“Owen and Jessica” now on The Yard: Crime Blog

Subscribers may remember Owen and Jessica from previous posts. It’s a flash piece and always got laughs and applause when I read it publicly. I shopped it around, got lots of excellent comments from editors (who always asked to see more of my work) and no bites until this week.

 
Owen and Jessica was a fun, quick write that required little editing.

Blood gathered in the whorls of his thumb. He stared at it and chuckled before licking it clean.

 
It came out pretty much fully formed.

That’s an author’s way of saying “It only took twelve rewrites.” Most of the rewrites were for timing and tension; change a word here or there. One major (and important, me thinks) edit came late to the game; I added the third and fourth paragraphs from the bottom, from “He stood over…” to “…didn’t fit.”

Let me know what you think.

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Enjoy!

J.N. Williamson’s “How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction

First, a different kind of how-to-write book; each chapter is written by a different notable in the field – Williamson, Bradbury, Tem, Grant, Bradley, …

The variety of perspectives is interesting. I wonder if each author chose their chapter subject or were assigned it by Williamson, who served as editor.

Bradbury’s chapter, for example, is about where ideas come from and nurturing them, not specific techniques. Tem and Castle each take a turn at character but each from their own perspective.

Bradley’s “World Building in Horror, Occult, and Fantasy Writing” marks the first time I’ve seen the “world building” term outside of writers’ cons (I’m hosting a World Building panel at LitCon 2021).

Beyond chapters on technique – Plot, Character, Setting, World Building, Revision, Submission, … – How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction‘s contributors explain the whys of their suggestions. Example: William F. Nolan’s “Involving Your Reader from the Start” chapter contains several examples of opening paragraphs (I don’t agree that all of them are good). Near the end of his chapter he writes “In the no-TV, no-video, no-comics world of Charles Dickens, readers were conditioned to deal with complex, dense, often-wordy opening pages in books and stories. It was an era of leisurely reading when the pace could be slow and unhurried. Not so today. …”

In other words, writing evolves with a purpose. Yes, there are fads and they pass quickly. What survives is what out-competes others in the environment.

Amazing how evolutionary science affects everything, isn’t it?


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Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Feb 2021’s Great Opening Lines)

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

It’s been almost a year since I posted some great opening lines. I’ve read some fine books during Covid, none of them with remarkable opening lines, though.

This month, I read three. One’s a reread of a book originally read as a child and recently reread, one’s a book that’s been on my shelf for too many years unread, the third is from a SouthernLit author new to me.
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Feb 2021’s Great Opening Lines)”

He stands naked in a ditch.

I mentioned back in Four pieces for a workshop I’m taking an online writing course. I’m sharing the exercises from that class in that post, Two Pieces for a Workshop, and in Four (Other) Pieces for a Workshop. This post is from the last class in that series. Here we were given “He stands naked in a ditch.” as a prompt and asked to create an atmospheric flash piece/tone poem from it.

I came up with the following 54 word piece.

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Kit Reed’s “Revision”

I first read Kit Reed’s Revision (probably) four years ago. It was one of the first books I read when I decided to spend the rest of my life writing. I dogeared two pages.

I finished my second read about a week ago (as I write this). The book is a mess of dogeared pages.

It’s amazing how much more Kit Reed put into this book in four years, don’t you think?

Extra Effort Closes the Distance between You and Your Audience.

 
The entirety of the book comes down to Reed’s Rule Six: Extra Effort Closes the Distance between You and Your Audience.

Whenever you come to a moment of hesitation, unsurety, confusion, skimming, general off-ness, stop, figure out what’s not working, and fix it.

 
And Reed also provides a caution; Recognize when it’s done and let it go. There’s lots of examples of recognizing when something’s let-goable and when something isn’t. The one that hit me smack between the eyes is “Whenever you come to a moment of hesitation, unsurety, confusion, skimming, general off-ness, stop, figure out what’s not working, and fix it.”

I am training myself to do that. Too many times I’d read something and need to reread it, figure it out on the second take and decide it was okay.

NO, IT WASN’T!

Reed also offers several question lists to help you in your own revising. Early in the book Reed poses twelve questions so you can learn if you’re open to revision. Don’t know about others, I found it revealing (especially when invoking Reed’s suggestion to be strict (unforgiving) with your answers).

Another duh! list early in the book (pg 39) deals with determining if your work (and others, too, if you’re in a critique group) is ready to go out. Reed suggests writers/authors/writer-wannabes read for:

  1. Truth in action
  2. Accessibility
  3. Completeness
  4. Time scheme
  5. Point of view
  6. Length (with an eye to possible cutting)
  7. Organization
  8. And, once again, balance of showing versus telling. (Reed’s words, this, not mine)

Unsure what some of those mean? Read the book.


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