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Author: Kelly

I Write Like: I caught the virus

The “I Write Like” phenomenon has been certified viral on the interwebs this month. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a site where you post a few paragraphs of your writing, click a button, and then it tells you which famous writer your writing is most like. It claims to analyze your word choice and your writing style and compare it to that of famous writers.

I am typically far behind the curve when it comes to trying a fad. Case in point: I only recently discovered what sticky bands are. Case in point: a TV show usually has to be on for about 3 seasons before I will watch the first episode. So in internet time, I am just about in the third season of I Write Like, and this is what it said about me…

First, I uploaded the first 3 paragraphs of Two Steps Forward.

I write like
Raymond Chandler

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I’d never heard of Raymond Chandler, so I Write Like took me somewhere that I could become familiar. Once I read his title list, I realized some of the titles sounded familiar and I was sure I’d seen some of the covers before, but when I went to read the first pages of a couple of his major titles, I didn’t see the resemblance to Two Steps Forward whatsoever. Maybe it’s just me.

Still, they recommended trying it a few times, so then, I tried it with the first 3 paragraphs of The Other Dentenia Zickafoose.

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Well, I certainly know Stephen King, but I don’t think I have read anything of his besides On Writing since I was in junior high, and what I remember of Steven King most is the terrible movies like Cujo and Pet Sematary that used to frighten the hell out of me when I was a kid and later disappointed me as an adult. So I sought out the first few pages of The Gunslinger, one of his later works, and sure enough, it was pretty similar in both structure, syntax, and word choice to The Other Dentenia Zickafoose. Maybe I should put that in my query letters.

Finally, I analyzed the first three paragraphs of my novel, The Redheaded Stepchild:

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

=I’d never heard of Cory Doctorow, so I searched the Amazons (the site, not the geographical region) for a book that I could search inside to see if I Write Like was full of shit, or if it was accurate enough to pass. I landed on Little Brother, and perused the first couple pages. Lo0 and behold, it sounded a lot like the beginning to The Redheaded Stepchild, but from a male perspective. If only “teh suck” had been a known phrase when I first starting writing this thing in the before time.

I still find myself thinking: Really? 3 different people? A friend of mine tried 4 different works of hers and got the same result 3 of the 4 times. Of the people that I have compared my work to, none of these three has been one of them. Maybe I just adapt my writing style to the type of story I am crafting. Then again, I could just be a random spaz. Also, I apparently write like a dude. Maybe someday some dude will find out he writes like Kelly Hitchcock.

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Findings from 2011 Writer’s Market: the economy sucks.

I’ve been deeply entrenched in the process of moving, and had an adventure on moving day that is definitely short story-worthy, but slightly before that I received the 2011 edition of the Writer’s Market for my birthday. I have only perused it a couple of times since I took it out of the Amazon box, but two things in particular struck me about what I have seen:

  1. There were a lot more markets last year. Sure, there are a few new ones, but it’s pretty obvious that the shitty economy has hit publications hard, even the ones who don’t pay, which is almost all of them. Which brings me to two…
  2. Some of the markets that were paying last year (as indicated by the $ icon) are not paying this year. The interesting question to ask here is – are they not paying because they can’t afford to, or are they not paying because they don’t have to?

Let’s face it, the editors of these publications know they are not going to be financing anyone’s lifestyle by paying for their work. Sure, your New Yorkers and Atlantic Monthlies are going to keep paying writers because they want the gourmet stuff and because they have the readership and subscriptions to pay for it. But your Northern Oregon Literary Reviews know that writers have options. They can post their stuff for free anywhere. It’s the prestige of being an author published in an actual literary journal that writers are really seeking, not the money. So why pay for it? Here’s a short list of jobs at which you could make more money than poet submitting to literary magazines:

  • Lemonade stand attendant
  • NFL cheerleader
  • 10-year old receiving allowance
  • Street beggar

But the ways writers get noticed and make money is changing fast, and these journals are starting to pay attention, which means some of them are running scared, while others are rising to the challenge. Anyone want to take bets on whether there will be a Writer’s Market in 2021?

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Cullenitis

At the risk of sounding like a literary snob, I must admit publicly that I have not read many of the series that have become more popular than Molly Ringwald’s characters in 80s movies.

The Twilight Series I have not read this because I have no interest in vampire fiction for teens, and it stuns me that something so contrived could become so successful in such a short time.

Harry Potter Again, I always saw this as a series for children and fantasy is not a genre I enjoy. Still, when’s the last time people waited in line for a book?

The DaVinci Code and similar ilk by Dan Brown. I never got into this because mystery thrillers have never really done it for me.

But the more I think about these wildly popular series that I have never troubled myself to read, the more I think there may be another reason behind the self-important one I believe is me fighting against perceived mediocrity. I think I am jealous of the success of these books in spite of their literary value.

Granted, I don’t know if they actually are devoid of literary value, because I have never read them. For all I know, they could be highly visceral works filled with sardonic wit. I doubt it, but it’s possible. I’m also not trying to imply that if it’s not Tolstoy or Milton I won’t read it. In fact, the opposite is true. I try to sandwich my classic reading with something lighter and more mainstream. Love in the Time of Cholera was like a Dagwood sandwich whose contents I thought I would never finish devouring, but was bookended with a Judy Blume novel and something equally as light and enjoyable. I’m also definitely not trying to imply that anything I write equals the literary value of Updike or Vonnegut, but like it, it doesn’t fit into a nice little genre like Twilight, Harry Potter, or The DaVinci Code. I think that’s something that literary fiction writers struggle with a lot –  trying to answer the question “So what kind of book is it?”

I have therefore resolved myself to read the aforementioned works to try and figure out what makes them so ferociously popular, instead of seething at them. Be warned – I will likely be reading these very conspicuously.

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Smashwormazonapple

Lately my RSS feed has been completely overwhelming with information about how the world of publishing is changing for new authors and how the world of traditional publishing and book printing is slowly going the way of the buffalo. So much so, in fact, that I am befuddled by what road I should take in the publishing of my book.

I read about Smashwords some time ago and thought it was the most innovative thing to happen to publishing since the online submission manager. As a geek in my day job and a fan of open source software, I liked Smashwords’ willingness to use open file formats and shun DRM. In a different way, I also respected their position that they would let anyone (yes, anyone) publish using their services, because they believed that good writing has a way of standing on its own and rising to the top. As writers, we always want to let our work speak for itself on the basis of its merit, but end up having to market ourselves as a circle that fits into a square peg. I even liked the founders’ story of how they tried and tried, and failed and failed, to get published the traditional way. And the best thing, Smashwords is free. Pretty cool, huh?

But then the more I looked around, the more I realized it’s not the only service of its kind out there.  There are loads. Now more than ever, authors have a chance to call their own shots instead of hoping for a deal, any deal, even a shitty one, from a traditional publisher. Amazon has its own service for self-publishing, and just last week, even Apple (yes, THE Apple) announced they would be offering similar services. Granted, you have to have a new Mac, an iTunes account, some spare cash laying around for an ISBN, and be okay with having your work laced with DRM; but hey, it’s a service for authors, and you’ve got the giant that is iTunes out there pimping your stuff.

The more I learn about all the different options available to me, the less sure I am of which direction I want to go next:

  1. Do I keep stuffing envelopes and spending a small fortune on postage trying to get a traditional book deal?
  2. Do I give the middle finger to the traditional publishing industry and jump on the new self-e-publishing wave?
  3. Do I strike some kind of middle ground?
  4. Do I follow another direction I haven’t even looked into yet?

I don’t really know. Awhile back when I was writing the post about SASEs, I came across this blog ran by a midlist horror author who has seen a great deal of success being at the forefront of ebook publishing, both through traditional and nontraditional means. His insight has astounded me, and made me wish I had more time to keep up with the changing face of the industry, although with the rate at which things are changing my guess is not even the absence of a full-time job could help me do that (plus, I kind of need my full-time job).

About the only things I know for sure – One, I should probably get an agent. I really need someone whose full time job DOES entail keeping up with industry trends. Two, when hell freezes over and I finally do get someone willing to take a chance on my book, they’ll have to pry my digital rights from my dead fingers. Three, I should write a marketing plan for my book. More and more, authors have the onus of marketing and promotion, and I should probably know how to answer when someone asks me how I plan to help market my work. Besides, I haven’t written a marketing plan since college and the practice couldn’t hurt. I also happen to be friends with the Kansas City area marketer of the year who I can probably rope into helping me. Four, I need to keep editing. My book is never as ready as I think it is.

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Why living as a writer is impossible, part III: because there is no money

In past posts on this subject, I discussed various reasons a serious living as a writer is a pipe dream: the SASE, simultaneous submissions, and there are many more to come. But today I’m going to discuss the real reason, outside all the others, that making a living as a writer is impossible. Because publications don’t pay.

Seriously. People get their start in writing by stuffing envelopes and stocking up on rejection letters. But the places you send your work don’t pay artists. Your compensation is your name in print. Or HTML. Some publications claim they pay their authors in copies (i.e. you get 2 free copies of the publication your piece of work will appear in).

While it may seem generous, copies of single issues usually run under $20, which amounts to about a $40 value you can’t put in the bank. And if it’s an acceptance by a publisher that does not accept simultaneous submissions, it’s $40 worth of goods in one year. While I’d welcome paying taxes on a $40 annual income, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even survive if I were living in my parents’ basement.

Here are some of the disclaimers about nonpayment from some literary magazines:

  • “We are unable to pay for work.”
  • Payment is in contributor’s copies.”
  • We pay in copies, plus $5 a page.”
  • “Contributors receive a print copy of the issue in which they appear.”

There’s never been any debate that writing is a labor of love, but with writer payments like these, this just proves it.

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What’s your story?

I’ve been writing stories since I could write. Seriously. I would get notebook paper and twist ties and make books that I wrote and (poorly) illustrated. But the common denominator is that I have almost always been telling my story.

I feel like I’ve told my story so many times, it’s getting tiresome. It’s time for me to challenge myself and start doing something new. It’s time for me to start telling other people’s stories.

So, how about it? How’d you like me to tell your story? Again, I’m serious. I want you to e-mail me (kelly@kellyhitchcock.com) and tell me the story you want to be told.

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New poem up!

I’ve been pondering writing this for about a week, and finally got a chance to sit down and organs to the skeleton that was this poem. I got inspired by a story on NPR about April being National Poetry Month. I have to admit, I had no idea it was National Poetry Month and was instantly ashamed.

The poem that inspired me was *I think* called “Things in my Journal” and it made me think about the places where we just tend to dump things we don’t know what to do with and then forget about them. For me, this place in the top drawer at my desk at the office. Anyway, the poem is called Things in my Stuff Drawer, and if anyone is familiar with the “Things in my Journal” poem or who wrote it, please let me know, because the interwebs are failing me.

And as always, let me know what you think!

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Tequila Sunrise now in Foliate Oak

No April foolin’: the April 2010 issue of Foliate Oak Literary Magazine has been published and my poem Tequila Sunrise is in this issue.

I wrote this poem about a bartender I briefly dated. No one really dates a bartender. You meet up for drinks at about 2 in the morning – because that’s when they get off work – and then go your separate ways. It inspired me to write this poem, which is now officially published!

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