Tag Archives: writing tips

Scheduled Writing

18 Jan

The muse is a fickle mistress. Waiting around for her will only lead to a broken heart. The only way to get ink on paper is by jumping that muse and tying her to your desk. Sure, she will chew on her arm and possibly also yours, but it will be worth it. I mean, the only way to get anything done, is by simply doing it.

Since motivation can be tricky, the key is habit. Writing has to become as easy to do as brushing your teeth. As a child that may have been a chore but we stuck to it and now we don’t even think about it. The wonderful thing about this, is that it doesn’t matter how long the writing lasts. Just like with most things, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Writing is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Exercising for ten minutes is still exercising.

Finding Forrester was on TV today (one of my faves) and it was cool to watch a seasoned author type away on his typewriter within a second of sitting down. His mentee asking him what he was doing, wondering how he shook some amazing prose out of his sleeve within seconds. Because HOW is that even possible? I guess the same as when someone finishes a marathon. With a lot of practice. Whether you try to publish your work or not, the more you write, the better.

So take a notebook with you, or have your laptop within in reach and make sure you have a few moments to jot down whatever your fingers let escape. Your characters will appreciate it. And so will your (future) readers.

 

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Playing with Words 1.1 Apples

7 Sep

The doorbell rang intrusively. It was early and I had barely finished breakfast. I hurried to the door and opened it.

“Hello,” a woman I’d never seen before said. She had on baggy clothes.

“Hello,” I said.

“I’m walking around door to door to hand out free apples,” she said in a creaky voice.

It was then that I noticed the basket filled with green apples. They were still wet as if she’d just washed them.

“Oh, free, you say?”

“Yes, free.” She smiled to reveal pearly white teeth.

“Alright, I’ll have three, please.”

“How wonderful,” she said and held out the basket.

“Thank you so much.” I picked three apples and thanked her again.

“No worries, no worries,” the woman said and walked away.

I closed the door and took a bite of one of the apples as I made it back to the kitchen. I placed the other two on the counter. I made a reach for my mug of tea but my vision blurred and I lost my balance. I fell to the ground as my heartbeat slowed. The apple rolled on the ground.


The sound of the doorbell cut through the morning quiet, chasing off any fuzziness in my head that had been the result of a good night’s sleep. I pushed my empty plate away and rushed to the door to open it.

“Hello,” a woman said. Her clothes dangled around her figure, several sizes too large for her frame.

“Hi, there,” I said.

“I’m going around door to door to hand out free apples,” she said in a creaky voice, as if each word stepped on an old floorboard before leaving her mouth.

I eyed the basket filled with green apples. Drops of water decorated the skins as if they’d just been washed.

“Oh. Free, you say?”

“Yes, free.” She smiled to reveal pearly white teeth.

“Alright. I’ll have three, please.”

“How wonderful,” she said and held out the basket.

“Thank you so much.” I picked three large apples that were cool to the touch and thanked her again.

“No worries, no worries,” the woman said. She turned her back to me and sauntered towards the pavement. Her movements were fluid and her steps contained a certain elegance that seemed to be hiding under her appearance.

I closed the door and took a bite of one of the apples as I made it back to the kitchen. I placed the other two apples on the counter and reached for my mug of tea. My vision blurred and I stopped chewing. I rested my hand on the counter to keep my balance, but within a few seconds I keeled over. It was as if something had reached from the ground and pulled each of my cells down to the cold kitchen tiles. My heartbeat slowed as the apple rolled on the ground.

Writing prompts: Unspoken

24 Nov

Some things are better left unsaid is a saying, right? It could mean that some things we are better off not knowing, but in this case I’ll take it that showing can be better than telling. This set of writing prompts is about how the unspoken can be used to benefit a character, give them some depth with subtlety. Saying things out loud can sometimes make things seem trivial and in this case we’ll use that to our advantage. Oh, the wonderful life of a writer! Let’s play with some imaginary friends…

1. Friends
Showing respect for a friend is best done by actually showing respect. Your character is the friend of an eccentric writer with mental issues. Without being asked to friend regularly shows up and helps out the writer with little things. Show one of these acts of kindness and how both characters respond to this act. Feel free to add a flashback to show the depth of their relationship, but keep the dialogue to a minimum, or at least avoid deep conversations.

2. Grudge
Two colleagues, one (dangerous?) job, and one secret. Drop two characters and a moral dilemma on the page. One character (A) knows more about the other, because of a secret where A is the victim and B the perpetrator. Were they thrown together by fate? Or was it all planned from the start? Either way, A is now in a position to strike a blow, figuratively speaking or literally, that’s up to you. A lot of time has passed, however, and the victim has seen another side to B. Can he/she do what his/her darker side wants him/her to do? Why does he/she want revenge anyway? Make it interesting. A plot twist might not hurt.

3. Jealousy
Character A is in love with Character B, but Character B has just started dating Character C. How does A show (against his/her will) jealousy? Does B pick up on this? If so, how does B handle this? You can make A an extremely proud or shy character. How will A handle this new development without being able to say what A feels? Perhaps B feels the same way as A but can’t say it either. Dialogue could be very interesting here. Riddle it with clues for the reader!

Feel free to make your own variation. Hopefully this sparked something in that wonderful mind of yours. Grab the brushes and start painting a new world in your head. The unspoken words that someone holds in their heart are always the most powerful. They are unspoken for a reason. Tortured characters are the most interesting ones.

“…I gave you painted air – tears I couldn’t weep – truths I couldn’t speak – all the words that caught in my throat…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 

Unspoken

Ten Tips for Surviving The Writer

29 Apr

Being friends with a writer, or worse, living with one, can be quite a challenge. So if you’re a Bystander, here are some tips that come in handy when dealing with The Writer.

 

1)      The Do Not Disturb Sign

Is not an actual sign that writers hang on their doorknob. However, it is still a sign and if you know your writer pretty well, it will be as clear as a neon sign. Signs that tell you not to disturb this writer include grunting as a reply, lack of make-up/shaving of the face, squinting when seeing someone who looks all shiny and decent, ten empty mugs on desk, snacks on desk, post-its EVERYWHERE, loud music on, staring at the ceiling, staring at the laptop screen, staring out of the window, rapid blinking and sighing. Seriously, these are all signs. So. Back. Off. Unless you have more snacks. Then put them down and slowly back away.

 

2)      The Rant

When writers have a new idea for a story or an amazing new twist on an older story, they will inevitably hop over to you and unleash the tidal wave of words associated to this development. The most important thing to do when The Rant is unleashed is just this: LISTEN and NOD. Because listening is not enough, the writer needs validation that they are not talking out of their…toes and simple nodding will do. Smiling won’t hurt either, but not too much or they’ll think you’re making fun of them and nobody wants a sad writer. Because they will write about you. And it won’t be pretty. In any case, let them talk because it will either lead them to be sure that their brilliant idea is brilliant or they will discover a mistake that they would not have discovered until waaaay later when they’ve already started writing and putting sweat, blood and tears into their words. The Rant is an important process that can only be done when someone they trust is nearby, so be honoured and just LISTEN and NOD.

 

3)      The Stalker

Every writer has the Stalker-Mode which they will engage when they are in crowded areas as to generate inspiration which will be stored in their minds under a special file. This mode will include eavesdropping, staring and questioning of the subjects. When you aware of this, let the writer do his or her thing and perhaps you could even help. It is important for the writer to see and hear enough so that they continue to have a solid base on which they can draw their characters. Sure, a lot of interesting people live in their hearts, but sometimes reality hides some gems as well. I would, however, refrain from actually calling the writer a stalker, since this will make the writer feel like they want to punch you in the face.

 

4)      The Meh Mood I

The Meh Mood I is the mood that comes when writer’s block is not far behind. It is the phase before a new story. The one where the writer feels the characters knocking on the door but he or she doesn’t know how to unlock the door. The story is a candle, but the matches are lost. And the writer is there in the cabin all alone, not sure where to find the key or the matches. This will make the writer depressed and he or she will feel useless and stupid and eat a lot and sleep a lot. Then watch a lot of TV and tweet about writing without actually writing and therefore feel more useless. It’s a vicious cycle, both mean and never ending. The only solution for the Bystander is to play the role of the cheerleader without adding pressure. Make the writer feel proud and awesome and let him or her know that the key and the matches are in the hands of the characters and the story itself. Sometimes all the writer can do is sense the story’s presence and wait until its ready to open up to the writer.

 

5)      The Scribbler

At this time the writer is beginning to taste the words of the story, though the writer does not have them all. This is when the writer starts scribbling in notebooks, playing with post-its and leaving pages of passages all over the place. The writer wants to write, but the story isn’t quite ready. The door is ajar, but not open. This is a totally normal phase. The creative brain is preparing for the story, setting up the decorations, making the bed, stocking the fridge with food. It is nearly time to invite the new guest in and since it will be staying for a while, it will also take a while to get it ready. For the Bystander it would be ideal to hand the writer new notebooks, pens or post-its so that the writer feels even more excited to get ready and therefore will subconsciously speed up the process. The writer is more powerful than he or she thinks.

 

6)      The Man with the Moustache

This man stands in the corner of the writers mind, with a hat on and a cane, as well as a suit that is without flaws, and he asks the writer a lot of questions. Are you sure that comma should go there? Are you sure you spell it ‘definitely’? How can he kill her with a hammer and not have blood on his clothes? Wait…isn’t that a plot hole? Are you sure she has brown hair? That’s a cliché, isn’t it? Shouldn’t you begin a new paragraph? Isn’t that stupid? Maybe the chapter should end here? Is that a word? Are you even a writer? With some writers he shows up during the writing itself, with some writers during rereading/editing. In any case, this moustached man will lead to…

 

7)      The Meh Mood II

This mood mostly arrives to the writer after the story has been written and will make the writer question his or her story and most importantly his or her writing abilities. This mood will be worse than Meh Mood I and will involve more complaining, sighing, snacking, wailing and possibly fake crying and purchasing of kittens with tiny hats on. The Bystander has the same role as with the first Meh Mood, but in this case the Bystander will need additional help in the form of muffins, chocolate, alcohol, hugs and borrowed baby animals. Please note the ‘borrowed’ for the writer will want to keep said baby animals. Cheerleading must also be taken to a whole new level and might require the Bystander to actually dress up and do a little dance. Writers like watching people dance. The sillier, the better. Don’t forget encouraging words, because the writer needs those too. Words are important for the writer, they carry them in their hearts.

 

8)      The Happy Deer

This is a sign that the writer feels good about their story and his or her ability to write. This won’t last long, so it’s in the best interest of everyone to enjoy it while it lasts. Celebrate like crazy and share in the happiness of the writer because it’s these moments that are just as important as the meh moments. The writer may act like a happy deer on drugs in a forest made of cotton candy, but you already knew that writers are weird, so embrace it.

 

9)      The Eager Reader

Every writer needs to know what has been written. Whether they are well-written or poorly written, the writer will learn from them. Once the writer feels the Well of Words has dried up, he or she will dive into books and in this phase it’s important that you leave the writer alone to soak up the words. In case of an emergency, break window and throw the reading writer out. But under no circumstance interrupt their reading. You’ll thank me later.

 

10)   The Ride

Living with a writer might not be easy, but darn it, it’s a hell of a ride and totally worth it. So the last tip is: ENJOY. Writers are a special kind of people in the truest sense of the word. Having a writer keeping you close is special indeed, after all, they are good at being alone and enjoy spending time with their characters more than you know.

shesjustweird

Meh-Ness of the Creative Mind

28 Feb

Those days where you want to change the world with your words, whether it’s with your social media or a new story idea. Whatever it is, it gets you all excited and you think about what it will be like when you’ve build up this legacy and quite possibly also have a butler. Or three. Those moments are good because they inspire. They inspire you to be the best and kick some ass.

Or at least, that’s what they’re supposed to do. I mean, they do inspire me, but also they make me feel guilty for when I don’t end up changing the world in one afternoon. Because most of the time it’s daunting to think of all that you want to achieve and to know that it will take long. Not to mention that it takes a lot of effort and luck. It can be paralysing. Which is why I usually end up building a virtual village or raising Sim babies.
When you’re writing just for fun it’s easier because there is no pressure. However, pressure can also be good, so how do you make it so that pressure becomes the same as motivation?

The goals are still important and it would be good to consider those goals every once in a while. Ask yourself what you really want to achieve with your writing and before you write, meditate on those images. If you’re a realist, you might think that it will never happen, and I suppose it’s good not to get your hopes up, but also add that you can eat least TRY. Because the trying part is probably more fun than the actual achievement. If we do achieve our dreams, don’t we want to look back and know we’ve EARNED it? I know I do.

On the other hand it also helps me to just turn on some music, daydream about my story and get excited about it again. It depends on my mood, but sometimes I don’t need to think about the future, I just need to be in the moment and write for my story. After all, I like my characters so I want to do my best for them. The story deserves it, so do its inhabitants.

Which means that my advice today is a bit contradictory. It depends on who you are and what your current mood is, but both result in motivation. But here is one more tip. There’s a difference between the lack of motivation or simply having dust in your creative mind. If the Jar of Words is empty, my advice is simple: READ A DAMN BOOK. I hate to be all cliché, but books make for the best inspiration in the first place.

Hopefully my scattered ramblings all over this post help you, because right now my brain feels all dusty. I am going to refill my Jar with Haruki Murakami and then I’ll play with my characters. After all, I have an agent interested in my work, and if that isn’t a good kind of pressure, I don’t know what is.

 
GOOD LUCK, WRITERS!

 

weird writer

Metaphors and stuff…

29 Aug

To paint our words with brighter colours a writer has some amazing tools in his or her tool basket. Probably the most important one, is METAPHORS.  They are great figures of speech and blow life into the words we write. They sprinkle them with extra spirit, depth and originality. They say that good metaphors are a sign of genius. Which means that mastering the skill that is writing metaphors is a very good thing if you want to be a good writer.

Just to remind you what metaphors are:
A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses symbolism. It compares two things that are NOT similar and show that they actually do share a similarity. There is an additional meaning to a word, which means it includes symbolism.

Now, what is more powerful? He was overcome with sadness. OR: He was drowning in a sea of sorrow. Exactly…metaphors are your friend. An entire story can be a metaphor, but then it is called an ALLEGORY. Stories like that will show symbolism throughout the entire story.

There are more tools in the tool basket of a writer. There is also this thing called a SIMILE. This is when you compare two things and you use either ‘like’ or ‘as’.
Examples: He was cold as a stone. She laughed like a wounded animal.
I’m a big fan of this tool, they have great impact on the minds of the readers and are easier to write than metaphors. They can also be used more often than metaphors. They differ from a metaphor, because a metaphor compares two unlikely things by saying that the one thing IS the other thing. With similes it’s clear that they’re being compared and are only similar. If you keep mentioning that things are in fact other things, it might take away the power (of the metaphor). With similes that isn’t the case although I would suggest not to use them in every sentence, but at least regularly.

HYPERBOLE, which is an exaggerated statement to give power to what you’re saying. For instance when you’re tired or hungry and you say: I could sleep for an eternity or I could eat a horse.

And two others that should be mentioned are ANTITHESIS and OXYMORON. An antithesis is a figure of speech that brings out contrast in the ideas by an obvious opposition in the words or (parts of) the sentence within a parallel grammatical structure.

So: Many are called, but few are chosen. When one man speaks, another man listens. When you’re single, you want to be in a relationship and when you’re in a relationship, you want to be single.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which contradictions are combined. Like: a deafening silence. A silent scream. Turn up missing. Old news. Alone together.

There you have it, a couple of tools you might find handy to liven up the words you carefully display on the pages of your story. Good luck and may the force (of Words) be with you.

 

 metaphor-cartoon

 

Pick the ‘Write’ Words

13 Aug

As writers, we yield our pen like a wand, the words that come out of it are our magic. We have complete power over the words. So we have to choose them wisely. We’ve all read those books where not just the story itself is captivating, but the words are dripping with deliciousness. We want to keep tasting them in our head and read them over and over again. They dance for our soul’s eyes and make music for the ears.

This is the kind of Word Ninja most of us strive to be.

A good word-related tip is to pick specific words, as I tweet my #writetips, this might strike you as familiar, but here goes again: pick the RIGHT word.

There is this quote about how being a writer means that you have homework every night for the rest of your life and that’s true. Some people read dictionaries for fun due to their love of words. Which is good, because it expands your vocabulary and that is the key. Now, five minutes of me reading a dictionary will direct my attention to shiny things considering I have the attention span of a squirrel. But I do look up fairly ‘simple’ words and look for the synonyms. (Words that are regularly used, like walk, say, think, etc.)
This brings me to another of my write tips: Always carry a notebook. In this particular (really pretty) notebook, I write words and add their synonyms. For instance:

Walk = stride, stroll, traipse, tread, strut, pace or march. Pick the right verb and it paints the picture much clearer. Being visual is also important.

Expanding your vocabulary will allow you to pick fancier and more fitting words for your story and/or characters. It also means that you can create diversity.

And speaking of diversity, it’s GOOD.

Not just different words for the same thing, but also same things in a different way. Write: ‘She sighs’ one time and then the other time: ‘A sigh escaped her soft lips’. Little things scattered around the pages like that make ALL the difference. Along with picking visual words/sentences. Does she walk past him or breeze past him? Does she look worried or does she bite her lip? Is she about to say something or are the words rolling on her tongue?

It basically comes down to this: Know your words. And in this case also keep in mind the opposite of one of my life mottos: Don’t Keep It Simple! Put your Fancy Words Hat on and make the words play a symphony instead of lip synching to Britney Spears.

Check this:

He touched his purple tie as he checked out his reflection. He had black hair, with white streaks around his temples. His eyes were fern green, making them stand out, instead of the scar on his lips. He had been told that he looked like a mafia boss because of his expensive suits, his stare and the overall dark vibe around him.

VS

He touched his purple tie as his eyes danced over his reflection. The colour of his thick, black hair was broken in its evenness by the white streaks around his temples. His eyes were fern green in colour, drawing immediate focus to that part of his face, instead of his full lips or the scar that ran through them. He had been told that he resembled a mafia boss in his expensive suits, with his piercing stare and the overall darkness that drifted around him like heavy perfume.

Metaphors and similes also help paint the words a brighter colour, but that’s for next time!

Channel your inner WORD NINJA!

Channel your inner WORD NINJA!

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