Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Fear and the Void

In his book About Writing, British novelist Gareth L Powell devotes a chapter to THE FEAR, a ghost that haunts the life of many – if not all – writers, the Beastie on the back (to quote Jethro Tull) of those that do creative work.
Powell describes it thus…

We’ve all been there.
I was there, actually, no more than half an hour ago, as I reviewed the first part of Shadow of the Rat God, and concluded it’s the most worthless, useless pile of wasted words I ever put together.

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Some numbers so far

I have been told that it is in poor taste to talk about our small daily victories or losses when it comes to selling what we write, because our art should be pure and ethereal.
But I do not give a damn about such silly posturing, and today one of my stories bounced back, together with a nice rejection letter, and one was shortlisted and passed to a second bout of evaluation to see if it will be accepted.
Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.

October has been an intense month (13 stories pitched, picking up from the slack September schedule) in a rather intense year, so I decided to go and check a few numbers in my submissions spreadsheet.
I post them here, in open disregard of everything pure and ethereal.

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Pandora in Krasnojarsk

For my next story, that will be part of the Seven Lives Project, I have put together a handful of pieces, like cards in a solitaire, or pieces of a puzzle. I will start writing the story tomorrow, and work on it for the whole week, and once it’s ready (hoping it’s ready in a week) I will translate it in Italian, and post it to my patrons.
This, at least, is a plan.

But right now, these are all the pieces I have…

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Anger

Conveying emotions in writing is particularly tricky but also an essential skill if you want to write. The basic rule of thumb should be that you do not declare the emotion of an action or a line of dialogue, because doing it explicitly is not elegant, and the clear mark of the amateur.

“Two sugars and no milk,” she said angrily.

… in other words, is not the best we can do as we write a scene in which an afternoon tea turns into a duel with cake knives.
We need to find a way around it.
This is not, of course, an unbreakable commandment – but as usual when writing, we need to keep an eye out and try to suggest tone and mood tot he readers without telling them.
This is the notorious show-don’t-tell rule, that’s generally abused by first-timers.

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Belle, Buck & Candle

There’s a thing that happens when you write, and it’s that story ideas keep coming at you, like hailstones, like bullets, like drops of rain during a monsoon. This is something non-writers often fail to see – they come to you and they tell you “You know? I’ve got a great idea for a story! Let me tell you, so you can write it and make lotsa money…”
And you think, “No, please, not again…”
Then they wink and mention their share of the profits.

Ideas are everywhere, you only need to keep your eyes and ears open.
And then you need to learn to filter them, and keep the good ones, and know which goes with what to build a story.
It takes some experience – you need to read and write a lot.

Then one day you are browsing Facebook, and you get the full package – a story that wants to be written, all there, all in one place.
Like this…

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Werner Herzog’s Rules

By a film-maker for film-makers, but also valid for writers and thegeneral public at large

  1. Always take the initiative.
  2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
  3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
  4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
  5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
  6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
  7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
  8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
  9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
  10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
  11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
  12. Take your fate into your own hands.
  13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
  14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
  15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
  16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
  17. Don’t be fearful of rejection.
  18. Develop your own voice.
  19. Day one is the point of no return.
  20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
  21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
  22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
  23. Take revenge if need be.
  24. Get used to the bear behind you.

(source, OpenCulture)