Worse at the Craft

As you can see, I changed the colors and head image of my blog again. My only explanation is I get bored easy. Those who subscribed to my monthly newsletter knew about this permutation last Friday. If you’d like to know of my arbitrary flashes first, sign up for this newsletter in the sidebar.

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Worse at the Craft
image by Christina Xu
https://www.flickr.com/photos/crimsonninjagirl/

Is it possible to get worse at the craft of writing?

It is said, quite often in fact, that a person can improve at whatever he or she does by practice. This means doing whatever it is repeated day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

There was a time when I sincerely believed in this. When I was an elementary school child, I took piano lessons. I practiced every day for thirty minutes. I did get more proficient at it to the point where the nervousness of the recital was minimal. In upper elementary school going all through junior high school and senior high school, I spent hours learning how to play the flute. Not only did the anxiety of performing in front of others become infinitesimal, I also entered into local and state contests, winning a blue ribbon in various categories.

I’ve written more in the past decade than I have all those years before since grade school. Yet, when I read what I’ve written in these past ten years, my conclusion is I’ve regressed.

How can this be?

It could be I need a refresher course in the basic rules of English. My style is okay but not what I would consider terrific, by any means. I break the rules as I see fit, which may not be the best way to write. True, I read about how it’s okay to do away with some of the rules for the sake of the story but maybe I’ve gone too far. After all, the rules were created for a purpose. Moreover, I could take a course for free. There are several websites offering free basic grammar classes, yet I’ve chosen to ignore them.

It could be I’ve become so accustomed to writing like I speak. My speech is full of jargon and clichés. Of course, this means my writing is full of this junk too. So many people I have contact with are writers and 95% of that contact is through the internet, which means my language is also tarnished with terms that aren’t usually read in the books I prefer to read and write. Yet, looking at my WiP, I readily see these terms that, I’m quite sure, would turn the stomachs of readers. The people I converse with by phone or in person are usually family. I don’t adjust my speech for them.

Yes, I do believe a person can become worse at the craft of writing. The dissatisfaction of my efforts is enormous these days. The impediment my laziness has caused is abominable.

My solution is to go ahead with a free writing course. I’ve signed up to take a course at openlearning entitled Scribble: Writing for New Writers. It’s self-paced so it doesn’t interfere with anything. I know some of the lessons will be repetitive for me, so probably a little tedious. Still, I’m hoping to unlearn bad habits I’ve gotten into during these years.

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How would you judge your writing skills these days?

To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone – just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over….
John Hersey [from THE BRAINSTORM GALLERY]

 

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Assails

Assails
Image provided by Moonlight 徐宇峰
https://www.flickr.com/photos/9706990/

It’s three days until New Year’s Day. Have any of you made a list of resolutions to work on during the coming months? I’ve never been one to make such a foolish list because, for me, it would jinxes anything I want to accomplish. Yes, I’m one of those who firmly believe in hexes, especially the ones I seem to put on myself.

This last year has been sorely disappointing for any advancement in my writing. I had such high hopes for this past year. I had been so certain I could get that first draft done and get, at least, halfway through the second one. As it was, I barely made it to the beginning of the middle of the first one before finding myself beating my head against a formidable wall of indecision,anxiety, and apprehension. Only through great stubbornness have I sat at this desk to try to go on every day.

My health problems these last ten months just added to the mental torture I insisted on flinging upon myself. Who would have thought as a scantily senior, I’d begin to suffer with the digestive problems my mother didn’t have until her late eighties? All I can do is be prepared to cope with them, which, I’m finding, isn’t any small matter. One thing is for sure. It wants to cut into my writing time.

At any given time over the past twelve months, I could have taken a break. I could have concentrated on the house, my relationships with ones I love, made more of an effort to make friends with the outside kitties, anything but keep on struggling at the WiP. My health might have improved, or, at least, learned more ways of how to cope with it better.

I tried conversing with other writers about these disputes I’ve been having with my WiP. All had excellent suggestions and advice. Somehow, though, nothing they were offering to me seem to fit with the tribulations glaring at me from the screen. I even tried taking bits and piece of what I was given, trying to weave a cure for the multiple dilemmas I saw before me.

You’d think I’d give up, right? I just couldn’t, still can’t. I’m obsessed, possessed, bewitched. What gets me is that it’s all a self-made plight. Maybe I need some time in a loony bin.

I’m hoping this next year will be more amicable. I’m still fixated on writing every single day. However, I’m becoming rather jaded with this WiP that’s been brutalizing me for months. Slivers of other stories are dancing in my head, sometimes calling to me in a sing-song voice.

No resolutions though. I stay firm on my belief of ill winds.

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“Writing is really just a matter of writing a lot, writing consistently and having faith that you’ll continue to get better and better. Sometimes, people think that if they don’t display great talent and have some success right away, they won’t succeed. But writing is about struggling through and learning and finding out what it is about writing itself that you really love.” ― Laura Kasischke

 

What Do I Want?

Image provided by Mike Carroll https://www.flickr.com/photos/druidlabs/
Image provided by Mike Carroll
https://www.flickr.com/photos/druidlabs/

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S.. Although I could’ve done the usual post for this occasion, telling you what I’m thankful for, I don’t feel comfortable spouting off about such things so dear to me. I know, weird, but that’s just me. Instead, I’m giving you a post telling you about a “want” I have.

I’m kind of in a lull in my writing right now. I’m not moving forward, and, instead, reworking what I have so far. Yes, I know. Numerous writers out there are going to be saying I should get that first draft done before altering anything. However, the tense I was using was holding me back, making it painfully difficult for me to find the right words to use in so many of the sentences. Anyway, I’m reworking my project and am feeling satisfied with what I’m accomplishing.

I’m close to done with this rewriting phase and will be, once again, making the journey into the unknown of the story. While musing over what I’ll soon be doing and what I’ve done thus far, I’ve asked myself what I want from this whole experience of writing a story.

Sure, it would be marvelous to have a book published with my name showing as the author. My family and friends would be so proud. For that matter, I would be too. Still, I honestly can’t say this is first on my list of seen goals.

When I think of publishing, I think of fame, even though it might be scant. I’ve never been one to jump into the limelight. I’ve been on stage a few times playing a flute. I can’t say I get stage fright, but my anxiety level certainly does do some soaring. I feel this same tug at me when I think of my name placed on a book as the author. I can’t say it’s a pleasant feeling.

After this story is considered done, I would like to write another, and maybe another one after that, maybe more. I do enjoy that rush I get when the words are flowing out of me onto the screen. To have this feeling time after time for many years sounds glorious to me. It is one of my goals, but I can’t say it’s foremost because I experience it now periodically. How can it really be a goal if you already have experienced it?

I think what I want is for one person, one reader, to read my book and be able to say he or she [probably she though] thoroughly got enthralled in the story. It’s this that would make me believe that the journey has been a total success. And I could re-experience this if I find someone who feels this each time I finish a book.

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I hope your day is all it should be. Those of you going Christmas shopping tomorrow, I wish you complete safety throughout your day.

Also, my newsletter will be out tomorrow. If you haven’t subscribed, please consider it. The link is as the top of the sidebar on this page.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” ― Albert Einstein

 

What Should My Blog Be Doing?

What Should My Blog Be Doing?
Image provided by Cassiopee2010
https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmoi30/

Back Then

When I began this blog, my aim was to practice my writing and get a feel for what readers wanted. Both of these endeavors gave me more than amply room to explore. I figured I could “discover what my voice was”, dig into what genre I would be most comfortable with, try on different styles of writing, receive feedback from visitors, take advantage of constructive criticism, and get a good following going.

 

What Now?

That was a couple of years ago. I’ve become more focused, at least more often. My “needs” have changed. And the blogosphere has done some shifting as well. Most of the bloggers I follow aren’t posting every day as they once did. Other aspects of life have their attention.

 

Aims Forward

I’ve learned that “my voice” will discover itself. I can tell you that I enjoy writing in the more casual frame where verbs are often found hooked to nouns by apostrophes, and word usage filled with slang. Does this mean I’m a lazy or sloppy writer? Some of you may think so and you’re welcomed to include it in your comments. Just so you know though, I don’t think of myself that way.

Finding the genre I think I should write in has been a bewildering ramble. I know what fires me up to write, but finding the name of that genre has left me thwarted. What would you call a story that deals with inner conflict as the main theme? The story may, at some point, have a death in it, or it may not. It may not have a happy ending, or then again… The main character may be worse off than when s/he started, or may have come upon the solution. Would this be called a psychological suspense, maybe? Whatever it’s called, this is the genre I like to write in. I’ve done a few flash fictions, character sketches, and scene sketches in this blog, although it’s been a while. I’ve pondered on doing more, but I think I’d narrow them just to this genre now because then it would be a practice session for my WiP and hopeful others. As a visitor, would this interest you?

The past few months I’ve been mentioning my WiP often in my posts. Most the time, I’ve been questioning how I’m approaching the process of writing it. Although I’ve seriously considered the organized methods of authors with a few books under their belts, I always go back to setting my butt firmly in my swivel chair and letting my muse do most of the guiding through the story. All of it is trials and tribulations. Are readers, in particular, are you interested in that?

The life of a writer can be intriguing. That is, if the writer is doing something other than writing and is willing to share those times with the audience of his or her blog. I’ve been falling way short in this category. Most of it is due to the fact that I don’t have what I’d consider an exciting life anymore. This is an area I need to work on. I doubt that my life will get fascinating anytime soon, but there must be some things I can tell you so you know me at least. I’m hoping you, as my visitors, will give me some critical feedback on whatever I write in this persuasion.

I’m told that as a writer, my blog should be promoting me and my work. The problem is that there isn’t all that much to me or my work right now. I want to write essays for magazines once in a while, but I haven’t a clue as to which magazines I should submit to other than what my essays would be about. Even at that, until I write the essay, I don’t know what the topic is. What magazines are more likely to accept a writer who’s been unpublished for over twenty years? If you know of any, please click on the Contact link at the top of this page. [By writing essays, maybe I’ll find more content for this blog.]

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During these last two months of 2016, I’ll be working on a newsletter for this blog that will be published once per month starting in January. This is in the effort of raising the number of followers I have. In December, I’ll tell you more about this project.

“Sometimes you need to sit lonely on the floor in a quiet room in order to hear your own voice and not let it drown in the noise of others.” ― Charlotte Eriksson

 

Twists on Style and Technique

Twists on Style and Technique

I’m smack dab in the middle of The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford, a thrilling suspense of a woman who is bipolar. The story is good, no doubt about it, but that’s not what I’m writing about in this post. After all, I haven’t finished reading it. Second, I’m the worst at writing reviews. [Makes me wonder how I’m going to ever write a synopsis or query letter.]

I’m marveling at Susan’s characteristic tone and delivery of writing. Chances are I’ve seen it before, but where and when totally escape me.

She uses the deep POV approach. Duly appropriate because of the syndrome the protagonist has. Knowing what happens when she switched to manic is a main but not only twist in the story.

Susan chose to write this novel in third person, which is common enough, but she uses in the present tense. I find this atypical, although it could definitely be that my list of books isn’t reaching out far enough to find others. Anyway, putting third person with present tense is unexpected.

She has a few scenes where the POV is one of the other characters, but so far anyway, most of the scenes are from the perception of the first main character. [Am I using too many POVs?]

I’ve been writing my WiP in third person using past tense–prosaically common. I want to stay with the third person approach, but maybe I should think about switching to present tense to bring the reading in closer; have them feel that they’re standing right next to the character.

Susan does have some scenes that are done in past tense though. She’s done this to give back story. She brings the back story into the other scenes, but only glimpses because the bulk has already been addressed. I like this technique. Sure, it interrupts the story, but it enriches the knowledge about the character and, therefore, deepens the POV.

I’ve been trying to give out tidbits of back story as I write. It’s been such a struggle. I’m seriously thinking about going back and using Susan’s method.

Another aspect of Susan’s writing that I would love to practice so I feel comfortable with it is the abundance of narrative and less of dialogue. She has page upon page of narrative that moves the story right along. Somehow she gets the deep POV in there without any character talking.

This isn’t to say she doesn’t have any dialogue, but the conversations  I’ve seen in other books  are used for explanations vital to the story. This doesn’t seem to be the case in her stories. Instead, it’s the conversations that would be normally heard in such situations in real life. She gracefully enters the needed information in her narrative in such a way that the passages flow.

Yes, I’m one of those who has been using dialogue for clarification and description. I’m not even sure why I do it because I’d much rather use narrative for these aspects. I think I’m probably being lazy.

I’m glad I have found this incredible author. She has shown me possibilities I think I’ve needed to consider.

– that so much of what determines who we are, who we become, our sanity or lack of it, depends on circumstance, on voices from the past that whisper in our ears or lodge themselves in our heads. ~ Susan Crawford