August 05, 2003
Whatever Happened to the Do Over?

Met a guy the other day who, by complete coincidence, recognized me from my picture on this here website. The guy is a friend of a friend. My friend brought him to a morning writing session (a bunch of us get together early on Sunday mornings to write before we go off to do whatever it is we do on Sunday mornings), and since my friend and I have ties to Clarion West, it stands to reason that this friend of a friend might come across my site when looking up things on the Internet regarding Clarion West, and that we would eventually meet.

So. The friend of a friend noted that I had referred to my novel-in-progress on this ol' blog, but never actually included clips from it. It sounded like he expected to see samples here (possibly to illustrate some of the points I'd been making), and was therefore surprised to find no such thing.

Truth be told, I've been considering for some time now the idea of posting samples of my fiction writing here. (Obviously, I'm *already* posting samples of my writing... just not my fiction. :-)

There are a number of reasons not to do so, the first of which is that when you are trying to sell your work, magazines and publishing houses are most interested in the first publication rights. If you've already published the work on your site, it's already published. As a business move goes, self-publishing your work on your website can be publication-limiting in the professional markets.

For me, though, it's also been an issue of publishing in the appropriate forum. My blog is a forum for essays and humor; a particular kind of creative outlet for a particular kind of writing. Even the poetry and recipes I've posted here have a certain kind of fit. Each card I lay on this foundation helps to build a house that is larger than the sum of its parts.

My fiction often speaks with a different voice. Much of the fiction I write would change the very character of this site just as Peter Jennings reading poetry on World News Tonight would change the tone of his anchor-man persona.

I love that word: persona.

To extend the "house of cards" metaphor just a bit, my fiction might be like those crooked decks you see. They might help build this web log which I fondly refer to as my house of cards, but it'll take a very steady hand a bit of strategic placement.

With all of that metaphorical nonsense aside, the thought has, as I mentioned above, crossed my mind, nonetheless. I understand that posting my fiction here might limit its appeal in the professional markets, but some of it might prove to be more appropriate for this forum than for the pro outlets. We'll see.

In the meantime, however, I'm pleased to report that I've received a most favorable, er, rejection from a well-known science fiction periodical. The letter essentially says, "Liked it quite a bit, except for this one aspect, and if you should choose to take a stab at addressing said aspect, please feel free to resubmit it." This is encouraging; it is the first time an editor has asked me for a rewrite (in so many words). It's not an acceptance letter from this particular pro-level periodical, but I'm getting closer.

On a related topic, I'm happy to report that the novel formerly known as The Do Over is back in circulation. According to the website of the US Postal Service and their package tracker, the manuscript was received today at a most excellent publishing house that has agreed to take a peek at my work. Wish me success. :-)

All this, and I'm now beginning chapter three of the next novel. And no, I shan't be posting the working title here anytime soon (given my experience with The Do Over), nor the plot, nor sample chapters (at least for now, har, har) except to say that I'm very excited by the way these characters and their situations are developing.

So. The Do Over (under a new name) is in play, a new novel is in the works, and my short fiction is starting to gain some traction. Just wanted you to know that having a baby in the house is not the only thing going on at Casa Rousselle.

Posted by at 12:12 AM in the following Department(s): Novel-in-Progress | Comments (0)
 August 12, 2003
Reading

As part of a homework assignment for an upcoming writing workshop I'll be attending, I have a list of eleven books to read by the end of September. I received the homework assignment a few weeks ago, when there was still roughly ten weeks to go before the workshop. If I managed to read at least a book a week, I'd keep a steady pace and get the homework done on time.

There is another component to the homework assignment, which is to *not* talk about these books with our fellow workshop attendees, with whom we are all in contact via e-mail. This is a mild form of Chinese Water Torture for those of us in the group who love to talk about books after we've read them.

...Especially when we are all reading these books, and they all end up striking a nerve of one kind or another. There are so many things to talk about; a subplot about writing here, a theme about how people sell out their own best interests there, writing style, standout scenes. The instructors assure us that there is a good reason to wait until the workshop begins before we talk about these books with each other. Since I'm putting my faith in the instructors to help me improve my writing, I'd be foolish not to do the homework.

We're allowed to talk about books, just not with each other. There are many points I've thought about that I've wanted to post up here on my website, but now that my fellow workshoppers know about this house o' cards, I'm worried that if I post something and they read it, I'll be spoiling the purpose of the exercise we've been assigned.

So I guess my book reviews will have to wait. However, I want to share two things with you, in the meantime.

First, reading a book a week has proven to be absolutely exhilarating. I'm a very slow reader. I scrutinize fiction the way I *should* have read text books when I was in college. I know people who can read Stephen King's It in one day and answer questions (correctly) about it later. This is not a skill I have. For me, a book a week is an awful lot of work, not so much because it takes so much effort to read, as it takes so much *time*. Finding the hours has been very difficult, and that means I've had to sacrifice something else in my schedule.

Sleep.

And yet, this intense (for me) period of reading has boosted my energy level and enabled me to get by with less sleep quite easily. I am, in fact, rather an insomniac these days, but that doesn't bother me at all. More time to read. My head is filling up with all sorts of ideas, even when (perhaps especially when) the writing or the story isn't terribly great.

The second thing I want to share with you is a funny (not funny ha-ha) coincidence. In one of the books that I just read, a fictional serial killer had chopped up one of his fictional victims and stashed the fellow's remains in a dumpster right outside the very real building where a former girlfriend of mine used to live. It is bizarre to be reading a book that takes place in a large city you don't know all that well and have one of the few streets you *do* know well described rather specifically as part of a (fictional) crime scene.

Read enough stories that take place in a city you've spent time in, and I suppose something will eventually happen on a street with which you're familiar. In fact, that's already happened for me several times: I've lived all over New England, and I read a lot of Stephen King. But this one resonated a little bit more. It was about a crime that took place outside the building where someone whom I cared about used to live. (Last I heard, she didn't live there anymore, so I'm sure she's safe from the fictional "Curry Hill Carpenter".)

My advice to any of you who would like to avoid such serendipity in your own lives: don't date anyone who lives in New York City. The place is simply too ubiquitous. Date people from Buffalo or Cleveland. Nobody writes novels that take place in Buffalo or Cleveland.

But enough about that scene in NYC. I've finished that novel and it's time to move on to an ironclad at the close of the Civil War....

Posted by at 11:09 PM in the following Department(s): Writing | Comments (1)

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