Happy New Year’s!

My dark little darlings:

I hope you have a great time tonight, and that you arrive home safely. I want to write about blood and guts being splattered everywhere, not hear about it actually happening. Where’s the fun in that?

As for the Sniders, we’ll be watching New Year’s Evil, playing Saint’s Row, and guzzling pots upon pots of life-sustaining coffee.

Because, y’know, we are Party. Animals.

Here’s hoping the new year brings you all kinds of awesome. And, presuming we don’t all explode in a ball of fiery 2012 world-ending doom, I look forward to the year with you.

The Joys of Editing. No, Really.

I edited the hell out of a story last night. I changed almost everything and mercilessly butchered my darlings until only the proudest were left standing. The more I edited the more I realized the first draft really had been…less than great. A little wooden and a whole lot disjointed. Shitty, to be blunt. As I was editing, I kept wondering how I’d ever liked the story in the first place.

And still, this morning, I’m pretty high on accomplishment. I love the story now. It’s decent, and it flows, and dare I say it’s even a little funny.

A huge part of why I used to give up on stories is that when you’re writing the rough draft, it’s easy to hate the story. Sometimes it’s easy to hate yourself a little, too. I’m no good at this. How the hell did I ever expect to get anywhere? It will never be good. My friends and family are just being kind and really they think I suck ass.

I’d heard all the quotes from famous authors belittling the first draft, bitching about how the first draft sucks, will always suck. I heard it, but I didn’t believe it. Surely, these incredible artists were just being modest, or were venting their frustrations hyperbolically.

It took me a long while, years, to feel the truth of what I’d been hearing.

So from someone who’s not a famous author (yet), if you’re teetering on the precipice, pay attention: it sucks. It will suck, hard. But the joy is in fixing all those what-the-hells, smoothing and sticking together the jagged bits with Bondo and silly-string and whatever else you keep in your bag of tricks.

Now I realize that the worse the rough, the more fun it is to attack it in editing. Now you have a basic plan in mind, a beginning-middle-end of some sort, and you get to run in there, machete swinging, and mercilessly mow down anything that invaded your story’s territory when you weren’t looking. Stupid character? Whack ’em. Boring part? Light something on fire and watch ’em panic. The best part is seeing what you can do to mix it up a little.

So take joy in your shitty first drafts. Look forward to the cruel revenge you will take on anything that dares not be good. Keep a metaphorical knife in your teeth and madman’s glimmer in your eye. Love it, or strike it dead.

Never Not Doing

I spent the day yesterday transcribing a story I’d written by hand into my laptop for editing. It’s one that’s been kicking around for months, lingering across two notebooks because it’s more fun to start something new than to sit like a chained monkey copying something old. It was a boring thing to do, and I cursed myself the whole time.

Why in the world did I write it longhand in the first place? What was I thinking?

It’s because shoving a notebook into my bag is easier than lugging a laptop. And it’s unthinkable not to have something to work on, on my person, at all times.

Maybe it’ll help my writing practice. Maybe it’ll see me locked away in a mental hospital. Either way, I’m incapable of just…sitting.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but the idea of wasting all that time just copying when I could have been editing or writing drives me nuts. I was only transcribing, to make sure I was getting all those scribbles down. I didn’t have the tv or radio on. No headphones. It just felt wrong. I mean, it takes all I have to sit with company and only be talking. My hands fidget, wanting to be loosed and typing something or knitting something, or…

I don’t think of it as a deficit. It’s not that I can’t focus, or retain, it’s that doing one thing isn’t enough. How people sit and just watch tv, I will never understand. Being at the beach in Hawaii, as beautiful as it was, nearly killed me with boredom until I caved in and read a book.

I don’t think it makes me better than other people; it makes me more neurotic, that’s for sure. That’s good for art, right?

If I could write while I worked my day job, with headphones blaring, I think I’d be a much happier person.

What about you? What are your weird little quirks?



Waiting Games

When I finished school, I felt so relieved. I wrote my last test and thought There. I don’t ever have to do this again. No more waiting nervously for results, to see if I passed or failed. Then I got through my first job interview in my day-job field and thought Okay, for real, NOW I’m done.

Joke was on me, though.

I just submitted another story for potential publication. One that I really like; frankly I think it’s pretty well written. I think it’s interesting. But every submission is like another job interview. You make sure you’ve dressed the part (editing) and sit there nervously waiting to be called in (awaiting acknowledgement). There’s an awkward dance where you hope you’ve answered all their questions correctly (hope you have a story they like), then you gather your things, leave, and sit at home by the phone waiting for someone to get back to you. It’s all on them at this point. You’ve done your bit. And if they decide they didn’t like your hair, or your shoes, or whatever, you’re done. Or maybe you legitimately sucked, and it’s not a job you should have even applied for. You won’t know anything until you hear back.

I’m a pretty anxious person. The funniest bit about me pursuing a writing career is that I’ve effectively signed on for hundreds, if not thousands of little job interviews. Forever.

And though I’m already moving on to other stories, other projects, I have to admit it’s still lurking at the back of my mind. (Okay, the front, where it blazes its name in flashing lights, but whatever.)

There’s the hope that it’s as good as I think it is. The hope that “they” will have enjoyed it. Of course, there’s also the hope that they liked it so much they can’t fathom their next anthology without it and they’re going to halt publication altogether until I sign on (though that last bit might be a bit of a stretch).

So if you need me, I’ll be over here writing, jumping every time my email notification sounds. Is there a drinking game for spam email?

Movie Monday: Lessons on Writing from “The Horrible Sexy Vampire”

Horrible Sexy Vampire

The movie starts with an invisible murderer killing a man in the shower. Alright, not bad. Then what happens?


Well then, what can we gain from watching The Horrible Sexy Vampire? It teaches a lot about how not to write dialogue—NEVER EVER write like this*. (Lines appearing one after the other are as spoken in conversation. I’ve tried to interpret the punctuation so you can “hear” it in all its glory.) Enjoy.

Unlikely characterization: “In my opinion, we cannot prove nor disprove the existence of vampires.” A pathologist, presumably a man of science, arguing with a logical police investigator.

Exhaustive exposition: I was going to transcribe the pathologist’s statement of how we “know” it’s a vampire going around murdering these people (including math equations!), but it’s just paragraph after paragraph of blather. The characters just stand there, static, while one talks at the other.

Awkward delays in plot: “That baron should be buried downstairs in the cellar, and so should his wife. We may be able to open their tombs.” “…What do you suppose they’ll hold, other than their crumbling bones?” “First we’ll have to find the door.” “Of course.”

“Explaining is stupid; why should I bother?” Yeah, I have nothing to say about that one.

“Written” language rather than realistic speech: “I dislike idle conjectures.”

Lack of editing-slash-logic: “…the last owner had no children.” “Are you referring to my mother?”

Characters don’t really talk to each other, they just talk: “Pardon my indiscretion, but what is it you do in London?” “Well, I’m not actually forced to do anything. I have a steady source of income and devote myself to my hobby of taxidermy. I should say I spend a huge amount of my time doing that.” “How interesting. You’re really most kind. Many thanks again.”

Throwaway dialogue: “What’s the time?” “It’s three past midnight go to bed.” “Tomorrow then bye.” (two barmaids)

Major lessons to take away: watch pacing and dialogue. Eliminate lengthy walking sequences where nothing happens. Make sure characters actually communicate instead of just blurting dialogue at each other. Also, edit for realism: I doubt a real cop would go on at length about intimate murder-case details to a perfect stranger (who, by the way, is also a suspect).

Runners-up for awfulness: One character literally rubs at his eyes in disbelief, on two separate occasions. Also, surprise vampire necrophilia.

Kudos, though, to the invisible vampire: a trait somewhat underused in vampire stories. That’s the only compliment I can give this one.

*This movie was originally in Spanish; but my argument stands. Someone still made these horrible dialogue choices when the screenplay was translated. And the plot speaks the universal language of suck.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t have much to say today (just waiting for the soft ginger cookies to cool before we head out for another huge family dinner) but I wanted to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. If you’re reading this, you’re supporting me, and I appreciate you. Thanks.

Hope you’re having a great holiday, with those you love best. I know I am.

(I get all soppy in my black little heart this time of year. Back to blood and guts tomorrow, promise.)

Keeping Secrets

Working on a new story is a secret process.

Sure, you might see me clicking away at my netbook in the breakroom (yes, I know it’s pink, it was on sale, shut up) or watch me brighten with epiphany and scurry off to scribble it down (or maybe it looks like I have the runs; I’ve never actually seen my epiphany-face).

It’s fine if you know that I’m working on something new. My whole goal is to always be working on something new.


Nothing will kill a story faster than telling someone what it’s about. It’s instant death. It’s peeling the shell off a chick half-formed.

Because no matter how well-meaning, someone will always try to “help”.

Maybe I’m over-protective, but as soon as someone else has put in their two cents, the story no longer belongs just to me. Now it has the smudge of someone else’s fingerprints, and the rest of the time I’m working on the piece I can’t stop glancing at those little blotches someone else left. Maybe their suggestion is fantastic: I’m not trying to negate, here. But once someone else has touched the story, I’m no longer the sole captain of that ship.

Writing is ultimately for an audience. Part of what kept me from finishing anything (for years!) was the fear of not having anyone like it. The whole point is to entertain the reader. To make them feel satisfied with the time they spent on your story. If you don’t ultimately concern yourself with the reader, you might as well be scrawling on the walls in a closet somewhere.

But first, before the reader gets let in, the story is just for me. I want to write something that I enjoy, without tailoring it to some demographic. I need time to experiment, to fail catastrophically and nix the whole damn thing if I have to. That freedom is worn away every time the partially-finished story is told; suddenly you have expectations (I thought this was about zombies? Where did the mysterious strangers in the bushes go? Why did you change the names?). And expectations weigh the story down, tying tiny little ropes to it until it can’t move anywhere.

So please: don’t ask what it’s about yet. And if you do, I apologize in advance for my grimace.

Artists! Bring Out Your Skeletons!

After yesterday’s post I found a video that instantly changed my views on writing, and on being a “new” writer. If you’re an artist, in any form, you need to see this.

More artists need to do this: to reveal, even occasionally, their awkward first attempts. All that we fledglings see are the polished pieces, and it’s reassuring to see proof that once, even the experts kind of…sucked.