Please, Excuse the Mess…

Whatever it takes.

That’s the writer’s motto.  The artist’s motto.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!

Whatever it takes to put the words on the paper.  What ever it takes to finish the rough draft.  Whatever it takes to pick it back up and wrestle with the characters, plot, descriptions, style, genera expectations, voice, and readability until you have a finished product.  Whatever it takes to get it published and into the hands of readers.

My stories are movies playing inside my head.  They morph and change as I delve deeper, but it’s still just a movie playing in my head.  I have to find the words to explain the story to you.  Have you ever had someone tell you ABOUT a movie IN DETAIL?  It’s usually terrible.  Have you ever listened to a good/professional storyteller?  There is a huge difference between those two experiences.

I think I’m getting a better grasp of the words, and how to make them go.  How to hold back what the reader wants, make them work for it, give just enough to keep them hooked.  And I can see the big picture hidden in the words.  Themes and morals, sometimes hidden even from me until the full rough draft is done.  But meshing the two, good-enough words and a big story, escapes me.

I’ve got a lot of rough drafts lying around.  I’ve chosen one to learn how to tell a story on.  It’s a robust story, with everything I love about the universe in it.   The Main Character is a side of me I can easily access, so she frequently tells me to pull my shit together and finish the fuckin’ book!  She’s a strong motivator.

I’ve tried to take it farther than just a rough draft, but I can’t seem to get my head around the seventeen pages…  Wait.  THIRTY-ONE PAGES of notes on changes, OR to apply the advice of the books I’ve read about storytelling.  Like everybody else, I have commitments, work, family, and anxieties to deal with.  And I deal with them, but then not a lot of energy for writing is left over.  So, another year has slipped away from me, unpublished.  Part of me wants to give up, and just write something new, something exciting, always rough drafts, and never bother to publish.

But, I’m a stubborn person.  I WILL create a finished product.  I just need the right tools.

I think I’ve found a couple more tools in the last few months.  With ways to tinker, and lay out, and get more story off the page and into my hands.  I’m good with my hands.  I think with my hands, and I’m a visual person.  I didn’t realize there were tools for that kind of brain.  It’s kinda like outlining, kinda like story board, kinda like art.  Lets see if it will help my get a handle on my revisions.  Then I can begin the rewrite, choosing the right words to tell a story, instead of telling you about a story.

I’ll share the tools with you, once I have a firmer grip on them.  I can’t be the only writer with these kinds of problems.  For now, my writing is “Construction Zone! Please, Excuse the Mess!”  (Hint: The tools are more books, but that really shouldn’t surprise you at this point.)

Happy Writing, y’all!

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YEAAAAAAARGH!

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Un-named blog host has lost–and I have re-written–this post FIVE TIMES.  I’m rough draft posting as a workaround.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

UPDATE 1: Ok, FYI there is no Low-Budget Writing post this week because haven’t finished the books for the next few topics.  It’s that time of year when things are stacked up and glitchy (<cough><Blog-host-that-shall-not-be-named><cough>), and there’s not nearly enough hours in the day.  Carving any creative writing out of the day is nearly impossible, and most days I’m too tired to edit in the evenings.

Still, I did submit a short story last week, which brings me to a grand total of TWO submissions.  Yikes.  It’s better than zero, but I have a looooong way to go.

I also re-started an exercise program, so the chances of living until I get published are marginally better.  That’s good, I guess.

I’ll keep this short and pointless (much like my writing) so we can all find something more productive to do.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Writing!

UPDATE 2: I may have angered the internet gods when I named-and-shamed my blog host.  Edited, so please let people see my post, now.  Please.  PLEASE!

 

 

 

Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 6 Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

I am the last person who should be giving anybody grammar and punctuation advice, but I will tell you about the books that have made my self re-education slightly easier.  You could, of course, go right to one of the style books, but there are over a dozen, and many more blogs, columns, and other sources.  I was looking for something that would entertain me into better usage.

Of course, when it comes to usage, there is the question of whether you side with the followers of linguistic prescription (the rules are always correct) or linguistic description (actual usage is more correct).  There is no right answer, by the way.  Just MANY different opinions, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.

‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will disappear”

-Lao Tzu

This is a motto of mine.  All of these books were found in used book stores, gifting me with their timely appearance when I was on a strict budget.  Since I have been avoiding writing this post successfully–for a year–you are getting the added bonus of which book actually stuck around in my unreliable memory the longest.  Lucky, lucky you.

Scan_20171127 (36)Angels sang and the sky lit up with glorious rainbows when the prophesies came to pass, and I finally came across “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (Forth edition by Allen & Bacon, Massachusetts 2000).  It was a shockingly thin book. (Six different publication dates, 1935 the earliest.  That is some serious staying power.)  I’m not sure why it took me so long to find a copy, since every time I’ve gone to the book store since that day there have been at least five copies to choose from.  I guess I was not ready before that day.

The word ‘style’ in the book’s title is not an accident, and that style is concise. If a writer wishes to be clear and bold with the English language, then this is a benchmark to guide you. Even if your style is wordy and obscure, it will still make an excellent base for writing in general.  (I, personally, got a huge kick out of the older ‘misused’ words, but I’m a total word-nerd.)  White’s added chapter five, with its twenty-one approaches to style, is worth serious study.  I may not keep a copy of the book in my pocket, as is suggested, but it sits on a shelf, close to hand.

Scan_20171127 (30)“Mortal Syntax” by June Casagrande (Penguin Group, New York 2008) is next on the pile. Clever and funny, this book is actually a defensive rant about all the things the author was accused of being wrong about–repeatedly–while she ran a grammar column.  (This is actually her second book, and I’m keeping an eye out for the first.)  In these pages I learned there were several style guides, and they didn’t always agree with each other.  No wonder the arguments get so heated, for there is no One True Way.  I enjoyed her biting humor, but the funny stories stayed with me longer than the actual grammar advice, and that wasn’t for very long, either.  My search continued…

Scan_20171127 (34)“Words Fail Me” by Patricia T. O’Conner (Harcourt Brace & Company, New York 1999) is another good and clever book full of anecdotes, but the rules she tried to convey were quickly forgotten.  It’s a good writing style book to try on, like a rambling conversation with a knowledgeable writer while wearing comfy yoga pants and sipping tea, and worth it if your brain remembers rules better in this way, but of limited use to me in the long run.

Who is the clear winner, and the book I will read again to brush up on rules before self-editing?

Scan_20171127 (32)“My Grammar and I… Or Should That Be Me?” Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines (The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, NY 2009) is the closest to a school textbook, and it shocked me that that was what I actually needed.  I guess logic-brain wins this round, when I was putting my money on creative-brain all along.  Now, don’t be fooled thinking this is just dry rules.  The authors sprinkle in just enough Sahara wit to keep you from nodding off at your desk, then drooling until the bell rings and startles you awake.  Most importantly, I came away with a working knowledge of grammar and punctuation, which was the whole point of this project.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a year since I read this, and while I may have retained enough to get by, I definitely need to read this, again.  Soon.  An added bonus will be when I self-edit, I will know what to call the things that went wrong.  (Other than “Bastard,” that is.)  “Compound conjunction” and “irregular verb” will mean something, and not be just static in a confused brain.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about it!

Well, that’s the best advice I can give to date on this topic.  There’s nothing to fear about grammar and punctuation, and I’ve run out of time for the bears (maybe next time).  Don’t go off thinking you can go straight to self-publishing after this.  This should be just enough to not get you laughed out of the publisher’s office, or make a complete fool out of yourself online.  Self-publishing is going to require more eyes than just yours!  Either find some highly skilled (but free labor) beta readers, or your going to have to come up with the money for a good editor. Don’t trust yourself to catch every thing!  Even professional editors go to another editor.

While hanging out with other writers online, I found a grammar/editor blogger named Thomas Weaver who is fun, interesting, and does a daily Writing Glitch series that is great for testing your knowledge.  Follow him if you like a challenge, or if you might need something professionally edited in the future.  https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/writing-glitch-547/#like-10679

You may have missed the other posts of the Low-Budget Writing Program:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take Over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 5 Fear is the Mind-Killer

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Anywriter who spends any time thinking about showing their work to another person has likely felt fear.  Unfortunately, that never goes away, according to the professionals who share tips.

I have already given my thoughts and book suggestions for getting the story written, but, obviously, there is more to learn.  There is a deep connection between the fear of writing and good writing.  Honestly, there should be a copy of “The Courage to Write” by Ralph Keyes (Henry Holt and Company, New York 1995) in the starter pack of every writer.  You didn’t get the starter pack?  Neither did I, but I did find the book at my local library.  (And just in time.)

The book is at first a warm hand holding yours, telling you all is well, your fears are perfectly normal, and–more importantly–useful, then there are a ton of examples of writers finagling their way around their fears to produce words of worth.  (And writers are pretty creative when it comes to finding a comfortable way to write.  Prepare to be shocked and amazed!)  If you find you are lacking the courage to put your work out there, please seek out this book before giving up on yourself.

“Trying to deny, avoid, numb, or eradicate the fear of writing is neither possible nor desirable.  Anxiety is not only an inevitable part of the writing process but a necessary part.  If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.  No message in this book is more important.  A state of anxiety is the writer’s natural habitat.”

Ralph Keyes

While we are on the subject of fear, there is a book that is incredibly useful in detailing the physical manifestations of fear, and when and why you should listen to your body/brain warnings.  “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker (Originally published by Little, Brown and Company in 1997, now updated and published by the author through Amazon 2010.) is also useful in lots of other ways to writers and other persons just trying to navigate the world in unsafe times, and nearly as important as a reminder for trusting your intuition.  (Intuition is sister to Inspiration.  Ignore either of them at your peril, for sisters do gossip.)

“‘No’ is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who choses to not hear it is trying to control you.”

Gavin de Becker

 

Here are the other posts in this series:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. The Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

The Purpose of Art…

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That’s it.  All thirty-one pieces of art from Inktober.  I framed them and put them above my desk.

It feels a bit weird, like I’m betraying my humble, working class heritage.  We don’t go  for vanity, or tootling your own horn, or any such drawing attention to yourself.  I mean, they aren’t that good, and some of them a really bad.  Nobody would buy them, and art is a waste of time, and you have to work hard to feed your family.  I mean, you could put one or two of the best up, but not where anyone would see, except maybe family, who will love you anyway.  You don’t want to get above yourself.

Fuck that.

I turn fifty in a couple of months.  My country is a dumpster fire.  Human rights and social safety nets are being lost and cut like they’re made of tissue paper.  (The really cheap stuff, from the dollar store.)  Profit is God, and people are dying on it’s altar.  Everybody I know is struggling to keep it together, sometimes just day-by-day.  Including me.

I’m going to make Art.  I’m going to draw and write my feelings.  I spent thirty-one dollars at the dollar store for frames.  I went to the library for books on graphic novel and comic book techniques.  I’ve written three novels, have the notes for six more, and I’m going to keep working on them until they are ready to publish.  I’m going to submit short stories to anthologies, and keep writing my blog, and…  Keep screaming my words to the wind.

I don’t really know what else to do.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”  Pablo Picasso

Can You Bribe Titans With Chocolate?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve got titan-sized thoughts shrugging their way through my brain matter.  And this is the kind of shrugging that shoulders can do that also hold the Heavens and the Earth apart, so that we humans have a nice, comfy place to live.  They’re important, humongous thoughts; FEAR, and COURAGE, PERSEVERANCE, and some LUST, too.  My head aches from their shuddering footfalls and oversized, grabby hands.  I’m alternating between attempts of fuzzy blanket naps and shoving more other-writer’s-blogs-about-writing into my head, hoping it will all coalesce into an overflowing, bounteous soup of Writerly Knowledge For Me To Share!

But, mostly it’s just a throbbing headache.  Erg.

In more human-sized news, the notes for the Low-Budget Writing Program series is coming along nicely, so at some point I will be sharing something actually useful for new-ish writers.  I get a piece of chocolate for useful posts, so I am super motivated!

I’ll have to admit that both general writing and revisions for my WIP haven’t been going well, and it’s not too surprising when you consider life, but I’ve seen these kinds of temporary blocks before (see attached pic), and just on the other side of them is writing-nirvana.  The state of flow that makes writing as comfortable as slipping on your second favorite pair of pants. (The first favorite pair of pants being reading, of course.)  I just have to find a decent sized crack to wedge some writing into, like opening a safe passage with the jaws-of-life, then more cracks naturally open up, and writing slips in.  Or on, since I was using a pants metaphor.  <sigh>

(I have been known to fall over while putting on pants, so, there is that.)

Happy Writing!

Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinking Rules!

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  1. Don’t bore the reader.
  2. Don’t break the contract with the reader.
  3. Keep writing.

These are the Three Rules of Writing as I currently understand them.  They are subject to change if I get new information.

(BTW, the second rule refers to all the un-written expectations a reader has when choosing your book.  Off the top of my head are; both staying inside but also challenging the advertised genre, sticking to a single grammar/punctuation/formatting style, and plot/characters stay true to themselves.  There are probably more…)

In other news, I’m shoving some amazing information into my brain at a rate that is a bit difficult to process.  What does this mean for you, my giddy audience?  I will be adding to my Low-Budget Writing Program series as soon as I can sort the information out properly.  There will be future posts about fear of writing, profanity, sustained motivation, and (my personal kryptonite) grammar/punctuation.  (I’ll wait to link to the old posts, because I suspect they could use some serious editing and fall cleaning.)

Back to my WIP revisions.  Happy writing, y’all!