Tag Archives: Podcasts

It was EXACTLY what I wanted to know.

Several days ago, I got the first full-text reviewed/edited copy of Woman’s Best Friend back from a Hatrack reviewer.

It was beautiful.

To fully understand my satisfaction with having my own work ripped to shreds, you must first consider the palpable frustration of a rejection letter.

The whole aggravation of a rejected work isn’t that it simply wasn’t purchased; we’ve all had dates declined, interviews we didn’t get hired, a request denied. But in most of these circumstances, it is possible to determine why. In social circumstances, you can even ask:

Why didn’t you want to go on a date with me?

The immature lady will simply not return this call. The mature gal will admit, “Because you’re creepy, clingy, needy, you have no job, and you smell funny.” This may be painful, but it gives the guy (if he is mature) the opportunity to become less creepy and needy, get a job, and bathe more before asking the next girl.

When I get a rejection letter, my brain screams at the editor:


Based on the number of podcasts and books-on-writing I’ve devoured, I wonder:

Was my cover letter too short? Too long? Too dry? Too arrogant? Too humble? Did I misspell the editor’s name? Did the story remind them of a worse one they read in gradeschool? A better one? Did they just buy a story like this? Did they discover a misprint? Not like the title? Were they annoyed at the shade of white I printed on? Was there a smudge on the manuscript? Did they Google me and disagree with my politics? Religion? Choice of video games?

Did I give too little description? Too much? Did they not care about the characters? Did they find an element cliche? Did they finish the first page? The second? Was the ending trite? Was there a problem with the plot? The grammar? The style? Did I use too many echoes? Was my characterization thin? Or too heavy-handed? Were my hooks too trendy? Were my paragraphs too long? Too short? Was my dialog too vague? Too precise? Too true to life to be interesting? Not true enough?

…and on and on.

The frustration is not just that the work didn’t sell; even successful writers sometimes have that happen. The frustration is that to fix it, I don’t even know where to start.

Enter the anonymous critic, willing to read the whole story and pull no punches with his opinions.

I wish I could reproduce the full text including his comments for you here, but then I would have used my First North American publication rights to the story.

Suffice to say that the first total stranger to read Woman’s Best Friend found a whole host of echoes I never noticed in myriad readings. Nor did anyone else. He found whole paragraphs which could be cut, their whole meaning still evident in the sentence preceding them.

I am now working on a 5th draft of Woman’s Best Friend, which will be much tighter and more streamlined. Then if that one isn’t good enough, a 6th, and so forth.

That’s how you become perfect.

Hey! It’s working again!

ipod_blackI finally got the iPod to sync with my computer and update my songs library.

This is bad because it erased the customized playlists I’ve carried with me for years. (All good things must come to an end and be reproduced if worthy, though.)

It’s GOOD because now I can finally get podcasts at work and in the car. Especially podcasts by and for writers.

If any aspiring writers happen by this blog, there are two I recommend above all others:

The Odyssey SF/F Writing Workshop (particular to my genres, of course). The sound quality isn’t always great, and the biggest disappointment is that there aren’t more of these. But the advice from a variety of editors and successful writers is “fantabulous”.

A less formal but probably more entertaining podcasts is “Writing Excuses“. One of the three hosts is Brandon Sanderson; obviously I’m a fanboy of his work so far. This also leans towards my preferred genres (two of the hosts write fantasy and horror).

I thought this was worth posting also as a quick follow-up to my pseudo “why Apple?” rant.

I now officially have an Apple product that’s working. (Mostly.)

Writing is rewriting

justice_scaleSo, more people have read Perfect Justice now. Feedback is still rolling in.

The cool thing about hearing from multiple people, and why I push so hard to distribute my work, is that although everybody has one or two ideas unique to their personalities, there’s some advice which is the same from person to person.

That is the advice I latch onto, because it most likely represents a common element lacking in a story. And that’s why it’s important that as many people read and respond as possible.

Although I haven’t acted on most of his comments (as is my prerogative given that this is still ultimately my work), my co-worker Ted had possibly the single most brilliant insight about the opening of Perfect Justice. He pointed out that although I mention, briefly, that Replay technology is available commercially, I don’t expand on any of the possibilities. That’s a missed opportunity to draw the reader in to what a wonderful invention such a program might be. My shout-out to Ted is including baseball as one of the examples, even though I was tempted (from personal preference alone) to use an example from football instead.

As you know, I’ve been devouring podcasts about writing — more on my favorite podcast and the massive injustice to me in it in a future post. But for now, I’ll say that one episode about writing openings really opened my eyes to a simple but effective technique: mentioning objects as a form of quick and dirty, but very tangible description.

Perfect Justice has very little in the way of “here’s what things look like”, so that of course made me consider adding a little here and there.

The advice from the podcast is to use little lists of objects; especially adding one at the end that doesn’t fit with the others quite right to generate suspense. I’ll try an original example and see if I can convey how it works:

Mugs half filled with beer. A stain on the floor. A washcloth left on one table. And a flawlessly folded white kimono.

Did I succeed? You tell me. But the intent is obvious; I’m describing a bar. The kimono at the end is supposed to pull the reader in with a: What, what? Kimono? One of these things is not like the others… What’s going on? Who left a kimono in a bar scene? Why is it neatly folded in a place that’s still really messy?
Even though I may not have executed it correctly (it’s late and as always, I’m too close to the work anyway), it certainly was an effective technique when demonstrated in the podcast. The simplest of objects has a way of grabbing your attention when it’s mentally out of place.

The feedback on Perfect Justice which coincided with this is that a couple/three people have told me already (in their own various terminologies) that the story lacks imagery. And as a result, it’s hard to picture. So while it’s intellectually engaging (so I hope), it doesn’t hijack the reader’s imagination the way a truly well-crafted tale ought.

So I have been tinkering away at a new version. It follows here.


Aiden struggled against the urge to speak out as they strapped him down. The bench was cold, even through his orange jumpsuit. He was self-conscious, almost shameful, of the touch of handcuffs and leg irons. The light from dozens of computers cast a pale glow across the lab. He ached to tell them how so very wrong they were, but it would have been futile; his protests would be ignored. What could he say that other prisoners hadn’t said?

The System was perfect. The System didn’t make mistakes.

Inevitably, they would discover their error, but this was little consolation. By then it would be too late. Still, Aiden had to try one more time. He couldn’t simply give up and let them win.

“I’m innocent,” he said flatly.

Nobody cared. In the background, someone even chuckled. Jackass, Aiden thought. But that was all the acknowledgment he got; no one else even glanced at him.

Aiden wondered what his lawyer was doing right now. Sipping sherry in a luxury condo? Providing legal advice to a gang leader who would probably walk?

The most worthless people on earth are the ones who bill for hundreds of dollars an hour, he thought, savoring the irony.

Aiden’s handlers plugged him into the latest hardware, the victim’s record already queued.

Full of nervous energy, Aiden’s mind began to play word games: Victim’s vision! Vicious vision! Vive la vision! Recognizing this might border hysteria, Aiden forced himself to breathe calmly. Beneath his apprehension lay an undercurrent of curiosity. Whatever horrors awaited, this would be his first experience with Replay, also available for commercial and entertainment use.

For normal people, Replay was a miracle come to life. The average Joe could feel – for a reasonable price – what it was like to throw the last pitch of a seven-game World Series. Or to ponder the first move against a grand master at a chess tournament. There were even rumors of black market recordings of sex with delicious Hollywood starlets.

Under other circumstances, this would be downright adventurous.

“Is he ready?” someone asked.

“Who cares? Do it,” one technician replied.

“Sweet dreams,” the first added cruelly.

Someone across the room typed a command, and the keyboard’s clacking was the last sound Aiden heard. His world vanished as abruptly as an extinguished light.

Just writing is easy. But Actual Writing is hard.

Overwhelmed?So, the blog began as a little extra work to keep me in the practice of writing. Also a way for me and my readers (aka friends) to keep on top of my work, progress, and writing career. (Even though the most lively discussions are, predictably, a little off topic.)

Things have changed.

The overall feeling of having an audience has been trans-formative for me. The best thing I can compare it to is that if you’re at work and conversing with a buddy, you might talk about anything that comes to mind. If you’re in that same conversation and suddenly your boss walks by, you may or may not change your topic or tone, but you’re likely to be a little more self-conscious. (Even if your direct supervisor doesn’t make you feel this way, chances are there is someone who does. Regional manager. Vice president. Auditor. Whomever.)

This makes me want to present the best of myself, especially in the focus for the site: My fiction. The various political commentaries are just an exercise…stretching my descriptive muscles, as it were.

To that end, writing has slowly but inexorably taken over the cracks in my life. It used to be that I would play video games or other forms of recreation for most of the evening/weekend, and then fit a little writing into the bored cracks between other activities.

Now the reverse is true.

I listen to podcasts on writing on the way to work and back. When I’m doing mindless data entry, I listen to podcasts on writing while I’m at work. And when I’m not learning from these podcasts, I’m mentally critiquing them — still literary exercise.

Now I even listen to podcasts about writing at home, because it’s as close as I can get to having professional writers in the comfort of my own home giving a constant stream of advice.

Sometimes I’m writing. Sometimes I’m formatting a work for submission. Sometimes I’m buying supplies. Sometimes I’m working on the website.

Sometimes I’m planning what to write. I spent about two hours this evening just working on an outline for a novel — and bear in mind, this is a novel for which the first 10,000 words have already been written — not a new concept.

When I started, the blog was extra work to get me to write at least a little bit every day.

Now, blogging is where I turn when I need a break from writing fiction.

Oh, how far we’ve come in just two months.

I hope this trend continues indefinitely. But more-so I hope it is reflected in the scope and quality of my work.

A buddy told me at work today that until I’m reporting earned income on my taxes, I’m still an amateur writer. This was partly good natured ribbing, and partly his excuse for why he hadn’t read any of my stories even though I explicitly printed one out and handed it to him…I think over a week ago. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think he realizes how seriously I take this — and that’s understandable. I’ve certainly met my fair share of wannabe writers whose work makes me think, “Are you kidding?” I personally cringe whenever someone says, “Will you read this? I wrote it!” so I can hardly blame others for setting those pages aside.

But even if he was totally kidding, there’s some truth to what he said, and it only inspires me to drive harder to reach that magic benchmark of publication. Will it be this year? Next year? Ten years from now? My next submission? God only knows, but I won’t stop until it happens, until the work sells, until the first movie contract, until the first blockbuster, until I make so much money writing that far beyond having a regular day job, writing is my job, and not only that, I’m so good at it that I no longer write because I have to…I write because I want to.

That’s negative reinforcement. I also get it from www.101reasonstostopwriting.com.

Positive reinforcement comes when Mr. Snuggles posts that a scene is my cleanest yet, when my brother-in-law who I never even expected to check the blog tells me he gets my RSS feed, and he and his girlfriend have real feedback on my latest story. When Elizabeth comments on one of my rants and I know she’s still reading even though I probably drive her nuts.

Slowly but surely, writing is becoming as much of a constant obsession as online gaming ever was. Keep pushing me in that direction, I beg you.

Now I must return to that outline and consider adding another scene to Second Chances.

Break’s over.