Archive for August, 2005

Friday, August 19th, 2005

In an earlier post, I mentioned that in June I wrote my first novel. Well, a 50,000 word draft in 30 days which has the working title “30 Days in the Hole” partly because I like the Thin Lizzy song of the same name and partly because I couldn’t come up with a better title when I started the project. Once the month of June was over, I decided that I was not going to go back and look at the draft for at least another month to distance myself from the piece and hopefully gain some perspective when I decide to go back and start editing.

So more than I month has passed and I have allowed my dear friend, Eric Cherry, to read the draft even though I still haven’t gone back and looked at it myself. It is a scary time because now I have to face all the things I have done wrong in regards to writing this story and figure out how to fix them. Eric suggested that while he is busy reading & critiquing the draft I should take the time to read “Characters & Viewpoint” by Orson Scott Card. It seems that the draft has some POV issues that will need to be addressed.

I’ve started reading this book and am frustrated because the more I read, the more I realize there is so much about writing that I don’t know or haven’t mastered yet. There have been days when I have been so discouraged about my own abilities that I don’t want to write that day. If I skip a day of writing, I feel worse. It’s a vicious cycle that I’ve participated in too many times only to realize that the only person I hurt by not writing is myself. I can’t improve if I don’t try. That’s what I have to keep reminding myself of.

If anyone else is struggling out there, try to remember that too. When you don’t write, you’re only hurting yourself and you can’t improve if you don’t try. I’ll keep at it and hope you will too.

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

I have been asked if I am really a Mad Poet. I’ll let the poetry speak for itself…

Ode to a Biological Sperm Donor (a/k/a Father)

When I think of why I hate you
There are too many reasons to list
So, let’s just stick to the executive summary

I hate you because
You made me think that love was something sick and twisted
Where pain and guilt made the world go round

I hate you because
You made me think that I was an ugly, wretched creature
When the rest of the world says I am beautiful

I hate you because
You made me think that my life was meaningless
And now I’ve realized that I am worthy and that my dreams are mine, not yours

So, now you want to know why
I never want to see you or talk to you again

Do you get it?

But I know you don’t and you won’t
because you never listened to anything I tried to tell you

And that’s why I am done
Done crying,
Done trying to fix the unfixable

So I wish you no harm
Have a nice life
I know I will if
You stay the hell out of mine

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

I never understood what people meant when they said, “That piece of art touched me.” I have been “touched” by prose and even by song, but never by a painting or sculpture until I saw Michael Whelan’s painting, “The Mad Poet.”

I don’t know why but when I look at that piece, I feel like I am looking in a mirror. I look nothing like the person in the painting physically. I feel an emotional connection to the piece. I look at it and think, “This is how I must look when I am writing.” Deep in thought, almost crazed, pained by the craft, trying to get words out of my head and down on the page. It’s dark and gloomy. I find that’s how I feel quite often when I write, especially when things are not coming to me easily. On days, when I’ve sat in front of the computer waiting for inspiration to strike and it doesn’t, I find myself thinking of “The Mad Poet.” It’s comforting to know that there’s someone else out there who’s struggling to create right along with me.

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

After Love is Murder, I spent the next two months working on short stories, attending Twilight Tales on a somewhat regular basis and worked up the courage to read some of my stories at their monthly open mics. I asked for feedback on what I read. When I got it, I revised the stories and surprised myself by making them better. My confidence level was improving. It wasn’t as scary to stand in front of a group of people and read one of my stories. I think the pages still rattled a bit, but it wasn’t as nerve racking as the first experience had been.

In April, I attended the World Horror Convention in NYC. I got in late Thursday night and stayed up most of the night talking with David Thomas Lord, who was gracious enough to entertain my “newbie” questions about writing. Over the course of the weekend, I sold books at the Twilight Tales table, attended some outstanding readings (David Thomas Lord, Maria Alexander, John Everson, just to name a few) and met so many interesting people who were so welcoming that it floored me.

One of the highlights of the weekend was my decision to read a piece called “Top 5″ in the WHC Flash Fiction contest. Prizes were awarded for the three best stories. I didn’t win but was told afterward that my story was a contender for third place which made me feel like maybe there was a speck of hope that I had talent. I also participated in the poetry slam and had a blast listening to everyone read. I am having a hard time putting my feelings about attending WHC into words. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is “It was awesome.”

I came home on another post-convention “high” and went back to work trying to finish some short stories, and bubbling with ideas for what would come next.

In June, I lost my mind and decided to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel draft in 30 days. I posted my intention to the Twilight Tales list-serv with instructions for everyone to heckle me if I did not accomplish this goal. I worked with the book, “No Plot, No Problem” and on June 1st opened a Word doc, sat down and started typing. I doubted whether or not I’d actually be able to write 50,000 words about anything. I’m proud to say that I actually finished on June 30th. The goal for me was to see if I could produce the volume. I did it and now it’s time to see if there’s anything salvagable in the draft. I am hopeful on that point.

So, I am here. Plugging away. I’ve been sending short stories out and gotten a few rejections so far. But at least, I’m writing. I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to make my stories better. I’m trying to help other people do the same when I can. I think that catches anyone out there who’s reading this up on how I got here.

Now I just have to figure out where I’m going…

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

I had an epiphany. Everything suddenly made sense. I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing with my life. In that moment, I realized what I wanted to be. Now I just had to figure out what I needed to do to get there.

I was overwhelmed by this revelation. I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I still wasn’t sure how to go about doing that. Joe had provided some advice. He talked about attending conferences, networking, etc. I’ll admit it, I had my doubts. Mostly doubts about myself. This whole process has been a series of baby steps. It took two years between the first two steps. Looking back on it, I’m impressed that it only took two months between steps two and three.

In January 2005, I looked up Twilight Tales, a local fiction reading series based in Chicago. Joe had mentioned being involved with this group and had a story in their anthology, SPOOKS! I checked out there website and joined their Yahoo group and started reading the posts on their list-serv. It seemed like a place where I might learn a thing or two.

I also decided to attend the Love is Murder conference in February 2005. The conference is geared to mystery writers but since it was local, I figured it was as good a place as any to start. It was a great experience. I met so many people and learned so much from the panels I attended. Twilight Tales sponsored an open mic at the conference and I read a portion of the story that I had worked on in Joe’s class. I received a positive response and got some good feedback from several published authors which sent me home with an enthusiam for writing that I never thought possible.

(To be continued…)

Wednesday, August 10th, 2005

I decided to take the class. The teacher, J.A. Konrath (a/k/a “Joe”), amazed me with the story of how he got his 3 book deal. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years of trying, stacks of rejection letters, and probably a great deal of soul searching about whether or not it he had what it takes. But he never gave up and it paid off. He vowed that if he ever achieved any kind of success as a writer that he would do what he could to share his knowledge with other aspiring writers. I admired his drive and determination to follow his dream. I left the class with a new perspective on what this business is about but I still wasn’t convinced I had what it takes to do it myself.

Almost two years passed, I scribbled thoughts in notebooks infrequently during that time. But no serious writing took place. I happened upon the latest COD course catalog and saw that J.A. Konrath was teaching another course “How to Market and Sell Your Writing” in the upcoming term. I registered for it thinking “I liked that other class. So I’ll like this one, too.”

On the first night, we went around the room to introduce ourselves and when I said, “Hi, I’m Martel Sardina. I took the “How to Land an Agent” class and enjoyed it. So now I’m back for this one.” I was expecting his response to be something along the lines of “Welcome back” or “That’s great.”

Instead I got “Well, what have you done in the last two years?” and I had nothing to report because I wasn’t a writer. In my mind, I was a writer because I thought writing a poem or scribbling thoughts in a notebook put me in the same league with the authors on the NY Times Best Seller List. I thought the difference between us was luck. They had good luck and I didn’t. I treated my dream of being a writer as something akin to winning the lottery. I never really thought about how the Best Sellers got there, I know I underestimated what it took to get there.

I told Joe that I had written a bit, poems mostly, and what he said to me next changed my life. “If you want to write poems and write in journals for the rest of your life, that’s fine. That’s not what it takes to be a professional writer. Professional writers treat writing like a business. Not a dream. Not like winning the lottery.”

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

It all started a few years ago when I thought I might like to take up writing again. When I was younger, I used to read books as fast as you could get them into my hands. I used to write stories, poetry and songs staying up later than I should have sacrificing sleep to get the ideas out of my head and onto the page. I have notebooks and scraps of paper stacked in boxes that I can’t bear to throw out even though the pages have yellowed and would probably turn to dust if I touched them.

Anyway, I don’t know how it happened exactly but my priorities got out of whack and reading books and writing were replaced by other things. As the years went on, I found myself becoming more and more dissatisfied with life. Something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was.

So I was flipping through a course catalog for the College of DuPage and saw a non-credit course called “How to Land an Agent” which was being taught by a local author who had just landed a 3 book deal with a major publisher. I remember thinking at the time “I used to dream about being the next Stephen King. Wouldn’t it be cool if I still could?”

To be continued…

Monday, August 8th, 2005

It’s 1:22a.m. and I have spent the last 5 minutes trying to figure out what to say in my opening message.

Maybe I should tell you something about me…

I am a writer. I can actually call myself that legitimately now that I’ve had one story published on a webzine and gotten two official rejection letters.

For anyone interested in reading my story, it can be found at:
http://www.twilighttales.com/features/stories/fiction/flash/topfive.php

If you have comments on the piece, feel free to post and let me know.

Until we meet again,

Martel