Writing Prompt # 37

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Outside, children are playing in the street.

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Inside, a fan is blowing.

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W.P. Continue writing about the scene.

Writing Prompt # 24

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Before there were touch screens on cell phones, or ipads, or all the other electronic gadgets we carry around today, there was something else more primordial and innate.

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The sense of touch. Need to connect.

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Now, go forth and create. (W.P.# 24 Remember a touch.)

12 Rules of Writing from 3 Master Craftsmen: What’s the Best Advice You’ve Ever Been Given?

Usually, I come to you with a question and then provide all of the answers. But today the tables have been turned, because I would like to hear from you. My Question: What’s the best writing advice that’s ever been given to you? It can either be something stated directly, or something you’ve picked up while writing and working on a project. You decide.

ImageHere, I’ll provide my own, after letting you in on one of my biggest secrets. For the past two or three years I’ve been a huge fan and follower of various writing websites, some of which have offered as much insight as the books I read and discuss here. This website has continually offered me great beginner advice that I would like to share with you, as well as, recommend that you check out the site; it’s called: brainpickings.org.

Maybe some of you have heard about it, but to the others when you’re through reading this article, do take a trip across the world wide web. For some time now, I’ve been intrigued by the type of advice offered to beginners by more professional writers. And like with many other things, I am learning how to accept the things that gel with me and drop the ones that don’t. On the site mentioned above, various writers like Ernest Hemingway, Neil Gaiman, Zadie Smith and Margaret Atwood (et al) offer anywhere from 8 to 10 pieces of advice. Or rules as it were, and from this group of four, I have chosen to discuss a few rules from the latter three, because they have been the most helpful thus far.

For me, Zadie Smith is like a level-headed guru, who offers practical advice. Some of which I have learned, others that I go over again and again. Below are three of her rules.

Image3. Don’t romanticise your vocation. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

These are the three pieces of advice that appeal to me most, but if you go over the entire list, others might stand out for you. As a beginner myself, aiming for the Young Adult reader, I have to remind myself that I cannot, as yet, do everything to get my novel to the level that it should be at. But every book created takes or will take me one step further. Closer. It will be the same for you. (As you can tell I am a firm believer in making incremental changes, small inroads into my weaknesses so that eventually they will be overcome. Only time will tell.)Image

Neil Gaiman is the second master craftsman, I look to for assistance. His rules are simple, direct and sometimes comical. Follow them anyway. Rule 1. Write. 2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. 3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it. 4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and like the kind of thing that this is. (Gaiman’s link here.)

A lot of good advice, remember: writers write. And if you pay attention to the advice of writers, sometimes some things are often repeated. Pay attention to those, they are really important. Finally, the last writer, Margaret Atwood, seems pretty zany but her craft is superb. So, read on.

Image1. Take a pencil to write on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils. 3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do. 4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a memory stick. 5.  Do back exercises. Pain is distracting. 6. Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

If you can hear the slant of humor coming through, then maybe you can also see all the valid points that are swirling around with them. Things like holding the reader’s attention and backing up your work. To check out Margaret Atwood’s 10 Rules of Advice to Beginning Writers, go to brainpickings.org. Trail the site on weekends, when you get a bit of free time and look out for anything interesting.

Now, I leave the floor open for you. In the reply box below, please share any bits of advice that you’ve found helpful. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from each other.

Methods for Writing: Clarity, Emotion, Models & Pacing

Step one for good writing would be to aim for clarity. Make sure that whatever you write down on paper or type out is exactly what you want to say. The descriptions should not be confusing to your readers and can be followed by a high schooler, or whomever you envision your ideal reader to be.

Next, tap into the novels that speak to you. Ones that you admire. Works that have a sense of clarity and possess some of the elements that you are trying to achieve. What you are doing here is getting a model (or models) so that you can enlarge your vision, and see your work as a completed piece. By doing this, you may also get an insight into how to continue, if your work has halted.

One of the faults of beginning writers, myself included, is that we are not always able to see our work in its entirety, when we first begin. But plugging in and plunging on through the various drafts and detours, we may be able to get a better idea of our work. And seeing how someone else may have done it, can help us to see the novel as a whole and then as a thing with parts. Because being able to shift from one to the other, may help us to gain clarity and focus.

This is important because sometimes the idea of the novel itself may frighten us. But if we see it as a thing with parts- chapters. Scenes. Then little by little we can think about how to give it shape and structure.  Yes, if we persist by writing and reading the works of other writer, we may be able to finish what we start.

To do this effectively, however, we may also need to consider adding some emotion to our characters. Especially the main character, the one person who the reader should be rooting for. They should be human. Real. So their emotions need to be appropriate for the scenes that they are in. Think of it like a movie, where you need to create believable characters to enhance the story. If they don’t appear genuine then your characters will not be seen as real. Or your story viewed as believable.

To do this more effectively, I have tried reading novels by authors who have rich characters. Some of which are listed here: Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul, Veronica Roth’s Divergent and David Levithan’s Every Day. Besides this I have also perused the Emotion Thesaurus and read a few novels more closely to get a better understanding of character development. You can experiment with the various mediums and use whichever ones are helpful.

Finally, remember to take your time and pace yourself. Break down the story into chapters; and the chapters into scenes. Make it more manageable to write. Because  according to Steven Pressfield (in his novel The War of Art) one of the biggest things plaguing writers is resistance. It is something that we should all avoid. So, make sure that you are always working. Or moving forward.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year, and continue writing!