Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When Revision Becomes Re-Imagine

For years I have been working on a short story which has plagued my imagination for quite some time -- the idea of which sparked within my brain during my short stint as an employee at a bookstore some four or five years ago. It was a story which took one wintery day and an entire pot of coffee to begin. I wrote on a whim, allowing the words to free-flow without any real thought or purpose as to where they may lead; and what I wound up with was a twenty-page manuscript which had no ending and just a lot of dribble-drabble which I loved. Good enough!

It took a few months before I really found my way to a conclusion; after which came the inevetiable (and dreadful) revision process. So I sat down with a printed copy, started up a pot of coffee, and began reading openly without any bias (a bias which can only be described as I-am-the-author-of-this-here-masterpiece-and-feel-every-word-of-it-is-masterfully-crafted!). And when I was finished I set down my coffee and my manuscript, gently rose from my favorite sitting position (crossed legged on the couch), walked into my office, turned on my computer and began playing a multiplayer first-person-shooter game to help relieve my utter disappointment and frustration at having crafted the biggest pile of slushy crap to ever grace a 5,000+ word-count -- I figured that perhaps it's best to stick with what I'm truly good at: shooting counter-terrorists across open fields with long-scope sniper-rifles!

Anyway, it was only a matter of time until I decided to sit down and try my hand at editing the original piece, but I knew that this revision was going to bear the scars of more than just a grammatical operation . . . the plot needed to undergo a messy dissection! So I made a pot of coffee, smoked a few cigarettes, and scratched my head for awhile (because I had dandruff at the time) and began to muse about what exactly needed to change. Then it occurred to me: less words!

WARNING! Lesser word-count does not a good revision of plot make!

I know that many times a short story must undergo a dramatic transformation in length in order to fit the scope of publishable material (most zines I submit to request under 5,000 words), but to try and fix a plot by merely chopping off words left and right is truly a macabre way of crafting a story!

So there I was, again, back in my office, sitting at my computer -- only this time playing a game of chess online as I had deemed gaming to be a distraction and set out to uninstall every game I had so as to focus on more important things in life; but not straying from the rationale that gaming is a much needed stress reliever . . . I merely justified that if I am going to play a game online then it should at least be game which takes intelligence!

Anyway, long story short (too f___ing late!) I finally decided to have a go at the story one more time (which by this point had seen at least five revisions -- in both plot and length, but to no avail). Even though I was in the midst of revising/rewriting another story I decided to make a pot of coffee, light up a cigar, scratch my head (this time in thought . . . dandruff gone!) and set out rewriting what I had originally intended for all those years ago! But I knew the plot was still in dire need of a change and so I wondered to myself: what could be more drastic than erasing a character altogether? And poof!, I set out with a brand new revision.

One week, seven cigars and twelve pots of coffee later, I'm left with a brand new story that has a 9,000+ word-count and is now in dire need of a serious revision all its own! GAH!

But it wasn't all for naught . . . right? It's all about the crafting of crap, not the crappy craft . . . right?

Anyway, I feel slightly more hopeful with this new re-imagining. It still isn't how I figured the piece should or could have been, but I am coming to grips with it being one of those stories that just may not be suitable for zines seeking smaller word-counts. After all, a story is more than just words.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Philosophical Pondering: Aspiring vs' Accomplished

It seems these days that almost anyone and everyone claims esteemed titles such as author, artist, or musician but are merely aspiring individuals of said arts, rather than accomplished. But that in itself is a vague notion . . . for what does it truly mean to be an aspiring artist or an accomplished one?

In the past I was always under the assumption that if you were an individual who had an artistic piece (be it poem, song, or drawing) produced in some sort of mass-marketed format (i.e. magazine, record, or comic strip) then you were by very definition an accomplished artist. This notion was somewhat shaped by my academic understanding of said fields. As a student of creative writing I had to study accomplished authors who had works featured in various formats (zines, anthologies, colletions, et cetera) for I was merely an aspiring writer who had to emulate these individuals. They were authors, I was merely a writer. And so the very idea of being published was something I held in high regard. And so I set out seeking my title.

Well, after two years or so of rejections I began to doubt myself. I thought that perhaps there was something wrong with my writing (which had undergone extreme evolutions -- both in style and content) until I found out what was wrong were the markets I was submitting to. I was an aspiring writer seeking publication amidst accomplished authors. How foolish of me? So I switched gears. Instead of seeking big-press I set my sights on small-press. But now, to my horror, it seems that a vast number of markets open to aspiring writers are becoming overrun by those already accomplished in the field.

Small-press, indie-labels and self-publications are more popular than ever . . . in fact, it's almost become a title in its own right: indie artist, self-published author. And more often than not many individuals who find themselves in these markets are by very definition accomplished! They may not seek the bigger markets or venues as they have made their mark in the smaller ones and continue to do so.

It seems to me that one may claim the title as accomplished (in any format) by sheer popularity (be it fandom or proof of economic status). And it goes without saying these days that the quickest and easiest method to get your name out there and attract groups of people is through multiple online avenues. Anymore, an author doesn't need to be published in a magazine that rests on magazine stands in chains of bookstores -- nor do they need to be published in smaller zines found at local coffee shops or independently own books stores -- today, almost anyone can publish their work online (regardless of the website). And depending on how many individuals visit the site and read their story then, by definition, they are an accomplished author.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing for those who are aspiring writers? What does it truly take to become accomplished? Furthermore, what does it truly mean to be accomplished?

I have seen a few of my stories in print for the very first time, and I continue to write as I dream of being an accomplished author. I am also a musician who has played on stages in local venues, recorded a few demos and albums, even made some home video recordings which I have featured on YouTube.com. And through it all I am still an aspiring artist. At what point in time may I claim myself as accomplished? Does that even matter? Who knows . . . all I know is I like to write and I love to play music . . . and oh, how I wish people would love me for it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Look, a Book!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

Vastly articulate and intellectually enthralling Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of those rare books which actually catapults you (the reader) into a world of its own magical devices as it sucks you into the fantastical visions of first-time novelist Susanna Clarke. Most notably, upon first inspection of this book, is its great length -- which, many fans of fantasy are accustomed too -- but to tell such a lengthy story without expanding decades or centuries or travels to and fro dangerous lands littered with snarling beasts is quite the feat . . . more so for a first-time writer. But the length of the novel is one of the more remarkable things about it, for the story contained within is actually quite uneventful, yet fascinating! There were by no means any moments of pure boredom (despite multitudes of filler), and though a number of scenes are rather dull, focusing more on dialogue, descriptions and language rather than actual climatic situations, the plot continues to thicken. And thicken. And thicken. Indeed, it's quite puzzling how the book continues to drag on and on, expanding on characters to the point of exhaustion, yet never falters, and instead only continues to grab your interest. And then, when it almost seems apparent that the book is going to suddenly end without any real conclusion, that's when the story finally spirals drastically, proving to be a real tour-de-force demanding your utmost attention and desire!

There is something undoubtedly remarkable about this book, but it comes from so many different avenues that it's hard to truly pinpoint what makes it so remarkable. I had been told by a number of fans that this was a great story, but that is an argument better suited for the various schools of thought when concerning the sole definition of story. For example, if one were seeking a story of grand adventure, look elsewhere. If one were looking for a story concerning the battle of good and evil, look elsewhere (although there is plenty of good and evil in this story). Yet if one were looking for a story that delves deep into the human condition, then this is definitely the book! But whereas most stories surrounding this style are better suited for mainstream fiction or memoirs, this one pulls it off in a work of fantasy, Finally, a novel that interweaves fantasy and fiction (in the most broadest of definitions) without being hokey or too overbearing.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a novel for any reader. Fans of mainstream fiction would love it as well as fans of fantasy and science-fiction, and in almost any age group -- though the youthful fanatics of fantasy these days may find the book terribly dull without its cliched romances and monsters; nevertheless, I am sure that any true lover of stories would be most pleased to stumble into the world of Susanna Clarke.

So . . . Great Book, Great Read!

This review and many others by me can be found at Goodreads: C. D. Brinker review.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Careful What You Wish For at Title Goes Here:

My short story Careful What You Wish For is featured at Title Goes Here: Online Edition (Issue 1.4 - April 2011).

Brief Synopsis
Careful What You Wish For tells the story of a weed that dreams of becoming a flower, but fails to realize that beauty comes with a price.

Please visit Title Goes Here: and check it out!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Outside the Box at Bards and Sages Quarterly

My short story Outside the Box is featured in Bards and Sages Quarterly (Volume III, Issue No. 2 - Spring, 2011).

Brief Synopsis:
Outside the Box is a colorful little tale about the life of a crayon, and the horrors therein.

Please visit Bards and Sages Quarterly and check it out. PDF and print copies are available at Amazon.com.

Happy reading!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friend or Foe? at Golden Visions Magazine

My short story Friend or Foe? is featured in Golden Visions Magazine (Issue No. 14 - Spring, 2011).

Brief Synopsis
Friend or Foe? concerns itself with that age-old question: are we alone in the universe?

Please visit Golden Visions Magazine and check it out. A PDF copy as well as a print version of the issue are available for purchase.

Happy reading!