Tag Archives: Writing

How To Deal With Your Past, Published and Bad Writing

Sometimes I write trash.

How about you?  Does it ever happen that an essay, an article, a story, a chapter, even a whole novel turns out to be pure, unadulterated garbage?  No?  Well, You’re lucky.  Happens to me all the time.

What do you do when you find out you’re written something that is embarrassing?  How does that even happen?  We’re all fairly bright, rather well-read, in other words, not methane-breathers, right?

Realistically, we don’t put our work out there in the world if we think it’s bad, now do we?  So how does it happen?

Sadly—and perhaps gladly as well—it happens because we grow.  The work we published  as teenagers, or later in life didn’t seem that bad at the time, did it?Of course not.  We just outgrew it.

How about the things we wrote and, say, put up on a blog 6 or 7 months ago?  How bad could that be?  Sometimes we can judge, sometimes we can’t, but hindsight is golden, isn’t it?  Those old blog posts might have been a little clunky, but the spirit was good, and (see above) we aren’t idiots.  We just kind of outgrew what we wrote earlier. 

Image: tvtropes.org

In most cases when you write something and post it on the Internet, you’ve started it.  “…like a snowball rollin’ down the side of a snow-covered hill.  It’s growin’…” 

Chances are it’s out of your control then, even if you can go back and change what is on your blog, others have looked, read, perhaps even copied.  Once it gets out there, it’s hard to control.

A few days ago I wrote about John Fowles, and the struggle he had getting his first novel, “The Magus” to light of day.  He wrote the book twice, and made a big hit with it both times.  His problem?  He didn’t think it was ready after all, even after it had critical success.

What’s the point?  Well, perhaps it is time for us to make deals with ourselves.  Perhaps it is time to say, “unless I stop growing, my writing will get stronger every time.  I may always find faults with my older work, but seeing the difference between then and now only affirms that I am growing.”

I think it’s worth a shot.

Now, I wonder how stupid this is going to sound to me in six months?

Your thoughts?

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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?

How (and Why) to Create Your Writer’s Network

Everybody is talking about networks.  Work networks.  Social networks.  Blogging networks  It seems you can put just about any word in front of “networks” and you’re off to the races.  Interestingly enough, we all pretty much agree that networking is a good thing.

Swell.  How about a writer‘s network?

Yeah.  That’s the ticket.  But, what would it be?  What would it be for?  …and how, oh how, would you go about building such a thing?

First lets list some of the values of belonging to a network of writers: 

Image: blog.larrybodine.com

  • First, and foremost, a lonely craft gets less lonely.
  • You can bounce ideas off one another; thinking out loud works very well for some people.  Perhaps even you.
  • You can learn the mistakes others have made and how to avoid them.
  • Likewise you can share your mistakes.
  • You can share resources.  Each of us have our own little pocket full of resources, whether they be the next cool software package, or a winning formula for a query letter.
  • You can shore up a friend when they are dismayed, blocked, or “blahh’d”.  Or they can do the same for you.
  • You can count on each other for an honest, unbiased review of work.  (That in itself is worth the price of admission)
  • Oh, and there is NO price of admission.

Not bad.  Probably not every good reason for having a writer’s network, but that’s what you readers are here for.  To find more reasons, and to post them as comments.

Fine.  We see some value in having a writer’s network.  How in the world do we go about getting one.

Big smile, here.  Chances are, you already have a network of writers, and you just haven’t called it for what it is.

Contacting the writers you’ve met on blogs, or in writing club meetings, or in on-line writers sites, and making the distinction that your network exists, and that you offer your assistance to the members of it, and in exchange you expect the same of them.

If you’re really into it, you can even get together on SKYPE once a week or month.  You make it happen the way it works best for you.

Oh, come on.  It can’t really be that easy.  Can it?  It can.  It is.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be all ice cream and roses.  Things can, and usually will, go wrong.  Some people will work better with others, personalities can clash, but even an occasional clash of titans can be a producer of energy and grist for the writing mill.  It is up to you how you go about it, what your goals might be, but I would say this:

The writers you get to know now will not all—or always—be amateurs.  They will grow, as will you.  And you will have known them back in the day… and they will say that about you, as well.

How to Get Ready For NaNoWriMo

 

Yes, friends, NaNoWriMo is right around the corner.  It is just a bit over a month away as of today. 

People ask, “can I work on my current novel for NaNoWriMo?”  Of course the answer is nobody looks over your shoulder while you do this 30-day challenge.  That said, starting with new, clean prose does several things for you, among them, it reinvigorates you, it pushes you into a new project, and it just plain gets you moving. 

But, you ask, can’t I do anything before November 1st?  

Image: ase.tufts.edu

Yes you can.  And I recommend it. 

You can outline.  OK, fine.  I heard those groans out there.  I get it.  Some of you don’t believe in outlines for one reason or another.  What was it?  Did a teacher make you outline something boring in school?  Have you never learned the trick?  What makes you hesitate to outline a story? 

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I used to hate it too.  And I had a good reason.  When I was starting up with writing, I’d get these flashes of ideas, and the chemical changes in brain and body told me that these ideas were top-notch, sure-fire sellers.  (That chemistry will be grist for a different post, by the way.) 

Back in those days for me I had a problem with stories.  I would get so excited about them that I would tell anyone who listened not what I was writing, but what I was ‘gonna’ write.  And, once the story was told, I would lose interest.  Writing, after all, was harder work than just brainstorming, than just wool-gathering.  So, I made up a superstition that if I told someone what I was working on, the story would be “told”, and no longer needed.  For me, outlining was the same thing as telling someone my story.   Clever, eh?  Clever but not useful. 

Then, as I prepared for my second attempt at NaNoWriMo (I failed the first time, but have made the goal every time since—this year will be my ninth NaNo), I realized one of the reasons I failed to make the 50k words that first time was that I really had no idea where I was going.  What was the solution?  

For me it was a brief outline.  Oh, that brief outline process has gotten a little less brief over the years, but it is still small and easy.  Here is how I do it. 

First, I get a title.  Not everyone does that, but for me, a good title drives the creation of the book 

Next. I write in a single paragraph, what the novel will be about.  (The ending is not included in detail) 

Then I write paragraphs about the main protagonist and the main antagonist.   These paragraphs include a sentence each on what they want.  If these two characters don’t want something, the story is weak from the start.  

Those paragraphs typically generate ideas of who the main secondary characters will be, and I write a paragraph on each of them… including what it is that they want.  Hopefully you’re getting this.  Every character in your story needs to want something.  There has to be a bigger reason for them to be there than to just fill pages.  Trust me on this. 

Now that I have characters “skeleton’d out” (the fleshing comes later), I think about locations. 

Where will this story take place?  If it will be a journey story (a favorite of mine) which PLACES will heroes and villains pass through?  If the places they will be visiting are on this planet, I use Google Earth to take a look, to get an idea of what they will be facing. 

Next I consider any twists and turns I may want to include, and how I might foreshadow them as the story progresses. 

Finally, I do one short paragraph to introduce each chapter.  These are very short, designed only as a jumping off place (and an ending place for the previous chapter) 

And, that’s it, really. 

Sure, you can put a lot more into this plan… and you probably will.   I typically do.  But this… this minimum amount will get the mental muscles moving. 

I know that you may only have a title, or a basic theme, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Still, taking it further, actually drawing out the roadmap for your story, even if you do so in whispers and suggestions only, will make the writing process come alive for you. 

Oh.  One more thing.  Your outline isn’t written in concrete.  At least it shouldn’t be. 

There will come times when your characters actually refuse to go where you said, back in the beginning, where they should.  Why?  Because it doesn’t make sense.  Yeah, sounds silly, but really.  Characters who are designed to be like real people will balk at being told to step out into space, or to drive wearing a blindfold or some such silliness.  Respect that, and change your outline as you go along.  You’ll find it easier to change an existing outline during the writing than to have to stop cold and work up totally new ideas. 

NaNoWriMo is worth your time, and this process will help you be ready to start writing on day one. 

Oh, and by the way, you can use this process for any fiction novel you may have up your sleeve. 

Your thoughts?

Staying in Touch

This post is a bit late because I was SKYPING with an old friend from the WeBook days.

Karen Gibson was working on her book “Chasing SANE” while I was working on FIVE on WeBook, and we got to be friends.

She has since surpassed me and published her book, as well as another non-fiction piece, and is currently writing a sequel to her novel.  You can find her blog, “Mirror, Mirror” on my blogroll if you’d like to visit her and say “Hi”. 

Image: anotherfinedesign.com

What’s the point?  Well, for starters, she’s had experience using CreateSpace, Amazon.com’s on-line publishing service.  She is knowledgeable, and was able to fill me in on a lot of the details.  Pretty valuable, I’d say.  And I’ve been out of touch for a good many months.

What I’m getting at is this: The people you meet in the writing game all have something to say.  You may—or may not—always agree with what they have to say, what they suggest, but their ideas will always be fresh, and even if you can’t use them as presented, the chances are good they will spark other ideas.

A lot of people call themselves writers, but only a very few of us really are.  Don’t look around, you know who I mean.  Writers are the people who find they must write every day in one form or another.  They are the people who eat, sleep, and breathe writing, and they belong on your contact list.  Always.

Bottom line, don’t forget to cultivate your writing friends.  Not only may they have information that you could use, you will likely be able to contribute to them.

Yeah.  That’s the ticket.  Think Paris, think garrets, think sidewalk cafe’s and brainstorming with your writing buddies. 

Yeah.

The Daily “Huh?” – Hemingway on Writing

Image: Guilty as Charged

I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.
Ernest Hemingway