Writers and design

Through my tenure writing this blog, I’ve dug my way around the internet trying to find useful and interesting websites that I would think other writers would appreciate. The one thing I can never seem to get over though, is the horrible, amateur looking designs that many of them employ.

I already picked on Pif and a few of the databases for being bad, but the more online literary magazine I try and read, the more annoyed I get at the bad design.

The Mad Hatter’s Review might just be one of the ugliest websites I have ever seen. I know they have good content. I’ve read stories that come out of it. I have heard people talk about it. But go ahead and try and subject yourself to that site and tell me how many stories you read.

La Petite Zine is another respected publication that looks like they put about five minutes of effort into designing their site. Then there’s Slope. I get it, it’s cute. Everything is on an angle. I don’t want to read things that are on an angle. Then you find out that the entire magazine is one really really long page. Hope you don’t have 56k!

It’s time for these editors to either learn some Dreamweaver, or pay someone to make a decent site for them. There is no excuse in 2009 to have a website that looks like that.


Blast from the past

I wasn’t always a smarty-pants know-it-all when it came to fiction. No no. I went through plenty of stages of learning, most of them trial and error, to get to a point where I felt comfortable about talking about fiction with some slight authority. And that is why it gives me great pleasure to present a public showing of the first short story I wrote way back when in my first creative writing class in college.

First I just have to fire up my old computer to get the file.

The old girl isnt doing to well.

The old girl isn't doing to well.

But that’s okay, I got what I needed. Enjoy:

Don’t be afraid of the workshop

One of the best ways to get valuable insight into your writing is to have it workshopped. I had the luxury of going through this during the creative writing classes I took in college.

For those not in school, there are community book stores and book groups that will hold workshops. I’m sure there are some forums out there where you can get that to happen (I tried to get it working on here, but no one wanted to submit.) One place that might be useful, though I haven’t spent much time looking through the community stuff, is scribd. That’s what I’ve been using whenever I post Word documents on here and it seems like a cool site worth checking out.

Now, the reason for my title. While I considered the workshops fortunate, some of my classmates showed immediate apprehension. They were nervous to let others read their stories, maybe of fear of people not liking them. Some people tend to have issues taking criticism. Whichever the reason, if you’re afraid of workshops, stop now. To truly be a great writer, you have to let others read you.

take a seat and join the discussion

take a seat and join the discussion

*People in picture might not be discussing fiction, but they totally should be.

Have you checked out…

…your local non-corporate bookstore? Many people go to Borders or Barnes & Nobles when they need a book. But there are plenty of private owned bookstores in every city that might offer more to it’s customers then just new releases and Starbucks.

Many will have extensive used books sections, with way more manageable prices compared to what B and B&N up there think they can charge you. They might even offer more community related activities, such as book clubs, workshops and reading sessions.

There happens to be one such place like that right in my Baltimore. They actually have everything I listed, and probably even more.

Or maybe, you like your books slightly more… Communist. Someone will have you covered.

On being a writer and a student

Sometimes, finding time to write can be next to impossible. It’s a passion that can sometimes be difficult to find time for. Between finishing school, working, blogging, doing the rest of my classwork and attempting to maintain a social life, it can be rather hard to find time to do what you love. I’m sure a lot of people who read this have the same issue, and I want you to know, I feel you.

Look at my desk, I don’t even have room for my laptop on there!


What’s your perspective?

By this, I’m talking about the narrator of the story. From which perspective is your story being told? Picking your perspective is more then just whatever you feel like. Each one brings a stylistic difference with it that will change the way your story is told.

First person

I’ve heard people call first person amateur, but I disagree. It does tend to be the voice most used by beginning writers. First person is easy to start, but hard to master. It is best used in situations where the action is very focused on your main character and they have a very strong voice. Things in the story should be colored toward their opinions and ideas. You should really know your character before jumping into the story.

Second person

Rarely used, and for good reason. Since second person is ,”you,” you’re making the reader the main character. This could be used to create an interesting mood or to place the reader in an uncomfortable situation (I’m thinking the Beatles song, “For No One,” off of Revolver).

Third person limited

Possibly the most versatile voice you can use in short fiction. There is a lot you can do by being detached to your character but only having access to their thoughts. You know have the freedom to describe the actions of other characters separate from the interactions they have with your main character, but since you only have access to their thoughts you can show how they shape that person. It can also give you a detachment, a sort of coldness, to your main character. A desperate emotional situation, with an unfeeling narrator, can feel that much worse.

Third person omniscient

Another voice that would be rather difficult to use. This time, only because of the space requirements. This is much easier to use in novels, where you have the time and space to jump around between your characters. By doing this in a short story, you are limiting how much you get to know about each character you move to, and you already have so little to work with.

What are you guys writing out there?

I’ll admit that I’ve aimed this blog toward my own writing style, and what I like to write. I’ve always gone for more of a character driven, realistic, maybe mid or early 90s setting for my writing. Just kind of happens that way.

But poking around the internet, I noticed a huge following for science fiction and fantasy writing. So that got me thinking, what are YOU writing?