Posts Tagged ‘writing’

10
May

Adverbs Adschmerbs

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

Excerpt from “Follow These Rules for Stronger Writing”, found in the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest, and also available on their website:

6. REPLACE ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS WITH VIVID NOUNS AND ACTIVE VERBS. Cultivate the use of strong verbs and concrete nouns. They are the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal. Instead of:

Since the day Barbara met the werewolf, she felt very scared and frightened.

Write:

Since the day she met the werewolf, terror haunted Barbara’s heart.

There is no surer way to weaken your prose than to pepper it with adverbs. There are, of course, times when the adverb is appropriate and necessary. Choose those times carefully.

She looked longingly and lovingly at the chocolate.

Or:

She looked at the chocolate with longing and love.

Or better:

Her eyes consumed the chocolate.

Argh. This is so, so difficult to do when you’re not used to it… and thinking about it while you’re writing a first draft can drive you absolutely batty if you’re just in the stage of getting words down on paper. Yet, it’s an incredibly useful skill to use. In his monograph On Writing, Stephen King also says something to the effect of “never use descriptive adverbs unless someone is holding a gun to your head” (or at least that’s what I got out of it). From that day forward, I’ve been more aware when I write one down, but I don’t always do what I should to change it. This means that revising Draft #1 of my WIP is going to be a complete nightmare.

Of course, I already knew that…

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6
May

Motivation: Day 3

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

On Monday, I attempted to get through the ‘Day 3′ section of Holly Lisle’s ‘How to Find Your Writing Discipline‘… and I say attempted because I didn’t actually manage to do all the things she suggested, but I think I’m on the right track (for now, anyway).

I’d purchased a bulletin board, colored index cards, and push pins as per the instructions, and I mounted the board on my wall Monday morning, right next to my desk. I can reach it from where I’m sitting, which is a real bonus – that alone should be motivation to keep the board going, since it will require little extra effort to maintain.

So, as per instructed, I made 3 columns with 3 different colors of index cards, and placed them on the board. Then below the column headers (DO! – Doing… – DONE.) I placed cards according to their designated colors, each with one task or a step of a task. Most of these went in the ‘DO!’ column, and a few I was already ‘Doing…’.  Simple enough. However, I ran into a little hiccup, namely that my life is very busy, and I could continue making cards for the DO! column until end of the day, and probably still have more things to write down. Holly makes a good point, though – she suggests only getting 5 steps ahead of yourself, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Fair enough. But I’m not starting from scratch with my writing – I have 2 major WIPs – so some of my cards are a bit broad, like “finish manuscript”. Okay, so maybe I’m not really using the bulletin board exactly how she suggested… but at least I can see a number of my goals all in one place, which is nice. It definitely gives me a better sense of what I’m working toward, if anything.

There’s another section in the ebook that I didn’t do, mostly because I know myself, and I know that it would just be another excuse to procrastinate. It involves breaking tasks down into 10-minute segments, using a timer, and estimating how much time it will take  you to complete each task (there are sheets to fill out for this… and I know how I get filling out sheets… “oh, just one more thing… and this other thing, I should write it down TOO… oh, and–!”). I won’t go into detail since you can read it in the ebook yourself, but it would be a good idea for someone who’s not used to breaking their time into small chunks like that. It really is quite remarkable how much you can get done – writing or otherwise – in 10 minutes. I actually already own a portable timer and often take it around with me to time breaks, or have personal word wars, or any number of other things, so I figured I’d just stick with what I’ve been doing.

Of couse, I can easily see myself slipping back into old habits and patterns, but for now, I think this ebook was motivation enough to get me back up and running again. I’ve written 1000 words a day for 4 days in a row (minus the weekend & Mondays, since they don’t count), and I am excited to write again. Can I keep the momentum going? I’m not sure… but at this point, the end of WIP #1 is so close I can taste it. I’m excited for the ending, I can’t wait for it to be over, both because it’ll mean my first full manuscript is complete, and because I have WIP #2 waiting in the wings for some love of its own.

Yes, I’d recommend Lisle’s motivation tool, but don’t feel compelled to follow it by rote. Use it and modify the final step in a way that will work for you… but make sure you stay on task for Day 1 & 2, and the 20-minute segment at the beginning. I can’t say for certain that I’ve ‘found my writing disciple’ at this point… but it’s definitely a good re-start. And when it comes to the writing life, I say we celebrate the small victories!

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2
May

Finding My Writing Discipline

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

In my attempt to get back into the ‘swing of things’ and find my motivation for writing again, I came across an interesting little ebook on Holly Lisle’s website. I’ve been considering the 12-month version of her ‘Writer’s Class’ for about a week or so, but in lieu of that for the moment, I wondered if this little ebook could be of any use to me. It’s called How to Find Your Writing Discipline: A Three-Day Plus 20 Minute Do-It-Yourself Writing Bootcamp, and it’s geared toward writers who can’t find the time, initiative, or discipline to write (or get back into writing).

I purchased and downloaded it on Wednesday night, and completed the ’20 minute’ section almost immediately. It was good – not particularly thrilling, but good – and gave me a moment to reflect on my motivations and reasons for wanting to write. I came up with 15 short sentences for the ‘Find Your Triggers’ portion of the 20 minute exercise, and I think I’m going to post these somewhere that I can see them everyday: they state why I want to write and what writing will allow me to do. They’re big, somewhat elusive, long-term goals, per se.

After this was completed, I read through the section for ‘Day One’. The idea here is that I am supposed to spend a day finding out what’s taking up so much time in my life, so that (I assume) I can eliminate the problem areas or convert them into useful task times. Sound useful? I thought so… I was intrigued and decided to go ahead with it. Instead of giving you a long narrative on my experience, I’ll break it down into daily chunks, and we’ll go from there.

Thursday, April 30th: Day One

- Morning: Slept in by accident… of course. Woke up and wrote the time down on the notepad I’d placed next to my bed the night before (as recommended in the book). Carried the book around with me as I did random tasks, trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible. However, this is a bit difficult when you’re self-employed and don’t really have a ‘regular routine’ to begin with. I also discovered that I hadn’t reset any of the clocks in the kitchen after a brief power outage during last Saturday’s storm. Oops.

- Afternoon: Still doing well, staying on target with writing everything down… even the 6 minute break I took to eat some licorice and dance around in the living room…

- Evening: Well, it was date night, so as soon as I was out the door, I figured there was no point in writing everything down. Dinner, movie, coffee… and home again. In retrospect, I probably should have started back up again once I came back through the door, but my brain said “no, no, it’s still date night”, even as I cleaned out the cat’s litter box. Hmm.

Friday, May 1st: Day Two

Up and drinking my free McDonald’s coffee… *ahhh*… so, what’s my task for today? List everything I did yesterday and how much time I spent on each item… and then figure out which tasks are necessary vs. personally fulfilling vs. things I can delegate out vs. unnecessary. Okay, done.

I should mention here that I really appreciate how Holly doesn’t beat you over the head for wasting time on things… instead, she says “that’s free time you can use”. It’s a matter of changing the way you think and use your time, not to mention the fact that you can be thinking about writing (or “prewriting”, as she calls it) during some of those necessary tasks like laundry or dishes. Makes sense to me… but training yourself to do it is more difficult than saying you will. Changing my thinking to reflect this kind of pattern will definitely take time.

But what did I learn about my use of time?

  • I don’t work as much as I should (but I already knew that)
  • I don’t really have a routine… maybe just a few tasks that happen around the same time each day
  • My day changes drastically according to what needs to be done, because I’m self-employed
  • I am so incredibly privileged to be able to stay home and work, and yet I still haven’t figured out how to use my time to the best of my ability… it’s wasteful and very frustrating
  • My house is a mess

Not exactly things I didn’t know already… but it was interesting to see exactly where the time went. It’s also easy to coast past this step and ‘fake it’ a bit, because you know that you’re writing everything down through the day, so you try to be more productive… but that won’t really help in the long run, since the whole point of the exercise is to figure out where the time goes on a normal day.

A chunk of my time went to checking my email, Facebook, and LibraryThing. I think what I need to do (besides shrinking the time spent on it) is be wiser with when I use these websites – for example, I tend to be extremely unproductive between 1pm-4pm. I’m like the waking dead, I’m useless. This is when I should be online; spend time with the pets; do housework (if I have the energy); run errands outside the house; take a nap or reading break. Often, I feel bad because this time is right after lunch and I feel like I’ve wasted the entire afternoon, but all things considered, if I’m just going to stare blankly at my computer screen anyway, it would be better to spend that time doing things that will fulfill me or doing household tasks that are necessary.

Again, I need to change the way I think about time to be able to accomplish this. Seems like I have my work cut out for me. The funny thing is, Dave & I were talking about this just a few days ago, and now here’s Holly with her ebook, telling me the exact same thing. It’s nice to be reaffirmed… it’s not so nice to realize how far you still have to go.

There is a Day Three in the ebook, but I won’t get around to it until Monday. I have a busy weekend ahead with family plans, so I’ll have to set this aside for a few days – but not my thinking! I should start training my brain over the weekend, getting into the “prewriting” habit.

We’ll see how that goes…

Come back next Wednesday to see how things went on Day 3!

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28
Apr

ReBoot!

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Anyone remember that show? That was a great show… or at least, it was until it went really dark and weird and Bob turned semi-evil (or at least that’s how it looked to me at 10 years old).

But, that’s not the subject of my post for today. Last night I decided to try and get myself back into the writing swing of things by starting something new… ah, but don’t panic! It’s not what you think. I didn’t start a new novel, and I’m not running off to the “ooh, shiny!” new plot in my head or anything like that (as much as I may be tempted). I just figured that if all these published authors make a point of stressing that you write at least 1000 words a day – and they’re still published, and still making money off their books – they must be on to something.

So I grabbed my notepad and a pen, and began writing. Nothing special, no pre-planning, no anything. And, well… I handwrote 3 pages of something, and it wasn’t a complete waste of time. No, I think I can safely add this one to my files of ideas, and maybe come back to it in the future. I have absolutely no idea where the little story idea was going, but it doesn’t matter. A workable idea for the future is what matters, not to mention the psychological assurance that comes from knowing that your Muse hasn’t actually run off to Tahiti as you’d suspected.

Will it make a difference in motivating me to finish ‘A Work in Progress’? Who knows. Maybe I just need to stop thinking of it as ‘work’ and get back to the fun of it… the ‘pick up a pen and just write!’ fun of it. This, I suspect, is where I stall: when creative writing becomes ‘job-like’ in my mindset.

So, I should just change my mindset. Easier said than done. I’m hoping to head off to the coffee shop sometime today – laptop in hand – to try and do just that.

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24
Apr

Doubt & Motivation

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

For whatever reason, I have very little problem getting myself motivated to write during NaNoWriMo. Maybe it’s the excitement of the event. Maybe it’s the absolute deadline, or the community support. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s something new to work on, something fresh with endless possibilities. Sure, there are off days, but the whole month is a thrill in itself. I look forward to it throughout the year.

But what about now, when it isn’t November? It’s April. And last month was March. And next month is May. In fact, there are 11 months of the year that simply aren’t November, which means there are 11 months when I need to be completely self-motivated to sit down and get those words written on paper (or, uh, the computer screen).

Right now, I’m struggling. I have no drive, no sense of direction, and no burning desire to get any of my characters where they need to be. I don’t even think it’s writer’s block, to be honest, because I know what needs to happen in both manuscripts, and yet I don’t feel motivated to take them there.

In short, I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve begun. I wonder if I’ve chosen the wrong path, or if this dream I’ve had of being a writer – which has carried me since I was 8 years old, if I remember correctly – was all a mistake. Maybe I’m not cut out to write. Maybe I wasn’t meant to do this. Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time.

But it’s all I know how to do.

This afternoon, my husband sat me down in front of his computer screen, and brought up last year’s statistics for The Ancient Standard. Until this week, I hadn’t written anything new for that site since… well, nearly a year ago. Or maybe longer. Anyway, he showed me the traffic stats for 2008.

There were almost 50,000 unique visitors to the site, and about 84,000 repeat visits. That means that 50,000 people read my writing. And an awful lot of them liked it enough to come back for another go.

While I don’t particularly see that as “success”, I suppose it means that I shouldn’t go beating myself over the head with the notion that I’m a complete failure. Somebody likes my writing style. Some people want to read it, and then come back for more. For me, The Ancient Standard is like pseudo-journalism – because really, I’m reporting on events, or discoveries, or historical details that other people have already written about, and simply compiling information from various sources to produce what I hope is a brief but comprehensive article about the topic.

It’s not my original work, so I still can’t be confident that anyone likes my fiction, which is where my heart lies. But at the very least, I can take comfort in the fact that people enjoy my writing style, and that I’m providing what others perceive to be quality information in an entertaining format. And with all honesty, I can say I’m grateful for each and every visitor who reads my work.

Is it measurable success by my own standards? Not particularly. But does it at least quell some of the despair that has crept into my soul as of late? Yes, it does. I can feel a tiny spark of hope again… and isn’t one spark all it takes to light a fire?

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14
Apr

April Showers Bring… Lazy Writers?

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

I didn’t make the deadline. It was depressing, upsetting, frustraing, and definitely made me want to give up and just burn the manuscript I have so far.

Fortunately, I didn’t take things all the way down that road, and settled for putting it aside for a few weeks instead. Ultimately, finishing the novel in just a few weeks wasn’t a realistic goal, or so I’ve been told. “But you do it every November”, you say? Well, yes, but every November I also clear my schedule so that I don’t have seventeen billion other things on the go at the same time that interfere with my ability to get anything done.

Thus, I will have to embark on yet another journey to complete the 2007 NaNoNovel, which will hopefully end sooner than later, since I really would like to get back to the 2008 NaNoNovel and some planning for 2009. I realize this is all quite insane, but there you have it. I should also really try to update my reading on the blog here, since I’ve been pretty negligent in posting anything at all. A couple of those, and maybe I’ll be back on track. A couple more writing-related articles, and maybe I can breathe some life into this thing again.

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5
Mar

Slacking

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

I haven’t posted in awhile. Yes, I know I’m slacking. Yes, I know I’m falling drastically behind on my book reviews.

But guess what? I’m attempting to finish my NaNo 2007 novel in… oh… the next 15 days.

Yes, this is impossible. Naturally, I’m going to attempt it anyway.

See you on the other side…I hope o_O .

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29
Jan

The Killing Kind

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Until November, I’d never killed off a character before. Really. Never.

I’ve never written something before that required me to follow someone along in the story, only to write in their demise in a brief, sudden instant – not because they deserved it, but because it just had to happen that way.

I’d heard that it was hard to do, and I’d read stories about authors sitting at their computers, weeping over the keyboard at the heartbreak of such a task, whether they’d planned it to happen or not.

I didn’t buy it. I scoffed; I thought they were bluffing; I said to myself “they’re exaggerating, that’s ridiculous”; I rolled my eyes every time someone new posted about their heartbreaking character death.

Then it came time for me to kill off a character in my own story… and that’s when the moment of truth hit.

As I began to write in the character’s demise, I realized something: my eyes were beginning to water. My throat became slightly constricted. I needed a kleenex.

I began to cry. For my character, and for how wrong it was for someone like this to meet their end the way the story required. There was no other way, and I felt sorry for him. It was unjust, his death. And yet… that was how it had to be.

So I wondered: How can someone who is both a) not real and, b) theoretically driven by my own hand, have such an impact on me as a writer? Why would anyone cry for the death of a character they created, when it was their own story that directed that death to occur?

From the comments I’ve heard from other writers, it’s that very same development of a character from beginning to end (birth to death, in a sense?) that causes the emotional attachment which elicits such strong feelings in scene-writing. A particularly joyous scene for a writer’s characters will likely give the writer a high for the rest of the day (whether he or she is aware of it or not), while writing a particularly difficult and depressing scene may also influence the writer’s mood that way. In that respect, I think it helps the writer, because it means they’re in tune with their characters and can be authentic in the way they portray their experiences.

However, when it comes to writing a character’s death, things start to get personal, especially if a writer is particularly fond of their creation. It was a bit traumatic for me to write my character’s death, and I hadn’t even really been with them for that long. I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional trauma that comes with killing off a character like, for example, Gollum or Harry Potter. I believe J.K. Rowling has been quoted as saying she bawled her eyes out for days after killing Harry (or Dumbledore, for that matter): simply put, it hurts to hurt someone you love, even if they’re fictional. Because to a writer? Characters are more real than you know… they’re living, breathing entities that a writer shares every day with, all day.

Characters can become some of a writer’s best friends… and that’s why it can tear an author apart to see them suffer and die.

I used to scoff. Now I understand.

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15
Jan

More Reading, More Writing

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

It occurs to me that I spend a lot of time reading. I also spend a lot of time writing. And, as it happens, I’ve posted on this blog – on more than one occasion – information about a book that I’ve read, or that has made its way to me. Plus, the name of this blog site is “Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns”, unspecified as to who has written these tasty literary gems…

Thus, I would like to make a small transition to a dual focus. I’d like to make this a writing and reading blog, since I’ve been posting on both for awhile now… though maintaining my “official” writing focus. However, as I’ve heard from many a writer: Great writers need to be great readers, too. So, without further ado, I hereby announce that I will be posting my brief reviews on the books I’ve read, approximately as they are finished.

I’ll include books I’ve purchased, borrowed, or received as review copies. Review copies of books will receive first priority, and I’ll always be sure to give an honest review, regardless of where the book came from. I’ll evaluate both on entertainment and literary merit, and I’ll be nailing down the exact specs for “ratings” as I work out the kinks in the review process.

I’ve been reviewing books for quite some time now over at Librarything.com, but I’d like to share my thoughts with those of you who aren’t members over there (though I highly recommend it!).

As always, I’ll continue to post my thoughts on the writing process as I work toward the completion of my novel… and keep on plugging away at writing SEO articles for web contracts.

Questions? Comments? Leave them here. Looking for something to read and want a recommendation? I’d be happy to help with that too!

And publishers: feel free to send those ARCs my way!

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17
Nov

The Great Write-In Dilemma

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

I had a pretty slow weekend. Not in the sense of sitting down and doing nothing, but in terms of my word count, and there are a few reasons why:

a) The write-in was more talking than writing.

b) Saturday was full of non-motivation because of the bad previous writing day; I swore I was coming down with something (I felt dizzy all day and actually spent much of the day in bed); and the evening was date night (but that’s a good thing).

c) Sunday was bellydance workshop and performance day, so literally no time for writing – but I knew it was coming, so I’d planned to make up for it by writing extra on Friday and Saturday… oops.

Which leads me to today’s post… what’s the deal with these write-ins anyway?

Why Write-Ins are Good

Our first local write-in was a lot of fun, even though only 3 of us showed up. We’d never met each other before (though I promptly forgot everyone’s name), and we spent some time getting to know each other. We only wrote about 300 words each in the space of an hour and a half, but it was alright – I don’t think anyone really expected to do much. It’s great meeting new people (especially when you’re an introvert and situations like this force you to move outside your comfort zone), and write-ins during NaNo are an excellent way to foster community.

It also means that you gain a good group of people to sustain you throughout the rest of the year – sure, we only really “get together” for NaNo related events in November, but with things like MSN and Facebook, we can stay in touch and see what each other is up to year-round… I don’t mean that in a stalker-esque way, but in terms of encouraging each other’s writing. That’s good. Plus, if you find out about some writing lecture or event happening, you know there’ll be someone who wants to come with you.

Why Write-Ins are Bad

They don’t have to be… really… but the problem arises when write-ins aren’t regulated. I don’t mean to sound like a crochety old hag, but when you go to a write-in, you typically expect to do what the event name is called: write. In. Er, in wherever you are. Write-ins are, by name, the time when a group of writers gets together to write – each on their own stories, but in the same locale for moral support. Some people find write-ins to be a great boost to their word counts, and I’ve looked at a few local NaNo region websites that have write-ins a few times a week, just so everyone can take advantage of the opportunity.

However, these write-ins have rules: You arrive, you say your hellos, and then you write. You’re asked to refrain from chatter until the write-in is over, because people are there to get work done… and although I don’t know if it’s happened to anyone, I’ve even read instructions that said “if you want to chat, please find someplace else in the cafe to do so or you’ll be asked to leave the group”. Wow. That’s some serious writing-in.

But the fact of the matter is, these people get work done. While I don’t have a problem with some idle chit-chat, the real issue arises when people come to unregulated write-ins with completely different ideas about what they want to get out of the session. If one person wants to work, and another person doesn’t really care about making their word count for that day (or week) and simply wants to chatter, the two aren’t going to mix, and someone is going to come away from the write-in seriously pissed off.

The Delicate Balance

The fact of the matter is, write-ins will only function as intended if rules are laid down before the event is held. The other events of the month – the Kick-off party, Halfway party, and TGIO party – are traditionally the NaNo events where people are invited to chit-chat all they want. In fact, talking is encouraged at these events, and people who want to sit and write are considered party poopers.

So what do you do if you’re at an unregulated write-in (for example, you’re part of a region that doesn’t have its own ML to set these guidelines) and someone won’t shut up, seemingly needing to fill any lull in the conversation (ie. when people begin to actually write) with some mundane comment that starts everyone off again (or they just keep talking, regardless of whether anyone is listening)?

a) You can sit there and take it. I’ve been there, done that, have the low word count from that day to prove it. I didn’t want to offend anyone (these are new friends, after all!), and I wanted to be a good sport, so I just sat there and got 600 words written in the space of 4 hours. Needless to say, I was the one upset about it later… however, I had to realize that since no one laid down any ground rules for the write-in, it was partly my fault for not doing anything about it.

b) You can politely excuse yourself from the conversation and find another table to work at. This allows you to leave the chatty area while saving face, and hopefully the others will realize that you came to get some work done and won’t resent you wanting to make word count. Then, they can continue their conversation, and you won’t be sitting around doing nothing and being angry at your new friend(s) afterward.

c) You can be pro-active and lay out guidelines yourself. This can be tricky, however, if you’re not the ML for the region. It’s like Survivor – people don’t always take well to the person who seems to put themselves in charge. You don’t want to get voted out of the write-in, so if you’re not ML, run the idea past the other core people who come to these things. You’ll most likely find them to be accepting about the idea, especially if you suggest a time deadline for the write-in with a chatting period afterward. If you’re going to get together on a Sunday afternoon, why not suggest writing quietly (and enforce it, though everyone needs to be on board with this) from 2pm-4pm, and then having an encouragement session afterward from 4pm-5pm where everyone can get to know each other better and talk to their heart’s content?

The last thing you ever want to do with NaNoWriMo – or in just about any situation, let’s face it – is distance yourself from the people who can encourage you most. Burning bridges is just a bad idea, because you never know… that recent acquaintance you made could become your best cheerleader, and vice versa.

And one last thing: If there’s someone in the write-in group that you just can’t get along with, here’s your chance to practice patience, kindness, and self-control. Maybe you didn’t learn how to get along with everyone when you were in Kindergarten – so now’s your chance! Be gracious, and treat all your new NaNo friends with respect, regardless of whether you ever want to see certain individuals after November or not… because November is going to come around next year too, and are you going to bow out just because you’re not particularly inclined toward one particular individual (or two, or three… depends on how large your region is, I suppose)? I think not.

The Verdict

Write-ins can be good, write-ins can be bad. It all depends on what the people you’re writing with are like, and whether or not anyone has set down some guidelines for the meetings – a much more challenging endeavor for a region without a Municipal Liaison. As I mentioned before, if a write-in isn’t going the way you expected, choose one of the three options above (particularly the last two) and do something about it, without burning bridges in the process.

You joined NaNoWriMo to write, to connect with other writers, and to find comfort and encouragement among these people to know you’re not alone in this crazy journey we call “being a writer”. Write-ins can do all that – just make sure you hold a party later on in the month so you can focus on becoming friends, as well as writing buddies.

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