"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living."
-Anais Nin

30 November 2011

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

I've signed up for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge. It's exciting to be part of this worthy initiative to get people to read and review works by Australian women writers. It's also another good excuse (like I ever need one) to get out and buy more books!

While I've read some of the books on my tentative list, I've never written reviews for any of them. This Challenge is a really cool incentive to write about these books.

GENRE: Devoted Eclectic-- I love books, regardless of genre. A good story is always a treasure.
CHALLENGE LEVEL: Franklin-tastic-- It's no challenge unless it's really challenging!

25 July 2011

Make Money from Writing: Links to Freelance Writing and Fiction Markets

Ready to start earning money from your writing? Here are some great links.
  1. If you're into writing novels or non-fiction book-length pieces- You can sell your book (either through traditional publishing or self-publishing). This won't be covered here. I've written about what to expect in terms of Making a Living from Writing books here. Learn some fascinating facts and actual figures on how much you can make publishing books there.
  2. If you're into writing articles and other content- Become a freelance writer. See below for some great links
  3. If you love writing short fiction- Submit to fiction markets (magazines and literary journals). Market listings are given below.

Disclaimer: The author is not affiliated in any way to any of the sites shown below. Please exercise due caution when browsing these sites, particularly those requiring fees or promising pay for work. If in doubt, Google the questionable site and the keyword 'scam', or visit Preditors and Editors for links to warnings.

In general, the best place for market information would be resources such as WritersMarket.Com. However, these sites charge fees for access or subscriptions. I provide a number of links below that do not charge any fee yet provide a lot of information on markets for writers.

Freelance writing

Fiction markets

General listings (not genre-specific)
  • Duotrope Digest  My personal favourite. Provides excellent statistics on response times and acceptance rates; provides a submission tracker free of charge (you just need to register as user- also free of charge); has hundreds (thousands?) of market listings; great search engine allows you to search by submission mode (electronic vs. postal) and sort by response time. acceptance rate, and more
  • Fiction Factor Has links to various lists by genre
  • Absolute Write Flash Fiction Market Listing- Lists flash fiction markets; will also take you to Duotrope Digest and Ralan's Webstravaganza. I also write about flash fiction markets on my post here
  • NewPages.com Not very easy to navigate or browse, but lists notable literary magazines and journals with phone and email contacts
Fiction- Science Fiction / Fantasy

So go start writing and submitting your work. May you make some money doing what you love.

21 July 2011

Writing Tips from an Actor's Tool Kit

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A peek into what actors might teach writers

We all know screenwriting resources can be very helpful to the fiction writer. It might be counter-intuitive, though, that writers can also learn from actors. Those glamorous celebrities on the red carpet, those ‘starving artists’ on stage in your local theatre, those familiar faces on TV-- not only are some of them (or their ghost writers) writing their memoirs, but they also rely on tools and methods which I've found very helpful to fiction writing. 

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Enriching Character Development Through Varied Actions
You’ve probably agonised at some point over describing how a character moves and acts in order to convey his/her personality. You don’t want to say he’s bossy; you want to show him ordering his friends around. You don’t want to say he’s nervous; you want to say he’s jiggling his leg, she’s biting her lip; and so on. Sooner or later, though, you may find yourself repeating actions and words. Perhaps not in a short story, but more likely in a 90,000-word novel.

A thesaurus is no longer adequate. It’s not enough to change ‘stare’ to ‘gawk’, ‘watch’ to ‘observe’. You want to convey a deeper appreciation of your character’s personality through a variety of action verbs and action descriptions.

That’s where actors’ resources can come in. Actors need to get inside their characters’ heads, and act out not just what’s on the script  but convey the personality of the character through movement. To illustrate an actor doesn't simply 'walk'; he struts off with chest puffed out, feet trailing his body, to show that this person is one who is always impatient to get to his destination. An actress may not say much, but is constantly touching parts of her body and wetting her lips  to communicate flirtatiousness.

It's just as important for actors as it is for writers to avoid clichés and repetitiveness in behaviour. Yet they both need to use signals and body language familiar to the audience.

There are a number of interesting articles on acting methods available on the internet which writers can also learn from. I summarise them below and illustrate how I think these lessons might be applied in fiction.

Action in non-action 
Image: Andy Newson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


This article by Bill Howey gives actors tips on how to convey action through non-action. Writers also need to describe stillness, and not have characters constantly moving and 'doing'.  There's a list of when stillness would be appropriate (e.g before or after a decision, before or after a revelation, and more). As Bill says, "Strong character stories rise out of stillness".

For these scenes, writers can describe sensations and thoughts of the unmoving character. Use non-action verbs  (e.g. those that evoke sensations, show desire, communicate opinion and the like) in place of movement. Just as the actor is internalizing the moment, so can  the writer show introspection.

Non-action can also be a good time to describe the character's surroundings. As the camera pans from the character's pensive face to the breathtaking landscape around her, so can  the writer illustrate the unmoving external environment and setting.

Sense Memory

You've heard that fiction is the realisation of truth through imagined and created scenes. Sense and emotional memory methods can help writers struggling to describe objects, actions or scenes. By recalling a similar scene that might have happened to you, you would be able to better describe how your character acts or reacts in the same situation. Sense memory has to be linked very closely to the personality of the  character, of course. While s/he may have a very different personality from you, your sense memory will still help in making the scene and the actions truthful and believable.

How should your characters react and act in the scenes? You know them well, you know their motivations, their objectives, the stakes the plot has raised for them. Yet you might struggle at times to show them acting, well, in character. This article describes techniques an actor uses to distinguish action versus emotion. It suggests how you can tap into your own emotional memory, and focus on your objectives when acting out. Just as the writer needs to show the emotion rather than tell the reader what the character is feeling, the actor has to act out the emotion rather than simply yell, “I’m mad as hell!”

It's also interesting how a writer might apply the method of exploring a character 'from outside in' through his/her physicality and voice. A writer might be familiar with a character's thoughts, objectives and emotions, but how does that character sound? What are his/her physical mannerisms? How does a character's physical aspects feed into how he or she behaves in the story?

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Emotional reactions, physical actions
Act out the emotion you want to convey, to see what happens physically. To illustrate-- you’re tired: your arms feel heavy. You're angry: your jaw clenches.Seems obvious? Read the article anyway to learn tips on how to tap self-examination techniques. Writers can't just observe how others behave, after all. We can also benefit from knowing ourselves better.

Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus
by Marina Caldarone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams
(You can preview the book on Google).

I found this to be an interesting read, and one that even writers can use. Besides being a thesaurus specific to action verbs, it also illustrates different ways for a scene to be interpreted by changing the active verb that guides the actor on the objective for the dialogue. For example, the authors illustrate how Olivia's line in Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night can be interpreted in three ways below:

OLIVIA: Whence came you, sir? [Actor speaks this line acting out the objective 'to examine']

OLIVIA: Whence came you, sir? [Actor acts out 'to captivate']

OLIVIA: Whence came you, sir? [Actor acts out 'to analyse'] 

Although the writer would not use these verbs (examine, captivate, analyse) in the text itself, the subtle differences between them provide insight on how a simple line can be transformed by how that those words are spoken. In imagining the different interpretations, a writer can also visualise different ways of showing  the scene.

Other than that, the thesaurus itself might be worth the price.

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Other Tools:
Actors, like writers, also study psychology and body language, two disciplines that provide valuable insights to how people act out their feelings and thoughts.

This is slightly off-topic, as this article comes from a business site rather than an article for actors. But I really want to share this excellent link to body language, with notes on cultural and gender differences. It even has a matrix for each body part and the various meanings of movement of those parts.

I've found it to be a helpful reference in describing actions. Most of it may not be new, but it's a good reminder that there's more than one way, for example, that a man can unconsciously show his interest in a woman, and vice versa. Or that aggressiveness can be conveyed in many different stances and gestures. After all, we can't be all like Dr. Cal Lightman (of Lie to Me). Many of us can use a handy reference to micro-gestures and micro-expressions.

Know of any other tips and tools from acting that help you in writing? Please do share in the comments below!

24 June 2011

When you should copyright your work

Somebody asked this question in my writing group. Below is a revised version of my response. 

N.B. I am a lawyer and work on copyright licenses in the research organization where I work.

Short answer: Copyright attaches to your work from the moment of creation.You own the copyright to all your drafts. Whether on paper or purely electronic, from the moment you write, you own the copyright. Registration of copyright is no longer a prerequisite for owning your intellectual property.

Read more:

Unless you explicitly assigned your copyright in a binding agreement, you own all rights to your writing, including submissions to writing groups, workshops, and magazines.

Your book contract, even contracts with magazines for short stories, will require you to license, perhaps even assign, your copyright to the publisher. You do not need to register your copyright before signing such contracts as you already own the copyright to your work. However, your publisher will either register or have you register  your work formally with the copyright office, prior to distribution of your work.

When should I register my copyright?

Short answer: Copyright attaches to your work from the moment of creation. Registration is no longer necessary under copyright laws in most jurisdictions.  
(N.B. This is a different rule from patents and trademarks, where registration is essential.)

Your copyright ownership, either registered or unregistered, is effective in all countries that have signed the various copyright treaties.

Read more:
While you own what you write, you do not own any copyright to your ideas. Only expressions of ideas may be protected as intellectual property.

Registration is mainly for purposes of evidence in cases of infringement lawsuits. The date on your copyright registration will prove the originality of your work if the date is earlier than the other party's registration.

Because copyright attaches to a work from the moment of creation, you may put 'all rights reserved' or 'copyright [insert year]' on your work without need of registration (as I've done below).

As many experts will advise, do not put copyright marks on your submissions, queries or proposals as this will mark you as an 'amateur', precisely because everyone in the publishing industry knows that you automatically own copyright to your work.

It would be a good idea to put copyright marks on your blog, website, photos, etc., as most internet users (I hope) are more circumspect about copying work that are appropriately marked.

Merely publishing work without putting a copyright mark DOES NOT put your work 'in the public domain'. If you want to make your work broadly accessible and you wish to freely allow reprints or dissemination of your writing, you may wish to use one of the Creative Commons licenses.

Feel free to send questions as comments to this post. For advice on specific instances or cases of infringement, please see disclaimer below.

Would you like to learn more about copyright and licensing? Post some topics you want me to cover  as comments to this article. 

Disclaimer:  This article is posted for purposes information only. Nothing on this website should be construed as constituting legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for specific concerns on intellectual property rights.

Below are some useful links:

© C.A.T. Torres V. 2011
Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website,including files downloadable from this website, without the written permission of the copyright owner. You may, however, provide back links to this page.

Part VB and section 183 entitlements reserved. For information about Part VB (educational use) and section 183 (government use) visit www.copyright.com.au and www.copyright.org.au.

Flash Fiction Addiction

Hello, I’m C.A.T. Torres V, and I’m a flash fiction addict. If you’re an emerging writer still honing your craft, I suggest you become one, too.

I completed three novels (first drafts) before I discovered the heady pleasure of writing flash fiction. I always thought of stories in the long, drawn-out format. But now that I’ve sampled flash fiction writing, I’m hooked.

Fortunately, it’s not a destructive addiction. In fact, it’s helped me improve my writing. There’s nothing like a 500 to 1,000-word limit to force you to obey all those golden rules: begin in medias res; take out adjectives and adverbs; use strong verbs; limit use of dialogue tags; show, don’t tell.  I’m now applying that vigilance in cutting down words and ‘killing my darlings’ in my draft novel.

The plethora of online markets for flash fiction is amazing. Check out the listings available on AbsoluteWrite and go through the search engine of Duotrope to select the best market for your work. Duotrope has helpful stats and details on submission requirements, plus a great submission tracker to help you keep track of all your submissions. By reporting your submissions, acceptances and responses, you provide more information to other writers also searching for the right market for their stories.

You might want to choose markets with fast response times but are challenging to get into, or those with high acceptance rates but take forever to respond (even to reject your work).

‘Democratic’ ezines such as The Fringe and Weird Year combine approachability with swift responses. Their main goal is to provide new writers publication exposure. Though they’re usually non-paying markets (i.e. you don’t get paid for your story), they’re free and thus more affordable than flash fiction contests that charge entry fees. These ezines don’t count as vanity publishing or self-publishing, since you don’t publish your story at your own expense. Contributing to these ezines will also help them grow to become paying or professional markets. It’s a win-win situation.

Exposure aside, there is invaluable benefit in submitting to tougher ezines. Feedback from these editors can be educational. Because they only read very short fiction, they’re able to respond quickly and personally, rather than just send form letters. They’re able to identify the weakness in the submission in a response as succinct as the story itself.

I would personally prefer to submit to tough markets with fast response times (i.e. less than a month). Since they usually prohibit simultaneous  and multiple submissions, I’d prefer to receive my rejections quickly so I can either submit an improved piece to the next tough market, or another piece to the same market.

Oh, and you might want to try out Autocrit Wizard. You won’t need to shell out any money to analyze flash fiction text; just stick to the free service option. It allows you to analyse 500 words three times each day. It’s useful in finding overused words and repeated phrases that you might have missed, and excellent in marking generic descriptions and clichés.

If you read your work aloud to edit (which you always should, whether writing flash fiction or a novel), you probably won’t need Autocrit. With 500 words or less, reading aloud doesn’t seem so tough anymore.

So go and have a blast writing flash. And let me know if it's time to set up a Flash Fictions Anonymous.