Advice Editing Writing Writing Advice

One Writer’s Opinion #1: Storytelling vs Writing or Planning vs Winging It

The following opinion piece was written yesterday in one of the private offices (writer’s forum) at the Zoetrope Virtual Studio.

Being someone who is constantly evaluating things, I find myself compelled to respond to other people’s ideas when they get me thinking. Yesterday it was fellow writer Bonnie ZoeBell’s article over at Flash Fiction Chronicles in which she wrote:

“…you don’t have to know where you’re going when you begin a story. There simply has to be something, however small, that makes you feel like writing—an image, an overheard piece of dialogue, a situation.”

I agree with this, but to a point. I think if you’re writing just to be ‘writing’ and just to be a ‘writer’ (because, hey writers write, right?), then this is spot-on. That’s the passive approach (for lack of a far better term).

However, if you’re writing as a deliberate ‘storyteller’ first, then I think a lot more thought and ‘knowing’ needs to go into the process (active, or proactive; again for lack of better terms). Deliberate storytellers are loathe to writing themselves into corners (not to say they won’t because they will). They’re agonized by it, not nonchalant about it as the above idea kind of suggests. The deliberate storyteller will generally be a step ahead in the process of translating ideas into the story from thought into writing. This is not to suggest that they’ll have everything mapped out or even set in stone because storytelling is too creative, fluid and elastic to support that method successfully.

Naturally, everyone is different, so some people are good at ‘planning’, others are better at flying by the seat of their pants. Or, even if they’re good at neither, they have their preferred methods. You could even say that one type is more about feeling; the other is more about thinking. For me music making is more about feeling and flow and feels less like ‘work’; writing is much more cerebral and labor intensive due to its process and speed limitations.

Of course, what I’ve described above are the typical ‘two schools’ of writing, if you will; the free-flowing writer and the methodical storyteller. I think a hybrid of both would be an unstoppable artist. I’d like to achieve that happy medium someday when I grow up. Until then, I’m happy to be a methodical slowpoke who puts the story ahead of trying to zip through my stories for the ultimate goal of publication. That will come in due time. Nine out of ten things I’ve published so far were not things written in a mad rush with little regard for self-editing. Am I thrilled that the process can take so long? No, but it’s something that I accept as necessary (quality over quantity).

However, I will say that if you’re actually allowed more uninterrupted time to simply flow without other obligations intervening (like a day job that takes you away from your writing desk for 10 or more hours a day, plus having to make time for that weakness of the human condition called sleep), then it’s much easier to get lost in it all and progress toward a more relentless flow. But the constant stop n’ go of it, at least in my life, is so disruptive that it helps to have a little planning. I’m always envious of professional writers who are afforded the luxury (yes, luxury) of writing 8-12 hours a day. How could you not be more productive and “free” with that kind of regimen?

Side note: I had a writing advice kind of article published at Flash Fiction Chronicles back in Februrary. Linkage.

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Update: Big Ass List o’ Things To Do

Figured posting it publicly will help keep my ass honest and accountable for the work that I need to be doing.

In no particular order:

  • Finish editing final two stories (well, three counting my own) for Local Heroes antho
  • Finish putting together the LH book manuscript in Word, making sure it’s in at least near-perfect form before sending it off to Ms. Bartholomew for finalization and publishing.
  • Redesign this blog
  • Set up all kinds of web shit for my pen names, including blogs, Twitter, Good Reads (and down the road Facebook accts)
  • Attend Silver Pen Writers Association Midwest Summit in northern Illinois next weekend (4-hour drive)
  • Finish up “Cult Storm” and get it off to One Hour antho editor, Dorothy Davies.
  • Publish short story e-books under assorted pen names on Smashwords, after a thorough spot-checking of the stockpiled works to be presented.
  • Design e-book covers (fun, necessary, but tedious, time-consumng and I’m a hack at it)
  • Select, edit and accept flash fiction stories for issue #9 (Aug) of Liquid Imagination
  • Continue/finish reading the assorted stack of books on my desk that I’ve amassed from the library, some of them for entertainment, others for research.
  • Start “Self-Observations” and “The List” series on this here blog
  • Finish Battle of the Bands Tournament that was started in March and unceremoniously postponed in April
  • Write Paperboy review for Daniel Clausen’s book review website.
  • Compose/record theme music piece AND write poem/lyrics for spoken word overdub (my voice) intro for enhanced e-book, Tooth and Claw: A Werewolf Anthology for Liquid Imagination
  • Put together much smaller version of short story collection (than originally planned) to be published on Smashwords; perhaps as a hard copy chapbook as well in the Fall
  • Re-commence intense work on novel (was supposed to be in July, but looking more like, shit, I don’t even know, probably the Fall now)
  • Stop taking on new projects; get plate clean, calendar cleared and get more selfish, demanding and possessive about creative free time (novel can’t be written by osmosis via brainwave transcriptions)

So much to do.

So little time.

Not nearly enough Me by a huge margin.

Advice Editing Working Update Writing Writing Advice

One Editor’s Opinion #1

All too often beginning and inexperienced writers want to dictate every minutiae of what you are reading and are suppose to be comprehending. In other words they leave little room for interpretation, and they don’t allow you, the reader, to engage your sense of imagination and interact with the story they’re reading. I think this weakens the writing and the overall story and is insulting to one’s intelligence. Personally I feel that style of writing completely takes me out of the story, and the story fails because the writer won’t get out of the way of the story.

A few pet peeves that get this editor’s goat?

– Overuse of adjectives, adverbs, gerunds and passive voice

– A lack of strong verbs (he adivsed) in favor of weak gerunds (he was advising)

– Over-reliance on complex sentences (why are so many newbie writers so afraid to use a period?)

– Overuse of patois. It’s a French word that means a regional form of a language that differs from the standard, literary form of the language. In other words it’s dialect. Inflected dialogue points to what I was saying earlier about writers wanting to control your every sense while reading. A writer need only to use subtle hints to establish regional speak of the character and then just get on with telling a clear and comprehensible story.

I have more, of course. But those are the three major ones sticking in my editor’s craw right now.

Just remember, kids, that it’s okay to trust your readers and not insult their intelligence.

Editing Update Working Update

Just Sayin’: The Burden of Editing

I’ll be brief – Rejecting the work of fellow writers is an awful, joyless task. That process alone makes the role of editor not a very fun occupation.

Editing Interview Q&A Question Me

Interview: Three Questions with Brandon Rucker

This little Q and A interview is taken from the lastest edition of the Liquid Currents Newsletter we have for Liquid Imagination Online. You can read a transcript of the interview below or click this link for the entire newsletter, which also features an interview with poet Felino A. Soriano, another Daily Kick in the Pants from David Farland, and other news (plus the last edition is just below it).

Without further ado . . . the interview:

Three Questions with Brandon Rucker

1) You landed an editing job with a publication that was once associated with Zoetrope Virtual Studios and Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story, and you did this while still new to the game. What qualities did you have to make them take notice?

Wow. You’re taking me way back so I will have to grab a dust mop to clear away the dense cobwebs in this cluttered mind of mine. If you will, allow me a moment to recall the history and some details about Zoetrope: All-Story Extra. Better yet, I can just provide the official description (edited in past-tense):

  • All-Story Extra was an on-line supplement to Francis Coppola’s fiction magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. Each month, All-Story Extra featured two new stories submitted by writers via Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site. The stories were chosen and edited by guest editors—also members of Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site—with assistance from the New York editorial staff of Zoetrope: All-Story. All-Story Extra was created by Francis Coppola and five members of Zoetrope’s on-line submissions site, who comprised the Peer Advisory Board (PAB). The PAB selected the guest editors and nominated the stories that the guest editors considered for All-Story Extra. Guest editors could also consider stories featured in “The Top Three” stories and/or any others that they think worthy of publication.

Aside from that, I don’t know any finer details in regards to ASE’s founding or its inner workings. I do know that old school workshop members Mare Freed and Jim Nichols were part of that Peer Advisory Board, and were also the original Editorial Coordinators (i.e. liaisons). The Editorial Coordinator during my time, Barbara Garrett, was a good friend and a joy to work with during my stint.

Here’s a fun fact: the founding editors had also had work published in ASE as well. The reason their stories were eligible to be published through ASE is because the identity of the authors were anonymous so that the Guest Editor could have a more unbiased selection process, if I remember correctly. Finicky reader and maverick that I am, I went outside of the Top 3 as well as the other nominated stories suggested by the PAB because I was not overly impressed with what had been considered the ‘best stories’ by the voting membership. I cared even less for popularity contests or politics.

Now, to get back to your question more directly, in my opinion, the condition for Guest Editor, like any voluntary activity, requires that you have drive and passion, along with a selfless desire to help your peers achieve the goal of publishing. Naturally it helps to have some kind of editorial mindset, too. That might be an understatement.

Months earlier I was one of the founding editors of the fledgling (and now long defunct) webzine called Z End Zine which was founded and published by Kieran Galvin, who had corralled a handful of us upstart Zoetrope members to branch out into online publishing using his server. This was also a volunteering position, so the above ‘qualities’ applied. Naturally some of the workshop luminaries landed bylines in our small handful of issues. A few months later, I suppose I still had the editor’s itch because I found myself doing a two-month stint as Guest Editor for Zoetrope: All-Story Extra.

Another fun fact: I was the only guest editor to A.) Work without another guest editor, B.) Serve on two consecutive issues of Zoetrope: All-Story Extra [issues 22 (May 2000) and 23 (June 2000)].

2) Now you’re editing micro-fiction at Liquid Imagination. Is the editing different between micro-fiction and short stories (don’t laugh).

Other than having a smaller word count to read and scrutinize, I would have to say no, not really. I think in editing you bring a lot of the same core fundamentals to all forms of writing. The focus may change in some ways with a given form, but I still approach the writing with a sharp eye on the story details, the craft and basic mechanics of the writing, as well as a what I like to term as the ‘organics’ of the writing. That said, I think many editors approach another writer’s work as if it were their own, and that’s not something I like to do because the writing is not mine. However, with my name endorsing the writing, I do take the same amount of care and quality assurances as I would with my own writing, but I believe that my job as an editor is to support the author’s vision and, if I can, somehow enhance that vision to its utmost clarity.

3) Music and writing. As an accomplished musician who also interpreted every piece of poetry in one of our past issues, I can truthfully say that you know music, perhaps as well as you know writing. How does music and writing relate to each other? How do they differ? The reason I’m asking is because it takes an act of creativity to write a song, and songs often tell stories that are accompanied by music. And something else I want to know (so make this 4 questions with Brandon Rucker): Does inspiration used to write a song come from the same place from which you conjure up the inspiration to write a story?

Great, tough questions, which respectfully deserve to be answered after careful consideration. I think this is one of those things that multi-media-dwelling artists undoubtedly know internally, but rarely ever articulate into words for a general audience, so I will try my best to articulate this well.

The easy answer of how music and writing relate to each other is that, for me, their origins likely trace back to the same well. Yet I think motivations and goals can differ greatly and even sometimes be mutually exclusive at the same time. This isn’t double-speak, mind you. I just think that the variables are innumerable in the grand scheme of art. You know me. I should probably leave you with the easy answer on that part, otherwise we’ll be here a while. I always say, though, that most if not all art is ‘performance art’ because it is almost always created for an expected audience. Rarely is art created in a vacuum.

The obvious difference is in the sensory perception: one is auditory, the other visual. Another particular way writing music and writing words differs is that a musician is afforded the luxury of impressing upon the listeners the array of emotions he wants his audience to experience almost immediately. Sure, it’s not quite as immediate as, say, a visual artist who can get your reaction to their painting or sculpture within several seconds of viewing, but the gratification you get from listening to a piece of music is certainly a swifter experience than with reading a piece of fiction that’s more than a thousand words long. On the other hand, reading the words of a fiction writer is a little more interactive because the reader can then engage their (liquid) imagination, transport themselves into the story and become a part of it.

I think, for me, inspiration to write music definitely comes from a different place than the inspiration used to thrust me into writing a story. First, you have to understand that I’m far more into the actual music than say the words or even the vocals (though vocal melodies are a big part of what makes or breaks music with words). I’m an instrumentalist first, a vocalist dead last, LOL. So when I sit down with the guitar, or keyboard, or even the drum machine, my inspiration as well as my goal is far different than when I sit down to transform the story in my head into words on a page. For me, music comes from deep within my soul, and it may be cliché to say that it is innate, but for me that is certainly true. On the other hand, writing words is more cerebral. It is much more of a heady experience for me compared to music. Don’t get me wrong, composing and performing music can be a heady experience as well. Writing stories, even when inspired by true emotions, is still a more mentally challenging exercise because all of the filtering that we have to do as we channel the stories, the fictionalized lives of people and the world.


Editing fiction Short Stories Update Weekend Report Workbook Working Update Writing

Weekend Report: Update – What I’m Working On

There’s never enough hours in the day, nor enough of me to go around, so I just try to overacheive and make do within the limitations of the human condition.


So here, for me if no one else, is a rundown of the work I’m doing outside the job that actually pays monetarily.

– Currently: I’m wrapping up my section of the next issue of Liquid Imagination, making six different authors happy overall in the process. That should be done tonight or tomorrow morning. The May issue will go live on your interwebs May 31st, or thereabouts. Suprisingly I will be ahead for the first time on the 10th issue, which will be out in late August.

– Next during the rest of May and virtually all of June I move on to putting together the manuscript for my short story collection, which has a tentative release date of the first week of July over at Smashwords. I’ll also be looking into perhaps doing an ultra-limited print run of the book, which does have a title, but will not be revealed until closer to release. The title is perfectly apt for the general theme throughout the dozen or more stories that will be presented. Putting together the perfect book cover will certainly be a challenge.

– Concurrent with my short story collection manuscript will be work on the manusript for the long-gestating print anthology I’m compiling and editing called Local Heroes, which will be published in the late summer by Static Movement.

– Also during this time I will be putting the final touches on a handful of short stories for specific anthologies. The stories are all like 3/4 to 5/6 finished, they just require their author to give them the undivided attention and tender loving care they deserve to get to that elusive finish line. The stories in question include: “Cult Storm”, “All In a Day’s Work”, “The Other Roommate”, and “Call of Duty: A Cop’s Tale”. There’s a new one brewing called “My Last Words”, but I doubt that one gets done before the month of July, nor any of the other stories that are in various states of progress.  As stated and committed to all year, July is my personal cut-off month for all short ficton and shenanigans, becasue . . .

– . . . in July I return to work on my novel, fully committed (hell, matrimonously married) to it with no ifs, no buts, and no excuses.

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THE JUNKIE MUSE – by Isabelle Carruthers

Wanna read one of the first stories I ever edited? Way back in 2000 I became well acquainted with an exceptional young writer going by the pseudonym of Isabelle Carruthers. She wrote dramitic, psyhologically dark stories that had me and others in our little community at Zoetrope gushing. I selected my fave or hers, “The Junkie Muse” for publication in Zoetrope: All-Story Extra’s 23rd issue in May 2000. All these years later I’m still in love with the story and reflect on it with pride.


She tried to examine her reflection in the grimy side mirror. Too much mascara, and lipstick too dark, but this was what they liked. Her black dress was damp from the oppressive humidity and clung to her skin like a fungus. She pulled at the fabric awkwardly as she crossed the street to the bar.

The Terpsichore Inn. The lettering on the sign was a dirty smear, barely legible in the glow of a dysfunctional street lamp salvaged from another century. She recognized the name of the Greek muse Terpsichore, the whirler. Classical mythology had once been a great passion, but now this was just a leftover scrap of knowledge from a past life.

Laura shifted the worn denim bag on her shoulder. It contained everything she owned, which wasn’t much. Everything but money, because today they had spent the last of it for nothing, for a high she barely felt. “The Fatal Underdose,” Hayden called it. It was a condition she knew well.
Copyright © 2000 by Isabelle Carruthers
For more, read: The Junkie Muse