Archive | October 2011

Lessons from Editing short stories

Did I mention that I’m writing a story for my school newspaper? I would have posted a link to it but for some reason I’m not there.

Anyway, I’m only allowed 750 words an issue. For me, that’s hard. I’m having to cut out a lot while still maintaining interest in each issue. But I think it’s really good for me too because I tend to write too much into my short story.

So here’s what I learned from all this editing. A big secret behind short stories I think actually.

There is no such thing as background conversations.

Some people would call this maid-and-butler conversations. I don’t think of them as that, because the characters don’t know each other. It gives the characters a chance to tell each other some about themselves, while hinting information to the reader.

I like these. Sometimes they’re boring and need to be cut a lot later on, but I typically think they work out well enough.

In a short story, every word, as my book puts it, needs to serve double and triple duty. Immediately, when I am cutting out words, this is the first to go. Because my readers want to hear more about the fact that these illegal things are going on in town, what Colton does about them, and that Justin gets in a fight than that Colton and Justin have been arguing for a while.

Here’s another bit of advice for you to think about. Dr. D in class said that short stories are about change. I wrote it down. It would be interesting to see what would happen in Just Trust Me if Nessa went the other way.

Which reminds me of what I really wanted to mention. (Besides that I need to go eat lunch before my mom comes.)

ALL MY DUMB CHARACTERS FROM MY SHORT STORIES WANT THEIR OWN NOVELS!!!!

Seriously. I don’t know what to do. I’m writing a story right now about this body guard who a) loves the person he guards and b) is at high risk of losing his job (well, the draft right now doesn’t show that, but the character in my head does). And for some reason the important person is telling me that she wants to overthrow her uncle (the ruler) and lead a revolt. In a novel. And the the guy is going to go back home where there is a riot. And that the whole country is in unrest.

I know that I said writing short stories tend to seem to help me come up with better characters but this is ridiculous.

ALL YOU SHORT STORIES CHARACTER CANNOT HAVE YOUR OWN NOVEL. PERIOD!

I just don’t have the time. At all.

Anyone else have this problem?

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A new frontier in detecting crimminals

I’ll admit, this is a tad scary. And I wonder, if it is detecting stress, can it tell the difference between the kind of stress that a would-be bomber has and a guy who just lost his job, his child is in the hospital and might die and he knows that this plane trip is going to drain the rest of his savings?

US crime predicting technology tests draw Minority Report comparisons

As a writer and book lover, this breaks my heart.

A friend of mine from school found a bunch of old books at the library for sale. Things like, “A Study on Rural Development” from the 1950s. Pretty covers, old pages, but otherwise boring sounding content. She figures, if she can actually bring herself to do it, that she’ll tear out the pages and use them for an art project. (Probably more as backgrounds than anything found here.) No matter what, they look pretty.

However, sadly, I have found an article that says that books are being burned by the hundreds by reputable libraries across the world.

In short, the reasons are simple. Burning books is cheaper than giving them away. For some reason. Mainly because they otherwise have to untag all of the library books. Also, with the economy bad, libraries are one of the things that are being cut. Moreover, there isn’t enough room for all the new books to come and all the old books to stay. Especially when they happen to be adding a coffee shop to the library, like they are in the University of New South Wales. (Which actually doesn’t count now that I think about it because all colleges need to have a coffee shop). Then, lastly, with many books going digital, there isn’t as much of a demand for books as much as journals. You don’t hear about any of the book burning because whenever they’ve told people, it did not go well.

That’s the summary of the article.

However, I have two solutions. My first solution is to charge for a library card. I know; library cards are almost always free. However, how many apps have you bought in the last month that cost $.99? Even if you buy a book off of Amazon for a penny, you still have to pay $4 in shipping. A $1 charge for a library card for a year I think would be reasonable. I’d pay it; that’s for sure. (Hey, my family had to pay was it $15 for a library card when we didn’t live in the same county.)

That at least solves the cost factor. It gives libraries more money.

But what about all the new books coming in?

We have organizations for everything, right? So why not have an organization for saving books? I don’t have this all figured out; I just thought of it. However, in short, the library ships all the books to the organization that we’ll call it New Life Books (NLB) so I don’t have to type out organization so much. I don’t know if NLB or the library or both should pay for shipping. We want to make it worth the library’s time after all. Then, NLB sorts through all of the books they receive and tosses the ones that worthy of dying. (Like a twilight book a fifty years from now. No one is going to want that. Sorry Twilighters.)

The good books though they either sell to collectors or find a place that would actually want it. (Like, copies of a newspaper from the 1850s might go to a museum.) NLB would also desensitize all of the books that come through, so no one thinks that they really belong to the library

Again, these details are sketchy, but in a perfect world, then money that is made on book sales would then be split between NLB (so they have funding to continue) and the libraries. With this, the library might actually end up making money money than they do now, and there is only bad book burning. (Which, I know, considering that banned book week was a bit ago, saying that a book is bad is probably not right, but I am also fully aware that in 50-60 years, unless I become REALLY famous, most of my books will be in that bad book pile too.)

Learning to cut–again

One thing I wanted to do while at my new school was write for the student newspaper. Problem is that I’m squeezed so tight schedule wise, taking the extra class will not be beneficial. As such, I can’t take journalism, so I really struggled last year when I wrote.

My solution: I’ll write a story.

Why not? I want them to be enjoyed.

So I picked Time of the Dragon Slayers. I like that story and it has good tension throughout. At least, I think so. I figured it’d be easy, I’d copy each section, e-mail them to the newspaper, and tada! Life is easy.

No.

I need each section to be 500-750 words. Do you realize how hard that is? Hard. Think less than two pages per section (single spaced).

Last week’s section was 1000 words that I needed to cut to 750. (I think I ended with 748.) This week I have 1600 words I need to cut to 750 again.  However, on my first cut, I’m already down to 787, so it might not be so bad.

You think you can do it? Probably not, but it really helps you think about how to say things in as few words as possible, and to carefully pick your words. Maybe you should give it a try, because I’m actually thinking it’s making this story better on the whole.

On Poverty

I wrote a while ago that I tend to write stories about people who actually have money, and I found that interesting considering that I don’t have a whole lot. However, another group of people that I write some about is people who scrap by. Not surprisingly, I give these characters very middle class view points, as that’s about all I’ve had. (And lower middle class at that.)

Then, last Wednesday, we talked in class about poverty and the mindset of poverty. Because of the reflection that I needed to write for that class, I found an article that compares the classes. This is from a book called A Framework for Understanding Poverty. It actually sounds like a very interesting book, although that many one star reviews do bother me slightly on the validity of that, so I’d look into reviews before you rush off to buy.

It does, however, give us writers a chance to start thinking about the mindset of other people. It’s easy to create a mindset of all middle class characters, but by even looking at the differences between classes, that is presented in a nice little table here, it can give us more ideas about how to rework mindsets for our characters.