Posted in Personal

The Life of a Writer: Reality Vs Fiction

My favorite author is Richard Castle despite the fact that I haven’t read a single one of his books. I’m in the process of correcting that with “Naked Heat” and, while I’m not sure if I would normally read a book like this, I am enjoying it mainly because it’s the TV show Castle in literary format. I’m relishing the pretend play that the show and the people are real.

One thing I want beyond anything to be true is that a writer’s life really could be like Castle’s. He’s a wonderful character and his life seems easy and awesome.

How many writers out there wish their lives were like his? Apart from following around a homicide detective and being shot at more than once though I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would enjoy that too.

I mean, owning a gorgeous and expensive home, having your writing come out as easy as turning on the faucet and having water pour out, being rich and super famous, etc.

I want that. Every time I turn on the show I wish it was real…to an extent. Then I have to remind myself that those screenwriters are glorifying the life of a writer. And that’s fine with me. In fact I love it. It’s my favorite show.

But the reality of being a writer is that most people are not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling (can any two names get used more as examples of their career?).

The real life of a writer is sitting every day before a computer or notebook, always trying to write or get an idea, always thinking about it, always planning it. Sometimes the words come, sometimes they don’t. Oftentimes when they do come, they’re worthy of the scrap bin.

Some days you slog through the material, attempting to get through the molasses of your stagnant imagination. Other days your fingers zoom across the keyboard and make the most wonderful tapping music. On those days even the strongest coffee couldn’t energize you more than your writing already has.

And then comes the time when your story is done. You’ve reached the end!

Maybe you wait a few days after that to give your brain a rest or maybe you plow on ahead. Either way, you’re not done; no, you’ve merely checked off that first step on your to-do list. Now you get to edit which is usually more tedious than energizing.

At this point, Starbucks is very happy to welcome you into their open arms (if they haven’t already) and to fill your system with their steaming espressos. I love Starbucks and the baristas at my dungeon of choice know how I like my liquid stimulant.

Then you go through the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of agents out there, getting rejected about a bazillion times till you find Mr./Ms. Right. Hurray! Now go and edit again.

Here it comes…You’re published!!

And maybe a couple hundred to a couple thousand copies are sold (hopefully). Not really a hit (though I’d be supremely happy with even that much). Hopefully by this time you’ve started the process all over again because you’re not famous and you’re not rich and the bills keep coming in.

We won’t even go into the support everyone gives you while you’re struggling with this. Oh, I’m sorry. Support? What support? Maybe a few people support you but the majority give you strange or doubting looks and those are probably the nice people.

Don’t forget those few supporters you have though! You’ll want to dedicate the book to their tireless support, without which, you never could’ve made it yadda yadda yadda. Blah blah blah.

And that’s not even mentioning the difficulty of carving out free time to write if you have a day job (which hopefully you do else the bills might not get paid).

The life of a writer sounds quite depressing.

Is my life depressing? Goodness no! I get to live in an imaginary world half the time! What other job lets you do that?? Other than acting which would be too cool.

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Do you watch Castle or read the books? If you sent in one of the Richard Castle books to Nathan Fillion would he sign it as Richard Castle for you?

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Posted in Magazines

Various Fitness Magazines

My life is filled with family, fitness, and writing though not necessarily in that order. What better way to connect two parts of my life than by delving into writing for fitness magazines?

Am I endeavoring to write for any? No… I thought about trying and I occasionally still toss the idea around but I really have no idea what they’d want and I’m content reading them and collecting the workouts I find.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to list a few fitness magazines that were mentioned in Writer’s Yearbook 2014. I have subscriptions to 3 different magazines but only one of them was listed in Writer’s. Coincidentally, it’s my favorite magazine.

kate-hudson-bares-abs-for-shape-magazine-exclusive-quotes-02Shape (my personal fav)

Monthly magazine that covers health, fitness, nutrition and beauty. Targeted audience is women 18-34. They’re currently endeavoring to switch people to their electronic copy. You don’t have to switch, of course, but I find it convenient AND the electronic copies allow you to watch demo videos of featured routines so you know you’re getting the moves right. True, you can just go their website for the same thing, but this way is more convenient (for me anyway).

70% freelance. Circulation: 1,600,000. 33% kill fee. Accepts snail mail queries. When querying include some of your published work.

NEEDS: Book excerpts, exposé, health, fitness, nutrition-related, how-to health/fitness, recipes.

LENGTH: 2,500 words for features; 1,000 words for shorter pieces. Pays $1.50/word on avg.

TIPS: ‘Review a recent issue of the magazine. We rarely publish celebrity question-and-answer stories, celebrity profiles or menopausal/hormone replacement therapy stories.’

Muscle & FitnessAugust-2013

Monthly magazine geared toward bodybuilders and active men and women. It tends more toward hard core people who want lots of muscles and really shouts out to guys (although this cover always had my head turning when I walked by and running into polls/walls in the stores).

50% freelance. Circulation: 500,000. Accepts snail mail queries. When querying include some of your published work.

NEEDS: Book excerpts, how-to, training, humor, interviews, photo features.

LENGTH: 800-1,800 words. Pays $400-$1000.

TIPS: ‘Know bodybuilders and bodybuilding. Read our magazine regularly (or at least several issues), come up with new information or a new angle on our subject matter (bodybuilding training, psychology, nutrition, diets, fitness, sports, etc.), then pitch us in terms of providing useful, unique, how-to information for our readers’.

yogajournalcoverYoga Journal

As the title implies, this 9-issue magazine is geared toward yogis and is all about yoga.

75% freelance. Circulation: over 300,000. Kill fee. Accepts snail mail queries.

NEEDS: Book excerpts, how-to, exercise, inspirational, interviews, opinions, photo features, travel.

LENGTH: 3,000-5,000 words. Pays $50-$2,000.

TIPS: ‘Please read several issues…before submitting a query. Pitch your article idea to the appropriate department with the projected word count and what sources you’d use. In your query letter, please indicate your writing credentials. Please read our writer’s guidelines before submission.’

Do you subscribe to any magazines or buy single issues on the stands? What’s your favorite and why?

Posted in Advice/Helpful Sites, Personal

Travel and Experience Vs Imagination

What do you do if you’re writing a story that’s based in a place you’ve never been? I guess you could just make up a place – a town that doesn’t actually exist or (with fantasy) a world that doesn’t exist. Really, that would solve all your problems but what if you want to put it in a real place?

Do you do a butt load of research online and with books? Is that enough? Looking at pictures on the internet, reading descriptions in travel guides, etc. The best thing would be if we all had an unlimited amount of money and could travel to the location so we could experience it firsthand.

I mean, even if you know Japan is sweltering during the summer, could you properly imagine what it feels like to have sweat trickling down your back as you kneel, your legs slowly going numb underneath you? Concentrating on the buzz of the hypnotic chant of the Buddhist monks, a fly lands on your sweat-slicked arm. It tickles the delicate hairs, exploring the scent of wet salt mixed with your skin’s natural fragrance, but you don’t bat it away. Your muscles stay still beneath the fly’s wandering legs as your mind floats along the current of the unceasing flow of foreign words.

When I was in college I would set my stories in places I found fascinating but had never been to. But after traveling and experiencing the things I was only writing about I realized you can’t really know it till you’ve done it.

You can’t fully imagine the leg-quaking terror of nearly falling off a mountain unless you’ve done it. Time slowing down, body clumsy and refusing to find that foothold as it loses its fight against gravity. Your heart pounds and your voice sounds far-away as you watch the ground running out, helpless to stop it despite your legs scrambling for a hold on every clump of dirt and grass.

And then it’s done. You’ve stopped.

Hands help you to your feet, asking you repeatedly if you’re all right. You reply that you are but your smile and laugh are too high pitched and wild from that touch of adrenaline-fueled hysteria. You walk back up the mountain, your body betraying you every second as it trembles. Fighting against your own nerves, telling yourself you’ve now experienced the worst-case scenario and lived to tell about it, you give the nod to begin again. This time as you and your instructor head toward the edge, the wind is your ally and you soar.

Really. You should experience life before you write about it.

Do you use real-life experiences in your writing? Where would you travel and what would you do if you could go anywhere and do anything?

Posted in Writing Challenge

Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are a great way to get new ideas for stories. They can widen your horizons and help you break out of your box. There are times when I’m feeling brave and will try new kinds of writing. Genres that I don’t normally try like sci-fi or real life, poetry, different styles of writing, different POVs, etc.

It doesn’t usually happen because most of the time I’m just trying to get through my own editing process or writing down ideas I get from interesting dreams, but it has been known to happen. In fact, I’m currently sitting on a sci-fi story that I was told would work better as a novella instead of a short story. Needless to say, that’s a lot more effort than I’m willing to currently put into a genre that doesn’t come naturally to me so I’m sitting on it.

Now, what is a writing prompt? I believe I addressed this in a previous post but I’ll go over it again because they can be fun and helpful. A writing prompt can be anything from a few words to a whole sentence. It’s just something that plants an idea in your head and gives you something to start your writing. Mine usually start with a word and then end up continuing to a whole idea as my brain delves into the possibilities.

Here are a few examples:

  • Lethal spider flowers
  • A girl’s transformation begins with a simple, white skirt (provided by HL Henrikson)
  • Camera steals souls (that one might’ve been provided by HL Henrikson as well)

Writing Challenge:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take one or some of the following (or previous) writing prompts and make a story out of it/them. It can be as long as you want or as short as you want and in any style or form you want. This writing exercise is only to help generate ideas in your head.

Writing Prompts:

  • Genetic mutation
  • Poison as a weapon
  • Costumes that become part of people when worn at certain times
  • Talking birds
  • A priest learns something he shouldn’t
  • Leprechauns trick a woman thereby trapping her in their realm
  • Runner loses a leg
  • People are born with wings/tail/some other animal trait
  • Interview with a snake
  • Camper meets the wendigo
  • The afterlife is not what we expect
  • Stars are living, breathing beings
  • A child adopts a 2-headed puppy
  • Mice rule the world
  • The eyes are the windows to the soul

Have fun!

How do you get ideas for stories? Do you ever use writing prompts to help kick start your imagination?

Posted in Personal

Misspelled Words

I am not a grammar or spelling nazi, though some people would claim otherwise. Mostly with them I enjoy annoying them so I do it on purpose. But there are certain spelling/grammar mistakes I sigh when I see/hear.

It’s not their fault they think “stupider” is a word. But it does make me wonder about their high school education. Good grief, it makes me wonder about their grade school education.

Here are a few of those words:

  • stupidermore stupid
  • alot a lot
  • alrightall right
  • funnermore fun

Here’s a single phrase I bite my tongue against correcting:

  • could care less

I know what you mean and it’s not that you could care less about something, it’s that you couldn’t care less about it. It means nothing to you. There is no way on this earth that you could carea bout it even a smidgeon less than you do now.

I accept that people write the word “alright” (though I’m not sure why) and I roll my eyes when I see the word “alot” written, but when I hear people saying something is stupider or funner, I have to seriously bite my tongue or my cheeks to prevent myself from correcting them. I have friends who use these nonexistent words and I’d rather not lose them by nitpicking.

But there are times when I can’t keep my mouth shut; I have to say something so people won’t sound stupider than they really are.

Posted in Personal, Writing Challenge

Editing Suuuuucks!

Like a vacuum cleaner!

I’ve finally gotten my butt in gear and started editing my manuscript again. I wanted to read over the first two chapters again and edit a printed copy but I wasn’t making any progress with that so I shrugged my shoulders and moved on with my life. The copies are there for when I need to look over them later.

I was quite industrious for 20 minutes before a raging sinus headache won out and I lost all energy and motivation to do anything but breathe. I don’t think I’ve had a sinus headache that bad in forever! Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I’ve had one so bad.

It’s because my brains have been stuffed into my sinus cavity. They sit there waiting, not even leaking really, just waiting until I get tired of the pressure and blow my nose. Then it’s a never-ending task of blowing out a river of mucus. It’s so nasty. Infected too which probably accounts for the pain in my sinuses.

I wonder if that connection between the infection and the headache is true. Sounds good to me.

It’s better today at any rate. So I get back to my editing and still have page 31 out of 214 staring me in the face.

31.

Out of 214.

And I plan on adding quite a bit more.

Sigh. Editing sucks. Fitness is so much easier. I can train for and finish a 5k race in less time than it takes me to edit my entire manuscript.

*NOTE: Currently on page 36 after nearly an hour and a half editing yesterday. There was a lot to change. I’m just happy I lasted that long.*

Writing Challenge:

I’ve given this one before but it’s a good thing to do so I’ll give it again considering today’s topic. Are you currently writing something? If so, go back and edit what you’ve written so far. Aim for 15-30 minutes.

Posted in Advice/Helpful Sites

Writing Contests

Tiffany Luckey along with Ophelia Thomas spent an untold amount of time combing through the thousands of websites submitted by writers all over the world this year in order to find the best ones. The results of their efforts have been recorded in The 15th Annual 101 Best Websites for Writers featured in Writer’s Yearbook 2014. The sites have been divided into groups such as: creativity, writing advice, everything agents, jobs & markets, etc. Within those groups each site has an icon(s) next to it to let people know what the site offers.

For example: The Story Starter has an icon next to it marking it as geared toward young writers while Grammar Bytes! has two icons by its name saying it gives advice for writers and is on Twitter.

What I’ve done is gone through the list looking for those sites that offer writing contests. I’ve never cared for contests myself (having lost the few I entered in my high school and university days), but I know people who seem driven to enter writing contests whenever they can. This list is for them.

There are quite a bit of websites out there that hold writing contests. These are only the top bunch that were submitted by people in the global writing community.

I have two reasons for never submitting my work to contests. 1) I never even made Honorary Mention in the few free contests my high school and university held; and 2) It seems like a waste of money. You pay a large(ish) sum of money that I for one can’t afford to throw away for what? Most likely for the knowledge that you’re not quite good enough. Remember, only one person can win a contest. However, for that one person (and the two others who almost make it) the rewards can be wonderful.

If you’re a contest-lover, good luck! If not (like me), have fun saving your money to throw away on something else.