Thursday, March 31, 2016

BIG can be a BIG mistake

Some advice from Little Willie Sockspeare:

Writing a piece to demonstrate your knowledge of a huge and impressive vocabulary is easy. You simply pen: “These are big words that I know: . . .” And then go on to list them.
If, however, your goal is to tell a story well, then you would be smart to avoid letting that huge and impressive vocabulary get in the way of telling the story in a way that your readers can understand it. So that they can even enjoy it without tripping over those impressive words.
I’m not saying to dumb down your work.
I am saying don’t choose a word in some sad attempt to prove how bright you are.
And, naturally, keep your reader in mind. If your piece is for children in middle school don’t use all the more advanced vocabulary words that you might use for a novel directed at adults. This seems obvious, doesn’t it?
So then . . .
Eschew obfuscatory verbiage!

Little Willie is right.

Just keep writing!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

RIP: Two Good Writers, Two Very Different Styles

I think the last time I had felt a personal twinge at the passing of a writer was Robert B. Parker’s death. He had a Ph.D. but didn’t let it get in the way of his writing dozens of fast-paced, entertaining detective novels

I truly liked his writing style. And, I suspect, stole some of it as best I could.

Then, earlier this month, another twinge with the news that Pat Conroy had died. I suppose I felt a kinship with him because of The Lords of Discipline. I’m a sucker for a story about a boarding school, having lived in one from age fourteen through nineteen.

(Or as some classmates now point out, survived one. Truth is it was a good choice for me. One I’m very glad I made.)

Conroy’s style was far different from what I usually enjoy reading and it’s one I never tried to follow. I use a pretty sparse style when it comes to description. I think I’d do a whole book in dialogue if I could get away with it.

(Uh, isn’t that called a “play”?)

Both writers had really well-developed characters and memorable scenes. And those characters and scenes always moved the story on its way (forwarded the plot). They weren’t there just to be there or to show the readers “ooh, look what I can do with words!”

That can be a temptation and it can easily get in the way of telling a good story.

Of you telling your good story.

Just keep writing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Novels & Dogs

Lovely advice from Canadian novelist Michael Winter except . . .

Walk a dog.

That would be a deal-breaker.

We are not a dog (or cat) person. (What? You could already tell that because I . . .?)

This from the Q. and A. article:

"As a student it's hard to make the time to write. I find that I have to capture bursts of creativity and inspiration as they come, but it's not a very effective approach in trying to compile a body of work. How can I find opportunities to write and hone in on my craft?" - Michelle, Brampton
Throw away your television, disable your laptop's Wi-Fi and go to bed earlier and get up earlier and write. Drink less alcohol. Party less. Find a dog you can walk and write down what you see on your walk. But best is to write before you do anything else in your day. Write when no one else is up. Preferably in the morning. You'll feel superior all day. Also, you'll feel like you're a writer. Much better to do this than wait all day and be grumpy that you haven't written and then trying to write when you're tired at two in the morning. That's doomed to failure and also your friends and family will think you're just a lousy human being. I say that because I've been there, been called a lousy human being. It hurts. No, best to get up with the sun rising and write. Walk a dog. It's hard, just as it's hard to throw yourself into cold water and swim. But once you're in the water, it's the most wonderful feeling on earth. So, write in the morning!

The whole interview is here.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creative Writing’s Holy Trinity: Walk, Coffee, Window

I came across a writing app that gave me the heebie-jeebies. Don’t keep pounding on the keyboard and everything you’ve written in that session . . . poof. Is gone.

This, obviously, violates creative writing’s holy trinity: Go for a walk, drink some coffee, stare out the window. Those can be applied in any order at any time in the writing process. And repeated often.

Yes, you have to “keep writing” to get your book done but I have my doubts that “creativity by the clock” will give you good results. (And if your work went poof because you had to take a pottie break . . . .)

Note to those in the U.K. and India: You can substitute tea for coffee.

Just keep writing.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write

The chair on which ("on which" -- ooh, grammar!) JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books is up for auction next week. Should sell for a ton of money but here's the good news. It's not magical. Your chair works just fine for you writing your novel.

Just sit in it (the chair).

And write it (the novel).

There are no shortcuts. Heaven knows I've looked.

Just keep writing.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Right Here, Right Now: Write Here, Write Now!

This was an interesting interview – “Fran Lebowitz, A Humorist at Work” – but what I really liked was her last line:

“Writing is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Notice she doesn’t say full time. Or it’s the only thing she’s supposed to be doing.

If you have that feeling, too, it’s a pretty good indication that writing is what you’re supposed to be doing.

So, uh, do it.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where Do You Write?

After reading an article on “The Writer’s Room: authors offer a glimpse into the space where they work,” I’ve decided:
--Most writers are borderline hoarders when it comes to stacks of papers, books and God only knows what else.
--Pretty much all writers have fancier rooms than mine. (The only antique in here is me.)
But, as Little Willie Sockspeare pointed out:

You can write a great book without having that “cabin by the lake”—your holy of holies, your retreat, your sanctuary—in which to write it. That’s good news, isn’t it?
I assume you’re not at that lake right now. Not looking out the huge picture window to gaze on a vast expanse of lake and forest and . . . . No! Wait. French doors. Looking out those French doors, which are open just a few inches so you can feel the breeze, take in the pine-scented fresh air, listen to the . . . Blah, blah, blah.
If you did own that “perfect” cabin, you’d have to worry about taxes and insurance and a leaky roof and . . . . 
Does that cabin have indoor plumbing? No? Then you might end up doing some suffering there on a cold, dark night when nature calls and you have to head for the outhouse.

Here are two views of the 8x8x8-foot cube-of-an-office my father-in-law built for me in 1988. In my garage. Not fancy but . . . I've written dozens of books in here, cranked out countless articles and columns, and spent an unimaginable amount of time staring out the window.

Here is my "real desk" -- buried in stuff.

And my "writing desk" -- with room on the left for a reference book or plate of donuts.

Just keep writing.