What can you #write in Ten #Sentences ? #heywriters


I’ve been botching up taking an open online creative writing course from Iowa Writer’s workshop. It is in its last week, and after doing the first two classes, I mostly missed out on all the others. I traveled, worked on stuff at home, basically did anything but write.

I’ve missed the deadline for the writing assignment in the last class, so I thought I would make a fool of myself by doing it here, in public. Here’s the assignment:

Write a scene of ten sentences and include in each sentence a numeral. If you’ve reached ten sentences and you’d like to keep going, you can make this a scene of twenty sentences, or thirty — the idea is just to write within this pattern. Example: On the day my town flooded, I was ten years old. It was four o’clock in the morning. In the darkness, right before I heard the water coming, two roosters crowed.

Boy soldiers in Syria

A Boy Soldier: Copyright Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via the Guardian

And here’s my attempt:

Shut your mouth or I’ll kill you, he’d said, on day one at the camp, the day they brought his brother in. After a month, when opening his schoolbag, I found three packets of white powder, larger than the packs salt came in, but much smaller than the packs of sugar.

I found these in your bag, I said to him two days later, when I felt able to look him square in his bloodshot eyes.

He snatched them from my hand, slammed them on the table, and banged it with his stringy hands: You listen to me, woman, he said, though his thirteen-year-old body wasn’t yet as tall as mine, You listen to me good. I’m tired of eating your kabsa and your kushary, and I’m tired of Abba’s begging for rations– give me one month, and I’ll sort this all out.

You listen to me, son, I said, making the tremble in my voice a scream of anger, not fear, as my mind whispered the ninety-nine names of Allah.

I ignored the bulge in his pockets, tried not to think of the steel they hid, the two spitfires that made his voice so loud, and the new masked bosses who had given them to him.

 

Now there he lies, six months later, one dead body minus its head, the two spitfires on his chest, folded in prayer.

Shut your mouth, I tell the Mullah at the funeral, He may be the One and Only, but He has taken a mother’s sons from her.

They’ll kill me soon, maybe in twelve hours when night falls, but I’ll use each of those hours, each minute, taking my boys’ names, and I won’t take their names in vain.

So that was some fiction on my blog, the first time in six months, I think.

Have you ever taken an online creative writing course from Iowa? Have ever written exercises with constraints in mind? Did the constraints of my assignment overwhelm the piece above? Would you like to do a similar 10-line writing exercise (fiction/ nonfiction) and post it on your blog?

Which #Fiction #Authors would still be read in the 22nd Century?


Books that would stand the test of time

Books that would stand the test of time

Writers are often concerned with posterity. Would their work outlive them? I personally don’t give a damn about my work post my death– I don’t think any of it’ll be any good, and even if it is, I believe nothing lasts– so a few stories or books lost is neither here nor there.

But as a reader, I wonder what books from our century would folks be reading in the next?

This article in the Smithsonian gave me pause.

In 1936, a quarterly magazine for book collectors called The Colophon polled its readers to pick the ten authors whose works would be considered classics in the year 2000. Sinclair Lewis, author of the 1935 hit It Can’t Happen Here, was a natural choice for the top spot.

Just five years earlier Sinclair had been the first American to win the Nobel Prize for literature. But some of the authors are likely forgotten names to even the most ardent reader here in the year 2012:

  1. Sinclair Lewis
  2. Willa Cather
  3. Eugene O’Neill
  4. Edna St. Vincent Millay
  5. Robert Frost
  6. Theodore Dreiser
  7. James Truslow Adams
  8. George Santayana
  9. Stephen Vincent Benet
  10. James Branch Cabell

The editors at the magazine supplemented the published list with their own ideas of who might still be read in the year 2000. Their list included authors like Thomas Wolfe, H.L. Mencken, Ernest Hemingway and Hervey Allen.

If I had to bet on some authors who would be respected and known in the next century, I would list, in no particular order: Alice Munro, J K Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Green, Maragaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan.

This is a biased list, as any list is bound to be. I’ve picked (some of the) authors whose work I’ve enjoyed the most– and who I believe have enough human resonance in some of their work to outlast the huge technological changes that would take place in the coming decades.

How many of the authors from the 1936 list do you recognise? Given that ebooks last ‘forever’, do you think this improves the chances of some of the current batch of authors? If you had to vote, which are the five (or ten) authors from the last century and this one who you would put your money on? Why? Do you agree with any of the authors in my list?

Been to a Writers’ #Conference ? #Writing


All APW conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

All AP writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

One of the things I love about writing is the ability to do my job all scruffy, hiding behind my desk, or some nondescript cafe table. A conference? No, thank you very much.

But last week I did attend a conference (the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference), my very first. I admit I’d gone there just for the workshops– they sounded great. One of my first ever ‘writing’ books was Tim Tomlinson’s Portable MFA in Creative Writing, and he would teach a workshop. Dr Sally Breen from Griffith University would lead an editing workshop, and Francesca Rendle-Short would do a session on voice.

I attended all three, and let me tell you– if you ever hear of a workshop from any of them, queue up. My only wish for those sessions?  They should have gone on longer. (I’m sure the others were equally good, but they either didn’t relate to my fields of interest, or clashed with these three.)

A few things I learned from the workshops:

1. Fragments strung together can make a story/ novel, you just need the right connectors.

2. It is perfectly acceptable to write with your left hand, eyes closed, when working around a writer’s block. Or otherwise.

3. Look at each word you use while writing. Take away as many as you can when revising, leaving a spare, beautiful structure.

AWP Writers' conference

All AP Writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson

I had a short editorial consult with Literary agent Kelly Falconer, and her insights were helpful. Her comments would help me polish my work further.

I also went to book launches. I watched authors read, talk in panels, and chat with each other during breaks. Authors are some of the most interesting people you can meet– they talk about everything from speculative poetry to sunflower seeds and everything else in between. They are also kind, generous, and courageous souls with a sense of humor, who stand up against injustice. (There could have been bitchiness and negativity somewhere, the stuff writers’ events get a rap for, but I didn’t see any that I can report. Quite the opposite!) It all ended in a great open mic session with singing and poetry. Couldn’t have ended on a better note.

So if there’s another writer’s conference I can go to, I’ve decided I will.

Especially if it is organized by Jane Camens, because if not for her help, I wouldn’t have been able to register for the conference or the workshops during weeks of traveling madness. Besides, throughout the conference I saw her add that touch of compassion and good cheer to each event I saw her at– it brought home to me why at the heart of writers’ events we need writers. Not just a great organizer, or fundraiser, but someone who understands writing and writers. (For more details on the conference, read this excellent article.)

What writing conferences have you taken part in? What was your experience like? What advice would you give me and the Daily (w)rite audience on writer’s conferences?

 

Dear Writers, Who Do You Write For?


‘You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn’t care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing cant be a way of life, the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.’ ~ Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing was one of my fave writers going into my twenties, and I completely agree with that last line of the quote.

As to who I write for– I write the first draft primarily for myself, sometimes even the second or the third. But the later drafts almost always have a reader in mind.  Not all readers, but one reader, someone I know or imagine, the kind of person who would be interested in such a story.

Sometimes my ideal reader is my betta fish!

What about you? Who do You write for?

Betta fish writing

Who Do You Write For?

Dear Author, Are You Writing a Series?


Through the months of November and December, some fab writers would take over Daily (w)rite. I still have a few slots open for December, so I would welcome guest posts by writers who have something to say about the art, craft, and business of writing. Write me a mail at atozstories at gmail dot com to discuss this.

Today, I welcome Rick Gualtieri. He has a great blog, and his latest offering, , Sunset Strip is on my TBR pile (Just look at that gorgeous cover!). It is a 60k words of paranormal fantasy with attitude, and is now available Kindle, Nook, Kobo . If you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. Take it away, Rick!

Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill

Sunset Strip by Rick Gualtieri

Surviving a Series

 I’ve just released the fifth book in a horror/comedy series I’ve been writing.  I’m lucky in that it’s been well-received by readers and has developed a bit of a following.  There’re few better feelings for a writer than receiving a message asking when the next book will be coming out. At the same time, it’s not all wine and roses. It’s very possible to suffer from series burn-out. There’s also the ever-present fear of ‘jumping the shark’, where everything afterward doesn’t quite reach the highpoints that came before.  In short there’re plenty of challenges for series authors. In between writing mine and reading others, though, I’ve come up with some suggestions that hopefully you might find useful.

 -        Know where you’re going.  A series should have a destination in mind.  Even if it’s not an ultimate destination, there should be a culmination to story arcs in mind before starting anew.  Closure is good and gives readers a sense of satisfaction.  Without that sense of direction, your multi-book epic adventure could start to seem aimless. Treat your series like a singular story, except each book represents a chapter.  Make sure you have a coherent beginning, middle, and end when it’s all viewed as a whole.

-        Change is good, as long as it’s not for the sake of change.  Mix things up, kill characters, introduce new ones, and have the survivors grow as a result – as long as it makes sense for the story.  The same thing over and over again is comfortable, but can rapidly become boring.  Just make sure when you change it, you know where you’re going with it.

-        Don’t milk it.  While you wouldn’t be the first writer to throw a few extra books into a series to keep the old cash cow alive, remember that readers aren’t stupid.  If it’s filler, people will realize it. Go to that well too often and don’t be surprised when readers react to the announcement of the next chapter with apathy rather than excitement.  If your series is reaching its end, go for it and go big.  Don’t put off the inevitable just because you hope to squeeze people for a few more bucks.

-        It’s okay to take a break.   You may get some grousing, but it’s perfectly okay to work on a different story in between series volumes.  You need to respect your readers, but that doesn’t mean they should dictate what must come next.   No ideas for a different world? Consider a side story for a sub character. This can be a great way to mix things up and keep them fresh for you, while at the same time expanding upon your universe.  My latest falls into that category.  It was a nice breath of fresh air to help me recharge my batteries, while still treading familiar ground.

Writing a series can be an awesome experience in extended world-building and storytelling.  But much like a long road trip, it’s easy to get lost. If you can avoid doing so, though, you may find it personally rewarding as well as potentially lucrative.

————–

Rick Gualtieri

Rick Gualtieri

About Rick: Rick Gualtieri lives alone in a dark, evil place called New Jersey with only his wife, three kids, and countless pets to both keep him company and constantly plot against him. When he’s not busy monkey-clicking out words, he can typically be found jealously guarding his collection of vintage Transformers from all who would seek to defile them. Defilers beware!

———  As a reader, what are some of your favorite series, and why? If you’re an author, what’s your take on surviving a series?

On what I learned from an #Author and an #Agent


Two days ago, I finished a course by Curtis Brown Agency, UK a three-day bootcamp for aspiring novelists in Singapore.

The Singapore National Arts Council  flew down Anna Davis, an author of five novels and a Curtis Brown agent who runs Curtis Brown Creative; and  bestselling author Jake Arnott, known for books like The Long Firm and The House of Rumor, to conduct this workshop.

Curtis Brown Novel Workshop Singapore

After the Curtis Brown Boot Camp Singapore

Between them, they chose 15 candidates out of 60 applications, and I got lucky. When I caught glimpses of the work of my peers, I realized how lucky– the room brimmed over with talent. I learned as much from their questions and answers as I did from some of  Jake and Anna’s comments.

In the three-day workshop Jake and Anna covered everything from Characters and Dialogue to Rewriting the Novel– they helped reinforce a lot of of my attitudes on technique.

But what helped me most were the sessions on Story, Structure, and weirdly enough (because I’m not ready for an agent by a long shot), the Agent Query letters.

Jake gave us an interesting theory of what a story is : Story occurs when character and plot meet. Story is itself the driving force, the very DNA of prose fiction. We do not tell stories. They tell us.

This led me to think about my novel– its plot which seemed to be doing too much and leading the story by the nose.

While writing the query letter (Anna surprisingly thought mine worked, though I had spent less than  two days writing it!)  and the pitch, I kept wondering what my story was about.

Anna Davis and Jake Arnott

Curtis Brown Bootcamp by Jake Arnott and Anna Davis

The 20-minute in-person tutorials with Jake and Anna told me exactly why it can be crucial to get feedback from the real pros in this business– while I’ve been flapping along like a fledgling stork with my first draft and second, they swooped in immediately like ospreys on just what the story was. Kind and perceptive, both Jake and Anna merely asked me a lot of questions– never forcing their point of view, but helping me see my work in a way I hadn’t before.

As a result, I’m now considering sweeping changes in my work, which might mean yet another complete change of direction and rewrite. And though that means a lot of new work, and a lot of old work possibly binned, I’m thrilled.

No matter what direction I take with my novel, and irrespective of whether it ever sees light of day, I learned to ask the right questions when it comes to a novel. To me, that’s invaluable.

—-

What workshops have you taken part in? Have you ever participated in a Curtis Brown Workshop? Has a workshop ever led to major changes in your work?

Cherie Reich: Magna’s Plea


Today I’m excited to introduce blog friend and fellow-writer Cherie Reich‘s work on Daily (w)rite. She is an inspiration on her blog, through her writing and her book reviews.

Here’s more about her latest release: Magna’s Plea.

Magna's Plea by Cherie Reich

Magna’s Plea by Cherie Reich

Book Description: A princess will rise and challenge Fate.
While her father, brothers, and people fight against the Kingdom of Apentha, tenacious eighteen-year-old Princess Magna can only watch the destruction of Amora, her besieged city and kingdom. Her mother, Queen Vyvian, has refused to allow her heir to join the fray.
But Magna won’t take no for an answer. She seeks out an end of the war from Prince Cyrun of Apentha, their prisoner. If she can’t persuade him toward peace, then Amora may fall.

Here’s an excerpt from Cherie Reich’s latest offering, Magna’s Plea :

Amora

12-13 Days of Luquiry

Year 1717 AUC

Tendrils of smoke swirled heavenward. The smoldering stench reached Princess Magna at the top of the palace’s northern tower. She wrinkled her nose at the unpleasant odor, yet it still smelled better than the filth plaguing the besieged seven-hilled city.

She’d vowed to protect Amora. Her heart shattered a little more each day at the devastation afflicting her kingdom.

The once grassy and flower-filled plain sprouted dust plumes from the trampling feet. As the sun neared the western horizon, a bloody hue washed over the battlefield. Tiny, metallic dins and men’s shouts rang out. Magical bursts flashed in the sky like Thean’s lightning, beautiful and deadly. A wooden catapult hurled a human-sized stone slab into the city’s wall. Magna jerked away from the opened window she stood before, as if the object had struck her instead. Rock crumbled from the impact, but the barrier held.

When the reddish orb sank lower, the fighting ceased. War’s chaos parted into two orderly sides, and soldiers crossed the field to gather their dead.

She brushed a shaky hand over her cheeks. Tears dampened her face, and she struggled to turn away from the battle before her. Almost two months had passed since the Apenthans had begun their attack Amora. How much longer could the Amorans—she—stay safe behind their impenetrable wall?

——-
This short story prequel includes a sneak peek of Reborn, Book One of The Fate Challenges, forthcoming May 2014.
YA Epic Fantasy
The Fate Challenges #0.5
A 5500-word Short Story

To download this short story for free: Amazon / Nook / iTunes / Kobo / Smashwords / Goodreads

Read online at Wattpad, Add to Goodreads

—-

Magna's Plea by Cherie Reich

Magna’s Plea by Cherie Reich

About the Author: A self-proclaimed bookworm, Cherie Reich is a speculative fiction writer, freelance editor, book blogger, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her books include the horror series Nightmare, a space fantasy novella trilogy titled Gravity, and the fantasy series The Foxwick Chronicles. She is Vice President of Valley Writers and a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Untethered Realms.  Her debut YA Epic Fantasy novel Reborn, book one in The Fate Challenges, will be released on May 23, 2014.

Website / Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Wattpad