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How to write better
Making it To The Top
Whatever we may think of their work people do write and many make it to the big time, but how can you do this? My passion is writing and I spend most of my time doing it. Sometimes I have to get up at 3, 4 or 5a.m. to get into what has been churning through my mind most of the night. It is rare that I ever sleep past 5 unless extremely tired. I can also still be at it at 8 or 9pm when I start to think of going to bed.
Writing is addictive and the more you do it the more you have to do. But its not like work if you take on board the tips offered here, Writing must flow like a stream from the mind to the page and give you pleasure not pain while you are doing it.
The key to better writing is, of course, knowledge. That's what we will discuss at some length below.
The Best Set-up For Best Results
At least this works for me
The greatest thing about this form of creativity is that it is not messy or invasive on others. That means that you can have your private space and leave your work, go away and then return when you are ready to pick it up again. It does not require much space, you can even do it in a writing pad while walking around or in the kitchen while preparing a meal. Thoughts will be forever churning around in your brain and they need to be captured and noted before they fly off never to return again.
In my case my workspace is my study which is surrounding by shelves of books and lots of files containing my essays and writings over several years. It also contains reference books easily accessible, such as 2 sets of encyclopedias, books on symbols and ancient civilisations, cook books, gardening books, and others on philosophy, history, chemistry, and most, if not all, of the sciences. There is also a lot of Internet stuff with guides to using different software tools, and so on, Of course I can't forget my CD boxes loaded with downloads, stuff from my web sites, my e-books, manuscripts and all that stuff.
Without this space I could not work because this is me and the atmosphere, even the smell of the books and material in here, is bliss for me.
It was once my priority to have a great view in order to write well but that doesn't come into it now. In fact I sit away from the window so there is no distraction from outside but a bit away from my face and up on the edge of the shelf hangs a calendar with a nice view that I can often stare at when I need to ponder something.
Writers at Work - A lecture by Professor Michael Pollen at Berkley University
At All Costs:-
Avoid distractions when you are writing. This is one of the most important points as such will quickly drain you of your thoughts and stop the flow.
Capture the Mood
To capture a mood, an atmosphere, an impression of something it needs to be noted in some way at the time it presents.
You might be sitting drinking a cup of tea or coffee and the sunbeams coming through the window generate something inside you that may speak of the past or of a happy moment to reflect on, There may be an insect buzzing around that has a purpose to which you tune in. Then again it may be a child that skips in and asks a question that creates a feeling of protection, knowledge or power. Whatever it is capture the moment. cement the mood and take stock of the atmosphere.
Most people baulk at the question of what to write about, or how to start a story. The thing is to just write down some sentences that promise an opening and you can always return and improve it later, even when the rest of it is finished.
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Should You Carry a Notebook? - Can you capture the mood
Would you record what you see, feel, smell or try to remember it?
Writing from Dawn til Dusk Every Day.
But I never run out of topics.
People complain about writer's block and they spend ages trying to get started on a story. Whether its my own training that prevents that happening to me or not I can only guess but I can sit down with a blank sheet, just as I am doing here, and within minutes have paragraph after paragraph written.
It will need editing, but the thing is to write. Forget about everything else until the thoughts are down on paper and then go over them later on.
My secret to doing this is knowledge. From the cradle until now my thirst for knowledge has been overwhelming. When a child my mum would find me buried in an encyclopaedia in my bedroom rather than out playing what I called silly games with other kids. If something happened I had to find out why?
At 14 I joined the Air League and started work at Qantas because of my love for airplanes. I was also in the Flying School where I met many an air force pilot training who would take me along for the ride. Flying was fantastic and learning all about International flights and ports of call was also great. But the other interest was to know everything that pilots did during the war. We would get inside old Lockheed Hudson aircraft parked near the Flying School and pretend we were on bombing runs.
Next I decided more education was required as the desire to go to university would not go away. The only way this could happen was to go to night school which I did at the technical College in Sydney. Here I studied physics, chemistry, maths, biology, and English to complete what was called the Matriculation. It was jolly hard work as I worked during the day and went to classes at night. At just 16 and 17 years of age it was tough but I thoroughly enjoyed the learning.
The point here is that experience makes knowledge. Join committees,, get involved in community activities, watch lots of documentaries, take in all the news broadcasts, read biographies and true stories on the greats of history and get some background in the sciences, journalism and, if possible, do a writing course. The experiences from these things will sink into the sub-conscious and emerge as a great library when called upon. The best thing is that the brain has its own filing system and recall is instant usually.
Building Up a Story
Fiction or True Story?
What appeals to you?
The best stories are written from the heart. That means it involves personal experience, yours or someone else. You already know the plot, how it begins and where it ends. You know the characters and their personalities, their background, dispositions and so on, Your writing will flow as you are not having to make anything up, unless you embellish it somewhat.
Fiction, on the other hand, is a story dragged from the deep dark place of the brain. It involves complete immersion and invention to work out characters, settings, moods, atmosphere, and so on. The imagination is wonderful sometimes but, as Joyce Oates states in the above video, it can affect your own moods. You can get angry at the world, unlikeable in your demeanor, and withdrawn from your family, although that can happen with any full time brain activity. But that may never happen to you.
There are millions of great fiction stories and the best of them are based on truth. Charles Dickens, for instance, worked in a workhouse as a young child (filling ink containers from memory). He knew characters like McGyver, Oliver and others who appear in his stories. He experienced the Debtor's Prison and knew the pain of being an orphan. He also knew about such places as Bleak House and what it was like to live in a seaside village and what it meant to walk long distances to get from A to B. He engaged these feelings, moods, emotions and studies in his stories.
Dickens wrote of the country, the people, the conditions, the poverty and the wealth that was his England. That's what writers do also. Don't write about countries, situations, events and people you know nothing about. Concentrate on things closer to home until your get your style and voice.
Writing is addictive and the more you do it the more your brain works on what you are doing. You may find things like television and small talk are no longer appealing, even housework, which is always a burden for me, can be put on the back burner. Don't worry. I once redecorated my whole house because concentrating on writing was hard when I pictured mold in the bathroom and spots on the carpet. So everything was redone and the carpet was replaced with one that has spots all over it. Now it does not bother me at all, even though that was some 18 years ago.
You must be comfortable in your workspace and inside your story. If it is not working for you then put it away for another time. Move on, don't get bogged down because something else will pop up. I have many manuscripts of partly written stories to rework and get published but, for some reason, I am spending most of my time writing lenses. It's a great way to vent your emotions and get the writing vibes flowing.
What do you prefer to read? - Fiction or non fiction
Is fiction your thing?
Read, Read, Read
One of the greatest sources of knowledge is books.
Expand your horizons and read about people, places, environments, comediennes and anything and anyone else that takes your fancy. But Read.
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Publishing is the Hardest Part
Where does one go to get published?
Without turning you off there are many resources for getting published. The Internet has opened this right up.
Traditional publishing houses are swamped. They have millions of authors banging on their doors and most are ignored while manuscripts can be trashed without even a glance from an editor. Everyone dreams of being another J.K. Rowlings, or Enid Blyton or some other famous author. But it won't happen that way.
You have to send a synopsis of your work, usually with two or more chapters, plus enclose return postage along with a self addressed envelope and, if you are lucky, someone might get back to you with a reject note. "This does not suit our list" is the favorite excuse even though you matched up your theme to their published requirements.. But don't be surprised if you never hear from the company. It can also take 3 months for them to get back to you and most will insist that you do not submit to other publishers without first getting their response.
It is time consuming, expensive and nerve wracking to say the least. After a couple of years of waiting around you might just want to do it yourself. For first timers this could well be the way to go. People are making small fortunes publishing their works in e-books which are sold through places like Lulu and Amazon. It costs practically nothing to do one and if they are sold for a few dollars its almost all profit. To sell in quantities make it as cheap as you can and after a few thousand are sold you can put the price up, do a rewrite, change the books, or whatever. Its is very flexible.
The other way of doing it is to get a website, or a Squidoo lens like this one, and self promote. Talk about your work and why people should buy your book. Don't be too greedy up front as the more people who buy the better your credibility. There are also agents who will publish books from new comers. I have self-published in print and as an e-book and the latter is now my preference.
E-books are delivered immediately. Orders can be placed 24/7 and money exchanged and book delivered without you even knowing about it. The services on the net are now so sophisticated that once you have done one or two there will be no stopping you. Its the way to go and there is no storing of manuscripts except on discs, no dust and no space takers involved. What a change in just a few years.
This is a Kindle
The lady in the picture above is reading from a Kindle. You can get yours right here. Learn to write well and then publish e-books and Amazon will make them available to Kindle users. You can chose how much they sell for and your commission, It's a great way to make money.
Why Write? - An interesting take on the subject
Shaping Your Story
Before you start think about the story you are going to write. Who is your audience? What age are they? What sex do you think will be your main reader? Do you have your story worked out? What is the plot, the theme, the setting?
If you are writing fiction these things are a must to know upfront. Would you travel in a strange country without a road map? No, of course you wouldn't if you are driving. Well, you are the driver of your story so get a map.
Write out the names of the important points you will focus on. Make a list and then number them as chapters. Now work on each one of those points until it comes out in the story. For instance, if I was writing about the life of a friend I would put down the headings as:
1. Place and circumstance of birth
2. Growing Up Years,
3. First job
4. First love
7. Events as a teenager
8. Maturing to adulthood
10. First child
11. Drama when marriage falls apart . . . . . .
. . . . . . and so on.
Then expand on each of these points and probably get another 2 or 3 main points from them to become more chapters. You can a lot to this as you progress. Don't worry if you have writers block over an area, simply move onto the next one. Often when you write the later chapters you can come back and fill in the earlier ones. You might find that you have left out important details that occur to you as you near the end. That's why the plan is important.
In my study I also have a white board to plan ahead and work out difficult sections. It is used to describe images and their meanings, to work out sections of the bible and how they affect other parts of it. I think you get the idea. If you don't have a white board then get a large pad from the newsagent. I have one that is about 50cms wide and I worked a lot of things out on that.
Sometimes the brain needs a rest from writing and that's when something like gardening or shopping can be done. Other things to do are hobbies, follow some other interest out side the work space, or even watch some television. The National Geographic Channel has a lot of interesting stuff and big news events, like the Haiti disaster, was compelling viewing.
Documentaries are always good and the most recent one for me was that of Dr. Frankenstein. This was someone whom I always thought of as a fictional character but it turns out he was a real person who looked over prisoners before they were hung and paid the jailer to get their bodies as soon as they were dead. It was fascinating and part of London's history. Ugggh!
The author, Mary Shelley, cleverly picked this character and built her story around him, so it wasn't quite fiction although from what I know of it most of it was.
Still images from Dreamstime - click here
© 2010 norma-holt