Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 9:46am

Hello Lit Reactor.

I've written six articles so far here at LR for my Storyville column:

1. Finding Your Voice
2. Cover Letters
3. The Journey of "Rudy Jenkins Buries His Fears"
4. Duotrope.com and submitting short stories
5. Where to Find Ideas
6. Landing an Agent (upcoming)

What would you like to see in future columns? More craft stuff, more process, a general column of just questions and answers (or is that too much like what Erin does?). 

Just post up whatever sounds interesting. Maybe I'll do that for column number seven.

Thanks,
Richard

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest February 23, 2012 - 9:55am

Maybe an article on the four elements of craft represented on this site. I'd also like to see one on plotting.

Nighty Nite's picture
Nighty Nite from NJ is reading Grimscribe: His Lives and Works February 23, 2012 - 10:16am

I'd like to see more articles on craft, personally. Specifically, editing and revising stories.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 10:59am

cool, keep the ideas coming. 

Boone Spaulding's picture
Boone Spaulding from Coldwater, Michigan, U.S.A. is reading Solarcide Presents: Nova Parade February 23, 2012 - 11:09am

#1. Plotting - structure, free-form, and combinations.

#2. Revising and editing stories.

#3. Q & A sounds good - there is only one Q & A column, another occasional Q & A is not too much.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest February 23, 2012 - 11:18am

Outlining, pros and cons.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 11:19am

#1. Plotting - structure, free-form, and combinations. Yes 

#3. Q & A sounds good - there is only one Q & A column, another occasional Q & A is not too much. Yes

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 11:20am

Actually everything Boone said. 

.'s picture
. February 23, 2012 - 12:06pm

Novel length manuscripts. 

Promoting your work after you're published. 

Writing habits. 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 12:48pm

lot of people seem to like plotting. with a general Q&A coming in second. i had been thinking of writing one on how to reveal character by showing, not telling. or one on how to create layered settings. promotion is always a good one, but i feel like it's been done to death.

good stuff, guys.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters February 23, 2012 - 1:08pm

I think "how to reveal character by showing, not telling" would be very helpful to most everyone.  I was just having this conversation with another member. 

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry February 23, 2012 - 1:09pm

Richard, some of the people I've been talking to lately and I have been talking about reducing our reliance on pronouns to convey setting and action (including, but not limited to, "I").

I would love to see your thoughts on this.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry February 23, 2012 - 1:11pm

And I think Avery's suggestion is sorta locked in with mine like a binary star.  They orbit one another.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin February 23, 2012 - 1:11pm

I'm with Jack.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 1:22pm

showing, not telling"

You and Averydoll talking behind my back? LOL

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human February 23, 2012 - 1:26pm

Different ideas for a creative environment.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 1:28pm

Query letter formatting.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts February 23, 2012 - 1:28pm

I'd like to see something like dissecting a certain story line-by-line, showing why it needs to be there for story structure, detailing your own usages voice/style/imagery, adding a little commentary to the writing process of a particular piece.

Can't think of much else.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest February 23, 2012 - 1:43pm

 i had been thinking of writing one on how to reveal character by showing, not telling. or one on how to create layered settings.

I like both of those ideas.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 2:14pm

@matt.i.presume - i did a cover letter formatting article and my next one is on finding an agent, talks a little bit about query letters (which are usually very basic) so between the two i should have you covered.

1. revealing character through showing, not telling
2. plotting - what are the essential elements to a story (hook, conflict, resolution, etc.)
3. dissecting a story - why i did what i did (maybe on one of my Pushcart nominated stories)
4. setting - making it real without telling us every detail
5. promotion - what are the essentials, what works, and how not to annoy everyone

those five seem really interesting to me. let me chew on those. thanks, guys. i'll keep an eye on this thread in case there are some other ideas, but i like these five, a nice mix.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 2:15pm

Yeah I read it, but if you got your list, then you got it. Look forward to reading it. 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 2:37pm

@matt - queries are basically hook, mini-synopsis, bio and closing. that's all you need. if you want to look at one i'd be happy to send you mine for short stories and/or what i sent to agents.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 2:41pm

Def man! I was always told to make it look like movie trailer on paper. It was always a huge pain in the ass though if you ask me. Send it my way sir! 

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks February 23, 2012 - 2:42pm

Something I've thought of now and again- Balancing your personal life with your writing life. I think we can all relate to the problem of having to push people away when the laptop is calling. But at what point do we put writing down to maintain relationships, stay healthy, etc. I'm very lucky that I have a partner that is supportive of what I do, but I've had relationships fall apart due to me wanting to be a writer and not letting go of that. My last relationship in particular ended specifically over me not giving any kind of clear deadline over when I would give up writing and bartending and get a normal 9 to 5 job instead.

-bill

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 2:57pm

@americantypo - that's a great one, i'll put that one on the list too.

@matt.i.presume - can we attach documents in PMs here? otherwise drop me a note at wickerkat@aol.com and i'll send you some of what i use for queries, cover letters and a synopsis.

1. revealing character through showing, not telling
2. plotting - what are the essential elements to a story (hook, conflict, resolution, etc.)
3. dissecting a story - why i did what i did (maybe on one of my Pushcart nominated stories)
4. setting - making it real without telling us every detail
5. promotion - what are the essentials, what works, and how not to annoy everyone
6. balancing writing with the rest of the world - it IS a real job

Bruno Hat's picture
Bruno Hat from Glasgow, Scotland is reading writing and arithmetic February 23, 2012 - 3:04pm

I hear you Bill. Plenty of people hold down a relationship and still manage to do it - some of the best ever - but it's very difficult and I've gone down the "live like a monk" route to get to where I want to get to.

If I can throw my two pennies in I'd love to read something about conflict and plotting. I'm sick of reaching 50,000 words and the whole thing falls like a cheap tent. I've lost count of the amount of times it's happened to me. I think conflict is the key. I find characters fairly easy to write but conflict seems beyond me. Maybe it's because I'm such a laid back affable fellow but there you go.

I also realise it's almost impossible to ask you to explain plotting in an article but maybe even a little on conflict would be great.

As an aside, I read the Palahnuik essay on Diary (think it was Diary - I haven't read a lot of his books) and he talked us through the original plot, about a big house that consumes people, and then he trashed it because it wasn't good enough. To me the plot sounded amazing. The bastard, to be able to trash a plot like that :)

Cheers

Andy

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner February 23, 2012 - 3:04pm

showing not telling, there it is again, you sure you aren't talking to Averydoll behind my back? Haha, I drop ya an email. 

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. February 23, 2012 - 3:08pm

I agree with the promotion column idea.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 23, 2012 - 5:12pm

@bruno - yeah, the plotting thing i'll try to work out. seems to be a hot topic here.

@alien - yeah, promotion. gotta do it.

looks like i've got  a couple columns lined up, thanks guys.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. February 25, 2012 - 9:04am

After thinking about writing a horror story for a while for the Shock and Appall anthology project, I have to admit that I don't know what really defines horror.  Scary, shocking, or surprising happens in every story, so what makes it 'horror' (besides ghosts and serial killers).

I'd love a column that disects each genre.  Aliensoul77 did a great job of summing them up in the Litreactor Needs thread.  I can also look them up on Wikipedia.  Neither of those cover the techniques of writing specific genres, though (see the horror fiction entry).  

So, again, I'm asking for a definition (and now a guide) to writing some of the genres we can use to lable our stories.  

Not that we need all 23, but it would be an interesting ongoing project that you pick up whenever you are between good ideas and something that I would be interested in possibly buying as a book (shit, now I'm thinking of a short story example of each type by one of the litreactors).

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks February 25, 2012 - 10:00am

Thomas Ligotti wrote a really great piece on horror that's featured in the introduction to one of his short story collections (I think its in The Nightmare Factory).

Horror puts a person in a situation that, in reality, would come close to destroying them. People that love horror do so because its a means to surviving a thing we're afraid of. This can differ from person to person. That was the basic gist of the Ligotti article.

And there are many different genres to horror and levels as well. Horror can make you laugh and cry and scream and everything else in between. It can be over the top or just really brooding. It can be bloody or not a single injury can be inflicted. It can be sublime or it can be your neighbor's tendency for violence.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 25, 2012 - 10:23am

^gerat idea, BH. i'll keep that in mind. i do think writing horror is hard, and i recently won a contest at Cafe Doom / One Buck Horror with a story that i really wasn't sure worked. but i felt like the TENSION, the actual HORROR of it all was kind of intense. so i think we could for sure visit that, the idea of what horror is.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. February 26, 2012 - 6:23pm

One thing I have a hard time with, Richard is I like writing horror but it always involves sexuality or cussing or violence in some way and a lot of so-called horror publications say they don't want that. I don't get it. I mean I don't think I use it to excess but I would like your opinion.  I'm not just saying this to get reads but on the story I did for the thunderdome contest with Panda, it's called Remnants, that is a straight up horror story. I just want to know, if you have the time to read it, what you think? Is that too graphic for a typical horror market? Are they looking for more subtle? I would like to try sending out stuff again but I get so frustrated because I find a lot of horror markets are very conservative with subject matter. I don't think horror has to be all blood and guts and profanity and rape but I do like to add some grotesque aspects when I write it.  I also wrote another story that is sort of horror in the workshop called, "Alternate Universes and Acceptance Letters" and it's written all in the form of query letters by a psychotic writer to a publisher. Now that was very experimental and I'm wondering if a publisher might find that format too weird.  I mean what magazines have you found that really take chances on experimental horror pieces or stuff that is really graphic? and that actually pay would be nice.

.'s picture
. February 26, 2012 - 6:29pm

Meh, I wouldn't limit it to just horror. I think Kitts is looking for anything transgressive as long as it's over-the-top without going for pure shock value. Okay, so Jack Ketchum is classified as horror (most of his books) but he's also thinking stories like "Guts" which I don't think is classifed as horror.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts February 26, 2012 - 7:08pm

When you write graphic horror you're writing to a very niche market. So out of the top horror markets that you're aiming at you've cut that down to the handful of trusted magazines that run stuff that dark or graphic, and then the few no-pay rags on the internet that are a step above delegating a story to the trash bin. That's pretty much how it's gonna be, unless you write wider appealing stuff or get lucky with a few of the big markets or good anthologies. Get comfortable with that handful of places to keep submitting to, maybe you build up a relationship with them. I've felt like there's only 4 or 5 places that pay that would except the kind of bloody crime stories I been writing.

.'s picture
. February 26, 2012 - 8:52pm

Well said Renny. 

If we have as many big names attached to it as Psychosis, I don't think we will have to go the self-publishing route. Knock on wood. 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 26, 2012 - 9:37pm

@alien - there's all kinds of horror. my contest winner at One Buck Horror was not graphic at all. but other places want gore and boogeymen and all different kinds of stuff. write what makes you happy and then try to find a market for it. i've definitely written some graphic stuff. i'd say in general that there aren't that many horror markets out there, either really great or kind of horrible. very little in between. if you search duotrope you'll get some great ideas for sure (Shock Totem, Shroud, Shimmer, Cemetery Dance, Dark Discoveries, etc.)

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks February 27, 2012 - 7:50am

I'd tend to agree- there's a ton of different markets out there for horror. A lot of places will say if they want "soft horror" or "quiet horror" and you probably won't be able to submit anything too hardcore to them.

Its also not a bad prompt to try and write something without a lot of violence, but still make it scary. I think that's harder in some ways. Some of the best horror films have very little violence in them, in my opinion. Sometimes violence can become cartoonish and you risk overwhelming a reader's senses with something that does little more than make them think of an image, rather that a feeling. Which is like... the difference between any Jason movie vs The Descent (violent, sure, but the worst scenes are the ones that make you feel claustrophobic).

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three February 29, 2012 - 9:59am

Hey Richard,

Personally I enjoy reading articles about people's most beloved writing resources or perhaps books that caused leaps in a writer's story telling abilities.

As well, a discussion on rewriting specifically with regards to dissecting/accepting/rejecting criticism would also be helpful to many writers as well as maybe a discussion on the theory behind what a story really is as this pertains dirrectly to rewriting and criticism. You see, if you believe that a story is something you excavate or build then what you are really doing is tearing down the parts that don't work and polishing the parts that do, much like sculpting. But I think many writers let their fiction push them around and treat their fiction as a precious dream that cannot be tampered with- which is fine, although rather constraining and can hinder a writer's growth. Anyhow, an article on the relationship between the writer and their writing and how that affects the writing process and product good and bad I'm sure would be an interesting read and helpful column for other writers.

Cheers,

Nikki

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies February 29, 2012 - 12:27pm

^hey, nikki, great to see you posting up here.

interesting thoughts, nikki. i'm not a huge fan of revision, but i do have at least one example of a story i wrote that was cut down to one paragraph, moved to the front, and rewritten. my professor and i disagreed on the story. one became "Tinkering With the Moon" which was accepted by Gargoyle magazine, the other i'm just shopping now, entitled "Garage Sales," two VERY different stories. let me chew on that idea.

a piece on revision, how to deal with criticism, what advice to take, what to ignore, that would be cool, too.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers February 29, 2012 - 2:19pm

Dialogue; what works, what doesn't work, including how to tag. Nothing takes me out of a story faster than reading dialogue that doesn't work, or is tagged improperly.

Tense; picking the right one, maintaining it throughout.

 

If I think of more, I'll let you know, but there are some I will keep for future WriterDrome columns.

 

.'s picture
. March 1, 2012 - 5:29am

I like Bob's idea regarding tense

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies March 1, 2012 - 7:09am

hey bob, great to see you here. dialogue, yeah, that's a good one. tense, that's tough, but let me think about it, and how the various tenses add or subtract. good stuff.

_'s picture
_ March 1, 2012 - 7:26am

Hey Richard, I really like Nikki's idea. Could you clarify what you mean here?

interesting thoughts, nikki. i'm not a huge fan of revision

Do you mean you don't revise your stories much, but rather just have them workshopped for editing purposes? I find the workshop very helpful, but if I were to revise with every comment considered, I think my voice would become buried.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies March 1, 2012 - 8:42am

@collins - my professor at MSU would sometimes tell us to write a desktop revision, meaning, put that story in a drawer, and start rewriting, only referring to the original when needed. i hated that. i fought it often. the one time i did it, i just ended up getting two different stories out of it.

my process is different then some, i imagine. i think about something, a story, a line, an image, and keep it with me. sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. and then, when i sit down, it pours out. i don't like to cut my stories apart, to move scenes around, to fracture the narrative i have on the page. i don't plot out either, i just follow my instincts and the story, and see where it takes me. it always feels fresh, and not forced, that way. 

when i workshop, either here, or at Write Club, i do listen to suggestions, and if there are typos or tense shifts or something isn't clear, i do make changes. but, i try to follow my instincts, and often i won't change something simply because somebody doesn't get it. if ten people find it vague, maybe i'll clear it up a little bit.

i had a story "Stillness" in the Shivers VI anthology (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub. i was worried that my story was too vague, that the editor wouldn't get it. they got it, and in fact, asked me to trim it back a little bit, cut out a few lines. THEY felt like i was giving it away. these were professional editors, so i listened to them. they said the audience was smart, they'd get it. 

do keep your own voice. but also be open to suggestions. sometimes one phrase can radically alter a story, make it so much better. maybe it's the opening line, maybe it's the ending line, or maybe you open with a different scene. but keep your language, your voice. 

hope that helps.

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff March 1, 2012 - 9:48am

do keep your own voice. but also be open to suggestions. sometimes one phrase can radically alter a story, make it so much better. maybe it's the opening line, maybe it's the ending line, or maybe you open with a different scene. but keep your language, your voice.

I feel this a lot. It's great to have you here, Richard.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies March 1, 2012 - 9:49am

thanks! glad it struck a chord with you. always glad to be here. appreciate the kind words.

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks March 1, 2012 - 10:40am

I think a column on what Nikki wrote would be good. I totally agree with her actually. I feel like stories are unearthed and sometimes you drag a lot of stuff out of the ground that doesn't really below with the skeleton of your story. I think stories are found things, and we're just editors when all is said and done.

My process, for what its worth, is to do a first draft and change it as I like as I write it. And usually when I'm about 2/3 through or finished, I'll open up a whole new word file and retype the whole thing and let the story diverge where it feels appropriate. Which is to say, I'm using my instincts as an editor for my own work and its a lot easier to make drastic changes when the page is blank as opposed to having it all in front of you. In other words- its harder to press the delete button than it is to just write new stuff altogether.

I think everyone's process is different. Richard, for all his success, has a process that would NEVER work for me. In fact, beyond the basic idea of a story, I never think about it until I'm sitting down and writing. Which isn't to say that what I'm doing is wrong or what he's doing is right. Everyone has to find what works for them. And my process fits me pretty good. The first story I ever sold (and hopefully more to come), was a story I had written numerous drafts of, all significantly different, until finally settling on something that I felt worked. Its very easy for me to let a story go where it shouldn't for fair amount of pages. And that it shouldn't is only clearly seen when I've let it sit for a day or two and start fresh, rewriting the whole thing. That's usually when I feel deep in my gut that I've made a mistake with my work. And that's also when I know, instinctively, what direction I should take it, because knowing what doesn't work also feeds into my intuition of what will work.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies March 1, 2012 - 11:03am

^for sure. in the end, it's what works for YOU. some love to plot it all out. some tear a story apart and radically alter. some start with a basic idea and just let it flow. 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three March 1, 2012 - 11:17am

Hey guys, glad to be here. Thx for the nice welcome. Just spitballing. Had a couple more ideas about things I rarely see discussed in depth but for which I found extremely helpful to consider so maybe others might.

An interesting article would be about how to use language to evoke things, use of subtext, negative space, seductive language, lyical flow etc ... techniques used to make the readers mind fill in things so the writer doesn't have to and to create a richer experience for the reader.

Also, the psychology and relationship between the writer and reader isn't discussed much other than the basics like making the reader "trust" you etc which is fine but seduction is so much yummier than trust and I think we are all more than willing to suspend our disbelief as readers if there is a glimmer of seduction.

And I can't speak for everyone but I know that my best writing comes when I'm really jerking the reader's chain, trying to provoke a certain response in a scene so I can build on that and do it again and again so they are utterly at my mercy and incapable of any level of scrutiny capable of taking them out of the story.

Cheers,

Nikki

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies March 1, 2012 - 11:58am

^wow, nikki, great stuff.

language and subtext, layered meanings, seduction, yes, oh yes. but how to talk about that.

that ties in directly to the relationship between writer and reader, and to be honest, i'm always trying to seduce my readers. probably why i write in first person so much, to make it more intimate. i've never been the kind to tell you about a story, but rather, to pull you into it and make you experience it, first hand. seducing the reader, i like that. has potential. 

the last thing you mention, setting up the reader for a fall, taking risks and making them commit, only to betray that trust (or fulfill it), that's very interesting too. 

the twist ending, that could be a good article. 

also, narrative hooks, that could be a good one as well.

1. revealing character through showing, not telling
2. plotting - what are the essential elements to a story (hook, conflict, resolution, etc.)
3. dissecting a story - why i did what i did (maybe on one of my Pushcart nominated stories)
4. setting - making it real without telling us every detail
5. promotion - what are the essentials, what works, and how not to annoy everyone
6. balancing writing with the rest of the world - it IS a real job
7. writing a narrative hook
8. endings that matter, twisted and otherwiese
9. writing horror - tension, fear and the unexpected (or expected)
10. revision - how much, when to take advice, when to stay committed
11. dialogue - how does it work best, tags, and using it to move the story along
12. seducing and manipulating the reader