Posts Tagged With: writers

Moving Day! Welcome to My New Blog!

Write-minded logo

To all my loyal subscribers who may somehow be subscribed to a blog that hasn’t had new content in over a year … you’ll be glad to know I’ve moved to a new blog. Or relieved. Or frightened? I don’t own your emotions, you do you. Just keep up with my many new wordings done over at my new site, Write-Minded.

Thank you, readers! Keep reading!

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5 Things I’ve Been Up To (or, 5 Things Every Writer Should Do)

Dear readers,

I’m back . . . again! I’ve been accidentally on hiatus, trying to avoid the internet, and keeping myself busy with other pursuits (and procrastinating, maybe there was some procrastinating involved). But today I decided it was time to get my rear in gear and get back into blogging (again!).

And in celebration of my return – and I know that you’re celebrating, of course you missed me more than you can say – I’m going to share some of what I did while I was absent, and tell you what a few of the things I did taught me about writing:

Photo Credit: Audringje via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Audringje via Compfight cc (altered)

1. Write a Novel. If you haven’t already, you should. And with NaNoWriMo coming up again next month, there’s no better time to get that great idea down on paper.

That’s what I’ve been working on lately; my fourth novel, and a little on my fifth, and a lot on my sixth, and here and there on my ninth and seventeenth and thirty-eighth. (No, if you’re wondering, I don’t have them planned out quite that accurately. My methods are a little more on-the-fly.) My next novel won’t be about Leo Westmacott and the gang, but they will be back, don’t worry. As for what it is about . . . I’ll keep you posted, but I’m not going to talk about it too much just now, as it’s still got a long way to go before being published. But I’ll tell you this: It’s about a golem, there are a few Judaists involved, and it’s set in Spain.

2. Write with a workshop. It shouldn’t be hard to find one in your area, whether you live in New York City or some podunk town nobody’s ever heard of. (Even if you live in Monowi, Nebraska – which of course you don’t, unless I’m talking to Elsie, in which case I would be honored – or somewhere similar.) And if you can’t find one, you could always start one yourself.

Or, for the antisocial types who want to write from the comfort of their own homes, I would recommend either A, you get some guts because it’s important to be fearless in writing and ready to go out and show the world what you’ve got, or B, find a group online. There are plenty of online writing communites you can get in on, sometimes in the most unexpected places, so don’t be afraid to look around.

Personally, I don’t trust those online workshops that ask for a few hundred dollars in return for a chance to listen to some “author” who’s never even polished a bestseller’s shoes talk about what he thinks makes a good story, so I’d avoid those if I were you. But if you feel differently, there are plenty of those around.

And if nothing else, you could always start up an online community yourself. (Which, I confess, is what happened to me a couple years ago, although it was only part choice and mostly chance.)

For the past few months I’ve been writing another anthology with the Ambage, my informal online writer’s workshop. This anthology our theme is crime fiction, and we’re a couple weeks, maybe another month from publishing. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

(By the way, if you think you’re up for an improfessional workshop full of close-knit writers who get together to produce short story anthologies once or twice a year, you’re welcome to join us! We’re always eager for fresh meat – uh, blood – uh, talent.)

3. Try out other forms of storytelling. Poetry, songwriting, screenwriting, playwriting, comic writing – they’re essentially similar to the prose we’re used to, and yet very different in execution, and they all have important lessons to teach us about writing and telling stories. Even entirely different forms of art, like music or painting, are worth exploring.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with a little poetry, playwriting, and songwriting – even some comic strip writing.

4. Read. This is a given. Read, read, read. Always read. Read with every spare moment you have to yourself. It’s relaxing, it’ll make you a smarter, nice, more attractive, generally better person, and it’ll teach you all the essential things you need to know about writing and then some and then some on top of the then-some.

One of the things I finally got around to reading over the winter was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Masterpieces, don’t you think? I can’t believe I waited this long – these books were written for me. (You know what I mean, right? When a book touches you deeply, which is what any good book is written to do, then logically, it was written for you.) I’ve been inspired, so much so that I’ve started turning some old ideas for surrealist, literary nonsense stories into words.

That’s one of the best things about reading. It’ll give you ideas – plenty of ideas.

5. Take up new interests. I can’t emphasize this enough: artists are just people who know how to live and how to express life, and insatiable curiosity and a sense of discovery are essential to living. You never know what you could do that might be fodder for your next story. Skydiving? Bear wrestling? Extreme ironing? Or maybe keep it local – go out to the theatre or take up running or go birdwatching. You never know if you might like something until you’ve tried.

And if you’re the extreme introvert who doesn’t even want to step outside, I have an idea for you, too: STEP OUTSIDE AND SEE WHAT YOU’RE MISSING. But a more sensitive suggestion would be – go researching! Just find a topic you’d like to learn more about and start reading everything you can find on the subject: blogs, wikipedia articles, any material you might happen to have on your bookshelf, and anything you can find at your library (or on your Kindle).

Bonus. Blog! Personally, I sometimes see blogging as a distraction. But let’s face facts: if you’re a writer, what you do is write, and blogging is writing. Maybe it’s not the same kind of writing you’re used to – and that’s why it’s important! It’s just another form of storytelling, and I’ve already told you what I think about challenging yourself to experiment with different forms of storytelling. Blogging also gives you the unique opportunity to have direct communication with your readers, and there’s a lot to learn from that.

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So what have you been up to lately? Do you have any habits that help you keep your writerly mojo fuelled?

Categories: Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quoth C.S. Lewis: Made for Another World

 

 

In context, this quote from Mere Christianity probably refers to a soul yearning for God and His kingdom. (I say “probably” because I haven’t actually had the pleasure of reading that one yet. Seriously recommend Screwtape Letters though. I digress.)

However, I also think it refers to creative people, yearning for things that don’t exist in this world, and creating them.

Or, you know, it might mean psychopaths who traipse around town in their everyday clothes with regal robes and gold crowns thrown on. I’m leaning toward the heart of creative people personally, but hey, if you like that interpretation best, whatever paddles your canoe.

Categories: Wise Words | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Artist and the Scientist, and the Secret of Balancing Them

There are many sides to writing. It can’t be confined. Some call it an art; some call it a science. So which is it?

Writing requires creativity and vision. You’ll need open eyes to look at the world, to see what it looks like on the face of it, to see what it looks like underneath, and to see what it looks like inside of yourself. An artist could sit in their yard for a lifetime and never run out of stories to write, because all around them everything they see has a thousand aspects, and a million ideas inside it. You need to be able to look at things from all these different angles. Sometimes, writing requires some degree of omnipotence to keep an eye on all the thoughts coming together—and sometimes you just pull back and let them flow into place.

Writing requires dimension and precision. You have to know what you’re writing about, and how; you need to understand the subject and how to effectively approach it and describe it. You need to know what you’re seeing and how to get it down on paper according to your vision, to use that vision to its fullest potential. You need to know how to produce an effect. A scientist could sit in their yard for a lifetime and never run out of subjects to categorize and monitor, because they could identify every tree and weed and bug and bird and spend the rest of their lives recording their lifecycles and the changes wrought in them by the seasons and the years.

The fact is, writing is both an art and a science. You’ll need balance—more than anything. You’ll need to know when to think and when to feel. You’ll need to understand when to let your tender, sentimental nature take over, and when to be cold and calculating. Give yourself over completely to the artist and you’ll end up with chaos—yield to the scientific side and you’ll end up with sterile, insipid chaff.

Basically, you have to be pretty schizophrenic. But it knew that, didn’t it, precious? Yesss . . . we knews it, precious, we did . . .

The Scientist

This is the part of you that was taught in schoolrooms to bleed literature dry of every nebulous interpretation of meaning that they can fabricate. This is the part that tends to function as a spellcheck while you’re writing, or critiques your plot, and probably it’s the one muttering, “This is crap, this is crap,” while you’re trying to write. If you’re experiencing writers’ block, you can count on it that the soulless, unfeeling scientist in you is to blame.

It can get be a hindrance at times, can’t it? Unfortunately, you still need it. Believe it or not, you do need a little logic and rationality when you’re writing, and the scientific part of you keeps that in check. By the traditional myth of brain lateralization, this would be the left brain; reason and critical thinking, all the technical and scientific aspects of the writing process.

The Artist

You know when you’ve come to that exciting part, and a little voice is going, “Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!” while you’re writing? Yup, this is that voice. And when you’re killing a character or letting them find true love at last, the artist is inside you, crying. This is the one that’s putting the scientist’s stores of knowledge to good use, hitting on unlikely combinations and putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. This is the little genius in you, the one that flies into a frenzy and writes like mad when you finally break through that creative block. The artist is the one who appreciates the beauty in things.

Unlike the scientist, the artist isn’t taught. This part of you isn’t developed in the schoolroom, unless your mind is wandering from the lesson. Typically, this part is developed in the woods, or on a busy city street, or other places where you’re “alone,” that is, away from the distractions of your everyday life. The artist is an autodidact; it learns. Nobody can teach you to be an artist. Really, being an artist is something you’re born into. But I do believe that there’s an artist in all of us: it’s just developed sooner in some than others. If you can discover that part of yourself, open yourself to it, free the artist within and let them learn, let yourself dream, then you can learn any art you’re called to. Even if it’s not something traditionally viewed as an art—if you bring creativity into it, anthing can be an art.

How to Balance Them

If you’re up against writers’ block, a good way to get around it—and a good way, in general, to avoid it—is to stop thinking and start feeling; suppress the scientist, and let your artist free. Just write—let the scientist take over in revision.

At least, that’s what people say.

Me, I don’t believe in it. Sure, it works, but that’s not a solution—it’s avoiding the problem. It’s the easy way out, and for a lot of people, that’s great. So yeah, if you want the easy way out of it, there you go. More power to you. Off with you, go write something.

But you want to know the secret? I do have one up my sleeve here. I’ve already said that writing is both an art and a science; well, I can reduce it to just one word. Writing is a discipline.

That’s right. Being a writer is like being a Jedi. Or, you know, a master of the martial arts. You have to be in touch with the techniques; but also with the spirit of the thing. But above all else, writing is about balance. Letting the two sides take turns at dominance isn’t balance. Balance isn’t fifty-fifty, it’s hundred-hundred. Give free reign to both sides, give them both power and control, and let them work together. This can only be achieved through practice, determination, and discipline.

You’re just a writer. I am too, and I may not be a master, but I believe this: To become a master of my art, I have to become something higher than human, something that transcends the everyday. I have to become an artist, a free-thinker; I have to dare to look at the world in ways no one else will, ways they’ll tell me aren’t there. Sometimes, I have to look like a lunatic. But inside, I have to be a monk: I have to find a way to work with both my mind and heart.

What do you think? Am I a genius, a philosopher, an artist—or a lunatic?

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Categories: Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret to Beating Writer’s Block for Good

When I was writing my last novel, I met with an obstacle I hadn’t encountered with any of my previous books. It was a feeling of insufficiency that left me too petrified to write.

This is a serious problem that most writers will understand. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, what we call “writer’s block” is essentially just the fear of failure dressed up until we can’t recognize it away.

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc (altered)

Photo Credit: horizontal.integration via Compfight cc (altered)

Of course, that’s something I’d dealt with before, it wasn’t entirely new–but it had never been as bad as it was then. In this case, the difference was that this novel in particular dealt with a lot of personal emotions, and a lot of story and heart was based on the spiritual experiences of a person I care very much about. I felt like that was a lot to live up to, and I began to be afraid I couldn’t pull it off.

Every writer deals with inspirational blocks like this, usually emotional. Oftentimes they’re a feeling of insufficiency, a fear of failure. Some resolve this problem by allowing themselves to write as badly as they need to. As long as they’re writing, right? And then they can make it all better in revision. Some people say this releases them and lets them write more freely. But I disagree with the whole idea for a lot of reasons.

My main problem with telling yourself you can write poorly is that it’s like saying you can build a house out of cardboard and then paint it to make it look like it’s brick. How much pride do you really have in your work if you’re willing do to a slipshod job and later make it look like you didn’t?

When writer’s block comes around writers have two choices: to write poorly and let themselves fail “for now,” or to write well. So I chose to well and I got through my block. I didn’t weasel my way around it. I forced myself straight through it.

I’m not saying it works 100% of the time, and even when I chose to “write well” I didn’t always. But just the choice to work my hardest, and to accept that it was okay that it was hard, freed me and gave me the strength to keep going. Honestly, some of my best work came out in moments like these. In the worst of times I was willing to do my best, and that meant I was really making the effort for my art.

 

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What about you? How do you deal with writer’s block? Are you in favor of the “write badly now, revise later” method, or do you use a method more like mine, or do you have a completely different method of your own? Please share!

Categories: Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Read This Now — No Excuses

Stephen McCranie

Click. Read. You’ll be happy that you did.

 

Click on the image, follow the link, read. No excuses. No distractions. No delays. Do it now and read. I don’t care if you’re a writer or an artist or a human being. Go read this, even if you’re a Martian. Everyone needs to read this.

Read it. Now. Why are you still here?

 

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Categories: Imagining a Better World, Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Tips for Finding the Best Way for Your Story to End

Dear writers,

It’s one of the hardest questions we have to ask ourselves in life: Where will it all end?

As writers, we have a lot more control over things, and that includes where and how to stop. Unfortunately, endings are still hard—sometimes the hardest part of a story. Here are some tips that may help you if you’re struggling with an ending you don’t like, or just not sure where your story is going:

  1. Plan the ending first. Get it working right away so you have direction.
  2. If you’re getting close to an end you don’t have and you’re at a loss, go back to the beginning—review your story, gather ideas, get a sense of where it’s leading, and then follow it.
  3. It’s more important that your ending be fitting than happy. (And remember that goes for unhappy endings too.) It can still twist, but the unexpected can’t be the impossible. The best twist is the one you feel you should have seen coming.
  4. The purpose of an ending is to simplify—it’s the moment when you bring light to the darkness, when all becomes clear. You can still have cliffhangers and leave your readers with questions and something to think about, but if you leave an overcomplicated, unexplained tangle of confusion, it’s no good
  5. That said, don’t be afraid of making it big and bold. If it gets out of hand, keep writing anyway—you can always go back and pull it back as necessary.
  6. Ask yourself: Should this have ended already? Am I ending too early? When should it end?
  7. You’re allowed to have more than one ending.
  8. The resolution should involve the characters. If the ending owes too much to an outside force, it’s likely to leave readers disappointed. If we’ve been walking in a character’s (or characters’) shoes, feeling what they feel and dreaming their dreams, we don’t want to see someone else end their story for them.
  9. It was never all a dream. Don’t toy with your reader’s emotions like that. No matter how brilliant you might think the twist is, 99% of the time it’s not.
  10. A lot of build-up needs a lot of resolution. You need to know when to stop, but you also need to know how to suit an ending to the story it’s concluding. A long or complicated story with a lot at stake needs a lot of ending.

 

Are these strict rules? Of course not. A great writer can break any rule. You can get away with anything as long as you do it imaginatively, and as long as you’re sure you can pull it off. But these tips will help you to avoid, prevent, or justify the sins of a bad ending.

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What are you ending right now?

Categories: Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Writers Do

 

 

Yes, I’m actually blogging one of these. I found it floating around amidst similar others and singled it out as my favorite. Jokes that mock the sanity and lifestyle of a writer are actually reassuring and therapeutic, and relieves a lot of the tension that comes with writing. When the world pokes fun at what I do, it makes me feel less guilty about what I do to the world in my stories.

The disturbing thing is that the man in the upper right-hand corner has my face.

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What jokes or memes mocking writers made you laugh recently?

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Give and Thou Shalt Receive: But What Do You Have to Give?

Dear writers,

 

The key to success in this world is generosity. It stands to reason, it’s common sense, and if you don’t know it, learn it: The more you give, the more you receive. If you’re a writer or a blogger or just any other kind of breather, then you’re alive, and that means you have something to give. But one of my personal struggles has been wondering, What do I have to give?

I have stories. Yeah, I love to write stories, and I love to give them to the world, and they’re fun to blog sometimes, but the truth is this: That’s not enough. I’m not going to get thousands of followers who buy my books by blogging short stories.

If I want to receive followers, I have to give something meaningful to them, earn their trust and make them feel that reading my books will be worth their time, and then I will receive more readers to whom I will be able to give the stories I have to tell: it’s a win-win in the end, but it’s a lot of work for me on the way. I know that, that’s what I signed up for and that’s why I’m here.

But what can I offer you, and all the people out there, that would be meaningful, that would earn your trust and respect? That’s the question. That’s the question you might be struggling with, too:

 

What Do You Have to Give?

Photo Credit: Powerhouse Museum via Compfight cc (altered)

Photo Credit: Powerhouse Museum via Compfight cc (altered)

You’re just a writer. You’ve led a simple, unexciting, unassuming life. That’s probably why you’re a writer. You’re not a specialist in life coaching or social media marketing, you haven’t traveled all over the world or gone through traumatic near-fatal experiences. You’re just—you.

You don’t have to be you when you write. That’s why you’re a writer. When you write, you can transcend your own life. When you’re blogging, you have to draw from your own life and your own experiences, and heck . . . what do you really know?

We’ve actually mentioned an answer twice now. “That’s why you’re a writer.”

Right? You know what makes you a writer. You know what inspires you. You know what makes you who you are. You know the dark, secret places of your own heart. You know human emotion because you’re a human and you’ve felt emotion

You know the truth about yourself. But your readers don’t.

 

What Do Your Readers Need?

That’s the important thing to remember here. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

What they need from you is you. Just—you. Plain, simple, unexciting, unassuming, you. Not the expert knowledge you wish you had, they don’t need that. They just need the real you.

They need the truth. They need to know who you are inside. I don’t give a cow’s belch for a writer’s alphabet-soup degrees or their professional expertise. They’re artists, and what real readers want to know is them.

Real readers want to know who you are.

You might be afraid of opening yourself up: don’t be. You tell the truth behind the mask of fiction; take the mask off, take courage, and be honest. Your readers will respect you for it.

You might be afraid of wasting your reader’s time with your sob stories: don’t be. Some readers won’t care, it’s true. So they’ll move on. But there are others who won’t. There are others who will be touched.

Because you’ve lived your life, and that’s the story you have to tell. That’s what will inspire people. Maybe you’ve gone through a situation similar to theirs, and you have some practical wisdom to impart, or maybe a message of hope. Maybe it’s just the words “you’re not alone.”

And that’s just it. You’re not alone. Whatever you’ve gone through—and everyone has gone through something—someone else is going through right now and thinking they’re the only one. They’re waiting for you to show them that they’re not. They’re waiting for you to tell them they’re not alone, that others have been through this and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s what writing about. It’s about telling a story so someone somewhere, someday, will read it and say, “Look what they did. Look what they knew. Look what they learned. They went through exactly what I’m going through now. They lived.” And in that there’s hope; in the knowledge that someone before us went through life and survived it.

Look back on your life to a time when you were crying out to someone and there was no answer. Reach out to that person now and answer them. You may be surprised how many people are waiting to hear your voice.

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Do you have an important story to share with the world? Have you recently shared one on your blog or written a book about it? Share with me, do a little plugging!

Categories: Imagining a Better World, Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Styles of Writing” by Grant Snider

Incidental Comics, by Grant Snider

Here is a man who understands art.

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