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Archive for the ‘writing process’ Category

Blog on hiatus? Well, that’s a duh statement. This mostly-neglected blog has barely been touched in the last few years. If you’re interested in fiction writing, Mike is actively updating The Lost Royals, the site for a new book series in development. Get a peek behind the curtain to see how a fantasy novel comes to life!

Thanks for visiting!

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If you like to write (or like the idea of writing but hate the difficulty of it), I have an exercise for you to try. I used it to create this article.

Many of us have had those glorious days where the words are flowing to your fingertips faster than you can type. It’s effortless. It’s a wondrous feeling that re-establishes your faith in your abilities and confirms that The Great American Novel is just a few sessions like this from being completed.

bang headUpon returning  to the computer, the black reality sets in. There’s nothing. No inspiration at all. In fact, there are days where I’ve been certain that banging my head against the keyboard would produce better prose than the barely-coordinated tapping of my fingers.

 

 

This is where my exercise comes in. Trust me, it works.

  1. Sit down at your keyboard with no topic in mind. Be sure you are uninspired. Be prepared to accept whatever lands upon the page with the understanding that another person never need see it.
  2. Type. And I’m talking stream-of-consciousness stuff here. I have literally typed “I am typing away because I have nothing to write about and I’m praying it will continue long enough that I will feel I have accomplished something.”
  3. Don’t think. Seriously. Take the words as they come. To start, your brain will be a few words ahead of your fingers. When you get into the rhythm, your thoughts will be a few sentences ahead (or further, if you really get into it!).
  4. Don’t edit for content. And don’t edit for typos (except for the ones that will keep you awake at night. See Word Murder for examples).

This might be the hardest writing you’ve ever done. It might also be the easiest. You’ve been released from your creative bonds. Your thoughts can be disorganized and follow any path you come upon.

road-not-taken-800x402As I mentioned above, what you’re reading is the result of that exercise. I sat down with no concept of what I would write. And now, I’ve delivered more than 400 words in less than 30 minutes.

I’ve been in this place before. Hundreds of times. You probably have, too. The desire to write is there, but it’s a chore because the inspiration isn’t. I know from experience that this method works. At best, I’ve delivered something salvageable I can edit (this article being a case in point). At worst, I’ve spent time exercising the writing muscles in my brain, which will make the next session easier.

Sit down at your keyboard today and have no plan other than to simply start typing. You might just surprise yourself.

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About a week ago I presented to a large group of writers. I mentioned it briefly. We build websites for lawyers and the topic was the future of content in our products. Now, this is far from the purpose of this fiction writing blog, but I think that’s irrelevant because I strongly believe writers of any kind should take the time to talk about writing and to listen about writing. I considered it a privilege to get on stage and talk to them because, in some regards, there’s a little jealously on my part: writing is a function of my role, but it’s their actual job.

As much as I’d like to claim we had a dialogue, it was presentation where I talked about developing new content opportunities, flexibility in the product spec, and a greater ability to help the customer. Fortunately for me, I saw many heads nodding agreement, so I must have been saying the right things. But these were things I believe in. Many companies that hire writers often relegate the work to just another function of the great content churning machine. They lose the art and a bit of the soul as a result. There is no line item for artistic freedom on the balance sheet. I’d like to think we do things a little differently here and part of my job is to help the writers put a bit of the love of the craft into the content they provide our customers.

Instead of raising barriers for them, I want to remove the ones we’ve already established. Instead of requiring that they write to cater to the whims of a search engine, I want them to write for humans who will make an emotional connection with our customers. Instead of them slogging through the work day to meet a quota, I want them to feel they’ve accomplished something and are helping someone else succeed. Now, these sentiments may be a bit fanciful, a bit rose-colored-glasses-ish, but c’mon, I’m a novelist at heart.

I wrote this post to serve as a reminder to myself and my fellow writers: take the time to learn more about what works for other writers and to share what works for you. Don’t forget there’s a balance to the art and the work that writing entails, whether you’re crafting content for a client, whether you’re typing up the Great American Novel, or whether you’re just taking a few minutes to jot down some words to entertain yourself. Finally, give yourself permission to change your writing style and to create content different than you normally would.

And don’t forget this one last thing:

Write.

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Some people have a musical soundtrack that plays through their minds as they walk or run. I have this, too, but more often than not, I have narration. My head is filled with the story of what could happen to someone in my situation. This morning, it was a rainy walk to work.

The first sentence is the exact first thing that came into my head as I stepped onto the sidewalk. The rest followed me as I went.

*     *     *     *     *

He walked unconcernedly through the rain. The quiet drizzle was a nice respite from the thunderous show of the night before. His umbrella echoed with rhythmic pit-pats as his shoes splashed through puddled evidence of the storm. All-in-all, he told himself, it was a nice change from his usual morning walk to work. A little change to an otherwise monotonous journey he had made hundreds of times in the last five years. People ran past with jackets over their heads or briefcases held high, but their efforts to stay dry were in vain. He allowed himself a smile, though it still took an effort to bring it to his lips.

It took a few moments for him to realize – at least, that’s what he would tell himself later when he tried to recall the exact series of events – that the sound of the rain against his umbrella had gone. His feet still splashed in puddles, but it seemed the rain had stopped. He lowered his umbrella, looking around, but still saw others trying to protect themselves against the wet. He stopped, thinking that he must be in some pocket of quiet, the eye of the storm where all was peaceful.

A sudden gale nearly blasted him off his feet, buffeting him and drenching his clothes. He had a momentary glimpse of his tattered umbrella before it disappeared into the gray of the sudden deluge. Then as suddenly as it had hit, it ceased. Again he was in the quiet in the midst of the storm. But it was different this time.

The rain still fell, but it no longer touched him.

*     *     *     *     *

I have no idea where this goes. And it doesn’t matter. It’s more fun than way.

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I’m speaking to a group of writers today. I’m a product manager for websites and a large part of what we produce is written content. So, these are my colleagues and they are executing the specifications that I have laid out. It’s a great opportunity for two-way communication and idea exchange.

I had intended to write more about this before the presentation, but I’ll have to do a write-up later.

As a writer, I’m always excited for opportunities to meet with other writers, regardless of the type of content they create.

Time to go!

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This is just me, writing as far as I can after starting with nothing. No ideas, save for what popped into my head right before I sat down. No plan. The only goal is to write until the baloney runs out.

*     *     *     *     *

Rosalyn Flaherty’s paternal grandparents were both Irish. As in, straight from Ireland. They’d immigrated to America after World War II to start a better life for their children. Rosalyn’s father Peter was the their fourth child and first American-born. He always joked about being raised in a world of green. Rosalyn suspected this wasn’t an exaggeration.

Her grandparents never let her forget her heritage, and their tutelage ranged from the history of some obscure traditional dish at supper to celebrating some forgotten holiday, the names of which usually sounded like they were clearing their throats as they taught her the proper pronunciation.

Rosalyn hated it. She hated the history. She hated the culture. She hated her ancestry. If she’d put her teenage brain to it, she’d have realized it all stemmed from her own self image. At the heart of it, she hated her milky skin and the explosion of red curls atop her head, to which she credited her fiery temper, not her contrary nature. She took it all out on everything Irish.

In the predominantly German and Scandinavian area where they lived, the red-headed Flahertys stood out amongst their brunette and tow-headed neighbors. Amongst her peers, Rosalyn felt like a glowing image of color in a black-and-white photograph. Many girls her age expressed their love of her hair, which she took as sarcasm, rather than jealousy. They, and many of their mothers, raved about her flawless porcelain skin. Rosalyn was never gracious about any of the compliments directed her way and her temper often flared up in response. She tried to forestall their praise by keeping her hair short and by concealing herself with long-sleeved shirts and pants, which turned her mother into a clucking chicken who was always picking at one thing or another about her appearance.

Rosalyn drew inwards as she grew older, and lived as solitary a life as a teenager could. Aside from the crowds of her high school and the seeming zoo of her parents’ house, she tried to be alone as much as possible. It relaxed her rigid posture. It cooled her temper. It allowed her to roll up her sleeves and let out the sometimes unbearable heat. Rosalyn’s  higher-than-average body temperature was unfortunate for a person who preferred clothing with full coverage. Her mother had often commented that it was Rosalyn’s anger boiling to the surface, which was a better explanation than the doctor’s diagnosis that some people just had warmer blood. At one hundred degrees, Rosalyn had much warmer blood.

Summer was approaching, bringing an end to the school year, and temperatures had been steadily rising for a month. If she had allowed it, Rosalyn would have been regretting her turtleneck today. But she suffered through it with a dignity borne of will. Without conscious thought, she found herself on a secluded path that led from her school to a nearby woods. The path was rarely used, so Rosalyn often had a quiet walk of no interruption. In addition to the seclusion, the shade afforded some relief on hotter days.

But it didn’t seem to provide any comfort this afternoon. In fact, Rosalyn’s distracted thoughts were soon consumed by her discomfort. The turtleneck seemed to be constricting her and generating a heat of its own. She stopped walking, assuming she had been moving too quickly and was overheating. She looked around, seeking deeper shade in which she could rest. The asphalt path ahead of her shimmered in the afternoon heat, but so did the trees around her. As did the grass and the sky. Rosalyn stumbled, feeling light-headed. Bringing her hands up to wipe away the sweat on her face, she saw a blush upon her white flesh. The blush darkened, assuming the rich color of too many hours in the sun.

Then Rosalyn burst into flames.

*     *     *     *     *

This came to me to me as I walked in to work this morning from my car. My path leads along the edge of wooded park, the border of which is a berm that is topped with tree. Its slope is covered in a short thick growth that radiates heat in the summer.

The thought of someone bursting into flame and adopting the identity of “Flare” led to Rosalyn’s last name “Flaherty”. The red hair and first name developed to follow the fire theme of the story.

The Irish angst seemed to come from nowhere, except as a device on which she could focus her misplaced teenage anger.

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This blog is about my writing process, so today I’m sharing an article on grammar, something that heavily influences my writing style. My love of grammar and the English language’s contradictions and eccentricities delight me, and if you’re with me, read on.

This article from Mental Floss gives examples of contranyms, words that are their own opposites. I was aware of the conflicting definitions of several of these words, but to my dismay, I was unaware that there was a word for this. As a fan of homonyms, homophones, and neologisms, perhaps I should have assumed. But any day that I learn a new word is a good day.

Mental Floss: 25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites

Enjoy!

 

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