Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Short Stories, Anyone?

In my younger days, I loved short stories. Reading them and writing them. I remember racing home during my lunch hour to read Hemingway's Nick Adams stories over a tuna sandwich. Nice break from my secretarial position in the district attorney's office.

I enjoyed reading the short fiction in Cosmopolitian, Redbook, Alfred Hitchcock magazine and Ellery Queen. Literary magazines cluttered my coffee table. Sadly, and in spite of all my creative writing classes, I never mastered the beginning, middle and end of the short story. Most of my rejections came back with "nice slice of life but not a short story." At some point I gave up. Unfortunately, I gave up reading them too.

Recently, I stumbled across a fun little literary magazine that has whetted my appetite for short fiction again. Check out The First Line. This is no fly-by-night literary magazine. The First Line has been around for ten years, and their purpose is to jump start the imagination and help writers break through the block that is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line. Can't get much more fun and challenging than that. How many different directions can we take when we start from the same place?

I have my very own copy of the Fall issue of The First Line, and I'm impressed. Want to write short stories? Believe me, it's a nice break from the long stuff. Why not accept the challenge The First Line offers: Create a story using their following line:

Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.

The Deadline is Feb. 1, 2008. Check out The First Line for details and submission requirements. In fact, go ahead and subscribe. You won't regret it.

Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.

Works for me--I've never felt like a Jessica!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

For Your Information

Here are a few quotes that also serve as writing tips:

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

There are a lot of ways to enjoy a civilized life while keeping your feelings hidden--but not at the typewriter. ~Bob Baker

Typewriter? what's that? :)

I divide all readers into two classes: those who read to remember and those who read to forget. ~William Lyon Phelps

Begin every story in the middle. The reader doesn't care how it begins, he wants to get on with it. ~Louis L'Amour

All writing is a form of prayer. ~John Keats

And my personal favorite:

A bad book is as much a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author's soul. ~Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Plotter? Pantser? You Decide

My partipation in NaNoWriMo has been a learning experience. I had a very vague idea, made notes on the first three chapters then sat down and started writing something entirely different. So far I have little more than 10,000 words and I have no idea where they came from. :) I've never done this. I've never just sat with laptop in lap and pounded out a story. It's fun. I like my main character. She's a little ditsy but not unlike the rest of her family. I especially like the hero who's a pretty straight-forward kind of guy. :) I never did like (or trust) beat-around-the-bush, secretive people. Maybe that's why I have such a rough time with politicians, but we don't need to go there, do we? :-(

This spontaneous seat of the pants writing is teaching me that I can do it. More than that, it's showing me some bad habits and weaknesses I have. Funny how those things are jumping out at me now when I'm not supposed to be paying attention to anything but getting the story down. So, these 40+ pages I've typed are riddled with yellow and red highlights. I can't edit, but I can sure highlight where I want to go back and cut or flesh out. I guess that really does make me a plotter. I'm plotting my rewrites.

If you want to read more about plotting or seat of the pants writing, check out these sites. You can even take a quiz to learn who and what you are--writing-wise, that is.

And if you didn't participate in this year's NaNoWriMo, plot to participate next year. You won't regret it.

Check the following sites to learn more about Plotters and Pantsers:

Karen Story

The Writing Life: All Kinds of Writing

What kind of Writer are You?