Craft, Fiction, Imagination, Novel, Questions, Short story, Writing

Are you the best one?

As I was scrubbing the stovetop Monday, I was thinking about writing—what else? There’s a question I’ve seen asked, both online and in writing manuals, that always surprises me. The wording may vary, but essentially this is the question: Why are you the best one to write this novel/story?

I understand asking that question of a non-fiction writer. If you’ve never visited Spain, I doubt you’re the best person to write a travel guide for that country. But this question is also asked of fiction writers, and that makes less sense to me.

Yes, it might be difficult for a lifelong bachelor to write plausibly as a young wife and mother. Then again, there’s always research. That bachelor likely knows a young wife and mother or two. The woman writing from a male point of view, probably has male family members and friends from whom to draw the character.

Likewise, the writers of crime and horror fiction don’t have to be murderers or monsters themselves. And it’s probably a sure bet the writer of a middle-grade fantasy is not eleven years old with personal knowledge of dragons, or fairies, or magical spells.

What these writers do have is life experience, imagination, and, let’s assume, the ability to craft a story. But added to those, isn’t the most important qualification for writing any particular story having the idea for it? By “idea” I mean more than a fleeting thought. I mean the basic premise expanded in the writer’s brain to a fully-formed story idea.

Am I missing the point of the question? Isn’t the fact that the idea came to YOU the primary reason you are the best one to write the story or novel?

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Author, Dream, Fiction, Goals, Motivation, Musings, My Books, Novel, Publish, Reader, Words, Writing

The why of want

I want to be published. I really want to be published. I talk about it. I dream about it. I fantasize about it. I hope, pray, and wish on stars for it. Below is what I wrote in the small notebook I carry in my purse:

“It is 2:49 pm on Wednesday, 21 April, 2010 and as I sit in a McDonald’s Playland full of squealing children I feel certain I will be a published author.”

Yes, I want to be published. I don’t care about fame, in fact I’d just as soon not have that. Money would be nice, but that’s not my motivation. I want validation. I want to know that all the time I spend writing has a better purpose than avoidance of housework. I want my words to mean something to someone besides me.

I have no illusions of grandeur. I’m fully aware that nothing I write is important. It has no power to change the world. It will never be studied in a classroom. Yet it could transport readers into a time, place, or circumstance other than their own for a while, and there is worth in that. To see through another’s eyes, feel through another’s heart, think through another’s mind has purpose. I want someone to experience this through my words. I want to share the stories given to me.

I want to be published.

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Advice, Fiction, Goals, Novel, Poetry, Publish, Questions, Short story, Tips, Writing

What is your writing worth?

Today, I’m thinking I should add another post category called Reality Check. But that might be too discouraging—to me as well as you. Even though I’ve been querying my novel for a while, it took Duotrope to make me say, “What was I thinking?”

I made my decision to seek publication in ignorance. I had no idea how hard reaching my goal would be because I had no idea how many other writers would be in competition with me. Now I know—there are at least a gazillion. And half of them are better writers than I am.

My goal this year was to see a story I’d written published, so I‘ve been using Duotrope to search for magazines I think might accept my work. No easy task that. I can eliminate those who only publish sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, erotica, western, etc. It’s just as easy to weed out some others by their rejection rates. If their acceptance rate is in the single digits—or less—I don’t even bother. Many of those magazines publish well-established authors; what chance do I have against the Joyce Carol Oates of the world?

Duotrope shows a description for each magazine, usually taken from their own website, and often I read this description and think the magazine sounds perfect for my work. Then, I go to the site and read samples of what they publish and my hopes are dashed. It’s either completely different in style or tone from what I write, or “too literary,” or “too amateur.” So those are more mags I can ignore.

So now, I’ve established what magazines I need not apply to, but how do I choose among the rest? One big question is whether I want to receive payment for my story or poem. Of course, searching for magazines that pay even a token amount turns up many I’ve already crossed off. And if my search term is “semi-pro and up” I’m going to see a lot of those names I’ve put on my too-elite-for-me list.

Do I need to receive payment to feel good about having a story or poem published? What if a magazine’s acceptance rate is over fifty percent? Some show over ninety percent! How would I feel about being published in one of those magazines?

I think to answer those questions, I have to ask another. Why do I write? It’s clearly no longer for my own entertainment or I wouldn’t be querying agents with a novel. I want my work to be read. But do I only want to be read? By how many people? If I don’t care about payment, and I don’t care how many people—or who—reads it, why not just publish on my blog? What is my writing worth to me? Questions, questions, questions.

Do you have an opinion to share?

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Craft, Editor, Fiction, Novel, Poetry, Publish, Query, Short story, Writing

The long and short of it

Yesterday, I spent hours—again—researching literary magazines. My goal is to have at least two stories and maybe a poem in submission by October. I’m not sure I have a talent for writing short stories. I feel more confident in my novel writing ability.

I give story writing a good shot every so often, but somehow, the voice I have when novel writing weakens in my stories. Some feel if you truly have the skills for writing fiction, you should be able to write it long and short. But I know other novelists who either stumble at writing short fiction or refuse to even try.

Story writing is a challenge to me. For some reason, I feel obligated to succeed at it, at least once. I feel the same about poetry—even though that definitely requires a different skill set than fiction writing. Maybe I’m just a bit masochistic.

I have a couple stories I think are worth submitting. But, like querying a novel to the right agent, it’s important to find the right magazine for your story. The few literary magazines I’m subscribed to now, are far beyond my level. Only in my dreams would they accept my work.

It takes an enormous amount of time to read online journals, looking for a good match. And I’ll confess that, like agents, a few mags I thought would be perfect, did not agree with my assessment. A rejection yesterday, came so soon after submission, it seems they didn’t even need to read the whole story. That’s a real confidence shaker. Or maybe that editor’s a speed reader. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Now, your turn. Do you write both short and long fiction? Do you write them equally well? Do you also write poetry?

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Movies, Musings, Writing

The stuff I blog when I tire of relevancy

Yesterday, I watched Ponyo, an animated Japanese children’s movie. It reminded me of another movie, Spirited Away, and a quick check at Netflix told me they were both directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. The animation in these movies is gorgeous, though some of the imagery disturbs me, as do the stories.

Fujimoto @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

In the one I saw yesterday, I’m not sure I ever understood what the father of Ponyo was. Though he lives and breathes underwater, he looks human, with bizarre hair,  but he’s horrified that his daughter—born a fish—wants to become human. In the English-language version, Liam Neeson is the voice of this character, and though I’m a Neeson fan, his voice coming out of this character’s mouth only added to the weirdness.

Although both these movies mesmerized me, they seem so different from American animated children’s movies, I’m surprised our children like them. Then again, I don’t see a lot of children’s movies anymore, so maybe they’ve changed. Or maybe I should be comparing them to our folk tales of old. These two Japanese movies did remind me of the fairy tales I read as a child. The ones that frightened me.

Did I worry there might be real witches with candy houses and ovens built for children? You bet. Did it cross my mind that my father might do something like indenture me to spin straw into gold for the rest of my life? In a word, yes. Think of all the tales that feature a wicked step-mother. I did … every time my parents argued. As an adult I understand those tales reflected the harshness of the times in which they originated, but as a child that aspect flew over my head. A part of me believed these things might be possible.

Gran Mamare @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

This image from Ponyo particularly spooked me. Every time I stand at ocean’s edge, I fear I am seconds away from seeing something huge—and alive—rising out of it. So, even though she was beautiful, the image of Ponyo’s mother gave me pause.

Sometimes imagination is a curse.

Tell me, did any children’s stories worry or scare you? Or were you precocious enough to go deeper, analyzing the symbolism and allegory?

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