Posts Tagged ‘writers’
Whether it is the current assignment, your new post, the kids or something else calling, there comes a time when we need to pull ourselves out of the bed, wash up and get ready for a hopefully fun battle that is a writer’s day.
It’s much harder to just respond to logic (“I need so much to do, and I can’t just wait for everything to be perfect to start my day!”) after a bad night’s sleep, when you have a cold or the weather is as bleak as in a post-apocalyptic movie.
It’s even harder if your body loves and/or needs a lot of sleep. Here’s all the weaponry I arm myself with to drag myself to my writing desk and chair: (Because I can’t be happier once I start writing away.)
Make sure you’ve slept enough!
I envy the lucky souls who only need 5-6 of sleep to start the day with full energy and working brain cells. I however belong to the majority that needs 7-9 hours.
Hell, I need much closer to 9. Whatever your magic number is, make sure you get your fill. Because even though you exercise and eat healthily to make up for the lack of sleep, tiredness and lack of productivity will creep up on you no matter how many cups of coffee you drown, and we both know losing count of how much caffeine you take is only good for sitcom characters.
Choose a Kick-ass Alarm Song
Sometimes an early meeting, a late night out with friends or just some appreciated after-midnight inspiration doesn’t allow you to wake up all energized. You need some motivational intervention to kick your body and soul into motion
And even if you wake up all energized, extra vigor and flare never hurt anyone. Now, I hate the typical beeping sound. So I set my alarm clock (aka my cell phone) to play a rocking tune (currently it’s Where the River Flows by Collective Soul) to let me know morning has arrived.
Roxette- Dressed for Success - She’s Got the Look
Bon Jovi – Everyday
Soundgarden – Original Fire
Ideally for 30 minutes, to equally vitalizing music. I prefer dancing, aerobics or a combination of both. Don’t forget to stretch before and after.
Even when you don’t have time, pick some good basics and do them anyway. 5-10 minutes is better than nothing.
Save the foamy, relaxing bath for later. Now you just want to feel fresh and awake.
Have a Healthy Breakfast
That, under no circumstances and in no universe, means black coffee on empty stomach! A whole-grain toast with some healthy cheese beats a bowl of cornflakes. Add some healthy yoghurt, some freshly squeezed juice to the mix if you can and you are good to go.
Yes, your nutritionist will know better. You know your body better than me too. But we both now a candy bar is not what you need. (Yes, I love those too. Life is just not fair.)
Make Sure Your Desk Beckons You
It’s your working environment, so how much you organize (if at all) and how you decorate is up to you. Take 5-10 minutes to create your ideal space, but don’t use it as a reason to procrastinate.
Type the Words Away
You made it! Happy Writing.
This is my favorite ritual, and things go a lot for better for my spirits (and writing) if I stick to it. Of course this is for a typical morning. If the weather is too hot to bear, this is the post you should check out: Productivity for Writers: Tips to Increase Your Productivity During Hot Weather
Perception’s Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) is a brilliant neuropsychiatrist:
- He has published 7 books on neuroscience.
- He is teaching at a prestigious university while helping the FBI solve their most complicated cases.
- He has finished med school at the top of his class.
- He can see things and make connections others can’t.
- Only the most complicated and exciting puzzles can keep his interest.
- Oh, and, he is managing all this (depending on your perception), despite/with/because of his condition: schizophrenic paranoia.
He mostly manages his condition with carefully set routines, the help of his TA and living aid Max, and through the cases his FBI agent friend/ex-student Kate (Rachael Leigh Cook) brings.
Perception is a wonderfully inspiring show, especially if you are a writer and/or you’re suffering from a health condition, mental or otherwise.
It has great acting, intriguing storylines, a well-written main character and scientific accuracy, being assisted by the leading neuroscientist David Eagleman who’s also a writer (of fiction and non-fiction, his non-fiction having been published on Wired, The New Yorker and others.)
I like breaking the don’t-watch-tv productivity tip. I don’t watch everything, trust me. I try, evaluate and become a regular watcher of shows that are smart, highly entertaining, inspiring and intriguing. It helps if there are characters you can empathize with on one level or the other, or characters whose jobs you wouldn’t mind doing (e.g. Cal Lightman’s job, Lie to Me.)
Perception is such a show, and I recommend writers to at least check it out because:
1) Perception combines drama/mystery & comic relief really well. As writers, we want to be able to pull this off well, especially in fiction.
2) The leading character’s self-depreciating sense of humor as a defense mechanism works on a writing level, but it also gives us ideas on how to manage our own conditions and issues.
3) He writes to keep sane, and well, he is full of ideas all the time so he needs different media to convey them. He lectures, aids FBI and writes books.
4) He is a writing success despite his condition.
5) The show presents the very exciting field of neuroscience. I’ve been reading about it since I started watching the show.
6) There is a fictional role model, as well as a real one (the consulting neuroscientist/writer David Eagleman who was born in 1971!)
7) It gives you nice little flashback into university years. I only had a couple of inspiring lecturers, so I wouldn’t have minded one like Pierce: always engaging, always relevant.
If you are collecting reasons to go back to college, this might warm you up further to the idea. Just remember, not all campuses are that nice and a lot of the lecturers tend to be boring.
8) It’s possible to be a writing expert and expert writer at the same time. Writers might lack the professional knowledge and need to interview experts. Experts might lack the writing skills.
Pierce (and Eagleman) possess both. Oh, I should add that Eagleman brainstorms with Perception writers about the possible scenarios too.
9) It provides therapeutic entertainment. Just listen to the lectures where he covers lying, fears, reality…
10) And the series has an overall appreciation of individuality and life.
Have you watched it?
P.S. To read more about perception, you can check out its review here.
There should be W.A. meetings.
“Hi, my name is Pinar and I’m addicted to writing”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to undermine any addictions here. But there are addictions that are not (all) bad. I’m quite fond of my addiction to rock music, movies and yes, writing- the oldest, strongest addiction of them all.
When I named my site, I wasn’t trying to be cute, but merely stating a fact.
I have always been addicted but I didn’t quite own up to it when I was writing the next Spider-Woman (yes, Spider-Woman) cartoon episode in my head.
I also didn’t suspect much when English became my favorite lesson at the age of 12, or that I found myself openly thrilled about “having to” do projects that included a lot of writing (much to the surprise or disdain of my fellow classmates.)
But then it became way too obvious for anyone to ignore. You want to know if you are addicted?
Take a look at the “signs” below and see if any of them rings true for you. And you should probably be trying your hand at a writing-related career if you have answered yes to at least some of these questions.
- You are willingly taking on school projects that involve writing. Plays, stories, essays…You name it. You also find yourself enjoying all exams that require essays.
- You get good at feigning interest in non-writing-related classes while you are just writing the next scene in your script. In your head. In your notebook. On the desk. Wherever.
- You love an audience and you feel over the moon when people genuinely like what you wrote. But you’d not stop writing even if no one read or liked it.
- You shock everyone when you willingly take an elective at university because it requires a thesis, not despite of it.
- When you are alone, you have several voices having conversations in your head. No, you don’t suspect any sort of mental disorder. For one thing, you know they are not real. For second, they are not talking to you. They are talking for you-so that you can finally get scenes written the way you want them to be, or you get to envision new scenes.
- You do find yourself occasionally tuning out of conversations when they get stale, or when your muse decides to show up. In your defense, a lot of people give breaks during conversations to check their messages or update their status or have an obsessive texting match with their boyfriends. You are just doing your bit for the creative world.
- You fall in love with the Bryan Adams song “She’s only happy when she’s dancing” and create a “She’s only happy when she is writing” version-though I should add that I’m addicted to dancing as well.
- You read a great post/article/novel or see an awesome movie and think “Man, I wish I had written that”.
- You are more impressed with actors if they have also churned out some really cool screenplays.
- You can take a post about writing and apply it to any other area, or you can apply any area to writing. Like Pippa’s “The CSI Guide to Finding Your Next Killer Idea – A Guide for Bloggers” post on Jon Morrow’s BoostBlogTraffic. Or my “Why Finding the Perfect Freelance Writing Gig is like Finding The One” on this blog.
- You favorite author tops the list of famous people you’d love to meet.
- You can’t sleep because of all the ideas spinning around in your head.
- So you get up, despite your closing eyelids, and start taking notes. I’m writing these words at 2.30 am. I went to bed at 2.
- You do get incredibly excited about your ideas and share them with people-your imagination and inspiration are just exciting to you as your accomplishments.
- You run 4 blogs, even though you can only keep up with 2,5 of them (see my dating blog’s posting frequency for the half part), while happily writing your assignments and working on your novel.
- You know that even after you turn off your computer after finishing a post late at night and going to bed, you probably won’t fall asleep for an hour or two because you’ll be thinking about other post ideas.
- You just love writing. Especially when you are inspired, and have the freedom to write what you want.
- The more you write about signs you are addicted to writing, more signs keep coming to your mind.
Are you addicted to writing? Are your symptoms similar to mine? What would you add to the list?
If you liked this post, you can follow this fellow addict @zoeyclark on Twitter.
Most Enthralling Story Conflicts & Dilemmas: The Ledge – Kill Yourself or Your Loved One Will Be Killed
As writers, “what if?” is our best friend when it comes to hunting down an exciting idea. We have to be excited first, and then we can begin writing a story that will excite others. The “what if” is born from, or is supported by, a mother conflict-a conflict that will grab you, and won’t let you go until you finish the story.
The bigger at stake, the bigger the excitement. And if the story is well-told, your level of empathy grabs you further into the depths of the story, and if you are honest, you know that the character isn’t facing an easy task.
This article series will cover my favorite story conflicts, from movies, series and books. Their conflicts are the reasons I decided to watch/read these stories.
Conflict : The Ledge
Door Number 1: You kill yourself.
Door Number 2: They kill the person you love.
Two of the most common gut reactions are:
1) Yeah, I’d sacrifice myself.
2) I’d find a way of saving myself and my loved one.
But it is not that easy. This is the conflict from the movie The Ledge starring Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson.
Charlie Hunnam’s Gavin is standing on the ledge of a building, with every intention of jumping at noon. He doesn’t have a choice. It’s either him, or the girl dies.
Gavin is an atheist who has pretty much lost his faith in anything after his daughter died. Nothing pisses him off like the over-zealous religious mumblings of a fanatic (Patrick Wilson), who as luck would have had it, has just moved in next door with his wife Shana (Liv Tyler). What could be more fun than seducing this nut’s wife?
But of course she is not a fanatic, she has had her own valid reasons for marrying him, and she is doing her best to make a life for herself despite her past and his extreme beliefs. Gratitude keeps her married.
Gavin starts spending time with her-as her employer and friend-and let’s say he gets involved despite his most rational intentions.
She starts falling for him, and love overpowers gratitude. Husband finds out, captures her, and gives Gavin the two doors. But Gavin is facing this conflict twofold:
He was the driver at the accident that killed his daughter. He never really recovered from either the loss, or the guilt. Now, obviously he blames himself for the danger Shana is in- she wouldn’t have gotten involved with him if he hadn’t been so intent on getting her attention and attraction. He couldn’t save his daughter, but maybe he can save Shana. Of course there is the possibility the husband won’t keep his word and kill her anyway, but would he take the risk?
Of course there are other conflicts in the film too.
There are Shana’s: Gratitude vs. Love. Religion vs. Passion.
There’s the husband’s: Rage vs. Control + Forgiveness.
There’s the cop’s dealing with Gavin: His love for his wife and children vs. The Truth
Dealing with his own personal pain vs. Focusing fully on Gavin
It’s full of great conflicts and dilemmas, but needless to say, it is the main one that glues you to the trailer and the movie. It’s still possible to say you’d do things one way or the other, but if you do pay attention to the characters, backgrounds and states of mind carefully, you’d see that there is no easy way out.
Written (and also directed by): Matthew Chapman.
My advice is watch it like a writer. Look at the story, the conflicts, the characters. Try to imagine the “what if” moment for Matthew Chapman. Try to imagine what you would do if you were Gavin.
And please share some of your favorite story conflicts.
How Mads Mikkelsen and Gerard Butler Can Motivate Writers Like Hell: The Ultimate Gerard Butler and Mads Mikkelsen Guide to Freelance Success
What can two popular actors possibly have to do with us writers, our careers and motivation levels? First let’s take a look at who and where they are:
Mads Mikkelsen played the James Bond villain in Casino Royale, won Best Actor at Cannes this year, and he’ll also be starring as Hannibal Lecter. Yep, the very one played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Oh, and did I mention he’s Danish?
Gerard Butler is probably the one you are more familiar with. After all he’s that actor who shouted “This is Sparta” before kicking a cocky Persian right into the bottom of an endless well in the movie 300. He’s known for his dedication to his parts (that Spartan body was really his!), diversity (the guy played the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera), and ability to tackle accents. Why else directors would cast him as American or Irish instead of hiring equally or more popular American or Irish actors?
But whether you like them or their movies isn’t the point. The point is what they accomplished, how they accomplished it and what you can learn from it.
Writers are prone to depression, lack of motivation, bouts of self-doubt, fear of ruts and writer blocks. They also worry about their age, nationality, talent, the competition, rejection, income…and that’s why I like to look at Mikkelsen and Butler when I experience any of those.
1 ) Nationality:
Mads Mikkelsen is from Denmark. Gerard Butler is Scottish. None of them grew up in L.A. Now, if they can make it to Hollywood, you should definitely not be discouraged about your nationality when it comes to your writing.
While your location or citizenship can prevent you from submitting to some magazines (for instance some Canadian publications only work with Canadian writers, or some contests require you to be a legal resident of the country the publication is based in), there are tons of other contests and markets that don’t really care about where you are from. They just want good work.
Butler was 25 when he decided to really pursue acting, instead of just wanting it. He was 28 in his first onscreen appearance.
Mikkelsen studied acting, but his first onscreen appearance was in 1996, in a short film. He was 31.
Granted, late 20s and early 30s can seem very young, or young enough, depending on how old you are (or how you look at things), but remember that they didn’t start a writing career-they started an acting career, from other countries and competed against people who had been building industry connections since they were pre-teens, whose family members were in the business and so on.
Your queries and manuscripts don’t give a damn about your age. Neither do your editors.
Even if you are trying to write for a magazine whose target audience is way older or younger than you are, it is still all about getting the tone of the publication, understanding what the editors need and coming up with an attractive idea.
Your age doesn’t matter. Not that this is an excuse to delay your career efforts for decades. Make your move now-just don’t obsess over your birth date.
3) Industry connections
Like I mentioned above, Butler and Mikkelsen weren’t born into Hollywood families. I’m not saying the good actors who knew the right people don’t deserve to be where they are. But let’s face it: all things equal, the guy who knows people will be one step ahead of you. He doesn’t even need to be getting favors-he’ll know how things work, he’ll know who to talk to. More studios will know his name. And there is a big chance he has started before you. More experience, better CV and all that.
Imagine you started your writing career without knowing much, if anything, about writing queries, markets, genres, networking….Most of us did. We had to familiarize with ourselves with the process, jargon and fight against people who thought we were dreamers…
The point is that it can be done, whether you initially know someone or not. But once you get started, you have to start building that network of yours. Gerard’s first connection came from a theater backstage gig he got after deciding not to be a lawyer.
Not all dancers win Best Actor at Cannes, nor do they get to play Bond villains. And I’m not sure there are many Danish dancers, if any, that got worldwide critical acclaim for their acting, leading and supporting roles in many different countries (not just Denmark, or the States.)
Butler has a law degree from Glasgow University. He just hated his job the moment he started working as an intern.
This is not to say their careers didn’t benefit from those backgrounds. Mikkelsen always has a certain amount of grace he carries around him, and he is not camera shy when it comes to interviews.
Butler always seems like he is chatting with his best friends and having the time of his life during interviews. And the fact that he knew a bit about persuasion and body language didn’t exactly work against him. And hey, knowing what contracts are about can’t have hurt either. Oh, and one of the reasons he was chosen to play the phantom in The Phantom of the Opera was that he had a rock’n’roll voice? Complements of singing in a rock band.
Whatever your day job is/was, there is always something you can use about it to come up with ideas, build relationships, form an audience, etc. You may want to check out Carol Tice’s “How My Crappy Day Jobs Made Me a High-Earning Freelancer” post on Freelance Switch for tips.
Of course your day job doesn’t have to be crappy to help you. John Grisham is a lawyer, in addition to being one of the most famous bestselling authors, who comes up with brilliant legal thrillers and dramas. Needless to say, he doesn’t ever have to worry about using the correct words, seeming off with his descriptions or doing that much research. He also created his first book, second bestseller, A Time to Kill, based on a real life court case he witnessed. A bestseller that went on to become a movie starring A-List actors.
Not that my success is anywhere near his, but I did get published on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing with my article “One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career”,detailing how my part-time job (one that I still have) helped my writing career in so many ways. Just thought this example might be a tad more relatable than John’s.
5) Persistence, dedication, hard work
If there is any other job that comes with the risk of rejection at least as much as writing, it has to be acting. It’s audition after audition, trying to persuade the director and/or the casting people or the starring actor that you are the best person for the job. It is not easy to pick up your courage and motivation after hearing no, but you do it anyway because the award awaiting for you will make you so much happier than the rejection made you miserable.
Butler’s director in the movie One More Kiss Vadim Jean was quoted to say that he never knew anyone that worked so hard to make his career happen.
That’s the attitude that got him where he is today: sought-after, successful and easy to work with. You are easy and fun to work with if you really want to be where you are, and put in the work where you are. And editors, as well as other clients, love easy and fun to work with.
P.S. John Grisham could only get A Time to Kill published after he finished and found a publisher for The Firm. A Time to Kill wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t put himself out there again and fight back with another manuscript.
6) Going from fighting for gigs to gigs being offered to you
Gerard Butler played Attila The Hun in the mini-series Attila in 2001. The producers originally wanted someone more famous. And maybe someone with less of a Scottish accent. But they couldn’t find someone they liked better than Butler, and he showed them he could change his accent. 2001 was way before 300, The Phantom of The Opera or P.S. I love You. Before nobody really knew who he was.
People joke that any Danish director casts Mikkelsen whenever they want to secure box office success or awards or both.
More familiar names are not always the best choice. More established writers may not always provide the better ideas.
7) Room for self-improvement, fun and other important things in your life
Mads Mikkelsen speaks Swedish because he lived in Sweden for a while and they couldn’t understand his Danish so he learned Swedish. He speaks German because a German director wanted him as the German lead. He speaks French and Russian because he played Igor Stravinsky in the French film Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. He is obviously fluent in English, having had roles in American movies and constantly giving interviews. And his favorite method for learning languages? Watching movies.
He is also married and raising 2 kids with his wife.
You were saying you couldn’t find the time for…what?
So you are working hard. It doesn’t mean you can’t take time for hobbies, learning, family and friends. Living a full life will make you happier, more full of ideas and more equipped.
8) Proving talents in more areas than one.
Mikkelsen has done drama, romantic drama, period movie, comedy, action, adventure and fantasy, horror, romantic comedy…
Butler has done musical, action, adventure, thriller, horror, drama, romance, romantic comedy, fantasy…
You don’t have to choose between business writing and article writing. Between fiction and non-fiction. You don’t have to pick topic to write about. Go out there, show your best work and keep trying until you get the gigs that make you happy. I don’t know about you, but variety makes me happy.
9) International success
Well, you all have a pretty good idea what these two actors accomplished so far. Why not set your sights on writing for the most established magazines worldwide, writing a best-selling book or being sought-after by well-paying clients worldwide?
You know what it takes. You know it is all about how much (and well) you work, improve and motivate yourself. And you know it doesn’t mean you are not going to have time for other things. In fact, it is all about benefiting from all areas of your life, even things that initially seem like obstacles or motivation-busters so you need to live a life outside of your office too.
So go ahead. Work. Live. Have fun. Make it happen. Gerard Butler and Mads Mikkelsen made it happen, and they are only few examples in a very, very long list. Why shouldn’t you?
And don’t worry, I’m a big fan of practicing what I preach. I’m taking my own advice as I keep pitching to publications, running various blogs, having a busy social life and working on my fiction.
I know I have been away for a while, but I am back with more inspiration, stored energy and happiness as well as writing tips.
I was in Sweden for 5 days for the Herrang Dance Camp, where I danced, danced and danced, and then I was off to Norway for 10 days to see some old friends. While my on-and-off internet connection didn’t allow me to publish while I was there, my notebooks got full of ideas. One of those ideas was the benefits traveling provides to writers so here we go:
1) Inspiration - for both fiction and non-fiction. Traveling brings more muses than I can count. The scenery, the languages, culture, meeting new people, visiting the new and revisiting the old, seeing old friends…Not to mention experiencing my first (swing) dance festival. I’m bursting with ideas and like most writers, the more ideas I have, the happier I am.
2) Potential to sell (travel) articles and make money. Naturally, travelling brings many ideas for travel markets, whether be in print or on the web.
I took as many pictures as I could- it was easier, faster and more detailed than writing things down every time I wanted to take a note of something. So now I have many pictures to derive ideas and slants from. I’m also organizing a big list of paying travel markets which I’ll happily share once it is finished.
3) Motivation to write and sell more productively. It’s easier to get caught in the latest social media article, Facebook status update or what to write in the blog that is fun, but doesn’t really make you money.
But once you’ve spent 2 weeks in 2 expensive countries, you are back with a rested and fresh mind, as well as more motivation to work more efficiently and concentrate on gigs that will make you money. After all, not only did you spend a lot, but you were also reminded of how awesome traveling is.
So there is a chance you will be planning your next trip before you get back. I know I did. So more money means more traveling which brings more ideas and inspiration, making you a happier and fitter writer…Yes, traveling has its perks indeed.
4) Fitness. Oh, about the fitness. I’m a 27-year-old female who was going abroad for 2 weeks, to a much colder climate (the temperature was an average of 17 Celsius in July!) and trying to make sure I didn’t exceed the 20kg limit my ticket allowed me. I didn’t want to pay extra, plus carrying more than 20kgs is not exactly fun.
But trying to get everything you need (since it is a camp, I needed to bring my sheets and stuff), plus a few things you want (make-up essentials, party clothes)…let’s just say I lost some weight just packing and repacking and then trying to zip it all up.
I always get fitter in the process of packing. Not to mention all the power-walking I had to do at the airport to catch flights, buy gifts and window-shop…Then of course there is all the walking you have to do while sightseeing and voila!!!
Despite all the candy I sinfully consumed, I am back having lost 2kgs. Yes, I love traveling.
(To be fair though, I did dance like crazy for 5 days, and there were 2 concerts in the second week.)
5) Authenticity if you want to write a story with characters from those countries and/or stories taking place there. It’s amazing how much your vocabulary can improve when you pay attention. You can also notice the tones, attitudes, approaches and interactions.
6) Extra writing time. While I didn’t do that much writing, I still took advantage of the time between flights, waiting for the plane to take-off or the 15-20 minutes I needed to relax my body. It’s not much, but because you don’t have the time for distraction, it is efficient. Plus it feels a bit more fun, given the change in location. Somehow I got the best idea on how to start my novel while I was in Sweden, while I wasn’t thinking about the novel…which, by the way, takes place in New York. Inspiration is a funny thing.
Traveling is great for so many reasons, and even more so for writers. I don’t know where I’ll go next, but I can’t wait to do it again. How is your relationship with traveling?
There are many writing-related cartoons that make me laugh. And not because they are hilarious or tragicomic, but they also have a level of truth to them – OK, sometimes the truth level is scarily high:))
I hope you can all enjoy the cartoons below. I’m planning to make this list a series, collecting the funny stuff whenever I see it.
I have never heard from another writer that he/she doesn’t like poetry. Frankly, I haven’t met that many people who openly admit that they don’t like poetry either. This may make me look bad, but it is OK. I’ve always been honest with you. Here it is: I don’t enjoy poetry. And I really tried to like it.
Right from elementary school, my teachers pushed poetry as the noblest medium. From middle school and onwards, I had the chance to read many, many poems by a diversity of poets, in very different styles and I just couldn’t enjoy it. They just didn’t resonate with me.
For some reason, poetry never sounded natural to me. I always sensed a touch of pretense, the desire to show life more painful than it had to be, the desire to sound profound and educated and charismatic rather than sincere and heartfelt.
I am not saying the poets who wrote those poems weren’t sincere. I’m however saying that they did feel artificial to me, and after all, whether or not you like something mostly (if not entirely) depends on how it makes you feel.
I have never been a fan of short stories either. For me, a story just doesn’t end in a couple of pages. I know there are a lot of different kinds and word counts and styles, but the effect for me is the same. I don’t get to know the characters enough, I don’t have the time or the opportunity to get to care about them. As a result, I end up forgetting all about it. Best case scenario, I remember how powerful the idea was. But I still have a million questions in my head about characters, the backgrounds, the motives. Not that all questions should be answered, but I’d like to have at least a couple answered.
I’m in no way looking down on these genres or lacking respect towards them. I am just saying that with so many flavors the tea comes in, I just don’t enjoy them all.
How do you feel? And it is completely OK if you always felt close to some or all types of writing. Feel free to share what kind of writing you feel the closest to and why.
Confession: I am a writing contest virgin. In fact, just a couple of days ago I was going to publish a list post about why I didn’t like writing contests. But then I read about a writing contest that eliminated the most annoying thing(s) on the list, so I decided to give this contest my best shot.
First let me tell you about what I don’t like about writing contests, and then tell you about the one I liked enough to enter.
1) There are fees. Yes, I know this is very typical, and in a way, reasonable but I don’t write short fiction or poetry. There aren’t that many contests about novels and screenplays. Some fees are reasonable, but some are just ridiculous.
2) There are limitations to who can enter. Many writing contests are open to residents of a certain city, country or at best- a continent. So even if there are a lot of contests taking place for all kinds of writing, not everyone can enter all of them.
3) They don’t accept entries online by e-mail- which in this day and age is one of my biggest pet peeves. Online entry forms or e-mail submissions aren’t just easy for the writers, it is practical for the judges (and the environment) as well.
4) The deadlines aren’t reasonable (for me.) If I’m 40 pages into a novel and they only want completed manuscripts, I won’t be able to make it.
I’ve read about many competitions and their rules, including the ones organized by Writer’s Digest, whose website, magazine and store are among my favorite writing resources. But when it came to the competitions, I just couldn’t see the ones that appealed to me – until a short while ago.
The Writer’s Digest Contest – Deadline: May 1, 2012
The contest has many categories including spiritual writing, personal essay, magazine writing and movie/TV script writing. You pay $25 for your first entry- and if you make your multiple entries during the same transaction, you pay $15 for the others.
I might submit more than once piece for one category, depending on I can finish everything before the deadline. But fingers crossed for my first time. I’m looking forward to it.
What were your first times like?
Some people love to chase. While I am not a big fan of chasing when it comes to dating, chasing inspiration is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.
I love it when inspiration comes by itself. When I have a magical A-HA! moment. When an idea comes by itself and not when I was brainstorming, forcing my brain to fix a plot problem. When it comes unannounced, unexpected and gives me the rush to start writing it right there and then. And even if I can’t start at that moment, I am smart enough to take enough notes so that I don’t let it get away.
Except this rarely happens to me. Especially when writing fiction. An exciting, entertaining idea doesn’t just come on its own. An idea- typically an ordinary one- comes when I think about what I want to write about. I know I want this ordinary situation or character in some way, but I don’t want it to be ordinary. No, I am not contradicting myself.
OK, think about it like this. You want to write about cancer. But you don’t want to go down the old, depressive, tragic, “what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this route”. Or the “I’m-already-dead-might-as-well-go-all-self-destructive route”.
Instead, your character decides to make the most of her life right there and then. She finds out humorous, practical and innovative ways to deal with her son and husband. She doesn’t care that much about saving money any more. She buys a red convertible – which will go to her son after he reaches a certain age. See how she lived for the moment, without screwing up anyone’s future? She also has workers build the swimming pool she always wanted. Impulsive? Yes. Irrational? No. If anything, this will increase the value of the house.
Did the plot sound familiar? Well, it is the plot of the comedy/drama show The Big C starring Laura Linney. Before watching it, I remember thinking “Humor in cancer? Right. Like that could happen!” But it has, and the show turned out to be really good and unique.
Isn’t this more interesting than typical ways of grieving?
This happens to me a lot. I respond to my ideas by changing the core of the story, changing the sex of the main character, shaking stereotypes, or adding some unexpected traits to the archetype. Victoria Connelly did a wonderful example of this by creating a writer character in her book “A Weekend with Mr. Darcy”.
In the book, the main character is Lorna Warwick – a modern day, famous author of best-selling Jane Austen style novels. But of course Lorna is the pen name and the writer is actually a guy. And he is not gay or a nerd. He is a masculine, heterosexual, sexy guy who hides behind the persona – and does adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities with his friends while he is not writing. And best of all…his interest in Jane Austen, and his novels, is genuine.
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy may not be the best book ever-created but I really liked the male protagonist being a guy’s guy and loving Jane Austen, and her characters, as much as the next gal. And guess what? Connelly has been published many times.
Where did the inspiration for this article come from? It came while I was reading this Writer’s Digest article about how not to write a novel, and one of the best ways to do it was to wait for inspiration. I am trying to write a novel and yet after all this time creating stories, I still tend to make the mistake of waiting for inspiration. The article stroke a chord and I wrote about it.
So an article about writing inspiration came when I was studying writing (so I could write my novel better and I could get to know the magazine enough to pitch great queries.) Not when I was doing something totally unrelated, or not doing anything at all.
While inspiration might occasionally do the favor of dropping by out of thin air, it mostly loves to be chased with vengeance. So you can just start writing about anything in anyway…and spice things up later.
If there is something that bothers me than writing something ordinary…it is not writing at all. The name of this blog is not a coincidence. I truly am addicted to writing. And while ordinary can be changed into extraordinary through trial and error, extraordinary isn’t born from nothing.