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Writers and Writing – Take Four

Let’s see what this evening brings us.

Oh, yes. Quite!

The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home. (John Campbell)

Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed. (Elbert Hubbard)

And one we all knew, deep down, inside.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. (E. L. Doctorow)

image credit: SodaHead

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Just A Thought, Sunday Feature

 

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Playing Psycho Is Not A Game

I found this post and it brought back at a moment’s notice the point I was making in an earlier article, about the responsibility we, as authors, have. No better way to illustrate my point. If you feel strongly enough about this, please pass it on. Thank you.

Here’s a link to the complete post, on Carolyn Hughey/K.T. Roberts’ blog.

SAVE THE LIFE OF A YOUNG WOMAN – Link this post to any place young women go on the Internet who think Fifty Shades of Grey is a romance, that the exact type of guy we warn young women to run from is somehow now cool, exciting, and will change if you just love and understand him. The kind of man Christian Grey is, a serial sex predator, will get you abused, stalked, and killed. Women every day are filing restraining orders against this kind of controlling obsessive sadistic psychopath and a good many of them find themselves with gas thrown at them and set on fire, disappearing down mine shafts, and shot dead on the courthouse steps. Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most dangerous pieces of fiction to get into the hands of young women that I have even seen. Make sure they read the story below to get the real ending of Fifty Shades of Grey which would never have made it to a trilogy if it were anywhere close to the truth. – Criminal Profiler Pat Brown

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Let's Talk

 

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Writers and Writing – Take Three

Relaxing again, and thinking of… well… writing.

Here is what amused me today, mostly because I recognise a grain of truth in there, somewhere.

I’m the kind of writer that people think other people are reading. (V. S Naipaul)

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write. (Terry Pratchett)

Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none. (Jules Renard)

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Just A Thought, Sunday Feature

 

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Plain English Experiment

Next time you want to say something in a sensitive, tactful fashion, thank your lucky stars you’re a writer, and therefore inherently good with words. Where would diplomacy be without writers? Politicians would have bigger budgets for cudgels than for speech writing.

With a writer’s help, when a department loses its focus and squanders time and money on useless surveys and analyses, it merely investigates alternatives.

Meetings are never led by management, but by rectal-cranial inverted people who are verbally repetitive. They invariably gather for team building exercises and bond reinforcement in places where liquid grain-based substance consumption is encouraged and supported by previously-enjoyed companions, all medically enhanced. These pectorally superior persons are fun to be with, horizontally accessible and sexually creative and extroverted.

As the overtime team building exercise progresses, the vocal appreciation for the artificially stimulating activities rises; in some cases temporary blood displacement may happen to romantically automated persons who are most chemically inconvenienced and this may lead them to become accidentally horizontal.

Fortunately, good housekeeping ensures no visual account is available for journalistic investigation in the morning and any narrative sequence of events is treated with introspective discretion and inter-departmental empathy.

And just in case you wonder how I know all this – no comment.

image credit: clipart

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Just A Thought

 

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Success – Your Own Recipe

Nobody respects writers, yet everybody wants to be one. This disturbing thought occurred to me a while ago and is proving to be a very, very stubborn one. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t banish it.

Add to that the relentless bombardment of articles from respected voices in the publishing industry, articles that commiserate our career choice and tell us that we’d be better off buying a lottery ticket – we’d have a better chance of winning, that is, than making a living as a writer.

Even if you’re stubborn enough to ignore all the above and keep working, keep slaving over that book because you believe in that story, you believe in yourself, even then the road ahead is not easy. Don’t write this genre, that one sells better. Not that long, shorter, and not stand-alone novels, but a series. Don’t rush, but don’t take too long. Formats, covers, promo work – all is skill and it all needs to be learned from scratch. As if researching and writing a serious book is not hard enough… There are no signposts, just a knot of roads, some neat and tidy-looking, some hardly walked, and you only have one lifetime to get this right.

So, tell me, fellow writers. Why do we do this? Pride? Stubbornness? Masochism? To teach a lesson? To have a voice? Prove someone wrong? Or maybe because it’s in the blood?

You might want to share your motivation, or you may not. I don’t much care about your reason, either, I know my own. But there is something else I know. I know there is no right or wrong way, no best and worst, no should or shouldn’t. Any obstacles are, really, merely insubstantial, paltry bumps in this road we’ve chosen. In this new dawn of writing freedom, the rules have been tipped upside-down, the waters muddied and somewhat rough, but we can swim. We can barrel right through them. Because the only way that matters is our way. Our story. Our work. Our sweat and tears. Our reason.

So burn those maps. Burn the heaps of advice. The pieces of card that prove you’ve sat and listened to someone else’s theory for years and years, the seminar attendance notes, the videos and presentations. Stop wasting precious time and money on someone else’s idea of ‘how to’. They are destructive and distracting. They pull at the threads of your concentration and stop you from focusing on your one true goal: SUCCESS.

You have yourself. Rely on yourself. Do things your way. Set your own standards. Before you know it, you’ll get there, you’ll achieve your goal. Don’t look at someone else and don’t compare yourself to others. One size indeed does not fit all. Not now, not ever.

Success? If, in fact, it is your goal, then shouldn’t it be your own recipe?

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Let's Talk

 

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A Writer’s Reality

You’ve spent the last five hours bent over the keys, tapping feverishly and not daring to even peek up towards the window for fear your inspiration would dissipate as soon as the tiniest bit of sunshine registers on your retina.

But now you’re at the end of the scene, your characters’ voices are fading – or you’ve gagged them temporarily – and you decide to enjoy reality for a few minutes, just until the kettle’s boiled. The problem is, how do you cope with this surreal world that you can’t quite understand? A world in which people are walking down the street, carrying shopping or holding children by the hand? And cars… cars are driving past all the time… Now, that feels like magic!

You stumble away from the window and retrace your way to the kettle, pushing past the unicorn and the clown in his rainbow wig. The warriors are clamouring around the table, but it’s your house and your kettle, so you tell them all to take a hike of you’re calling the mighty Wizard to kick them out. In the meantime, a couple of furry creatures with big, blood-shot eyes and no ears scamper around your ankles and, for some reason, that makes your blood boil.

Your hair crackles with the electric charge of your exasperation at the little demons’ disregard for your needs and you send a quick plea for forgiveness to the other Gods, for the punishment you are about to mete out to the ill-mannered rogues.

Your eyes narrow, your arm raises high above your head and the whip of lightening sends sparkles dancing around the dark room. But just before you can unleash your anger, you feel a soothing touch and the voice of an angel sing softly in your ear: “Here’s your coffee, my love.”

The angel makes sure your hands are wrapped tightly around the goblet of life-giving potion, and gently guides you by the shoulders back to the dark room with the laptop.

Slowly, you sit down in front of the enchanted portal and let the muse drag you back into the world you know and love.

The house is at peace again, the curtains are drawn and you can hear the angel in the other room speaking softly again, feeding the kittens.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Just A Thought

 

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Career Reassessment – The One Week Writer

(From my archives)

Day 1

I like books. Yesterday I went out and got myself a diary, new pens (various colours) and an adequate supply of chocolate. The plan is that today I begin my great writing experience. I’ve decided I’m going to be a writer. I am determined to write the next Great British Novel and to that aim I have armed myself with a good measure of patience, a significant expectation of initial teething problems and a fanatical belief in my abilities.

Power up laptop. New word document. Title. Hmm… First problem. I don’t know what I’m going to write about so, naturally, I can’t give it a title yet. We’ll have to settle for Document 1. And… open.

Blank page, completely white. Brainwave – I can make it smaller if I use the zoom function. In fact, I should customize my toolbars right now.

Phew, that was hard work. I think I deserve a break. To the kettle!

Feeling guilty for having written zero words so far, so I resolve to do a writing sprint. Six sentences, and then re-read.

My name is Vera Parker and I’m enjoying my retirement… Well, at least I think I might enjoy it once I get used to waking up later than six o’clock every morning. I’ve been retired for a week now, and although Greg, my long-suffering husband, has hidden the alarm clock, I still can’t seem to be able to lie in. One minute after I’ve first opened my eyes I’m out of bed and shuffling off towards the kitchen for a nice cup of tea, which means that by quarter past six I’m already sat in the conservatory watching the wildlife in the garden, and they all take their time waking up, too…

That’s how I noticed the next-door neighbour at number ten dragging four heavy bags to his car and then driving off. Nothing odd about that, you say… Maybe not, but the house was in darkness, not one light was showing, and he looked quite uneasy as he piled the bags in the car. I’ll get my cardie on and then I’ll have a look around the garden, to see if there are any obvious reasons why he took off so early in the morning.

Wow, I’ve written eight sentences. Spell check. I’m so happy about this achievement that I decide to take the rest of the day off.

Total words written day one: 196.

Status: successful.

Day 2

I read somewhere that reviewing the previous day’s work before breaking new ground is good practice, so I run to the printer and print off my first 196 words.

Bright spark: I have just thought of a title. Veronica Goes Easy. I must rename my document, so as not to confuse it with the myriad others that I will undoubtedly have very soon. I mean, if I keep going at this rate… what’s the minimum number of words for a novel? Quick Google – 66,000. So, at 196 words per day – fire up the calculator – it would take me 336.7 days to finish it.

Almost a year to write a book. A whole year, if I take the odd day off. Not too bad, I suppose. I can afford to take a year out of my life to produce a masterpiece.

I re-read yesterday’s eight sentences carefully. Something doesn’t seem right. I make some changes. By the end of my writing day, this is what I have.

My name is Vera Parker and I’ve been retired for a week now, and although Greg, my long-suffering husband, has hidden the alarm clock, I still can’t seem to be able to lie in. One minute after I’ve first opened my eyes I’m out of bed and shuffling off towards the kitchen for a nice cup of tea, which means that by quarter past six I’m already sat in the conservatory watching the wildlife in the garden, and they all take their time waking up, too…

That’s how I noticed the next-door neighbour at number ten dragging four heavy bags to his car and then driving off. Nothing odd about that, you say… Maybe not, but the house was in darkness, not one light was showing, and he looked quite uneasy as he piled the bags in the car. I’ll get my jumper on and then I’ll have a look around the garden, to see if there are any obvious reasons why he took off so early in the morning.

I’ve cut and reshaped the first paragraph and replaced ‘cardie’ with ‘jumper’ to make it easier to non-UK English speakers to understand the story without a hitch.

Total words written day two: 3 (title) + 1 (jumper) = 4. Words taken out: 30. Overall wordcount 170.

Status: pleased with the progress.

Day 3

Must do some proper writing today. Today must be all about progress. Review, write. Review, write, Review, write.

I get a cup of coffee, a large bar of chocolate and start up ‘Veronica Goes Easy’. This is the result after two hours:

My name is Vera Parker. Greg, my long-suffering husband, has hidden the alarm clock because I can’t lie in. One minute after I’ve first opened my eyes I’m out of bed and shuffling off towards the conservatory watching the wildlife in the garden.

That’s how I noticed the next-door neighbour at number ten dragging four heavy bags to his car and then driving off. Nothing odd about that, you say… Maybe not, but the house was in darkness, not one light was showing, and he looked quite uneasy as he piled the bags in the car. I’ll get my jumper on and then I’ll have a look around the garden, to see if there are any obvious reasons why he took off so early in the morning.

I haven’t had time to review the second paragraph, but I’m finally happy with the first.

Total words written day three: 0. Words taken out: 43. Overall wordcount 127.

Status: I’m starting to wonder if writing is really such a good idea. This book will stay with me for almost twice the length of a human pregnancy. Scary, since I am not yet sure of the side-effects.

Day 4

Right, I am determined to take the bull by the horns, as they say. Think positive. Today will be successful.

My name is Vera Parker. Greg, my long-suffering husband, has hidden the alarm clock because I can’t lie in. One minute after I’ve first opened my eyes I’m out of bed and shuffling off towards the conservatory to watch the wildlife in the garden.

That’s how I noticed the next-door neighbour at number ten dragging four heavy bags to his car and then driving off. Nothing odd about that, you say… Maybe not, but the house was in darkness, not one light was showing, and he looked quite uneasy as he piled the bags in the car. I’ll get my jumper on and then I’ll have a look around the garden, to see if there are any obvious reasons why he took off so early in the morning.

Must break off here as I’ve run out of both coffee and chocolate.

Total words written day four: 1 (changed watching to to watch). Words taken out: 0. Overall wordcount 128.

Status: Unsure. Does this one extra word count as turning the tide or not?

Day 5

Feeling a little down today, so I’ll just play some background music as I review my writing once more.

My name is Vera Parker. Greg, my long-suffering husband, has hidden the alarm clock because I can’t lie in. One minute after I’ve first opened my eyes I’m out of bed and shuffling off towards the conservatory to watch the wildlife in the garden.

That’s how I noticed the next-door neighbour at number ten dragging four heavy bags to his car and then driving off. The house was in darkness, not one light was showing, and he looked quite uneasy as he piled the bags in the car.

This reads better but looks much too puny. I should write more, but I just can’t find the enthusiasm. Perhaps I’m all burnt out. This is all too stressful. I need a break.

Total words written day five: 0. Words taken out: 40. Overall wordcount 88.

Status: Could be better.

Day 6

I really, really don’t want to sit down in front of my computer today. But I shall make an effort. I do want to be a writer. Well, I did… on Monday.

My name is Vera Parker. I was in the conservatory when I noticed the next-door neighbour dragging four heavy bags to his car and then driving off, looking quite uneasy.

I can’t even remember what this story was supposed to be about. A nosy neighbour? Or maybe a ‘Miss Marple’ style mystery? Not sure, really. This requires more thinking.

Total words written day six: 0. Words taken out: 58. Overall wordcount 30.

Status: At 30 words per day I’ll be writing this book for six years. I’m not ready to cut out six years of my life, six years of coping with this amount of pressure.

Day 7

I’ve decided today is make or break day. I jump straight into reviewing. I stop when all I have left is the first three words.

My name is

Huh! I can’t even remember my own name, never mind make one up. This writing lark is bad for me, tormenting, unhealthy…

Writing is the worst career choice I ever made, even worse than dog walking. Hang on, the phone is ringing.

That was Rory. We were in the same year in college. He was made redundant about a month before I lost my own job. He wants to meet up. He can’t wait to tell me all about his newly discovered vocation. He’s going to be a cover artist. He’s given himself a week to come up with the goods.

Hmm… I like pictures…

Must go shopping for Photoshop.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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