ReWard: The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.

Every once in a while, my little blog here strives to be something more than a platform for the shameless whoring of myself and my various scribblings. There are the infrequent reminiscences and ruminations about favorite books, films, or TV shows. On rare occasions, I might see fit to delve into a current events topic. Rarer still are those entries where I try to offer meaningful writing advice, or at least a pithy anecdote gleaned from my time in “the trenches” of writing for a so-called living.

This is one of those pieces.

A couple of years ago, while faced with a deadline to have a post ready for the Novel Spaces writing blog along with being caught up in the grips of a Writing Project That Would Not Die, I came up with a list of things that seem able to confront any writing project regardless of size or scope.

The result made for a handy Novel Spaces column, and now seems like a nice thing throw into this space as a “ReWard” piece, in a desperate bid to make this site look like it’s generating fresh content on a more or less regular schedule.

So, from January 2016, I offer the following:

Continue reading “ReWard: The 7 Phases of Almost Any Writing Project.”

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Another scam targeting writers? An update!

best-story-award-
This could’ve been yours…if the price was right. $14.95, as it happens.

So, last night I spent a little time talking about something I along with…conservatively speaking….forty or fifty bazillion people on the internet took to be some kind of possible scam, which if true had apparently set its sights on the oh-so lucrative pastime of trying to separate inexperienced or maybe even desperate writers from their money.

(Would you like to know more? See “Another scam targeting writers?“)

When a fair number of those aforementioned forty or fifty bazillion people–most if not all of them some form of writer just trying to make their way pushing words through this crazy messed up world–took to their blogs or Facebook or Twitter or other venues to report, dissect, condemn, and generally mock the very same email I described in last night’s post, things quickly devolved to the point of absurdity, culminating in what can charitably be described as a dumpster fire shit show train wreck very poor attempt to “set the record straight.”

Presented here, without any edits or changes to formatting, is the *second* email I and most of those forty or fifty bazillion people received from this group:

Continue reading “Another scam targeting writers? An update!”

Another scam targeting writers?

Well, maybe “scam” is too harsh a word.

“Shady,” I can hear one of you saying. “What about ‘Shady,’ Dayton?”

Yeah, we’ll go with “Shady.” For the moment, anyway.

So, I get this email over the holiday weekend:


best-story-award-Dear Dayton,

I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas! My name is [redacted], I’m from the NY Literary Magazine.

Congratulations! You have been nominated for the “Best Story Award”.

Visit this page to submit your entry: [link removed]

Submission period ENDS on December 31st, 2017.

Happy Holidays!

The NY Literary Magazine

PS: You can now add to your bio and credentials that you are a Best Story Award 2017 Nominee.

The NY Literary Magazine is a distinguished print and digital magazine.

“The prestige of such literary awards is immense for an author…awards drive up sales” – The NY Times

“Can do wonders for your writing career… one of the best ways to get your writing noticed!” – Writer’s Digest


Holy dogshit, Private Joker! I’m a winner! They like me! They really like me, don’t they?

Wait. Hold on a minute. Let’s unpack this a bit.

Congratulations! You have been nominated for the “Best Story Award”.

Um…’scuse me? Hello? There seems to be something missing here. Hang on…it’ll come to me. Just give me a sec to think about it. Oh. Right!

The email didn’t list which story of mine had been “nominated,” or offer any hints that they meant “novel” or “short story” when they said “story.” This would seem to be a an important nugget of information at this juncture, don’t you think? I mean, *I* kinda sorta thought it might have a bearing on the direction of the conversation, and so on and so forth, but what the hell do *I* know?

Strike one.

Visit this page to submit your entry: [link removed]

Being the suspicious curious sort, I opted to click the link and see where it took me. Sure enough, I found myself at the oh-fish-eeee-al website of the NY Literary Magazine. What was waiting for me? The chance to submit a story to one of several categories they’ve identified. There are “only” 200 such “submissions” accepted each month, in each category, so I really needed to ACT NOW IF I WANT TO CLAIM MY SPOT.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a submission fee?

$14.95 a throw. Boom.

Now, there are some legit literary contests and journals that charge modest reading fees – a few bucks or so – to help offset the actual costs of running such competitions. However, assuming these folks get their 200 entrants for each category every month, and there are (at least) eleven categories, that’s a tidy little haul–almost $33,000–every 30 days or so, just for “reading fees.”

Oh, and that $14.95? It was the super dooper special Christmas discount price.

Strike two.

Then, just for giggles, I Googled those quotes listed in the email, like that one from The New York Times. You know, this one:

“The prestige of such literary awards is immense for an author…awards drive up sales.”

I’m happy to report that the quote is legitimate…..albeit from 1992 and pertaining to a completely different thing. So far as I can tell, the NY Literary Magazine‘s available online “archives” stretch all the way back to July 2016, so you know…hmmm…..

Strike three.

With all that said, I can’t come right and tell you conclusively that this is a scam. At best, it looks shady as fuck, and my Spidey sense was tingling the whole time. I therefore opted not to submit any story (duh), and I don’t think I’ll be adding “Best Story Award 2017 Nominee” to my CV.

Oh, and just to tie all of this up in a nice, neat bow, I saw on Facebook and Twitter that a whole lot of people got hit with this same email, which…if you think about it…would seem to sorta dilute the whole “exclusive” nature of the thing. Of course the email’s originators got roasted on those platforms and elsewhere. Meanwhile, a check of the “magazine’s” website now reveals this new message:

Due to technical issues, we are suspending further contest entries till we can resolve them, once our technical support is back to work from their holidays. Apologies, please email our support via our website contact form if you wish to be notified when entries are functional again.

Oh, those pesky “technical issues.” It always amazes me how they’re able to crop up at the most convenient worst possible times. Dang, y’all.

Strike four. Because I’m not the biggest baseball fan, that’s why.

So, if you got one of these emails or something like it from someone else and are understandably suspicious curious, my advice is to avoid this sort of thing with the same determination and zeal you’d exhibit if a horde of fire ants was bearing down on you and trying their damnedest to plant their flag on your taint.

But, I happen to like my taint unsullied by opportunistic fire ants. YMMV.
Write on, boys and girls.

ReWard: Writing for “Exposure?” We’re Still On That?

While culling through this morning’s batch of e-Mail, I came across not one but two — count ’em, TWO — “invitations” to write for someone or something. No payment was offered, of course, and the language of the e-Mails themselves suggested that none would be forthcoming. Indeed, perhaps that my even wondering about such things might be viewed as a crime against the purity of the written word, blah blah blah.

Yep, you guessed it: I’d been offered the chance to write “for the exposure.”

Setting aside my initial thought that I’d never heard of a) the people sending the e-Mail or b) the publishing endeavor they claimed to represent, I next reaction was, “Are you fucking kidding me? We’re still doing that?”

Of course we are.

A couple of years ago during my stint writing for the Novel Spaces blog, I wrote about the long debated “writing for exposure” chestnut. Rather than regurgitate the gist of that earlier column, I figured I’d just make a few updates and tweaks before regurgitating it in full right here! Read on:

Continue reading “ReWard: Writing for “Exposure?” We’re Still On That?”

ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

In one of the…let’s see, three, four, carry the one…six bazillion Facebook threads or updates I post, or the ones I visit, the topic of my personal writing “rules” came up. I was reminded of an “Ask Dayton” question I answered last year that touched on this very thing. On that occasion, I was asked about my “10 Commandments” of writing. I was also asked about my thoughts about such rules for existing in and moving through a fandom community, but the bulk of my long, bloated, meandering answer to the question was focused on the writing “rules” I was dreaming up.

After the more recent Facebook conversation, I dug up that post from last year, and tweaked the “Commandments” I had devised back then. For this go-around, I’ve removed the parts about “fandom” rules, because now I’m thinking they deserve their own post, too. We’ll see about that.

(NOTE: I thought about cleaning up the language a bit, since this was originally written for my curmudgeonly “Ask Dayton” persona, but I decided to leave it as is. You’ve been warned.)

So, without further ado, let’s revisit “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.”

Continue reading “ReWard: “Dayton’s 10 Commandments of Writing.””

Ask Dayton #121 on the G and T Show: “Rewrite or Wrong?”

Well. Golly gee. Lookie what happened, today.

It’s been a while, but I finally was able to ask a query that’s been in my possession for the G and T Show‘s occasionally recurring “Ask Dayton” segment. I’ve had the question for awhile, but schedules and such kept me from getting to the poor thing.

What do we have this time around?

Dear Dayton,

How do organize your rewrites from first draft to finished manuscript?

Signed,
Dave Chapple

I can’t speak for other writers, but I lay my edits out in counterclockwise fashion.

Thanks for the question.

ask-dayton

Okay, okay, okay.

I don’t know that I’d call my rewriting process “organized.” I’m not even sure I’d call it “sensible.” I suppose if I had to classify this part of the writing cycle, it’d slot in somewhere between “necessary evil” and “too scared to submit this festering pile of elephant shit to my editor for fear of having a contract put out on me.”

Here’s my deal: I tend to edit and rewrite “as I go.” Basically, I might play with a sentence even as I’m writing it, trying out different words or phrases, or reordering it so that it flows better after the preceding sentence, and so on. Once I get a paragraph or two, or maybe even a whole page put down, I go back over that section and make sure it’s the way I want it, then repeat that process for as many times as it takes to complete the novel. Sometimes I get on a tear and write for longer periods without spending a lot of time reworking things, but usually I end up revisiting that output before moving on.

The result of all these shenanigans is that when I finally get to “The End,” the manuscript is probably eighty or eighty-five percent of where I want it to be. Next, I do what I call a “polishing draft,” which along with a check of spelling and whatnot is where I verify that I didn’t leave any plot threads unresolved, and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. You know, using a character killed in an earlier chapter, or turning a left-handed character right-handed, or flipping somebody’s gender, or whatever. Hey, goofy shit happens, sometimes.

What I don’t do is go over and over and over the manuscript multiple times, at least not before I deliver it to my editor. A writer I admire, Dean Wesley Smith, cautioned against that years ago, and it’s one of those bits of advice that’s stuck with me. Basically, he believed that all those rewrites usually served to drain the life or energy from whatever creative spark gave birth to the original story. Instead, he’s a big advocate of writing it, doing a quick edit, and calling it done. Over time, I adapted my process along those lines. Now, years later, I’m usually fairly confident that what I deliver to my editor is going to pass muster, and the notes I get back are almost always pretty minor.

It’s when I get the copyedited manuscript returned to me that I give the whole thing another, comprehensive read-through. At this point, it could be as much as two months since I last looked at the thing, so I’m able to bring fresh eyes to it. I also know that this is likely my last chance to make any major changes, so I take advantage of this window of time and fix things I’ve decided need revising all while addressing the copyeditor’s notes.

A month or so later, I’ll get the typeset manuscript, which is basically a PDF of what the final book will look like. This phase represents my last chance to make any sort of changes or fixes, and except for extreme circumstances those updates have to be very minor, like replacing a word choice or something similarly limited. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wild rides, like finding out that the entire middle section of a book was nothing but blank pages, or that the page headers at random intervals change to show a different author or book title. Yep, those are real things that really happened.

I think they do shit like that as a test to check whether I’m actually reading the damned thing.

So, there you go. That’s my process, which I’ll grant you might come off as six or seven different flavors of fucked up in the minds of some people, but hey! It works for me. I’ve developed this approach over time as I’ve grown accustomed to writing pretty much everything on a deadline. I simply don’t have the luxury of torturing myself with a manuscript or dicking around with “writer’s block” while waiting to engage my “muse.” There are bills to pay, faces to feed, and other projects waiting in the queue, so I’ve learned to just get on with it and leave the second-guessing at the door.

I can’t say I’d recommend my method to anyone who’s just starting out, and still finding their way through the various twists, turns, and other weirdness to be confronted as one attempts to tame the written word. As with pretty much every other piece of writing advice out there, your mileage may vary.

Good luck, you glutton for punishment, you.


This question and its answer was read during G&T Show Episode #270 on March 12th, 2017. You can hear Nick read the answers each week by listening live, or check out the replay/download options when the episode is loaded to their website: The G and T Show. Listeners are also encouraged to send in their own questions, one of which will be sent to me each week for a future episode.

As always, thanks to Nick, Terry and Mike for continuing to include me in their little podcasting games.

It’s a new interview! Because, that’s why.

dayton-speaknoevilOh, hell. What did I say this time?

Author/interviewer Michael Prelee put some questions to me a short while back, in the weeks leading up to the releases of Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone and Headlong Flight.

Unlike other Q&A sessions I’ve done in recent weeks that focused on those two new publications, my virtual sit-down with Mike was more general in nature, with the questions covering a variety of writing related topics. Everything from my secret origin story to how I balance(d) writing with the demand of a full-time job, my brief forays into editing, and why the short story format can be just so gosh-darned fun.

The result?

MichaelPrelee.com: An Interview with Author Dayton Ward

Hope you dig it, and many thanks to Mike for reaching out.

 

Holiday gift ideas for writers. Because.

christmas-packagesWhat to get the writer in your life? Or, maybe you’re the writer in the lives of those around you, and you’re hoping they might see fit to give you something useful or desired as you chase your muse.

Since everybody else seems to be doing one of these lists, I figured, “Hey! Why not stall working on my actual writing shit, and do this instead?” See? I’m setting aside my own needs, and thinking of you. It’s what I do. I’m a giver.

For a couple of my Novel Spaces columns, I did a list like this each December. The list below is basically a compilation of my favorite ideas from those previous columns. Most of these suggestions are…you know…real, though I couldn’t resist a one or two “unreal” ones, as well:

Books! Every writer loves books, right? We all need to let our mind recharge after a long day at the office or a weekend spent pushing through to meet a grueling deadline. Leisure reading is still a preferred method of relaxation for many people, especially writers. One suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere is giving a book that has a special meaning to you. A cherished title—perhaps something you’ve loved since childhood—offers insight into your own reading tastes. Meanwhile, an autographed copy from the recipient’s favorite author is usually a guaranteed home run.

Books About Writing. These are always appreciated by serious writers, who are in fact students of a sort, and who never stop learning how to improve their craft. However, serious writers also tend to hate those plodding, pretentious tomes that spend too much time whining about how writing is art and it has to grow and suffer and be nurtured, blah blah blah. Writers want to know how to get on with the writing and finish what they’ve started so they can get on with writing something else, while figuring out how to repeat those first two steps as often as possible. They want books with titles like Sit Your Ass Down and Write Right Now, which may not be the title of a book anywhere in the known universe except my head. Still, I figure there’s something out there following a similar theme.

Food. Face it: Writers tend to eat like shit, particularly if we’re neck deep in a story and all other considerations and priorities have been rescinded. If we’re not skipping meals, then we’re eating junky snacks. Feed us, for fuck’s sake. We’re writers, so we’re poor. Take us out to lunch once in a while. This has the added benefit of exposing us to social interaction with other members of our species, which works out for everybody.

Kale. Speaking of food, kale apparently falls into this category, and we’re all supposed to be eating it. I don’t know why. I don’t think anybody knows why. It’s healthy, or something. So, give some to your writer friends and perhaps nudge them just a bit off the Road to Death that is littered with empty potato chip bags and candy wrappers. I’m willing to give it a go. Maybe if I eat enough, my consciousness will see fit to escape the meat sack that is my body, leaving my intellect and soul to soar among the cosmos unencumbered by physical form. Hey, if it means never again having to wait in line at the DMV, I’m game.

Chocolate. Yeah, this is more like it. In fact, fuck that kale shit. In the face.

Notebooks/writing journals/writing pads. There’s something about good, old-fashioned pen and paper that almost always gets my creative juices flowing. Many a story has begun as a series of hastily scribbled notes on a legal pad or one of those Mead composition books like we used in elementary school. I still use them today. Something a bit fancier, though, makes for a simple yet elegant gift. Oh, and they’re also handy for making lists, such as things to buy at the grocery store, or household chores you hate doing but suddenly find compelling when faced with getting some actual writing done. Tell me I’m wrong.

Shock Collar. You know the ones I mean: They link with a wire that’s run around the perimeter of your yard, and if you put the collar on your dog it gets a little jolt if it wanders too close to the “invisible fence.” I think something like this is marvelous for writers who are always finding excuses not to write. You can zap them when their fingers stray too far from their keyboards. I have friends who tell me these things can also be used recreationally, but that’s none of my business.

Story Cubes. These things are great! I found them at a small toy store here in town. Each set of Story Cubes contains nine dice, with each side depicting a little image. You roll all nine dice, and then attempt to tell a story using the nine images that are face up. It’s not really meant to be a competitive game, but more of a casual or party pastime. These sets are small and relatively inexpensive gift options, averaging under $10 apiece, and they even have one for Batman! And Doctor Who! While all of the sets look to be appropriate for all ages, I must confess that I did wonder how the results might be enhanced by the inclusion of alcohol or other illicit substances. I know, I’m horrible.

Lounge Pants. I’ve recently discovered the unfettered joy that is hanging around Ward Manor in lounge pants. These things are glorious. They exist in that odd realm between pajamas, sweat pants, and yoga pants, which is good because while I think I make yoga pants look awesome, my opinion is almost certainly shared by precisely no one else on this planet who has functioning eyeballs or otherwise inhales oxygen. However, with the right pair of lounge pants, I’m only a tattered, stained T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops away from a run to Walmart. Of course, all of this is contingent upon you having not yet mastered the art of writing without pants of any kind.

Tea, Coffee, or other Favorite Beverage. Whether it’s black coffee, herbal tea, and/or hot cocoa, we all have our fuel; the special elixir that helps get the words moving. I’m partial to vodka, served intravenously, with the occasional diversion toward Monster Energy Drink if I’m really in the zone and want to keep typing until my fingers bleed. Whatever the nectar of choice, just start it flowing. We’ll tell you when to stop.

Water bottle. Carrying on from the previous idea, I’m not talking about those designer bottles with the formed handgrips or the retractable straws or the ones with a compass, survival matches, emergency poncho, lightsaber, and ninja stars packed into the lid. Instead, I mean one of those jobs like they use in hamster cages, with the tube extending from its bottom and the little ball on the end. These should hold a gallon of water (or, again, preferred beverage), and be mounted above the writer’s desk or other workspace. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper cleaning.

“Writer At Work” Sign. For those days when you’re taking up space at a coffee shop or bookstore cafe. Lean this up against your laptop and leave no doubt that you’re gracing the rest of the hipsters with your presence to push words in a totally forthright and professional manner, and that you’re absolutely not playing Solitaire or Minecraft. At all. Honest.

Massage. I have to admit, I saw this one on another list and thought it was a great idea. There’s nothing better for working the kinks out of shoulder and lower back muscles after you’ve spent a month or more pounding your keyboard to finish that novel. I happen to be a big fan of Thai massage, which lets the therapist bend and twist me in all sorts of innovative ways while allowing me to retain my clothing (see “Lounge Pants”) and therefore some small shred of dignity. Your mileage may vary.

Okay, that’s my list. Be you gift giver or hopeful recipient, do you have your own suggestions, sincere or otherwise?

spock-kirk-sweaters

Ask Dayton #120 on the G and T Show: “Dayton’s Ten Commandments of Writing.”

Three of these in as many weeks? GET OUT OF TOWN.

Tis true, folks! I’ve managed to answer a query for each of the past three episodes of the G and T Show for their irregularly recurring “Ask Dayton” feature. An actual question, answered like I semi sorta kinda maybe know what I’m doing.

(Psst. I don’t. Keep that to yourself.)

Hosts and friends Terry Lynn Shull, Nick Minecci, and Mike Medeiros found a pretty good one waiting for them in the “Ask Dayton” mailbox this time around:

Dear Dayton 

As a, as Nick says, New York Times bestselling author, if you were to descend from the mount with stone tablets in hand, what would be your Ten Commandments for fandom/writing?

Sincerely,

A Burning Bush (I really need an analgesic cream)

Shut. The. Front. Door.

A writing-related question two weeks in a row? Holy shitsnacks! Let’s not even waste a second of time and Nick’s voice with one of my usual longwinded ramp-ups before I finally get to the fucking point, and just get right on with it, amirite?

ask-dayton

Continue reading “Ask Dayton #120 on the G and T Show: “Dayton’s Ten Commandments of Writing.””

Novel Spaces – “It’s All About the Opening!”

writerWell, whaddaya know? It’s the 17th again, which means it’s my turn to take the stage over at the Novel Spaces blog!

This month, it’s a bit of basic writing advice, dealing with one of the most important facets of any story: The Opening. Why? Because here’s the thing: Your story will live or die on an editor’s desk in remarkably, even depressingly rapid fashion. For a novel, you might have three to five pages. Not chapters, pages. For a short story, you might get one page, but count on less. How much less? A few paragraphs, if you’re lucky. You might get the full page if the editor is in a good mood and doesn’t have five thousand other things clawing for their attention, but don’t count on it.

One page. Or less. Better make it a damned good one, amirite?

This time-tested nugget of editorial wisdom time was recently hammered home for me, and I decided that experience made good Novel Spaces fodder. The result?

Novel Spaces – “It’s All About the Opening!”

Any of you writer types want to share their experiences with good–and bad–openings? Regardless of our individual experience level, we’ve all got war stories, don’t we?

My Novel Spaces archive.