My Favorite Writing Tips, Part I

Artists often get tons of advice from all over the place, from people who might know what they’re talking about and from plenty of others who don’t. This can make it difficult to wade through everything to what’s actually useful.

And so, as we start coming around to NaNoWriMo time again, I thought I’d post a fresh shortlist of some of my favorite (actually useful) tips and ideas:

1. From Vonnegut’s classic 8 rules for writing short stories: “Start as close to the end as possible.” —This encompasses so many excellent style pointers for both novels and short stories: don’t waste the reader’s time, more writing doesn’t equal more complexity/intrigue, world-building and character-building shouldn’t be different from plot advancement, and so on and so on.

2. From Drew Chial’s post, “Why Every Story Needs Its Own Pit of Snakes”: “The second act demands sacrifices.” This is an essential storytelling tenet: the rising action of a story must lead to an Act II sacrifice; it’s the moment where all sins culminate to push the hero to its lowest point, where a beloved secondary character bites it, where the hero loses (even if only temporarily) that which is held most dear. Of course, this often requires more sacrifice on part of the author than the story’s hero, as may be evidenced by the countless stories that end toothless and unsatisfying thanks to the hero’s climb being all too easy.

3. From Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: “Zest. Gusto.” Bam!

4. From Stephen King’s On Writing: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” —A special note on this one: definitely be reading in whatever genre it is that you’re writing; don’t be afraid that someone will influence you and your voice—embrace it! I promise you, you’re not going to end up writing in their voice. Rather, you’ll simply be learning the tricks of the trade from peers and professionals while also learning how to make those tricks uniquely your own.

5. From Margaret Atwood: “The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read.” —Writing with an audience in mind is often a useful trick, but it can just as often be useful to imagine that the audience is you and you alone, or a perfect stranger, or a very specific, very faraway, and very scandalous (and thus difficult to scandalize) person.

Happy Writing!

Blogger Recognition Award – Huzzah!

First, let me extend a hearty Thank You to Eve Messenger of Eve Messenger’s OtherWORDly Endeavors for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. You are too kind and I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my blog so far. If you enjoy YA lit, fantasy, or just plain great quirky humor, definitely check out Eve’s blog.

blogger recognition

Blogger Recognition Award Rules

  • Tell the world why you started blogging
  • Give advice/tips to new bloggers
  • Share the picture above
  • Nominate other blogs and let them know how awesome you think they are.
  • Share the link to Edge of Night for the original post.

Okay!

Why I Blog

I started blogging mainly to help get myself through unfocused moments or times of writer’s block/avoidance during the week. I’ve also come to love blogging, however, for the ways it helps me connect with a larger community of writers and artists. I love the solitude and escape that my profession lends me day after day, but it is also a joy to get to meet and talk with other artists, learn from them, be inspired by them, and so forth.


Advice/Tips to New Bloggers

First, I completely agree with Eve’s No. 1 piece of advice: “Read lots of other people’s blogs and be brave about leaving comments, even if they seem lame.” Leaving comments is not only a great way to better connect with others in the blogging world, but also to boost up someone else. No matter how short or simple the comment, for me, seeing that someone else took the time to leave a comment on my blog–took the time to actually read and consider my post–always, always brightens my day. It’s happened more than once that a friendly comment on my blog has helped lift me up after I’ve received a rejection letter from a literary magazine or made me feel more confident about returning to a short story that’s been giving me a hard time.

Above all, be a generous reader! Be the reader that Writer You wants to have. And be a generous writer–be gracious, thoughtful, and sincere.


Alright, and onward to the main event: K.C.’s Blogger Recognition Award winners:

  • Musings on a Literary Journey – I am a big fan of author Nicole Dennis-Benn. Not only is she just a fascinating person in her own right, but her fiction is terrific as well. (She’s had more than one story nominated for a Pushcart Prize.) Definitely give her blog and other work a look! (Then maybe another look ;-))
  • Nights of Passion – While I’m really not much of a romance reader at all, I find I often love the voices, updates, and thoughts provided here by the writing team of Nights of Passion
  • Dirt Artful – I know what you’re going to say. Hey, you can’t just recommend a blog because of all its cute guinea pig photos! But I’m here to tell you that Yes, oh yes, I can. But I like Dirt Artful for many reasons beyond her awesome guinea pigs. A scientist, an artist, a Guinea Pig Ranger — this is a blog for everyone who wants a glimpse into an adventurous, fascinating life.

Meet Buffalo, Mascot Extraordinaire

Meet Buffalo, the new official mascot of my current novel-in-progress.20150811_100013

My writers group recently decided that, along with our writing goals, we would also set up a carrot system for ourselves to remind us that, even though we may be tragically unpaid for extended periods of time, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t working full time or that our work is somehow unworthy of pay/recognition.

One of my goals is to make sure that, on top of my regular gigs and novel writing, I produce and submit at least one new short story per month. My carrot? Every month I get a new story written and submitted on time, I get to treat myself to a new houseplant. 🙂

Buffalo, I’m proud to carry you over the threshold in celebration of a goal well-met.

What kinds of goals do you set for yourself as a writer and/or reader? Do you use a carrot system? If so, what kinds of rewards do you prefer?

Slipstream, Speculative, & Weird: Makin’ a Comeback!

Earlier this February, Anna Russell and Jennifer Maloney of The Wall Street Journal came out with the article, “Slipstream Fiction Goes Mainstream.” –And this is great news for a number of reasons: great for readers, great for writers, great for art generally, great for social justice causes, great for learning how to reimagine the world we’re living in…the list goes on. Weird fiction takes down troublesome boundaries and restrictions on the everyday and allows us to glimpse a world free of sexism, racism, and war. Or, at least, it allows us to glimpse our own -ism-riddled world from a truly new angle.

Russell and Maloney site a variety of authors as evidence of this style/genre resurgence, including Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Jeff VanderMeer, and Karen Russell. If you haven’t yet dug into any good slipstream work, just give these authors a look and you’ll soon be changing your tune 😉

AR-AI717_Slipst_JV_20150204123822“Fran’s daddy woke her up wielding a mister. ‘Fran,’ he said, spritzing her like a wilted houseplant. ‘Fran, honey, wakey wakey.’

Fran had the flu, except it was more like the flu had Fran.”

–Kelly Link, “The Summer People” from Get in Trouble


AR-AI731_Slipst_JV_20150205185600“In every season you can find me sitting at my bench, watching them fall. Only one or two lemons tumble from the branches each hour, but I’ve been sitting here so long their falls seem contiguous, close as raindrops. My wife has no patience for this sort of meditation. ‘Jesus Christ, Clyde,’ she says. ‘You need a hobby.'”

–Karen Russell, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” from Vampires in the Lemon Grove

cover_willful“Ten men go to ten doctors. All the doctors tell all the men that they only have two weeks left to live. Five men cry. Three men rage. One man smiles. The last man is silent, meditative. Okay, he says. He has no reaction. The raging men, upon meeting in the lobby, don’t know what to do with the man of no reaction. They fall upon him and kill him with their bare hands. The doctor comes out of his office and apologizes, to the dead man.

Dang it, he says sheepishly, to his colleagues. Looks like I got the date wrong again.”

–Aimee Bender, “Death Watch” from Willful Creatures

Jeff VanderMeer’s Myster Odd

10 Must-Read Books for August

Flavorwire

Pitched between the beach reads of June and July and the high literary controversies of autumn, the month of August is often little more than a break in the literary calendar. But this year publishers have perked up a bit, electing to release a combination of rediscovered classics (Shirley Jackson, Lucia Berlin) — especially in short fiction — and high-quality debut novels (Alexandra Kleeman, Ottessa Moshfegh). Most importantly, this month introduces American audiences to the great Clarice Lispector, an unclassifiable genius on the level of the best writers of the 20th century.

Fiction:

shirleyjackson

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings, Shirley Jackson (Deckle Edge, August 4)

Shirley Jackson’s writing — a mainstay of the American curriculum — has exerted untold influence over both genre and literary fiction for decades. This collection of new material arrives 50 years after her death and just one year shy of what would have been…

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