Sunday, July 7, 2013

12 Ways People Use Words: more on dialogue

We all know that we need to make characters sound different, we need to be careful with dialect, and we need to use appropriate vocabulary. Pretty broad stuff.

Well, here are a dozen other real-people traits that are discussed in length in The Theatre Student, Playwriting by Peter Kline, that can improve characterization through dialogue:

1. Use of subordination:
Some people are good at organizing five or six ideas in one sentence. For example, 'I remember when I was young, my father would take us fishing early in the morning, and whilst we dangled our legs over the pier and watched the sunrise, he would tell us stories about the old fisherman who built this town.' Other people try and fail: 'When I was young, maybe five or six, Dad would take us fishing, and we watched the sunrise - we'd be sitting on the pier, see, and, anyway . . .' Some people use conjunctions to string ideas together: 'I was young and Dad would take us fishing and we sat on the pier and watched the sunrise and Dad would tell us stories.' Other people stick with one idea at a time: 'We were kids, yeah? Boy, Dad used to go on about the old geezers.' 

2. Use of imagery:
Remember the different ways people learn? Those who aren't fond of the good old textbooks might like visual, audio, or hands-on media. The same applies to how people speak. Kline suggests that original and spontaneous people tend to use imagery in language. One of the senses usually dominates, but some people naturally combine sight, sound, and textual experiences (called synesthesia) and express these in language. 

3. Irony vs sentimentality:
Getting a sarcastic or cynical character together with a sincere one can lead to sparkling, conflict-filled dialogue.
A: What a beautiful night.
B: Yeah, if you're into mosquitos and midges.

4. Acuteness:
Some people just 'get it' while other people need everything spelled out before they understand the logic behind what the other person is saying. Classic one-liners are often spoken by acute thinkers and talkers. But be careful of characters delivering the perfect line every time. Most real people just can't do that. 

5. Thinking vs reacting:
A: I'm gonna kill 'im.
B: Now hold on a second, Bill.
A: That no-good slime-bag stole my wallet.
B: You need to be sure before you go accusing him. 

6. Circuitousness:
Some people say it straight. Some people tap dance around the point.
A: How are you?  
B: Well, I was woken up at 5 A.M. by the blasted dog next door, and then I realized I'd forgotten to buy more coffee, and . . .

7. Rhythm:
Have you ever listened to a person who sounds almost musical when they speak? Some people are naturally sensitive to the sound of words. Kline gives this example: 'I don't think I want to,' compared with, ' 'Twouldn't hardly be worthwhile.'

8.  Use of clichés:
Some people have a cliché for everything: 'Oh well, whenever you get lemons, you can make lemonade, you know?' Although it's not a good idea to flood dialogue with clichés, a character prone to their use is one who takes himself seriously and uses clichés so that others might take him seriously too. It is an attempt to appear wise without taking the trouble to think (which is not always laziness, says Kline, but human nature).

9. Word play:
Just as some people are good with the sound of words, others are quick to apply clever double meanings to words, often for dramatic effect. Shakespeare was, of course, the champion at creating characters with this trait. Unless you're writing a piece where cleverness is a central element, word play in dialogue should be used sparingly. Kline suggests that a character prone to word play often uses morbid humor to demonstrate that the world is a sick joke that shouldn't be taken seriously. Kline offers Hamlet as a fine example here.

 10. Whimsy, playfulness, and childishness:
The whimsical character is happy and imaginative and likes to have fun, usually by varying the tone, rather than words in her speech. She might indulge in pseudopoetry, or baby talk, or make deliberately silly statements to lighten the situation.

11. Exclamatory quality:
A: Dead! No way!
B: It happens to all of us, I guess.
A: I just can't believe it.

12.  DePersonalization:
Some people talk about themselves a lot, and other people don't. Two people must quickly establish how personal they want their relationship to be at any given time. Some people will tell you their whole life story in three minutes, and other people remain aloof for years. Misaligned or misunderstood boundaries relating to personalization can lead to embarrassing or irritating situations. All good stuff for storytellers.
Peter Kline suggests 78 more elements that affect how people use words. See how many you can think of (no points for the obvious like age and education).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Statue Days and Seagull Days

Somedays you're the statue, somedays you're the seagull.

In my year of rejection, I'm taking a blog break to concentrate on the ups and downs of statuehood and seagullhood.

On my statue days, I am unmoved. I am a rock. I am true to myself. (Or so I keep telling myself.)

On my seagull days, I try to watch my yawping, and I try to be considerate about where I . . . stand.

I hope your statue days are few and far between, and your seagull days are filled with humility.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why, oh Why?

[Here are my thoughts on Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, for the Progressive Book Club.]

Why, oh why, would anyone dedicate a chapter to made-up genres relevant to nothing?

Snyder stresses the importance of knowing your market and knowing your audience. He recommends approaching strangers within your target demographic to ask what they think of your logline. So why, oh why, does he describe a ridiculous genre of 'Man With a Problem' and crowd Die Hard, Titanic, and Schindler's List under that dubious umbrella? To me, this makes no sense.

Audience aside, Snyder refers to traditional genres: romantic comedy, drama etc., throughout the book, and defines 'genre' as such in his own glossary. So, what, oh what, is the point of chapter two?

Chapter three reveals that a movie needs a hero with a goal. Hmm, okay, nothing startling about that piece of news.

Chapter four discusses structure and uses Miss Congeniality as an example. By now, I'm thinking Mr. Snyder and I are not quite on the same sailing ship, but one of us is obviously at sea.

The visual tools Snyder recommends in chapter five, I found useful. The concept of writing plot points on index cards and arranging them in five acts is by no means original, but I appreciate the practical and visual methods recommended by the author, and I confess, I have tried it.

At around page 121, 64% of the way through the book, Snyder finally caught my attention with the fun advice about the 'Pope in the Pool,' and the 'Double Mumbo Jumbo.' I chuckled at the irony of 'Laying Pipe' and 'Watch out for that Glacier,' and I don't really remember much about the rest of the book.

I give Save the Cat, 5 out of 10. I won't deny I learned something, and it's always worth reading a book if it sends you away with one useful tip, but half of me wishes I had taken the advice of the title and donated my ten bucks to the Snow Leopard Trust.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It's Hip to be a Square... or is it?

March's lighthouse:
Le Phare de Kermorvan,
Brittany, France.
(Original photo by McPHOTO.)
Are you a round lighthouse, or a square one?*

As I flick through my Novel and Short Story Writer's Market, I can't help but notice the word 'experimental' littered throughout the section on literary magazines.

Okay, now everything I do is experimental, but in the literary sense, if there's one thing I'm not (yet), it's experimental. I'm a traditionalist through and through.

Yes, it's true. I'm a round lighthouse.

In defence of the unoriginal, consider the basic expectations of a reader. The Daily Writing Tips website lists the following:
  • at least one sympathetic character with whom we can identify and root for;
  • a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end;
  • a narrative style that draws us into the fictional dream;
  • language that conforms to standard rules of syntax, meaning, and punctuation;
  • typography that conforms to printed conventions regarding margins, etc.

And what about all those expectations of genre, a word usually preceded by the word 'no' in the section on literary magazines?
  • a romance is expected to contain flowery scenes;
  • a Western is just not a Western without the manly man with the six-shooter;
  • a suspense novel is generally plot driven.
Is there a fine line between meeting the expectations of genre and stereotyping? I think so.

And so, again I ask, are you a round lighthouse, or a square one, or something else altogether? Hexagonal, perhaps?

* For those geometrically sensitive people, are you a cylindrical lighthouse or a cuboid one (or another 3-dimensional shape altogether)?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Christie Power

Friday is International Women's Day. I'm not about to launch into a political discussion, but I will say cheers to the ladies of literature, past, present, and future, and to one in particular who continues to inspire me through the wit and cleverness of her stories.

Dame Agatha Christie doesn't look easy to surprise. That's probably because the Queen of Crime knows all the tricks. How many of these plot devices (sourced from the Christie Mystery website) do you have in your toolbox?

  • Red Herrings. A writer must be fair. Introducing vital information on the last page is just plain mean. But who says you can't mess with a reader's mind a little?

  • The Unlikely Suspect. A murderous child? An unreliable narrator? Agatha Christie was a master of using the values and assumptions of the reader to construct some excellent twists.

  • The Disguise. Does sticking on a fake moustache fool anyone nowadays? Maybe not, but a change of identity - real or metaphorical - is a crafty way of hiding, and eventually revealing secrets.

  • A Closed Setting. The comings and goings of real people in the real world can muddy the character pool, especially in a whodunit. So what do you do? Try sticking the players on a boat, or a train, or in a big house in the country.

  • The Trap. It's not easy to prove guilt. It may not be standard criminal procedure, but contriving a scene is a nifty way to expose a phony.

  • The Illusion. A suspect may fake his or her own death, or employ a distraction, or frame someone else, or discredit a vital witness. Who's telling the truth? And who's telling big, fat porkies?

  • The Alliance. What do we really know about a relationship between two people? Lovers may appear to the world as enemies. Siblings might pretend to be strangers. Two heads can be trickier than one.

  • Final Justice. Obviously, nobody told Agatha Christie that bad people must be caught and sent to prison forever. According to Wikipedia, the murderer escapes in six of Agatha Christie's stories, and dies in several others.

So who's your favourite female author, and what is it about her writing or stories that you admire?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

21 Rhetorical Devices, and their tricky names

What exactly is rhetoric?

To me, it's what a speaker or writer uses to get the message across, usually, with added effect. It's persuasive communication, and if it's not a down-right lie, it can be a powerful and legitimate tool, one we use every day, without even noticing the techniques we're employing. Our good buddy Aristotle even went so far as to relate intellect, emotion, and sense of credibility and fairness to demonstrate rhetoric.

Philosophy aside, there are many rhetorical devices available to the astute writer. Many are familiar: oxymorons, euphemisms, hyperbole, alliteration, metaphors. For those who do not have an MFA and who like to increase or test their literary vocabulary, here is a handful more taken from The Complete Stylist and Handbook by Sheridan Baker. Make up or look for your own examples, even if - like me - you struggle to pronounce the names.

Alluding to the Familiar:
Anamnesis: "A remembering." Emphasizing the point by reminding the reader of a former event. (Today is the day she kissed me goodbye, twenty-four years ago.)
Parachresis: Alluding to, or mixing another's words into your context for emphasis or effect. (Only the low-lifes laughed at my jokes. I guess Oscar Wilde was right about the value of sarcasm.)
Paradiorthosis: Twisting a famous quote. (Friends, colleagues, paperboy, lend me some money.)
Building to Climax:
Asyndeton: "Without joining." Rushing a series of clauses to indicate emotional haste. (They charged, they fought, they died in the hundreds.)
Incrementum: Arranging items from lowest to highest. (They devoured the plants, they razed the fields, they swept through the towns, and threatened the nation.)

Synonymy: Repeating, by synonyms, for emphasis. (A low-down, no-good, miserable son-of-a-bitch.)
Anacoenosis: Consulting your audience, often through rhetorical questions to gain intimacy and urgency. (I ask you, is being a good parent enough?)
Aposiopesis: "A silence." Stopping midsentence. (But the children....)
Erotesis: Commonly known as a rhetorical question. (Does bread pay the bills?)

Apophasis: Pretending not to mention something by mentioning it. (I won't mention the time I fell asleep in the park and awoke behind bars.)
Litotes: "Simplifying." Asserting something by denying the opposite. (Not the smallest dog I had ever seen.)

Zeugma: "Yoking." Pairing one accurate word with an ironic misfit. ('Waging war and peace.')
 Overstating and Understating:
Auxesis: Using an exaggerated term. (He's a saint.)
Meiosis: Making big things small. (Besides the mansion in the country, he owned a second modest abode by the beach.)

Posing Contrasts:
Chiasmus: "A crossing." Reversing order. (A good man is hard to find; a hard man is good to find.)
Enantiosis, also called contentio: Emphasizing contraries, often with chiasmus. ('Could not go on, would not go back.')

Refining and Elaborating:
Exergasia: "A polishing." Presenting the same thing several ways. (A dream, a vision, an illusion of magical things.)

Epistrophe: Ending sentences the same, as a way to emphasize. (He lives at sea. He loves the sea. He'll die at sea.)

Paregmenon: Using derivatives of a word. (A fantastic fantasy.)
Metonymy: Using an associated thing for the thing itself. (The White House said today....)
Synecdoche: Substituting a) the part for the whole (He is a brain), or the whole for the part (China wins the Olympics), b) the species for the genus, or the genus for the species ('the felines [for lions]'), d) the material for the object (He plays brass.)
So, does you tongue feel like it's been squished through a meat grinder? (Is that a metaphorical erotesis?)

Or that you need to see a doctor in case you contracted any of these symptoms?

As tricky as the terms are, you have to agree (anacoenosis), rhetorical devices are fun, fun, fun (that's an epizeuxis, by the way).

Enough already! (apodioxis).

I need a nap.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February: Martha's Vineyard

Edgartown Lighthouse, Martha's Vineyard.
Original photo is by Paul Rezendes

Back in January, I set sail on my journey of rejection. I committed myself to devising some type of submission plan as I cruised around the Islets of the Scouts.

Now, my trusty ship (The Eggonaut??), with the help of my lighthouse wall calendar, has taken me to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

I have yet to visit the area in person, but I hear it's very relaxing there, particularly not in February for those of us allergic to cold weather.

It's fitting then, that I take a breath, and enjoy the calm.

The spreadsheets are spreading, the lists are lengthening, and I am gradually polishing my work and sending it out. I'm starting small, fishing for minnows, while the bigger fish continue to circle the boat, demanding attention.

The Edgartown Lighthouse on my calendar reminds me to take it easy, do what I can, and most importantly of all, be patient. The rejections will come and tear at the hull, but until then, I'm enjoying the scenery.

[Rejections this year: One. The postie returned a submission for lack of postage. What really hurts is almost certainly knowing that he or she didn't even bother to read it.
Non-Rejections: One. 9th place in the 13th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition. Thanks WD people.]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bird by Bird: lyre lyre, home on fire

I can relate to that little boy overwhelmed by the avian world. But pay attention to your assignment, young Master Lamott, and the birds might tell you their secrets.
Birds are funny things. The millions of birdwatchers, birders, twitchers, whatever you want to call them, are even funnier still. Years ago, I had a lecturer who was so passionate about birds, he wore them embroidered on his shirts, stamped on his belt buckles, and etched on his boots. He would start an ecology lecture with, “I knew this bird once…,” and never did I hear a tale about a long-lost love,or a mysterious acquaintance in a faraway land. Instead, I slept through an account of the foraging talents of the treecreeper, the social habits of the babbler, and the parental responsibilities of the emu.
But when the lecture turned to the uncanny ability of the lyre bird to mimic just about anything it hears, I considered this a worthy skill, and I paid attention.

The lyre bird learns the sounds of the forest, quite literally, bird by bird, to add to his repertoire of courting songs. Impressively, the Casanova in the video not only does birds, but camera shutters, car alarms, and chainsaws as well.
See for yourself.

For those thinking, okay, nice post about birds, but what's it got to do with Anne Lamott's book about writing, consider this: treecreepers, babblers, and emus have their own appeal, but sometimes, it takes that one special bird to get people thinking. One bird mimicking chainsaws. One bird singing about his own demise.

And so I tell myself to keep on writing, because you just never know which bird will be the one to touch someone's heart.

P.S. I liked the book.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'll Huff and I'll Puff, and I'll Be Forever Faithful

This amazing photo is from Steve Harris, flickr

Mm mm. Grandma looks delicious! So do those sneaky little pigs. Now if I can just squeeze into this itty bitty lamb skin.

Even though wolves almost never attack humans, from an early age, we are introduced to the wolf as a cunning killer, to be boiled or hacked to pieces at every opportunity.

But did you know that wolves mate for life? The alpha male and female lead a pack and act as the dominant, if not the only breeders in a group of six or ten.

These animals have a stronger sense of commitment and family than a great many humans.

I considered it rather appropriate to model a Saint Valentine's Day post on these remarkable animals. I rather like the idea of a wolf as a protagonist in a story. An intelligent, ruthless survivor; a convenient villian; an eternal romantic.

May your February 14 be free of men with axes, pots of boiling water, and villagers wielding pitchforks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Never Trust an Expert

I allow myself to be bombarded with advice (build a platform, know your genre, write articles) which I gleefully ignore, and I give things a go, often prematurely.

So my recent holiday experience comes as no surprise to me. Let me explain (sit, I have slides).

I am not a great skier. In fact, I'm not even a very good one, but I agreed to a skiing holiday in Japan, pleased that my equally-hopeless sister, Ro, was joining me so we could check out each other's face-planting techniques.

The third adult in the party is a competent black-run (diamond, sapphire, whatever) skier.

"Here's a really good green run," he says. "It's wide; it's not busy; blah blah blah."

So my sister and I followed the advice of the expert, made it off the ski lift without bowling ourselves or anyone else over, and stood at the top of the slope, wondering how on earth we came to be there and how we would ever get down again.

It was just too steep for us.
Nevertheless, we trusted the advice of the expert and struggled down the slope. I'd like to say that my abilities surpassed my expectations, but alas, they did not.

After a great deal of face-planting, filled with terror, rather than laughter, we made it to the bottom, clicked off the wretched skis, and looked back up the slope. "What on earth were we thinking?"

My confidence was shattered. So was my sister's. We lugged our gear back to our accommodation, wondering if we could claim a refund on our lift passes, and co-ordinating the books we would read for the remainder of the trip.

After a hearty hot pot meal and restful night, Ro and I arose the next morning determined to redeem ourselves. We studied the plan of the mountain, diligently selected runs better suited to our abilities (or lack of), and set off once more.

Eureka! We flew past other face-planters and revelled in our expertise. We swooped down the slope like the bullet train in for service. We had conquered the foot of the mountain. Hurrah for us!

So what has this got to do with writing? Not much, I guess, but I did utter these philosophies to myself to combat chronic brain freeze:

1. I wasn't reading Bird by Bird, but I was living it, snowflake by snowflake.
2. To master the top of the mountain, you must first master the bottom.
3. It doesn't hurt to extend yourself, but don't be surprised to learn you're not as good as you think you are.
4. If you're not ready, step back and be patient.
5. There's no point doubting your abilities. It's better to learn what they are, and work with them.
6. Don't give up. There's a spot for you. If you keep on looking, you'll find it.
7. Only you know where you're at, so
8. Never trust an expert.

Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens

(7 Feb 1812 - 9 Jun 1870)
Let the tears which fell, and the broken words which were exchanged in the long close embrace between the orphans, be sacred. A father, sister, and mother, were gained, and lost, in that one moment. Joy and grief were mingled in the cup; but there were no bitter tears: for even grief itself arose so softened, and clothed in such sweet and tender recollections, that it became pleasure, and lost all character of pain.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Monday, January 21, 2013

Diction Addiction

I have been slack, I know.

Julie Luek at A Thought Grows, and Joseph Schwartz at Magicellus awarded me the Addictive Blog Award so long ago now they may have moved on to more stimulating addictive blogstances.

Nevertheless, thank you.

My role in the process is to pass on the award to those blogs I feel impelled to visit regularly. All of my current addictions have been presented with this award, a number of times in some cases, so instead, I am nominating new friends that I am confident will become addictions over time.

And speaking of diction addictions, I'm usually not one to enter into the frenzy of fads, but this is one I could not resist.

The PBC Mastermind, M. L. Swift, has spoken. The third Wednesday of every month, beginning 20th February, will see a group of astute writers descend like a pack of wild animals on a writing craft book.

First to the feast is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Check it out. Speak your mind. Mingle with fellow wordivores, because remember:
You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander.                           Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Touch of Life

Excerpt from A Tent Called Simba, WIP#2:

(Photo source:

The taxi dropped me and my sister, Ro, at the unimpressive border control port of Kazungula. We stood for a moment watching our only link with civilization disappear down the road back towards Kasane before attending to formalities. The border officials from both countries stamped our passports with the same indifference we had come to expect, and we were suddenly in Zimbabwe, without a vehicle, and with no idea how we going to get to the town of Victoria Falls, 70 kilometres away.
                The locals, on the other hand, had obviously encountered tourists like us before, and a thin, black man with stained, jagged teeth approached us immediately. “You need a lift to Victoria Falls?”
                We did, of course, but were reluctant to appear desperate, as if we had just popped over the border for a look at the other side of the fence, and intended to head back to Botswana sometime soon.
                “Mmm,” mumbled Ro noncommittally.
                The man pointed to a brown and rusty - or perhaps it was brown because it was rusty - utility parked behind the ‘Welcome to Zimbabwe’ sign. “Ten dollars each,” said the man.
                Ro and I walked onto the road for a better view of the vehicle, and noticed two men in the cab and two more in the back.
                “Do we seriously want to get in the back of a ute full of four – “ she glanced at the thin man hovering behind us, “- or five Zimbabwean men?”
                I peered up the road. At least it was bitumen. “It’s either that or hang around here waiting for a better offer.”
                The man touched me gently on the elbow. “Is okay,” he said softly. “We take you to Victoria Falls.”
                Ro and I threw each other resigned looks and followed the man to the vehicle. “I’ll be amazed if this thing even makes it that far,” I muttered as I hauled my pack into the back, clambered aboard, and sat with my pack on my lap while Ro squeezed next to me and did the same. The two men already sprawled in the tray nodded and smiled as they shuffled to make room for us.
                The brown-toothed man squeezed into the cab beside the other men. The car rattled and roared as the driver started the engine and shifted up the gears.
                “Where you from?” said the man next to me. His eyes looked soft and young, but the lines on his forehead suggested a life of hardship.
                “Ah,” he said knowingly and smiled. “Africa just like Australia, no?”
                I looked at the shrubby greenery of the surroundings and the dead grass that lined the road, and thought of the roads through the Northern Territory. “Yeah, pretty much. But the Australian elephant is pretty rare nowadays.” He laughed at my pathetic attempt to keep the situation light, and I was impressed that his English was polished enough to recognize I had made a joke. “So you’re a local, I take it?”
                “Yes, I go across the border and bring things back into Zimbabwe.”
                “What sort of things?”
                The man explained that he and the other men brought in whatever they could lay their hands on. “Our petrol stations are closed. We must smuggle fuel across the border. And food is veddy expensive. Many people trade in the black market.”
                I tried to imagine what life what be like if I had to travel miles to get fuel and was then forced to smuggle it back into my own country. I couldn’t imagine it at all.
                “It has gotten veddy bad,” he said. “There are no jobs. There is no money.”
                I am not a political person, but I wanted to know. “Is it because of Mugabe?”
                The man’s mouth formed an ‘o’ and he shook his head. “He is a veddy bad man.”
                I wanted to ask him a flood of questions, about his family, about his life, but the man sitting next to him began talking in rapid-fire Shona, and I hugged my backpack and sank into silence.
                The ute dropped us on the outskirts of Victoria Falls but within walking distance of the town. Appreciating that people who had to smuggle fuel into their own country were not about to drop us at the doorstep of anywhere useful, I handed over my cash and the car piled up with people, none of them white tourists like us, and roared off back towards the border.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Style and Manners

Recently, my aunt asked me to comment on part of the draft of her second novel, due for publication in August. (Plug alert: For those gripped by historical family saga, check out Tyringham Park, by Rosemary McLoughlin., Poolbeg Press.)

Flattered and thrilled to be a part of the process, I offered my candid comments, some objective (check grammar here) and some subjective (I found the early chapters heavy with backstory).

I know Rosemary well, I share my opinions freely with her, and she accepts them for what they are, but her request had me wondering how far we, as trusted reviewers, should go with our comments.

I asked Rosemary what feedback she was specifically looking for, and she replied, Everything.

Now, I would never tell a person his or her work was exceptional if I didn't think so, or that I liked the plot and characters if I didn't, but while reviewing Rosemary's book, I began to ponder: should I offer comment on style?

Especially if the comments contradict writing 'rules' generally accepted as being good ones.

For example: I think this would work better in passive form to highlight the view of victim, or I think you could do with simpler verbs or The level of detail is extreme and distracting. Is this kind of feedback constructive, or are we just butting in where we don't belong?

Is it our duty as reviewer to disclose the full extent of our opinions if we think it will improve the piece, leaving the writer to sift through and glean useful advice and ditch the rest, or is the author's personal style none of our business? Afterall, extreme pickiness may lead to a brief author/reviewer relationship or a fruitfully long one.

Of course, it depends on the person, the story, and the relationship the three of you have with each other, and I guess even reviewers have their own style, but now I'm thinking, how far would I like a person to go when they review my work?  It's my year of rejection, I'm tough, but....

What do you think?

Monday, January 7, 2013

January: Islets of the Scouts

Christmas saw the arrival of a number of electronic devices, a red remote-control monster truck, Barbie's new favourite mode of transport down the stairs being one of the more entertaining, but as ingenious as the smartphones, eReaders, and tablets are, I still like to snap photos with a camera, make phone calls on a phone, read books with real pages, pin stuff to the fridge with magnets, and yes, scribble notes in the little boxes of calendars that hang on my wall.

Last year, Santa was good enough to deliver such a calendar. It's new and glossy and each month is adorned with a stunning photograph of a...

...lighthouse (thank goodness I did not get puppies or kitties or cottages in the country), and I am wondering the fate of the little boxes that will track my year.

January's lighthouse is called the Islotes les Éclaireurs which is French for "Islets of the Scouts." It is located in the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, close to the most southerly permanent township in the world.

Now that we're well into 2013 (it's hard to believe New Year's was only eight days ago), I rather feel like I am scouting unchartered territory, gathering information, exploring my possibilities, warning others to give me room because I'm planning to light up, baby.

Whilst I apply an abundance of spit and polish to my projects carried over from 2012 (and earlier), my goal for what's left of January, is to research my options (seriously), and develop a realistic, but slightly ambitious submission plan for the next twelve months. For me, this means stepping up the process of writing, editing, and - armed with spreadsheets of appropriate references - submitting material.

So with my lighthouse calendar in hand - a little late to the starter's block perhaps, but nevertheless determined - I begin my journey into treacherous, but staggeringly beautiful waters, dodging rocks, and riding the waves. I'll take a beating, and the journey will test my courage, but I have twelve months of enormous lights to guide me to my destination.

So now, I'll suck up my nerve and get back to work, one of my favourite quotes foremost in my mind as I face those little white boxes:
You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
Christopher Columbus