A Good Writing Day

I’ll make this one simple and quick. I just want to recount a good writing day I had recently because they can be hard to come by and I want to hold onto it, in case I need it later.

It’s easy to recount because I can break it down in three, easy pieces…

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Not Checking My Email
One of the big rules I have for my Writing Day is ‘Not Checking the Email in the Morning.’ Why is that? It’s simple: I don’t want to have a possible literary rejection hanging over my head.

Now, I know it’s good to be tough and let the rejections flow by, water off a duck’s back and all that. And I’m getting better at it, I swear! And it’s true that the first rejection (of a career or a piece) hurts the most. But after the second, third or fourth it doesn’t hurt nearly as bad.

But still, they can sting. And having the Mojo of a rejection hanging over your head is not the frame of mind I want to be in when I sit down to write for the day. So, checking the email can wait until after writing is done.

So, my Writing Day began by not doing something: I didn’t check my email. So, the things you don’t do can also be important. 

Writing It Out
So, when I got to the café, I got my (English Breakfast) tea, warmed up by brain with some light reading, and settled down to write, like normal.

Only thing is, I ran into trouble right away. Like a frickin’ ambush. It was a chapter I had written last week and I wasn’t satisfied with it. At all. So, I went back, started the chapter from scratch (without deleting the old stuff!). I wrote and wrote and it came out staler than the old stuff…

So…I went back to the old chapter, reworked it, expanded on it a bit and tacked on a new ending. And that was the solution. Not great, but a better solution. Then, I had a little break and got ready for the next chapter.

It was going to be a big, meaty important chapter, so I knew I had to bring my A-game. I got another tea and started grooving to my tunes (headphones on, Word up on the screen). And I…ah…just dove in.

And it just came, it just poured out and kept going and then, when I got to a good break, I just went to the bathroom and—Bam!—Sat right down again and banged out the rest of the chapter. The whole time grooving to some Post Malone which captured that Gothic, grim and glorious mood of the chapter just perfectly…And then…

It was over. And I thought, “Man! That was it! Just what I wanted to say….That was a good…a  great…Writing Day.”

And I saved it all and powered down my PC.

The Best Rejection Letter Ever
And then I was going to leave the café, but first I decided to check my email. Just to see. And sure enough, there was an email waiting in my Inbox. And it was a letter from an editor, about something I had written. And it turns out, it was Rejection letter.

But then, I read the whole thing. And then I read it again and again. Here’s (in part) what it said:

…This is one of the most delightfully written, interesting pieces I’ve read this year. Your writing shines and your research is fascinating. Alas, I’m going to have to send it back to you…It reads now as brilliant historical fiction, ​​but it’s just not for this publication at this time. 

I sincerely hope I will see more of your fiction in the future. Do keep us in mind for your work.

All the best,

XXXXX

That almost knocked me off my chair. And it made my day. And then I thought to myself, “Well, all in all…This is one of the best Writing Days you’ve ever had. If not the best.”

And it was and it is. It comes after having another story serially rejected and not having much interest in this current story I’m shopping around. So, I really needed this shot in the arm. And then inviting to send more stuff in the future was just the cherry on top. The letter gave me faith in this piece and faith that I’m on the right track with my other pieces.

(So, note to the Very-Busy Editors out there: If you do see something that you really like, but doesn’t quite make the cut, sometimes a personal note can be a big boost for us writers! Thank you! And thank you for taking the time review our stuff!) 

Because sometimes that’s all a writer needs to keep going and keep writing another day.

Here’s hoping even better Writing Days lie ahead…For everyone.

Until next time,

Darius 

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The Craft: Plot, Plot, Plot

Lately, all I’ve been thinking about is plot. That’s right, that little thing that makes a big difference in your story. And like anything we obsess over it’s been invading my subconscious starting with my dreams.

Can’t get Plot out of my head…

So, there I was a couple of nights ago, just enjoying my sleep, minding my own business when I had this dream, which I jotted down as soon as I woke up:

Suddenly, I was reading pulp fiction. A big, long book—400 pages or more. Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Kresley Cole or something like that…I read and read and read, faster and faster. I understood where the plot was going, where the characters were headed, how the conflict was moving ahead…I was looking down on the words from above.

Suddenly, I turned the next page and realized it was the end of the chapter.  The author wrapped it all up perfectly. The tension reached a climax and—bam! That last sentence was dynamite. It propelled everything forward, but put in that last bit of mystery and fricking INTRODUCED a new, unanswered question.

“Damn! I thought! This guy/girl is good.” I put in my bookmark and thought—I can’t wait for tomorrow night when I can pick this up again and FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. That guy/girl is a CRAFTY author.

And that was it. That was all. But it was enough. It’s exactly what I’m trying to do subconsciously when I write. My conscious brain is too overloaded with dialogue, scene-setting, action, etc., etc, etc., when I’m actually writing to worry much about plot. But that (from the dream above) is exactly what I’m aiming at. So now, the subconscious sleeping Darius and the subconscious awake (and writing) Darius are in synch. United and working on the same problem: How to build tension slowly, all while turning up the heat bit by bit. It’s something I’ve screwed up massively in the past and I really want to get this right this time.

It’s great place to be with the writing for now, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Until next time…

Keep Reading, Keep Writing,

Darius

Back to the Writing

All right, getting back at it. Just a short post to let you know I’m still alive, kicking and writing. Here’s what I have on my plate today:

ResubmittingWriting Man
I have to take a little time today to resubmit my comedy-horror novella, “AFTA.” It hasn’t been rejected once already, but I’m not deterred. It has a number of rejections ahead I’m sure, but, hey, that’s writing.

I hate to take time out to do this, but I know “AFTA” will find a home, I just need to find the right market. Often, this involves writing query letters, a wholly new activity for me. I don’t understand why you just can’t send the manuscript like you do for short stories. If anyone out there has a good explanation for this, I’d love to hear it in the Comments section below. Any tips on potential markets are also appreciated. 

Prewriting.
I have TONS….TONS of ideas for short stories. I also have some scoped-out novels that I keep adding tidbits to like filling in a painting with more and more detailed brushstrokes. Pretty soon you have characters, a structure, scenes, dialogue…But I digress…

The challenge is to get these ideas down, before they fly away. I have the ideas stored in hardware (on my mobile phone) and wetware (in my head). I need to dedicate serious time this afternoon to transferring the good ones from both.

Editing.
My new Sci-Fi story “B” has been patiently waiting my editing for months. I had to go back and do some rewriting of my “Ghul of Yazd” story, so I was held back a bit. No more. I will be getting to editing the 1st draft today or this weekend at the latest.


There you have it, the life of a writer when he isn’t exactly writing: Submitting, prewriting and editing. I’m starting to get anxious because I can’t wait to get back to what I really love: writing first drafts. It’s this editing and other stuff where I feel I get bogged down. (Those writers that LOVE to edit always annoy me and—I admit—make me jealous). Still, it needs to get done. If I believe in anything as a writer, it’s giving readers a quality finished product. I want to see my name attached to quality stuff.

That’s it. It’s time to get to work. I just wanted to keep you guys updated and let you know what’s coming next. Until next time…

Keep reading, keep writing,

Darius

Back to the Writing

Sit tight, everybody. I finally escaped Vegas and after two weeks  off (the other weekend was for RavenCon), I’m back to writing today. That means, I’m not able to blog right now.

It sucks, I know. But, it’s for a good cause: wrapping up editing on my comedy-horror novella. I’m going to keep going until I crush this one. Then, see if I can find a home for it.

Wish me luck. Look for a new post next  week.


Couldn’t leave you guys totally empty handed. This performance blew me away. What kind of genius can take someone else’s song, improve it and make it all seem so natural? Jimi Hendrix, that’s who. 

Hendrix reinterprets Dylan. Monterey Pop Festival, 1967.

The Craft: Rules for Writing, Rule #1: Get Black on White

[This is part of a continuing series on the art of writing fiction.]

Well, here it is, my first rule for writing. (I will be posting new rules at the original post, “Rules for Writing.”). It’s, by far, the most important rule.

There’s good news and bad news about this rule. First the good news: it’s the simplest rule. The bad news is that it’s also the hardest rule to follow.

Before the reveal, I want to tell the story behind it. It’s apocryphal, as far as I can tell. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but I never forgot it. In a quick search on Wikiquote, I wasn’t able to track it to the man credited with it: Guy de Maupassant.

The story goes that there was a young French writer, back in the 1800s, who wanted to learn the secret of writing. He was especially intrigued by Maupassant’s short stories and felt they were the pinnacle of the craft of writing. So this young writer left his home in a  small village in the south of France and went all the way to Paris, to track down the famous writer and learn his secret.

Finally, one day the writer found Maupassant in a busy Parisian café. He made clear his need to become a famous writer and asked Maupassant how it was that he wrote such well-crafted stories. Not wanting to quickly and easily reveal such a secret, Maupassant asked the writer to come back the next week and that he would answer his question then. He promised to reveal the single most important rule he knew for writing great fiction. But he warned the young writer that he might not like the answer. The young writer wasn’t deterred, he had not come all the way to turn back now, he wanted to know the magic formula Maupassant used to construct such perfect stories.

So, the day came. Maupassant graciously met up with the young, unknown writer, ready to enlighten him. I imagine their talk going something like this:

YOUNG WRITER: So, what is it? What’s the secret to great writing, Guy?

MAUPASSANT: Well, I don’t think you’ll like the answer.

YOUNG WRITER: I don’t care. I want to know. I need to know.

MAUPASSANT: Ok, then.

YOUNG WRITER [eagerly]: Well?

MAUPASSANT: Get black on white.

YOUNG WRITER [incredulously]: What?

MAUPASSANT: Get black on white. Put pen to blank page. Write. Again and again. Don’t stop…Get black on white.

YOUNG WRITER [in an insulted tone]: That’s it!?

MAUPASSANT: I knew you wouldn’t like it.

YOUNG WRITER [outraged]: It’s infantile! Obvious!

MAUPASSANT: But it works. Just try it.

By  now, you’re probably feeling as cheated as I did when I heard the story. But you know what? Guy’s right.

Take Chekhov as an example. I’ve read his early stuff, his middle stuff, his late stuff. In all, he wrote 588 stories! 588! Do you think his stories improved as time went by? “Joy” is downright bad, “The Student” is  good and “The Steppe” is epic.

If you do nothing else, if you follow no other writing rule, get black on white day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year. It’s as hard, and as simple, as that. That is why it’s rule Number #1.

1. Get Black on White.

[I will continue the Writing rules in later posts categorized under “The Craft,” so  stay tuned.]