NaNo-NaNo, Shazbot.

nano

Greatness comes and Greatness goes, but it takes an audience to notice.

Two days ago, I passed the 50,000 word goal on my NaNoWriMo project. Oddly, not even Shazbot celebrated.

The reason I find this odd is because an automated message from the project—a robot, of sorts, whom I like to call ‘Shazbot’—has congratulated me by email on each of the other benchmarks along the way: at 25,000 words, for example, and again at 40,000. Shazbot’s silence over my achievement of NaNo’s ultimate goal is understandable, however, for two simple reasons.

  1. I haven’t yet finished the novel, and,
  2. not another human soul has read it.

Perhaps it takes more than just writing 50,000 words for a writer or his ‘bot to feel like celebrating.

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The Rejection Reflex

Quit talking to the hand

How can an author help agents break the cycle of rejection?

Please comment with any advice about the querying process, especially if you have successfully enlisted an agent.

I have an idea for a new business that could be a real money-spinner. I call it ‘Literary Rejection Services, Inc.’ and I can see making a bundle from agents whose index fingers are starting to cramp.

This is not exactly a newsflash, but I had a rejection from a fairly reputable agent arrive to my inbox yesterday. The difference between this rejection and so many of the others is surprising, though; to this agent, I had never actually submitted a proposal. Is it possible that literary agents are so query-weary that they have started sending preemptive form rejections? Have their slush piles started to leak over the tops of their employer-issued gumboots?

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You Can’t Wrap Fish in a Newsfeed

fishwrapping

Why do we want our writing to smell?

When considering which publishers I would prefer to harass, the first thing I do is check their sales figures for the genre I am writing. I know this is good practice, because my supporters at WOW tipped me off to do so, and there is nobody in the industry whom I trust more implicitly. Oddly, though, I always pass right by the Kindle statistics, which sometimes show much higher sales. The only thing that interests me, even today, is how many paperback copies of a title manage to sell.

This qualifies as Metacognitive Mystery #627, since most of the reading I do these days is using a reader. Yes, yes, I know the old arguments about physical books being more reliable, passive light being healthier for us, and the musty smell of water-damaged relics from our basements making us feel all blah, blah, blah… but I don’t think that’s where a writer’s connection to paper publishing really begins and ends. I think that the reason writers like me want to see our books in print, one day, is a matter of legacy.

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Stories for Your Reading Pleasure

I was thrilled to find a fellow blogger who liked my story so much that she linked to it for everyone. Thanks, Sheila. Check out Mixed Colors and the other stories below, then read this sample chapter of my Young Adult Mystery novel, Labels.

COW PASTURE CHRONICLES

images-4It’s the perfect time of the years, with the nights turning cooler and the leaves falling, to curl up by the fire with a good story. So, from fellow writers across the web, here are a few of my favorites.

First up, the winner of WOW’s 2016 Spring Flash Fiction Contest,  Mixed Colors by K. Alan Leitch and 2016 Winter Flash Fiction Contest, runner-up, Carole Garrison’s –The Wait.

SmokeLong Quarterly, gives us – My Husband is Made of Ash by Jennifer Todhunter and My Friend Diane by Emily Flouton.

And, from Fiction Southeast, The Kidnapper’s Journal by Shoshauna Shy.

I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did. Pass them on and let the authors know what you thought.

Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood,

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Competitive Creativity

running-shakespeare

I would like to invite some responses detailing other writers’ strategies when entering competitions, and perhaps more links to the comps themselves.

Sometimes, I know why I enter short story competitions. Other times, I wonder.

With lists and lists of competitions available to enter, a writer could nearly make a full-time career of the pursuit. Some enter them all (taking a ‘why not’ attitude, and using any winnings to finance further entries), while others refuse (preferring to keep their writing underexposed for greater appeal to publishers.) I have met authors in both extremes, but I tend to take more of a middle ground between two opposing tensions: the certainty of exposure against the risk of overexposure.

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Hail to the Tweet

tweeting

Grabbing America by the Tweetie.

After nearly two weeks blogging, I am becoming epiphany-weary. Over and over, I learn emotionally something I have known about the world for years now, but only intellectually.

My most recent epiphany is that the leader of the free world is no longer a man (or a woman, for that matter.) Just as Orange has become the New Black, so have software apps nearly become a replacement for our nations… and the borders are stricter than ever. As simple a matter as it might be to emigrate to the United Walls of Facebook, those who claim residency there are becoming as blind to rich diversity as any first-world country has ever been.

Here’s the thing: I became a WordPress denizen for a reason. This was a place, I believed, where ideas of a less, um… abbreviated nature could be shared with like-minded others. In my case, I was (and still am) excited by the prospect of refining my process as an author through feedback from other authors, and, while this exchange has begun, I must confess that I am distraught by a recent incursion across our national borders by some citizens of Faceboknia.

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3 Ideas for Narrative Voice

voice

Fill in the blank, authors.

This post needs comments!

Since my guest-post on The Muffin, where I seek advice about how to achieve the “Strong Female Voice” that so many agents seem to want, I’ve been pondering that question that authors seem to answer differently each time they are asked: what, exactly, is “Voice” in written fiction? It seems that agents want ‘original voices,’ implying that our writing should speak in some wacky or innovative way that’s never been used. Yet, agents also want accurate grammar, and writing that readers can follow easily. There is some contradiction.

Of course, the most interesting stories, particularly novels, tend to feature a variety of characters, so their voices need to identify them in startling, alluring or humorous ways that are still partly predictable. That is a huge challenge, but one for another discussion: for today, let’s narrow our focus to some different types of narrative voice. Here are some ideas, but I hope for some comments to reveal more:

The Voice of Authority

Novels told by an authoritative narrator tend to be easy to read, because the narrator’s job is to make us understand and accept his view of the story. I use the sexist pronoun ‘his’ intentionally, because this is typical of a time when male authors dominated literature: H.G. Wells (who was probably male) had his narrator dictate to us exactly who those pesky Martians were, and how they could slice up Woking for lunch. The Journalist dictated this even while the other characters (including the protagonist, who was the same person) waved sticks and rifles around until they were fricasseed by a heat-ray or two. There was no need to wonder why this was happening: The Journalist told us, and, whenever he didn’t know, he only needed to ask his partner-in-arrogance, Ogilvy.

Boring? It wasn’t when Herbert George did it, but it is when I try. So, let’s move on to…

The Voice of Ignorance

An ignorant narrator is a bigger challenge for me as an author. Any narrator who can’t help me to help me inform my readers is making my life pretty tough. Harper Lee’s approach in Mockingbird is one that has stuck with me, but, at the risk of heresy, she actually cheated a little: grown-up Jean Louise knew exactly what was happening, and was only remembering her perspective as ignorant little Scout. Still, it’s probably more interesting to find out ‘what’s up’ along with a narrator, so let’s step it up now to…

The Voice of Deception

Here is the motherload: the Holy Grail of an unreliable narrator, currently hot with agents and something I have achieved with satisfaction in some of my short fiction. Sadly, attempting it for NaNoWriMo was probably a mistake, as my attempts to tell Death Imitates Art through an unreliable narrator needed a lot more time to refine and tweak. Nearly every detail an unreliable narrator reveals is critical to his or her effectiveness. The idea is for the narrator to keep something critical from us: not just from the other characters, but from readers, too. This could mean that they’re ready for the Linoleum Bin, like Holden was in Catcher but I’ve always felt that Ishiguro did a much more subtle job of this in The Remains of the Day. He designed a perfectly sane, perfectly likeable character who talked around the most important fact about his beloved employer, simply because he didn’t want anyone to judge a man who really should have been harshly judged.

In other words, the butler Stevens acted just like the rest of us do. Maybe, then, the most original narrative voice is just the one each of us hears in our head every day.

I am seeking some insights, here: What is your idea of effective narrative voice? Can anyone read my sample of Death Imitates Art, and comment on whether you can tell what Eloise is hiding? 

 

Start at the Very Middle…

doremi

The middle might be a very good place to start.

While I doubt that the real Fräulein Maria ever sang about starting at the beginning, my mother’s obsession with Julie Andrews made me feel, while growing up, that this was good advice. Subconsciously, I think I have always tried to follow it. Perhaps, while writing, I shouldn’t.

NANO is now one-third finished, but my novel is not. I am determined to follow the organization’s advice: to produce a draft of a novel, no matter how badly written, entirely during this month. After all, if I wrote Olivia of Olympus to 36,000 words during the 3-day Novel Competition, shouldn’t I be able write Death Imitates Art given an entire month? I should be: provided that I don’t get too hung up on the problems I’ve had writing a strong first chapter. No matter how carefully I plan and outline, it seems that I can’t get any real momentum going in my narrative and dialogue until–you guessed it–around the middle.

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The Nouveau Meek

Photo, hand holding globeColor

How can anyone remain meek, once they’ve inherited the Earth?

I had a debate with a Jehovah’s Witness, recently. He had come to my door to reassure me of the scripture promising us that the meek shall inherit the Earth. When I suggested that this may have already happened–that those who were once meek may now be too powerful to recognize–the question arose as to what has happened to those who once held that power. If they are now meek, that promise of inheriting the Earth may be stuck in an infinite loop.

While the argument was successful to the extent that it sent the young man packing, it still resonates in my mind days later. It brings to mind a time when authors could only reach an audience if they first knew the magical incantation needed to attract a publisher’s attention. Most authors were, almost by definition, about as ‘meek’ as one can get. As technology has progressed, we are witnessing a democratisation of authoring: an ability to claim at least some kind of audience by simply logging into WordPress and blathering away, regardless of what some old mothballed ‘publisher’ might think.

Surely, this is something to celebrate… but is it also something to fear?

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Jesus Saves… but even He can forget to make backups.

crux2

I’ve been playing File Roulette for awhile, now.

Like that time that Kramer decided to drive as far as he could on an empty tank, I think I am getting a kind of cheap thrill from wondering whether tomorrow will be the day that all my precious literature is lost on a corrupt disk. I know I should have a backup routine, and I keep promising myself that I will create one, but the thoughts of configuring NAS servers and setting up incremental routines is enough to send me searching for that box of Snackwells, instead. This brings me to our newest messiah–that heavenly saviour of digital storage–the omnipresent cloud.

Even its name–‘The Cloud’–conjures images of harp-plucking elitists idly promising us that all will be well with our data. As writers, though, should we believe this promise? The very nature of our work depends on copyrighting, and every minute that it is ‘out there’ just feels insecure to me. While it is harder to lose a file on The Cloud, surely it must be easier to steal one.

Sure, I have some technological background, so I understand some of the reassurances about secure servers and protocols. I’ll even go so far as to admit that my work is probably safer from hackers on The Cloud than it would be on my own homegrown server… but not safer than it is on a USB stick that I remove when my day’s work is finished. Something about uploading unprotected work just feels wrong. It feels unsafe.

And that’s the uneasy feeling that led me to the U.S. Copyright Service.

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