Blog In Process of Moving: Update Your Bookmarks!

12 10 2008

As Moonsnails Magazine no longer exists, I am currently in the process of moving the posts off of this blog to my other site: Once all the posts have been moved this blog will be deleted as I no longer update it. Sorry.


Conventional Advice that Didn’t Work for Her (or Me Either!)…

14 04 2007

Patricia A. Duffy says that when it comes to writing,  “Conventional Advice Wouldn’t Work for Me”.  After reading her article, I have to say that basicly, she has said pretty much what I would have said, and what I do say, whenever someone asks me.

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

1) Write every day.

This piece of advice is repeated in almost every book on “how to write.” Maybe some people need this sort of discipline, but I would find it counterproductive. Sometimes I write feverishly every day. Sometimes real life intervenes. I have a demanding job and a family. If I believed I had to write every day, even when I absolutely had no time, I’d quickly grow to hate writing and I’d stop doing it. Mostly, I have more ideas than I have time to process, so “forcing myself to write” is not a problem. And during those periods when “real life” heats up and I can’t write, I don’t feel any guilt. Why should I? Writing isn’t a religious penance or a health routine. It’s something I enjoy.

My responce to what she says:

You’ve heard it preached from the pulpit of every sacred book on writing: WRITE EVERY DAY!!!

Now ask yourself this: What does writing mean to you? Is writing a hobby or a career? How did you answer?

A hobby?

If you think of writing as a hobby, than who cares when you write? No one. If you write as a hobby, than who cares if your writing gets sloppy? No one. If you write as a hobby, than who cares if you ever get published? No one. If you write as a hobby, than by all means writer seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, because you know what? If you are writing because writing is a hobby, no one cares. Why? Because hobby writers write for their own pleasure. If they get published, it’s a great big WOO-HOO! for themselves and their family. But very few hobby writers ever get published. Why? Because they are content to post their stories on message boards and web-sites and blogs. They are happy to see their work on the internet. Writing after all is just a hobby to them. They are content with what they do.  So, for writers who write as a hobby, it is not important when they write, because their family is not dependant on the writing. Just search on Google for Fan-Fiction. Millions of stories are posted all over the internet, but because they are written by hobby writers, tthose stories well never be printed in books. They well never be published, but no one cares, not even the writer. So why than does it matter if the hobby writer writes every day?

Let’s look at the other side of this story.

Now ask yourself this once again: What does writing mean to you? Is writing a hobby or a career? How did you answer?

A career?

I ask you: What is your day job? Do you  wait tables? Drive a school  bus? Are you a cashier at the local super market? Maybe you teach high-school geography? Whatever it is that you do for your day job, ask yourself this: How many days do you work each week? A few well say three, some well say four, almost all of you well say five. By law your employer is required to give you at least two days off each week. That’s a law. That law is enforced. If an employer asks you to work more than five days a week, they are required to pay you time and a half. That too is a law. Why? Because even the government knows that you can’t get the job done if you are not given a day or two of rest. If you work seven days a week, you well run down, wear out and get sloppy. Your work well suffer, because you didn’t get a day off.

So, we come back to your answer: Why do you write? Hobby or career? If you said career, than you know that being a writer is just like every other 9 to 5 job. Nine o clock you sit down at your desk and you start writing. Around noon you take an hour break for lunch. After lunch it’s back to your desk to write until five. Five o clock comes around and no matter how compelled you are to keep writing, you put down your pen, turn off the light and don’t go back to your desk again until tomorrow morning when nine o clock rolls around again. Like any other job, you take the weekend off. Why? Because for you writing is more than a hobby. For you writing is what puts food on the table. For you writing is what puts clothes on your children. Writing just paid for your teenager’s PS3. Writing pays the mortage. Writing pays the vet bills caused by the recent pet-food recall. You write because writing is your career, your job, your livelyhood. For you writing is not a hobby. You can’t afford to let you writing get sloppy and you know that, which is why you also know that it is foolish for you or any other writer to think that it is in your best interest to write every day.

And that is  why I do not write every day.

Moving on to myth #2…

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

2. Don’t Edit Until the First Draft is Done.

I edit obsessively as I go along. I like rewriting things. I can’t imagine another way to write and would be utterly incapable of completing that first draft if I didn’t do it this way.

My responce to what she says:

This, I think, depends on the writer and what they are writing about at the time. Personaly I do not believe in editing as you write, as a general rule. Why? I find that when I am writing, I  write better if I don’t stop. I have learned to ignore typos and spelling mistakes, to turn a blind eye to bad grammar, and to not listen when my mind says I should go back and re-write what I just wrote. Why? Because if I stop, it creates a speed bump. That speed bump slows me down and causes me to go lose track of what it was I was writing. So I find myself going back to where I had stopped, because I have to re-read what I wrote several times before I can remember where it was I was going with that train of thought. In a sence by stopping to edit while I was writing, I have now derailed my writing train, and put it back on a new track, and it just can’t get back onto that old track, because the old track for some odd reason is no longer there. On a road, a speed bump just jostles your car a bit and make you slow down, but on a train track, that same little speed bump not only jostles the train, but knocks it off track and sends it flying into the oncoming train on the other track. That speed bump is now a mangled mess of crumpled train cars, which ow must be towed away and tossed into  a junk heap. A huge rusted junk heap towering high above your head. The next thing you know you can’t write anything at all because all there is is a pile of mangled wreckage. You have hot a writer’s block.

So, where are we now? Well, for me, stopping to edit while I’m still writing is the deadliest thing that can happen while I’m writing. Usually, but not always. This is just me though, and as I said, all writers are differant.

Moving on…

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

3. Use Note cards or Notebooks to Organize Ideas

Even the thought of using index cards to organize fiction ideas is almost enough to make me run screaming into traffic. In my mind, these little cards will forever be associated with undergraduate term papers. I don’t use notebooks because I hate to write longhand. I do all my writing on the word processor — even background notes for novels. Actually, I prefer to do background for novels as short stories, even lame short stories with no chance of selling. I see things better that way.

My responce to what she says:

As most of you know, I never went to school. I can’t identify with term papers because I’ve never had one, let alone seen one, and I’m not realy sure what they are, except that everyone who talks about school talks about term papers too. I’m not sure what an undergraduate is, I’ll look it up next time I’ve got my dictionary at hand. For those who have followed my posts on the net since 1997, you already know that when I joined the internet world, it was my first time typing. I had never used a keyboard before in my life. Likewise, I had also never learned how to spell. I wrote at that time in what I have since been told is a form of a “native lingo of my own invention, cause by lack of previous contact with humans”. In 1997, I first I joined the internet, and became an over night celebrity, not because I posted on every forum and chat room I could find, but because people were fascinated by my complete and total lack of any ability to spell. In the years since that time, my fan following grew to a cult status as people set out to teach me how to spell via online forums.

Than came a revilation to the world, that no one had befor known: My books, the Twighlight Manor seires, several thousand pages, and countless drafts of each, had never seen typewritter, I had written all of them in longhand. The manuscipts where totally written in bright colored notebooks with Lisa Frank art on the covers: thousands of them. Some 40 boxs worth of notebooks, stacked floor to ceiling. Noetbooks that I have been writing in since 1978. Thirty years worth of notebooks.

Today, I still write my books in longhand. I still hand write all of my manuscripts in bright colored children’s note books. To date, I have only ever written one outline. I have never used index cards. I do not type my manuscripts until after haveing hand written several drafts. I do not organize my ideas, my ideas flow from my mind at a rapid rate, and I write them as they come. No notes. No note taking. They are not my style.  They do not work for me.

And finally we come to:

According to Patricia A. Duffy:

4. Keep a Story Circulating until it Sells.

This is another piece of almost universal advice that I don’t follow. I tend to select my markets rather carefully. If something is rejected at the market I’ve thought most probable for it, I will normally only try it on one or two other markets before giving up (or in some cases no other markets). Although there are a lot of magazine markets for speculative short fiction, there are actually relatively few professional markets for speculative short fiction of any given type. I guess my economics training makes me weight the possible benefit (payment for a story) by my subjective evaluation of the “odds” of being published in that magazine. If the weighted payoff is less than the postage, I put the story in a drawer and work on another one.

My responce to what she says:

In some cases, this is true, in others it is not.

Some times I write for copyrighted characters not of my own making. For these stories there is only one publisher that I can legally send the stories to. If they reject the story, than that’s it. It can’t be sent to anyone else.

More often I write stories of characters of my own invention, and for these, I can choose any publisher I damn well please. I can also choose who I DO NOT want to publish it. Than again I can also choose to do what I usually do, and that is to self publish my stories. That is how I came to own my own publishing house. It is through owning my publishing house that I came to become an editor. Today I am a writer, a publisher, and an editor, because I reserved the right to choose when, where, and to whom I sent my manuscripts too: no one!

Well, that is my take on what Patricia A. Duffy says that when it comes to writing,  “Conventional Advice Wouldn’t Work for Me”


Story Ideas From The Random Sentence Generator

14 04 2007

Here are a few story ideas from The Random Sentence Generator. Now the Random Sentence Generator comes up with some mighty strage and pretty random sentances as you can see, but I’m sure that each one is just strange enough to inspire a story or two. Think of each one as a writing exercise. Use it to write a short story. Maybe you could use each one to write three stories: one science fiction, one fantasy, one horror.

Here they are:

A divided existence gossips.

The rampant friend halves the extra inhabitant.

How will a stair await a provisional human?

The attempted gold rents a surprise.

Under the guy orbits each cosmology.

The bulb asks the overview opposite any restricting heart.

The fond inventor frowns the novel cupboard.

A light studies the backbone.

Why not try The Random Sentence Generator out for yourself, see what kind of ideas it gives you.

Random Word Brainstorming

14 04 2007

So, you want to write a story for Moonsnails but you are not sure what to write about? The Random Word Brainstorming might help you out. Here’s how it works:

First off, tell it what you want to do. For this example I told it:

Need to write a 7,500 word short story for a science fiction magazine.

Click the button:

Your random word is:   truth

What does the random word bring to mind? Jot down some quick thoughts in the box below. Use one line for each.

I wrote:

Government corruption

clicked the button, came up with:

The Situation: Printer Friendly Version
Need to write a 7,500 word short story for a science fiction magazine.
Your random word is:   truth
Idea:  Justice
Aliens seek justice after a band of humans buries the truth about them.
Idea:  Bible
The Bible turns out the be the truth, but what a frightening truth it is, as an alien ship boarded by winged angles as described from the book of Revelations (with 7 heads, and 9 wings and a screamig mouth on each feather) lands with their lion headed dragons, and tells the world that they are our creators and this is armagedon.
Idea:  Government corruption
A small town leader sets out to pamper his greed at the expence of the locals, what he didn’t know was that this town was in the Twighlight Zone.

You can go ahead and use these ideas if you’d like. Try this Idea Generator for yourself and see how many story ideas you can brainstorm out  of your head. Other brainstorming ideas that would work for Moonsnails:

Need to write a 5,000 word short story for a horror magazine.

Need to write a 13,000 word short story for a fantasy magazine.

Need to write a 1,500 word short story for Moonsnails magazine.

Need to write a 2,500 word short story about a dragon.

Need to write a 9,000 word short story about merfolk and sea monsters for Moonsnails magazine.

Need to write a 10,000 word short story for Moonsnails magazine, about time travel and dinosaurs.

The Three Great Myths of Writing

13 04 2007

Everyone knows that the great writers follow hard and fast rules for writing. The great writers are thought to have some secret code, some vast conspiracy that only they know about and are withholding from all the unpublished writers of the world. Everyone knows this. Everyone. Don’t they? This must be true, otherwise why would every would be writer seek out to approach the great published writers for some insight into knowing “the secret to being published”?

Uhmmm? Do these people REALLY believe that writers are holding back some great secret? That’s just… well… weird.

I often wonder why it is that would be writers spend so much time seeking out the secrets of great writing instead of doing what the great writers they are seeking do, which is to sit down at a desk and writer. Successful writers are to busy writing to head out seeking the secrets of writing and there in lays their success.

Today I found this article. Great stuff. If you are one of those who seeks out the secrets of writing success, you might want to read this before seeking any farther:

The Three Great Myths of Writing

by Joan Marie Verba

For a long time, many people thought that they could get warts from handling frogs. Now we know that this was a myth–something “everyone” thought was true, but which had no basis in fact.

Writing, too, has its own mythology. In writing, as in everything else, mythology is perpetuated for a reason. People use myths to explain phenomena they do not understand, or to deal with realities they do not wish to face, or to avoid confronting the fact that events are often random and unfair. Because myths have such powerful uses, myths are seldom questioned, and people become very upset when their cherished myths are challenged. But myths, because they are untrue, can cause people who believe in them to feel hurt or lost or confused when they rely on these myths to guide their actions.

That is why I believe that writers should become aware of the myths that exist in our profession. In my experience, I have discovered three myths which I believe are particularly misleading, and are worth further discussion.

Myth #1: If your writing is good, you will have no trouble selling your stories; if you are not selling your writing, it means your stories are no good.

This myth has a factual basis. A lot of writing does get rejected because it is poor. But the myth, as repeated by many experienced writers, is that good writing guarantees acceptance and, conversely, non-acceptance surely means that the writing is poor. To debunk this myth, researchers have recently taken classic novels–The Yearling comes to mind as an example–and submitted them as manuscripts to publishers. These were seldom recognized by the publishers, and almost universally rejected. The reason is that publishers nowadays are less interested in the quality of writing than they are in the commercial potential of the writing. If the publisher thinks the writing will sell, even if the manuscript is flawed, the publisher may be inclined to buy it. If the publisher thinks the manuscript will not sell, the publisher may not take it no matter how well it is written. This, for instance, explains rejection slips which say, “good writing, we just don’t want to publish it.”

Myth #2: Once you sell a book, or several short stories, you will not have any trouble getting an agent, and you will not have any trouble selling any more of your own writing.

I recently read an interview with an award-winning author who said that she was not able to get an agent until after she sold her fourth novel. Another author, a friend of mine, also worked out her fourth book contract without an agent, though she was able to get an agent for her fifth. I know a third author who has had five novels published, but for the past three years has not been able to find anyone interested in the two novels she has written since then. And I recently read an account from a writer whose first book sold tens of thousands of copies who reported that she did not have an agent for her first book, and has had trouble finding an agent for her second.

With so many counter-examples cropping up, this myth is beginning to lose its hold, though it still persists. My guess is that those who perpetuate this myth are the lucky authors who were able to find an agent after (or even before) their first book came out, and had no trouble finding a publisher for any novel they wrote thereafter. Such authors do exist, but I suspect they are not as numerous as mythology would have it.

Myth #3: If you follow the advice of experienced authors, you are certain to get published.

I recall the advice that the late science fiction author Robert Heinlein had for writers: write, finish what you write, and keep sending the manuscript to publishers until it sells. Experienced authors tend to add other advice: study the markets, improve your skills, and so forth. This third myth is very seductive because the advice is sound. But the fact is that novices can read and follow every word of advice that experienced writers print and still not get published. The problem is not simply that no method works for everyone, and to say that writers must find a method that works for their particular situation is too superficial. The problem is that many writers who give advice imply–if they do not say it outright–that any writer who follows their advice will absolutely, positively, get published….now, if not sooner.

This leaves novices who follow such advice beating their heads against the wall in frustration. (“But I did everything J. Doe said in the article ‘How to Get Your Story Published’ and I still have not placed my story.”) Novices will be helped, instead, if they are told that writing is a complex task involving a lot of intangibles and random variables (or, in other words, luck). Authors need to be told that no one piece of advice will guarantee acceptance; at best, following good advice merely increases the probability of publication.

Writing, as a profession, is tough enough without well-intentioned authors passing along useless myths. A writer who has a stack of unpaid bills on one hand and a stack of rejection slips on the other is not helped by being told that if the writing is good, it will sell; or that once the first story is sold, there will be no problem selling the next one; or that if the writer just follows J. Doe’s advice, the acceptances will start rolling in. Encouragement and reassurance need to be based on a realistic appraisal of the obstacles writers inevitably face. Writers can and do sell stories. Good writers can and do get rejected. Writers with track records can and do have problems placing succeeding stories. Advisors can and do fail to give suggestions that work.

I suspect there are other myths making the rounds, but either I have not yet come across them, or I have not yet found out that certain statements I have heard are myths. I am interested in hearing from anyone who has other myths to report (that is, myths that writers tell other writers, as opposed to myths that the public has about writers). Myths about writing may never disappear, even if exposed as falsehoods, but at least those of us who love frogs should be able to handle them without fearing that we will get warts.

© 1994 by Joan Marie Verba.

Permission to copy this essay is granted provided the copyright notice (previous line) is included.
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Info for Romance Writers…

12 04 2007

As you know I am always seeking out blogs and posts that are useful for writers. Today I found this one which I liked, and had to help promote. I hope you find it helpful:



April 11th, 2007

There are a couple of different places in blog land talking about rules.  Over at Dear Author, Jane raises some valid opinions about things like rape in romances, abuse, and infidelity.

PBW has another John and Marcia post up…  ;o) if you read PBW’s blog much, you’ll get an idea of what she thinks about rules.

Several authors and readers have apparently done some blogging about the rules of romanceland.  This is always an interesting topic to me…for several reasons.  It can be (usually at the same time) eye opening and entertaining to read the various viewpoints.  I think that I could have somebody summarize some of the blogs and I could tell you whether it was an author that wrote it, or a reader, just by the tone.

Authors don’t want to be told what to write.  (Nope, can’t say I blame them)

Readers don’t want to have surprises in their romances.  By surprises, I mean things like the hero sleeping around, the heroine sleeping around, the heroine getting raped, some sort of infidelity taking place.  (Can’t blame them either…there are certain things that I absolutely hate to read)… Read the rest of this entry »

What Does “Non-Genre” Mean?

11 04 2007

Many publications say they only accept “Non-Genre Fiction”. A common question writers ask is: “What is Non-Genre Fiction? Doesn’t all fiction have a genre?” I had just read this post and noticed a debate over what is the meaning of Genre Fiction VS Non-Genre Fiction had begun on it’s comments.  Being an editor, I think I can be of help here. So, here is my answer to that question. I hope that some of you find it helpful when submitting your future stories to publishers.When a publication says, “they’re non-genre focused”, they mean that they only want literary fiction and will automatically refuse all stories that a genre driven. A genre driven story is one that falls under the following: Romance




(and the many other such genres out there)

Genre driven stories are focused largely on promotion of their genre and the story focuses totally on that genre. I.e., a romance focuses on a girl’s romantic infatuation; a fantasy will focus on the life of elves wizards and he-men type characters fighting evil in a epic quest; sci-fi focuses on alien life forms traveling from one planet to the next and other such sci-fi type things; horror focuses on scaring the pants off the reader

When a publisher say “they’re non-genre focused” they want to see a slice-of-life story about the day (or week or year) in the life of so-and-so… this is what is known as non-genre or literary fiction. The story focuses on real-life type characters in real life type situations; stories that real like they could be the life of the guy next door or the girl down the road. Non-genre stories tell a story that is not dependant on a fantasy quest or the eloquent narration describing the alien landscape or the steamy sex-scenes. They simply tell a story about life and thus have no genre.

Well, that’s what I see it to mean. Feel free to comment on your own veiws as to the meaning of “non-genre”.



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