Why Writing?

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Nearly everyone who has ever picked up a pencil, dreams of earning a living writing. Not writing any old thing either. We want to share a story, or our knowledge on a topic, using our own personal voice. (If it was just the action of writing, we’d all be technical writers, where a full time job is not only a reality, but in high demand.)

Why though? Is it the creative release? If it’s just creativity why not something else? Why not expressing our own unique style through painting? Sketches? Making blankets? What is so darn special about writing that everyone wants to not only do it, but do it all the time. Why do people want to write for a living?

For me, writing for a living is a possibility. I’m good enough at writing short stories that between contests and publications, I at one point scraped by on words alone. (Not under this name. Sorry. I got married!) When I moved here, I actually prefered to get a real job and start playing with novels.

I like the process of writing more than anything else. When the process is over, there is nothing more for me in the story. I forget it and move on. When I’m writing a short story, I can finish a short story in as little as two weeks. For me, the process is over too quickly. There’s nothing to pick at anymore, and it takes something from me.

Maybe I’ll make a living at novels, but for now I’m happy the way things are.

You’ve probably been asked why you write. Now I’m asking you. Why writing?

This isn’t the Matrix, and you are not that fast.

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I am a member of several writing related forums online. I love hanging out with other writers, hearing what they have to say, and helping with their work. There really isn’t too much that can make me snort my coffee through my nose, but a request sent to one of my forums did.

A writer, who shall remain anonymous, asked us as a group to help her finish editing her novel, since she’d gotten a request for material from one of the queries she’d sent out before the novel was finished. Yes. Really.

I understand the temptation. I’ve sent out stories I thought were complete, and then realized after a stream of rejections that it was the story that needed work. But to knowingly send out a story that’s half-finished? That’s playing with fire.

Maybe I’m just a really slow editor, but it takes me 4-5 days to go through a chapter at the best of times. A few chapters have taken me as long as 2 weeks. Assuming I’ve got about 20 chapters, that’s 100 days minimum from start to finish. Assume it all goes wrong and you’re looking at almost a year from start to finish, just to complete a new draft. Then I have to put it away long enough to tackle it again with fresh eyes, and make sure there are no flaws. With that in mind, I’ll be lucky to have the first query letters out for Life of a Suburban Unicorn by 2012.

Saying that, I can see why sending queries out early might be tempting, but suppose I sent a query letter out today, and got a reply back next week. Suppose it’s not a rejection. It’s a request for a partial! I send my edited work, and hey–they want a full!

Now I’ve got 10+ chapters I need to edit over night. >_> Can you imagine?

What’s your take on sending queries out early?

The odds of publication…

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Today i spent my early morning procrastination watching this youtube video, in which Lev decides to write a book. I laughed, because I understand the problem he stumbled across, but it also made me think.

Are the odds of publication really that bad? (Yeah I know, the movie has nothing to do with publication and everything to do with writer’s block, but that’s what it got me thinking on. So there!)

We all read articles about rejection, but let’s take a minute and really think this over. Out of 7 billion people on the planet, about 7 billion have a story they want to tell. That’s a lot of competition, right? Maybe. Except for the fact that 25% of them are illiterate.

Whew! Just by the fact that you’re reading this, you’ve already managed to erase over a billion people from the publication race. Not bad eh?

Bur A.M. Kuska! I hear you cry, what about the remaining 5.25 billion people who can read? Well ask yourself this. How many of those 5 billion will ever pick up a pencil? How many will complete a rough draft? How many will submit to a critique circle? How many will admit their rough draft is somewhat less than perfect and rewrite? How many people actually send their manuscript out at all? Send it again when it’s rejected?

*crickets chirp*

I thought so. Even if we say an agent receives 100,000 query letters every year, it’s probably safe to assume some of those are badly formatted. Some were poorly worded. (Sorta like “The Family” from earlier, but less cool.) I’m sure one or two were addressed to Mrs. Bob, and some are rejected because their YA novel is 300,000 words long. When you cut out all these things…the odds start looking good.

The reality is, there aren’t enough manuscripts out there with good writing, good plot, and good editing. ^^ Yay!

Seriously though, while we can’t track these things, we do know that there are very few agents closed to submissions, which means there are still gaps to be filled.

Perspectives: California

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I knew I was missing my homestate when I found myself remenescing over wildfires. Fire season spans across most of the year down there, and most of us don’t blink when we hear about a fire burning 30,000 acres. Even if there are three fires each burning 30,000 spread out in a line headed toward you. (Unless of course, you are unlucky enough to live in the hills instead of somewhere safe such as a valley. Then I imagine you are running to pack your bags and hope that huge swath of naked earth surrounding your house is a big enough fire barrier.)

California has its own unique personality, which I did not notice until my (then future) husband came down to visit me. He was awed by our attitude toward cops, and also to our speed limits. (I found out much to my horror that Washington speed limits are 5-10 miles slower everywhere.)

“When we [meaning Washingtonians] see a cop with someone pulled over, we slow down. You guys just keep going. It’s like you think since he’s got one he’s too busy to get you too.”

Well it isn’t exactly like that. It’s more like, “if you’re not the fastest person and you’re not the slowest person, and you don’t have an eye catching sports car, you’re unlikely to be the one who gets the ticket.”

That being said, I am the model of good behavior here in Washington. Even though the speed limits suck, and that kid on the tricycle is passing me. He’s going to be the one with the ticket. Right? Of course right.

Something that also really stood out for me when I first moved was the street names. We use actual names, with a theme to them where I grew up in California. Here, all the streets are numbered. Instead of Christine street, Karen Street and Vanessa street in one section, we have 176th, 175th, and 174th.

>.<

My dad actually noticed the other difference between these two states, that I think defines their personalities. When he came up for my wedding this past June, he seemed very flustered as we drove around the streets. Eventually, he brought this up to my Mother-In-Law.

“I have a question for you,” he said to her, not quite making eye contact. We all stared at him, because he isn’t generally that shade of red when he talks.

“Where ever I drive here, I see all these little pink stands by the side of the road, and the women in them are almost naked. What are they–um—selling?”

We stared at him for a moment, minds frantically racing to figure out where these naked people were. I was the first to burst out laughing, cause I’d figured it out.

“Coffee stands,” I told him between gasps for air. “Those are coffee stands!”

He thought they were selling–well–never mind. Washington is defined by its coffee, as you probably know, and also by the amount of clothing on the ladies who serve it. 😛

Those are the only differences that really strike me, weather aside. Despite what Bella will tell you, by the way, the weather doesn’t actually suck. I admit to staring at the sky the first time it snowed, and my first dumbfounded thought was something along the lines of, “Dandruff!” But it does snow in California. Somewhere. Just not where I lived. It doesn’t actually rain here in Washington every day. It’s just cloudy every single day. You don’t even notice after the first couple months, promise! ^^

That’s it for now! If you’d like to share your own perspective with other writers, please drop me a line at sskid2000 AT hotmail DOT com. Thanks all!

Okay, I have to link this. ^^

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A few days ago I wrote the blog post, Ten Novels You Will Never Write. A blogger I follow, Tsactuo wrote a blog post response here. Instead of novels, he did films. Most of them are pretty funny!

I’m quite sure a few of those movies are already out though… O.o 

Anyway, great post. Go check it out!

Author Update

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Life of a Suburban Unicorn, my current work in progress, is almost done. Unlike Rex Stoute, my writing doesn’t come out good the first draft, or even first several drafts. I start out with incoherent, upgrade to sensible but bad, and comb through it 476 times looking for errors before I call it done. By this time I hate it with a passion, and put it away until it has been so long since I’ve looked at it, I don’t even remember writing it. When I reread it, I’m amazed at the sheer beauty of the writing inside, and can’t imagine why I didn’t rush out immediately and try to publish it.

I believe I’m on the 475th revision, mostly due to this live journal page here. If you’ve read Twilight, you’ll enjoy reading the sporking of the book, and others in the series. Yes, even if you liked Twilight. In fact, you might get more out of it.

I’ve never read the rest of the series, mostly because I got New Moon and put it down unread after the first three chapters. I loved Twilight however, so when my friend sent me the Sporking of Twilight, I went in prepared to defend it to the death.

I also realized, after reading it and comparing the observations of the critic to my copy of Twilight…well…it’s accurate. All these flaws really are in this best selling novel. I pictured my own novel being ripped apart in the same way, hustled over to my manuscript, popped it open, and started asking questions. Would this person really say that? What’s really going on here? Is this accurate?

So far I’ve only double checked two chapters of my novel, but I can see the improvements already. I can’t wait to get to the juicy stuff.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow: Query letters!