Category Archives: Figuring It Out

Metaphor Madness

Hello everyone out there! It is I again, here with another self-important post about my least favorite topic–me. So, as some of you may know, I’m in the process of getting my first manuscript published, and I thought I’d share one of the many things I’ve learned from this process. There are many, make no mistake, but one should be enough for now, and it helps to keep this post from turning into a manuscript of its own. What I’ve learned–if the title didn’t tip you off–is that I, as a writer, tend to go crazy with my metaphors. Let me preface this by saying that metaphors, in the right hands, are a wonderful and entertaining tool of a good writer, but in my case, I have a habit of overusing and overdoing them. And when I say I go crazy with them, I mean The Joker mating with Caligula, and maturating their demon offspring in a vat of liquefied Donald Trump, kind of crazy.

Now, I’d like to clarify that for you…but I’m not really sure what I meant, so I’ll just have to leave it up to you to figure out.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all of my metaphors up until this point were bad. Some were, no doubt. Some of my metaphors were–in my opinion–good, but simply misplaced in the narrative.  One example that comes to mind, is the following: “My will was the point of a shiv and it had but one direction to go.” Good, right? Well considering that the character in question was only having a mild disagreement with a friend, the metaphor comes off as overly harsh and…well, murderous. I don’t know about you, but if someone is that willing to win an argument, I’d rather avoid interacting with them altogether.

I’ve always loved metaphors, ever since I was small and would read them in one fantasy novel or another. I was entranced by the idea of saying something by holding it up to something else. The possibilities of it swirled within my young mind like the crushed remains of a galaxy circling the event horizon of a black hole. Granted, that was a simile–metaphor’s 95% genetic clone–and not even a good one, but the principal still holds.

My wife often says that some of my metaphors are the kind that sound pretty but don’t actually mean anything, and it’s those type of metaphors that I try the hardest to identify and weed out. One of our favorites was the time I compared someone’s inhalation of shock to the sound of a vacuum–not a vacuum cleaner mind you, because that would be either disturbingly nightmarish, or gut-bustingly comical–but the vacuum of space. I don’t remember the actual words, but it looked good on paper, until my wife stopped and asked,  “What would that actually sound like?” I had no answer, and quickly realized there was a good reason for that. It was the blind, radioactively-mutated, and blunt-force traumatized lemming of metaphors. it did nothing, and served no purpose other than to run itself off a cliff and die a pointlessly stupid death.

So, the lesson to be learned here–by me, of course–is that if I wish to make my own life as a writer and the life of my editor, easier, I need to trim the fat on my metaphors. It just makes good sense, and it’s the polite thing to do. But more importantly, coming up with  unique and interesting metaphors is skinning a rhino with an emery board. Oh…damn it, that was bad too. Oh, I give up. It’s difficult, all right? Just plain difficult. Good night!

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Aspiring Writers Vs. Established Writers

Today, I wish to talk about a double standard of life in the writing world, of which I have only recently and minimally, become a part.  In the story, Writing and Publication, by Life Isn’t Fair, Fair takes yet another undeserved vacation, and leaves his diehard fans with a sour taste in our mouths.

You see, over the years of reading and writing, and my very short tenure in college, I’ve both been told and have discovered for myself that established writers can get away with just about anything, relying on their names to sustain them rather than on talent.  That’s not to say they don’t have talent—far from it—it just means that as their popularity builds and builds, rules are chucked out the window, and replaced with more daring plotlines and prose.  Some of these ventures are quite ingenious and come across well, but others are just plain ludicrous, and are hell for the reader.

Aspiring authors who go through the ritualistic and tedious process of querying agents and publishers, submitting manuscripts, waiting months for a response, and ultimately, repeating the process with either the same manuscript or another one, have to subject their work to strict scrutiny.  This is a process I know of all too well, as have spent years in this cycle. I was told once by a publisher that my prose from a submitted manuscript was ‘too flowery’ and that I should ‘approach the character with more action and less introspection.’  Fine, point taken; in fact, I agreed.  However, when I read books like Anne Rice’s Vampire Series—while I love all of them up to Memnoch The Devil—it leaves me slightly bitter.  Anne Rice’s books are brilliant, in my opinion, however if ever there was a prose that was too flowery, it was hers.  In one book, she spent nearly three paragraphs describing the origins and style of a table that had no significance in the book whatsoever.  And while I was amazed by the depths of research she must have gone through to learn that, I still found it pointless.

Stephen King is another one who often breaks the rules of writing without care or regard for the literary corpses he leaves in his wake.  I’d like to note here that I am not a big Stephen King fan, but I absolutely love the Dark Tower series, despite its flaws.  One of those flaws is his penchant for breaking narrative by telling the reader things that will take place years later, or things that none of the characters had any knowledge of.  If the story was told in the form of a character reciting something that happened to them in the past, then maybe some of that would make sense–the character telling the reader something that he had not known at the time–but since it was written in thrid person, it just disrupted the narrative for me. It also took away from the suspense when some of his comments clearly told me that a character would die before the end of the story.

As an aspiring writer, you’re told from every direction not to do things like that or many of the other things that established writers do.  Hell, I was told once by my writing professor, not to jump between one character and another—a technique which has practically become a staple in most established writers’ arsenal.  I was also told that all stories had to be written, not in the past tense as most stories that I’ve read are, but in present tense.

I’ve read books where authors wrote themselves into the story, made connections between unrelated events and never connect them, drawled on for pages upon pages of exposition and needless back story at the reader, and sometimes even changed tenses in the middle of the prose.

But if I tried that…

Granted, I may not be as talented as some of them are, but when ground rules are established, they should be followed by all or discarded altogether.  They should level the playing field one way or the other.  Writing today has been infected with the same disease that has been plaguing professional wrestling since the fall of ECW.  The up and comers have to constantly change their wrestling style, be exciting and daring, and hone their microphone skills, while the established wrestlers degrade into gorillas in the ring—content to throw punch after punch, without a hold or maneuver in sight.  But people love them because they’ve grown to love them, so the wrestlers don’t have to work quite so hard on their style of fighting anymore.

Though, I must admit, I can’t wait for the time when—god willing—I too can be free of the rules of writing and be allowed to do whatever I want in my stories.  If that ever happens, I might, just to see how much they’d let me get away with, pepper my novels with sudden, unrelated, words, breaking the pace of the prose and truly confusing the reader.  I’ll say it’s art, and they’ll have to leave it in because I’ll be famous by then.

To wrap up this review, of Writing and Publication, by Life Isn’t Fair, I’ll say this:  It’s an interesting read, well worth the aggravation if that’s what you truly want to do, but don’t expect to make it by doing what the big boys do.  You’ll have to find your own way of—penguin!—doing things and work—shalom!—hard at everything you do, in the hope of one day—jello!—counting yourself among the established, untouchable—yoda!—writers.

Is this art yet?

My Toolbox is Empty

Hello everyone. Welcome back. I’d like to start off by saying that despite this blog’s title, it is not some woe-is-me lament about my life, but an example to others that sometimes life will throw some curve balls your way, and you will inevitable have to overcome them if you want to progress in your life. I’ve been lucky to only have had some minor obstructions in my life, and hope that, if I’ve done anything with them, it’s learn from them. After all, all good things in life worth having are worth fighting for.

Well, with that said, let’s get to it.

Way back when I was a young child and I decided, quite against my will and at the prompting of a grand celestial muse, that I wanted to be a writer, I did so fully confident that I had everything it took to succeed. In my adolescent mind, I was a star on the rise, I had the tools, the ideas, and the drive to conquer my chosen profession. It didn’t hurt that not a single person I knew at the time showed much interest in reading, let alone writing. It was a foregone conclusion that whatever I showed my friends, would be seen as ‘amazing,’ more because they were surprised I’d actually manage to crank out a two-hundred page novel, than because of anything of merit in said novel.

It took me nearly two decades to realize, to my chagrin, that my literary toolbox was filled with silly putty. Think I’m being too harsh on myself? Too easy? Well, either way, I shall endeavor to explain. First off, the very fact that I had no writing peers during those early years ensured that all of my prose was bright, shiny, and completely nonfunctional—like an outfit in a fashion show. Sure it looked interesting, but would you really want to walk outside wearing a big copper coil as a skirt? My early writing was plagued with purple prose from here to eternity, and I had no clue. It took me finding other writers whose work I respected before I finally listened to criticism about my style. And by then, it was so hard to put down my flashy, electric hammer in lieu of a more practical, standard one.

But literary idiosyncrasy aren’t my only problems. I’m also blessed with a couple of fun medical problems that make writing—and reading—more difficult for me than for other people. For one, I have a horrible memory. Like, horrendously bad. Like if my life depended on recalling five words in specific order…

Another problem I have is a very short attention span, which prompts me to shift trains of thoughts midway through. I don’t know if I have ADD or I’m just easily distracted by sparkly things, but more often than not, I have trouble staying focused on one thing for more than a few minutes at a time without some serious effort.

These are really minor issues that I’m sure all people have to some degree or another; a more serious problem that has developed over the years involves my vision. When I was about sixteen, I lost some vision in my right eye. The loss literally hit overnight. One day all was well, the next, I couldn’t see someone’s nose if I covered my good eye. The doctors saw nothing to explain it, and just told me it would get better in time. It never did. Almost fifteen years later, I woke up with more blurs over my other eye. These came and went, and I was able to go to the doctor in time for them to find out that I had a blockage one of the veins behind my eye. They cleared it up, before I lost too much of my vision, and they finally discovered the cause of my problem. Which is to say, they can keep the damage from spreading, but not reverse it.

Hip-hip-hooray, that’s something, but there’s a downside to that as well. The medicine I have to take to keep me from losing more of my vision causes me to get extremely tired. And since I did manage to lose some vision in my left eye as well, I now have blurs that I have to read around, which means I have a hell of a time, getting through a novel without nodding off, or misreading every other word. Recreational reading has become anything but recreational, as it can be frustrating, tedious and annoying long to get through a full-length novel.  Needless to say, spell checking my own work is quite troublesome and sometimes hilarious, because I’ll often not see smaller words that fall into my blind spots, so I’ll have a lot of ‘ofs’ and ‘its,’ that I should have erased all over my manuscript–apologies to my editor for all the extra work this gives them.

But don’t feel too bad for me. I’m getting by, and still writing away, albeit, at a much slower pace than I used to be capable of. Plus, falling asleep has never been easier. My wife isn’t too thrilled about me always nodding off in the middle of a conversation—even if I’m the one talking—but hey, it makes for some funny stories to tell our friends.

Like with all things in life, you have to adjust. So I got a text reader to read back my story to me so I can have a better chance of catching my mistakes. So I learn to read standing up or while doing some other activity, to make sleeping less likely. So I learn to accept that no matter how many times I reread something, I’m going tod leb typoos in them. And in the end, I find it more ironic that all of these little annoyances are made more annoying only because I decided to be a writer. If I’d chosen to be a male stripper, none of these issues would have factored into the success of my career.
But as it stands—and until I can completely P90X—I’m stuck in my career and will not be able to transition into another field just yet. Which is fine with me, because I like writing far more than I like dancing anyway.

First Edits

Hello people, just me swinging in to remind you,that I’m still here, much to everyone’s chagrin, and my own surprise. And since I’m here, I’d like to share with you a little slice of comedy that is the chocolate pie of my life. As you may know, I’ve recently been granted a stay of execution from the monotony of being an unpublished writer, and have signed with Fantasy Works Publishing for my book series, Soul Broker. Naturally, I was excited by this news, and have been doing a happy jig ever since—which makes walking to work a little awkward, but I don’t care. It’s only been a month, and already, I’ve been given my first set of edits for the my upcoming book, Soulless. While I’m still doing a jig with every step I take, that jig is now clumsy and lethargic, and full of more face-plants than I have words in my novel.

Why, you might ask? Well, you might as well ask because I’m going to tell you. Because after having read and reread my manuscript, having someone beta-read it, and then converting it to an audio file so I could listen to it, I apparently left a graveyard full of debris in my story that my poor editors must now comb through and point out to me. I’m sure this makes them feel like third grade teachers pointing out when to use ‘affect’ and ‘effect,’ to children, but there’s little I can do about it now. I would say that this dose of reality has been a humbling experience, but I have had years of rejection letters to humble me good and proper. Still, I was surprised, and somewhat amused, because even at my age, I am still learning about the trade.

Well, it doesn’t help that the acceptable rules keep changing. One of the biggest changes I found out about was that it is no longer proper to double space in between sentences. When I saw that I instantly felt like an old man on a rocking chair, belligerently shaking a fist at a group of literary teenagers, shouting, “When I was your age, punctuation marks and capital letters stayed two spaces apart! Show some respect for your serif! You’re practically dry-humping your words together!”

So, needless to say, it’s been a rough but education week of editing. The downside of which is, I find it difficult to work on any other projects because I’m almost always working on edits. And that’s just one fourth of the edits. I have lots more to go, and when I’m done with that round, they’ll be another round waiting in the wings like an overzealous ballerina chomping at the bit for her cue to come so she can make her grand entrance.

But you shouldn’t write if you’re not ready to rewrite. It’s a fundamental truth about this craft that you have to learn to swallow your pride and take criticism. Other people’s opinions of your work help to show you what parts of your narrative convey the proper message, and what parts don’t. So, I will read my edits, take stock of my manuscript, and do my best to make the best product I can. And along the way, I’ll try not to smash my head into a wall while I partake in this educational experience.

I Have No Idea What Im Doing!

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing!!!

Hello again, people. I didn’t expect to have this next post up so soon, because I literally had no idea what I would write about, but decide it might be fun for you all to follow along as I crumple into a corner and rock with anxiety over the newfound responsibility that I’ve manage to foolishly heap upon myself. That’s not to say that I’m not immensely grateful or happy about the turn my life has taken, nor am I suggesting that I have more on my plate than the average person might have. But for me, a social zombie who runs from any public or even semi-public interactions like I am being chased by the Cloverfield monster, stepping out into the light and talking about myself is daunting. That I have to do so in more than one site and in more than one way, to me, is overwhelming and confusing. In short, as the title stated, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Two months ago when I found out I was going to have one of my short stories, “Cold,” published on the website, Grey Matter, I was happy and hopeful for my writing career. A few weeks later when I found out that another short story, “Playing in Shadows” was going to be published on another website, This Dark Matter, I was even more excited. Until the editor asked for a headshot. Then I groaned, complained, gritted my teeth, told myself it would just be this one time, took a few pictures, tried to convince my wife to allow me to hire a stand-in to pretend to be me, argued that each picture had too much of my face in it to be sent, revisited my brilliant idea to hire a stand-in, and finally gave in and sent the picture, while silently praying that a digital Mack truck would demolish the 1 megabyte picture and leave its pieces strewn across the information super highway. It was a good plan, but alas, the picture arrived safely. But I consoled myself with the knowledge that I’d probably never have to do that again. Right?

Well, the next week I received an email from Jen Leigh of Fantasy Works Publishing about a manuscript I’d sent to her. She wanted to sign that book and any potential sequels. Jackpot!! Dream come true! I did some back-flips in celebration. Okay, I didn’t actually do physical, corporeal, in-this-plain-of-existence back-flips, but inside my head I was tumbling around like a hairy Mary Lou Retton.

And then I received an email from the Marketing Director of FWP and I face planted like a sack of cement-filled potatoes. They had a very detailed marketing plan that necessitated my participation in many forms of social media. This might not be hard for some, but for someone who only has a Facebook page and rarely even posts, comments or likes anything on it, I felt as if I’d been dropped into the middle of the ocean. So I was suddenly scrambling to create a Twitter account, a Google+ account, a Facebook Author Page, and a personal blog. Worse yet, I had to…(cringing)…talk about myself in each of these forums, write a bio, a description of myself, my likes—all stuff I’m sure nobody but my mother would care to read about. Then I started panicking that my mother would read them all and start posting well-meaning but ultimately embarrassing comments about how that picture reminded her of when I was a chubby little baby or about how I don’t call her enough and should come visit more often.

I know if anyone besides my mother is reading this, you probably already have a voice on some or all of these social media platforms and, to you, it’s all second nature. To me, the whole process, top to bottom, is so far removed from second nature it’s technology—specifically an alien technology requiring three-fingered alien palm prints to activate and a one-eyed alien retinal scan to navigate through. I spent all of yesterday and much of today, dumbfoundedly staring at my computer screen, trying to set up these platforms; trying to figure out why after only posting one picture on my FB Author Page, four popped up; trying to figure out what button to press to add a new post to my blog; trying to understand how Twitter even works, who to follow, when, and for how long; trying to change a color on a background; trying to pretend I didn’t have a moment where I thought I’d suddenly gotten a hundred likes on my page when I saw a button with the number one hundred on it; trying to wrap my head around who to favorite, retweet, like, and why, and what any of it even means; and trying not to sound like I’m full of myself every time I have to write a bio for one of these sites.

All in all, it’s been a crazy, sleepless, whirlwind experience that has left me bald from pulling out what little hair nature has allowed me to keep, blind from searching each webpage for an edit button, and hypertensive from worrying that I was going to make a fool of myself. And I’m loving every ungodly minute of it. Worse yet, I’m looking forward to seeing where this ride takes me.

Just more proof that I have no idea what I’m doing.