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JENNY'S JOURNAL

Old Stories Made New

I'm updating my blog, but I find these rules still hold good.


Interest seems to be in the upswing for short story collections and contests. If you have several short stories, this is the time to gather them together and polish them to a fine glow. And when you afre doing that, here are six rules I'm passing along:

 

I discovered that all those stories I'd thought were so good had a long way to go to be excellent. I threw out three that I could see were never going to make it. So
1) you have to be ruthless.


When I went to work on one story, I realized that it had been shortened to make the word count for a  contest. I was able to go back into my computer files and find the missing parts, which makes a good case for
2) not trashing your earliest versions.

 

When I knew I had a good story but still was missing something, I found that
3) rewriting beginnings and endings makes all the difference.

 

A few stories were out of date due to everyday references. I had to rewrite to
4) make the setting clear (the past, the year) or else update to the present decade.

 

I discovered that while I was careful not to repeat certain words in any particular story, they popped up repeatedly throughout the collection. So I had to
5) comb through all stories in the collection to avoid word repetitions.
    Hint: MS Word's Find and Replace makes it easy.


Finally, I made the mistake of trying to make corrections on read-only pages, discovered after having wasted hours (edits didn't save). That entire job had to be redone in a new file. This is a no-brainer, but we all slip up at one time or another. Just
6) be sure your edits are saved!

 

 

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At a Loss for Words

I wrote the note below four years ago, and what has happened since has left me not only at a loss for words, but gasping. And still, we write to keep our sanity and help our readers do the same. A little hard for our keyboard-tapping fingers when our fingernails are otherwise occupied in holding on until this November. 

 

In December, 2016, I wrote:

 

Many writers are having their say, but I find myself at a loss for words these days. Maybe I just used all of them up finishing a bit over 50,000 before the end of November and the NaNoWriMo. But it was hard to find those words after the results came in from the November 8 election, and I can't find any now. Well, maybe one. HELP!

 

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Writing Advice from Sinclair Lewis

It's worth repeating—the story that Sinclair Lewis was to lecture about the craft of writing to a college class of aspiring writers. He began by asking: "How many of you are really serious about being writers?" All hands shot up. "Well, why the hell aren't you all home writing?" And he walked out.

 

Other versions say he sat down. Whatever he did, that was the end of the lecture.

 

So now you know what to do while you're at home in self-isolation. Or even if you're not.

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Yes, We Know

If it seems I've been neglecting this blog, I have a very good reason. (Writers always have a very good reason not to write.) I have been busy organizing my life so I can be ready when the nightmare of COVID-19 is past. It does seem, though, that every time I try to get organized and devote myself to writing, all hell breaks loose. It's as if my subconscious doesn't want me to be organized.


First there was my injured foot that had to be kept elevated—that was fun. Then there was my slashed right hand . . . you don't want to know. I got the bloodstain out of the arm of my white sofa, in case you do want to know. Then my computer ran out of WiFi in the middle of Zoom. And so it goes.

 

Does any of this have anything to do with a blog on writing? Well, actually it does.

 

First of all, everything that happens to you is grist for the mill—that is, all those painful, alarming, irritating experiences can be useful for a writer. But you knew that. And second, you can never get organized to the point that everything in your life is shipshape in Bristol fashion (look it up). If you keep waiting for complete preparedness before you take the time to sit down to write, you never will. 

 

Am I telling you anything you don't already know? I thought not.

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Writing Rules? Nah

There are no hard and fast rules for writing a novel. Well, there is one, and that is: There are no hard and fast rules for writing a novel. 

Oh, you thought there were? That what the professor said in class or what you read in any particular book were rules to follow? A famous writer who knew something about the subject noted:

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