Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mission: Abolish Adverbs

If you want your writing to truly stand out, go through your short story/ screenplay/ poem/ novel/ whatever, and remove every last adverb.

We've all heard the maxim "Show; don't tell." Showing the reader what something is: good writing: Telling the reader what something is: Bad writing. And adverbs are a sure sign of telling.

For example: Say your character 'runs quickly'. WELL DUH. If you're running, you're gonna be pretty darn quick. If you've already got the right verb, your adverb should be redundant.

If your adverb isn't redundant-- to be redundant myself: if it actually adds new information-- then you need a better verb. If 'run' really doesn't tell the reader how quick the character is, you need to pick a verb like 'sprint' or 'hurl' that really gets the point across.

Adverbs are lazy writing, for people too lazy to find the right word.

Furthermore, the vast majority of adjectives aren't even real words. With the exception of 'well', they're mostly just adjectives with 'ly' at the end. Quickly. Patronzingly. Angrily. Butt-kickingly.

If you can't figure out how to show the reader that a character is quick, patronized, angry, or about to kick some serious butt, then here's a hint: ADDING AN ADVERB WON'T MAKE YOU SOUND CLEVER. It'll make you sound like a second grader. Don't be too lazy to find the right word. Take the effort to say what you mean, and your writing will seem more real. And never, ever tell the reader something is 'sad'. If you haven't showed them, then telling them will only make you even more pathetic.

That is all, folks. Please take my rant to heart. You'll be a better writer for it. I promise.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Short Story Contests

The Warren Adler Contest-- April 11 end date, $15 fee. This contest is devoted to promoting the short story as a valid art form.

Writer's Weekly 24-Hour Contest-- 24 April. Yes, that's right. You will have 24 hours to write and submit a short story on the topic to be posted on that date.

Jerry the Jazz Musician Short Story Contest 31 May. I don't actually know what it has to do with Jazz, or who Jerry is.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Literary Journals

Literary journals are a great resource for anyone trying to get published; in the twenties,  writers such as Hemmingway, Faulkner, and Fitgerald were known best for their short stories appearing in magazines, and other authors made a living selling stories to magazines without ever writing a novel. Today, fewer magazines publish short stories, but literary journals and magazines are still a great way to gain recognition and earn a few bucks.

The benefits of getting published in a literary journal are enormous: First, it requires much less effort than publishing a novel, especially if you know what you're doing. You don't have to go through a literary agent-middle man, whihc is an entirely necessary step to getting a novel published. Second, if you have anything published anywhere, your bio will look a thousand times more sttractive to potential literary agents than if you have nothing published at all; Getting short stories published will make it easier to publish your novel. Finally, if you can get a short story published a The New Yorker, you will have agents as well as publishers banging at your door and begging to represent anything else you've written.

A century ago, short strories were a way for authors to earn a decent living. Now, they are only the gateway to something bigger and better: Topping a best-seller list and seeing your name go down in history. Theoretically, of course.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to Write Really Terrible Fiction in Ten Easy Steps

1. Write the generic, nondescript, monosyllabic opening and irrelevent exposition in continuing past tense, rather than simple past tense.

"“This is going to be stupid,” I muttered to my boyfriend as he drove. We were going to the biggest, hottest party of the year. Most normal people would love to go. But since when have I been normal? Normaly I stay home durring these parties, but Jason wouldn’t take no for an answer. Jason, is my jock boyfriend. Hottie. I never really dated much, but my dating history is colorful. I dated Joey the band guy, George the punk guy, and Jasper the smart one."

2. Don't use punctuation. Give all of your sentences a comma splice, then remove every other comma.

"the alarm rings I sit up and hit the snooze button and look over at Matthew, he looks so peaceful I can’t wake him yet.
I slide out of bed, covering him with the blankets and kiss his cheek. I walk to the bathroom and put on my makeup and do my hair ‘perfect’ i think to myself. There’s a knock at the bathroom door, there’s only two people it would be Ryan or Matthew."

3. Make sure that all of your sentences have fewer than 160 characters. This will effeciently decrease your sentence variety and fluidity. This will come naturally if you text alot.

"I wanted to be with my boyfriend. So badly.
But i was being forced to drive out to our summer cabin on the lake in the middle of no where.
We were only 2 hours into the 5 hour drive.
I dug into my back pack to get my phone.
One new text."

4. Make sure everyone knows, from the beginning of the story, what is going to happen, so that that there is no suspense or anticipation.

"Matthew has been my best friend since we were little. He’s gay and has been for as long as I can remember so, my parents don’t mind me sleeping over here.
Matthew has a twin brother named Ryan, they are identical and very gorgeous. Ryan is straight though, and I’ve liked him for the longest time."

5. Use the same adjectives, adverbs, descriptions, and buzzwords over and over, so that people will understand that you really think it describes something well. Twice in the same sentence is good. Bonus points if the adjective is 'good', 'cool', 'ugly', 'bored', etc.

"“Hey Rose, whatcha up to?” She asked
“Nothing, boring life, as usual.” I muttered. I continued to walk down the hall toward my locker.
I went to all my classes before lunch. I barreled on to lunch, shuffling my feet as I dragged along. My life is so boring."

6. Two words: fan fiction. Yea, sure, you're CREATIVE (and unique, and special, and random, etc), but it would be such a waste of your creative abilities to bother coming up with your own plot, characters, and scenarios-- So just take your favorite mainstream novel, summarize it, then take out all the grammar, add pathetic, fake-sounding dialogue, and write in a few 'interesting', super-'realistic' sex scenes. Don't pick 'Twilight' as your mainstream novel, because your end result will be the exact same as the original novel, and plagiarism is bad.

7. 'Of' has always wanted to be a verb. It isn't, but really, you should give it a chance. Replace 'could have' and 'would have' with 'could of' and 'would of'. No one will know the difference, and that cute little 'of' will get to pretend it's a verb for a while. Good deed for the week: check.

8. Be really, really profound. Use metaphors. If you don't know what the word 'metaphor' means, then just use the words 'dark', 'black', 'tears', 'death', 'infinite', and 'hole' alot. Replace the word 'hole' with 'whole' sometimes.

"Even if you feel like ur being torn apart, you kno that what is best for them will truely be all that matters.. So in the end, you just tough it out, and wait as the time in the hour glass is lessening by the second.. And all u can do is try to make the best of the little time that is left. Though it seems so long.. The sand just keeps falling.. And it takes away the happiness that was with it.
All on the top layers, that no1 notices, until it is spiraling down to the bottem of the glass.. Where it lies in waiting. For when the glass is turned once more, and the twisted motion of life is starting again.."

9. Try switching around words that sound similar, but aren't: 'past' and 'passed', 'your' and 'you're', 'fowl' and 'foul', etc.

10. Your protagonist is YOU-- completely unique, special, and misunderstood. Please, describe yourself as random. You are not a trendfollower, just trendy.

"Everybody here hates me because the way I look and dress. Really, what’s so bad about wearing skinnies, colourful/retro shirts and sweaters? Besides the fact my belt is checkered and I have snake bites, I think I look totally normal. My hair is dark brown, with 2 platinum blond streaks on the under layer of my hair. My hair is also very layered, and goes down a little bit passed my bust. But its very appealing on me, if I say so myself."

All examples are genuine Really Terrible Fiction, courtesy of the amateur writers of Facebook's Bathroom Wall application.

Do you recognize any of the above examples? Do they seem a little too familiar to you? If so, you need this:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Short Story Contests

If you're interested in publishing a novel, chances are you've run into a major roadblock: No one will take you seriously until you are published. And no one will publish you until they can take you seriously.

What a Catch-22.

Here's a loophole: It's often easier to publish short stories, even if you have few or no credentials, than it is to publish a novel. And once you've published a short story, tah-dah! Your foot is in the door. You can write down 'Published Author' on your resume. Brilliant.

Of course, many short story contests are expensive to enter. Here are a few cheap (and sometimes free!) contests I've found.

Kansas Voices: Kansas residents only- Deadline March 15 2010 (so hurry it up!). Entry fee: $3 per piece.

Glass Woman: Deadline March 21 2010. Women only (Sorry, dudes). No entry fee (Yes, that's right; it's FREE!)

Warren Adler Short Story Contest: Deadline April 11 2010. $15 entry fee. :( But the winnings are significant, so check it out anyway.

Oh hey, while you're at it: Do you write creative nonfiction? Do you have a TRUE story you'd like to share? See if you can get a story into a Chicken Soup For The Soul book! How would THAT look on your resume? Awesome, right?

Check back soon for more contests, tips, and expert advice. You want to get published, riiiiight?

PS. If you're into photography and beautiful clothes... Check out the JPeterman Photo Contest.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm a writer. Now what?

You walk into a used bookstore, a drugstore, a library, a cafe, your local Barnes & Noble. There's always that revolving metal rack of paperback novels. You know the kind: The author's name is in raised, shiny letters, bigger than the title, and the paperbacks are all excessively 'genre'; either Western or Romance or SciFi or ChickLit or Suspense or, worst of all, any genre + 'Romance. Eg. Supernatural Romance. Courtroom Drama Romance. Romance Romance.

And you think, my ideas are one helluva lot better than these bozos'. Why won't someone publish mine?

That's what this blog will be: A collection of resources for furthering your career as a writer.

If you've tried to get published before, you know the Catch-22: Agents are, in general, unwilling to take a risk on someone who's never been published before. And you can't get published without an agent. Here's a tactic I'd like to suggest: Work on your short stories. It's far easier for an unpublished author to publish their short stories than their novels, and once you have a few publications under your belt, you'll likely be taken more seriously be agents.

If you don't even know who this 'agent' guy is that I keep mentioning: He represents your novel to prospective publishers. Gone are the days of Faulkner, Hemmingway, and Fitzgerald; you can forget your daydreams of intimate relationship with Scribner & Co.

In conclusion: Check out this blog if A) You need help turning your novel into something even remotely attractive to agents and publishers. B) You need help turning your biography into something even remotely attractive to agents and publishers. C) You need help getting in touch with those pesky and elusive agents and publishers.

Check back soon for a variety of resources!