Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a “typical” genre or style I write it, although I certainly prefer first person. What I will say, is that I feel as though the story I’ve been working on recently is outside of my comfort zone, and it’s been a good thing to try.

My publisher, Burning Willow Press, has an ongoing anthology series, Crossroads in the Dark. Volume 1: Anthology of Morality and Volume 2: Urban Legends are already available. Volume 3: Monsters Under Your Bed is due out on September 30. Volume 4 is in progress, and I decided to try writing for it.

Zombie Ghost PostI struggled for a while to figure out what to write. I based my first attempt on this tumblr post that popped up on my Facebook feed ages ago.

It didn’t go well. With about 300 words written, realized I didn’t like what I was writing. Determined to make it work, I outlined a few different ideas, and even started writing one of them, but the story just wasn’t going well. I wasn’t willing to try to force something that didn’t want to happen, so I decided to give it up as a lost cause and try to come up with a different idea.

Just when I was starting to think I wouldn’t be able to write anything after all, Jim (my fiance) and I had a fun conversation that sparked an idea. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I started writing.

It was slow going at first. I didn’t have a firm plan or vision for the story, and it was unlike anything I’d written before. But I got the intro and the ending written, and didn’t dislike them. I wrote bits as they came to me, and found that ideas flowed easier as I got further into the story. I suppose it shouldn’t really surprise me.

Finally, after a month (a whole month!) I finished the story yesterday. It sits at just over 4,500 words. I gave it to some friends and fellow authors at Burning Willow Press to give it a look. I didn’t want to submit something that people really disliked.

So far, though, it’s been well thought of. Everyone has at least enjoyed the story, which is all I can really ask for with a first draft. I think with a couple more read-throughs, and a bit of polishing, it’ll be ready to submit for consideration.

I definitely think I’d like to try writing outside of my comfort zone even more, as I’m pretty happy with the final story, and it was a fun learning experience. But I don’t know that I want to tackle a deadline-based story again. It’s hard for me to just churn out content.

I’ll certainly keep you all updated on what happens with this story. But for now, wish me luck!

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Ampersand -or- And Per Se And

I’ve got a fun little nugget of information for you today, a combination of #WednesdayWisdom and #WritingWednesday. If you’ve ever been curious about the ampersand (&), keep reading. 🙂

various versions of the ampersandThe symbol existed long before the name. It was a ligature of the Latin word “et”, meaning “and”. This is where the Et looking ampersands come from. It’s also why you’ll sometimes see etc. written as &c.

The name come from the 19th century when “&” was often included as the 27th letter of the alphabet. When children recited the alphabet, it was awkward to finish with “X, Y, Z, and”.

So the ending of the alphabet recitation was changed to ‘X, Y, Z, and per se and”, meaning “and, by itself, and” or that the “&” was a word on its own.

Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together to form the mondegreen “ampersand”.

It’s uncertain precisely when or why the ampersand was dropped from the alphabet, but it may very likely have been related to the modern alphabet song. You know, the one set to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It was copyrighted in 1835, and, as we all know, omitted the ampersand from the recitation. It was around this time that including the ampersand in the alphabet fell out of favor.

Bonus!

While I was researching the ampersand, I came across some interesting information about “ye olde”. In middle English, there existed a “letter” known as thorn. It looked kind of like a “p”. But over the years, it evolved to become almost indistinguishable from “y”. This meant that “ye” was written as an abbreviation of “the”. It stuck, and so, to this day, we have “ye olde” instead of “the olde”. English has simply forgotten that you’re supposed to pronounce the “ye” as “the”. But that isn’t as much fun, is it?

Are you a fan of the ampersand, or do you despise it? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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#Octothorpe

Hashtag vs OctothorpeEveryone knows “hashtag”. It’s a fairly young word, but it has completely saturated the world. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s first known use was in 2007 — it’s probably safe to assume it was on Twitter. Merriam-Webster declared it the word of the day on 6/23/2014, the same year it was added to the dictionary. But what came before hashtag?

The little symbol “#” that precedes our hashtags today has been known as a hash, square, pound sign, number sign, tic-tac-toe sign, noughts and crosses sign, and — my personal favorite — octothorpe.

Octothorpe’s history, however, isn’t as definitive as it’s cousin, “hashtag”. By most accounts, workers at the Bell Telephone Laboratories invented the word sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.

There is nearly universal agreement that the first half of the word refers to the eight lines projecting from the center square. The “-thorpe” however, remains a mystery, with far too many stories behind it to pinpoint the real one. Some of the most interesting include:

  • A Bell Telephone Laboratories employee who burped while talking about the symbol.
  • It’s a derivative of the Old English word for village (thorp) because the symbol looks like a village square surrounded by 8 fields.
  • Don Macpherson, a Bell Labs engineer, added -thorpe to “octo” because he was part of a group trying to get the olympic medals of athlete Jim Thorpe returned from Sweden.

Whatever its origin — and I’m rooting for the village square because it’s whimsical — octothorpe’s first appearance in print is in a 1970’s US patent filing, spelled “octothorp”. Other variations of the word include octothorn, octalthorp and octatherp.

I think we should use octothorpe more often. It’s just so fun to say. Oc-to-thorpe. In my opinion, it rolls off the tongue quite nicely (although perhaps not as quickly as “hashtag”).

What do you think? Should we become linguistics necromancers and bring back octothorpe, or let it die away completely? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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My Superpower: Writing

The word writing writing in a rainbow of colors.Writing. The childish fascination of ink flowing unimpeded from the tip of a pen. Forming lines. Curves. Joining together to form letters, words, stories. Color miraculously appearing where previously there was only blank space. Flowing neatly. Arching into a messy scrawl. As much personality as a person, if one only knows how to look.

Keys clicking, recording each tap. An emphatic thump to separate words. Two for paragraphs. Allowing thoughts to be recorded almost as fast as they appear. Effortlessly. Getting lost in descriptions so that one almost forgets having to press the keys.

The simple joy of transmitting thoughts to words. Whether it be pen on paper or fingers on a keyboard. Providing a glimpse, however brief, into the mind. A window into the cogs in motion. Spinning. Churning. Creating life.

It’s a superpower. Being able to call to mind an image using only a handful of simple words. The mind seizes them and is off into a wonderland of imagination. Just letters. Yet capable of sending the reader on an indescribable journey that is over far too soon.

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