Thursday, July 26, 2007

Entry Recieved...

Well, got an email from the WotF contest to say my entry has been received. Now, I just have to "allow 10 weeks after the close of the Contest quarter for judging to finalize." That means I should get the results by mid-September.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Honeymoon Events

On our honeymoon in Mexico, we stayed at a resort named "Canto del Sol." They had a great buffet that we hit up three or four times a day, a beach, swimming pool, and tennis courts. It was apparently in the "old" section of town, meaning that it was a little more authentic, and a little more difficult to find someone who spoke or understood English very well. Most of our taxi drivers spoke only Spanish, but all you needed there was the name of your destination.

We had a lot of adventures on our honeymoon: horseback riding, swimming with dolphins, ocean kayaking, sand castles on the beach...Mexican taxi rides. Child was an expert cowgirl. Our guide for the horseback ride spoke only Spanish so there wasn't a whole lot of talking going on, but most of the ride was just through rivers and jungle anyway, so there wasn't a whole lot of commentary he could have given. "On your left, you'll notice another tree."

It contrasted sharply with the horseback riding Child and I did for our one year dating anniversary: there were no safety forms to sign here, no instructions, and since he couldn't really ask us whether we wanted to do it, our guide's technique to seeing if we wanted to gallop was to start doing it, of course causing our horses to follow suit, then look over his shoulder to see if we were enjoying it. (For the record, we did.) All in all, it was a ton of fun, and I got to practice my Clint Eastwood squint. Next time, I'm going to work on the "spitting-between-the-teeth."

The kayaking was also fun, and I got to brave the jellyfish we saw in the water to get the picture below.

We also got offered weed on the beach by some old guy with missing teeth but respectfully declined, despite his insistence that it would be good for us.

Oh, and the swimming with dolphins was a lot of fun too. We got to dance with them, get kissed by them, and ride them by holding on to their fins as they swam (all under careful supervision of their trainers, of course). Unfortunately we weren't allowed to bring our cameras, and because of my refusal to give in to what I consider scams (read: paying $17 for a single picture), we don't have a picture of it. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Writing Tips

And another thing: I wanted to start collecting writing tips (general ones, and those applicable to just the sci-fi/fantasy genre), and thought I might as well make it public.

This first set of tips is from K. D. Wentworth, coordinating judge for the Writers of the Future contest. They are the top five reasons she immediately rejects entries. ( top-five-disqualification-points-during.html)
1. Poor spelling and copious grammatical errors

2. No sign that this is a science fiction or fantasy story by the end of the first page

3. Inability to tell what's going on by the end of the first page because the writer is withholding critical information from the reader in order to create suspense.

4. Overused tropes such as vampires, elves, witches, ghosts, trolls, dwarves and dragons, without an original take on the subject.

5. Massive information dumps at the very beginning of the story where the writer is telling the reader background information instead of working it into the story.
Looking through my old email for another list of tips a friend (Eric James Stone) sent me, I found that they were actually given by K. D. Wentworth as well, at a Writers of the Future workshop. Some are specific to WofF, others are very good tips no matter what you write. I was going to go through and highlight my favorites, but reading through the list, they are all just great tips, pet peeves, or problems I have myself. So I'll just mention one that made me laugh, and is really true: "Don't start with a character waking up. Or with amnesia. Or naked. Or being tortured. Or waking up naked with amnesia while being tortured."

  1. Don't send inappropriate submissions. It's a contest for science fiction or fantasy, so don't send children's stories or poetry or murder mysteries. Sometimes up to 50% of WOTF slush is inappropriate.
  2. Don't play games with the reader. Eight deadly words: “I can’t figure out what is going on.” If the reader can't tell what's going on, it's hard for the reader to get interested. This means (a) write clearly, and (b) don't withhold from the reader information that is apparent to the POV character.
  3. Put a speculative fiction element on the first page. Something that makes it clear this is science fiction or fantasy.
  4. Avoid overwritten beginnings. ("Frank's dual orbs of sight...," five adjectives in a row, etc.)
  5. Avoid word pictures that force the reader to see everything.
  6. Avoid characters in high school. (They can be high-school age, but don't have them actually in the school.)
  7. Don't count on the title to get noticed (or as the only indication of speculative fiction element).
  8. Don't start with a chunk of exposition. Prologues or things like fake newspaper stories can be a bad way to start.
  9. Characterization is not what someone looks like. Do not have a character notice his or her appearance in a mirror.
  10. Don't start with a character waking up. Or with amnesia. Or naked. Or being tortured. Or waking up naked with amnesia while being tortured. Such beginnings are done so often they are clich├ęd.
  11. Avoid overworked themes such as the characters being Adam and Eve, or with a character floating in space being born at the end, or Noah's ark.
  12. Don't use an unusual or weird POV character, such as the knife that will be a murder weapon. (She got a story in which the POV character was a dust bunny.)
  13. Don't submit a story that exists just for a joke.
  14. Avoid bad, over-the-top metaphors. "Words fell from his mouth like rancid spinach."
  15. Avoid trite conventions of the genre: elves, vampires, werewolves. (Can be done later in career, but hard when starting out.) Originality is valued in the genre. An original idea can beat a better-written old idea.
  16. Don't submit anything that has its origin in other media, or even hints at it. (No Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.)
  17. Don't submit with bad formatting.
  18. Don’t use overused words: “orbs,” “impossibly,” “smirked.” Don’t misuse words. (This is very subjective, of course, but she mentioned "impossibly" and "smirk" as ones she saw too much of.)
  19. Don't have a story in which nothing happens in the first two pages.
  20. Don't misspell, and if you do, not more than once per page.
  21. Don't make your hero a nasty, obnoxious jerk. Villains as heroes/unlikable main characters/irredeemable jerks as protagonists fail to gain sympathy from the reader.
  22. Eight more deadly words: “I don’t care what happens to these characters.”
  23. No serial killers.
  24. Don't fail to "land" the ending. (If a story is like a plane flight, the story doesn't end with the plane stopping in midair.)
  25. Don't have a passive main character.
  26. Don't use the wrong main character. Write from the POV of the character with the most to lose.
  27. Don’t start with poetry you’ve written yourself. (It's OK to begin with a short quote from someone famous, maybe.)
  28. Don’t use made-up words with extra apostrophes.
  29. Don’t use made-up words that are unpronounceable or have no vowels.
  30. Make sure the ending is prepared for in advance.
  31. Don’t include a map or illustrations.
  32. Don’t base it on a D&D campaign.
  33. Don’t write in second person.
  34. Don’t say “this is part 1″ or “continued” or “excerpt.” Don’t ever make the editor think the whole thing isn’t there.
  35. Don’t put copyright notice on the manuscript.
  36. Don’t go overboard on first sentence. We are supposed to believe it. ("After I fished Albert Einstein’s eyeball out of my martini...”) Sometimes the key is not to hook the reader, but to keep from pushing the reader out.

Writing Progress

I just remembered something that I wanted to start doing on my blog: posting occasional progress updates on my writing. More for myself than anything; no one else cares, but it's a good way for me to sort of mentally track how I'm doing.

So, currently:

One story submitted to the Writers of the Future contest (June 30, 2007). I think that's actually their "third quarter," and since the second quarter (Jan - Mar) finalists were posted on June 11, I guess I can expect to find out the results about mid-September.

I've submitted a couple stories in the past. One was an unpublished finalist and the other didn't do anything. The first I really liked, and the second I knew was a novel trying to be a short story, so it seems my instincts are fairly good. Unfortunately, they're telling me that my currently submitted story is also a longer story trying to be a short one, but we'll see. I tell myself not to expect anything, but I always hope. :)

I still have a novel on the back burner that I've set aside while I focus on trying to win this WotF contest, but maybe I should start diversifying a little and return to it. I also have several other short stories I need to get around to finishing. There's just so many projects I want to work on...
Back from the honeymoon...

I'm married to pretty much the best person in the whole world! Not only is she absolutely beautiful and brilliantly smart, but she is great to travel with. We entertained ourselves during the interminable airport waits and flights with some pirate dice and a deck o' cards, which was a lot of fun. The kid in the seat in front of me on the last flight home was also entertained, craning his head back to watch us play cards.

The trip to Puerto Vallarta was absolutely great, and Child and I came back still liking each other! We did everything from ocean kayaking to horseback riding to swimming with the dolphins, and we were offered weed on the beach but decided to pass on that. I'll try to post overviews of the various activities over the next couple days--we're finally getting Comcast installed at the new house (another story of itself) so I can finally blog when I spontanously think about it, instead of trying to remember to do it from work.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Whoo. It's been a while since I posted. Without having constant Internet at my new apartment, I can't casually post a blog entry when it flits across my mind. Then again, some might say that's a good thing...

First, because it sticks in my mind the most...

I have to say that Kayla planned the best one-year-dating anniversary ever. We went horseback riding up in the Stewart Falls area, and it was loads of fun. I got to imagine myself as Clint Eastwood, and I think my squinty eyes were superb, if I say so myself.

Also, my younger sister is finally married. I have to say I think she's nuts: he's working at an internship while she's in school at the moment, so she'll only see him half the week. I can't imagine not seeing Child for three or four days straight.

But speaking of marriages, mine is coming up as well. This Saturday. 4 1/2 days (I'm sure Child could give you the hours). I've already been living in our new apartment, and Child's been slowly moving her stuff in as well. Curiously, one of the more difficult things to become accustomed to at the moment is sharing stuff. I've spent so many years carefully keeping my stuff separate from roommates' stuff that I have to catch myself just before asking Child if a particular game is "mine" or "hers". Oh, right. They're both of ours now.

It'll be interesting being married. I'll have to make a lot of changes, especially since I'm used to doing things by myself (programming, writing, and reading aren't by nature "group" activities). Fortunately, I also enjoy doing things that are much more fun with two (hiking, camping, Frisbee), and even the former activities are more fun if Child is sitting somewhere nearby.

Hmm. Now that I actually got around to blogging, I forgot half the things I wanted to talk about. Oh well, if they're important, I'll remember them...