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Posts Tagged ‘writing tools’

This week has been all about getting inspiration for the new project I spoke about last week.  There’s a school of thought that says writing is habit, rather than waiting for the one or two magic moments that form a scene or send a character in to fight whatever enemies you think up.

I’ve always felt this was true for prose and less so for poetry, but when time is limited, you have to give your inspiration a bit of a kick start!

This is where a notebook comes into its own : by collecting ideas like scattered seeds – stories I’ve heard, words I like, song lyrics that create strong emotional responses, political angst, the colour of leaves on a September day – I can look back and see what I think can be nurtured into poetic life.

Today’s idea was for a poem inspired by a post it note that had got lost between the sofa cushions. The poem reflects on the way our lives change over time and how something that was important can be so easily forgotten. Maybe I will post it here when it’s done.

This is good timing, because I am just about to start a course on writing poetry, with a view to engaging more with my own.

I am a more natural writer of poetry than prose and I find the process more fun, so getting into a project demanding new work is a real positive for me, and I am excited to see which of my little seed ideas blossoms and creates fruit of its own!

Happy writing,

EJ

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I have recently been working on finding quotes about a variety of concepts.  I started by looking things up for my wall at work, where my Action for Happiness poster is a little lonely because I have taken down some photos – I need to change things up sometimes!

I have subsequently been looking for quotes for other things, and other people.

I am not sure why they help but they do.  Perhaps it is the knowledge we are not alone in feeling something, or that a positive thought has a positive impact, or even that it gives us a different way of looking at things.

Whatever it is, it’s actually quite fun to look at lists of quotes.  As you may remember I was even inspired by a quote to write my poem Cicero and now I am pulling together a new set list I may well use that technique again.

There is power in words to inspire, delight, agitate and infuriate – and all of these can spur the writing imagination. Plus you might find a comic gem or two along the way!

So quotes are now in my basket of writing tools to draw upon when I need to spur my imagination – or my sense of humour!

Happy writing,

EJ

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I am studying more slowly than planned but so far it’s been a worthwhile exercise to get back to thinking more analytically about writing.

The biggest benefit, however, comes when I get back to putting a story on paper.  Specifically, how less really is more!

I have some great tips and techniques for revising my work, from thinking through each scene to see if it does what it should – and includes the elements that give it purpose – to identifying how to tighten up the language and what type of words to consider cutting first.

All I need now is to take my ideas book, and see what ideas I want to pursue, if any!

One thing I will try in my next writing outing is revising as I go, a technique that works for many people but has never really appealed to me.  However it seems sensible to try it and see if it helps because my whole ethos on the next story is about planning, organising and controlling – I don’t want to write another 50k words before I realise my story is fundamentally flawed!

Now I have a better, more practical understanding of the revision process, I need to make it part of my writing practice.  That will take some time but we all know writing is at least partially habit so I don’t see why editing should be any different!

Until next time – happy writing,

EJ

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Last week I talked about purpose in writing and this week I thought I would expand on the idea and talk about how word choice impacts on perception.

We see examples of this every day – from politicians to journalists and even in the most mundane conversations we might have at work or in a shop.  Word choice can make someone feel good, or leave them deflated, unsure, or scared.

It makes sense, therefore, to think hard about the type of language a character will use.

Maybe you have a cheerful, happy go lucky character who always sees the possibilities of a situation.  In conversation they would be upbeat and positive, and using a phrase like ‘I hate her’ would would be completely out of character.

That’s not to say they can’t say it – it might be a reflection of the extent to which another character should be disliked or distrusted – but that it wouldn’t be a throwaway comment like it might be for a teenager complaining about their classmate.

Of course language is also more subtle: a description of someone as being ‘unlike my friends’ instantly makes them an outsider, something other, and puts up a barrier between the narrator and the person.  A description of a group as ‘infesting’ somewhere makes them a plague or like vermin.  When your narrator says someone is ‘worn at the edges’ it tells you that the person they are describing is a little scruffy and tired looking, and your narrator is making a judgment on that basis.

There are countless examples in every book so it’s worth reading with the word choice in mind.  Change a few words in your head, and see the impact.

Word choice can fundamentally change the perception of the reader and it is incredibly important to get it right. If you want a character to be likeable, don’t make them use mean or unpleasant language.  If you want someone to be mysterious, don’t make them verbose.

The same principle applies to all elements of writing: scenes, descriptions, expositions all need to be approached with a clear view of how to convey your message, your story, through the words you choose.

That is the best way possible to share the world you imagine with your reader.

Happy writing,

EJ

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This week is my drama show and every night is dedicated to trying desperately to act the part of a competent performer.

It’s funny that one of the biggest learning points from my current course is about purpose, and yet I only really got my head around it by being in the drama group.

Every movement in a scene has to have purpose – we are moving left to right to reveal something, conceal something, interact with something.

That is true of writing, but somehow it is easier to learn from physical experience than it is from academic instruction.

Purpose means cutting words that add nothing, replacing words with better ones, making every word in your story count. Purpose means each scene, each sentence in fact, brings something to the story that needs to be there.

This is a lesson I learnt in principle but am not always great at applying to my prose.  I feel in control of purpose in poetry but I can’t apply the skills across my stories and I really don’t know why.

It’s probably in the revision phase, but I haven’t got to the updated study on that yet…

If I can keep in mind what I have understood about purpose on stage and can apply it consistently and appropriately on the page, I am sure it will have a significant impact on the quality of my output.

Watch this space…

Happy writing,

EJ

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I read something this week that was a good place to start the new year.  To paraphrase: a target without a plan is just a daydream.

I have to stop daydreaming.

My first writing act of 2017 was enrolling in some creative writing courses today – four which cover different elements of writing and which I will undertake concurrently so by the middle of February (when my panto is done and dusted) I will be nearing completion of them.

I have said before how easy it is for me to put barriers in my own way so I’m also going to do some work on breaking them down and will be seeking out a writing mentor to help with this.  I am researching this at the moment and have found a few possible routes open which I will be addressing over the next few weeks.  Some are very costly and I can’t afford to make the wrong choice because I won’t be doing this twice!

Finally, I am going to change my writing pattern.  I find it very easy to get bogged down by life, so much so that finding an hour a day becomes a bit of a pipe dream.  However, if I change my pattern by writing somewhere else I might be able to balance that, at least a little bit.  With that in mind I will try different options – libraries, cafes, pubs and so on – to see what works, and I’ll do it before I get home from work so the household tasks don’t distract me.

I will have to give myself time each day for coursework which will also help to put more structure into my writing life.

The plan is, as it always has been, to be published. There’s no change there – I just have to work more effectively to make sure the work I produce is as good as it can be, and get it out there.

2016 was a bumpy year, but 2017 has to make up for it and some concrete action will be a grand way to start!

Happy new year, and as always – happy writing,

EJ

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…and all through the house
Were the remnants of wrapping
And bags to fill a warehouse!

I can’t believe it’s only a week until Christmas.

Normally I spend some time around now thinking about the strengths of my writing year and areas I can develop in the next, but this year went way off plan and never got back on track.  I don’t see the point in reviewing a year in which all my intentions went awry!

So I will focus on two specific positives of the year…

The first is the crime writing convention back in April. I found it thought-provoking and it made me want to go to more events like it. We all know that the year didn’t work that way, but I still want to go to more, and I am intending to go to the 2017 Classic Crime event in June 2017.  Hopefully more than just the one, in fact!  I don’t think I realised at the time quite how useful the day would be going forward.

The second is getting back into writing after my rubbish summer.  I may not be where I want to be but it would have been so easy to admit defeat some of those days, and I got back on the horse.  Yes, the horse is a bit of a scraggly old thing but it’s moving, and that is important.  I always say you can’t edit a blank page, and that is particularly relevant when things are going badly.  Any writing, however rough and ready, is better than none.

Two things don’t seem much of an outcome for 12 months, but both represent something important in my year: the first, a change in direction and in perception; the second a challenge I won.  It might not be reflected in word counts or books read but I’m still here, still writing, still being inspired. That’s a major success in my book!

I don’t expect to have any time to pop back before Christmas but I will prepare a suitably cheery post for Thursday, at least.

Whatever you are doing for the next fortnight, I hope it’s a happy, healthy and peaceful time for you all.

And I promise 2017 will be a more energised year on here.  I did ask Father Christmas for my mojo back, after all…!!

Happy Writing,

EJ

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Last week was a bit same old, same old – rushing about, fitting writing into small gaps that I eked out here and there, not getting into the writing task list as well as I had hoped.

So writing about it would create a post interchangeable with a number of others because this is the pattern at the moment. I have to thank you for sticking with me when it’s clear my writing life this year has not gone well at all!

So instead I will look forward; I will take the good, and build on it.

The exercises are proving to be useful: I am working, I am talking about writing, I am getting inspired. I am excited about filling up pages.

Importantly, I am making writing a habit again, because we all know that’s what it needs to be – something like brushing your teeth, a daily activity that you do without question.

This week I will be doing exercises on bibliomancy and alliteration, which will be good fun. I’ll be using my magnetic poetry kit to create some little ditties for my husband’s amusement when he gets the milk out of the fridge in the morning. I will continue teaching our overseas consultants odd words and phrases in English, and learning a few in other languages too, I hope!

In other words, I’ll keep making writing, and words, a part of life.

Just as they should be!

Happy writing,
EJ
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Tonight is my only night free in a week, and the last free night for another week. I love having things to do with my time but I am getting a little tired out.

So tonight I’m not doing anything in particular. I’m sitting down with a candle going, and watching a bit of trash tv. I am well aware I should be writing, or researching courses, or even just carrying on with a few writing exercises – but I’m giving in to the temptation of a lazy night.

I have read so many comments from writers saying they write even when they are tired, or excessively busy, or overwhelmed that I wonder if it means something particular when I choose not to work and watch sci-fi nonsense instead.

Perhaps it does – but perhaps it simply means I didn’t thrive on exhaustion. Perhaps it means I have less stamina. Perhaps our relative views on how busy we are is different. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Of course this post is, in some ways, perfect evidence that I didn’t just sit and do nothing. I did do a writing exercise.

I took a few details and shared them to form a scene, and I gave the narrator free reign on a stream of consciousness. I set context, I even gave the character a personal quandary to consider.

Wow – it’s amazing how much work you can get done even if you’re taking some time out!  But after all that effort, I really need a break 😉

Happy Writing,
EJ
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This week I did a really great writing exercise. It was simple, and I chose it because it was quick so one of my lunch break ones, but I got so much more out of it than expected.

It was one in which I had to focus on me, and because of the way to exercise was written, it inevitably got me thinking about s specific period in my life. I said last week that I’d been visiting universities and I imagine that is why I ended up thinking about my own experiences as a student for this task.

What it got me doing though, which I hadn’t really imagined, is to start writing a character. Partly it’s the me I was at 18 just starting an amazing and exciting period of my life, and partly it was an imagined version of who that character could have become. It went from being an autobiographical account to a future me that never existed.

It’s like the Sliding Doors principle: if I’d taken a different door I could have ended up a different person from the one I am now. That is the character that developed as I wrote.

It was a really exciting way to develop a new character – one that is potentially repeatable with other individuals I know or remember.

There’s always a fine line between developing ideas based on experiences and using other people in your work without permission, and it’s a subject I have covered before. However, I think this is a really safe way of using personal knowledge and experience because you are creating someone new based on hypothetical responses to imagined events – the real person is just a springboard to get you thinking.

It’s definitely an idea to explore; I’d like to try it out with my husband answering a few questions so I get a feel for how it can be adapted to use biographically rather than autobiographically, but it’s a good start for my hour of thinking about how characters can work in a particular storyline.

I was so enthused, I had to tell you about it!

In other news – Fred is still in peril, although he’s about to time jump out of the fire and into the frying pan… I need to finish his story before Christmas so he’s in for a speedy conclusion to his travels in time.

Writing group concluded for the year with a discussion about the balance between the cleverness of writing and the intricacy of a plot.  This was a particularly interesting topic because we have all read books with great plots that were virtually unintelligible, or which were beautifully written but devoid of engaging plot or characters to keep you interested. For me, good writing is accessible writing, and the more pretentious it sounds the less I think it has anything of interest to say.

Finally, from a writing point of view, I have not yet decided on a course but as some start in January I need to get into gear and choose something.  Fingers crossed, it’ll be done by next week!

Happy writing,

EJ

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