Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - UK's Open University

It's Open University in the UK.  Explore the site, see what they offer.  The link leads to Start Writing Fiction, but they offer more. Dive in.  Look around.  Lots to see.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writer's Block, Fact or Fiction?

Today is a day for a bit of musing. So,  being a writer, I'll do it on the blank page, thus filling it with words.  What better way to ponder?

I've been hearing a lot lately about "Writer's Block".  Is it real? Is it not? How to cure it? Why do you need to cure it when it's not real?

Ah, yes, back and forth. Here's the thing, for many years I didn't really believe it was real in the rock solid sense.  Yes, I knew some writers had trouble writing at times, some for long times, but I didn't really think a lot about it or if I did I thought it was something they could work their way through, write their way through, bull their way through. And, in truth,most of the time that is true.  Apply seat of pants to chair, fingers to keyboard and write something.  Might be bad, might be terrible, but in the act of writing, of creating, we find the key to continue on. 


Well, most of the time. And I've written a blog post about that not too long ago.  Usually there are lots of little things you can do to encourage yourself to write, among them, simply write, bad or not.  Others are things like taking walks, in town or in nature, taking a bit of time for a favorite hobby, doing something with the hands can help free the mind. Take a drive. Relax with a cup of tea, read a book, meditate, visit a museum, whatever. Usually you are just a bit overtaxed, maybe a little burned out and tricks like that will do just fine. A breath of fresh air and begin again.

But what about the big enchilada; the time when you, for whatever reason, can't put words down on paper or up on the screen? When all those little distractions you've put in their place previously loom large and demand you take care of them right now, BEFORE you can write. Things which aren't important, but serve to reinforce your lack of writing. The "oh, all right, I took care of that today so I can write tomorrow," syndrome.

What about the times when there's a period of months or even years when you can't write or write very little?  I went through a period like that when my mother was very ill. I was her primary caregiver - then into a nursing home where I was there each day.  It's understandable at a time like that little or no writing will get done and that was certainly the case. 

But, then comes the aftermath. My mother died. I was/am a professional writer, books published with big name publishers, scripts optioned, articles placed online and in a magazine.  All that experience behind me and it took a couple of years after the drama of my mother's passing to even begin to regain my stride. Things were written, but not really usable. I'm just now revisiting that material and creating new.

Writer's Block?  It doesn't matter what it's called, it simply isn't there. During that time it was easy to create excuses not to write or to write, but with constant interruptions and I found ways to avoid putting words on paper.  Was I afraid to reveal what was going on inside of me by putting new creations on paper?  Was it that I had health problems immediately following hers?  Appendicitis isn't stress-induced, is it?

However it began, whatever you call it, it was very real and I was aware it was happening. 

So, what do you do? 

I have no great answer, I doubt anyone does. You might wail and curse, or watch yourself with a wry sense of humor as you check your email for the umpteenth time for no particular reason. Counseling can't hurt.

My only real advice is to keep writing.  Keep setting aside that time even if you end up creating little or nothing and fritter away your time in some mindless pursuit. Keep at it.  Keep your goal before you and press on. And absolutely forgive yourself when you don't accomplish what you intend. Then start new the next time. And I mean new in attitude, not necessarily new in what you're trying to create. It doesn't matter if other writers or friends and family don't really quite believe in this box you're in, if it is real to you it is real. 

Now, find your way out of the labyrinth. If it's what you truly want you'll come back to it and it will return to you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Book & Magazine Publishing

Here's a great site.  Bo Sacks, media veteran keeps his readers up to date on what's happening with book and magazine publishing.  He offers a free E-newsletter.  Oh, and click on the "Who Is Bo Sacks" tab to learn more about him and why his information is of value.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Writer's Art of Naming

What's in a name you say?  Well, a whole lot.  It's a serious matter for the writer.  Think about the names that leap to mind.  Dracula for one. James Bond for another. How about Jack Sparrow or Scarlett O'Hara of Gone With the Wind Fame or Ender of Orson Scott Card creation or maybe Odd Thomas created by Dean Koontz?  Ring any bells? 

The perfect name for a character is like a gift to your readers. It's a handle, it fits, it evokes the personality of the character and makes the story the stronger for it.

Sometimes that name is right there, staring you in the face, the right one at the right time.  other times it can be damn difficult to put a name to a character. When that name comes easily and swift, congratulations!  But, when it's difficult, almost darn near impossible even though that character is already a presence in your mind and on your page, then you have to do something, but what?  Well, a simple 'placeholder' name that you can easily do a find and replace is my solution.  You can call the character "Dark Villain" or "Evil Seductress" or "Friend 1".  You could use nonsense names, but you might find that a detriment to creating your final name. That character will interact with you as will the name and you don't want to set yourself up for disassociating with your characters.  Hopefully as you create your story the name will emerge or you will have taken pains to create the right name and you can replace it quickly.

So, if the name is not suggesting itself, not popping into your head while doing the laundry or evaluating the plums at the grocery store, how does one go about mining for names?  Well, there's always the phone book.  Don't laugh, it can, at times, work. Either provide the perfect name  or kick start your creativity so that you come up with the just the right one.

But there are other avenues you may want to pursue in your quest to create the right names for your characters.  Think about what sort of name you want to have.  If the name Sky or Rose appeals to you think about why.  Do you want it to be real, Sky is a glorious, expansive person, dependable and big as the horizon or do you want it to be ironic and Sky is about as dark as the bowels of the earth, shallow and pretty much a worthless waste of space? Play with names, think about what your goal is with that character.

You might also consider symbolic names.  This can be a slippery area however. It's far too easy to slip into what have become 'cliche' names for a good guy inserting 'sun' in the name or using initials such as J.C. (for you know who). You can't be  heavy-handed when creating a symbolic name. Be subtle, base it on your character's deeper traits, something a reader might not get right away, but it imparts that character's character plainly.

Or you could just create a straight forward name, on without hidden meanings that falls trippingly off the tongue. Harry Potter maybe, or Forrest Gump.  Gandolf. John Carter of Mars.

Here's where phone books, baby books and naming books can come in handy.  Or surf the web and find names and surnames by national origin.  There are are plenty of sites that tell what a name means and there are lots of sites that simply generate names. The Forge fantasy name generator for example which offers several generators.  Heck, heck on over to your local library and spend some time perusing books like encyclopedias on various subjects such as history, music, sports or TV. Try the geneology section for lots of names.

Oh and a few last tips.  When writing something  historical, make sure you get the name right for the era.  Don't name a character Sky, as suggested above if it's totally inappropriate to the era which you're writing about.  Take a moment to speak your names out loud.  What if you decide on publication as an audio book or if it's digital and the text to voice in turned on?  And don't forget to give your characters distinctive names apart from each other.  Use different initials, different syllable length.  Don't allow them to be to close together so the reader has a hard time distinguishing between Huey & Dewey. 

Naming characters so you give them life, personality and the ability to capture the hearts and attention of your readers is a real challenge, but if you allow your mind to play and trust your ear and gut reactions you'll find it does get easier.  Think of the great names you can identify and what their story content is.  Then get out there and create your own.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Character Personality Generator

Now here's something you don't see every day.  The Self Publishing Team offers some tools, and among them is the Mystery Thriller Random Personality Generator.  Go ahead, play with it,  have fun. Explore their site further as well.  There are other tools and tips.  Also info for those interested in self publishing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Well Written Path

Have you ever noticed what creatures of habit us 'people' really are? Oh, we try to fight it, we try to deny it, we give it a bad name saying we get into ruts.  Writers can be even worse.

But realistically, if you use it properly, routine is a good thing. They give us writers a path to follow and create a rhythm to our lives that leads to accomplishing things like writing books - you know, actually finishing what you began writing.
It's pretty damn tough, finishing writing a book.  Heck, it can be tough just posting this blog each week.  But if you get in the habit, if you create the routine in advance you'll breeze through the writing you wish to accomplish, get it done without the struggle common to so many.

And how do you do that; set a schedule, get things done? Well, the way I accomplish it is to set a time to write and stick to it. Give myself a goal and an assignment in my writing to accomplish each day and get it done.  Focus. I keep short lists of that day's writing-associated tasks by my computer. If I run up a self-imposed or outside-imposed deadline and something doesn't get done, that becomes the first thing on the list for the next day's writing assignments.

Part of the secret is to make writing part of every day.  I've found over the years if I attempt to clear a calendar day just for writing, if I make it a big deal, if I put a lot of pressure on myself to 'write' for that day, then progress is stunted and the words I produce are not as good either.  It's much better if I have my own little assignments for myself each day. Motivation can surge and evaporate. You have a book you want to get written, you're enthusiastic one day,not so much the  next.  If you have routines, schedules, little things in place to help keep you on your path and moving, you'll be much more likely to sit down and write.

A few years ago I had a student I was teaching in an online romance writing class and mentioned the idea of routines. She Emailed back that one of the things she did was to actually ritualize her writing time. She sat down, lit a candle, paused to clear her mind and then began. When she was done she blew the candle out.  Symbolic, no? It's a matter of incorporating into your day what you want to do. You might grab a cup of coffee, turn on your favorite creativity-inducing music and begin writing, then end with washing the cup. A quick entry in a journal to warm up might be your routine. Whatever works.

When I was a 'part-time' writer and held a full time job during the day, my ritual was to come home, eat a quick dinner with husband, take time to wash dishes, then skip TV and head over to my desk to write for two hours. Weekdays only. Weekends were 'us' time for me and my husband (only exception was if I got a plum assignment and there was a pressing deadline).

So put writing on your 'to do' list, give yourself an assignment, your overall goal and that smaller goal of what you want to accomplish in that small bite of time you've set aside for your writing and maybe ritualize it with some routine that signals you're getting down to writing.

Oh, and one more suggestion.  It can be tough to get rolling, get those ideas to flow when you first sit down at your computer to write so, when you're about to finish for the day, when you're still enjoying that flow of creativity in what you've written, that's the time to decide what you'll write the next time. Jot a few notes right there on the screen at the end of what you've written so you'll know what direction you were headed in and what you want to accomplish next. Make it a habit, yep, another routine.

Most writers know that finding time to write can be one of the hardest things to do. But, believe me, the more you do it, the easeier it will be.  And creating habits and routines to keep yourself on the writing path will be one of the best things you've ever done.

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