Thursday, October 30, 2014

500 Words-Day 31 (Why I Write)



As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     Should writing be considered an art form or a source of income? I pondered that yesterday, stating that I believe there are some questions that are just unanswerable. Today is the last day of my 31 day writing challenge. I don’t know if I want to really go out with a bang, because I don’t think I want this to be the end. I don’t want to break my streak. What I think this is about involves another one of those types of questions.
     Do writers write for money, attention, to communicate an idea, or just to write? I suppose there’s a different answer for each writer, but can I answer that for myself?
     Of course I would like to earn a living at writing. But is that only so I wouldn’t have to work as much? Am I saying that I would want to quit my full-time job, which I love, to write full time instead? What would that mean for me? More time on my hands? What would I do with that?
     Why do I write? I like to say that this is the reason: I have an itch. There’s an itch that starts out like a hair touching one’s eyelid or inside of the ear. Quickly, it begins to increase to a peeling sunburn in the center of the spine. Soon a burlap shirt with dried straw and rock salt is slipped on over the sunburned back and then the itch becomes all you know. Now imagine that itch inside of the brainpan, deep in the mind and thoughts. The world continues to exist, but between me and the world is the sensation of this magnificent itch that begins to be the most important thing that can be perceived. The itch must be scratched, it must be before it intensifies even more. And of course, there is only one way to scratch it, and that’s to write.
     A good scratch after a long itch is like a long drink of cool water after a spell of angry shouting. Now imagine that scratch sustaining you through your day. Isn’t it a good way to start one’s day?
     I would like to say that’s the only reason I write. It provides relief. But other factors come in. So it’s confection time. I work as a custodian. No-one at my current job treats me with any condescension or disregard because of my position in the workplace and the world. But I’m still a freaking janitor while other people go to lunch, visit one another, plan big things in meetings and here am I trying not to disturb them, quietly emptying the trash from their take-out meal and picking up their half-empty coffee cups when they’re all gone.
     This is all on me, but sometimes I just feel a little low. Other things in my life frustrate me too. And here is the real confession that isn’t much of a secret, but the driving force behind why I write. I’ve struggled most of my life with things I can’t control. My kids are getting older and I don’t read to them at night anymore. My truck is leaking oil all over God’s creation. I don’t always get what I want anywhere and I just keep my mouth shut about it. But there is something I do about it.
     I wake up in the morning before anyone else and switch on my laptop. I enter into worlds of my own creation and spin scenarios that I think should happen.
     Writing is an escape.
     There are other reasons too. I was going to write about my muse this morning but the words got away from me. But there it is for anyone to read. I don’t know if anyone actually reads my blogs of late. I just post it as part of my 500 words challenge, which I have now completed.



  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

500 Words-Day 30 (Art or Income?)



As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     I’m not going to answer age-old questions here. But I can sure post them and then ponder on for 500 words to make my count, right? I mean, does it matter what I’m writing so long as I’m writing? Does the writing have to be good? And what is good writing anyway? Oh yes, that was the question I was wanting to consider.
     Yesterday I said what I think is the most important thing a writer can do to make their writing good. They must believe in what they write. Believe the events could actually happen, given the right circumstances. And most important, believe in their theme. Believe in the truth that their story proves. Then I went on to state that not all fiction has provable themes.
There is plenty of genre fiction today that is little more than adventure stories strung together to keep readers buying the next book in the series. Shelves are dripping with vampires, dystopia, zombies, and whatever else is popular in the media. I can’t judge them all because I can’t and won’t read them all, but I am assuming that a lot of those books are little more than stories cranked with little thought to what I consider writing to be, which is art.
And that’s okay. These authors are still working hard to produce printed works. They do what they do and make a living at it. Most of the best books are at the head of the market, setting the trend, being made into films and publishers are doing what they can to make money. Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business.
But here’s the thing. There are trends in writing today. They’ll change and those books will fade to the back. Used bookstores will begin to have boxes of those old books, but not for long as the quality of paper and binding wasn’t so good to begin with. New trends will form with books in the lead and authors chasing the market after. Some books will be well produced by writers who are trying to communicate a theme they believe is true. Other authors will be out to cash in on the latest thing.
And while this is all happening, there will be books in the public domain, some being printed and plenty available for free downloads. These are books like Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, books by Dickens, Austin, and other writers long gone while their books remain. These are books and authors who believed in what they wrote. These are universal themes that are timeless, lasting for centuries.
This is not to say that many of today’s books will disappear forever. The media is like nothing we’ve ever seen in the past. Hundreds of years from now, amidst the timeless classics we know today, there might be a resurgence of early 21st century genre fiction. Old names will be remembered while new authors get on board to chase the market once more.
So is writing truly and art, or just a source of income? Like I said, I’m not up to answering a universal question like that. I can say for myself, that I write because I want to create something good. I want it to feel like art. If I earned money at it, that would be great, but I have a job already and don’t want to think of writing as my ticket out.
Which is where I was on day two of this 500 word challenge. One more day, then a break before I start NaNoWriMo. It’s been fun, which is what writing should be.


  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

500 Words- Day 29 (Belief in Writing)



As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     National Novel Writing Month is almost on us. Like an approaching storm, it’s to where we smell the ground getting wet, hear the raindrops and see the roll of the wind closing in. It’s time to either get out of the way, or prepare to crouch at the starting block, ready for midnight of November 1st.
     There is a lot of writing advice out there and if it works for even some writers, it’s good. Like I’ve mentioned, every writer is different and they need to take the time to discover what works for them. And this discovery is a process, sometimes life-long. Writing is a life journey of discovery.
     I’ve mentioned some techniques that I think are vital to all writers, and today I’m going to state the most important. I’ve mentioned that planning a time to write is important. Making it a habit conditions the brain to write, especially if it’s at the same time every day. I also said the finding one’s voice is essential to any writer. That can come with lots of writing practice and it helps the writer to be true to who they are. And that relates to what I think is the most important thing I writer must do.
     I read a quote by author Madeline L’Engel, who is probably best known for writing A Wrinkle in Time and the two books following. She told how a boy once asked her if she believed in the things she wrote. Ms. L’Engle said yes she did. The boy was astounded and questioned further. Did she really believe in a tesseract, the way space was folded in her book? Ms. L’Engle told the boy of course she did.
     The next book of hers I read, I saw it. This author believes that what she writes is true. These things could really happen. To a science fiction author, there might not be faster than light travel, not yet. But they can believe it’s possible. And that will show in their writing. In a literary fiction story with everything normal, does the writer believe their character’s motivations? Could these situations really happen? The writer must believe that. If they don’t, neither will the readers.
     What’s more the author of the story must believe in the theme. The theme of the story is the truth that the story proves. The conflict of the story will present a question and the resolution will be an answer. That answer is what the writer should believe is true. It may be a theme as simple as good versus evil. If the writer believes that good could and should triumph, then that’s what the story’s theme can show.
     These are high ideals I’m stating here. In today’s world of media there are plenty of stories being told in film and books that don’t have a solid theme at their core. The writer’s purpose in composing the story may not to be their desire to communicate who they are to the world. They might only be writing for fame and money. And there the books are, covering the shelves in major bookstores.
     What do you say to that, David?
     Tell you tomorrow.  



  

Monday, October 27, 2014

500 Words- Day 28 (NaNoWriMo Tools to Succeed)



As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, I hope you win. And I hope that if you don’t, you learn from it and try again next year. Writing is about learning by doing and finding out what works. 
I never went to school to learn to write. I’ve taken workshops here and there, attended conferences and seminars. I’ve studied the craft for years, reading Writer’s Digest and articles online about writing. I follow author blogs and Twitter feeds and listen to author interviews on podcasts. I’ve read good books about writing, namely Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Steven King. A decade of this made me a better writer, above all, writing is what made me who I am as a writer.
Everyone has a voice. In addition to the tone and inflection of their spoken words, that voice comes out in any way they communicate. A parent or teacher can tell which child drew a particular picture by a signature style, colors, subject, even the direction of the drawn lines. The same goes with writing.
Every writer has a voice that’s uniquely theirs. But it won’t begin to stand out until that writer recognizes it as their own and begins to refine it. The only way to learn it is to write. Do you want to become a better writer? By all means, study the craft, even go to school to learn to write if you can. But none of that matters without the writer actually writing things, every day if possible.
Yesterday I promised to share why I failed my first year. I had a good story idea in mind but never completed it, and it wasn’t because my laptop crashed. I think I used it as an excuse. Now what I will say is my own opinion. Others will disagree with me. Like any writer, you need to find out what works for you. But this is one reason why I succeeded the next two years. I planned to write every day.
November is a great time to write a novel if you live in part of the world that observes Daylight Saving Time. Although I think it’s a scourge and would rather we didn’t have it, Daylight Saving Time has an advantage. If you’re used to waking up at 6:00 every morning, it becomes 5:00 after the first Sunday of the month. You’re already acclimated to waking up early. Granted, that hour has to come from somewhere. You’ll be ready for bed an hour earlier each evening. What’s stopping you from going to be early?
For many people, it’s just not possible to go to bed an hour earlier. Kids, chores, even a job might prevent that. I work until 10pm most nights. But if your only reason to stay up is television, I encourage you to cut TV out for the month of November. If I got started, I could go on and on about cutting TV out entirely forever. It’s little more than passively staring at an electronic appliance.
But that’s not what I’m going on about today and I won’t go into it tomorrow. Today it’s about this: plan to write every day for as long as it takes to produce 1,667 words. That might be two hours for some of us. That might mean getting up very early. It could mean splitting the time up. But have the time set aside to do it. I failed my first year of NaNoWriMo because I thought I could just sit at the computer whenever I found the time or felt like it and work on my novel. I succeeded the next year when I made the time, woke up early and wrote for 90-120 minutes each day.
I’ve got something else to share tomorrow about writing in general


  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

500 Words- Day 27 (NaNoWiMo Approaches)



As part of my participation in My 500 words, I am posting what I write each day.
     National Novel Writing Month begins in less than a week. It began years ago with a group of friends and a dare. Who could write a novel in a month? They defined a novel from book they pulled off the shelf, a short, but good book, that they estimated to be about 50,000 words. So the challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month. This year, tens of thousands will participate.
     I attended a kick-off event yesterday in San Bernardino for our local chapter of NaNoWriMo where our local representative explained what it was about. Most of the room had never done it before. People asked good questions and I enjoyed actually being in the same room with other writers.
She gave helpful advice. Most important: quantity, not quality. NaNoWriMo is not about producing a flawless manuscript worthy of publication. It’s about hammering out 50,000 words in 30 days, 1,667 words a day. Those words need to create a story. It’s all about producing those words.
Don’t edit, she said, which I knew. Then she said something I hadn’t considered, don’t delete. You may write a big section, she said, and then decide you don’t want it. Keep it as part of your word count. You wrote those words as part of the challenge, you should keep them.
I think that’s good advice for writers just starting out. I’m not sure how I feel about some the ways to pad word counts, avoiding hyphens and contractions. But NaNoWriMo allows for writers to do what works for them. I can choose not to do some things if I feel it’s wrong. I may make it harder for myself, but if that’s how I have fun writing, then so be it.
She asked who was a planner and who was a pantser. A few people knew what that meant. Planners plan their novels, pantsers write by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go. There are all kinds of planners and many lengths a writer can go to plan. 
I answered that I’m a planner for November. I have written some things making them up as I go. It is a fun way to write, but it can be frustrating trying to stick to the storyline. While I don’t believe in writer’s block, I know that a writer might not always be able to stick to the subject for a particular time goal or deadline. Sometimes, what needs to be written will call loudly away from what the writer wants to work on.
I plan my November novels. I might think about ideas all year and as November approaches, I narrow it all down to one idea. In October I take the time to write outlines and lists of scenes. I have written autobiographies of characters in their own voice, getting to know who they are as well as their story. Last year I drove out to the desert, hours away from civilization, to camp. I sat with my notebook and pen and wrote story outlines for Sidewinder, the best story I’ve produced so far.
The first year I did NaNoWriMo I didn’t plan much. I knew what I wanted the story to be about and I knew what the main characters wanted. I didn’t finish the novel when my laptop crashed. I saved my data, but I was derailed by not having my little laptop that I had relied on for so long. Even though the family had a computer, I didn’t finish the novel that year and I know the main reason. I’ll share that tomorrow.