If You’re A Writer, You Will Definitely Recognize Some of These…

216h

Let’s face it. Careers in the humanities aren’t always the best understood or most generally accepted. The recent Wells Fargo ad debacle outraged many creative professionals, but it wasn’t exactly surprising. The brochure gaff was only part of the steady stream of negativity and ignorance that people with non-STEM careers face everyday.

Writers are no exception.

Here is a collection of common questions and comments from around the web that writers often encounter from clueless non-writers. (Please see the hat tips at the end for the source articles along with their entertaining gifs and in-depth descriptions.)

 

Judgmental

 

“Oh so you are good at writing then?”

“Are you a drug addict or alcoholic?”

“You must own a cat?”

“How do you like living in isolation?”

“You’re crazy, huh?”

“Are you a coffee addict?”

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“But it’s not like you have a REAL job.”

“Soooo, are you still writing?”

 

Exploitative

 

“You should work for free! It’ll be great for exposure!”

“Our contributors write in exchange for the byline.”

“But you’ll gain so much exposure!”

“It’s great exposure/It’s for your portfolio”

“I could just send this to another country and get the same quality for $1.”

“Can’t you just whip something up in like ten minutes?”

“Will you read this thing I wrote?”

“Will you read this thing my son/grandmother/neighbor wrote?”

“Will you read my screenplay?”

“Will you read my boyfriend’s sister’s ex-girlfriend’s screenplay?”

“Will you write my screenplay?”

“So you like to write? Will you take a look at this (Insert something involving writing here) for me?”

“Can you review my product/book/show?”

“Can you proofread & edit my next novel?”

“Where do you get your ideas?”

 

Narcissistic

 

“Ooh, I have a great idea for a novel!”

“Oh, I have a great story for you…”

“You should write about me!”

“I have some fantastic true stories you should write about.”

“I can probably write a book if it weren’t for my busy career.
You should write a story about my life; it’ll be a bestseller.”

“Can you make a character just like me?”

“Can you write about me?”

“You should write about that!”

“Do you think I could do that? My grammar is pretty good.”

“I’m a writer too – I wrote a short story once…”

“You should write about [random person or topic]!”

 

Dismissive

 

“You’re a writer? What a fun hobby!”

“It’s just a hobby, right?”

“But writing is really only a hobby.”

“That must be so fun!”

“Writing must be so easy.”

“Do you write in a cafe?”

“So you just write poetry?”

“If you get paid by the word, you can just write it really long, right?”

“You can get up like really late in the morning! That must feel really good, doesn’t it?”

“So you just work in pajamas all day, huh?”

“It’s so nice of your husband to support you while you enjoy your hobby.”

“It must be great not to have a boss.”

“It must be so nice to make your own schedule.”

“It must be so great to work out whenever you want!”

“You do that so you can be home with your kids, right?”

“So you’re alone the entire day?”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

“What do you do with all your free time?”

“You know we can always catch up for a movie or go out for lunch!”

“Why can’t you go out to lunch? You’re just hanging out at home, right?”

“Want to run this errand for me?”

“Can’t you just hand in the article later?”

“Can you watch my kid since you’re home all day anyway?”

“Why don’t you call more often! You can always talk while working, right?”

“Really? Nobody reads books anymore.”

 

Patronizing

 

“So… what do you do for money?”

“But what’s your job?”

“Do you make any money doing that?”

“You can’t really make money as a writer.”

“And what if you don’t succeed?”

“Oh well what will be your main job to pay the bills?”

“How much do you earn exactly?”

“How can you afford to live in this city?”

“Have you tried [marketing, PR, or any other profession]?”

“You have your MFA? What’s that do?”

“Can you actually do anything with your English degree?”

“So are you going to be an English teacher? Or work in marketing?”

“Have you ever considered being a journalist?”

“Why don’t you write a film script?”

“Have you ever thought about doing this instead and writing on the side?”

“Do you want to be a teacher some day?”

“Oh, so basically you’re not getting a job of your choice!”

“I wish I could afford to do that.”

“Cool. You know, J.K. Rowling is a millionaire.”

“Maybe this gig will finally turn into a full-time job for you!”

“You know what would make you sell more books? Write something like this novel. *Insert Fifty Shades of Grey.*”

“So what’s your goal with this whole writing thing?”

“How do you stay motivated?”

“Do they actually read/check/evaluate your content?”

“Why writing?”

“But don’t you find writing to be so boring? I know I do.”

“What have you written that I’ve read?”

“When does your book come out?”

“What are you writing?”

“What’s your novel about?”

“Here’s what you should write about…”

 

H/T Charlotte AhlinNour Zikra, Lillian Redding, Grace Dobush, Eva Langston, Leilah Hovey, Ashley Trevino, Nancy Khandelwal, Suzannah Weiss, Keryn Thomson, Alywoah

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie

Was Your Writing Rejected? Keep This in Mind

94H

Something’s a little off…

You worked hours, weeks, months, years on your writing project until every word was exactly where you wanted it to be. You researched literary magazines, writing competitions, and/or agents until you found the perfect fit. You waited patiently for your work to move up the food chain and begin processing. Then one day it finally happened: you got a response!

“After careful consideration…”

Rejection. It’s a gut wrenching, visceral experience. But rather than wallow in feelings of hurt and misery, successful writers use the experience to better their craft. The first step in this process is to recognize a few basic principles:

Every Writer Gets Rejected

Let me say that one more time for the people in the back: every single writer who has ever lived and breathed on planet Earth has been rejected. Every. Single. One. Being rejected does not necessarily mean you’re a terrible writer. It means you’re writing.

Not All Rejections Are Created Equal

Some form letters are curt and to the point. They’re basically “thanks, but no thanks” letters. But others end with an invitation to see more of your work. This is a good sign. It means the work you initially submitted may not have been the proper fit for the current market or magazine, but the editors see potential in your writing.

Rejections Happen For Many Reasons

Sometimes rejections are the result of elements an author controls: poor writing and/or a failure to properly research the agent, publisher, or literary magazine and follow guidelines. But there are also factors well outside of author control. Maybe the magazine you submitted to received 10,000 submissions of outstanding quality and your piece was 10,001. Or maybe the literary agent loved your writing but doesn’t personally have the tools necessary to place your book in the correct market.

97H

Sometimes your work isn’t the right fit.

Take This As An Opportunity to Hone Your Skills

If an editor gave you detailed notes, put them to good use. If you didn’t get notes, look over your work and see if there is anything you could improve. Write more works. Write better works. That is how the game is won.

Remember, This Isn’t About You (Unless It Is)

104H

It’s important to note that the rejection is aimed toward a particular piece of writing you created. You, as a person, are not being rejected.

However, if you are rude and unprofessional toward the editors/agents, they have every right to reject you, as a person, too. Their work lives are busy and hectic enough without unpleasant people adding to the workload. There’s a simple solution to this dilemma: be polite and courteous to editors and agents. This includes keeping correspondence concise and to the point (which reveals you respect their time) and not responding to rejection notices. Let me repeat that. Do not respond when your work is declined, not even to say “thank you.” The last thing you want to do is add another email or letter to an editor’s insurmountable to-do pile. The best response to rejection is to improve your work and submit again, either to the same editor (many have mandatory wait periods in between submissions so read their guidelines thoroughly) or to a new editor.

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie

It’s All In How You Say It

SONY DSC

Have you ever answered a phone call and instantly recognized the voice on the other line without glancing at the number or caller ID? For most hearing people, a person’s timbre works as an identifying marker. Voices can be mellow, nasal, raspy, squeaky, and everything in between. Also, tone can reveal information about a person’s health, gender, age, and even their emotional state. But what happens when the sound is stripped away?

This is one of many challenges writers face when crafting dialogue. Every character (with the possible exception of zombies and members of a hive mind) should have their own voice. Yet the readers do not have the benefit of “hearing” the characters speak. How can writers mimic the information listeners might instinctively glean from conversations with the characters?

169H

Syntax

The order in which a character arranges their words can be telling. It can convey non-native speech or even quirkiness. Yoda is a prime example.

Multiple Languages

In addition to flexible syntax, multi-lingual and non-human characters have a wide vocabulary. And as any multi-language speaker knows, there are some words that simply do not cross languages without losing some of their native connotation. Inserting words or phrases from other languages (existent, dead, or imaginary) is an easy way to set these characters apart.

Rhythm

Meter and sentence length can be used to express a character’s individuality or to inform the reader of their mood. Below we have two characters engaging in playful banter. The sentences are short and punchy like two friends well-used to trading casual barbs.

FullSizeRender (5)

Contrasting this, below there is a bit of dialogue delivered during a moment of crisis. The sentences use a repeating parallel structure which acts as a drumbeat to heighten tension, exploding into the final (and longest) sentence.

FullSizeRender (7)

Catch Phrase

Catch phrases are probably the easiest way to set characters apart using dialogue alone. The main problems with catch phrases is that they can become stereotypes (like the Canadian “eh” or the Valley Girl “like”) or they can become annoying to readers. Terry Prachett was a master at crafting distinct voices and made excellent use of catch phrases in a few of his Discworld characters. Perhaps the most memorable one is Foul Ole Ron who’s best known for his nonsense talk peppered with the phrase “millenium hand and shrimp” as well as variations of the phrase “bugger it.”

FullSizeRender

from “Men at Arms” by Terry Prachett

Dialect

Slang words and idioms can inform a reader on a character’s background. The following examples feature characters from different fantasy worlds, but the dialogue demonstrates Ormly and the opening speaker in the Bishop novel come from similarly rough-hewn backgrounds.

FullSizeRender (4)

FullSizeRender (2)

Meanwhile, the following non-human characters use a dialect that is in keeping with their rat-like point of view.

FullSizeRender (1)

Diction

Regardless of dialect, the words a character chooses at a particular moment can reveal a bit about them. In the example below, the second speaker’s use of the word “minions” shows they have a sense of humor and they don’t put much faith in their employees’ competence.

FullSizeRender (3)

And in this example, Thomas uses the five-syllable word “incendiary” followed by a word any toddler can pronounce. This tells us a bit about his emotional state (frazzled) and his relationship to vulgar language (which is deliciously ironic because he is a sex vampire).

FullSizeRender (9)

So what are your favorite pieces of dialogue? What do you like about them? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie

The Butler Did It, But WHY?

182H

Who, what, when, where, how, and why? Of the six questions, it’s the last one that really hooks our attention. We are driven by a need to understand, to frame our lives within a cohesive story. Why are we here? Why do bad things happen to good people? Life is a quest for motive, and motive is the heart of story.

In writing, the search for motive occurs on two planes.

On one plane, the characters work to piece together why certain events happen in their world. They may do this alone or in a group, but the struggle is the same. Like us, characters strive to understand what drives the world around them.

On the other plane, readers are searching for what motivates the characters. Part of the joy of reading is allowing the reader to piece together the puzzle, to judge and identify with (or against) the characters. The reader may receive the clues at the same time as the protagonist or slightly before (resulting in dramatic irony) but the goal of the game remains the same.

181H

Life is a quest for motive, and motive is the heart of story.

Characters, like people, aren’t perfectly good or evil. Some of the most fascinating characters commit terrible acts for good reasons (at least at first) or do good deeds for non-altruistic reasons (envy, pride, selfishness). This occasional dissonance between the outward appearance of a character (what other characters see them doing) and the inner workings of a character (why they behave certain ways) is something we can all relate to.

What about characters who act in ways that are blatantly unwise? Have you ever been frustrated by characters in a horror movie who decide to split up or open the door and head toward the creepy noises? Why do characters run into traffic without looking, chase the bad guys without backup, sneak into buildings without permission, and push the giant red button marked ‘DO NOT PUSH’? Sure, all of these actions may forward the plot of a story, but they should also be anchored to motive.

We don’t always think clearly when we’re terrified, stressed, or under pressure. Sometimes our curiosity and impulsiveness can be overwhelming. Maybe we like the thrill of danger or feel like we have something to prove. Any and all of these can lead us to make less than stellar choices. And characters are no different.

40H

Part of the joy of reading is allowing the reader to piece together the puzzle, to judge and identify with (or against) the characters.

The study of motive is, in essence, a study of human nature. And there is no other human we understand better than ourselves. So why do you choose to write? If you asked the people closest to you what they thought your motivation for writing was, would their answer be the same?

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie

Writing for Short Formats: 3 Free Sites You Should Know

SONY DSC

Something that was impressed upon me earlier this month was the importance of being rejected. Yes, you read that correctly. Rejections happen for many reasons and a productive writer will collect more than a few. Literary Hub has an excellent article about why it’s important to set rejection goals.

Rejections (and acceptances) mean you’re actively writing and submitting your work for publication. But how do you choose where to send your work in the first place? If you’re working in a short format (essays, short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, and poetry), there’s a broad array of digital and print magazines and anthologies looking for submissions. Some publications have a rolling submission acceptance period while others have a small window. Some accept unsolicited submissions while others do not. Wading through the requirements for each one can become overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few filter sites that can help you narrow this process down. The following are free, but there are subscription-based ones out there, as well.

The Review Review

This one is my personal favorite so far. You can filter your search by reading period, response time, reading fee, payment level, format (digital or print), and whether or not the publication accepts reprints. Not only does it filter magazines who want fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but it also searches for art and drama. They also have an in-depth blog which I highly recommend.

Poets and Writers

This was one of the first sites I found. You can search for broad categories such as fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. However, you can narrow this search by the following subgenres:

  • Autobiography/Memoir
  • Commercial Fiction
  • Cross-genre
  • Erotica
  • Experimental
  • Feminist
  • Flash Fiction
  • Formal
  • Graphic/Illustrated
  • Healing/Health
  • Historical
  • Humor
  • Journalism/Investigative Reporting
  • LGBT
  • Literary Fiction
  • Love
  • Micropoetry
  • Narrative Non-fiction
  • Nature/Environmental
  • Political
  • Pop Culture
  • Prose Poetry
  • Regional
  • Religion/Spiritual
  • Serialized Fiction
  • Translation
  • War

The advanced filter options allow you to search by payment level and format (web, e-publication, print, audio, video). I did run into a couple of instances where the magazine’s information had changed from what was listed in the database (submission window suddenly closed or a publication had gone on hiatus due to financial difficulties) so be sure to read each website thoroughly before attempting to submit anything — which you should be doing anyway.

The Grinder

This site is for fiction only. You can filter your search by genre, story subject, story style, and story length (flash, short, novelette, novella, novel, story collection, novel excerpt). In addition to these, you can specify word length, minimum payment (cents per word), average response time, whether they accept electronic or postal submissions, and whether the magazine has won or been nominated for awards. This can be narrowed down even further by magazines which accept simultaneous submissions, reprints, and multiple pieces. You can also ask the search to only show anthologies or contests. If fiction is your specialty, this is the place to go.

 

Once you’ve found a magazine you’re interested in, be sure to read their submission guidelines thoroughly. It also helps to read through a few of their previous issues to get a sense of what they are interested in printing. If you’re submitting a short story and their site doesn’t have special formatting requirements, it’s a good idea to stick to Standard Manuscript Format.

Many of the magazines I’ve come across so far use Submittable to handle unsolicited submissions. Creating a profile is free and simple. (If you haven’t guessed by now, “free” and “simple” are two of my favorite words.) Not only do many publications require you to have an account before submitting, Submittable helps you track what you’ve sent where and when. They even tell you where your work is in the process, which is pretty great.

One last note. You may not receive a personal response after submitting to a publication, and any response you do receive may not be for several months down the road. Editors and publishers have a huge workload, and it takes time to wade through all the mush. So instead of obsessively checking your Submittable profile to see if your work has been rejected (or accepted) yet, try submitting to another magazine.

Do you have any favorite literary magazines or submission filter sites? Share them in the comments below.

 

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie

Free Character Building Template

SONY DSC

Whereas plot is the framework around which a story hangs, a character is what drives a story forward. Good characters anchor your audience in the world you’ve built, giving them something human (or an anthropomorphic equivalent) to latch onto. Whether they’re the main character or a minor one, every character should come across as “human.” And what is something we humans do best? Why, build stories, of course!

Every person frames their own life into a story in which they are the main character. It’s how we grapple with understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Every character thinks they’re the main character; every character holds a slightly different version of the story.

Years ago, when I was still working with Spectacle Publishing Media Group, LLC (which I also co-founded but eventually left due to my hectic piano teaching schedule) I was offered the opportunity to write a guest post for Morgen Bailey’s Creative Writing Blog. (Morgen is a fantastic British author with several writing workbooks and online courses. I can’t recommend her work enough.) In that post, I proffered five aspects of character writing.

A great deal has changed since I wrote that post. I’m no longer at SPMG, the blog my name was linked to has been retired, and Poetry As Told By Robots is off the shelves. However, the content of the post still holds true. Character building takes work.

Recently I’ve developed a template to streamline my own character building. It’s not all-encompassing, but it’s customizable enough to meet my needs. Whether you’re in the market for free templates or are looking for ideas to help you build you’re own, this character sheet is free for the taking. Enjoy!

character sheet

The PDF version is available for download here: Character Info Template

 

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie

When Should You Edit?

SONY DSC

 

Prewrite, freewrite, rewrite. Such has been the order of the writing process since time immemorial. Prewriting encompasses a wide range of planning activities from research to plot outlines and everything in-between. Freewriting, on the other hand, is where pen meets paper. Here, a writer spews a story out onto the page with guidance from materials created during the prewriting stage. Rewriting, an outgrowth of self-editing, is what traditionally occurs after the first draft has been completed.

But what if these stages are more intertwined than we’ve initially been taught to believe?

Let’s face it: rewriting an entire novel can be a daunting task. Even if you focus on a single scene or a chapter at a time, the knowledge that there are tens of thousands of words you haven’t gotten to yet can really weigh you down. This is especially true for writers like me who suffer from anxiety disorders.

But there is a way to tame this overwhelming task.

After some experimentation, I’ve adopted a writing system loosely based on the psychological concept of chunking. Rather than waiting to complete an entire draft of a novel before reaching the editing stage, I’ve begun drafting a chapter at a time. (This, of course, requires solid and detailed prewriting, which I will address in a later post.) Reducing a larger work into smaller chunks puts less strain on energy levels while simultaneously reducing anxiety. Combined with thorough prewriting, this technique switches the focus from how far you have left to go to how far you’ve actually come. For me, chunking has switched my rewriting process from a ‘glass is half empty’ to a ‘glass is half full’ mentality. And I’m a more confident and productive writer because of it.

If you struggle with anxiety and the traditional writing process isn’t meeting your needs, don’t be afraid to give chunking a try.

 


Post may be re-shared for non-commercial purposes with credit to Ditrie Marie Bowie. If shared digitally, a link back to this blog is preferred.

Are you on Litsy? Add DitrieMarieBowie