I do not know one single writer that has not, at some time or other, asked the question: Why does my writing suck?
Of course, I thought I knew why. I thought that all my drafts were horrible. I dare not show them to anyone. They might figure out that what I deem is my only talent is rather a figment of my imagination.
Then, I came across this video, which is a shorter version of Baltimore radio host, Ira Glass’ explanation why we expect so much from our writing. Writing takes time to mature. So, if you have been beating yourself up over your lackluster writing attempts, have faith. I now play this video every time I secretly torture myself over my writing attempts. It centers me.
We are about to witness the passing of another year. I suspect there will be many changes in 2012. You can feel it in the air. It starts with the economy, the political unrest on the national level and eventually trickles down into our homes and our daily lives. Some people hate change.
Change is not a bad thing. I mentioned to my husband the other day that when life or the course we have been on accumulates too many projects, collects too many peopleand things, the best action plan is to go back to basics. Start from the beginning and incorporate into your life the essential behaviors and things that you would need to function. (Most people do not make a distinction between need and want. This distinction between your needs and wants list is the key to defining who you are.) Then add layers to it. You will find that you will do things differently, cutting out unnecessary or outmoded steps in your life…allowing more new things to come into your life. It is much like giving your bedroom a fresh coat of paint. You first must clean out the entire room, pick out a paint color (goal) and then reintroduce only things that you need.
For me, change is been in the works throughout 2011. I have learned much about myself, my motivation to write, and to maintain this website. If you have noticed, I only post when I feel I have something to share.
So, I leave you on Christmas Eve with a great blog by Larry Brooks. Here Larry shows us the long view of our writing journey. It is something to think about as you reflect on your writing goals for 2012. http://storyfix.com/
May your new year be filled with conflict, mayhem and drama — of course, on paper, not in real life. Are you ready?
Did you ever write a sentence and wonder if it was acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition? Or begin a sentence with a conjunction? Or write the way we talk? Me too. Even though I have seen magazines, printed articles, and newspapers write in an informal style, bucking up against Strunk and White’s Elements of Style somehow seemed incorrect. (I have to admit that my elementary education had brainwashed me as far as grammar rules and the mighty diagramming sentences tool.)
A couple of days ago, Erik Decker posted the blog The writing rules you’re allowed to break http://www.prdaily.com/writingandediting/Articles/9060.aspx. You don’t have to wonder any more whether you are the writing rebel. Decker lists 5 common rules of grammar that have gained flexibility over the years.
1. You CAN end sentences with a preposition.
2. You CAN start a sentence with or, and or but.
3. You do not have to start a sentence with a dependent clause. You can end with one, if it makes more sense and doesn’t form a misplaced modifier (a dependent clause should be adjacent to the noun it describes).
4. You CAN use incomplete sentences sparingly.
5. A sentence DOES NOT always have a subject, verb and an object. A paragraph is not always contain three to five sentences.
These bendable rules are nothing new to the slick, contemporary magazine writers.
However, one writing rule you CANNOT break is that every successful writer knows his audience. (Decker should have added a sixth rule…You CAN use the pronoun he in a sentence to refer to an individual. For a decade or so, it was a political taboo to choose a gender. The only way around this is to either reword the sentence to avoid using pronouns reflecting gender or adding the words “he and/or she” everywhere in an article. Both options halted the flow of thought and sounded awkward. So kudos to society for allowing the use of either one gender or the other.) If your audience are professionals, writing along the accepted grammar rules is expected. Anything less might decrease your credibility.
For the details of the permissible writing rule changes, click on Decker’s blog: http://www.prdaily.com/writingandediting/Articles/9060.aspx.
Over a decade ago, I attended several writing workshops. I always walked away disappointed and wondering whether I could have used my time more wisely by spending it writing.
Today, I attended a writing workshop that for the first time brought some clarification to why I have been struggling with my writing all these years.
What I learned today is that the scope of my project is ambitious for a first time novelist. The suggestion from the group was to take it in smaller chunks. While that would seem obvious to anyone, the obvious becane obfuscated through too much isolated thinking and not enough sharing.
For years I have been searching on and off for a writing partner. Inherently, I knew I needed someone to bounce ideas around with, to help keep me focused, and to provide the mental support when that inevitable writer’s pause strikes. My mistake, as Edie Hemingway, today’s instructor, pointed out is not pairing with a writer that shared a similar genre. No wonder why I cringed when my writing partner handed me a 50 page manuscript of science fiction or 3 pages of esoteric poetry! I had no interest in reading much less critiquing a first draft manuscript. It wasn’t my niche.
Another point I found interesting was the show of hands of writers who thought they were structured writers and those who thought they were intuitive writers. I, of course, stood alone again. I lean toward left brain, structured approaches to all tasks. As we each presented our thoughts on a small writing assignment, it was amusing to hear how each one of us interpreted Edie’s assignment.
Mine was 4 sentences, each about 12 words long. I thought I misunderstood the assignment at first as I watched others writing away, scribbling furiously on a second page. Just as too many words is not good, paucity of words is not good either. My writing lacks that emotional ingredient that stirs up the reader’s passion and loyalty. I have to learn to share my feelings, otherwise, there will never be a wide audience for my writing.
In any case, I feel motivated again. This class was just what I needed to jumpstart my 2010 writing goal for the year. Edie’s workshop breathed O2 into my book.
I wholly recommend Edie’s class, if you are in the area. She runs workshops from her home in Frederick, MD and teaches classes at Frederick Community College. http://www.ediehemingway.com/
1. Create your website. This is your calling card, your business card. It is evidence to the world that you are committed to writing. Obviously, you do not have to wait until your published to start a website. You should begin NOW. It will take time, especially if you haven’t created one before. A website will establish a following, so that when you get your first book published, you can announce its birth!
2. Blog or write for an established website. There are websites out there that pay you (minimally, of course. Common now, you have to earn the title of a starving artist.). Check out Suite 101 or About.com. This provides an income stream and exposure.
3. Capitalize on your niche. Pick a theme or specialty and wrap your writing, your website, your promotions around that theme. For example, if I am a dog lover and all my writing should be about dogs — my website, blogs, newsletters. etc.
4. Give talks about your specialty. Many of us like to talk about writing, because that is what we do. Be kind to your target audience. Only writers like to hear about writing. For all the rest of the world, it is a snore. That is why you build up your exposure talking about Not What You Do necessarily, but WHAT YOU KNOW. People flock to topics on how to solve or resolve their dilemmas. If you are writing fictional mystery stories, then maybe your talks will revolve around weapons. Or say you are a romance writer, then your talk might be about the pros and cons or comparisons between online dating services such as eharmony.com, match.com, or chemistry.com.
5. Print up business cards. These are handy and more professional than writing your telephone number or email address on a scrap of paper.
6. Offer a product. Let’s say your book is about dogs. What about selling t-shirts promoting you, your book, or dogs online?
7. Participate in online communities and forums. Focus on building your writing platform by offering thoughtful comments and helpful information. If possible, leave your website address under your name after your contribution.
8. Sell or donate articles or parts of your book to magazines and newspapers. Writing for free can be a great way to getting noticed. Remember to leave your email address or website address, if you can. At the very least get that byline.
9. Offer to teach classes or hold your own workshop. You get some money for your efforts, while building your exposure.
10. Depending on your niche and topic, get an organization to commit to buying 100 copies of your book. Include that letter of commitment with your book proposal. For example, if you wrote an inspirational story about a sales person. Might not any large company like IBM think this would be a great book for their sales training…or to inspire new employees?
One word of caution. All these suggestions will take time to implement. And once implemented, you will have very little time for what you really want to do…and that is write. So, guard your time wisely. Think out your game plan…get your family to help…then, put it into ACTION.
As we approach the new year, I see that I have made only baby steps in my writing attempts. I’m embarrassed that I have not written an entry in this blog since September. No excuses. I got swept up in my old habits and let time slip through my fingers.
If you are in need of some serious motivation to break old habits, shake things up a bit because your answer to Dr.Phil’s “How is that working for you?” has you shaking your head, I recommend reading James Arthur Ray’s book Harmonic Wealth. Yes, he is the same dude that is under investigation for deaths at his retreat in Sedona, AZ. (I am not sure why people don’t use common sense when trying new things. People, huddled in a sweat tent, must have known that they were subjecting their bodies to the same environment that animals face locked in a parked car for hours in the summer.) Anyway, if we can surf past this event, and discover what Ray has to say, you might find that there is relevance in his life philosophy and message.
As I read Ray’s book, I liked the fact that the conversational tone wasn’t preachy. He tells you his take on life and what he has learned. His message isn’t new. What is new is his delivery. He is able to explain and connect what happens in everyday life. It is not as random as we might like to believe.
For us busy people, he outlines steps to help you realize what you want and how to get it. As I said, this nothing new. For years business schools have touted the management by objective system, but Ray has broadened the scope to open the potential for success in all areas of life.
For the new year, this book/ CD, which is in libraries, might help you slug through and figure out how to achieve your wildest dreams. So, I have read this book once, listened to the CD, and now look forward to 2010 with renewed enthusiasm for my writing.
Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way, says that if you do a timeline of goals, you will find when you look back 80% will have been realized. So, join me in creating your timeline for 2010. We’ll meet back here next year at this time and see how much has come to pass.