Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Smoldering Press

The typewriter has been working over time! Since last week's post, I've churned out a total of four stories. One of the drafts is a story I'm strongly considering for submission after the beta group replies to the latest draft. The POV changed less than five pages into the narrative, and looking back, I'm glad I revised it. Makes a lot more sense and it heightened the emotional impact.

I've also been reading a lot of stuff from Writer's Digest website. Very helpful. Here's an example. I signed up for their free newsletter, so next time they have a competition I'll be ready.

Lots of writers talk about establishing a routine. Some suggest working on no less than four or five short stories at a time. With my shorts, I've found this not only to be possible but rather exciting. The process developed on its own.

1. Write the raw concept/idea, then the background information, character profiles, setting, plot, etc.

2. Write the first draft.

3. Edit for spelling (I've grown to love going over hard copies with a pencil).

4. Let it rest. Length of time varies. Work on other projects. 

5. Re-read draft. Mark instances where things should be added. Cut fluff or reword sentences. (I deleted half of one story to change the POV; ended up making it longer than the first three drafts)

6. Submit to beta group, wait for reactions. Transcribe story to computer.

7. Take critiques and apply. Repeat process until satisfied. 

Yesterday, I found it impossible to make any meaningful progress on my story revisions. It took nearly an hour to hammer out a measly 300 words. I had an appointment to keep, so I took it to the typewriter. 


Out came six pages, good pages, with time to spare. My Remington De Luxe 5 has been a pleasure and delight to work with.

Lesson? Find whatever is best for your muse and never ever deviate from it. I think my typewriter's magic. My girlfriend insisted that it was me all along (tee hee, gotta love her). Henceforth, I shall no longer be stingy about paper consumption, even if I've starting mid-way through a story with a new scene. I produce my best work using the magic manual. 

So, now that I've got four stories in draft form and in various stages of revision, it's high time I try to submit to someone! I don't expect acceptance right off the bat (though that'd be great). I'm more focused on learning the submission process. It's similar to trying to sell a novel: pitch, wait, assume rejection if you've waited long enough with no reply, try again.

I figure I can crank out four stories every two or three weeks, revising the drafts and zeroing in on the one I want to submit the most. Since the magazines I've got in mind don't like multiple submissions until they're replied to one author (or a certain amount of time has passed), submissions will be made accordingly.

On a sightly different note, I'd like to take a moment and discuss a film I watched not too long ago.

"The Lost Weekend."

Made in 1945, starring Ray Millard, "The Lost Weekend" is a film adaptation of a book of the name by Charles Jackson. According to what I found, the story is semi-autobiographical. 

Millard plays the role of a conflicted writer name Don Birnam. He's going through the same struggles that most writers do: can't finish a project, questions if he's got what it takes, longing to pen that definitive masterpiece. 

Birnam's also a raging alcoholic in recovery. In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie he tells a bartender how it "helps" him.

I like this monologue. Eliminate the references to drinking and replace it with imagination or creativity and you've got the job description of a writer.

I have a personal commitment against drinking and other substances (religious reasons, as well as financial and health). Throughout the film, Birnam is convinced that he cannot channel muse without a few drinks. Lots of artists, Stephen King, H.G. Wells, and John Lennon to name a few, also turned to narcotics for some inspiration (a few others, like Mark Twain, just did for fun).

I watched a documentary on John Lennon after he left The Beatles. One segment shows that while doing cocaine, the music got progressively worse. Birnam later states that the internal editor (whom he refers to as "the other guy") keeps egging him on to drink so that he can work, only to convince him that his time would be better spent drinking than writing. 

The great irony is that Birnam smokes during the whole film. My grandfather once told me that nicotine helped his mind focus and get energized. He said there wasn't anything better than a fresh cup of coffee and a cigarette in the morning.

What happens to Birnam (and the other three artists) is that the substance he thinks is helping him is actually killing him. While physically destroying his body and mind it's also destroying whatever creative drive he had. By the end of the movie he's trying to kill himself because he's convinced there's nothing left...until his girlfriend Helen urges him to write about his binge, hence, the story you've been watching becomes the novel.

I really liked the film, but the soundtrack was kinda weird. Whenever Birnam is on a binge they started playing a woo-woo effect that reminded me of the Twilight Zone.

Being a movie from the 1940s, I always take notes on how much things have changed.

1. Birnam is able to purchase cigaretts on a budget of .50¢ a week. Ha!

2. Birnam can get a quart of rye whiskey for $2.15. Ha!

3. The local movie theatre has a coat check.

4. Milk delivered. Every day. In glass bottles. To your doorstep.

5. Every business is closed on Sunday. Ha! (This part led to a rather funny moment when Birnam, in a last ditch effort to buy more booze, tries pawning his typewriter on a weekday. He finds that a shop owned by Jews is closed for Yom Kippur [which the actor pronounces as yom kipper and not kip-oor]. The man tells Birnam that the Irish-owned places have also agreed to stay closed if the Jews will not open on St. Patrick's Day)

Speaking of typewriters, here's a shot of the one featured in this picture. 

If you zoom into the lower-left corner, you can see the machine. The type bars are elevated! What's the deal? To the best of my knowledge, this is a Remington Portable of some kind. It's different than the ones I own. Mine just happen to be portable, but the company had a series of machines that were marked as portable. Yeah. Seems legit.

Anyway, I'm not sure what specific variation was used for the movie, but here's a video I found demonstrating the mechanism.

Something else I've been practicing, but haven't mastered, is centering text on my magic manual. Birnam does this with ease. Makes me wish I could take a class.

Just like mine, the typewriter has only one triangle on the aligning guide. I've tried counting individual spaces to get it right, but I'm going to have to work on it a bit more.

Fingers crossed for good beta feedback and impressing an editor!

Power to the pen.

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