Tag Archives: Arts

The Friday blog-hop (part 3)!

Latte_Blog

Latte_Blog (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

Hello again! It’s time to once more trawl through the many worthy and excellent blogs out there to recommend five that you might find interesting to follow. These are blogs that I enjoy reading, and if you follow my blog then chances are you could do so too. Remember, they are in no particular order and the list is by no means exhaustive. :)

  1. South Australian Writers’ Centre. This is my local writers’ centre and their blog is very new, so it’s only fair of me to give them a shout out. The posts so far have been useful and I expect that the ones to come will be too.
  2. Booktopia. Yep, a book shop rather than a writer. They do an awesome blog though and you learn heaps about what other writers go though from reading it. Or, at least, I do. :)
  3. Making Baby Grand, the novel, by Dina Santorelli. I have been known to cringe at blogs that only talk about one piece of work (what happens when you write another book?) but this is particularly engaging, especially as it follows her journey from (self)publication to trying to attract and keep a readership, get herself known and establish herself as an author. It’s a good read.
  4. Cresting the Words, by Wordsurfer. A lovely blog to read, with a nice blend of the personal and the professional (so to speak). I always enjoy reading this one, though I don’t comment nearly as much as I should. But then again, that’s my fault, not hers. :)
  5. Rachelle Gardner. She’s an American literary agent who does regular posts on the agent’s life – as opposed to the writer’s life. It’s engaging, it’s entertaining and it’s incredibly useful to newbies like me.

So, that’s it for this round. I hope you find some of these blogs interesting enough to follow on a regular basis – and if you haven’t seen your name on one of these lists yet, it’s not because I don’t want to list you, but probably because there are so many blogs I want to recommend that I just haven’t got to you yet. All the best, and happy blogging!

 

1 Comment

Filed under writing

Looking for exclamations(!)

English: A black exclamation mark Magyar: Egy ...

English: A black exclamation mark Magyar: Egy fekete felkiáltójel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Ah, the humble exclamation mark. So much debate about such a little thing. Or is it?

 

For the uninitiated, exclamation marks are, apparently, to be used sparingly at all times. Elmore Leonard once famously opined that “[y]ou are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” F Scott Fitzgerald once told a student that “an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke”. More modern rules include the directive that you should use only one in any one e-mail, for example. In other words, exclamation marks are a bad habit of the novice writer, which must be broken at all costs.

 

Naturally, there are exceptions. I recently re-read the Harry Potter series, in which exclamation marks are sprinkled with gay abandon. In fact, even a novice writer such as myself noticed the excess of exclaiming, which perhaps says that there may have been a couple too many. A lot of sentences are, in fact, stronger and more meaningful with just a full stop (period) rather than an exclamation mark.

 

Is the exclamation mark rule quite so cut-and-dried, though? Stuart Jeffries from The Guardian argues that they can make the written word friendlier, especially in things like e-mails which can feel a little sterile otherwise. (It depends, of course, on the content of the e-mail, but “Thanks!” usually sounds friendlier and more enthusiastic in its gratitude than “Thanks.” does. Don’t you agree?)

 

But what about in fiction? I admit, using it too much is off-putting, and using it in narrative rather than dialogue  is just plain annoying. But then again, in dialogue the rules change – apparently up to six per 100,000 words is considered acceptable. A quick scan of my novel (thank you, find function) had somewhat more than that, so clearly I need to do some work on this aspect of my writing, but sometimes I wonder how much weight that old rule still has.

 

I’m not alone in my appreciation of exclaiming. After all, people do exclaim and that should be recognised. But even I (along with like-minded thinkers) understand that there needs to be a limit. I’m just not sure that six per 100,000 words (in dialogue only) is it.

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under reading, writing

Being fair

Too much communications ?!?!

Too much communications ?!?! (Photo credit: occhiovivo)

 

Today I’m posing a question that I’d like people’s thoughts on: Can you work on two projects at once and be fair to both of them?

I’ve always been a one-story-at-a-time kind of girl. I have never been able to devote enough attention to two different projects at once and do them both justice. One will be going fine, but the other will be neglected (and in all likelihood complain about it loudly). I’m also the sort who insists on finishing one story before starting on the next one, because otherwise I’d have a whole stable of unfinished tales out there. Now, JRR Tolkein I am not, so having a collection like that doesn’t really inspire me.

What I’ve been doing this year is working on novel #2, which has a working title of Caffeinated. (This will probably change a number of times during the writing process, but I quite like having working titles even if they do swap around every other week. It beats the situation I found myself in a few years back when I was ready to post a novel online and discovered I didn’t have a title, so I just called it the first thing that came into my head. I didn’t like what I came up with then and I like it even less now, but it seems to have caught on so I am loathe to change it.) I gave myself permission to start work on Caffeinated because novel #1 had a completed first draft. That, and I only came up with the premise just before Christmas and it was all new and exciting in my mind.

Trouble is, I’m falling into old habits. I had set aside this year to edit my first novel, the one whose first draft I completed in November. But I’ve been working on novel #2, and as such novel #1 has fallen by the wayside. I haven’t even opened it this year, let alone started editing. And while I told myself it was becuase I was waiting for a book I’d ordered about structure to arrive from the UK, it arrived last week and I still haven’t done anything about it. Yep, I’m finding myself unable to work on two different projects at once again.

I’m a little torn as to what to do about this. Should I quash my instincts and make a concerted effort to work on both at once? Or should I make a deal with myself, alternating with one story one week (or month) and the other story the next? Or should I work really hard to get a draft for novel #2 done by, say, August, and then edit novel #1 after a good nine months’ break?

What works for you?

16 Comments

Filed under writing

Assorted writing tips #7 – finding inspiration

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898...

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It’s not easy, is it? Finding inspiration on days when, quite simply, you’re just not inspired. After all, we are at the mercy of our muses, right?

Well, perhaps it’s not as simple as that. I’ve written before about dealing with writer’s block, and about just writing anyway when you have the time and opportunity to do so. And sure, that works, to an extent. It’s just not the same as doing it when you’re feeling inspired, though, is it?

So today I’m going to talk about ways you can find inspiration on days when it’s just eluding you. Ways you can perhaps pick up the threads and get going, rather than doing any number of writing exercises which, while they are generally beneficial, can also feel remarkably dull. Naturally these won’t work for everyone, but they will for some people so I figure that’s worth sharing.

  • Watch a movie. Or read a book, or watch a television show, or something like that. The important thing here is to subject yourself to someone else’s creativity, and it’s even better if it’s in the same genre as what you’re trying to write. You can see how other writers have crafted their plots, put in the twists and turns, dealt with what are very likely similar problems to what your manuscript has. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t in that story, and perhaps it will give you some ideas for your own.
  • Try something new. Do something you’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be huge – something as minor as trying out a new recipe or going on a walk around your neighbourhood using a route you haven’t used before, but test your boundaries a little. Give yourself a new experience and see how you react to it – was it enjoyable? Did you learn anything from it? Was it worth it? The thing about this is, once you start thinking outside the square when it comes to your own activities, it becomes almost second nature to do it for your characters.
  • Watch / listen to / experience something that moves you. Whether it’s the cannons in the 1812 Overturethe World Cup final from 1990 or the end of Forrest Gump, there is bound to be something out there that moves you in a significant way. With the Internet, it’s also available at your fingertips. Subject yourself to something that tugs on your heartstrings, makes you irrationally proud or elicits some other major emotional reaction. Succumb to it. Enjoy it. Live it. Because if you’re moved to that extent, then that can set the creative juices flowing like nothing else.
  • Talk to a child. Children have a very different take on the world than adults do, and they make you look at things in different ways. For example, my five year old told me quite authoritatively yesterday that if a playground has bark chips underneath the equipment, it’s called a park, because the word “park” is a contraction of the words “playground” and “bark”. (Okay, the word contraction wasn’t used, but you get the idea.) It’s amazing how a conversation like that can make you re-think things.
  • Exercise.Sure, a lot of you are probably sedentary sorts who would rather sit in front of the computer or television than go for a run. Heck, I would too. But getting some exercise and raising a sweat works wonders for your mental activity. It reinvigorates you, wakes you up and gives you a real boost in your cognitive processes. More invigorated and more alert = more likely to find that inspiration that’s been eluding you.

Like I said above, these things won’t work for everyone. But, if you’re looking for inspiration and there’s something on this list that you haven’t tried, then why not give it a go? You never know what might happen.

Good luck!

 

6 Comments

Filed under writing, writing tips

Guest post: Hiding, Naked, behind Ernest Hemingway, by Peyton Farquhar

“I spent a great deal of my early years trying to be Barbara Walters. I worked so hard at it and got nowhere. Then one day, I decided that I was just going to be me, and if people fell in love with that, then I knew I could repeat my performance because I was being honest and true.” – Oprah Winfrey

Before It Went Wrong

I started writing in high school. My parents insisted I take at least one college-level class, so I picked a writing course. I was hooked from the start. And even though writing was the only thing I took seriously in high school, I never really gave it much thought. I just…wrote.

In college, it was pretty much the same. I never thought about putting my work out there. It was just something I had to do. It was another release valve of creativity and it was so liberating. I just…wrote.

And then one day, it all changed. It was the day I considered showing my work to the general public and, God forbid, even selling it. From that point on, writing seemed to be less liberating. What had happened to me is something I’ve seen happen to a number of writers and (from reading the quote above) even happens to famously talented individuals – I began trying to be someone I wasn’t.

Being Ernest Hemingway

I have a mildly unhealthy infatuation with Ernest Hemingway – unhealthy in a way that once warped my own writing style into a nebulous, insincere mess.

The second I began to consider selling my work, I began to have doubts about my writing. So, surrounded by this cloud of doubt, I started studying all of the works of art that had connected with me. Of all the writers I’ve ever read, Hemingway rarely fails to speak directly to my soul. So, I convinced myself that if I could decode his style and find out what it was that I loved so much, I could use it in my own work. If I could do this, certainly that would mean that I could connect with my readers as well.

For a great deal of time, I attempted to write like Hemingway. And after that great deal of time had passed, I had a great deal of worthless work. It was okay, but it definitely wasn’t Hemingway and it wasn’t worth selling. And then one day, I too came to an important realization:

I’M NO ERNEST HEMINGWAY!

I realized that if somebody wanted to read a Hemingway-style book, they would just go read Hemingway. Why would anybody want to read a sawn-off, half-baked version of Hemingway? I also realized that Ernest Hemingway was likely the author he was because it was “his time”. The world was ready for him. The world needed his stories at that very moment. So, one might argue that Ernest Hemingway may not have become “Ernest Hemingway” if he were born today.

The Scary Stuff

In some of my recent conversations with new authors, I’ve heard statements like “I’m going to start writing YA books. They’re really hot right now.” and “I’m not into vampires, but I’d love to get a piece of that audience.”

It’s tough for me to criticize those authors. I’ve been there. I know exactly what it’s like to want people to accept your work. And when you see people around you being successful in a particular genre, it’s tempting to try to decode that genre or their particular style and assume you’ll get the same results. But you won’t. And I’ve got news for you, the acceptance you’re looking for is not the acceptance you really want. Do you really want to gain acceptance as a novelist who fakes interest in vampires? Or as a YA novelist who longs to write for an adult audience?

Writers are successful when they write from their honest heart. That doesn’t mean that writing from your heart is an automatic leap to success. But it’s the only true first step in that direction. And once you take that first step, you’re opening yourself up to chance. Suddenly, you’re standing on a hill, holding a metal rod and waiting for lightning to strike. Maybe it will strike, maybe it won’t…but you’ve definitely done everything you can to make it happen.

The fact is: most people are too scared to put the real them out there and say “take me for who I am.” Writing is so deeply personal. And when it’s done well, it’s basically the same as stripping your clothes off and running through the streets naked. There’s nothing to hide behind and there’s nothing fake about it. It’s the real, true you and it’s very, very scary.

When I was in high school and college, I didn’t care about what others thought about my writing. I just…wrote. But that was cowardly – basically the same as walking around naked in my apartment. But when I decided to step outside, I tried to hide behind something that wasn’t honest. I tried hiding, naked, behind Ernest Hemingway.

Freedom

Be brave. Step out from behind your Ernest Hemingway and write something true and honest. Write the way you want to write. Write about what you want to write about. If you do that and people fall in love with you, you can repeat that performance over and over. And you never know, the world might be ready for you. The world might need your stories at this very moment.

——————–

Peyton Farquhar is the Nashville, Tennessee author of the fiction series A War Below. The first installment Run (currently available from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble) was released in February 2012. Hunt (the second book in the four book series) is set to be released in early June 2012. The series follows Moses Jones, a slave whose attempted escape to freedom triggers events that force him into an underground world of espionage, revenge and murder. The gritty action series is inspired by true stories from the Underground Railroad and its secret involvement behind the scenes of the American Civil War. You can follow Peyton on twitter @peytonfarquhar, and you can find out more about the series here.

Related articles

5 Comments

Filed under author guest post, writing