, as if we’re lucky enough to find jobs at Starbucks.

This means I probably won’t be posting here anymore, as I will be working on my PhD and I’m not sure I’ll have advice to give. I mean, I won’t have a right to give advice since I won’t be pretending to be a writer anymore.

In case anyone was wondering, that does mean I finished my thesis. Obviously. Here are the stats:

Officially finished – April 10, 2012

Word Count – 66,582

Page Count – 238

# of Stories – 4, not including prologue and epilogue

# of Stories I’m going to write in the future –  ZERO!

It was a long strange trip, but in the end it was worth all the boozy coffees and miniature meltdowns. I do want to thank everyone for their help in various ways, especially my guardian gentleman, Dear Sweet Gentle Jonathan. Speaking of, he is currently working on publishing his book so look out for that shit. It will rock your face off. But don’t let it get that far, as you will need your face for reading.

Before I go, one last humblebrag: my bitch ass has been published. It’s not a huge deal, it’s like 2 pages (two unedited pages, actually. Ugh) from a pretty random and boring part of my thesis, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I try to stay away from horses, to be honest. It was cool to be published and TSR didn’t have to do it, so I thank them as well. Pick up a copy of the Review, it’s pretty sweet. And I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Although, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it.

So that’s that, for now. I’m gonna go back to doing nothing except checking the mail for my diploma.

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Meh, title

All right, I’m gonna talk today like I wasn’t gone for four months.

I promise, the battery went dead, bro.

So we all agree that an important part of your writing is to edit. Incredibly boring and tedious, yes, but still important. But something that I didn’t realize for a long time is that editing something shitty doesn’t get you anywhere. Sure, you feel productive because you’re editing, but you’re not getting better. It’s frustrating, actually.

The key, Skywalker, is to get better (look at me using Star Wars names like I know what I’m talking about).

This is something I didn’t pay much attention to until I gave the rough draft of my thesis to Dear Sweet Gentle Jonathan, my own personal professional writer. I was desperate, for one, and I found myself having to send it to SOMEONE or risk it not being approved by anyone. And while his comments weren’t mean or made me question what I have spent two years of my life doing, he did make me think about one story in particular. It was a story I wrote during my first semester, in my first class, of this whole Master’s degree business. It was good for what it was at the time; a mediocre story written by someone who simply had no idea what the fuck was going on. I put it in the thesis because I thought it fit and it did, in theory. But it needed work. A lot of work. I didn’t see it because, I don’t know, I was lazy. Or I was forcing it to be something it wasn’t. Whatever the reason, when I did the overhaul of the story, it was so fucking much better that I could not even believe I was going to let the original version through. I was also extremely embarrassed that D$GJ read it, but he has seen me during worse moments, so, I got over it.

Anyway, my point is, sometimes in order to get better, you have to stop editing the crap, step back, and realize that you’re wasting your time. Maybe the reason why you’re editing so much is that you know, on some level, that whatever you’re editing just does not work.

It’s not a fun thing to discover, to be sure. I had a mini panic attack and a long swig of boozy coffee (in a TARDIS mug. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t need a TARDIS mug in your life). It sucks because it’s actually a realization that you have the capacity to write something that wasn’t perfect the moment you thought of it. It’s admitting to yourself that you have, really, grown as a writer. Whether it be from taking classes or experiencing various things or even reading a bit more.

Trust me, though. If you’re stuck and don’t know why, maybe it’s an unwillingness to change. A failure to understand that who you were when you wrote a paragraph can’t possibly be who you are when you’re ready to be finished with that paragraph. What you have written in the past could be good, but that doesn’t mean it’ll reflect how good you actually are. The only one stopping you from being better is you. And a lack of boozy coffee.

A lot of problems could be solved if everyone sat back and had a boozy coffee.

Soylent green is people!

I don’t know why I’m even posting to this right now. I’m watching a basketball game that is making me want to punch things. ANGER.

Srs bidness.

 

Anyway, I guess I could be helpful today and not talk about my thesis. I could actually talk about literary magazines. Finally.

So, an important thing for a wannabe writer to do is get his/her name out there. Considering that everyone and his mom has a blog/twitter/facebook page, and everything is just loud from the world trying to be heard, the internet is not always going to be the best way to get your name out there. There are a few exceptions, of course. Sarah Rees Brennan made a name for herself by writing Harry Potter fanfiction on her LiveJournal (right? so 2000 and late) and gained a huge audience. She has since taken that stuff down, but not before her fan base found out she was going to be published for real. They went crazy and I’m sure that helped. I mean, I didn’t find her from her fanfiction. I found her via deviant art, because someone made fanart of the characters from her stories. That’s like six degrees of separation. Or like 2, whatever. I’m not good at math.

She’s a good example of how powerful word of mouth can be. Well, word of internet-mouth. My point is, she used the internet to her advantage but not everyone is going to be that lucky.

What you really have to do is publish.

And I know, I’m saying that like it’s the easiest fucking thing in the world to do. And I mean, Twilight got published, so publishing has lost a bit of credibility. But stay with me here, I’m gonna try to help.

As I’ve said before (and will say again and again), writers are jerks. So the people who control whether or not you can be called a real writer are going to be jerks too. Which means when you send your story out to an agent (because, I’ve been told by an Editor, most publishing companies do not take manuscripts from any Joe Blow off the street without an agent), you’re sending your story to a person who will probably be a douchebag. It’s just the nature of the business. People aren’t reading so much anymore but everyone thinks he’s a writer, so I think the whole community is getting a bit jaded.

But what I’m trying to say is, it’s harder to impress a douchebag if you’re a nobody, even if your story is good.

So to get around being a nobody, you should send your story to magazines. Send it to tons of magazines, though make sure they publish stuff like what you’re writing. And when you find one that will take you, keep sending stuff to that magazine (unless they have a rule against that). That way you’re building up a reputation, at least in literary circles. It’ll help your case when you agent shop. And it’ll help your agent when they publisher shop for you.

Going back to the jerks thing; let me tell you, I’ve been to a panel discussion with literary magazine editors, and it was probably the most disheartening thing I’ve ever witnessed. Also I’m doing intern-y things at a magazine now, so I’m kind of in the know. I’m kind of a big deal.

So, some tips:

-They won’t read your whole story if the first couple of paragraphs aren’t good. That’s why I, along with the great Roger Rosenblatt, stress the importance of the good beginning. Because it won’t matter if your story picks up later, they won’t go that far. Also, if your shit is good all ways around, but they reject it anyway, they will (if they’re nice) give you a reason why they didn’t want you. And they might encourage you to send the story again with a couple of edits or a bit of a rewrite.

-Edit, edit, edit. Proofread, proofread, proof-fucking-read. I cannot emphasize that enough. Because I swear to god, if you have a spelling error, they will throw your shit aside. Think about it this way, if you can’t be assed to make sure your story is flawless before sending it to them, they can’t be assed to give you a chance. I know that sounds harsh, but they are getting thousands of manuscripts monthly–it’s like an application for a job: they want an excuse to eliminate options as quickly and legitimately as possible. If you are tired of staring at your story, get other people to read it for you.

-Again, make sure whichever magazine you send to publishes stuff similar to what you write, or at least are open to publishing anything. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. And if you’re rejected, you won’t get feedback. You want feedback.

-Write a fucking cover letter. Seriously. Research the name of the editor of the magazine. Talk a bit about yourself and your piece, be polite. Don’t be a fucking pretentious prick. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I’ve read where I’ve been like, “I wish I could reject this douche simply so he knows he’s not as much of a big shot as he thinks he is.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had that thought but also had the power to act on it. I can’t act on it, obvi. To add to that, send a SASE, too.

-One editor I talked to said he didn’t like stories in the second person, but honestly, he was more of a dick than normal, so I wouldn’t go by that. However, don’t use things like the second person to try and stand out. Because that’s overdone. Gimmicks are called gimmicks for a reason. Writing a good story makes you stand out more than a funky format or using present tense when you don’t have to. Your job isn’t to try and reinvent literature, it’s to tell a story to the best of your ability. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m more apt to accept things that make me laugh. I’ve read so many things that were just so dramatic and boring, the rare one that makes me laugh out loud is appreciated. The whole thing doesn’t have to be funny, just pepper in some comedy to break up the monotony. And as I said, that’s just me. I’ve noticed that very few people enjoy comedic writing.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. But I can maybe answer questions if you have any.

The main thing is just getting your work known. Think of how many times you’ve decided to buy a book because you heard of the author or someone told you the author was good. And the more short stories people read of yours, the more willing they’ll be to read longer stuff. It’s all “dude, she writes awesome short stories, of course I’ll read a novel. Fuck yeah.” That’s how people talk in their heads. Duh.

This game is still making me angry, so I’m done now.

 

It has been decided

The city’s name is Dareford.

If you don’t like it, kiss the fattest part of my ass.

No, I’m just kidding (a little bit). Do you like it? I mean, if you don’t like it, you need to have a good reason why not and a better name lined up. Otherwise, pfft on you.

This is gonna be a thesis update, so those of you looking for advice can click away now.

Incepte'd!

Anyway, since my thesis first draft is written, I’ve just been handing the different parts in to my advisor. I gave her the second part (“Chapter”) last semester because that one was the only one completed at the time. She forced me (it was a good kind of forced) to finish my first part last month, saying that she couldn’t give the second chapter a proper evaluation if it was out of context. Which was true. The first chapter sets up everything. Duh.

It was a challenge for me because I am not, and never have been, good with setting or place. I’m an action writer. I’m the Michael Bay of writers. Fuck details, just tell me what the shit is going on. And throw in some hot girls and explosions. This is the main reason why I can’t write novels. I can’t meander. I can hardly read meandering, there’s no way I can write it.

Despite this erectile dysfunction, I finished it and I wasn’t altogether sure about the quality, but she told me that I’m apparently better than I think because she really liked the chapter. A few things need to be reworked, but altogether I’m on the right track. So she said. Sweet. We set a date for the next chapter, which is Monday, so that’s been all on my mind. Aside from the fact that I haven’t had power for about a week. Thinking about it was good, though, because I realized one part didn’t make sense and had to be fixed.

I just finished retooling the otherwise completed third chapter, the one I’m most proud of, but I’m a little unsure of this one as well. There are a few scenes that I can’t decide if they’re needed or not, so I’ll have to talk to her about them when we meet next.

The second and third chapters are the ones where I played around with the actual craft of writing and pushed myself to actually try to be good at it. The second chapter was written in first person. If you know anything about me, you know I don’t really like first person. (And you know I say fuck shoes.) In the third chapter I played around with present tense. It’s all probably more technical than it should be, but I feel like the point of the program should be more than write a publishable book. I should be learning.

So…that’s basically what’s going on with the thesis. Oh, the fourth chapter is a nice little wrap up that ends with death and maybe sex. Wait…no, no sex. Cockblock’d! I had the most fun with the last chapter, anyway, because it’s sort of disturbing. It’s from the POV of a pretty messed up character. The trick to this chapter was distancing: there are no feelings in the point of view. The character is very in the moment.

But! Here is where you come in! I need three profesh readers to approve this, yes, it’s true. However, I’m also going to want non-writers to read this, probably around the second draft, which won’t be until January or February. So if you have enough time to read what will basically  be a novel in length, let me know. I’m going to pick two of you unlucky SOBs, who will radically different from each other, to bother for a month or so as I perfect the story from a readership point of view. Think long and hard (lolzzz) before agreeing.

I’m gonna be all up in your grill.

Titles are overrated.

So I feel kind of bad because it’s been about two weeks since I said I’d close the poll and I never updated, those of you who were waiting with bated breath, about the results.

The results are, I still have no idea.

I think by now, I'm not fooling anyone about what I do and do not know.

 

Naming the city sounds like it wouldn’t be a big deal, but really the city is a central character. That sounds stupid but whatever, it’s true.

So the results are inconclusive. Daresbury technically won, however an equal number of people are for and against my naming it that. Ordinarily I’d say, fuck that shit and do what I want, yet in this case, I don’t know what I want. Well, no, I know what I want. I want the original town name. Whomp whomp.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not learning a whole hell of a lot in this class because it is a class for beginners. I’d like to think that with one semester left, I’m not really a beginner. But that makes blog posts difficult because I’ve gone over a lot of what’s been said in class already.

I will say this, though. Copy edit your fucking shit.

I understand that you believe that copy editing will be done by your publisher and whatever once you got a book deal, but you have to understand how much simple mistakes reflect poorly on you. It looks like you don’t care, both about your story and about wasting other people’s time. Get someone to do it for you before you hand it in. Read it 50 times yourself–I don’t fucking care how it gets done, just do it.

I feel like I’m a copy editor trapped in a writer’s body sometimes (except with my own stuff, I’m terrible at finding mistakes in my own writing. Hypocritical? Maybe.) and that’s how I read excerpts. So if you’re lacking an Oxford comma, if you use “was” instead of “were”, if you’re dangling clauses, then I’m going to point it out to you. Because it distracts me.

I brought this up in class yesterday and apparently we’re beginner enough that we have to put “said” after everyone’s dialogue, but advanced enough that we don’t have to pay attention to simple grammatical errors. Go figure.

Another thing that really grinds my gears is characterization. What I mean to say is, how realistic do we make our characters? And how do we convince people this is realistic?

I’ve been running across this problem with the story I’ve been using for this class. Originally it was just a story that I was using to get through this since I couldn’t use my thesis and I didn’t have enough brain cells to spare to create another story. But now I’m sort of using this story in defiance. The character is real, she’s very real, I’d go as far as to say she’s kind of me.

Usually, I’d be all “Noooo, don’t base characters off of yourself! That’s asking for trouble.” But in this instance, as I said, I didn’t have the time or energy to put a whole bunch of thought into creating a totally original character. So I made her, put her in a situation, and made her react as I thought I would.

And now I’m being told she’s not believable.

It’s confusing. Because on the one hand, not everyone reacts to situations in the same way. Even one person could react to a situation in many different ways. So telling me that my character isn’t grieving in the proper way is like, well, who the fuck are you? The grief police? Also, my professor is all about characters having sex or something, and she seems really confused that a boy and a girl would live together, even sleep in the same bed together, without having sex. I can’t count the number of times I’ve slept in the same bed as someone and have somehow resisted the urge to jump his/her bones. I’m sure it was difficult, but I managed it. Everyone I know is just so fucking sexy.

One of my classmates said, and rightly so, that my character’s lack of emotion is okay, there just needs to be a reason for it. So that’s another problem to deal with. How am I going to inject backstory like that into a story that really has not use for it. Maybe not no use, but no room. The story isn’t really about her and her lack of emotion, the story is about her dealing with grief enough to find out who the fuck killed her friend so she doesn’t go to jail. Taking time out to talk about her troubled childhood seems out of place. Also, I don’t have time to add these scenes.

So I’ve been told to give this character more emotion. It took a lot for me not to just be so fucking sarcastic and make her incredibly emo and crying all the time. We’ll see next week how the additional emotion plays out. Whatever. This is why you don’t base characters on yourself, everything that’s said about the character suddenly becomes personal and your immediate reaction, instead of listening and considering the critique, is to defend the character’s behaviors. Live and learn. 

I guess I did have something to say. Hot damn.

Help from internet weirdoes

All right. I’m incredibly indecisive. So, I need your help:

(Please ignore the terrible punctuation in the question. I sometimes no do English good.)

If you have a name that you think would fit better, leave it in the comments. If you come up with a name that I like, I’ll feature you in a cameo in one of the parts of my thesis. You’ll be moderately famous. Sort of. Maybe. Not really. But I’ll be appreciative.

The poll will close…I dunno, next week. Yeah, next Thursday. Why not?