Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is Good Writing?

"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader--not the fact that it is raining, but the feel of being rained upon."

-E.L. Doctorow

I loved this quote. We don't read a stories to read about what is going on somewhere, you read a story to feel like you are there. You read to know what a hero feels like--how it feels to be smart, witty, and attractive and to save the day. We read to understand and feel. You don't read to learn factual information about a villain. You read to tag along as his shadow, deciphering his motives and trying to understand why he is stalking or killing. You read to get a thrill from being near evil, without ever being in danger.

Friday, November 12, 2010

11 Tips from Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson is best-selling author who has published over 100 novels.  He participated in a conference call with the members people who belong to a writing site, and gave a list of techniques he's compiled to increase writing productivity.  I wasn't able to listen to the conference call in real time, but I listened to a podcast later and this is the information he gave. 

1-Shut up and write.  If you have a job you have to do it whether you like it or not.  You do it.  Your job, your career, you actually have to do the work.  Make time and schedule it and don’t be interrupted.
2-Defy the empty page.  If you’re stuck, just move on.
3-Dare to be bad at first.  Just because it’s bad doesn’t mean it has to stay bad.. Crash through and write.  Tell the story and don’t worry about fixing it.  You have time.
4-Work on different projects at the same time.  Different stages.  Research for background.  Outlining, character development, chapters.  First Draft.  Editing.  Proofreading.  Promotion.  When you get tired of stuff, move on to something else.  Never get writer’s block, go do something else with another project to use every minute by switching channels.
5-Know the difference between writing and editing.  Writing is creating, envisioning, describing the battle or adventure. Telling the story.  Editing is analytical.   Studying the structure and the words.  Look up your little details.  When you’re writing and charging straight through, turn off the editor.  Look it up later.   Don’t lose momentum.  Cruise right along at full speed and get your draft down.
6-Use every minute.  When you get time to write, figure out how to use every minute you have.  Ten minutes, an hour, a day.  You don’t need large blocks of time.  Teach yourself how to write in half hour blocks.  2-3 sentences at one time, is 2-3 sentences you don’t have to write later.  John Grisham—full time attorney, busy and wanted to write.  1 page a day.  In a year he would have  a novel.  Use every minute that you’ve got and dive into it.  Use ten minutes, twenty minutes.
7-Set goals for yourself and stick to them.  Set realistic goals that are challenging. 
8-Create the best writing environment for yourself.  Try to pay attention to what happens when you’re the most productive?  What happens to make you that way?  What time of day are you best at it?  Do you need sound?  Music?  Silence?  Some people like a coffee shop.  Some people like silence and isolation.  Look at your office set-up.  Is it comfortable and good for your head, arms, and neck?  What works for you?
9-Think outside the keyboard.  As a writer your job is not moving your hands on the keys, it is to capture things from your imagination.  Pen & paper.  Longhand works better for some people.  Some people like to be outside in a park or a coffee shop.  Some people dictate.  Hiking in mountains or on a trail, dictate 20 pages… Inspired by that around you. 
10-Get inspired.  Write what you know.  The more you know, the more you can write.  To improve writing and writing productivity, learn more.  Learn dancing, take classes, woodworking, take trips.  Everything adds to what you can converse about and write about. 
11-Know when to stop.  When it’s done, it’s done.  Finish it and send it out someplace.  There is a point of diminishing returns.  After 4-5 edits, it’s as good as it’s going to get.  Send it out. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writers are Egomanics

I decided today that writers must be egomaniacs... at least from personal experience.  We kinda consider ourselves gods.  Now before you protest with uproarious uproars, hear me out.  We're like the flawed gods who lived on Mount Olympus, toying with people's lives for amusement.  Here we are creating worlds and breathing life into characters, and then we string them along, manipulating circumstances so our characters will do what we want them to do, all in the name of entertainment.  You, like me, are a sick, twisted egomaniac.

Oh, well.  Go string that poor, unsuspecting sap along.  Weave some magic and entertainment for the rest of us.

-Just Do It Write Now

Friday, September 3, 2010

Writing Groups

I've never been part of a writing group before, online or otherwise, but I've recently joined one.  I was curious to see what I could learn from them and how I might improve my writing.  They posted a writing exercise today that I thought was very intriguing, because as simple as it is, it was something I never would have thought of doing.

The writing exercise was:

Write the first three paragraphs of your story five different ways: 
o Shocking
o Logical
o Peaceful
o Action-Packed
o (you choose)

Then the writer's would counsel you on which one they liked best and the strengths or weaknesses of each.

I loved this because it made me realize how differently the exact same story can be depending how you write.  It's very important to take into consideration the effect or emotion you are trying to elicit in your reader.  So, in the future when you are writing, pay attention to the goal of your writing.  Do you intend to shock your reader?  Try to make them fearful?  Make them fall in love?  Pay attention to how you''re writing, not just what you're writing.  

Just do it write now!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing A Book

"I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done. "
--Steven Wright

I'm always amazed by how many people tell me they wished they could write a book.  As mystical and mysterious as writing seems, it's very simple:  it's just a matter of doing it.  Sometimes I wonder about the reasons people don't write when they are moved to do it.  I think primarily the reason is fear.  Fear of failure, fear of doing poorly, fear that others will find the fantastic notions and realms in their head worthless, fear of exposing their souls...   

Writing is a skill and it must be practiced like any other craft.  This includes rewriting and revision, but the only way books happen are when people work on them.  Now that you've got your page numbers done, work on your book.  No, really.  Stop procrastinating and go work on that novel you were always going to write.  Are you still reading this?  Stop that.  

Just do it write now.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Open a Vein

There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

For some people, writing is apparently painful and hard.  A bit like pouring their souls onto a page for people to read and possibly ridicule.

For me, writing is more like seeing movies inside my head, and I write them down so others can watch them too.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Good Advice

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."
~Elmore Leonard

Excellent advice!  We all know how we slave away for our writing and we become attached to it.  However, there is a time when you just have to let parts go.  I know you worked long and hard on that paragraph (or page, or chapter), but if it's not relevant to your story or project as a whole it ends up being unnecessary filler.  I know it's painful-but your story and your readers will thank you.  You gotta let it go, man.  Leave out the boring parts that people are going to skip anyway. 

Prompt?  The Gym...

Just do it write now.