Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: March 2012

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Wordle: 3/16/12, "September"

Wow, Friday already. I got painfully sick on Tuesday night, and that sort of dominated my whole week. Unpleasant.

I did, however, write a short story on Tuesday morning, all in one go, before the illness settled in. It was one of the ones that comes out pretty much fully-formed, just the way you like it, on the first try, and I'm rather excited about it.


The word "like" just kinda leaps out at you, doesn't it? I'm fairly certain that's because the story is written in first-person narration, and the word "like" appears in some of the narrator's favorite turns of phrase. Also, there's a severe lack of names. There are only three characters in the story, and only one of them has a name, and he's a cat.

That may contribute to the size of some of these other words.

But just look at all the great words squeezed into the middle of the football! Some of them are used only two or three times, I'm pretty sure. Maybe that makes for the best kind of Wordle--words used more than once, but not so often that they lose their meaning.

Maybe that makes for the best writing, actually.


Anyway, this short story makes the fifth that I've written since the bug bit me last August. I'm quite happy with all of them, and they share a lot of thematic elements--the supernatural mixed up with the mundane and a sense of the sublime hanging just out reach, grazed with the fingertips but gone before it can be comprehended.

A few of them are still out on submission to various magazines, but if none of them decide they're a good fit, I think I'm going to bundle them and put them out myself.

Keep an eye out for "Three Dances." It's gonna be sweet.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Wordle: 3/9/12, Chapter 14, Soulwoven: Exile

Edit: To aid comprehension of the blog, I've put a little box about my writing on the sidebar. It's called "About My Writing."

Hola! Back to the Friday Wordle trend this week. I've been putting a lot of work into Exile, the second book of Soulwoven. After months of feeling like I was dragging the thing through a swamp, it finally feels unstuck. Most chapters still need significant revisions, but I've been able to figure out what they are. I'm finally starting to see the contours that I want to sculpt around the skeleton I put up last year, and it feels really good.

So. Image.

Maia is...well, Maia is Maia, and she changes Litnig's life forever. Won't say much more than that, because I'd hate to give things away. Bonus points for the best guess of the chapter's plot based just upon the Wordle.

...also, it has occurred to me that not everyone who reads this blog has the faintest clue about any of the characters I'm talking about. Lately, I've been mulling over starting to post chapters of Soulwoven: Exodus on Wattpad, where people can read them for free. If that's something you'd be interested in, drop me a line on Facebook.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On Recordkeeping

Over the last several months I've been working on keeping better records of my writing. When I first put fingers to keyboard as a teenager, I kept backups via 3.5" floppy disk, because that was all I had. Since then, I've tried various methods of keeping copies of old things around, ranging from a thumb drive to a proper external hard drive to e-mailing myself files.

Last fall, a friend and fellow writer (Christopher Eldridge, who may someday be famous) introduced me to Dropbox. The service, which lets you store files online for free and sync them around between machines almost effortlessly, has revolutionized my recordkeeping. Whereas before I made a monthly backup, if I was lucky, I now back up my work on Dropbox daily. This has caused poor Yoshimi (I write on a pink netbook named Yoshimi and do just about everything else on a big laptop named THELAPTRON3000), to have trouble with disk space, so today I started jimmying things around again. I moved the daily backups of my writing folder into an archive that will sit on the Laptron and my old external hard drive and shuffled most of my writing into a Dropbox folder called "Inactive Writing," which contains finished stories and poems that aren't getting sent out anywhere as well as things like my submissions tracking spreadsheet, which doesn't need to have multiple versions backed up. (Also, I haven't actually written anything today. Apparently, this is how I procrastinate.)

The point of all this is that I have a pretty substantial archive of what my writing has looked like at various points in the past, and today it made me pretty happy. I've struggled this year with feeling like my career as a writer isn't moving anywhere. Waiting around to hear if an agent or publisher liked your work will do that to you. But I discovered today that that feeling is very much in error.

Among the hundreds of files I shuffled into the "Inactive" folder today was one entitled "Thesis." It was the first 12 chapters of Soulwoven, which I turned in to my professors in May of 2009 in order to graduate from college. At the time, I thought it was pretty good. It earned me departmental honors.

But I am much, much better now. After only 2 1/2 years. Providing I don't eat too many cheeseburgers, take up smoking, or fall off a mountain, I should have a solid 60 or so left to keep getting better. And that feels pretty good.

So keep records, if for no other reason than to look back at them someday and say, "No, I'm not wasting my life. I am, at the very least, getting better at this."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rock Climbers

It's Friday!

But today, I don't think I'll post a Wordle. Instead, I'd rather discuss a bit of an epiphany I had this week.

In each of the last four years, I've had the opportunity to go to a screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Twice in upstate New York, once in Dunedin, New Zealand, and this year in Boulder, Colorado. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is a nine-day-long love affair with outdoor documentaries (and now, apparently, outdoor books as well---hooray!) that takes place in the Canadian Rockies (right next to, I've just learned, a town called Anthracite. How cool!). Every year, some of the best films in the festival go on tour around the world, and every year since I started attending, they have inspired me.

There was something particularly hard-hitting for me about the films this year. I enjoyed them so much that for the first time I came home and bought some of them (plus some I didn't get to see but heard about at the screening) that night. I found myself extremely envious of the subjects of the films, who were racing up rock faces or kayaking never-before-navigated rivers or ice climbing in areas that appeared unclimbable. "That's the life I want, always pushing the boundaries and striving for something great," I kept thinking, "except that I want to do it with writing. Why don't have I it?"

Eventually, I figured it out. The climbers and paddlers in the films were just doing what they thought was great (at my most cynical, I could say they were made to appear that way, but I think people deserve the benefit of the doubt). They were doing things that inspired them. They weren't climbing to impress a huge corporation, or some mysterious cabal of starmakers, or anyone other than themselves and a close group of people that mattered to them. They weren't climbing to get rich or famous (though I think most of them were happy at least with the second). You got the impression every step of the way through the process that they were going to be doing these things whether or not a camera crew was there to record it and let them make some money from it. Some of them had already been trying the same thing for years before anyone ever showed up to document their efforts. The great act was their goal, always, and the film only a means to fund and share it.

That's what's been missing in my life this year. I've been spending all this time researching agents and crafting query letters and synopses and doing things that I think, quite frankly, are not great. I find them utterly uninspiring. The great thing I'm trying to do is tell a story, and the more time I spend agonizing over who I want to work with me, the more time I spend stressing over whether I'm ever going to make a living doing this, the less time I'm out there trying to do it.

I'm sure this happens to adventurers, too. These films show them at their best. But that's one of the great things about them--they can remind you of what you are at your best, too.

So if the old game plan was 1.) Find an agent. 2.) Make sure they're a good fit. 3.) Wait around for them to find you an editor who wants you. 4.) Make sure the deal you're offered is a good one. 5.) Jump through the thousand hoops of the publishing, marketing, and PR process, the new game plan is 1.) Submit to a few agents you respect. Do not agonize over the process, as it's more like speed-dating than a marriage proposal. 2.) Give it six months or so. 3.) Chuck the book up on KDP and so that it can be easily distributed to the people who matter to you and to whom it might matter. 4.) Go out and write your next great project.

There are a lot of other ideas on this subject bouncing around my head right now--about the role of money in publishing, and in my life particularly (the sudden drive to commercialize my writing coincided with a period of little to no income), about the role of statistics and large corporations in the book world, and about how unfair it is that rock climbers have a pretty fair standard of whether they're succeeding in their projects (they don't fall) versus failing (they fall) while writers pretty much just have to guess at it. I may write more about these later, or I may not.

If you'll excuse me, I have beautiful things to go create.