Have you ever heard of the Bizarro genre? Well today I'd like to introduce you to one of its finest writers, Jeremy C. Shipp. Jeremy has been published in the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, and The Bizarro Starter Kit (blue). He has also received great reviews including a memorable glowing recommendation from Piers Anthony. Besides his Bizzaro work--or nestled squarely within it--Jeremy also writes a mean horror story. Now Jeremy is going to tell us about how he writes and what he has learned in his career thus far.
Find Your Author's Path by Jeremy C. Shipp
As an anarcho-tribalist, I donít believe thereís one right way to live, and I donít believe thereís one right way to write. Whatís right for one writer isnít always right for another. Nevertheless, Iíve learned a great deal from other creators over the years. And so Iíd like to share a few of my thoughts and ideas about the writing, in the hope that my ramblings might help others.
1. Write from your heart and for your heart.
Years ago, when I was just starting out as a writer, I would often write from my mind and for my (nonexistent) readers. I would struggle to write tales I thought people would enjoy. And because of this, most of my creations were bland and uninspired. But as time went on I learned to write for myself. I learned to break free of my preconceptions of myself as a writer. And I learned that when I write stories Iím passionate about, others are more likely to feel the same way.
2. Discover your strong points.
Growing up, I read a lot of classic literature. H.G. Wells, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne. These were my literary heroes, and I thought in order to become a good writer, I needed to emulate them. But the truth is, I was no good at that style of writing. And thankfully, over time, I allowed my writing to evolve. I experimented and I looked at my stories with an honest eye. I asked myself important questions. What am I good at? When is my writing the most effective and engaging? And in the end, I found my own authentic, unique voice.
3. Let your underrepresented characters come alive.
First of all, I think our world needs more characters from underrepresented groups. For instance, characters who are transgender, bisexual, intersex, disabled. But more than that, we need these characters to be presented as whole, complex individuals, instead of as noble or pathetic stereotypes or plot devices. I feel strongly about this, so when creating a character from an underrepresented group, I do my research. I talk to real people.
4. Give yourself permission to fail.
Over the years, Iíve learned to embrace the fact that Iím a professional failure. For instance, I recently constructed a papier m‚chť statue of Buddy from Charles in Charge out of all my rejection letters. Anyway, Iíve come to value failure as much as success. Experimenting and taking chances with style and voice and genre has spawned many ineffective stories. Stories that are un-publishable. But I still hold these tales close to my heart. Because by playing around and crossing boundaries, Iíve been able to create stories that Iím proud to share with the world.
5. Accept the inherent worthiness of your stories.
This is a lesson I wish Iíd learned a long time ago. I used to send out my stories in a quest for validation. I believed that only an external authority could make my story worthy of existence. And when I thought this way, being a writer was extremely difficult. Every rejection was painful. I was consumed by doubt. I was haunted by writerís block. But some years ago, I stopped looking at the world hierarchically. So now I see my stories as inherently worthy. Now, a rejection letter is only a bump in the road. Now, I write almost every day, because I have nothing to prove. Writing is about sharing my heart and my imagination with others.
This is just going to be a quickie. I have been hard at work revamping the Battered Spleen Productions Store. Please head on over and check it out. If you find any problems, mistakes, or such please do not hesitate to contact me.
I have redone the layout and add pages, streamlined some bits, and there are some more behind the scenes changes yet to come. Be sure to check out the Magazines tab. There you will find a sneak peek of the cover for Killing Time -Horror E-Rag(TM) as well as a pre-order page for not just this first issue, but also a subscription to the first six issues--there will be eventually be three sets of six issues each covering the original run of the E-Rag.
Today I would like to introduce you to author Lee Pletzers, who has graciously offered to tell us about finding and forming ideas
for writing and screenwriting, and then progressing from there.
Lee is a writer who is very active in the genre world, online and off. Over 40 of his short stories
have found publication in anthologies and magazines, zines and online. Lee is an avid reader and writes reviews for HarperCollins
and Hachette via SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand). He is also a member of AHWA (Australian Horror
Writers Association) and SpecFicNZ. He has edited 4 anthologies, worked as editor and reviewer for Sinisteria horror magazine,
has translated one novel from Japanese to English and edited several novels for small press authors.
It All Starts with an Idea by Lee Pletzers
It all starts with an idea and they come at any time of any day and you canít control it. You have no say in the matter, really. For me, ideas just pop into my head, as if my muse was chewing her pencil and a crack appeared in the fabric of space and time. From that crack, a slice of thought slipped out and my muse caught it.
A lot of people believe ideas are the product of the universe and some people (Dean Koontz?) can just grab them when they need. But adhering to this belief, one must assume thousands of other people also received the very same thought. Writers would plot around it; poets would create beauty from it; hundreds would do nothing with it. This is called the initial idea and it is the start of whatever you want to make of it.
My initial idea is to write a series of articles based on writing / learning the art of screenwriting. It is an area that interests me and has done for years. Only now do I have the opportunity to attempt it.
Screenwriters make 200,000 smackaroonies a year according to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A movie from a ďknownĒ scriptwriter can command anything from one million all the way up to four million. The six major film studios must pay a minimum of $106,000 for an original screenplay (according to the recently expired contract).
The above was discovered once I started studying screenwriting. Naturally to get the above movie sale, a writer is in a never-ending contest with a zillion other writers. And once you get the sale (if you are that lucky or your stars were in alignment with Mercury and interstellar solar particles), one can expect at least a dozen rewrites. Not all rewrites are done by you. But for 106 grand, Iíd do it.
Note: If you are really serious about screenwriting, get a copy of Final Draft. Yes it will cost you a few dollars and there is a reason for that: it is bloody good and does all the formatting for you. It has become the industry standard and even Stallone wrote his latest Rocky flick using this software. Find some way to get the money for it: beg on the street; busk; strike a pose; make a sign that reads: Starving Writer Needs Software; just donít ask your folks, okay. Thatís the easy way. If you earn it, then buy it, youíll use it and master it. The software will have more value added to it instantly: Your sweat, blood and tears as you laid tar on the roads and dug trenches for pipes, would have all been worth it.
The initial idea comes from many places. Some places are: A crack in the universe / hearing part of a conversation on the street, bus, train etc / experiencing life, cafť / workplace / a book, movie, TV show / stuck in traffic / newspaper or magazine headline or article / childhood memory / the moment before sleep claims you / dreams / a blank page (works for most people) / typing random words for a full thirty seconds and then reading what you wrote (this is an amazing technique; sometimes when you rearrange the words you have a complete sentence) / reading this article. (Side note: having written about the words on the page I had an image in my head of words swirling on the page and a middle age guy watching them and hearing words. They are telling him to ďkillĒ ó initial idea.)
Now we have the idea. Great! That was the easy part. What do you mean, the idea was hard? I look at a coffee cup and I wonder who made it. Where did they stand in the production line? Are they/he/she young or old or somewhere in-between? There are a lot of chemicals in a place like that. What ifÖ?
There are a million, trillion, gazillion ideas out there, open your mind to them and youíll never run dry. Now develop it, nurture it and help it grow.
How does it start?
What happens next?
Who is she / he / them?
What are they doing?
Spot the problem.
What is it?
How do/does he / she / they deal with it?
(Put your characters through hell. My wife sometimes says, ďI donít like this now.Ē And pouts. This means she cares about whatís happening to the characters, but she still canít turn away from the story. The outcome is just around the corner.)
The All-Important Outcome
To help build and nurture that fantastic idea is to use some excellent software, like Freemind and it is fantastic for helping answer these questions and more, and it will help you construct a plot. This is the roadmap and Freemind can lay out the highways and side streets. It is a learning curve to master but simple once you get the hang of it. And youíll wonder how you survived without it.
A novelist views the world in paragraphs. A screenwriter views the world in visual snapshots. The trick is to combine the two.
It's no secret that an author is a business. Sometimes though it feels as if this gets lost in the reams of information and sites on how to write, and the courses that push the writing. It is extremely important to write well, to strive to improve constantly. There is no denying this, but where is the help once the writing and editing are done and the business part takes over? There is one writer's camp sort of deal that actually involves speaking with editors and other potential buyer types at the end of the process. That certainly puts that one to the top of the list. Some of the lack of information and focus may be because that part of it, at least for the average author, is considered elementary and easily expressed. This is not to say that it is easy to do, just easy to know what to do.
The process might be summed in the Five P's... potential, patience, perseverance, passion, and planning. An author has to constantly be on the watch for the potential to send their work somewhere. Tracking acceptance periods, seeking new publishers, and being where a sale can be made. It obviously takes a lot of patience. Just ask an author about the piles of rejection letters even for works that they did sell. They of course also have to persevere and keep at it, both creating more, and constantly trying to sell the work. Of all the jobs in the world creative work is the one that might require the most passion for the work and the results. Planning might seem to be the odd one out, and may fall most into the lap of agents and publicists unless authors do that for themselves.
Special Note: I am starting to release my back issues of "Killing Time - Horror E-Rag" from the Battered Spleen Production store this month. Advertising space is available. For more information please click on over to Battered Spleen Productions Selling Advertising Space in new E-Book Magazine. It would also be greatly appreciated if you could spread the word that I am looking to advertisers. Thank you.