I've been reaching out to other writers lately (mainly on Twitter- hi all!). It's struck me how much we have in common. Whenever anyone details something regarding their work, or the writing process, just about all of us other writers know exactly what that person is talking about. It's delightful. To be able to feel part of a community without leaving your house: it's the writer's dream. :)
Not every writer works the same way, however. There are some differences. I've said before how there are many "rules" to writing handed down by experts (a word which here means any writer who feels like spouting off). This may be helpful to the beginning writer, but basically (in my own limited experience) I can find no tip better than to, simply, write. The more you write, the better you get. And the more you find what works for you.
That said, here's my own personal thoughts on writing. :)
Writing is like any other thing we experience in life: dependent on perspective. Something I've been noticing more and more is the tendency of many a writer to refer to their writing as an "art". And herein lies the point I've been making my typically roundabout way toward.
(Disclaimer, all too often necessary on the internet: my perspective. Mine. Feel free to disregard it. As I said, we all have one [perspectives are like...], and mine is what works for me. Yours may work better for you. To each their own.)
Writing is not an art. It is a craft.
Here's the difference. Art carries the connotation of something free-spirited, flowing, difficult to pin down. If you do happen to pin it down, it will land splotched on the page much as it is, because you haven't changed it whatsoever. You haven't crafted it. What makes it art is its purity. The unformed thought, the dream, put to page in its original form.
But that's not writing, is it?
One might almost think so. I've read many stories that seem to have undergone few to no changes, as if they were just placed there. And the stories are very good. Some of them are very, very good. But they suffer for lack of crafting.
Grammar is helpful. A well-placed comma can make all the difference. But crafting is not just grammar. It's going through your story and thinking about it critically. What would you think if you were reading this story for the first time? Does it make sense? This is another issue I find more often than I'd like. I'll be going along enjoying the spin of the tale, when suddenly I'm somewhere and I don't know how I got there. Then I have to go back and figure out if I missed something, of if that something just got left out. It's usually the latter.
Many (many) writers bemoan having to edit. Many (many!) writers give the advice not to edit until your piece is done.
This makes no sense to me.
I'm a natural editor. I cannot go through a story or play without editing as I go along. If a sentence does not make sense, I usually don't continue until I fix it. This doesn't mean I'm done at the first draft. It does mean that I don't have a first draft. The way I see it, the piece is a continually evolving beast, in a constant state of flux. The first draft has (or hopefully has) well-crafted sentences and grammar. Once I'm all the way through, I go back and find what doesn't make sense (particularly as when I get to the end of a story I'm usually in a very different place than where I started), and try to fix it. I change. I cut. I do what needs to be done.
Editing is the craft. Your piece needs editing. If you want to make your story the best that it is- all that it has the potential to be, and to help other people see that potential- you will put in the work. You will perform the necessary craftsmanship.
The good news is, like most things, crafting gets easier the more you do it. Soon, you'll have a feel for a well-crafted sentence. You'll find yourself looking for discrepancies. You'll recognize what is superfluous. And, the good news? You'll also notice parts that flow well. You'll see when you've done something clever and didn't even realize it. You'll have an easier time keeping the entire work, and all its issues, organized in your head, and that is no easy feat.
You'll have become a craftsperson.
And you will be a better writer for it.
The other day, I made a post. It's the one prior to this one. Lots of happy gabblings about my favorite band. Prattling in over-stuffed paragraphs. It's what I do.
I had concerns with posting it. I have concerns- fear- with all my posts. The usual writer's worries. In this case, the concerns were compounded given that I have the utmost respect for these guys. What if they happen to read it- and don't like it? What if my unbridled enthusiasm comes off as the type of person you smile politely at and carefully edge away from?
It may have. But I kept it largely as it was. And I posted it anyway.
Because we should never hesitate to let someone know we appreciate them.
The next day- yesterday- the attacks came in Paris.
On came the shock. On came the sadness. On came the news, filtering in piece by piece; the badly-timed political comments; the pledges of solidarity.
Times of crisis bring out the best in so many. That is heartening to see. The world may crumble about our feet, but if we stand together we have a better chance of survival.
When are we going to realize that we are all we've got?
To paraphrase another thing I stated in my previous post (that's timing, sigh): if we can put aside our differences and stop the fighting, and understand that this is it: this planet, this people, we are, really, no, REALLY, all we've got; imagine the possibilities.
I hate situations like this- an understatement. The horror, the needless losing of lives to hate, the overwhelming feeling of helplessness. What can I do?? But there's nothing. Not for me, personally. I'm half a world away.
People began posting other things. Not just these attacks in Paris, but reminders of the other attacks that took place there all too recently. Then other attacks, around the world. One just the day beforehand, in Lebanon. Was there any coverage of it in our (American) news? Apparently not. (I don't know personally, I don't watch the newsnews anymore, just get it from Facebook, Twitter, and occasional Daily Show. ...But nobody mentioned it there that I saw...)
This is worrying. There's a whole segment of the world that doesn't seem to merit attention as being newsworthy, despite the scores of lives lost. If it happened in this country, you better believe it'd be all over the place. So... why?
There are a couple of explanations I've been able to think of, neither of them good. One is that the areas suffering recent attacks are, generally speaking, areas that suffer attacks rather a lot; or at least are areas CLOSE to areas that suffer attacks a lot, and/or are also in turmoil quite often. So: it happens often enough... we get used to it... it's not news anymore.
People dying. In scores, no less. ...That's not news...
The other thought is just as depressing. Paris is a city; a bustling metropolis. Sure, it's foreign, but still it's... a lot like American cities. The city and the people have a lot of characteristics that many of us Americans can understand. Areas in the Middle East and even surrounding, many Americans are not so familiar with, except for being at war with them (if you can even call it a war). It seems as though, perhaps, it's just the prejudice at work here: that they're the enemy, they're different. That they're not like us.
They're not like us.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope there's some other, logical, reason why we haven't covered these situations; it's just that I can't see any other possibilities.
Why can't we see past the superficial? Judgments based on appearance are ingrained, and may have saved our lives many many thousands of years ago. But this is now, and we have developed the ability to question our prejudices. Why do we not do this more often? Who cares how often someone prays, or who they pray to, if it doesn't affect your life in any way? Who cares what they eat or how they get to work, or what that work is, again, if it doesn't affect you? They're still people. They still eat. They still work. They still care for their children, and want the best for them.
I continue to hope. I will always have hope. I want to bring that hope to others. I want to let everyone know, right now, that I care about them. I may not agree with your views, but (again the caveat: if it doesn't harm me or anyone else) those are superficial things. At our core, we are all human. We are all life.
And we are all we've got.
What's interesting (to me) is that my favorite band is not my first choice for my writing music. I think that's because, when I put this band on, I'd actually like to listen to them as opposed to having them as background. Sometimes, though, I put them on anyway, since writing music is meant as background... to be absorbed by your subconscious... and then affect your writing in so many delicious ways.
And this music... is just that. These guys. These guys! ...Now, I don't like the term "bucket list"; let's say, "List of Things to Do Before I Die."
...No. That's unwieldy. Let's say, "LOTTDBID."
That's much better.
...Anyway, the band. The band is my LOTTDBID.
No! I don't mean I want to do the band... I mean, going to see a concert. That's what I want to do before I die... Geez. Always making me clarify because of your dirty minds. You all are sick, sick people. For shame. *waves admonishing finger*
The band is called Emperor Yes. They're a trio out of Old Blighty (England, that is- I just like saying Old Blighty. [Old Blighty]). Their music is trippy, intricate, catchy, well-crafted, singable, and smart. Yes, I italicize. That last is important.
How many damn songs are there out there about love? I mean, yes, love has many different aspects and is undeniably powerful; it affects us all at one time or another, so we can usually empathize with the lyrics and all that good stuff. But it gets old. A song about something- anything- different catches my attention.
And boy howdy, are these songs different. Songs inspired by Carl Sagan. By defensive tactics in bees. By what I am unfortunately unfamiliar with but I believe to be mythology (also a way to see how many times you can fit the word "monkey" in a single song).
It's not just the originality of the subject matter; that'll only take you so far. It should be borne out by the craftsmanship. Fortunately, as I said, that is excellent (bearing in mind I am a layperson when it comes to music). Ash Gardner on lead vocals (guitar, keyboards, probably other stuff) has a delivery unavoidably reminiscent of the Flaming Lips, which took me some getting used to; but now I don't think I could do without, it enhances the flavor of their sound so much. Adam Betts (of Three Trapped Tigers) on drums (possibly other stuff) whacks out a damn fine rhythm, often unexpected, always inspiring to my ever-twitchy toes. And Hugo Sheppard on keyboards (more than probably quite a lot of other stuff)- just wow. You know how sometimes, you watch someone doing something... and you have that feeling, like it's just a privilege, an honor, to be there, like you are in the presence of someone who is just... doing what they should be doing. I really can't think of any other way to say it. Someone who works the hell out of their craft.
...I guess I could think of another way to say it, after all.
I have listened to this album many, many (many) times, and have yet to get sick of it. My kids love it. Cripes, my husband loves it- well, likes, but that's high praise from him. He's a hard sell when it comes to music.
Seriously. My LOTTDBID. I'd have to afford a plane ticket to England, though. Anyone want to GoFundMe??? :D No? ...Hello?*
Oh, well. I'll content myself for the time being with my MP3s, and videos; the videos are particular genius, check them out here. And buy their music on iTunes. Listen on Spotify. And SoundCloud. And here's a link to their record label page. (Damn, more people should have me as a fan. I'm not even requesting compensation).
I'm actually reluctant to sound this about, in a way. This is my wonderful discovery- mineminemine! I feel almost like I want to keep it to myself. But then I remember that's stupid. The world needs to know about wonderful, different things like this. Who knows? Perhaps we'll end up bonding over our shared love of Emperor Yes, and peace will come to our time. Then we can end our struggles and move forward as a species.
And then we'll all be destroyed by giant ants.
*Seriously. Either I can sit right down front, unable to wipe the insanely pleased smile from my face until I have to be removed because I'm creeping the band out; or I'd be happy even to just stand somewhere in the corner, doing my patented "incredibly cool and not in the least reminiscent of a spazzy monkey" dance.
There're so many writing tips and advice floating around out there. Seasoned pros who have been there, done that, passing down their sage advice. And why not? For anyone looking to embark on some bold new venture, it can be a bit daunting to know where to start.
Thing is, it's important to remember that what works for one person might not work for you. The process is different for everyone. Trial and error. Test it out. Find your own way.
That said, there are many similarities. Par example below (based on my own experience, but really, tell me honestly if this doesn't ring a bell, and if it doesn't I swear I will eat a fish, and I really don't like fish, they taste like they smell and they just smell so fishy but ANYWAY):
9:00- Arrive at coffee shop. Set up laptop, order first coffee.
9:15- Laptop finishes booting up.
9:25- Programs finally finish loading. Start music.
9:30- Begin new manuscript.
9:31- Try and figure out what the hell the new manuscript is about.
9:45- Check Facebook. Just for a minute.
10:01- Aha! That's what the new manuscript is about!
10:03- Break for harmless flirtation when adorable baby twenty year old behind the counter takes old cup away.
10:27- Order second cup of coffee.
10:28- Change music.
10:29- Back to it!
10:31- Check Twitter. Just for a minute.
10:45- Back to it!
11:38- Holy crap. Where did the time go?!
11:38- And where did my coffee go?! (Thanks to Samantha Eaton [@Samantha_Eaton3] for this point)
11:38- Back to it!
11:40- Change music.
11:41- Check Facebook. Just for a minute.
11:52- Check Twitter. Just for a minute.
12:01- Check e-mail. Just for... oh, heck.
12:03- Check website stats. And go to the bathroom.
12:05- Holy crap. Where did the time go?!
12:06- Writes furiously.
12:35- Dang it. Dangitdangitdangit. Time to leave. After a bathroom stop.
I normally get about ten pages done.* Now I come to look at this, it's a wonder I get anything done at all.
*Never enough. It is never, ever, ever enough.
Whew, it's been too long since I've been here!
I've been overwhelmed these past two weeks with getting everything done post-vacation. There's been scouting and soccer practices and everyday stuff and then there was impending Halloween. Well, me being me, I had to make my kids' Halloween costumes. I have three kids. This is what the experts call, in their experting wisdom, "Nuts". But that's never stopped me before! I dove in, busted some hinder... and still didn't have enough time to make the baby's costume, so I wound up getting one at the store (on sale, so I really didn't spend any more than I would have on supplies to make it). Again, me being me, I feel horrendously guilty that I didn't make it. What kind of lazy, shiftless, good-for-nothing mother am I, anyway?
My daughter is a Rainbow Fairy, my youngest is a lion, and my eldest is, obviously, Mario. Thanks be to the person who snagged a blanket from the local casino (the name was printed on it) and then gave it to the Goodwill, it was the perfect amount of cloth! My daughter's costume took, er, just a bit longer... inspired by a costume we saw at Jo-Ann Fabrics (I wasn't paying for the rack one, it was over $50!), I used scrap fabric for the tunic, and picked up the rest. The Jo-Ann I normally go to is relocating, so they're having a giant clearance sale; I got all the rest of the stuff for $15. There are 10 different colors of net (including the pink I didn't have a place for, so I covered the wings from her Renaissance Faire fairy costume with it). The bottom didn't look right so I sewed in some scraps of extra white netting; kind of a cloud-like effect. It, surprisingly, didn't take as long as I thought it would. But that's just the skirt. Also, it didn't want to close, so I had to sew ribbons along the back and tie each layer individually. Then she decided she wanted rainbow puffballs on the tunic, so I did those by hand. And she wanted a bracelet with puffballs, so I did that. And I thought a fascinator would be nice; so I did that.
...So I've been a little busy...
It's now November and alleluia. November for writers, of course, means NaNoWriMo, that legendary month where writers across the land disappear into their work caves, never to reemerge until the first of December, bleary-eyed and unshaven, clad only in bathrobes and a persistent smell. It is the peculiar insanity of the writer that we desire this state of being above all else. Nearly. Well. Kind of nearly.
I do desire it. But kids have this weird thing called "wanting to be fed". I know, right? And then they want to spend time with you, and have you read to them. And it's kind of funny, but you don't mind it. Much.
There will come a year I will do NaNoWriMo. But it is not this year. Or last year. Or the year before that. Or, probably next... you know what, let's just keep this indefinite. But in the meantime, I will devote my energies to cheering on my fellow writers attempting this quest.
One of those fellow writers is a great gal I met on Twitter. Having a fantastic time connecting on there, tons of lovely people (hi all!). The Ardent Pen has her own blog where she posts colorful fiction, so far all of it her own work. So I was supremely flattered when she asked if I would like to guest post a story. I mean, my goodness. Me, a guest post. Lawks.
I didn't have a story ready to go, and especially a Halloween-ish story, as requested, appropriate for the posting time and all. But I had a month. So, I figured, no rush, I'd think of an idea eventually, no need to tax my brain- and there it was.
I still didn't have time to really work on it, since we were leaving for vacation; so I waited and did it in the car. Thank goodness for handy-dandy notebooks (and 17 to 18 hour car drives!)! Wrote out nearly the whole thing, then finished it on the computer when I got back. Tweaked it a bit and sent it out. You can read it here. And please do; I'm rather proud of it. :) *
For those who are attempting NaNoWriMo: you are brave. You are amazing. You have my utmost admiration. And you can do this.
I'll be here for you. Right after I clean applesauce out of my kid's hair.
*Even if I did use the word "wrote" when it should have been "written". Argh. One of those aggravations that jumps out at you AFTER you send out the damn thing. Hopefully nobody else noticed. :D
Writer, dancer, actress, mother, me.