Freedom of Writing, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing prompt

A Writer’s Life

Where do your ideas come from?

Seriously, what sparks your ideas to create? From a blank page/screen flows a myriad of words, strung together in just the right way to evoke emotion of every kind. To stir the ability of every reader, to forget where they are and immerse themselves in imagination.

When I think about this, I really understand the power of language. Writing is a superpower, especially in the hands of a Master. Ok now I am humbled. I have a long uphill climb to reach that lofty peak. Will I make it? Who cares, the fun is in the journey … right?

So that journey. That’s where the ideas spark, bake, incubate, grow, die and flourish. (Not necessarily in that order either.) You hone your craft, realize your style, and find your voice. I wish it were so simple! Angst, doubt, and fear cloud reason. They insist you’re a hack. That tiny voice nagging in the background, you know the one; it tells you the story on the back of the cereal box is more brilliant than anything you write! (I haven’t read a cereal box in years.) Yet, you keep writing. Why?

Personally, if I don’t, I’ll have an aneurysm from the pressure of the squirrels multiplying in my head. Or a heart attack from bottling up my emotions. So I write. 

My oldest son messaged me the other day. “Mom, I had a four-day weekend. In my head I finally worked out what was wrong with my story, but I didn’t write a word. I’ll never make it as a writer. I’m too lazy.” Did I mention angst?

This made me think why writers don’t write. It’s not lazy. It’s working forty-plus hours a week at a job that has nothing to do with a writer’s life. It’s being surrounded by people who don’t write unless they must and people who don’t outwardly show creative curiosity. I told him I get it. When you write, you immerse yourself in that process. It’s difficult to get started when you know your life is going to interrupt that process multiple times.

Personally, it took nearly two years of full time writing for me to enter a space where I could immerse myself, yet keep a bead on the world around me. It took stepping out of the working world. It took distancing myself from the people who distract me from my purpose. It took surrounding myself in an environment conducive to unleashing my creativity. My son doesn’t have that luxury… yet. His time will come. Until then, it’s all fits and starts.

Yet, I know not every writer or creative requires this, or do they? I know experiences, travel, interaction with the world, produces the ideas. But the time spent typing the words (or handwriting) requires stretches of solitude. The immersion into the process. 

Definitely the writer’s life isn’t for everyone, but I’ll be damned if I go do something else ever again.

SLRandall, writer and artist
https://awriterwrites.org/
https://artistbyaccident.com/

Advertisement
Standard
Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Open Comment Week

Use the comments section to discuss anything of interest to you that is related to the writing life.

I’ll begin…

And now for something completely different.

Four billion years ago, the bit of iron pictured above was part of a larger chunk in the asteroid belt. Sometime between 160,000 and 90,000 years ago, homo sapiens sapiens evolved and began imagining things.

Quite recently -February 12, 1947, actually- H. s. sapiens noted 200,000 pounds of that iron arriving on earth and wondered what it was and where it had come from. The resulting fireball was brighter than the sun. The artist Pyotr Medvedev, who at that moment was painting a landscape on the street, opened his mouth in amazement. “We thought it was an explosion of the American atomic bomb, since it happened shortly after the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.”

The event was significant because it marked the end of the iron bit’s natural history. H. s. sapiens imagined many scenarios and eventually they calculated the physical laws that whimsically sent it here, they analyzed it (93% iron, 5.9% nickel, 0.42% cobalt, 0.46% phosphorus, and 0.28% sulfur, with trace amounts of germanium and iridium; minerals present include taenite, plessite, troilite, chromite, kamacite, and schreibersite, if you must know) and they even figured out its origin and then they displayed it in their space travel gift shop on a deliberately unnaturalized beach they called Cape Canaveral. One H. s. sapien, me, had it mounted for wearing on a chain around his neck.

This piece of iron is no longer subject merely to the universal laws of physics. It now also wears according to the whims of one H. s. sapien who began his novel, The Phoenix Diary, by stating,
“The consequences of the Big Bang should have flowed like rows of falling dominoes; the physical universe should be predictable. But it ain’t, because intelligent life forms are messing with it.”
This piece of iron is proof of that statement. The H. s. sapien feels vindicated.

Sikhote-Alin Meteorite
Standard
editing, Writers Co-op

A to X Writing Advice, Courtesy of Copy Chief Benjamin Dreyer

Benjamin Dreyer is the VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House Publishing Group. Below is his list of the common stumbling blocks for authors, from A to X.

  • One buys antiques in an antiques store from an antiques dealer; an antique store is a very old store.
  • He stayed awhile; he stayed for a while.
  • Besides is other than; beside is next to.
  • The singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep.
  • blond man, a blond woman; he’s a blond, she’s a blonde.

A capital is a city (or a letter, or part of a column); a capitol is a building.

  • Something centers on something else, not around it.
  • If you’re talking about a thrilling plot point, the word is climactic; if you’re discussing the weather, the word is climatic.
  • cornet is an instrument; a coronet is a crown.
  • One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to a place.
  • The word is enmity, not emnity.
  • One goes to work every day, or nearly, but eating lunch is an everyday occurrence.
  • flair is a talent; a flare is an emergency signal.
  • flier is someone who flies planes; a flyer is a piece of paper.
  • Flower bed, not flowerbed.
  • Free rein, not free reign.
  • To garner is to accumulate, as a waiter garners tips; to garnish (in the non-parsley meaning) is to take away, as the government garnishes one’s wages; a garnishee is a person served with a garnishment; to garnishee is also to serve with a garnishment (that is, it’s a synonym for “to garnish”).
  • gel is a jelly; it’s also a transparent sheet used in stage lighting. When Jell-O sets, or when one’s master plan takes final form, it either jells or gels (though I think the former is preferable).
  • Bears are grizzly; crimes are grisly. Cheap meat, of course, is gristly.
  • Coats go on hangers; planes go in hangars.
  • One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).
  • One insures cars; one ensures success; one assures people.
  • Lawn mower, not lawnmower.
  • The past tense of lead is led, not lead.
  • One loathes someone else but is loath to admit one’s distaste.
  • If you’re leeching, you’re either bleeding a patient with a leech or otherwise sucking someone’s or something’s lifeblood. If you’re leaching, you’re removing one substance from another by means of a percolating liquid (I have virtually no idea what that means; I trust that you do).

You wear a mantle; your fireplace has a mantel.

  • Masseurs are men; masseuses are women. Many otherwise extremely well educated people don’t seem to know this; I have no idea why. (These days they’re all called massage therapists anyway.)
  • The short version of microphone is still, so far as RH is concerned, mike. Not, ick, “mic.” [2009 update: I seem to be losing this battle. Badly. 2010 update: I’ve lost. Follow the author’s lead.]
  • There’s no such word as moreso.
  • Mucus is a noun; mucous is an adjective.
  • Nerve-racking, not -wracking; racked with guilt, not wracked with guilt.
  • One buys a newspaper at a newsstand, not a newstand.
  • An ordinance is a law; ordnance is ammo.
  • Palette has to do with color; palate has to do with taste; a pallet is, among other things, something you sleep on. Eugene Pallette was a character actor; he’s particularly good in the 1943 film Heaven Can Wait.
  • Nounwise, a premier is a diplomat; a premiere is something one attends. “Premier” is also, of course, an adjective denoting quality.
  • That which the English call paraffin (as in “paraffin stove”), we Americans call kerosene. Copy editors should keep an eye open for this in mss. by British authors and query it. The term paraffin should generally be reserved for the waxy, oily stuff we associate with candles.
  • Prophecy is a noun; prophesy is a verb.
  • Per Web 11, it’s restroom.
  • The Sibyl is a seeress; Sybil is Basil Fawlty’s wife.
  • Please don’t mix somewhat and something into one murky modifier. A thing is somewhat rare, or it’s something of a rarity.
  • tick bites; a tic is a twitch.
  • Tortuous is twisty, circuitous, or tricky; torturous is painful, or painfully slow.
  • Transsexual, not transexual.
  • Troops are military; troupes are theatrical.
  • vice is depraved; a vise squeezes.
  • Vocal cords; strikes a chord.
  • A smart aleck is a wise guy; a mobster is a wiseguy.
  • X ray is a noun; X-ray is a verb or adjective.
Standard
About Writers, humor, inspiration, Literary critique, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Ten Things Writers Do That Cause Me To Sigh Heavily

Originally posted on Penguin’s Book Country by Carl E. Reed, March 21, 2012

In no particular order here are ten things writers do that cause me to sigh heavily:

1.) Use words that sound like the opposite of what they mean: Puissant doesn’t sound mighty, powerful or potent to this speaker of 21st-century Anglo-Saxon dialect and noisome immediately invokes the aural, not olfactory, sense (for me).

2.) Misuse words: Penultimate is not a synonym for “ultimate” (it means “next to last”, as in the number nine in a series counting up from zero to ten), and a semi-automatic weapon (fires one bullet every time the trigger is pulled) is not identical with a fully automatic weapon; i.e., a machine gun. For that matter marines are never soldiers, troops or dog-faces (I’m looking at you Stephen King!), they’re marines, Leathernecks, Devil-dogs, jarheads or grunts. (That last word applies if your marine is also an infantryman.)

3.) Write mediocre, albeit serviceable prose: Has this ever happened to you? You pick up a book and begin to flip through it only to realize almost immediately that there’s no there there; the writer’s voice is as homogenized and ennui-inducing as vanilla frosting on cardboard masticated by a muppet. For god’s sake stop writing in a defensive crouch! Get out there and say something on the page with all those words you’re time-sharing with the rest of the human race. You may fall flat on your face but I’ll respect you for trying; I truly will. Bullet-proof prose is boring prose.

4.) Litter your text with untranslated foreign words and phrases: A word or two here and there is fine but entire sentences? Paragraphs? As Isaac Asimov once remarked: “I’m flattered that you think I’m fluent in every language ever spoken by humans, including the dead ones, but please—don’t flatter me that much.”

5.) Characters who are forever staring off into the “middle-distance”: I swear to Harlan Ellison, if I ever read again of a character who “stares off into the middle distance” in order to communicate thoughtful reverie to the reader I’m going to fling the book off into the middle distance.

6.) Characters who are described as looking like famous people: “She had a raspy, Kathleen Turner-like voice; he was beautiful and energized as Ernest Borgnine on a bender”. Lazy!

7.) Insult your reader’s intelligence: Everyone else is smarter than you are. I thought you knew that? Never write down to your audience—despite the bad advice you may have been given by demographic-obsessed marketers, burnt-out grumpy editors and well-meaning friends and relatives urging you to “dumb it down.”

8.) Stop your narrative dead in its tracks by injecting too much back-story too soon: If I want to read a history book I’ll read a history book. I bought Demon Balls & Lost Sabbaths because I thought something was going to happen here . . .

9.) Over-use adverbs while under-using evocative adjectives and vivid descriptive nouns: Kill as many adverbs as you can while polishing those adjectives and vivid descriptive nouns. In the first instance, trust your reader—kill as many adverbs as you can bear to live without. If a character has just shouted or ended a sentence with an exclamation mark I probably don’t need an “angrily” speech tag to underline that fact. In the second instance give us more vivid, picturesque speech: Writing “she walked inside the house, threw her purse on the table and bent down to kiss the dog” is not a better sentence than, “she walked into the mildewed cottage, threw her satchel purse on the table and bent down to kiss her beloved beagle Bacon-barker.” Stop worshipping at the altar of minimalism—it’s a false religion with a blank-faced idiot god.

10.) Then suddenly out of nowhere!: The use of the word “suddenly” always reads as the injection of cheap drama and comical, amped-up surprise to me: “She was walking along the winding cobblestone path when SUDDENLY a black-masked bear jumped out of the bushes and demanded her Odor-eater shoe inserts”; “He sat there smoking when SUDDENLY an angel of the Lord appeared and smote him about the head and shoulders with a kielbasa.”

What are the things other writers do that drive you crazy?

Standard