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A Connection is Made

June 25, 2011

MugYou know the stereotype of the writer – a solitary creative hunched over their desk, writing well into the lonely hours of the night, friend only to endless cups of coffee and the incessant voices in their head. They spend their non-writing time fretting over their writing, and their actual writing time is consumed by the taunt of the empty page (or the blinking cursor). Writers themselves are just as guilty of propagating this image as Hollywood is – although with the likes of Secret Window, Limitless and Stranger Than Fiction, writers don’t come off well at all.

Perhaps this was all true at one time – indeed, up until a few years ago, I’d imagine this was the norm for writers, slaving over their quills/typewriters/word processors before sending their darlings to publishers. Unless people were members of writers’ groups, or they just happened to know other writers in their circle of friends, it’s unlikely that writers would have had much contact with like-minded souls. Of course, along came the Internet, and sharing work prior to submission became easier with the proliferation of online writing groups, forums, blogs dedicated to writing and – ultimately – Twitter.

Twitter bird with laptopA lot of people call Twitter a waste of time, saying that time spent social networking is time that could be spent writing or editing. Yes, that is indeed true, and Twitter can easily become a time drain – if you let it. However, I’m firmly in the camp who believes in the value of Twitter in enabling writers to reach out and connect with one another, while also allowing them to reach potential readers. There are plenty of hashtags that will grant you access to this online writing world – #amwriting being one of the most popular, along with #FridayFlash and #TuesdaySerial for those who want to post their fiction online. This is before you even factor in the various hashtag chats that take place on a regular basis.

It’s easy enough to get started. Make sure you use a photo (or something recognisable as being related to you) instead of Twitter’s default avatar, and highlight the fact that you’re a writer in your bio. Find a few writers to follow, and join in the conversation with @ replies. If you want to write a flash fiction (a self-contained story of 1000 words or less) and post it on your blog, make sure you tag your tweet with #FridayFlash and your story will suddenly appear for all those following the hashtag. Check out a few yourself, and be sure to comment. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can get to know these writers.

Nothing but Flowers coverIn fact, it was through Twitter that I met my writer friends. It all started with the lovely Emma Newman, and I got to know the Emergent Publishing crew through her. They asked me if I wanted to be part of their Chinese Whisperings project last year – being a girl, I was put down for the Yin Book, and I was paired with Rob Diaz, my opposite number in the Yang Book. Rob has gone on to become a firm friend, and one of my most trusted beta readers. I keep joking that we’re psychic twins – we both submitted stories to the Nothing But Flowers anthology, and without having discussed them first, we realised we’d both used flower motifs and even similar titles! Without Twitter, it’s unlikely I’d have ever come across him, and my work would be worse off for it.

This is the beauty of the Internet – its ability to let you connect with other writers all over the world. If you find a person that you trust, that writer can help your writing along in leaps and bounds – and you can do the same for them. You’re no longer the lonely writer struggling in silence – all you need to do is reach out, and someone will take your hand.

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[Fiction] Friday Challenge #213

June 24, 2011

Fiction Friday

[Fiction] Friday Challenge #213  for June 24th, 2011

Use the image to the right as your inspiration.


How Fiction Friday works. It’s easy to do.

  • Check this page for this week’s theme or challenge. Prompts are published each month to give you plenty of notice.
  • Spend at least 5 minutes composing something original based on the theme or challenge. (and keep writing…)
  • But, remember, no editing. This is to inspire creativity not stifle it.
  • On Friday, simply post what you wrote to your own blog.
  • If you utilise social networking, Tweet your story using our hashtag of #fictionfriday AND post it up onto Facebook.
  • Then come back to Write Anything and leave the link in the comment section below.
  • Consider recording it using AudioBoo and submitting it on Sunday for our Spoken Sunday Prompt
  • You may also like to Tweet other peoples links from this site as they are posted using the hashtag #fictionfriday afterwards.
  • To participate further, just go visit some of the other links left by other participants, read what they wrote, and leave a comment. Just be sure that your comment is constructive—this is, after all, a meme to give us all a little writing practice.
  • You may also like to Tweet other peoples links from this site as they are posted – and our hashtag of #fictionfriday

If you’re participating in the Write Anything meme, please leave a link to your entry below. (If you’re not participating, please don’t leave a link. People who aren’t playing will be removed).


The small print – Please note that once your first draft is online it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it ( as many see an online document as being ‘previously published” ) or be able to submit that piece to certain competitions. Always check with their guidelines before using one of your FF first drafts.


Please don’t forget to leave us a comment in addition to leaving a link!

Suspension Suspense

June 23, 2011

I’ve just read this brilliant post. How do you go about building suspension into your fiction?

The blog post was adequate, but it was the above tweet leading to the post that grabbed my attention. I’ve been scribbling for years and I never thought of building suspension into my writing.

As a former trucker and half-arsed mechanic, I know quite a bit about suspension. These days it’s air suspension on trucks and buses, in my day, they were the old, 5-leaf springs. I once fitted new back shocks to my car using nothing but a pile of bricks, a long plank, a lot of sweat and considerable bad language to jack up the suspension while Her Indoors turned the first threads of the locking nut.

But how do I get that into my fiction? Agents Nellis and Holt are running like hell from Flix’s zombies. Should I have them stop to gas up the hydrolastic pressure chamber on their Mini-Metro? Joe Murray is about to name the murderer when a mechanic rings and tells him back springs are busted?

There are other types of suspension, of course, and I did include a hanging in Coldmoor, but it was germane to the plot and it would hardly slot into your average chicklit title.

The tweeter meant suspense, and the likelihood is, it was a blooper of the classic kind that may haunt him/her for weeks.

Now in case you think I’m Mr Perfect, I’m not. I make my share of mistakes, and some of them sneak through the proofing stages getting past me and the young woman who does my editing, making it all the way to print (or e-print) and only come to light when some pain in the butt reader points them out.

I see many other examples, too: professional writers that don’t know the difference between losing and loosing, other writers who persist in using the word smelt (a kind of fish or the slag from iron ore) instead of smelled. Do I know the difference between discreet and discrete? I do not.

But this particular error came from a site that offers editorial services!!!

And it’s not the only one.

A couple of days back, bored out of my cheese, surfing aimlessly, I stumbled on a plug for an editorial/design outfit offering e-book preparation “tatally free of charge.” Right under it, they also offered “proofreading at reasonable rates.”

It is me, isn’t it? I’m losing the plot, aren’t I?

Opinions, Choices and a Spark of Magic

June 22, 2011

Nothing in the world of writing causes me more mix feelings than working with others. Meeting different people who like to do the same thing I do, either online or in person, is a wonderful thing. Feelings are shared, ideas are exposed. It’s all very thrilling. But it is also very terrifying. Sure talking about writing is fun. Hearing an idea is great. Giving an idea is a fulfilling experience. But talking about what I am actually writing is terrifying. As I talk, the voices in the back of my head get louder.

“It’s a disaster,” one says.

“A terrible idea,” says the other.

Another sighs. “What were you thinking when you wrote this?”

The loudest voice grunts. Then it booms against the walls of my mind. “You don’t deserve to call yourself a writer.” Its words are followed by applause.

I begin to shrink in my seat, until I become so tiny that hardly anyone can see me. But I don’t disappear. I can’t disappear unless I run. But the time for running has long passed.

Ok, maybe that scenario is a teeny bit exaggerated. I don’t really shrink in my seat; but I might as well.  I feel very uncomfortable at least. And in moments like those, only one thought can redeem me: “Everyone feels that way once in a while.” Other writers are, well, just writers. They are not divine beings that can create a whole word with the blink of an eye. They need to work just as hard as I do to create something worthwhile. Once I have reminded myself of that, I can free my words and let the magic begin. Almost.

Before the magic comes the criticism.  Which can be positive or negative – good or bad. The trick is to choose the good criticism – even if it is negative – and not to let the bad criticism affect my writing – or my self esteem for that matter.

Two strategies help me decide between the good and the bad criticism. The first (and the most useful) strategy I take is to ask “why?” Why does this person say this? Or, if the person does not state a reason, why would I make such a change anyways? If someone says “Your dialogue is boring” without further explanation, I go over my work. If I feel comfortable with my dialogue, I put the comment aside. After all, I know my dialogue is fine the way it is. However, if even before the comment, I did not feel comfortable with my dialogue, I write in the margin of the page “Make this INTERESTING” –yes, I usually write the comment in capital letters. What makes this strategy so important is that I give myself reasons for my editing choices. If I have a good reason behind what I do, I am most likely doing my job right. The second strategy I use to make my decision is looking for a second and sometimes a third or a fourth opinion. If most people comment on my dialogue being boring, then my dialogue is probably boring. If most people like my dialogue, then my dialogue is probably fine. On the other hand, there is always the probability that half of the people I asked to look at my work will like my dialogue and the other half will not. In that case the decision goes back to my good judgment, and to asking “Why change it?” or “Why not change it?”

Honestly, many things fall under the hands of the writer’s good judgment. Still, it is important to look for different opinions before finishing any work. After all, it is difficult to find errors on something one has been working on during a long time –let it be because one thinks it is too wonderful to be flawed, or because one has become so accustomed to some mistakes that one does not notice them anymore.  After hearing (or reading) other opinions, the writer can make more objective choices. And once the choices are made, the magic begins –this time for real. The writer’s work begins to approach its ultimate stage, after which it can be exposed to a public larger than a small audience of people who help during the editing process.

And with the magic, I feel a little bit more confident. Of course, a couple of people will still say a few negative things about my writing, but there will also be many good comments. Besides, having heard most negative comments already, and having considered them, I can defend my choices.

Yet, there is one last problem I must resolve before the whole sharing experience has ended. The voices in the back of my head continue to grumble. However, they do not know that sharing has only made me more confident. Holding my little secret, I turn around to them with a somber expression. Some of them lower their tone. Others falter mid sentence. The loud voice remains oblivious. It continues to shout at me. I take a deep breath, and yell “Silence!” They obey. “I. Don’t. Want. To. Hear. It,” I say. “You are wrong. And I love my work.”

Connecting with the Inner Self

June 21, 2011

By Paul Lawrence

My mum won’t read my books. She says they’re too gruesome and nasty and keeps asking me if I can write something nicer. But I’m not fascinated by the bright side; I’m fascinated by the dark side.

When I was a kid, I read horror stories, until I’d had enough. When videos first came out, I watched gory films, until I’d had enough. But still I want more.

I want to know how it is that men can rape small children. I want to know how it is that a mother can kill her baby in a microwave. I want to know how it is that a father can throw his kids off a bridge because he’s angry with his wife. Because if one man is capable of such deeds, then aren’t all men?

I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in a simple dichotomous world where half the people go to heaven and half the people go to Hell. I believe in the ancient, complex, world of the human being, a lineage of which we are all a part.

I started writing about London in the 17th century because I wanted to understand what a society was like that condoned public execution, that hung women by the neck because they were old and owned a cat, that murdered people because of their religious beliefs. Of course I didn’t have to go back in history to explore those phenomena, but I didn’t want to write about other people doing those things, I wanted to write about my people doing those things, my ancestors. After all, three hundred years ago isn’t such a long time ago; just three (long) lives laid end to end.

No Writer is an Island

June 20, 2011

When I looked at the topic for this month’s blog I felt a little out of my depth. The only collaboration I’ve been a part of was when writing a poem for a Creative Writing class several years ago. In short, me and another classmate had to come up with a list of objects, then we each had to come up with a character that would own/use those objects and then we had to email back and forth with each of us adding a new line to a poem in the voice of our character. It worked better than I expected and it was exciting to see how the poem changed with each email sent and each line added. Albeit, that is all the experience I’ve had in the art of collaboration. Or is it?

I felt that I should ponder this subject with some of my writerly friends during one of our workshops. One of them referred me to the episode of Frasier in which Frasier and his brother, Niles, attempt to collaborate on a book and the results are not pretty.

We then mulled over the positives of collaboration: it makes us writers more determined if we have to justify our ideas to another writer. Collaboration is good if there is a meshing of creative thoughts and aims. And we looked at the negatives: the frustration caused by differing opinions and ideas.

We then got to talking about our workshops. Isn’t that a form of collaboration? Of course it is. We each read whatever we’re working on and then provide vital feedback. If this feedback makes it into our editing process then isn’t that a form of collaboration? Yes! Taking others ideas and suggestions about our work on board is definitely a form of collaboration.

One of my writerly friends used the phrase: the editor is the truth author. This made me think: isn’t self-editing a form of collaboration? When we write something, for most of us, we revisit the piece of writing at a later date (be that the next day, week, month or year) and ultimately, we are in a different place. We’ll have had different experiences, had a good or bad day, tried something new or been stuck in the same old rut. So we subconsciously apply these experiences to our writing and let them influence our editing. They determine whether we think a certain description works, whether a character needs a stronger character arc, whether to cut a mushy love scene because we’re now broken-hearted.

So each time we edit our own work, we are bringing a new editor to the table. We never edit our work the same way. Therefore all our writing is a collaboration, whether with our peers or with ourselves.  Indeed, no writer is an island.

Spoken Sunday #20

June 19, 2011

Spoken Sunday Submission #20 for 19th of June, 2011

For full details check the page.


How To Play:

1. After you have submitted to [Fiction] Friday – or written a passage of around 600 words, record it.

2. On your blog, or audioboo site, post an explanation of your piece (if its a passage from a larger work) or ask readers for specific feedback about it – as well as a link to your recording.

3. Use the link generator below to submit your link.

4. Visit other’s posts and recordings.

5. Leave constructive and encouraging comments.

6. Use Twitter (with our hashtag of #spokensunday) or Facebook etc to tell your network about the stories posted up.

7. Come back again next week!

If you’re participating in the Write Anything meme, please leave a link to your entry below. If you are not participating, please don’t leave a link. People who aren’t playing will be removed.

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