Nov 15, 2009

Writing with Ease

Wouldn't it be so amazing to just write and write without any trouble at all? What if you were to write a brilliant manuscript the first time around? Only having to tweak this or that.But writing is harder work than it seems. There are so many different elements that must be put all together to make a piece uniquely your own. To make a piece beautiful. Writing has many difficulties, that's for sure. But here is a blog post dedicated to some tips and tricks.

What's writing when you're not sitting down to write? 
First tip: Keep your BIC. Butt in Chair. Sit down and write. For a specified amount of time each day at the same time. Heck, you don't need to write creatively, just as long as you're writing. I got this advice from Ridley Pearson, an author who spoke at my local Barnes and Noble a few years ago. Okay, maybe I don't listen to it all the time. I am, after all, a college student with lots to do at different hours of the day. I don't even write every day. But I am promising myself to work on it. If anything, set yourself a goal--3 days, 5 days, a week, or more--to keep your BIC for that amount of days. If it works out for you, then great job!

What if you can't find the right word to explain an idea you see clearly in your mind but can't translate into words? 
Second tip: Use a thesaurus if you have an idea of a word that is similar. Or get this, use a "reverse dictionary." Google it. Click the first link. Should be OneLook. Seriously, just describe the concept and voila! You get a list of words that could possibly have the word you are looking for. Sometimes I use it as my thesaurus lol

What is this darn thing called writer's block?
Third tip: In The Writer's Little Helper, the author, James V. Smith, Jr. says he believes it does not exist. That is is a "form of laziness" or "distraction." He says that it's a "lame excuse to not write." I have to agree wholeheartedly. He has some great advice in this little helper book, and I am going to quote.

"I've learned two things about creative writing. First is that creativity doesn't strike sparks in you like a bolt from the ionosphere. Yo can't expect much from wandering around idyllic settings waiting for an inspiration.
 The most effective aids to creativity continue to be a simple pen and a blank pad. You create sparks by striking one against the other. Write an idea down. develop that idea. Turn the idea inside out. That's where creativity comes from.
"The second thing I've learned is that writing does not occur by thinking about it. Writing only happens when you do it, so plant your butt in chair (YAY!) and get busy. Keep busy. After you create a million or so words, you will have established yourself as a serviceable writer simply from the experience. If you've worked hard at learning from your experiences along the way, you'll probably be a creative writer. That's how it works.
And by the time you've written those million words, you will have, like me, forgotten the condition of writer's block even exists, except in the minds of dilettantes." 
"My writing sucks...."
Fourth tip: Um, that is so not true! If you are being doubtful of your writing, have someone read it, if they are in love with it, problem solved.
"But I got negative comments on it...."
That is OK! If you work on those problem areas more, this will help make your writing even better, right?
And if you really think it is sucktastic, I will forward you to Parametric's post about this particular issue.

"I am new at this... what do I do?"
Fifth, sixth, and seventh tip:
  1. Know your market. Read books in your genre. And if it's literary read that. Seriously, if you read and get to know your market, it helps you know what sorts of things are available to you to write about in your genre. I am a contemporary romance writer. So I read those sorts of books. It helps. A lot. 
  2. Research the publishing process! I am not going to go into detail about the publishing process. Instead, I leave that up to you to explore. Check out books like Writer's Market or sign up online here. There are also other books to check out at your local bookstore or research stuff online. there are so many resources out there for you!
  3. Check out some self-help writnig books. There are some great ones out there. The Writer's Little Helper is my fave. Here is something I had posted on AW.
The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga. Haven't sunk my teeth into this one yet but from the ToC we get passive voice, nominalizations, vague -ing words, weak verbs, misplaced modifiers, super long sentence, wordy writing and more!

The Writer's Little Helper by James V.Smith Jr. PHENOMENAL book I love it so much. Talks about pretty much everything you want to know about writing. Characters, scenes, POV, flashbacks, dialogue, pacing, some publishing tidbits and lots more!!!

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. This one is more for revising/editing, but it could still help you avoid the mistakes that most writers make. Adjectives and adverbs, showing vs. telling, viewpoint and narration, characterization, hooks, subtlety, tone, setting. Really great book too! (also written by an agent) There is also another book by him.. The Plot Thickens which I need to get my hands on... That one is more for the writing of a novel me thinks. Must google it later...

Keys to Great Writing by Stephen Wilbers. Haven't sunk my teeth into this one yet either. But it talks about some things such as: economy, precision, action, music, personality, purpose, POV (but you've heard of that) organization, support, coherence, the writing process. If you want more info on some of those chapter titles, look into the book there's a lot of nice info in those chapters.

Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell. Really goes in depth into some subtle elements of writing, backstory, cliffhangers, thrusters, epilogues, epiphanies, flashbacks, foreshadowing, imagery, pacing, prologues, sense of place, sensory surround, subplots, subtlety, suspense, tension, theme and premise, transitions.

All of these are really great. Then of course get your hands on a grammar and syntax book! I have a pocket book from Random House Webster's that cost like 6 bucks.

Last WoW (no not World of Warcraft but Words of Wisdom =] )
  • Think of writing as something fun, something you love to do, something you are passionate about instead of a means to make money off it. Without using your love to write to put forth your best attempt, no money for you I am afraid. 
  • The writing process is a journey. Take the road less traveled.
  • Never give up! You can't fail if you don't give up! 
  • No matter what, keep your dreams in sight.
  • And lastly . . . go forth and WRITE!
Okay, well these are all the tips and tricks up my sleeve! Hope you have enjoyed them! 

Oct 25, 2009

The Beginning: A Cinderella Story in Its Own Way

This is from a narrative I wrote for my freshman writing class.

Some writers say their interest in writing novels has followed them since they were young, writing stories as soon as they could lift a pencil. I think, “Wow, that’s amazing. I’m impressed!” I would have loved to be able to tell the story of harnessing a creative energy that followed me through the years. But one could say that I was a dormant volcano just waiting to erupt. The need and desire to use my imagination to create riveting stories that capture readers’ attention had to start somewhere. And the catalyst came when my fifth grade teacher assigned our class to write a short story.

For fourth through sixth grade, I attended St. Viator’s Elementary school in Chicago. My teacher, Ms. Garrett was young, tall, and lean, with russet hair that went past her shoulders. Her emerald green eyes seemed to always be smiling, even when her lips did not curl up at the sides. Her voice sounded sweet and caring, and I had the feeling that she wanted the best for us, her students. One day in class, she gave us a short story writing assignment, the culmination to delving deeper into the short stories we read in our English textbook. For the short story, we had to retell a favorite fairy tale in a modern way.

The whole short story thing was an obscure idea to me. I felt anxious, wondering if my first short story would be any good. I had written poems before that point, but writing a short story was like trying to eat a humongous sundae before it all melted compared to eating an ice cream cone. The yummy poem cone would be more enjoyable because it was smaller and easier to finish. The towering short story sundae with the plot covered in conflict and with characters sprinkled on top looked like a challenge that I wasn’t ready to take. Despite what seemed like a monumental task, I had confidence that I could finish that sundae.

The fairytale part was easy; Cinderella was a no-brainer. I grew up loving the classic Disney movie. When my dad asked me what movie I wanted to buy at Toys R Us when I was four, I pulled on his hand and pointed at a movie that had a picture of a couple dancing. “You want Cinderella?” he had asked. I nodded. I watched it over and over again, nonstop one day. I remembered these details, so Cinderella was calling to me, the image of the VHS cover clear in my mind. Now, I just had to rewrite the actual story in my own way.

I sat on my bed with a fresh sheet of notebook paper on top of a textbook. I wrote my name on the top right-hand corner and decided to title it “A Modern Cinderella.” I had such vivid scenes in my mind when writing this story. I had the idea that young women were going to run a race to win Prince Charles’ heart since he loved athletic girls, and Kaleigh, my Cinderella character, would win after a push from second place to first place on the last lap. Everything I envisioned, I wrote down onto paper, painting pictures with words. When the due date came by, I turned in the final draft knowing I had done my best.

About a week passed by and Ms. Garrett announced to our class that she wanted to read one of our stories aloud, but she wouldn’t say whose story it was. I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping it was mine. The moment I heard her read the title, my eyes widened at the thought that she had actually chosen mine.
The boy sitting in the back row next to me looked at me. I was stiff in my seat, afraid that my classmates wouldn’t like it.

“Were you the one who wrote it?” Frankie asked me.

I nodded, my cheeks turning pink.

While she read it, I was surprised at how well it had come together. There was a certain fluidity to the story that caught my attention while I listened. I visualized the same scenes that my imagination created. I felt so proud of myself.

After Ms. Garrett read the last word, it felt amazing to hear my classmates’ loud applause. My fifth grade crush said, “Ow! Ow!” I was thrilled; that was his favorite phrase. My cheeks burned even more as I turned a deep shade of red. Everyone looked around the room, and all the signs pointed to me.

“It was really good, Karla!” “Wow, what a great story!” Compliments ricocheted from either left or right of me. I felt good—really good.

Ms. Garrett has had a profound impact on my love of writing, but I never realized it before she left St. Viator’s that year to Michigan. The following year in sixth grade, Mrs. Shutt, my teacher, said I really deserved an A+ on a short story I wrote for her class. It was too bad that I couldn’t thank Ms. Garrett in person for influencing me to be a writer. If she hadn’t read it aloud, then I probably wouldn’t have known that I had an actual talent.

Fifth grade marked the beginning of my interest in writing that later grew into a passion after I finished my first novel in my freshman year of high school. Ms. Garrett has earned a spot on the dedication page of my first book if I ever publish it. Because she read my short story in front of the whole class and I saw how much my classmates loved it, I know that I want to write creative fiction for my career. I am like Cinderella in a way. I started off with nothing, and now I have the passion that can be the driving force toward publishing my first book.