I think one of the most frustrating things of all has to be when you begin to write a story that requires historical accuracy and run into an impasse.  I was writing a fun story about the roaring twenties.  In the process of doing the background research, the story slowly morphed into a serious story about the Harlem Renaissance, which I realized resonated strongly with me.  Some of the people that I wanted my main character to interact with simply did not live in Harlem at the same time.

So now, I am running out of time to finish my original story.  On the other hand, I have discovered a new story that might be very powerful should I put my best effort into it.  I already have a couple dozen half-finished stories collecting dust and I hate to add to the “stack” but an idea is not always a story.

***

I finally finished my horror story set in Amish country. 

Tomorrow is the last day of the month and the deadline for a significant number of my submissions so in the next 2 to 6 weeks I should have much more news for you.  Depending on how this round goes, I may start to focus on one genre or another.  Originally, I wanted to make it into the SFWA but now I am greedy.  I want it all.

Professional Rate is 5c/word or higher for short stories. 

A novel published by an accredited genre publisher or a movie or a few TV episodes will also get you entry into most associations

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Short stories totaling $250 minimum $50 per story

Horror Writers Association: Three or more short stories totaling 7500 words

Mystery Writers of America: Short stories totaling $200 minimum $25 per story

You get the point.

 
My wife and I picked up a couple of Redbox movies this weekend. One of them was "Letters to Juliet".  For those of you who did not have the opportunity to see this gem in the theater, it is a sweet story about an aspiring writer, Sophie  (Amanda Seyfried ), who answers a fifty year old “letter to Juliet” while vacationing in Verona.  When Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), the woman who wrote the original letter shows up to find her long lost love Sophie sees the makings of a great story and follows along journaling the often-amusing search for Claire’s lost love.

Plot-wise the story is nothing special, a predictable romantic comedy.  The romantic element of the story is all neat resolutions and fairytales.  What really resonated with me, in this chick flick was Sophie’s growth into her own woman.   In large part, this newfound maturity is an outgrowth of the maternal relationship that develops between Claire and Sophie.  For the tender moments between these women alone, the movie is worth seeing.

The Secretaries of Juliet are a real group.  I was thinking as I was watching the previews for Ghost Writer and then watching the movie about the way in which we develop new story ideas.  Do not be afraid of those silly notions that run through your head.  Some may be dead ends, but you will find that if it is interesting to you it is likely interesting to someone else.  Pay attention to the news, you may well find a new and interesting setting for that story that you have been longing to tell.

 
Let’s start a weekend review!  The missus and I attempt to do a date night every weekend that we are not overwhelmed with chores or little grandbabies.  This weekend took our discount coupon and went to see “You Again” starring Kirsten Bell and a hilarious cast of supporting characters in a story about a girl who finds her high school nemesis is about to marry her brother.

 

Kirsten Bell delivers a brand of physical comedy reminiscent of Sandra Bullock in this delightful story about high school, family, “mean girls” and second chances.  Not to be outdone, Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver both show that they still have it in spades.  Out of the flummoxed men in this estrogen war, Victor Garber stands out with his delivery of the straight lines including one of the funniest in the movie.  Kyle Bornheimer steals a few scenes with a believable and frankly disturbing performance as a damaged ex.

 

Nevertheless, the one who truly steals the show in this comedy is Betty White.  At 88, this girl is still golden.  Just when you think a scene cannot get more over the top, Betty is there to deliver ridiculous lines in her trademark no nonsense style.  The movie is not a literary masterpiece but it will keep you laughing the whole way through.

 

Check in tomorrow a review of "Letters from Juliet" now available on DVD.

 

***

Speaking of literary masterpieces, I am entering into a dialog with the editor of my next accepted publication.  When they post the piece, I will give you the details and lessons learned.  This was a for-the-love piece.  I find it interesting that I have occasionally created some better stories when I was not stressing over whether or not the publisher would like my work.

 

 
Here is my first professional prose, for those of you who have not yet seen it:

http://picfic.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/waiting/

A little over a month ago, I set a list of goals for my personal challenge.  In intervening period, I have learned much and my approach to the market has changed. 

Publishers are out there looking for fiction, nonfiction, essays and more.  Some are looking for tweets, other are looking for whole novels.  By pointing out specific sites and topics to research, I have tried to help you identify a few different sources and approaches to writing prompts.

I have discovered it only takes a few weeks to write a novella length story (given my particular schedule).  I have missed a deadline or two with half-finished stories, but I am growing in confidence with the stories that I complete.

I was going to stop writing poetry and focus on fiction prose, but what I’ve discovered is that you write what you can when you can.  For me, at least, it helps to work with the grain of my imagination not against it. 

The first measure of success was to write on a regular basis and to get an understanding of the market.  I feel like I am getting there.  I hope you are enjoying the ride as much as I am.  Happy Writing!

 
(Edit: it occurred to me that some of you may have no idea what I am talking about.  PBS pulled this clip from Sesame Street because of concerns about Katy Perry's inappropriate attire.)

I was planning to weigh in on Sesame Street’s Katygate today but I ran out of steam.  Let me just say this. 

I do understand why PBS pulled the clip and I do not even disagree with the way PBS handled their response.

What gets me is the idea that cleavage is somehow going to incite something more than hunger in a preschool child that has only recently stopped nursing.

There is indeed an onslaught of gratuitous sex violence and innuendo in pop culture, I just wonder sometimes at the battles we pick.  I personally prefer a story where the splatter and the hot sweaty scenes occur off-screen and are hinted at well.  Take the opening of this season’s House, (before they actually got naked for half of the episode).  Cuddy tending to House’s wounds was very sensual and not the least bit offensive.

Anyway, as I said, I do not have enough energy to launch into a true rant.

 

What is frustrating is when you submit to a publication and they go under or close submissions without announcing it in an obvious way.  I do not mind as much because the point right now is to get in the habit of writing.

 

Keep writing my friends
 
My body and  mind are revolting.  And I don't feel good either.  I'll be back with discussions of the Literary genres along with  Katy Perry on Sesame Street soon.  Until then enjoy my friend TL Tyson
 
I have not written anything in almost 24 hours.  Gasp!  Actually, what I have been doing is studying the different genres, subgenres, styles and poetic forms.  Getting an understanding of what publishers usually mean by Hardboiled or Steampunk or Regency can greatly reduce your anxiety levels when reading submission guidelines.

Naturally, you should read samples of previous issues for periodicals, but for anthologies or new publishers, you may not have that luxury.  If you have read more than a few books in the genre you are trying to write for, you may already understand the concepts but not know the names.  For example, I’ll describe the aforementioned genres.

Hardboiled refers to the subgenre of crime fiction that makes use of a detached voice that is indifferent about the sex and violence encountered in the story.  A good example would be Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, which followed in the same vein as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.

Steampunk is generally science fiction or fantasy that takes place in the Victorian age of Steam often with mechanical devices that did not exist at the time.  The background culture is often though not always dystopian.  A good example would be the writings of HG Wells or Jules Verne.

Regency is a subgenre of romance focused around the era of the early 19th Century.  Publishers would expect both historical accuracy and a reserved tone, witty rather than racy.  Look to Jane Austen for help in this subgenre.

Of course, you should do your own research.  I am just giving you a general idea.  Remember, good readers make good writers.  Good luck and happy writing!

 
Duotrope has this cool feature now where you can see what is going on with the publishers to which you have submitted work.  Naturally, it is limited by the effective self-reporting of site members.  You get a better idea of how quickly a publisher is reading, how many pieces have already been accepted or rejected or sent back for rewrites.

A side effect is that for those allow their names to be public, you see who your successful competition is.  The first time I did a quick search on a successful competitor I found out a college student outbid me.  Today, I noticed that the anthology that I submitted for had already accepted the manuscript of at least one other Duotrope user.

Here is the part that was the wake up call.  This brand new market, a place that I assumed, given its token payment, would primarily receive queries from small potatoes writers like me, is open to the entire writing world.  The person who received a nod for the anthology was a veteran editor, and the kind of person who has probably had lunch with Brad Pitt.  They definitely know Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.

Let me pause for a moment here to say GULP! 

Now, I realize that connections are not everything and even Stephen King and JK Rowling do not get automatic passes but it is sobering to know that the market is small and the applicants are many.  We are always playing with the big boys even in the low-paying and non-paying markets.

Now that I have encouraged and inspired you, go get ‘em writers!  ;)

 
Success Stories:

There is still no update on my first publication. 

Dreams:

I finally had good dreams the cool, surreal kind.  I do not remember any of it. 

Challenge:

I am almost finished with a very fun Roger Corman style alien horror story. 

What I have learned:

Constantly look for submission calls from multiple sources.  No matter how “stuck” you are, if you have 3 dozen submission calls, you will find something to clear your writer’s block.

Good luck and keep on writing.

 
Sure, I know you want to say “case in point” but the title is a darling faux pas that reminds me of an old friend.  That and I received validation of my Saturday post’s point, in case you missed it.     I was talking about making every word count.  Then, not a few hours later, I received notice of my publication in a twitter fiction outlet.  Who says that being concise is a bad thing for a writer?

Having a limit of 140 characters is actually a fun exercise in reducing an idea to the pure emotions that you are trying to convey whether through description or dialog.  I was hoping to have the link for you today, but it is taking a little while to update so I will post it as soon as it becomes available.

In other news, I just watched Kickass and Prince of Persia.  Prince of Persia was exactly what I expected it to be: a safe, rather tepid Disney story resembling some of the Mummy Sequels.  Kickass on the other hand lived up to its name.  The story starts by assuring you that in the real world superheroes cannot exist and that there are real consequences to actions.  Without glorifying vigilantism, the story moves from the real to the surreal in a blaze of action that leaves you wondering exactly what happened.  For sure, by the end, some of the scenes stretch the realm of possibility, but by slowly building up with minor shocks and comic diversions along the way.  I want my next action story to resemble that movie.

The comics that inspired the movie are beginning a second installment and I am curious to see how that pans out.

Keep writing my friends.