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I’ll get to that later… April 26, 2012

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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Hello. It is late, closing in on Midnight. I haven’t posted here for a bit, why? Because I’ll get to that later. This is a common cry heard from the Procrastinating Writer. I can hear Sir David Attenborough pointing at me, in his hushed voice saying, there he is, the Scriptor qui excusat. (Bad Latin translation).

I have been doing some professional work, writing some of my novel, getting some quality time. For instance, today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, a public holiday. So I did not turn my computer on until now. The only reason I did was my phone told me of some important emails. I did see The Avengers today. That was freaking cool.

And life stress keeps me away from here. Everyone has life stress, I know. Trying to be a writer, a professional writer, and making a living from it is great, but if there is no work, there is no money, and that can cause stress. Thankfully a good friend threw… wait. I was going to go into some fancy basketball symbology here, threw me an alley-oop dunk. But that’s kind of full of wank. An opportunity arose, a friend thought of me, which was great. He is one of those friends who is a bit… out there. But his heart is in the greatest place. So I have got some work, which helps. And now I am back, writing a blog, at midnight, when I have a 7am breakfast meeting. Damn…

But I have not blogged. It is something I should do, a regular communique, part of a discipline to do things on a regular basis. My fellow writers and authors do it regularly, and so should I. I will be doing a role-call of some cool blog posts I have found this week, later…. maybe… 😉

But, this term – I’ll get to that later, has also been a positive thing for me. There is a scene in my book which, now that I changed some previous content, holds much more weight. It is a key scene where my heroes find out what has happened in the city once they escaped. It gives a hint at the tensions between the Royalty and the big corporate bad guys, and how my two heroes are stuck in the middle. And I struggled to write it. 3 times I struggled. And this meant I was not progressing with the re-write. It was delaying me.

So, I have tagged that scene, and I am going to come back to it later. I will write the rest of the book, which I know how it goes, and then come back to it later. And when I get there, I may just ask some help from my editor. I have already had help from my first editor, writing the scene in 3 ways you shouldn’t, or wouldn’t have written it. And crazily I agreed to write a quasi-homo-erotic-suggestive-in-bed scene. And I just wanted to put all those hyphens there. She thinks that, if I put the characters in a different place, then the message may come through, and I can put the message back into the right scene. No harm in trying.

Alright, bed time now. But, on other news, I am planning on writing a regular monthly newsletter about me. I need to put some things in place, and I should be throwing it into the interverse on the 10th of May. If not, then the 10th of June. You can visit my website – www.matthewfarmer.com.au and sign up. It will be about writing, of course, since writing is my passion. What I am doing, what I can offer people who would consider hiring me to do writerly things for them. Articles of interest about writing, interviews with people involved with writing. Someone suggested reviews, such as keyboard reviews, cafe reviews, reviews of pens, in the vein of certain jocular car shows. We will see 🙂

What happens when your computer dies? April 15, 2012

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You hear all the people saying – back up everything! And, sure, I do. I have a Dropbox for my creative work. But everything else? Hmmm. well, I copied my copy writing to an external hard drive. And i moved some pictures and stuff across. My Steam account saves all the games I’ve bought so I can download them again if I need.

But during the last week, I have had major computer issues which makes me realise just how much I SHOULD have backed up. My hard drive was failing. I thought it may have been memory, in that any web browser I had open would stop for a while and say- not responding. Same too with my email. Games had to be played in the lowest resolution. But then an IT friend told me this was due to the computer trying to access the FAT tables and not being able to? Or something? And that the hard drive was on its last legs.

Sure enough, the day after, Easter Friday, the computer failed to boot up and found many sectors unreadable. Thankfully it was still under warranty, so I had a new hard drive installed free of charge, but not until the Tuesday afterwards. As I said above, I had my creative work backed up, and I saved my copy writing work, and some images. But what did I lose? ALL of my emails. All of my photos and assorted imagery which I didn’t move across. The photos are a big loss. I just forgot to back them up. 😦 I lost all my collected book marks, so blogs and writing sites, copy writing inspiration sites and the like, all gone.

And no, they could not recover any data.

And then, round two of my bad luck? While re-installing Open Office, web browsers and email software, I completely forgot about anti-virus. I had some installed and running prior to the crash, and it never occurred to me that a new hard drive would mean no anti-virus! I bet you can see where this is going. I followed a Google link to the forums of my Roller Derby League, and suddenly messages were popping up telling me I had a virus, and a very infected computer and I NEEDED to install this anti-virus software! Every time I tried to launch a program, it was stopped and I was told- everything is infected!

Tried as I might, I couldn’t not clean the computer. So, I had to ring my IT support friend. He laughed at me, mocked me a little bit, which, granted, I guess I deserved. But the computer was cleaned, and I was off again. And now I have anti-virus stuff installed and running.

But my writing? Stalled. I am back into it now, but yeah, stalled.

But it was also stalled for another reason. I reached a very important conversation in my book. Someone from the city has found our heroes in the wild frontier and wants to bring them back with him. This conversation has more weight behind it now than it did in the original version, since how our heroes escaped the second time was a lot more violent. It has left the city on the verge of war. But, three times i tried to make this conversation work for me, and it just wasn’t. So, I am moving beyond it, writing the next part of the book, which is simple enough, up to the dramatic final ending. And then I will come back and work on that one scene, even get my new editor in to help suggest ways to make it work.

I am a very chronological writer. I like to know the ideas, the points in my book I have to join up to make the overall picture, and write to those points. I am not one to write all the good bits and then fill in the gaps with stuff. You have to earn the fun bits, I believe. So, this is a new thing for me, to write knowing something behind me is left undone.

On the professional front, I am in a rut. I am trying to create avenues to work and struggling. How to get yourself out to the world to say – I can write for you! Networking? Yeah, doing that. I am constructing a newsletter and asking people to sign up. Not yet though, but soon.

So, my writing challenges this week? Finish writing my novel and get it to my new editor. Get the bones of my pending newsletter, AND get a paid writing gig. I read somewhere that copy writing clients are better than gigs, because they provide ongoing work. I am working on that, but I plan, by the end of this week, to have at least one copy writing job which I will be doing.

And I plan to find some writing websites and blogs and book mark them. Just saying 😉

How right must you be when you write? April 3, 2012

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Two, no three things, came through my email today that had me thinking. How right do you have to be as a writer? In my professional line of work I know you have to be 100% right, but in whose opinion are you right? And what parts of your writing has to be right?

The Creative Penn posted this today, or yesterday, I don’t know if my email feed is slow this week or not. The heading which jumped out at me was “Are Writers Allowed to Make Mistakes?” My second questions was – to whom are we asking this permission? A lot of good points were made in this blog post, some of which resonate with me, especially the time of writing done, see below.

The second thing which came to me today was this comic strip: ‘How to get massive amounts of comments on your article‘. I know that when I wrote a blog post with ‘zombies’ in the title, I got close to 100 hits on that post. Why? Probably because zombies were cool that week.

The third item was an email newsletter about copy writing which I received. The email was titled ‘Oh Hi There!’, and the first paragraph was this:

I wanted to make the header “O hai,” but I wasn’t sure you were into LOLcats. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a link: http://tinyurl.com/2vmp9g )

All three examples show different ways that writers can be ‘wrong’, one deliberately, one contextually. But, with the purpose they are trying to convey, are they in fact ‘wrong’?

Two recent examples of my professional work have made me think about this question. One was three revisions of a website, to which eventually it turned out that all was needed was for the client to find their voice, and for me to edit it and polish it up, rather than take their voice and make it sound how I thought they wanted it to sound. The first two drafts I produced were not wrong, from my point of view. It was clean copy, it said what they wanted to say, it was laid out in the style their web graphics designer had presented them. It had key words for SEO and Google tracking. The second draft had the same text but more information about the client as a person, to give weight to their years of experience. But the flavour was not there. So the 3rd and final time was the win, with their words, some punctuation and grammar checking. I used the two free revisions term in my contract with this client. But, we got to where we wanted it to be, where the CLIENT wanted it to be.

So, was I wrong, with my first two attempts?

Another example, and one which makes me kick myself, was a recent tender writing task I had. It was due on a Tuesday, so I had everything completed by the Monday and sent off. I go off to play basketball and arrive home at 10pm to find an email requesting a table of contents, and to please have it to us by first thing in the morning. Here I was, tired and sore (I tend to play rough basketball. Hey, you play until they blow the whistle and THEN call the foul…), late at night. And I was about to work on an important document. My support staff were awesome, and did a quick supply run for flavoured milk and cookies while I showered and prepared myself. I had the table of contents finished and looking good, and emailed it to them at 1am in the morning.

I forgot to actually number the pages in the footer. A tiny detail I know, and I am still kicking myself over, even now. But, is it okay to say- it was a surprise request for work, late on a Monday night with a very tight deadline, and I was all tired and post-basketball? Is it okay that I produced an awesome table of contents but just forgot that one little thing? (That one thing which I guarantee I will never forget again).

With my fiction, there is a lot more wriggle room for the concept of right. The story and the idea? That can be, improved, honed, sharpened up. I have some excellent writing friends who help with that process, coming at my work from a Joseph Campbell point of view, a sci-fi fantasy geek girl point of view, a slush-pile editor point of view. I am absolutely appreciative of their harsh but fair critiques.

But at the next stage of copy editing and line editing, why do these tasks exist? Shouldn’t the writer be the expert at this? Do you not need an understanding of grammar and punctuation, language and sentence structure to actually write? So, it is okay to be wrong in certain areas because the editors will pick it up anyway?

I know the theory of being close to your work and not being able to see everything. That advice experts give about putting your manuscript away for a month so you can come back to it with fresh eyes is great, but it is still going to go through an editor, eyes and mind that did not conceive the book or the idea.

At this point, I am making my writing the best it can be. I am producing, for my clients, the best that I can, what I think is good copy. It is only after the fact you find out how wrong or right it is, and then, that is a subjective view as well. Isn’t it?