Tag Archives: writers

Making Use of Bonus Days Off

2 Sep

Happy Labor Day (to everyone in the US)! The last “official” day of summer, I guess. Back where I come from (there was a song in there, somewhere) today is the last that beaches and pools are open and all of the lifeguards get to go back to their normal lives. Me, I get a long weekend and an extra day off to do whatever I want.

What do you do when you get the magical bonus of a long weekend? Lounge around? Entertain family? What are you doing with your extra days off? The holidays are coming (Halloween is coming! I can’t wait!)

Why not make part of your bonus days off a little more productive. I’m not saying bury yourself in writing. That may or may not be the most productive use of your time. Many holidays have festivals and events that go along with them. This weekend, for example, was the Disneyland Half Marathon. Now, I didn’t get in on THOSE festivities, but I’m sure there are many other places to get into trouble if I look hard enough.

If you are going to be out and around on extra day off, why not try to catch some interesting conversation bits that you might not catch any other time? Grab details on settings that might be fleeting and elusive. Don’t forget, you may have your phone with you and you can send yourself a text message or you can use apps on a smart phone. Capture details that you might be able to use later.  Snap a few pictures that might not be what you would ordinarily take wherever you are, something that might bring  back the setting or might just be interesting.  At the mall?  Grab a shot of the food court or an interesting store.  See a few interesting people (I live in a place where three town are renown for being Weird, Unusual and “between a rock and a weird place”, there are always interesting people).  Homeless guy?  Panhandler that  has a unique angle (juggling maybe or break dancing).  Capture it.  File it away (organize your digital files so you can easily retrieve things).

You may not need the information now, but you never know when it might come in handy. You may, one day, need to put one of your characters in a family picnic or a beach party, you may want to set a backdrop to something.

Make use of whatever time you have and whatever place you may find yourself. If you can’t use it now, squirrel it away somewhere. You may, one day, be glad for the little details you ferreted out when you were enjoying your down time!

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The Music of Our Words

14 Jul

 

What do you listen to when you write? Do you listen to music? Or to white noise? The sea or windchimes or birdsong? Or to nothing at all?

This morning mine is Tartanic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2HMKpOYel4&feature=share&list=PL16EFDDBDFDFC7E2B) and Cast in Bronze (http://www.youtube.com/user/CarillonBellsMan)

Have you ever thought of changing up what you listen to? How would it change your writing? The tempo? The message?

This morning I’ve been playing around with music and creating my own mix to listen to over the next few weeks, and I’ve found that I can create in myself differnt moods even within my writing that kind of go along with what I’m listening to. I know it plays a role in how the words flow and how I lose myself in the writing, but I hadn’t realized that I can influence myself with what I’m listening to.

I’ve started taking one minute videos every (okay, almost every) day of something that strikes me. Some mornings it is the birds at sunrise, sometimes the cicadas at sunset. Others a moment caught when I’m out doing something with my family. I have my phone with me always and I capture moments in time that I think maybe I would like to be able to call back to mind easily later. I use these videos much like music on my iPod or on YouTube, to call a certain mood or frame of mind back to now.

How do you use the tools that you have at hand? How could you? I know in my life, I’m busy enough that I may not take the time at any given moment to capture the words that I maybe could capture but I capture a few words (sometimes on audio on my phone, sometimes as a note, sometimes just as a picture stolen in a second) and call back the memory later, when I have just a little more time.

There are shortcuts and tools all around us, what music can you capture today?  How can you make your words dance?

 

Making Time To Take Time

28 Jun

Life has a way of getting away from you.  I am living proof of this.  Between doctors appointments and health concerns, Kids, vacations, work, cleaning and an occasional nap, life seems to take over my life.  
SO, I guess, today what I’m saying is as much to remind myself as to remind everyone else that it’s really important to take care of yourself mentally as well as taking care of everyone and everything in your life physically.  It might be way over stated and way over cliché, but if you don’t take time (even a little time, even stolen moments hiding in the bathroom at work) to nurture your mind (reading or writing, messaging yourself with your phone about things to write about, or better yet writing about them) you will quickly burn out and not be able to handle nearly as much of the other stuff either.  
Find what nurtures your creativity, and run with it.
Take time to take time.
And when you can’t take time, invent time to take.  Five minutes while the coffee is brewing, fifteen minutes while you are walking the dog, or even during your commute.  You can call yourself and leave yourself voice mail, record a voice memo, or use the voice recognition feature on your technology to record and translate a note.  Even a few words at a time are often enough to keep yourself sharp and start to meet your deadlines (the ones you set on yourself, or the ones imposed upon you).
Remember, this matters.  It matters because it matters to you.  It’s no one’s business but your own what you do in the bathroom…. and just think of what you can do with five or even ten minutes!
Write a haiku
describe the sounds around you
Better yet, capture the conversations you hear around you! (this is awesome to do in the bathroom because people kind of let there guards down).
You never know when you will have the occasion to be able to go back and realize that you can use whatever things you snatched in your five minutes here or there to add spice to your work!

Inspiration!

20 Jun

So, I’m always up for different ideas that I can use to tickle my inspiration.  Sometimes they end up taking me places I didn’t plan on going, sometimes they make me realize that there are some topics I just can’t chase very far.

I buy books, I hound websites, and I just start writing about random things.

One of my favorite trilogies is Your First 1,000 Days in Writerspark/ Your First 2,000 Days in Writerspark/ Your First 3,000 Days in Writerspark.  Three years’ worth of prompts in each book!  These books were based on a Yahoo Group “Writerspark”.

The fabulous news is, the moderator of the group is back and they are, once again, accepting new members!  This morning, I got a deluge of new prompts!  I’m avidly looking forward to prompts showing up in my email box every day!  I’m just as avidly looking forward to being able to stretch my edges and explore ideas I might not have been able to come up with on my own.

I’m wading through the new prompts, pulling them into my own PDF so I can take them with me on my tablet device and write when I have a few minutes to stretch.

How about you?  Where to you get ideas when you need to find new ways to exercise your writing muscles?  To come up with angles on things that are a little different than what you are used to?

This Yahoo group is supportive and will provide constructive critiques for writing samples if anyone wants to take a chance on it.

As for me, I’m going to venture forth and write about my desk!

Exercise #3740

The Desk

Compose a piece of no more than 750 words that shows the contents of a desktop in such a way that the images provide a sense of the person who uses the desk.

Bulls-eye: Knowing Your Target Audience

10 Jun

Hi, My name is April. I’m a writer who is guilty of writing without a target. I don’t know if you are guilty, too, but I’m guessing at least some people reading this are. I’ve almost always written because I’ve got something running around in my head that needs to escape. I guess I’ve always kind of assumed that whoever needed to read it would either find it or stumble on it accidentally.

DOH…

I was reading, this week, several different blog posts and a couple of book chapters, all of which reminded me what we were taught in high school English class… remember your reader… remember your target audience or your perfect reader. Picture your perfect reader, the one you are writing to and it will make the writing sound more like a story you are unwinding and less like you are spinning out of control.

As I read, this week, and worked through who I’m writing to this week, I connected better to myself and connected better to the story I am unwinding in my mind. I’ve decided on several projects that I need to work on and I know that I have different audiences for each one.

It is not to say that you write to what you think that audience wants, then all you are really doing is pumping out stories that don’t have the ring of authenticity. That isn’t any better than just taking off on your mind trip without any companion in mind. It is more to say that you want to have in your mind the person who you believe is sitting in the passenger seat of your automobile in your mind, the one you are traveling in as you unravel your tail.

How old are they, or how old do you think they are? The life experiences of a 45 – 55 year old are incredibly different from the life experiences of a twenty year old. How you tell your story is likely going to be different based on who you are talking to.

What is their education level and/or their socioeconomic background? It may well be that your story will fascinate people across the spectrum, but if you write for someone whose vocabulary is that of a neonatologist, you may find yourself losing the people who would treasure your stories if they had a more conversational vocabulary.

Where were they raised? You don’t have to know that they were raised in Intercourse, PA specifically to think that they are probably from a small to mid-sized town and will understand the reference of a small town and you can freely talk about dirt roads and sink holes where the ideal reader might not be from inner city LA necessarily if that is the language you write in. You can’t possibly hope to write for or make happy everyone from everywhere.

What are their core values?  Are you going to offend them if you swear?

This blog has a fascinating list of questions that can help you narrow down your target.  As a result of my thinking through who is in my adventure with me, sitting in the passenger seat of my peti-cab through the fertile fields of my imagination, I have a picture of my companion, and I am writing now for that person.  I really hope she likes the trip we are going on together.

Writer’s Workshop – INTRO

23 May

By Nesher Ehrman

One thing which we feel has always been missing on our site is a place for you, the reader, to express yourself. Imagine a classroom or lecture hall where the teacher talks, writes on the board, gives examples and shows diagrams, but doesn’t allow student participation. That’s not a good classroom.

In the interest of improving our situation, allow us to introduce – the Writer’s Workshop. The idea is to have a number of ‘lessons’ (if you’ll allow me to extend the class metaphor), each one focusing on a different aspect of writing. Each time, we’ll explain what the next workshop will be about, and you, our readers and writers, can send in your… Well, let’s call it ‘homework’, and never mind the negative connotations. It’s a metaphor, ok?

Once you send in your writing, we’ll go over what you’ve written, and in the next issue, we’ll talk about what we’ve read, and feature some of the best examples, as well as an example written by us. That will enable us to tackle the subject from varying sides and viewpoints. The results could be very interesting – and I’m sure we all have a lot to learn from each other.

In our first iteration of Writer’s Workshop, we’ll kick off the series with a creative writing essay. Specifically, exploring a cave. Aim for the region of a hundred words, two or three short paragraphs. So don’t be shy – show us your best creative writing! In the meantime, we’ll write an essay of our own, and we’ll break it all down in our next Writer’s Workshop!

Send your writing to our email address at writerscorpworkshop@gmail.com

Writing in the Real World

20 Apr
art of writing

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

I wonder what the percentage of lead characters in novels and in movies are writers. I’ll bet it’s one of the more popular professions in the fictional world. Being a writer seems like an easy job. On the screen, they hardly ever show the writer writing. He or she is usually busy receiving the accolades from adoring fans about a piece that is already written and published, or the scene shows the excitement of beginning the quest for information. But they hardly ever show the actual writing. That’s because actually writing is never as pretty as thinking about writing, or getting an idea to write about, or having written. It is the crucial step, though. Thinking about writing does not make one a writer. And one can’t reap the rewards of a well-crafted piece without the writing of it.

Writers usually don’t look their best while writing. They look a little daft and unkempt, truth be told. When I’m writing, I generally haven’t put on makeup or combed my hair. I talk out loud to myself throughout the whole process. And a good portion of the time is spent doing no writing at all, but thinking deeply while performing an inordinate number of facial expressions. I wouldn’t pay to watch that.

Writing seems sexy. It seems interesting. It seems rewarding and challenging and exciting. But that’s the fictional version. Writing in the real world is often tedious and under appreciated and poorly compensated. Writing in the real world takes way more time than most people would imagine. Most of real writing is editing. Most real writing is thrown out in a quest to make it better. Most real writing is pretty lonely work.

But having written, and written well…

That’s another story.

The Internet; A Paradox

18 Apr
hand writingI think we don’t understand the Internet. We made it, but we don’t really get it yet.
We live in a very strange world. A world where anyone can to speak to anyone else whenever they want. A world where someone can write something and have it immediately accessible to anyone anywhere. Where almost all of human knowledge is available for instant perusal whenever needed. I speak, of course, of the Internet. Internet, that great and terrible god, savior of arguments and battleground of thirteen year old commenting trolls.
And what do we use it for, this awesome power? Sad to say, mostly LoLcats. You’ve heard it said, and it’s true. We can access all human knowledge and create a collective genius hive-mind, but we’d rather sit and wonder whether a small feline will ever achieve ‘cheezburger’.
Fine then, says you, what should we use it for? Obvious, says I. Writing.
Before long distance communication, if you wanted to speak to someone far away, you had to shout. The louder you could shout, the more people would hear you. That was then. Today, it’s as if all of humanity is packed into one massive room, and everyone has a microphone. Each person can be heard anywhere in the room. But everyone speaks at once, and the din is unbearable. That cacophony is the Internet.
The only way someone can be understood is if people listen. We could all communicate if we could somehow organize the brouhaha that is Internet. People with worthwhile things to say, which people like to listen to, are content creators. They speak, and others enjoy their speech. People who listen, are content consumers.
Back to writing. Writers want to be content creators, and today they have an opportunity they’ve never had before. The microphone is there – all you need is for people to notice you’re talking, listen to what you’re saying, and like it enough to keep listening. Maybe they’ll even pay you to keep talking.
So what does this mean? We have this great opportunity, this chance to speak to the world. How do we use, how do we make it work?
That’s up to you. But most importantly- Oh, look, there’s a cat playing with an iPad.
To see more of Nesher’s material, hack into his email account and read all of his emails. Just kidding, it’s easier to go over to his awesome website — and legaler, too. More legal. Whatever.

Blogging Styles: Don’t Paint Yourself into a Corner

6 Apr

By Guest Author – DCMontreal lives in, not surprisingly, Montreal, Canada and is a freelance writer who blogs at http://dcmontreal.wordpress.com/

Blogging styles vary as much as the bloggers who use them. In this article I will take a look at some of the traditional blogging “rules” and how you can still maintain your blogging style. I once read a definition of fashion that claimed true fashion involves knowing all the rules, but not being afraid to break them. Just a little food for thought as you go about blogging.

Finding your niche; it could be a style

They tell you when you start out testing the waters of the Blogosphere that you should find your niche. Select a topic and stay within the bounds: maybe sports, or fashion, or cars or music. But perhaps your niche is a style rather than a topic. As I have written about before, humor can be a great means of attracting traffic to your blog, and you can be funny about all sorts of things. Your niche could be social commentary which covers a very wide spectrum of interests: from education to gun control, healthcare to women’s rights. All of these provide fodder for humor, or satire, or commentary. So don’t fear being painted into a corner when you consider your niche.

Long versus short posts

I understand some bloggers’ style is to compose long treatises on their subject of expertise. I’m not a big fan of long posts, books, films or winters (I do live in Montreal); think Hemingway not Dickens or Simenon not Proust. Cut to the chase as it were. We live in a world of virtually instant information; we carry iPhones, iPads, tablets and all sorts of devices that help us keep in touch. Many people get their news in 140 character Tweets, bite-size chunks of information. Consider for a moment how the use of words has changed over the years. Have you ever seen a newspaper from the 1890s? They’re chock-a-block with columns of words, not a graphic to be found. As technology developed and allowed for easy photograph inclusion in newspapers, the number of words dropped and pictures started to become more common – the old picture being worth a thousand words concept – right up to the USA Today style of newspaper that is heavy on photos and light on words.

It isn’t all that farfetched to think busy on-the-go people enjoy punchy, shorter blog posts that get to the point quickly. They say that a blog of less than 300 words doesn’t make it to the Google radar and thus affects your traffic, but I’ve had success with short posts in the past and hope to do so again. This concept of terse versus verse upon verse isn’t new. Haiku for instance, the Japanese poetry has been around for centuries. It counts sound units known as “on” or morae (sort of like syllables). Traditional haiku consist of 17 on, in three phrases of five, seven and five on respectively.

Frequency of posts

In keeping with short versus long posts is the issue of posting frequency. This really depends on your schedule and desire. I tend to post daily; sometimes I publish more than one post on a day if the spirit moves me. On days when I’ve been late with my post I’ve been contacted by followers

to see if all is well. So it’s up to you, but remember people are creatures of habit and if you get them interested and expecting a daily post, make sure you deliver.

Remember the competition for readers is fierce and you need to make an impression fast. The old sales adage that it’s easier to hold on to clients, in this case readers, than to find new ones is very true.

Happy blogging!

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