Atheist Writers

A place for all of us godless writers to discuss writing, language, and literature. Feel free to post your poetry, short stories, or anything else you'd like to share with the community.
  • Rocky Oliver (LotusGeek)

    Well, I'm a writer, but probably not the type of writer you're thinking of. See, I am a geek, and I am also an author, writer, and speaker about tech stuff. I've written a couple of books and 40 magazine articles or so. My latest book was Notes & Domino 6 Programming Bible . Oh, and here's something kewl - that book was translated to Czech!! (BTW, I'm Rocky Oliver)
  • Fatema Habib

    I am a student of Literature. I would very much like to post regularly and I hope my posts get some attention. I am scared to publish anything from what I write or already have written, I don't want people who know me know about what I right. Yes, you can say that I'm not really free. So, I hope you people here give me some help to get over this.
  • Christian Thompson

    Hey guys! I write a lot different types of stuff, satire and Science Fiction mostly. It's good to have friends here that are writers. I hope to enjoy.
  • Dave G

    NaNoWriMo is live, time for all writers to panic. :)
  • Christian Thompson

    Dave G. that is sooo very true. NaNoWriMo scares me a little. ;)
  • Shine

    Yay, I didn't know that this group was here. I am working on a BA in English at the moment with hopes of somehow managing to support myself solely through writing. I have a handful of short stories, a treasure trove of bad poetry, and one horribly unedited heap of a novel that resulted from last month's NaNoWriMo. (A two-week break is in order before revision begins; I am thoroughly sick of the story after those thirty days of literary abandon.) Someday I must work up the gumption to seek out a literary agent.
  • Stu Rees

    Hi,
    I'm a scriptwriter working on my MA. I've writen a few short plays and am now working on a film script with some religous themes.
  • S S Tragus

    My fear, always, regarding the submission of my writing to fora for critique is that my works are then out there before being published and that I could somehow lose them. Anyone else have that kind of fear? I am sitting on a few poems, some of which I work-shopped in a creative writing class for my B.A. (Hon.) English. Some, I think, are pretty good, but have never had the nerve to actually submit them to publishers.... Aargh!
  • Richard Paez

    S.S., you have several valid concerns:

    1. publishers of poems don't like publishing poems which have been published (seen) elsewhere, and they do consider publicly posting poems on the internet as "publishing." There is at least one website, www.pathetic.org (I am a member), which allows you to post your poems in a library and mark them as "members only" -- thus allowing you to get feedback from like-minded individuals without "publishing" them publicly on the net. Just use a pseudonym when you set up your account and title your poems (at least in the library) differently (you can always post the real title with the poem). That way your poems are "unsearchable."

    As far as losing them to theft: it's been known to happen; it happened twice on Pathetic, as a matter of fact (in both cases, the plagiarist was unmasked to their duped audience and kicked off the site). That is a risk you take no matter where or how you publish, however. All we can really do, besides being vigilant and reporting any suspected cases to the people in a position to do something about it, is to ensure that our voices are as unique as possible.

    My poetry probably isn't very good, but it is undeniably mine :D
  • S S Tragus

    Richard, that's where live, in-the-flesh writers' groups come in, I suppose. Theft of ideas and fragments could still occur, but at least non of the material work-shopped would be considered published. And people can't as easily hide behind anonymity either, as is the case on the net.
  • Stu Rees

    SS, I met a writer once who told me that he sends a final draft of any of his scripts to himself in the post, so that he has a sealed and dated copy of his work as proof should he ever suffer plagerism. He said that he does this for his plays, so I don't know if it would work with poems, but I just thought I'd put it out there.
  • S S Tragus

    I have heard and read about that too, but the problem is that I still don't consider any of my work final... it's that damn perfectionism. I'm sure it would work with any creative offering that can fit in an envelope, including poetry and visual art.
  • Don

    I'm a novelist. (My most recent novel, THE ERRAND BOY, the third in my Hector Bellevance literary suspense series, was released this fall and is available everywhere. Please see my Author's Page at Amazon, if you are curious about my work.) For some 30 years or so, I have also taught creative writing in the U. of Calif. system and in the Vermont State Colleges. Nowadays I teach online for the U. of Maryland (UMUC).

    As a student and teacher, having participated in hundreds of college writing workshops and writers' conferences, I have to say that I have never encountered anyone who has had his or her workshop-submitted writing stolen by someone else. In my experience, it isn't worth worrying about because it so seldom happens. Most unpublished student work really isn't worth plagiarizing, frankly. Some student writers do sometimes (rarely) steal from another's published work, but such dishonesty is usually easy to detect.

    A recent case of plagiarism in fiction was that of Kaavya Viswanathan, a student who published a chick-lit novel initially to wide acclaim. It was a story about an Indian girl from New Jersey getting into Harvard. In it she included passages she had taken from another published novelist's books. The story is both embarrassing and fascinating.

    Below is a link to the Wikipedia account of the whole sad scandal. (Viswanathan has denied that she did what she did deliberately.)

    Take a look and see what you think.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaavya_Viswanathan
  • Don

    Thanks for the endorsement, Adriana!
  • Shine

    A recent case of plagiarism in fiction was that of Kaavya Viswanathan, a student who published a chick-lit novel initially to wide acclaim.

    Wow, what a weird story. The similarities between various passages are so blatant that it seems beyond incredulous for the second author to somehow claim innocent mimicry.
  • Joshua McGee

    I write science fiction, and I'm working on a(n overly?) ambitious novel set in the universe in which many of my stories reside -- ambitious relative to my skill level, I mean. I also have several unfinished short stories set elsewhere. "Unfinished" -- I'm very bad at the "finishing" bit. :-)
  • Shine

    I'm very bad at the "finishing" bit.

    I feel your pain! I actually did manage to complete NaNoWriMo this year, but the resultant novel is so desperatly in need of editing that I can hardly call it complete. I think I am finding myself to be utterly clueless at revision.
  • Don

    The similarities between various passages are so blatant that it seems beyond incredulous for the second author to somehow claim innocent mimicry.

    Right, Shine. It amounts to a twig of dignity for her to try to cling to.
  • Don

    Finishing a story is famously much harder than starting one.

    The reason is that a beginning can start anywhere in any circumstances, but, as the plot develops and as the characters' situations circumscribe what's possible, the story itself forecloses on the available possibilities--those that will make satisfying sense in the world of the story. Logic necessarily intervenes, imposing itself on the writer's imagination.

    Another problem is that too many beginning writers intimidate themselves. They have the mistaken idea that when they have a completed draft they have a finished story. Far from it. A competed draft is only the story's raw material, like the potter's mound of wet clay. The potter's clay is a long way from a lavender glazed bowl, just as a finished draft is a long way from a finished, engaging story. But without that full draft, the writer has nothing to work with. The lesson? Complete the damn draft!--whatever it takes. Remember that you're going to change it anyway, again and again and again, as you refine and develop the material.
  • Shine

    Don, I must echo Timothy in thanking you for your insight. I hope that you do not mind if I pick your brain for advice as I finally tackle editing my novel. (Although I suppose I should really call it a novella; it is only ~51,300 words, and I am not sure that it can quite qualify as a novel.) My biggest problem seems to be how to conduct the editing process. Do you print off a copy of your book and just start reading it with a red pen, marking corrections as you go? Or is the first stage of revision best done on a computer, as I anticipate having to rework entire chapters? Thanks!
  • Joshua McGee

    Complete the damn draft!

    Good point, and point taken.

    Not the identical point, but I had a poetry prof who used to say that the secret to becoming a published poet is "learning to kill your babies."
  • Don

    Joshua,

    Versions of this advice (usually it's "kill your darlings") are frequently quoted in writing classes, although they're generally directed to prose writers. The original is from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, who said, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it--whole-heartedly--and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.” It refers generally to the to the danger of falling in love with a particular sentence or passage so much that you're unable to see that it doesn’t serve the purpose it's supposed to serve. Your love for it obscures your judgment. That’s one reason why it is important to have an editor, an independent first reader, or at least a long gap between writing and editing.

    Shine,

    It's hard to give general advice about revision, especially when I haven't seen the work in question and have no sense of your ability, but if what you mean to revise is the novel you wrote in November for the contest, then I would suggest that you wait until summer, at least. In the meantime, print it out, and compose five broad questions you'd like to have answered, like "What confuses you?" "What do you want to know more about?" and so on. Then give the ms. to a trusted and willing reader (not necessarily a friend) who really enjoys reading the kind of fiction you're trying to wrote. Make it clear that you're not seeking praise and compliments, not at all. You want criticism, because what you have is only a rough draft, and you're going to be thoroughly revising it on every level, probably three or four times. It will be crucial for you to get a critical, detailed reaction to the ms. from someone who knows what she's talking about. You can offer to take your critic out to supper afterward or something like that. And if you're not now a member over at Absolute Write!, then you should definitely join and start poking around there. There's plenty of excellent advice for the determined beginning writer. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=2

    By the way, a short novel runs to about 70,000 words, usually. It isn't so much word count that defines the novella, though of course its length is a trait. It's the work's form. A novella is generally is closer in its form and intentions to a short story than to a novel. I suspect that what you have written probably wants to be a novel and that you will need some distance from this draft before you invest much time in the revision process.
  • Shine

    Don, thanks for the advice! I have been stalling from beginning the editing process, and I am glad to see that you recommend waiting. Thanks for forum link, also.
  • Don

    About revision, Shine, let me add that there is no reason to shrink from it. Most writers--and I'm one of them--really enjoy revision. When a writer is revising, she almost always feels sure that everything she's doing is improving the work in progress--trimming it, sharpening it, making it clearer and more engaging. That's seldom true of first-draft composition, when a writer is usually in doubt and often confused.

    In a 1958 "Paris Review" piece, an interviewer asked Ernest Hemingway: How much rewriting do you do?

    Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of FAREWELL TO ARMS, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.

    Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

    Hemingway: Getting the words right.

    If "getting the words right" is a deliberately meager description of the slow process of revision, at least it's succinct. But getting the words write, however long it takes, is truly satisfying.

    "When I say writing," Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "O believe me, it is rewriting that I have chiefly in mind." According to the great E. B. White (author of CHARLOTTE'S WEB and co-author of ELEMENTS OF STYLE), "The best writing is rewriting." Joyce Carol Oates has said, "The pleasure is the rewriting."

    Too often in schools and colleges the teacher's injunction to "write it over again" is regarded by a student as a punishment or a dull chore. But, as the professionals remind us, the effort to get the words right is an essential part of writing--and often the most rewarding part. "I can’t understand how anyone can write," Leo Tolstoy said, "without rewriting everything over and over again."

    Keep in mind, too, that editing and revising are not the same thing. Some editing always occurs during revision, but the point of revision, as the word itself suggests, is to re-see the piece, not just to fix technical errors and tweak sentences and paragraphs.
  • Joshua McGee

    Do you think we could get a mod to put an invite-only or password-protected area aside for us?
  • Don

    Josh, I'm not sure what your reason might be for restricting access to the group. Is there some sort of problem you are trying to solve? Or do you mean to propose another special area?

    I have to say I favor allowing anyone who's on this site have access to whatever may be posted here.
  • Joshua McGee

    I'm parroting/interpreting concerns that others had had. Some beginning writers are afraid of random criticism by passers-by -- limiting the scope to TA members or Atheist Writers members seemed a solution. But I'm happy to withdraw my request.
  • Joshua McGee

    limiting the scope to TA members

    For all I know, it is already. I don't know enough about ning, and haven't experimented without being logged in.
  • Don

    I understand your point, Josh, but let me say that if a beginning writer is afraid of criticism, then she should not be posting her fragile work on any public forum, however it may be circumscribed. Criticism, even when it's harsh, is to be welcomed, pondered, and endured. Writers must invite criticism, and then they have to learn to discriminate, by shrugging off or ignoring criticism that isn't helpful to their intentions. The works-in-progress presented to writers' groups, workshops, or forums like this one are almost always fraught with many problems. The reason a beginning writer openly asks for criticism is not to coax praise out of other beginners; it's to find out what isn't working in the minds of readers who are willing to pass specific judgment.
  • Joshua McGee

    I'm happy to start a conversation for this -- I'd even be willing to seed it with a work-in-progress -- but what is holding me back is whether something better than a comments thread can be arranged. One thing on which ning is very week is threading of comments (visually, at any rate). It's slightly better at the topic level, so we may want an adjacent group wherein each topic is one person's submission.

    Of course, these are all approximations, and other solutions, from MediaWiki to hand-rolled solutions, would almost certainly be better, so after exploring what we have built-in (paging Morgan) we could look into how to extend it, if desired (paging again).