Tag Archives: Writing

The Art of Narrative, Part Two: Exposition

Welcome back!

***A quick note before we begin—the call for flash topics opens today! Please send your idea (a theme, a sentence, a prompt, or a couple of words) to evariederauthor@gmail.com. I will be choosing a topic and incorporating it into a 500 to 1,000 word piece for next week’s Third Thursday Flash. Submissions will remain open until Monday the 8th at 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time! In your email, please let me know if you would prefer I keep your name anonymous should I pick your idea, and thanks for participating!***

Last Thursday, I started an exploration of the art of narrative. My post focused on point of view (otherwise known as POV), and now that we’ve established who the narrator/speaker is, we move into the first stage of the narrative arc: exposition.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary Online, exposition is “1. a setting forth of the meaning or purpose (as of a writing) [and] 2. discourse or an example of it designed to convey information or explain what is difficult to understand.” Thus the point of the exposition is to provide the reader with background information and details that will set the tone for the rest of the work. This happens in three key parts: setting, character details, and mood.

Let’s focus on each individually.

Setting

The setting tells us where and when a story takes place, but also introduces themes and background viewpoints essential to the story. While the where is portrayed with ample sensory detail and gives the reader an idea of where he or she is about to set foot in the story, other information is provided at this stage to signal pending plot lines and narrative themes (for example, homelessness and hunger in a post-apocalyptic world, or political upheaval in an ancient time). These features help readers identify potential goals of characters they will meet, which will further their understanding of why characters make their choices. Writer and former agent Nathan Bransford wrote an excellent post about these deeper aspects of setting, which you can read here.

Depending on the plot of the story, setting may reappear throughout the work or change dramatically with each chapter (for example, a space opera might center around a ship that docks at various planets, each conveyed with new setting details, whereas a story that takes place entirely in a house will not need to add much in the showcasing of different rooms). Whether local or more broad, setting at every stage of the story helps orient the reader and provides context for the plot.

Character Details:

Along with the background detail of the setting, the exposition introduces a protagonist. A skilled writer unveils the protagonist slowly yet thoroughly, making him, her, or it accessible to the reader without creating an “info dump” of all their personal details. This gradual familiarity allows the reader to identify the character’s goals and struggles, so that they in turn will understand the intensity of the impending conflict and the character’s reaction. Though the antagonist and/or conflict is not always introduced in this stage, some motivations or issues may start to surface in preparation for the obstacle to come.

Characters must become real to their readers. This is accomplished through a portrayal of their interests, thoughts, speech patterns, behavior, appearance, and other mannerisms, as well as how they interact with others. Dialogue, inner thoughts, and actions are all compelling ways to take the reader on a journey through the characters’ personal details instead of listing them in a bland and telling way. “Joe had red hair. Joe had a big nose. Immediately, Joe lost his wallet and screamed. This was because Joe had a rager of temper, so when he started yelling everyone ran in fear.” Not so interesting, right? As writers, we must be mindful of how we introduce character details, making sure to feed traits through action so as to pull the narrative along in a smooth manner. UDL Editions by Cast provides some helpful quotes and thoughts on characterization here.

Mood:

Setting and characterization are huge aspects of a narrative—but the mood is also important. Mood is what the reader feels, a sensation that will carry him or her through the work. This mood is a foreshadowing of sorts, alerting the reader to the story’s possibilities. Word choice, tone, voice, theme, imagery, dialogue, character behavior, and setting details are all features that convey mood. A shadowed forest with heavy winds and a mumbling vagabond might alert the reader to a sinister, dark tale, while a giggling, blushing child running across a pier might indicate a lighthearted and fun tale to come.

Through each part of the exposition—setting, character details, and mood—writers prepare the reader for the narrative journey ahead. Some writers spend a great deal of time on the exposition stage, and in turn, some readers love a lengthy and detailed exposition before diving forward in the narrative. Other writers craft a shorter exposition with the hopes of letting more details reveal themselves throughout the piece.

What about you—what’s your style when it comes to exposition length and detail? What is your favorite to read?

Please share below! I’d love to hear. 🙂


The Art of Narrative, Part One: Introduction and POV

In my last post, I shared my love of short stories; one of the reasons I’m fond of them is the impressive manner in which they follow the full narrative path in a short amount of space. We are currently exploring the narrative arc and writing style in my Freshmen English classes, so the topic is fresh in my mind—and while many of us like to read and write, we have grown familiar (at least somewhat) with each stage of the narrative cycle. 

For anyone not familiar with the “narrative arc” concept, I’ve included a diagram similar to the one I used in my classes. If you Google images of the narrative arc, you’ll find that more commonly the arc is the same height in the beginning (“exposition”) and end (“resolution”). But if you think about it, most protagonists experience at least a minimal amount of growth in their narrative path, so I started drawing the resolution stage to indicate a character’s change through the course of the story (a big thanks to my clever colleague for pointing this out!).

Over the next several posts, I will be exploring the art of the narrative. I think this is valuable for two reasons: one, as writers, we get to experiment and play with the arc in our writing, but each stage is essential to whatever we create; two, as readers, the narrative arc helps define the stories that we treasure and love, and sometimes it is that very arc that perplexes/irks/mesmerizes us with the more unusual pieces we discover.

To kick off our Art of Narrative journey, I’d like to briefly talk about point of view, or POV. POV is a hot topic in the blogosphere of late, and in a moment I’m going to point you to a couple fantastic blog posts on the topic. As a refresher, there are four types of POV: first person, second person, and third person (limited or omniscient).

  • First person uses the “I” voice to maintain a story through the eyes of a single character who narrates the tale (either as a participant in the plot or a voyeuristic player of sorts). While it may seem an easy feat, the first person narrative can pose a challenge in its limited view of only one person’s perspective.
  • Second person addresses the narrator or protagonist as “you,” in essence turning you, the reader, into its character. This form is not as commonly used, but it does pack a creative punch.
  • Third person limited is perhaps the most commonly used POV; while we tend to reach for first person narrative as early writers because it is closer to home with its comfortable use of “I,” forcing oneself to step outside a bit—and still stay in the right person’s head—definitely requires some attention. This POV style may remain in one person’s perspective for the entirety of the work, or it can shift from scene to scene depending on the length of the piece.
  • Third person omniscient is less common but provides a “god-like” perspective, allowing the reader to see everything, but often not at such a great depth.

Because point of view has been such a popular topic of late, I don’t want to get into much more detail except to suggest you hop on over to two other blog posts that covered the topic in heavy (and exquisite!) detail. The first is by fellow blogger Katherine Checkley at the Intrinsic Writer. Katherine’s lovely piece on What’s the Right Point of View for Your Story? highlighted the pros and cons of each POV style, and is worth a good perusal. I’d also like to reference editor Beth Hill over at The Editor’s Blog for her thoughtful piece, The Curse of First-Person Narration. Ms. Hill points out some definite concerns that arise in the usage of the first person point of view, all of which should be kept in mind when using the style.

Though I have used a little of the first person POV in my writing, I have found I’m most comfortable writing in the third person limited style. I also prefer reading works of this point of view because I enjoy shifting across perspectives (though shifting is definitely less common in short stories). Each has its own value, and every author has a preference and best practice.

What about you? What is your favorite POV to write in? What POV do you prefer to read? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Please stay tuned next week, when I continue an exploration of the Art of Narrative. In the meantime, make sure to grab a good book this weekend and enjoy the narrative flow. 🙂


Falling in Love With Short Stories

Depending on whom you ask, short stories are either sweet morsels of brevity or pieces that are forgotten and overshadowed by the bigger, longer, and more familiar novel.

I am one of the former, and today I’d like to share with you how fabulous short stories really are.

While flash fiction pieces tend to run less than 1,000 words, short stories are traditionally described as 1,000 to 10,000 word tales (that’s 4 to 40 pages, if you’re working with the standard 250 words per page theory). Most markets set shorts in the 3,000 to 7,500 range, with some variance depending on the submission guidelines. No matter what the length, though, one thing remains the same: these magical little pieces manage to wrap the reader in an oft complex journey despite a surprisingly small number of words.

Though I wrote lots of smaller pieces growing up, I didn’t write what I considered my first true short story until a college Creative Fiction class. When I finished, I yanked my fingers off the keyboard with a gasp—I’d literally found myself in a trance for the course of 15 pages, my mind churning and my heart racing as this entire story unfolded in such a short amount of space. It felt magical and fantastic, and it occurred to me that writing shorts might be the path I wanted to take.

I didn’t, of course, but after years of toil over Kyresa and learning that I needed to write more often (from start to complete finish), I’ve spent a lot of my energy writing short stories lately. I’ve also been reading them incessantly, for which the purpose is three-fold. First, I’m looking for great short stories to share with my English students as we begin to study narrative writing, since they make excellent between-text reads to discuss. This in turn is good for my second reason: I’m often only able to accomplish short bursts of reading, and the joy of a short story is that I can finish it in that miniscule chunk of time.

The third reason I’ve been reading shorts, however, is the most important to me. Reading always makes one a better writer, and I’m finding that reading short stories that follow the entire narrative path in no more than 10,000 words is actually starting to strengthen my ability to write them. My first drafts are getting cleaner, and I’m finding myself in that same college trance—except now I’m knocking out 4,000 to 5,000 word stories in a two to three-hour sitting. It feels cohesive, empowering, and quite fun! It also makes it easier to not get so darn attached to one piece, and to circulate many pieces in the world while I work towards getting something published.

On the reading side of things, I wanted to share the list of short stories I’ve managed to tackle in the last two weeks. The list below is in no particular order, but most of these pieces are first person, since that was my initial focus for my students in our narrative unit. I’ve included a very brief description as well as a link to the anthology so that you may track them down. My advice? Read them all. 🙂

From The Essay Connection:
(The following are first person narrative essays.)
“Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan — a first person account of Tan’s changed perception on her mother’s “broken” English.
“The Inheritance of Tools” by Scott Russell Sanders — a tale of father and son bonding through tools, and the pain of losing that connection. (Loved this one!)
“Learning to Drive” by Ann Upperco Dolman — a funny tale about the author’s experience learning to drive a standard transmission car alongside her extremely patient father.

From The Writer’s Presence:
(The following are first person narrative essays.)
“The Problem with T-Shirts” by Thomas Beller — a little ditty on the comfort (and eventual death) of t-shirts.
“Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self” by Alice Walker — Walker’s path toward acceptance of an obvious facial scar. (This was one of my favorites!)
“If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?” by Geeta Kothari — thoughts on the integration of Americanized foods in an Indian home, and the questions of cultural identity that follow.

From Push of the Sky, by Camille Alexa:
(The following are first person speculative fiction stories by the fabulous Camille—I met her at the Cascade Writer’s Conference, and I’m absolutely loving her work!)
“The Italian” — a woman’s connection to a past incident through her Italian bicycle.
“The Taste of Snow” — a woman in a dystopian future adjusts to losing her aging family.

From The Best of Talebones, edited by Patrick Swenson
(The following pieces are all speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, and I also met the awesome Patrick Swenson at my conference. I really enjoyed each of these.)
“Cats, Dogs, and Other Creatures” by Steve Rasnic Tem — cats, dogs, and other creatures have more control than you might think.
“Snow on Snow” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman — a man hopes to draw his wife back to him from an unusual place.
“Seepage” by Caterine Macleod — an agoraphobic adjusts to her interesting house.

And others…
Okay, I admit it—nobody throw anything at me!—I somehow fell under a rock while everyone else read the work of speculative fiction author Neil Gaiman. But I’m hip to him now! I enjoyed the first piece I read in Fragile Things: “A Study in Emerald,” where a detective must solve an unusual royal murder (in a unique setting). Lastly, from a textbook our freshmen use that I particularly enjoyed, and have found on the internet for your reading enjoyment is “Marigolds.” It’s a contemporary piece by Eugenia Collier, where a girl has a tantrum—and a slight coming of age—in her neighbor’s beautifully symbolic marigold garden.

I hope you have a chance to check out some of these fantastic pieces, and now I’m curious—what do you think of short stories? Writers, do you enjoy writing them? Readers, do you enjoy them as much as novels? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!


Third Thursday Flash Edition Three: “Pages”

Welcome back! It’s time for the third edition of Third Thursday Flash!

Every three weeks, I craft a 500 to 1,000 word flash piece with a theme suggested by my fantastic blog readers. A theme submission call will come around again in about two weeks if you’d like to participate.

Today’s theme is brought to you by Nathan Payne over at The Writers Codex. Nathan suggested the phrase The pages fell open to start the piece, as well as the closing of a book at the end. Without further ado, thanks to Nathan for inspiring…

Pages

The pages fell open and Becca clapped her hand over her mouth. Beatrice told her it would do this, but she hadn’t imagined it would have so much power, as if the book had a will of its own.

“Woah,” she whispered.

A steady breeze filled the room and Becca swept her gaze over the closed window.

Did that come from the book?

She laid her hand on the pages. The crisp linen bond felt hot against her palm, warmer than any book should ever be—and right as she touched it, a beam of light shot across her ceiling. Becca tilted her head up, watching the light change from red, to teal, to orange, then into the brightest of yellows. It flickered across the ceiling like a rainbow mobile for a child.

Except this is for me!

Immediately the voices started, small chants of excitement as the creatures began to unstick themselves from the pages. Becca yanked back her hand, uncovering the squirming Princess character. She peeled herself off, her flat, colored body rolling up like an untacked sticker—first her head of long hair, her pink ‘o’ shaped mouth, and her shoulders, arms, and waist.

“Oh my,” Becca said.

“What are you doing up there, Becca?” her father called.

She straightened in her chair, her back in the rigid pose they’d practiced with her through her home-schooling years. It was the same posture they emphasized with Beatrice and her at the New School for Girls.

Thank goodness I met Beatrice!

“Nothing, dad!” She traced her finger over the meadow in the picture while the Princess released a soft huff and tugged her legs and skirt from the field. Becca couldn’t believe her eyes. “I’ll be down soon!”

“Ten minutes.”

“Okay…” She faced the pages, biting her tongue to suppress her squeal. The Princess ran her hands over her skirt and gave a wiggle, her paper-doll body tapering out into the miniature form of a real being.

“Who are you?” she said. Becca strained hard to hear her.

“I’m—”

Before she could answer, the pages flipped to another story. Several fairies and dwarves pushed and pulled against the crisscrossed fibers of the pages. They popped to the surface with grunts and whistles.

“Hey little lady! Thanks for the free pass!”

Only one scowled at her, shaking his cardboard body like a dog out of water until his flat self burst into a berry-shaped man of no more than an inch high.

“Yeah, thanks,” he muttered. He grabbed the hand of the embedded Queen by sinking his fingers into the paper—Becca’s jaw dropped open at that—and tugged her right off the page. When the Queen rounded out to a small human, she ran over to the Princess. They giggled before embracing one other.

“We’re free again!” they said.

“Well, for now!” Becca hoped they realized she had to go soon. The thumping in her chest echoed in her ears while the rest of the characters started coming to life. Princesses, princes, and creatures of all types unrolled from the pages and formed an army of characters on her bedspread. My own personal fairy tale! “Only until dinner time, guys…”

“That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” the tiny centaur said. He threw his hands on his furry hindquarters, then pawed at the ground.

The lights on the ceiling started to shimmer and dance, mimicking the movements of the figures. They ran across the pages, high-fiving one another and squealing so loud that Becca’s dad called up to the room.

“What is going on up there, Becca?”

“Nothing, dad!”

Her mom chimed in. “We expect you in your dinner chair in two minutes!”

“Okay!” Becca looked around the room. No box, no chest, no drawer could contain the abundance of characters removing themselves from the pages. “Um, I have to go. I’ll come back later. I didn’t realize how many of you—“

“Becca! Right now!”

“Sorry!” Becca said. She scooped all the figures up as best she could, then shoved them into the crease of the open book.

“Wait, what about us?”

“Hey, we’re people too, you know.”

“Little miss, this isn’t very nice—“

She slammed the book shut. The lights disappeared from the ceiling and the noise of the figures fell quietly from their confinement within the pages. Becca leaned her mouth close to the binding.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” she said. “Can’t wait to see you all again!”

“Becca! Dinnertime.”

“I’m coming!” She shoved the book under her bedspread, pressing her hands to her cheeks in an attempt to calm the excitement that brightened her face. She ran to the door and cast one last glance at the lump under the covers. “I promise, you guys!” she said.

Then she left for dinner.

***

Thanks for reading the third edition of Third Thursday Flash. Have a great weekend, everyone! 🙂


Third Thursday Flash Submission Call and the One Lovely Blog Award!

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I’d like to start off my thanking the wonderful Nathan Payne over at Writer’s Codex for nominating me for another award, the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks, Nathan!

I’ll go into more detail on the award in just a moment, but first—drumroll please!—it’s time for another call for submissions! As a reminder, every three Thursdays I’m posting a 500 to 1,000 word flash fiction piece I’ve written based on your idea! Submissions are now open for theme ideas you’d like me to craft from for next Thursday’s post. Please pass along whatever idea you like (it can be a theme, a sentence, a prompt, a couple of words you’d like me to incorporate or use as background—your choice), and send your suggestions to me by email at evariederauthor@gmail.com. You can also use the handy contact form on my website. Submissions will remain open until Monday the 17th at 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, when I will pick one of your great ideas and craft a piece! In your email, please let me know if you would prefer I keep your name anonymous should I pick your idea, otherwise be prepared for me to shout out your awesomeness for providing a swell idea.  🙂

You can click here or here to read the first two installments of Third Thursday Flash. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your suggestions thus far, everyone—it keeps me writing and I love having your input. So, I welcome more ideas and themes for next week’s edition!

And now…back to the One Lovely Blog Award!

The One Lovely Blog Award is another of those fun blog awards circulating at the moment. While some bloggers consider them chain letters just by the nature of passing them along to more bloggers, I find the mention by my esteemed peers quite flattering. There are about 80 gazillion blogs out there, so being nominated as one of a small group that someone likes to read is not only encouraging but a real highlight of the day. So, thanks again, Nathan!

The One Lovely Blog Award suggests that I should: thank the nominator (done—you rock, Nathan!), post the picture (done!), mention seven random facts about myself, and nominate fifteen other blogs.

We’ll start with the seven random facts. (Dun dun dun…this could get interesting.)

1. One of my favorite foods is a pot pie with popcorn in it. This is a holdover from childhood, when my mom loved to eat popcorn for dinner (why, mom, why?), and we’d grab handfuls and sprinkle it over our pot pies. For some reason, the butter flavor mixes quite well. I have to get crafty with this now due to a double whammy of lactose and gluten intolerance (random fact number 2!), but I sure do love that combo.

2. See last sentence of #1. Fortunately, this is a pretty bearable issue now that it’s 2012 and there are delicious substitutes available.

3. I’ve become addicted to getting up at 4:45 to squeeze in 45 minutes to an hour of writing before I leave for work – so much so that I have to remind myself to sleep in a little on the weekends. (Why waste a perfectly good day?)

4. I’m a clean person but I have a tendency to drop mail and shoes as soon as I come in the house. Mail on the counter (which I leave, often, for a week at a time) and shoes by the door. This results in (a) no counter space and (b) random bouts of tripping over shoes while heading into my kitchen. My kitchen, by the way, is inconveniently placed as the opening to my apartment. This leads me to item #5.

5. I am giddily, delightfully, and over-the-moon excited about the fact that I will be moving in the next month to the area I’ve dreamed of living in for the last seven years. (Please review #3. This is the only writing time happening for a while since I’m packing.) The new place is on the water, beside my favorite running trail. Tranquil, safe, and beautiful are three words I would say best describe my new neighborhood, and I can’t wait to move!

6. I use an exercise ball as a desk chair half the time. It’s only half the time because my cats have a tendency to pop every exercise ball I acquire (the current tally is cats: 3, exercise ball: 1), and so I’ve been hiding this one in the tub of my guest bathroom with the door closed to prevent their access. This also means that I often sit down and start writing before I remember to grab the ball, and then I’m too immersed in what I’m doing to grab the darn thing. Sorry, abs.

7. I now consider myself a former theatre brat, Renaissance Faire girl, and circus freak. I acted a bit in my teens and first year of college, and hope to do it again one day (you know, when I have more time). I sold garlands at Renaissance Faire for seven years (I was there, but flighty, for my eighth and ninth years), which was fun and formative, but now I have a strong dislike for dusty, dry areas, as well as camping.  And the circus part—if you’ve been following me for a while, you’ve heard this fact. If not, you can read more about my circus life here.

All right, there are some random facts about me for you! Now, since Nathan was kind enough to nominate me for the Liebster Blog Award just a couple weeks ago, I recently nominated several blogs that I love to read and follow. The list often does not change as I follow these blogs because I think the writing is either informative, superb, or both, and for that reason, I would like to redirect you to my formerly posted list of blogs here. However, there is one blog that I’d like to add to the list, since her blog had already been nominated the last time around and thus I couldn’t renominate her. (Yes, I’m breaking all the rules in only technically nominating one person, but there you have it.)

That said, I nominate Katherine Checkley over at The Intrinsic Writer. Her blog boasts not only great writing but helpful writing posts, and I consider her a veritable fountain of clever writing information. She is also one of the first bloggers I ever started to follow!

I’d like to say thanks to Nathan again for the nomination. He’s running a fascinating blog with lots of good insight, and I’m enjoying following him through his writing journey.

And to my readers, I’d like to say thanks again for being a part of my journey. I look forward to reading your theme suggestions for Third Thursday Flash, and I hope everyone has a wonderful and restful weekend!


Destigmatizing the R Word

Rejection.

We’ve all felt the cold, hard sting of rejection.

It could be of that awesome suggestion you made at work. It may even be over your excessively conversational dating style. Heck, it could be over your choice of hair color.

Regardless, rejection is something we often face in life, and it’s something we could all learn to take more lightly.

In the writing world, rejection happens every step of the way. When you were inexperienced and new, you may have convinced yourself that you weren’t any good and that there was no point in taking yourself seriously. Later, when you overcame that and started to share your work, you might have heard someone throw out a negative thing or two that stunted your progress. Then when you deemed yourself ready to start submitting things anyway, you found rejection happening even more—except now it came from everywhere: a journal, a publisher, an agent, an editor, or even a critique partner. It didn’t really matter where it came from, though, because the truth remains the same. Rejection is part of the process.

I have long suspected that we as a society could handle rejection better (both personally and professionally) if everyone would start being more honest and direct. I will use a dating analogy to explain, because it’s something with which most of us can identify.

Take Billy. Billy didn’t think you were the one. Billy might have thought your ideas (and maybe even your hairdo) were quaint and unusually intriguing. You and Billy went out a few times, and as much as he liked that you could rock a pair of orange high heels with checkered socks and a neon lime skirt, he also knew in the long run it couldn’t work out. He, after all, really liked plaid, and the two of you together looked like a violent mess of color chaos. So Billy said, “Look, I dig that you express yourself in insanely bright colors, but it’s not for me.”

What would it be like in a world where each of us was okay with Billy saying, “Hey look, sorry, you’re not for me”? A world where instead of getting upset about such a thing and bemoaning one more bad date (I mean, seriously, did you see his color scheme?), we smiled and said, “Hey Billy, it’s all good. I have Billy Bob next up on the list to meet. And honestly I agree we weren’t a good fit anyway, since none of my colors would really work alongside that plaid number you’re wearing.” [Author’s note: I am in no way endorsing nor condemning the wearing of plaid. Rock your plaid if it’s your thing, peeps.]

I further this example with our tendency to say “I’ll call you” when really we mean “I will leave your phone number in my jeans pocket so that I accidentally wash it in the laundry this weekend because I really have no interest in you at all whatsoever.” Think of how much easier it would be if we just said, “Thank you for your time, but I’m not interested.” After a few of those, any mention of “Hey, I’m not interested” would suddenly be no big deal. We’d realize that each of these incidents were indicative of something that wasn’t meant to be in the first place.

In much the same way, a rejection of our writing is not a statement on our character. Rejection doesn’t mean that we are terrible human beings, or even bad writers—it simply means that for whatever reason, the timing was off and that particular person or venue was not a good fit. Plus, if we all fit together, no relationship (with a publisher or a person) would ever be interesting at all!

So let’s focus on the rejection letter. Sometimes they contain great tips: “We’re sorry we can’t use your work, but if you did x, y, and z it would be a strong piece for us.” Other times, they’re of the standard mass-rejection variety: “Thanks for letting us consider [name of piece here], but it isn’t a good fit for our journal at this time.”

Either way, we writers are going to see them. And though we can let them sting the first time, after that we have to find a way to chin up and recognize the mismatch that wasn’t meant to be.

Stephen King pegged his rejection letters to the wall. I’ve heard of other writers burning and deleting theirs. Some even print them out and put them in scrap books. I have a folder in my inbox called “Rejection Love Notes.” Maybe I’ve taken the writing-is-like-dating analogy too far, but if I look at them as love notes gone sour, then instead of frowning about them, I smile.

Right now, I am querying one novel and three short stories, and I’m about to send out three to four other shorts in the near future, and a few more not long after that. The more I have out, the more I’m going to hear back—and odds are with that much out there, the majority of the responses will be rejection. It’s just math.

To that I say “Bring on the rejections!” They’re part of the deal. Each rejection will lead me away from places where my writing won’t work and instead to places it will. Sometimes, I might even gain handy improvement tips from these rejections, and others only another love note for the folder. But no matter what, eventually these letters are going to teach me something. They will teach me how to market my work appropriately, where I need revision, what markets are “hot,” and most importantly, how to handle rejection even better.

The first time sucked. The times after—they just meant it was time to jump right back in.

I mean, there are other fish in the sea, right? 🙂

So what about you? What do you do with your rejection letters? Please share below—I’d love to hear!


Blogging is Like a Love Affair

In my last post, I wrote about why I started blogging and what it is that my blog is about. I guess I’ve been thinking about my blog a lot this week, because this morning it occurred to me that I consider it a bit of a love affair.

To be fair, I think this idea formed as a small kernel a few months back, when my blogger pal Vanessi Grassi mentioned she thought of her blog as her boyfriend. It probably sounds weird out of context, but as soon as I read the sentence, I found myself nodding along. Over the months since, though, I’ve discovered that blogging may be more of an affair than I originally suspected.

I’m not talking about the kind of love affair that only lasts for one night—clearly I talk too much for this blog to have ended then, and that wouldn’t make for much content anyway. I’m thinking more of the long-term love affair, one following the ebbs and flows of a relationship that will last for many, many years.

Blogging begins with that initial rush of excitement one might feel at the start of a relationship. That oh-so-sweet captivation when you think, Oh my goodness, he is so amazing! Except here, it’s Oh my goodness, I’m running a blog! Everything you see stirs the thoughts up in your head that you want to share. Ooh, we can talk about this, and that, and oh that over there—won’t he think that’s so interesting? There seems an endless supply of things to talk about over wine and perhaps the occasional dinner.

Next there comes a period of adjustment—no two people ever fall into step perfectly, you know. It’s the same with blogging. You set a schedule, and then maybe you change it up a bit, blogging four days a week instead of two, but then maybe five days a week instead of three. It’s much like those first few months of dating. Should we see each other this much? you may ask. Should I leave my toothbrush…er…all my personal thoughts in the sidebar? Hard to say.

How sick of each other might you become?

And BAM. You overdo it. All this mushy lovey dovey business is getting out of hand, and all of a sudden it’s time for a blog break. (All the big name couples are doing it, by the way.) There may have been a misunderstanding. Or he got a little smothering. Who knows. Regardless, we’re on a break!

But over time, you realize how much you liked blogging. Sure, it’s hard to cram it all in. Life is busy. There’s work, and the home life, and maybe kids, or 8,000 hobbies, and all of it is taking up your every breathing moment, but still, that blog was great. That blog understood me. That loyal and faithful sweetheart—it brought out the best in you, giving you leeway to explore on those days you weren’t blogging…so you come running back. (Plus, he even takes out the trash with his nifty spam sifter!)

The two of you grow together. You compromise and create a new schedule, one where both of you can have your personal time. You also decide that there are things you can do to strengthen the foundation of your relationship—whoops, I mean your blog. You don’t need to take Tango or cooking classes to do this, you two are so amazing together. Heck no! Instead, you work on improving what you are. You may even come up with a new blog feature that allows both of you to flex your creative muscles at the same time!

You discover you’re in it for real now, and when you’re a real blogger, you’re not only running one yourself but reading up on others. But you and your blog are a team; you want to share this experience as one. (It’s called polybloggery, folks, and it’s 2012. Don’t be so close-minded!) You and your blog hold hands and check out other blogs. You click on all the tempting links over at that one flashy site. You read all the words together, a sexy new game to kickstart your relationship. You comment on how hot their thoughts are, and both of you feel like a better match because you’re able to hear each other’s inner fantasies.

Maybe you even start “the list”—the infamous list of people everyone has for the day they’re trapped in an elevator and cheating just naturally happens. Listen, if for some reason I can’t write with you, it’s because so-and-so caught me alone [by email] and asked if I wanted to do it [guest blog] and of course I had to say yes because she [awesome blogger!] is on the LIST! 

Which of course leads to the day when you have to come home to your blog and confess that you’ve been cheating. In fact, every single day, you’ve been cheating, because you’ve been writing on the side—but it’s the way you were before you started this blog, dammit, and your blog has to understand. Baby, I’m a writer! I can’t be trapped in just this blog! I have to be appreciated for all that I am, for every word coursing through my skull!

And while it’s hard for your blog to adjust, it gets it. It gets you. Because this blog, folks—it’s the real deal. It loves you no matter what you are, who you are, or where you’ve been. Sure, you have some flaws (I mean, really, you’re following what other blog about nail polish and shoes?), but overall you are still the same loving person you were. Your blog can take it. It’s true love. It’s the kind of love affair that will last a lifetime.

That is why, on mornings like today—when I woke up and thought Oh my god! I have to blog tonight! I have 80,000,000 things to do and my blog wants me to rub his feet again?—I eventually crawled out of bed with a smile. There may be a lot to do, but I sure do love blogging. We keep growing and exploring together, and most importantly, writing together.

So for being that great of a companion, this blog is worth every darn character on the page to me.

🙂


What is This Blog Thing About, Anyway?

Happy Labor Day, everyone.

My writer friend is getting ready to start his blog. He shared with me that his current holdup is picking a focused theme, which then started a great conversation about different blogs and what they’re all about. There are a variety of blog themes authors use—some focus on the craft or writerly tips; others focus on book reviews, movies, and the craft pieces contained within (point of view, setting, characterization, etc.); and still others follow the author’s journey as he or she progresses from the birth of an idea into the crafting of a full-length piece.

So while we threw around ideas, he asked what my blog was about. It got me thinking about why each of us starts a blog, and though I had an answer in my mind of what my blog was about, I wondered if my purpose or theme was as clear to others as it was to me.

I found my way to this blog because I wanted to finally publicly live my dream of being a writer. No longer would I just talk about it, or write on the occasion I had nothing else to do—it was time to take my writing seriously. I wanted to meet my goals and live my fantasy, and share that journey with those who cared to follow.

To me, living this fantasy is a mix of topics. It’s exploring the fantasy genre, since it’s the one I tend to write in most. It’s discussing the writing process, both successes and roadblocks. It’s examining writing techniques, skills, and strategies. It’s reviewing other great books in order to discover what makes those books so amazing to us as readers.

And sometimes it’s just about sharing life—a place full of passion and dreams waiting to be lived.

When I wrote my tagline, Live your fantasy…, I wanted to keep it broad so that my imagination could soar as widely as my hopes and dreams on this writing expedition of mine. Hopefully, I’ve conveyed that to you too, dear readers!

Writing is a journey. Some writers are further along on the path than others, and some of us are still bumbling our way through, discovering what it feels like to live the passion of putting thoughts to page. No matter what stage we’re at, all of us hold a wonderful connection that truly is a fantasy to live.

So on that note, thanks for sharing it with me. 🙂


Third Thursday Flash Edition Two: “Beneath the Waves”

Welcome back! It’s time for the second edition of Third Thursday Flash!

Every three weeks, I am crafting a 500 to 1,000 word flash piece with a theme suggested by you, my fantastic blog readers. If you’d like to participate, keep an eye out for a theme submission call in about two weeks.

Today’s theme is brought to you by Sue W., a wonderful woman I know not only as a blog reader, but also as a friend and colleague. Sue watched a Discovery Channel show on the potential reality of mermaids, and the effects of naval sonar on their existence. I thought the idea sounded great! I’m also a little bummed I missed the show!

But without further ado, thanks to Sue for inspiring…

 

Beneath the Waves

Annie swept her hair aside, letting it float around her shoulders. The strands followed her like a gentle mist, waves of color that drifted within the lull of the ocean’s whisper. The only break in its sweet hum was the echo of sonar in the distance.

“Will he find us, mama?”

Annie ceased her strokes. She kicked her fins just enough to roll onto her back, then floated in the cloudy depths while Kata took her hand. Her daughter had started to form in the subtle ways of a young woman, her torso growing shapely and her cheekbones more defined. Kata’s lips puckered as she watched the whale pod swimming nearby, their small grey eyes pained by the sonar vibrations that increased each passing day. It would not be long before the noise grew close, driving them from the water as it had the creatures of the past.

Annie tugged Kata’s hand, then used her tail to drive them forward and up. They broke the surface beside the ridge, where the waves crested against the algaed rocks in a white roll of foam. This spot was safe, a place that only she and Kata knew.

And of course Davad.

Day-vad, he’d told her then. His name, like his story, was a mystery that swayed her whenever he reappeared.

Kata folded her arms over the rocks. She laid her chin on her forearms, her eyes bluer than the ocean as she gazed across the endless water surface. “He will, right, mama?”

Annie trailed her hand along Kata’s shoulder. The girl’s chest heaved slightly until her gills tucked themselves closed, allowing her to breathe the salty sky air.

“I hope so,” she said. She remembered the day Davad’s giant ship arrived. The moonlight had shined high above them while they anchored, and when he peeked over the edge, she’d known that he was hers to hold.

Once his mates fell to sleep, he’d crawled down to the surface of the reef. There he swung his feet in the ripples of the water, singing a tune so foreign and sweet that Annie had been compelled to surface alongside him.

“You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” he’d said.

Under the moonlight, they told each other stories of their lands—or in her case, of the deep waters, the others of her kind, and the torturous sounds of the sonar that ripped through their ears, threatening to send them to the surface.

Where we would not survive.

Davad swore he would find a way. He had promised it every time he came to her, meeting her in the moonlight until her belly swelled high and slowed her strokes in the water. She’d been vulnerable at the depths, but she had survived, as had their beautiful daughter, Kata.

They returned when Kata was old enough to swim the distance and found a bottle caught in the rocky ridge. The note within bore five simple words that she could read.

“I will find a way.

“We’ve come here every week for years. How many weeks until he comes?” Kata tilted back her head and stared into the sun. “What if he never comes? We will need to find a better place, away from the—”

“He will come,” Annie said. She peered at her daughter. The girl deserved to know the human who had stolen her heart from the warm watery depths.

She flicked her tail repeatedly, sending a spray over their heads until Kata’s stern frown broke into laughter. The sound came out a lovely melody, the same pitch that Annie once used to draw Davad into her arms.

Kata ceased her laughter and pressed her hand to Annie’s cheek. Her eyes reflected the sun setting far away on the horizon. Nothing floated around them save for the driftwood that bobbed as quiet as the looming night sky.

“We will wait as long as you like, mama. But if I have you, I could live beneath the water forever without him.”

Annie squeezed her daughter’s hand.

Together, they waited for the ship that never came.

 

***

Thanks for reading the second edition of Third Thursday Flash. The next edition will be in three weeks, so start thinking of your suggestions. In the meantime, have a great Labor Day weekend! 🙂


Last Call for Flash Fiction Topics!

Just a quick interim post…

Haven’t had a chance to get your theme suggestion in before tomorrow’s 8 p.m. (PST) deadline? Don’t miss out!

This Thursday is the second edition of Third Thursday Flash, when I’ll write a 500 to 1,000 word flash fiction piece based on your idea or suggestion! Send an idea, a couple of words you’d like mentioned within the piece (or tied together for a topic), or a prompt. The idea may be zany, cute, fun, wild, comedic, or intelligent—whatever you wish, and I’ll try to put a sci-fi or fantasy twist on it! The person whose theme I select will also get a shout out to celebrate his or her awesome theme (unless you prefer otherwise).

Please send your suggestions to me by email at evariederauthor@gmail.com, or you can also use the handy contact form on my website. Submissions will remain open until tomorrow (8/27) at 8 p.m. PST. Also, be sure to let me know if you would prefer I keep your name anonymous.

You can click here to read the first episode of Third Thursday Flash.

I can’t wait to hear your idea suggestions! Thanks for participating. 🙂


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