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4 styles in one day March 21, 2010

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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This song- ‘Four Seasons In One Day‘ by Crowded House came on while I was writing, and I had a realisation that I was working on my fourth piece of writing for the day, in a completely different style from the other three.

1. I woke up and composed a letter for a job application. 7 key criteria, so I needed to find my best 7 aspects to answer each point succinctly, clearly and in a way that made the reader think I am fantastic. Short sharp and shiny.

2 .I then read through chapter 1 of my new novel, and began writing chapter 2. Extended prose? That sounds like it isn’t paced correctly. It is more like I know I have space to make this last novel go out with a bang, so I am not being succinct, I am being thorough.

3. Completed some copy-writing for a website I am creating with a graphic designer friend. Put myself into the shoes of the client and say what I want to say, sell what I want to sell. Restrict the text to just one page so you do not need to scroll down the page for all the words and become bored. Fitting the right words into a confined space.

4. Editing a friend’s blog post for his motivational website. How to speak to someone who may be feeling down about themselves, without seeming superior and better than them. He has had similar experiences, and can relate. So to make the writing sound like – i understand. Evoke feeling and empathy between author and reading.

I could put 5. down here as writing my blog, but I think this becomes an appendix to the day. My Author friend would appreciate that. She who has been inspired to get back into her novel by using the characters in our writing assignments.

I have been told by successful authors that, to be successful you need to master more than just the novel. While they are extremely happy because they are able to be a writer, they are paid novelist, they tell me that it isn’t the novel that makes them the money. It is all the peripheral work that allows them to write the novel. Running writing workshops, being guest speakers, writing articles, copy writing, editing and such like.

There is a saying, of which I am particularly conscious of right now – working to live. You work the nine-to-five so you have the means to indulge the creative side of yourself. I do have reservations at the use of the word ‘indulge’, when I, personally, do not find my writing to be an indulgence. It is an essential part of who I am, which I must fit around REAL LIFE. It is what I want to do, where I see myself journeying towards. However, be what it may, work is work, and my writing is not yet paying for itself, so it reluctantly sits in the corner.

Although I must say that someone in the business did read some of my novel, and told me she “finds it easy to read and engaging“. This may bring my writing out of the corner and to the table, yes?

I think it is important, as a writer, that you are able to write in more than one style. By that I do not mean first person and third person, realist fiction and fantasy. More along the lines of writing fiction and non-fiction. You can write a poem and a novel, and a magazine article or a letter of complaint to your local movie house.

In much the same way that different sources of reading or film can inspire your creative writing, I believe different styles of writing can excercise your writing brain and improve your creative writing.

I had a minor character in a story, he was a personal assistant to a Big Boss in an organisation. He was very officious, spoke with authority, and behaved like he knew everything. His speaking style was like someone who wrote letters using far too many big words. So I searched the internet for officious looking letters and letters of complaints. I used the language of formal letters and such, to be the language of this character. And it worked. He annoyed my characters, who didn’t truly understand his language, admittedly much like the author. But also, some people who read the piece also found the character annoying. They also knew someone exactly like this character.

I doubt that I will use all the different styles of writing I have used today, in a creative piece. I will have a job interview in my novel, so I may use some of my job application language there, maybe. But, it is good to be able to shift into different styles when I need. It gives me confidence to know that when I come to that time where I need to step off the precipice and become a paid writer, I am able to write in different styles, depending on the job which is paying me.

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750 Words March 18, 2010

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There is an exercise contained in the Artists Way called The Morning Pages, one of the basic tools of being creative. This is where you write 3 pages, stream of consciousness, every morning, to unplug and un-clutter your mind, to free up the best parts of your creative self. Get the flotsam out of the way of the good stuff.

I have personally found this to be very helpful. There is always SOMETHING your mind wants to say,  it wants you to check this, see that, go here, play that. So I write down what is bothering me, what has annoyed me. Get it off my chest, so to speak, and then on to writing.

While on my way home tonight from work, reading the free newspaper, there was an article about a website – 750 words. The author of this site admits he was inspired by The Artists Way, and has now built this site where you can log in, write your 750 words, and then move on to better things with your day.

IT is private, it does not publicise anything, but it does keep a word count, reward you for doing it every day, it challenges you.

I am now going to do this before each writing session.

#amwriting about twitter on my blog March 17, 2010

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I have been absent. I have been writing, but not creative stuff. Have picked up a copy writing gig for a website. A different kind of writing, which I like. I like the more rigid structure of a client, and the space of a web page. Keeps my writing muscle exercising differently.

About Twitter. One of the arenas mentioned for the Author Platform is Twitter. Instantly tell people you have a new blog entry. Give random or deep thoughts about writing. Update followers that you are actually writing, or why you are not writing. I can see the appeal of instant access to many people, to followers. But I must admit, I do get overwhelmed by it.

A friend was guiding me through the searches on Twitter. Hash tags, lists, trending topics, re-tweets and such. It is the reason I have hash-tagged the title of this blog. I have set my blog up to automatically go to twitter. And from what I understand, I am able to have Twitter automatically update Facebook? This all sounds pretty good. But I am also a little bit intimidated by this.

I read a writer’s blog some time ago, who it was, I can not remember. He said that authors should not have blogs, or live journals, updating their every move, because they will spend more time writing in the blog, responding to comments and checking stats and making sure they are out there, than they would writing their creative stuff.

Now, while I can understand the need for blogs to establish an online presence, the nostalgic part of me does side with this author somewhat. I would like to write, and have at it. Write my stories, my shorts, my novels, and that be that. It would be nice.

However, I am not so naive that I can not see the benefit to all this would give me. To engage with my audience, to let you know I am still writing and still plodding along that path to being an author.

I finished Chapter 1, by the way, of my fifth novel. Last week. In case you were interested.

I am slowly understanding that Twitter is a place to find other writers and authors, other people interested in finding authors. I have found werewolves and vampires on there. I found some writers, and followed them. And a novel tweeter, who accepted and followed me with a sharp piece of what looks like detective prose. I liked that.

So now I have another commitment to add to my list. To commit to saying something on Twitter, even if it is just a hello. Lets see how I go with that.

Where do your ideas come from? March 9, 2010

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This is a question for which there is no correct answer. Listening to a song, reading a book, watching movies. All are great seeds for ideas.  I have also heard doing physical exercise is great for sparking ideas. Something about increasing blood flow to the brain.

While going for a walk yesterday I solved one of my biggest problems in my Steampunk world. I am creating a magic steam punk world, however I was not so sure on how I would successfully merge magic and my steam-punk items. I have this idea for a gun that fires magic bullets. I was inspired by Hellboy’s gun The Good Samaritan (Could not find a good link for that). I wanted a gun that fired spells, such as fireball. I have ideas for other steam punk gadgets, but this was the first idea, the first problem that needed to be solved.

So, walking home, just thinking on this idea, and it came to me. I know the exact place on the road where I SOLVED my dilemma. The last downhill part of my walk before I get home, just up from the tennis club, before I cross the road to a traffic island where there is a gum tree.

I shan’t tell you of my solution. That would take away the mystery from my stories. However I just love how the idea CAME to me. It would be a great thing if these moments could be consciously manifested, if there was a way you could make them happen.

I have heard some authors have a way to make their ideas manifest. Meditation, exercise, certain kinds of music, a particular place. I believe this will be something else I will need to discover for myself. First, the habit, then the health benefits, and then the process of ideas.

You can not wait for the Eureka moment. You need to make it happen.

Elements of Awesome March 6, 2010

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This is my version of re-tweeting.

Tribal Writer just posted a link to a story By Donald Maas, at the Writer Unboxed called ‘Elements of Awesome‘.

Some good reading this. It talks about evoking an emotional response in your reader. What keeps your reader reading? Your fantastic use of the English language, or tight control over grammar? No, its connecting to the character and their struggle. It’s the emotional response.

I know I have an emotional connection to my characters. I invest time and energy into making them. I imagine their lives for them. I do wonder if I manage to translate that feeling to readers. I currently have minimal feedback on my work, so I am not sure if the readers feel the same as I do. But I am growing my readership, so heres hoping!

emotions aren’t gold. A story situation that provokes strong emotions is.

Show, don’t tell.

It was good getting this update as I am writing my fifth novel. Kizmet!

6 weeks to form a habit, 12 weeks to show health benefits March 4, 2010

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While speaking to some people at work regarding their new exercise regime they passed on this adage, given to them from their personal coach – it takes 6 weeks to form a habit, and 12 weeks to show health benefits.

This struck a chord with me. I know from personal experience, procrastination and the want to do other things can be strong in me. So, while I may have writing to do, and there is always some creative writing I could be doing, getting started can be incredibly hard for me sometimes. Currently I have a novel to write, a short story to re-write and submit, my online writing group weekly newsletter, and some preliminary copy writing work for a website….

However, I have discovered that soon after I start writing, the free creative energy starts generating feelings of euphoria. During the month of November, while competing in Nanowrimo, the crazy creative energy is fantastic. It makes me feel great. A health benefit.

So now, I am trying to create a habit. 2 nights a week and on the weekends. Not completely successful yet. Meetings on Tuesday night, and again tonight, but I did write on Sunday.

Another thing I have found about habits, is once you get into them, others notice them as well. Again, talking about Nanowrimo, I have competed for 8 years now. As it nears November each year, now, I have friends asking me if I am ready, if I have a plot, an idea, a hope of winning. So the HABIT of doing Nanowrimo each year now has my friends aware that I may be unsocial, or a little bit scatter brained during November. I may be talking and suddenly grab my notepad and scribble something down. They also ask about word count, plot points and so forth.

Another thing which can indicate your habit is a symbol of some sorts. When a taxi’s light is off, you know they have a passenger and are not for hire. When someone has head phones on, they are listening to something and do not want to be disturbed.

I have a symbol as well, and is something I will speak of in a future post. My symbol is a purple and orange jester’s hat. It is my ‘Writing Hat’. When I am wearing it, it is a quick indicator that I am (supposed to be) writing.

At a Nanowrimo write-in, wearing my writing hat

So, to boil down my thoughts, I know the personal health benefits I get from writing. I get to be creative, I get to kick around in my own sandbox, and it makes me happy. I will endeavor, still, to create my writing habits, and *try* to stick to them, and who knows, in 12 weeks I may be a happier person.

I know The Artist’s Way is a twelve week course. I am now wondering to myself if Julia Cameron was given some similar advice from a personal trainer, of if perhaps said personal trainer has completed all 6 weeks.

Life is about being healthy and happy. If this is a simple solution- write creatively, regularly, and make a HABIT of it, then go for it I say.

Something old, something new… March 1, 2010

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I kept to my writing on Sunday commitment. I wrote my writing group assignment.

I took my MC from the novel series I am writing- Jarred, and his girlfriend, Jasmine, to the auction, as mentioned in my previous entry. Jarred is an ex-history professor from Vega University, so I thought it would be a great place for him to be, as a character, at an auction for something historical.

I used the two characters with swords – the business woman, and the street samurai with the long coat, as my assigned characters. The character with the brief case handcuffed to him made a brief entrance, but it was all about the sword fighting.

What I enjoyed about this exercise is again, using characters I am already familiar with. I have written four novels with these characters, and am in the process of writing the fifth and final novel. I have traveled with my characters through pirate attacks and civil wars, killed their families and even had some limbs blown off in battle. And now, with the final book, I know where they are going and how they are going to get there. Their journey is mapped out in my imagination and will soon be written down in words.

So I am enjoying the ability to take these characters I have come to enjoy, come to know and love, and put them somewhere that is not in the the realms of my novels. I can play with them in my imagination’s sandbox outside the covers of my novels. Far from restrictive, I am discovering more about the characters than I would have had a chance to do inside the novels. I can explore them more.

For example, in the short story I just wrote, Jasmine, who is a renowned pirate, her devious and cheeky side comes out. She is a student of history, in particular military history, and asses her enemies and changes her plans accordingly. In this case, after seeing the tall dark stranger wield his sword with such expertise, she decides holding a gun to his head would not be the best way to rob him. Instead, she feels it better, more strategic, to ambush his ship in transit. Enjoyably wicked.

I know when I finish book 5, and write “The End”, there will be some sadness. You invest such time and energy in creating characters and conflict, that ending a series, which is the right thing to do, can be a little sad. But getting to have the same characters pop up in further fiction? I like that.