Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Watch This Space

 Attention: Our attempt to go live Monday failed due to  a delay in the transfer of domain name to our new host.  Meet the new host, same as the old host…  In any event, we’re doing all we can to speed our comeback.  Please keep trying.  I have been “assured” that the worst possible case will be Saturday the 23rd.
Since popping into existence on or about the 25th of January, 2010
, Uphill Writing has gone through several changes.  Now—fasten your seatbelts—we’re about to go through a total remake, remodel.  None of what you come to UhW for now will be lost, and we will continue writing about writing, issuing challenges, and saying things designed to provoke, but we’ll be adding so much more.

Image: fiama.eu

Look for UhW to be a clearing house for writing resources, opportunities, news, reviews, and all things writing.  Look for the latest on contests, how to enter, and what it takes to win. 

This will be more than just a facelift, it is our intention to give you as much support as possible, because we believe there is no need for you to be Writing without a net.

NOTE: WE WILL NOT BE CLOSING DOWN, BUT WE DO NOT EXPECT TO BE PUBLISHING NEW POSTS FOR AS MUCH AS A WEEK.  WATCH FOR US TO BE BACK SOON!
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How to Orgainize an Outlining Escape

Over the years I’ve learned that certain words, to certain writers, are little more than a nasty noise.  One of those words is “Outline”.  Yikes!  Did I just feel a shudder running through my keyboard?

A lot of writers I know would rather chew off their own leg than outline a novel, or even a chapter, but my experience is that a very brief outline really works.  If you know where your story is going, if you know where your characters need to be at the start and the end of a particular chapter, then all you really need to do is herd them around a bit. 

Knowing where your novel should start, what the character and plot development points are, and approximately when they should happen is not a crutch.  It is a valuable tool that will have you writing rather than scratching your head and staring out into space.  Knowing where you are going keeps you going.

Now, for those who have just been convinced, and those of you who are in the choir being preached at, here’s an idea about how to make your outline a reality.

Do it instead of something you hate to do. 

Image: israelnewsletter.com

For me, it’s waiting in line.  Waiting for a queue of people to move up for me is tedious and irritating.  When I can, I bring a book or play a game on my phone, but unless the game or book will inspire ideas for my novel, I’m just wasting time.

The solution?  Bring a notebook.  Come on, people, you’ve got nothing better to do in that line, right?  Jot down a few ideas.  Imagine where your lead character will be when the book starts, and make a note of it.  Think of when and how you will introduce your supporting characters, your villains, and the like.

The idea is to do a large, loose outline.  You’re not committing yourself to a final form for your novel, you’re just giving yourself a basic roadmap, and permission to create while standing around waiting.

I always take my notepad with me these days, and a lot of good has come from it.  Oh.  One more thing, I do NOT take a novel or anything else that can distract me from the outlining process.   I don’t particularly like it either, but…  to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, “…I hate outlining, but I love having outlined.”

Your thoughts?

Rebels Without Applause

I’m going to say this again, and I’m going to alienate yet more people.  But, it is one of those things I think needs to be “aired out”.

I’ve just run across another writer who claims that “…I write for myself…”, and yet puts his work out for others to read.  AND he takes offense when someone finds the work weak, derivative or lacking in any way.

I actually think I’ve got it figured out now.  An “…I write for myself…” person  is hedging bets.  Making such a claim—it would appear—is a way to keep from committing your work fully.  You can always fall back and say, “I write for myself, not for you”, or “I write to please myself, not you.” 

If it is only for you, why do you put it up on a public forum

Make no mistake, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing for yourself.  In fact, there is a name for it.   It is called Journal or Diary writing, and if it is truly for yourself, it should be kept that way.

I admit some people who say they write for themselves are competent writers, but I still don’t understand why, given their stand, they would post their work.

Maybe they’re missing the point.  Maybe I am.

The writers I know who have taken their craft public, and do not hedge their bets, are those who care about the reader.  They are writers for whom the reader is more than an unnamed person out in booksville.  For them the reader is actually like a character in the novel or story.  It is how they reach their audience.  It is how they involve the reader so deeply in the story that the reader forms the third leg of a the tripod of Imagination and skill: audience.

Go ahead.  Get your torches and pitchforks.  Call out the guard.  I can take it.

Do not claim to be a novelist and claim to write for yourself.  That is insincere and cowardly.  Instead, step up, ask for review, ask for a critique, and have the courage to face what people say.  It is, frankly, the only way I know to improve your work.

10 Ways to Tune Your Writing Environment

We have said that writing is a solitary occupation, and that is true for the most part.  Unless you are co-authoring a piece, you probably do most of your work alone.  Still, distractions happen. 

There has to be a way do diminish their effect.  Let’s give making a list a try:

  1. Turn off the radio or mp3 player.  Music may have the charm to soothe the savage breast, but it is also distracting.  If you must have music, consider these options: Instrumental music, or songs sung in a language you do not speak.
  2. Disconnect the Internet.  If every time you get an email you are driven to find out who it was from, and to decide if you need to reply, you are distracted.
  3. Disconnect the phone.  Unless you expect an emergency call, anyone trying to reach you can be put off for a few hours.
  4. Close the door.  Keeping the curious out of your workspace is always a good thing.
  5. Use a straight-backed, and not TOO comfortable chair.  Get too comfortable, and you’re liable to drift off.
  6. Be sure that the chair is adjusted to the proper height so you can type without resting your hands on the keyboard.
  7. Be sure your keyboard is the right one for you.  Just because keyboard X came with your computer, it doesn’t mean it is the best thing for your writing career.  Check out what’s available, test them and see what works best for you.
  8. Make sure you have the right amount of light in the office or workspace.  This is an individual thing, but make sure you are not distracted or blinded by light.
  9. Make sure the size font you are typing is of a size and clarity that does not strain your eyes.
  10. Make sure the temperature and air-flow in the room is comfortable.  Too warm, or too stuffy, and you could become tired.

Now, now… don’t get me wrong.  These are just TEN of the ways you can make your writing environment better.  I’m betting there are at least 10 more, and perhaps 10 more than that. 

I know.  Why don’t YOU write a comment with your additions (or subtractions) to this list?

Your thoughts?

Guest Blogger – Karen Smith Gibson

Allow me to introduce Karen Gibson, long-time friend and fellow writer from back in the WeBook days.  I had the pleasure of watching her novel, Chasing SANE grow from a first few tentative sentences to a fully realized, and now published, novel. 

She joins us today as a guest blogger with a topic near and dear to the hearts of all of us.  Karen?

The Pickle I’m In

Does this sound familiar? You have drafted, rewritten and had the next great American novel edited. You have spent days coming up with a witty, well-written synopsis. You have chosen 101 publishers to send your work to and emailed what you could and snail mailed the rest. After weeks of waiting, the rejections come pouring in; those publishers who bothered to open your queries and respond, of course. Some are uber-polite and gently rebuke you saying, “We appreciate your query, but are only accepting children’s stories at this time”. However, most respond with, “We are not accepting any non-represented works at this time”. 

Image: Karen Gibson

But of course, you chide yourself. As with anyone peddling their craft, I need an agent to knock on doors for me. What WAS I thinking? Back to that list and out goes some tweaked paragraphs to literary agents. Cutting back on the enthusiasm of before, only fifty agents are chosen. Yes, fifty lucky agents will get the chance to represent the next great American novel. Slowly, the rejection letters trickle in. One email or letter after the other states, “We are not representing new or unpublished authors at this time”.

But…I sent…so…I need…but, they won’t…what? The publisher isn’t taking unrepresented work and the agents won’t represent you unless you have been published. I see. So, basically a new writer cannot be published or represented? Is this really the case or is this the standard response to queries from unknown/unpublished writers? Is there a writer’s DaVinci code to getting represented or published?

Like the pickle on the deli plate beside the pastrami on rye, we are often overlooked. We know how tasty we are. We know we compliment that special world of deli sandwiches. Maybe someone will notice us and decide to bite in and see just how juicy we are. Until then, we will have to find a way to make that pickle on the side hard to pass up. Such is the plight of the unpublished writer.

_____________

Thanks, Karen. 

If you want to read more of Karen’s work, check out her blog at: http://karensmithgibson.org/

If You Have a Guaranteed Audience – You Can Do Anything

If Stephen King wrote a syrupy novel about two kittens and a baby clown, people would buy it.  By the thousands.  Even though they might eventually be disappointed, they would buy it.  Why?  Because his established reputation could withstand that, or worse.

What’s that got to do with you and me, you ask?  Read on.

One of the most highly touted TV shows of this season is “The Event“.  It is breaking so many of the rules of good writing that one can but wonder.  Why are the producers doing this?  Because they have a need to generate interest through confusion.  Called the successor to “Lost“—a show that rambled, drifted rudderless, and eventually came to an unsatisfying ending—The Event has a lot to live down to.

This is not to say I’m not watching it.  At least for now.

So, I’m going to make two points here.   

One: writing “free-style”, without goal or target might, be fun, but it will have a good chance of petering out, lifeless, and unsatisfying.  Knowing where you are going with a story, at least in general, can make all the difference in the world.  This is why I suggest outlining your work.  Now, now, stop rolling your eyes.  I’m not talking about a 60-page outline for a 160 page novel.  I think that would steal the wind from your creative sail… I”m suggesting a one-pager.  An outline that sets the initial problem (yes, there needs to be a problem), the intermediary steps (roughly sketched), and where you want the story to end.  E.g., bad guy defeated, love interest saved, future looks bright—or at least safe for a sequel.

Two.  Keep the story moving forward.  What do the following words all have in common?

  • Prequel
  • Back story
  • Preface
  • Prologue
  • Flashback
  • reminiscence
  • Retelling of the past around a campfire
  • and on
  • and on
  • and on

I had recorded the second episode of “The Event” and watched it last night.  I think I may like the show, for despite the sad breakage of rules, there are some intriguing moments in the show.  That said, giving three minutes of real time, then showing a four-minute flashback of 5 days earlier which is interrupted by another flashback of 18 months earlier, and additional nested time hops,  one can easily get lost about what has happened, and when, and where.  It looks to me that the writers (this can only be done by a committee–I hope) have no idea where they’re going, and rather than structure the story logically, will continue to toss us around, rag-doll-like, in hopes of keeping us from guessing the major plot points (which I feel at this juncture are fairly obvious).

Like Stephen King, the network which “owns” “The Event” is big.  It can spend a lot of money on special effects, and even more on advertising.  We’re going to follow “The Event” for, perhaps, a full season.  But by then, either they will have had to switch to a more comprehensible story unfolding, or their viewers will be switching channels in droves.

So, boys and girls, what can we learn about our own writing from this?  If you would rather not appear to be a writer who has failed to think things through, who has to go  back time and again to explain unplanned plot bits, to keep shaving the table legs to make the story hold together…   Well, I’ll say it in a single sentence.

“Nothing should be in your novel that doesn’t take the story in the right direction: forward toward the end.”

Your thoughts?

10 Guaranteed Ways to Alienate Your Reader

Here is a list of errors—or perpetrations, if you’d rather—guaranteed to cut away a significant portion of your reading audience.

1. Center every line in your prose story.

2. Capitalize Every Damn Word In Each Sentence.  What’s That About, Anyway? 

3. WRITE IN ALL CAPS.  PEOPLE LOVE THIS.  IT MAKES READING YOUR WORK SO MUCH EASIER!

4. B kre8ive n ur spyling.  Ppl luv ‘t wen u d0o.

5. Use, commas, whenever, you, feel, like, it.

6. Likewise; semi-colons; the bomb.

7. Punctuation is and I mean this you just see for yourself if it isnt true is for losers

8. Always put a question mark at the end of a statement?

9. Remember, there are three kinds of people in the world.  Those who can count, and those who can’t.