Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why write?

With a world that places more and more emphasis on the visual, on the vicarious, why should anyone spend any time writing?  Perhaps that in itself is enough of a reason.

A lot of people are writing all the time.  They're texting here, they're texting there, but are they saying anything?  Are they saying anything of any depth?  I signed up on Twitter, but couldn't Tweet.  I tried to, but immediately felt myself turning into a Chinese fortune cookie. For me, I need the substance, the desire to delve thoughts, ideas and place them on the alter of sharing.

I asked a music teacher once what made a professional, and she said it wasn't money, it was how you approached your art, the effort you put into your craft.  Good writing isn't easy.  It's difficult and takes a lot of work. 

I thought, when I was in High school, that my English teacher could write a book.  It seemed he had a solid understanding of literature and technique.  I was wrong.  You can ride on the winged Pegasus of  Blake, but when it gets right down to it, you have to face what you can and can not do.  If you have trouble with dialogue, then you have to confess and set about correcting you deficiency.  If you have difficulty with timing, then you've got to study artists whose timing is impeccable.  But I suppose the key here is recognizing that your work has a problem, because once you do that, then you can fix it.

I've noticed that some writers refuse to rip their own prose apart.  As a result they never improve.  If you are reading a friend's work, please, if the characters are wooden and flat, tell them.  It might be the best thing you ever do for them.  However, if the person giving the advice is wooden and two dimensional...which leads me to the point that writing, good writing, is difficult, but there is nothing like it.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I was finishing up on the last chapter of "Colin and the Little Black Box," and realized that I had been tired.  I thought it had been finished.  Beware writing when you're tired.  The mind may be all right, but sometimes what you are thinking just doesn't make it down onto the page.
This brings me to the point of this post: pacing.  Everybody writes at a different pace, and that pace should be suited to your personality type and the environment you are writing in.  For me, I write in limited, but very productive time blocks of about an hour.  Then I get away from the computer, go for walks, think about what I'm writing and where the characters are going.  It lets my mind process what I'm trying to do.  You see, I'm a deep thinking person, but not very quick on the pick up, so I like to do a lot of thinking before I write.  As a result, when I sit down to write, the fingers fly and I slip into the zone.
So, what I'm saying is find what works for you and to do that you may have to experiment a bit.
Happy writing,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saying too much

Here we go. I'm going to raid my old Ancient Literary criticism book from university for the following idea. A guy back in the 16th century wrote it, but I'm going to paraphrase it. Demetrius said that persuasiveness has two characteristics, clarity and ordinary language. Anything obscure and out of the ordinary is unconvincing....we must aim to avoid diction which is ornate and pretentious and arrange the words so that the sentence has a firm structure with no attempt at rhythmical effects." He goes on to say that too much description insults the reader's intelligence and leaves nothing for the imagination. I sometimes fall into this problem. I have to remind myself that the reader has to also participate in the work if it is to be successful. See Colin's work for this right balance of description and invitation. Demetrius finishes by saying, "In fact, to tell your hearer everything as if he were a fool is to reveal that you think him one."


Friday, March 4, 2011

Writing Exercise

Sorry for not posting anything Saturday, things were a bit busy with the arrival of our new adopted daughter, Mia.

So, here is an exercise I've used to get the old fingers typing.

Select an object and then write a description about that object, using all five senses.

Now respond to the object by describing how you feel about it.

Thirdly,  free associate using your object as a jumping off point:  An idea of how to do this is to look at your object, write the first idea that comes to your mind and then just keep writing.  The idea is not to stop writing.  If nothing comes to your mind write "nothing"  down.

Now, write a short fantasy about your object.  A couple questions that could help you start:  "What's the strangest thing that could happen to this object?" or, "Wht is an adventure it could have experienced."

I'm going to try to link my story that I developed using this technique, if I can find it.

Happy writing, Mike

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rhetorical device of Position

Well, here I go again. Let's talk about position, or where you put things in your sentence, or paragraph, or story. I tell my students that it's important to have a good beginning and a good end because that's generally what most people remember. However, if you lose someone in the middle of your story...

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". Sir, Winston Churchill.

He catches you with the Never and then finishes you off with the few.

Sometimes by putting what you're writing about last you can create a sensation of suspense. An example: "After the mountainous waves died down, the coast guard launched their life boats." We have to wait until those waves calm down to find out what is going to happen.

You can also mess with minds by putting things out of place. We are creatures of order, but when you put things out of order you can draw attention. Example: "The city, full of noise, strident and discordant, grated on John's nerves." (the two adjectives are out of place and makes you eye stop).

It's something you might use when you want to get attention, but to use it a lot would not be a good idea.

Hope this helps.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Showing versus Telling

"What's the difference between showing and telling a story?"

Just finished "Gulliver's Travels."  I know it was written in a different time for different readers, but I had to force myself to read on.  In comparison to Patrick O'Brian's "Fortune of War," I couldn't put it down.

Difference?  I was told the tale in "Gulliver's Travels," in "Fortune of War,"  I was invited into the narrative.

How do you do that?  The way I've managed it (everyone will have a different method) is to get personally involved with my characters.  Tell it as it is happening and use those moments of narrative to introduce or move the plot from one point to another.

The reason I wrote "Colin and The Rise of The House of Horwood," was because I had such a great time with the Harry Potter series I wanted the feeling to continue.  At every moment in the story I had to ask myself if I was having fun.  There's no sense in writing if you're not enjoying yourself.  I suppose there's writing for therapy, but for that I go for a run.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I sold an e-book!

It was really great getting that notification from Smashwords that I had sold a book!  It's an odd sensation.  You work so hard (sometimes years) getting something where you want it, and then you put it out there and let people decide for themselves.  I think the frightening part, isn't necessarily having someone read my work, but I want them to enjoy it.  Isn't that what the entertainment industry is about -- enjoyment.  If someone learns or is edified along the way, that's wonderful, but there's a certain joy that should be inherent in art of any kind.

You know I remember seeing the film version of "Lord of the Rings," and was disappointed that they left out old Tom Bombadil and Lady Gold Berry.  I know it didn't really fit the flow of the story, and understand why they cut that section, but Tom and those yellow boots had danced through my mind when I was fourteen and left footprints everywhere.

Then there was Alan Burt Akers and his Drey Prescott series.  Why did I love it so much?  I suppose reading about a champion who could handle anything, made me feel a bit better, more capable in dealing with a world I was having a very difficult time handling.

I wonder.  Is this why I insist on writing strong women characters into my stories, because I see too many young women submitting to things they don't have to.



Monday, January 17, 2011

Cost to the Reader

It has occurred to me, since starting up with Smashwords, that the consumer is being ripped off.
Smashwords is good, they let the author list their own price.  I've always operated under the premise that if the writing is good, it will eventually get read.

But when I go to Kobo, Sony and Amazon and see the prices of their e-books...I am left cold. A lot of their prices are too high.  Where's the overhead?  The cost of production runs?  The distribution fees?  If the author is getting the lion's share of the price, maybe...However, somehow I doubt this is happening.

In my opinion, no ebook should be listed for more than $4.99.  And I think Internet culture shouldn't tolerate higher prices.  I'm all for being rewarded for work hard done, but when an e-book is close in cost to a soft-cover version of the same book...

I'm interested in hearing any thoughts on this.