Category: Uncategorized

Did He Use Two Spaces, or Only One?

Well to tell you the truth, in all of this excitement I sort of lost track myself.

An interesting link popped up on my feed today, though I’m sure it’s nothing new for many people.  It was written in 2011, and people are still confused as to why it has suddenly resurfaced.  Anyway, as horrible as the article is, it has sparked (or fueled?) a bizarre debate:  Does one use one space or two after the end of a sentence?

This article from Slate takes the position of one space only, and anything else is absolutely wrong and hideous.  In fact, it argues this point with such venom and a complete lack of actual reason that my first instinct was that it was a work of satire.  But after poking around and seeing similar concerns from other commenters, and finding out that the author no longer works for Slate, I am 75% sure that the article was intended to be serious.  Is this what we can come to expect from internet journalism these days?  But that’s another topic.

The article makes three points:

  • Single-spacing is the One True Typography;
  • Double-spacing is the work of heretics and only serves to make your work uglier;
  • Most people would understand these truths, if it weren’t for historical mistakes and evil typewriters.

Personally, I double space after sentences.  It is habit for me and I refuse to change it, especially for people like the above whose only reasons are “because we said so and it’s ugly anyway.”  That line of logic reminds me of middle school cliques, and anyone who hasn’t outgrown those yet should do so pronto.

Then I came across this article that tells the other side of the story, that double-spacing isn’t an absolute evil and the single-space camp is holding on to false history.  Even with the nature of the internet being what it is, this one has done its homework and cites actual sources, providing more information than “these nameless typographers HAVE SPOKEN!”

Do you think that my writing looks ugly?  I hope not.  Maybe I can hide that extra space padding with the right font and blog template.

What I’ve gathered from this is that double-spacing is an old standard, while single-spacing is the newfangled replacement.  But is one “more correct” than the other?

I’m going to use William Shunn’s manuscript formatting guide as my judge.  Why?  Because now that I’m out of school for good, the time that I use to submit short stories and novels is the only time that I care what anyone thinks of my typography style.  Let’s see what he says:

In the days of typewriters, the usual practice was to put
two spaces after the end of every sentence, and also to put two
spaces after every colon.  This helped make the separations
between sentences more apparent, and helped editors more easily
distinguish periods from commas and colons from semicolons.  With
the dominance of computers, that practice is changing, and it is
more common now to see only one space between sentences.
Ingrained habits die hard, though, so if you're used to hitting
the spacebar twice after a period, you shouldn't stress out about
it, particularly if you're using a Courier font.

Thank you, Mr. Shunn.

I’m not going to let anyone tell me how many spaces to put between my sentences.  You shouldn’t, either.  That goes for the single-space, double-space, and line-break camps.

When a Rejection Makes You Happy

As some of you may know, I am in the process of finding a home for a flash fiction piece titled Swamp Gas.  It’s slow and tedious work to find a magazine that fits your niche, send it according to their guidelines, and wait often months at a time for their response.  

Today, I received a reply from the latest magazine after an extended wait.  The editor told me that while he personally enjoyed the story, he felt it lacked a meaningful conclusion.  The response is a rejection, but it still put me in a good mood.  Why is this?

Based on my experiences and what I’ve read from others, there are four different types of responses one can expect from an agent of publisher:

Form rejection.  If your story doesn’t leave the slush pile, the reader will send a pre-written message back to you.  Usually it’s along the lines of “Thanks, but no thanks.”  An editor or agent doesn’t see your work.

Personalized rejection.  Say your story made it to the next step, but it still doesn’t make the final cut.  This is where an editor will reach out to you.  The reasons for your rejection are more specific, and they can even offer advice.

Rewrite requests.  The editor thinks you’re awesome, but there are just a few things in your story that need tweaking.  Could you fix them and send it back?

Accepted!  Go out and party!

The rejection I got this time was of the personalized variety.  This is the first response of its kind I have received so far.  Previously my attempts were met with form rejections and I’ve adjusted and tightened the story over the months.  So the email I’ve received this morning makes me happy for two reasons:

-Closure.  I submitted Swamp Gas to this magazine in mid July of last year.  Despite assurances on their website that they do not believe in silent rejections and always respond to writers in one way or another, my anxiety got the best of me and I began to worry if the long silence was its own answer.  It is pleasant to see that this magazine kept to its word.

-Progress.  This being the first personalized rejection I’ve received tells me that I’m getting closer to my goal.

Today I will determine my next step.  It is time  to brush the digital dust off of Swamp Gas and determine if there is anything to be done about the story’s end.  I’ve heard the subjective nature publishing process compared to the dating scene before: sometimes there’s little to nothing wrong with you, but you’re not a fit for the other person.  Maybe this lack of meaning in my conclusion is a matter of taste.  But after several months, it couldn’t hurt to take another peek.

New Year, New Goals

So, this post is somewhat late.  January 11th is about ten days past the time most people talk about their resolutions for the year.  Honestly, I haven’t put a lot of thought into my own list of resolutions.  Considering my resolution list changes little from year to year, I’ve mainly decided to focus on finishing old goals rather than rehashing the same old list.

The following is an email I sent to myself (through futureme.org) to help me keep track of my goals for 2013:

Dear FutureMe,

Late last year you made some resolutions to stay creative and stop living under a rock. Hopefully you have accomplished the following:

-Obtained new employment in a restaurant or other foodservice operation. 
-Read 50 books by this time. 
-Finished editing your draft of Jasper City. 
-Finished writing the first draft of Jasper’s Fall. 
-Contributed more to your webcomic, and found someone to produce it with you.

 

Once you get this I hope you have created a new set of resolutions to accomplish in 2014. Good luck!

-Past me

Looking back at the email, I created this on January 12, 2013.  I always was a procrastinator.

My progress on these resolutions has been small.  The only one I have truly accomplished was the first, as I found an entry-level job in a grocery store bakery.  It’s a decent start, not where I wanted to be at the end of the year, but I’m in a good position to work my way up.  Earlier in the year I also found work in the kitchens of a retirement home, but due to bad working conditions and incompetent management I decided to leave.  It’s still a step up from where I was at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, where I left my job as a customer service representative at an insurance agency and was still seeking a new job.

Once again, I put my 50 books challenge on hold.  I did make it halfway and finish 25 books, but I’m happy with that progress.  I don’t think I’ll be taking another crack at it for 2014, as I would like to dedicate much of my free time to writing, but I won’t put off reading books indefinitely.  Perhaps I’ll try for 12 books in the year, spread out to 1 per month.  As for what book I’ll read to start, I haven’t decided yet.

Jasper City is still not out of editing stages, but I have made significant progress.  With the help of a beta, I have plans to expand the story further and restructure it into 3 distinct parts.  Jasper’s Fall has seen almost no new progress, and it may be that way for a while until I figure out how exactly the plot will unfold.  Currently I have a few chapters dedicated solely to the early lives of a few main characters with no way to link them.  I have done some brainstorming for a sequel, titled Jasper’s Legacy.  But I would prefer to get Jasper City finished and out of the way before I go any further.

My webcomic is still a work in progress.  I may rewrite many parts of the script before it sees any production, and I am toying with the idea of drawing it myself.  My problem:  I can’t draw.  So I will need to fix that first.

But here is what I have done in 2013 instead:

-I submitted a short story titled Swamp Gas to a number of magazines.  So far, I have received nothing but form rejections.  At the moment it is in the queue of a magazine that is apparently known for taking a long time to respond (It’s been a few months so far), so I am still waiting.

-I prepared to move into a new apartment.  I actually DID move into said apartment earlier this month.

-I started repayment on my student loans, cursing loan companies under my breath the entire time.

-Worked at a grocery store for the holiday season.  It is about as busy as you would expect, perhaps more so.

But more importantly, this is the year that I become accustomed to being a fully functioning, independent adult.  In 2009-2011 I was finishing high school and moving on to college.  In 2012 and 2013 I graduated and went back to living at home.  Both of these gave me a kind of security blanket that shielded me from real world situations.  Now that I have moved out of my family home, I have my own bills to pay and my own income to do it, with limited or no help.

End of NaNoWriMo Thoughts – What’s the Point?

Four days ago, National Novel Writing Month came to an end.  Those who were dedicated enough, or had enough time on their hands, or chugged a pot of coffee and went crazy on the keyboard, reached the milestone of 50 thousand words.  For many people, it doesn’t always happen for one reason or another.  For some, it never does.  And that’s okay.

The NaNo forums are full of congratulations for those who crossed the finish line, and encouragement for those who haven’t reached it yet.  But you’ll also find links to some odd journalist’s article criticizing the event, always for the same reasons.  They parrot misconceptions about NaNoWriMo that are seen everywhere, especially among people who don’t write as a hobby.

A close friend of mine, after I posted a Facebook status celebrating a day of exceptional wordcount progress, felt the need to point out that the quality of the words is more important than quantity.  The implication?  Maybe I should slow down and work on getting it right the first time.

For some people, this approach may be fine.  I’m not going to pretend that NaNoWriMo is for everyone.  But for many people, myself included, the “getting it right the first time” is a pipe dream.

There are two reasons why those who assume NaNo is all about writing a masterpiece in a month, or that taking the slower approach is better, are downright wrong:

1.  I don’t care how much time you devote to your novel draft, it will not be of professional quality once you finish draft one.  You’ll still have to put it through rounds of edits.  Writers are human, and mistakes will be made.  You’ll make typos and embarrassing grammatical errors.  You’ll probably find a giant plothole halfway through your manuscript.  A character or three will change their personality as you’re writing, and their new thoughts will contradict what you gave them in chapter one.  Regardless of the fact that you own your story, it is in many ways like a living creature: it will change and follow its own path whether you want it to or not, and how you handle these changes will both affect the quality of your story and what direction you go while editing.  But that’s for another topic.

2.  Look at the wordcount for most novels.  You’ll find it is much higher than the standard NaNo goal of 50,000.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has a count of over 77 thousand words, to give one example.  Most writers who reach their 50K goal in NaNo find that their story isn’t even close to being finished.  What’s more, a lot of the words written down don’t survive later rounds of edits (though keep in mind that nothing written is ever truly wasted.)

Make no mistake, most people who participate have no illusions about having the next Song of Ice and Fire on their desk on December 1st.  But if they work hard enough, they just might have the beginnings of their own great story.  And that’s the whole point.

The Office of Letters and Light (NaNo’s parent organization) freely admits that a lot of what people will write in November will turn out to be in need of edits.  (In their own words, “you will write a lot of crap.”)  Their goal is to use that tight timeframe to encourage you to get off your butt and start writing, instead of putting off that novel idea that you’ve been kicking around for years.

The “NaNo is a waste of time” mentality is the misconception of the year.  NaNoWriMo isn’t about churning out a masterpiece of literature in a month.  It’s about getting those words down, because otherwise you never will.

WWW: Richard and Calvin

This comes from Jasper City. Tag line: An outlaw seeks revenge against a city’s tyrant Mayor, while the man appointed to stop him begins to doubt the merits of his cause.

In this excerpt, Richard (also known as Citizen B-39) is still in the hospital.  Someone else decides to pay him a visit.

“But it was not your place to share them!” the Mayor pointed out.  “Did it occur to you that I might be looking for something more than military strategy?”

“You want a puppet.”  If B-39’s realization came as a shock, he didn’t show it.  “But that doesn’t explain the bombing, or how 71’s involved.

“Citizen 71 was a convenient scapegoat.  I can’t have it said that I ordered the bombing, even if it really was the work of petty vigilantes.”