New Page: Stephanie’s Scrap Bin

Hello, readers and writers! I’m happy to announce that I’ve added a new page to The Writer’s Scrap Bin, “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin”.

What is “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin”? It’s the place where I will be sharing pieces of my work that I am not confident enough to submit for publication. It is a glimpse into my personal scrap bin, the place where all my unfinished and unpublished work go until I decide they’re worth pursuing  again.

This new page will contain my discarded poems, flash fiction stories, and uncategorized works. Keep in mind that the works on this new page are fairly rough drafts. Still, I think it will help other struggling writers who read this blog if they saw the sort of work that I have thrown into my scrap bin, even temporarily. (Plus, this will get some people off my back in regards to seeing some of my work. You know who you are.)

I already state this on the web page and I certainly hope that I won’t have this problem with a community of talented, trustworthy writers, but just for legality’s sake I am going to restate it here:

All pieces posted on “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin” are the original work and property of Stephanie Hoogstad, owner, operator, and lead writer of The Writer’s Scrap Bin. As such, any copying and/or distribution of this work without prior consent and acknowledgement of the source will result in legal action being taken against the offending party or parties.

With that out of the way, I encourage everyone to check out the work on this page. It may not be any good but, hey, we all have work that we think will never see the light of day, right? I just request that you not be too harsh in any comments you make. Critique helps a writer grow, but I don’t want to be ripped apart for work in my scrap bin. None of us really want to be judged by the work that has not made it to publication.

So, please, read and enjoy! And if you have any pieces from your own “scrap bin” or a scrap bin experience that you would like to share, drop a line in the comments below. I’m sure that other struggling writers would appreciate seeing that other writers have missteps and doubts, too.

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Underestimated Genres

Fantasy and science fiction are genres very near and dear to my heart. I grew up on fantasy series such as Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. Late in middle school I developed a taste for science fiction, in particular Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern and Crystal Singer series. Now, fantasy and science fiction are intricately woven into my life, from what I read to what I watch on TV to how I connect with others.

Despite this love for these genres, however, I still find myself hesitating to tell people that I write such stories. Why? Well, the answer is very simple: these genres are not seen as “literary.”

Keep in mind, the term “literary” is incredibly subjective and difficult to define. For some readers, it merely requires a high standard of writing. For others, the works have to be more character-driven than plot-driven, pedestrian fiction rather than anything more extraordinary, addressing specific socio-cultural or socio-political themes, or, most frustrating to me, only within “realistic” genres.

No matter what the definition, fantasy and science fiction are almost never included. Unfortunately, the more vocal members of the writing community tend to look down upon anything that they do not consider “literary,” thus suppressing works from other genres which could, in fact, change the world.

This bias doesn’t just exist within the writing world and literature. George Lucas was rejected repeatedly by studios when pitching the first Star Wars movie because science fiction was “for children” and a “dead genre.” (Well, George Lucas sure proved them wrong, didn’t he? It almost destroyed him, but he did.)

These genres are considered “popular fiction” and, some argue, “low brow.” Yet when we put down any genre like that, we give into elitism and ignore the possibilities lying in wait.

Fantasy and science fiction give us an empty canvass on which we can paint any story, any socio-political and/or socio-cultural commentary, that we can imagine. The fantastic settings that these genres provide us give us virtually free reign to explore human nature without all of the restraints we face in realistic genres.


Image retrieved from Wikipedia

I think that Ursula K. Le Guin put it best in an article for Smithsonian Magazine in 2014:

Anything at all can be said to happen [in the future] without fear of contradiction from a native. The future is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in, a means of thinking about reality, a method.

Science fiction and fantasy–whether it takes place on a planet far away in the year 3130, a land untouched by technology but ruled by magic, or side-by-side with our own world–allow the writer to explore what matters most to him/her with only the restrictions they put on the worlds they built themselves. The struggle for a planet like Pandora becomes a metaphor for colonization; Middle Earth serves as the battleground between man and nature; and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix illustrates the issues of governmental oppression, censorship, and the injustice of imprisonment without a proper trial.

Many works in these genres take advantage of this potential; even if the writers don’t purposefully include any socio-political/socio-cultural commentary, the themes still slip into the narrative. However, I feel that writers and readers both could recognize and utilize this potential more readily. After all, these genres aren’t just “children’s stuff” or “low-brow popular fiction.” They are virgin worlds waiting to be explored.

What do you think? Do you think that science fiction and fantasy could be used for socio-political and socio-cultural commentary? Do you think that writers take advantage of this potential enough or that readers recognize it? Or do you think that these genres just belong to the world of trade paperbacks, a relaxing read for when you want to escape and be entertained? Is there a happy medium between the two extremes? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Janus and a Writer’s Endless Possibilities

Greetings, readers and writers! Today I am going to give you an exclusive glimpse into the chaos which is my mind. Namely, I’m going to walk you through one of my random tangents in which I connect two seemingly-unrelated subjects: the Roman god Janus and the endless possibilities available to writers.

First, a brief mythology lesson. Janus is the Roman god of beginnings, endings, doorways, passages, gates, time, and duality. He is depicted with two faces, one looking to the past and one looking to the future. Janus is an uniquely Roman god, meaning that the ancient Greeks had no equivalent.

Before you ask, no, the month of January was not named after Janus. Many people attribute the month to him–and it would make perfect sense–but ancient Roman farmer’s almanacs claim that it’s named for Juno.


Image retrieved from Wikipedia

Now that you know more about Janus, you probably have a rough idea as to why I’ve connected him with all the opportunities available for a writer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about choices lately, especially choices I’m having to make regarding my career and education. I’m busy, overly tired, and have way too much to do. It forces me to prioritize and make tough decisions. I’m even having to decide how to use my writing skills. These sorts of decisions are common among writers.

Everyone faces numerous choices on a daily basis, and this is especially true for writers when handling their career and craft. Some of the most basic choices writers have to make include:

Prose or poetry?

Fiction or non-fiction?

Short story or novel?

Traditional publishing or self-publishing?

Maintain a conventional job while writing or become a full-time writer?

This list just barely scratches the surface. We have to decide what to write, when to write, how to publish our writing, how to market it, the choices we have to make just go on and on. Janus really has his hands full with us.

Just as there exists a duality to Janus, so there is also a duality to having all these choices. On the one hand, having to make so many decisions is draining. Sometimes it feels like we will never reach the end of the tunnel–or worse, we’ll make the wrong decision and throw our careers entirely off track and force ourselves to start all over. On the other hand, so many opportunities means that when one door closes, another one opens. Even when we feel like we have no other option, we can find another way if we just look.

Janus is the god of beginnings and ends. The two concepts are virtually inseparable; everything that begins must come to an end, and everything that ends once had a beginning. That’s why choices are so overwhelming, but it’s also why they are so good for us. We end a chapter with each decision we make, but we also begin a new one. The possibilities are endless, and so are the paths we can take in order to fulfill our writing ambitions.

That’s my mind for you: a little bit random, a little bit pointless, and way more complicated than it needs to be.

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Which Famous Writer Do You Write Like

Have you ever wondered if you’re a Nicolai Gogol or Dan Brown? James Joyce or J.K. Rowling? Well, one of my fellow writers in my Master’s program has brought my attention to an interesting program which tells you which famous writer you write like.

This program is called, simply enough, “I Write Like” and can be found at this website. All you have to do is paste or type a sample of your writing (preferably a few paragraphs or more) into the text box and click “Analyze”. The program does the rest, analyzing your word choice and writing style and comparing them to those of famous writers.

You can use any text so long as it is in English, whether it’s a short story, novel chapter, blog post, or even a diary entry. Don’t worry–the program doesn’t store your writing or do anything with your writing other than the comparison advertised.


Image retrieved from eBay

I must warn you, this program is quite addictive.

I’ve used the program to analyze some of my short stories, blog posts, essay abstracts, and even a short chapter from a fantasy novel I’m working on. The results have been very interesting. The program has compared my writing to David Foster Wallace, Anne Rice, and Stephenie Meyer. (Admittedly, while The Twilight Saga is one of my many guilty pleasures, I wasn’t too happy with that last comparison.)

However, there is one writer whom the program has compared me to much more often than the others: British detective fiction author, Agatha Christie. I’ve never gotten the chance to read her work, personally. Still, she’s known as the “Queen of Mystery” and the “Queen of Crime,” and The Guinness Book of World Records lists her as the best-selling novelist of all time. Needless to the say, I’m quite happy with this result.

Whether you think the program is accurate or not, it’s still loads of fun and a great way to procrastinate when you really don’t want to do something (even writing). Try it out for yourself! And let us know which famous writer you write like in the comments below. I’m eager to see what everyone gets.

Do you know of any cool distractions or neat tools to helps writers be more productive? Drop a line in the comments or e-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com, and I’ll make sure to discuss it in a future post. You can also leave a comment on The Writer’s Scrap Bin Facebook page or tweet at The Writer’s Scrap Bin Twitter account (@writersscrapbin).

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

2017 Reflections: Year in Review

Well, 2017 has been quite the year. I don’t really want to spark any political debates on this blog tonight, so I’ll refrain from commenting on what has happened in the United States–and the world–in general during 2017. Still, I think it would be worth my time to reflect on how this year has gone for me personally and this blog.


Image retrieved from Whatsapp Status

I can’t believe that I only launched this blog in March. It feels like a lifetime ago, and it has, arguably, been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, along with deciding to apply for my Master’s in Creative Writing program. This blog has provided me with a way to share my wisdom and opinions with other writers, connect with more of the publishing industry, and vent in ways which I just can’t achieve through normal social media outlets.

This blog isn’t the only major change to happen to me in 2017. I’ve gained a steady stream of freelance writing, reviewing, and editing jobs (mostly through Fiverr), and I started working for MeowShare part-time. I joined OnlineBookClub.org and experienced Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the first (but certainly not last) time. I was even long-listed for the CWA’s Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. Best of all, my new puppy, Bubba, danced his way into my life!

Not all of 2017 has been good, though. Unfortunately, the toxic socio-political climate in my country isn’t all that caused me stress this year. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work, both paid work and for school. I’ve been deprived of crucial sleep lately. My beloved, geriatric cat, Hunter, passed away in October. My performance in grad school has slipped below my standards (although I’m still passing). 2017 has also decided to leave my mother’s side of the family with a two-fold low blow, which is all I want to say about it on my blog.

Have the good changes outweighed the bad? It depends on your perspective. From my point of view, things could have turned out a lot worse. They could have been better, but they also could have been a lot worse, too. In that way, 2017 has been just like any other year.

Overall, I’m kind of relieved that the year is over. The year “2017” seems to be so tainted now that I’m ready for a new beginning. But do I think 2018 will be any different? Again, it depends. It depends on the way we decide to look at this coming year. It depends on how we choose to view our own lives and the paths we can take. The outcome of 2018 all depends on us.

Until we’re further into the year, though, 2018 has the potential to be much better than its predecessor. It’s a new year, after all, a fresh start. We just have to take it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011