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Writing Standards?

by Jonathan 7 Comments

I’m an avid reader of fiction writing sites such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America or any of the blogs on my blog roll. I can’t get enough of learning how other people write, what elements make for good fiction, character development, etc. The more I read this stuff, though, the more it occurs to me that anyone can have the formula for writing, but they still need to the ability to write (or at least cultivate it) to make the story fly.

Im hanging on to read the next chapter

I'm hanging on to read the next chapter

I was thinking specifically of the concepts of beginning chapters with hooks and ending with cliffhangers that I came across at Fiction Writer’s Connection tip sheet on revising your manuscript. Does blindly following these techniques result in homogeneous writing, i.e., if you put all writing done according to these guidelines in a bin and pull one out, can you distinguish one author from another? I suspect the answer will be sometimes. Ultimately, it will be our ability to write well and develop a compelling story that will set us apart.

As competitive writing (commercial writing?) is a new concept to me, I’m trying to sort through all this stuff without worrying too much about it. It’s easy to slip down that rabbit hole and never find my way to completing my current project.

My five favorite sites for writing resources are:

  1. Wikipedia – Quick and easy reference for just about anything on earth. I find it a nice way to get an overview on a subject or delve into the particulars. Lots of links to other related sites within the side. Loads of outside links as well.
  2. Dictionary.com – Part of the larger Reference.com – Fairly self-explanatory.
  3. Google Alerts – I subscribe to alerts related to writing fiction. That’s the coolest – you can subscribe to any search terms relevant to your interests – just type in your keywords. I recommend the digest format to keep your alerts to a minimum. It’s a nice way to find things that you don’t see in your regular blog feeds. If you don’t subscribe, I highly recommend it.
  4. Any number of Agent Blogs (or all of them), especially those in your area of interest. These blogs are incestuous, but in a good way – Et In Arcaedia, Ego., Nathan Bransford, BookEnds, LLC, and Janet Reid.
  5. SpecFicWorld.com – a nice clearing house for all things speculative fiction.

Of Pop and Posters

by Jonathan 2 Comments

June 25. The day bits and pieces of my youth fell away like so much old paint on a sun-beaten windowsill. Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett, both of them gone. I didn’t think much of it at first. Just more in a long line of famous people coming and going.

The King of Pop

The King of Pop

But it’s more than that. Those personalities were fused to my childhood like knee patches in my Toughskins. I wasn’t a huge fan of either celebrity or the knee patches, but both offered some sort of buffer. The celebrities softened the edges of the pains of growing up. The knee patches, well, they were indestructible barriers between my knees and grass stains. (It was odd how the Toughskins would break down around the everlasting patches.)

I remember listening to Michael Jackson’s She’s Out of My Life on Casey Kasem’s Top 40 while playing in the backyard. He broke down with a sob at the end. For some reason I can’t forget that. I remember watching the Jackson 5ive cartoon. I remember sleeping over at my friend’s house, a bunch of eighth graders listening to Thriller in the dark when it came out.

I remember Farrah’s famous poster (though I didn’t know it at the time) hanging in my brother’s room. I remember seeing that poster at the Glen Rock Firemen’s Carnival, just waiting to be won by some kid who could pop the right balloons or knock over the milk cans.

Farah Fawcett

Farah Fawcett

I remember playing Charlie’s Angels into the twilight during summer. I never wanted to be Farrah, only because everyone wanted to be Farrah. Sure, I was a boy, but I loved the way those ladies broke bad on the villains. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?

More recently, a friend of mine got a gig as the sound guy for Michael Jackson’s latest tour. He said that if he did his job well, it would give him the leverage to name his price for future sound jobs. Michael Jackson was still a big deal.  “Before his death, Jackson had announced a 50 date sell-out This Is It comeback tour, in London, England (Wikipedia). Not too shabby. Michael Jackson still did it for millions of people throughout the world.

I don’t know that there is some deeper meaning here; I just was amazed that people I took for granted in their heyday, people I didn’t follow inentionally, could leave such a lasting imprint on my memories.