Writers Group

I’ve been a member of a writers group for over three years. I left the group tonight, permanently.
I’ve outgrown what the group does or more importantly doesn’t focus on. It trivialises writing. That and the egos of some so-called adults got in the way and they transferred their behaviour onto me accusing me of being childish. Remember because they call you childish does not make it the case and being a minority of one does not make you wrong.
It’s important to realise that writing groups can be useful though they may not suite your needs forever. We all like continuity, but as a writer, the continuity we need most is that of our writing.
By all means visit in person a local writers group or form your own if one does not exist. If it works for you, continue with it till it stops meeting your needs then move on with no remorse. The same applies to online groups.
As I write this I’m listening to the Dragon Page Podcast show number 275B. Talk about synchronistic. They talk about writers groups about 10 minutes into the show for about 5 minutes. I don’t necessarily agree with all they say but it’s interesting and spooky.

Power Word Writing

This is a variation on the timed writing theme that I have come across in two independent sources and I have used to good effect in my own writing especially when I get stuck. It is the use of so called power words linked to timed writing. The idea is to select three words, nouns that best evoke the feeling, sentiment, idea, concept or whatever the essence of the thing that you want to write about.
You must use one of these words as the first word you use and you must use the other two words in the first paragraph.
Select, say a five minute or ten minute time, and follow the rules for timed writing.
For most people you’ll get anywhere from 70 to 350 words and you’ll be surprised at the quality of those words.
Repeat this and you can build a chapter a paragraph at a time then, you could write a chapter like this and therefor a book.

The Zeigarnik Effect

This is a new one to me.
Called after the original promulgator of the phenomenon
the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik
The cliff-hanger. People remember an interrupt task, thought etc. about twice as effectively as a completed task. And that can be a useful device to keep a reader powering from chapter to chapter or scene to scene.
It is also used in marketing and TV a lot when you are given a nibble of what may be to come. A teaser if you will.
It’s also a great study aid in that you will remember more by breaking before completion that coming to a natural break.
Maybe Ernest Hemingway intuitively knew this when he said, “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.”

Characters and Authors

A recent comment to one of my postings highlighted a possible dilemma for some writers. Do you control your characters or do they control you?
I know that that’s a very simplified position and as you rightly point out that to force a character down a line that would be not within their normal behaviour can diminish the believability of the character, yet it could also enrich and deepen the character to make her more complex and contradictory like most people.
Another thought is that you could use a supporting character to lead them to that place where they would never go on their own.
I suppose that it also depends on how driven your story is by plot. In genres like crime and mystery then to a large extent they are plot driven and so is any story where you want a particular outcome to happen.
I’m not sure where I stand. The more experience I get then a better judgement I’ll make for a given set of circumstances. BTW I’m a very solution oriented person.
Just some thoughts. What do you think?

Timed Writing

If you’ve read Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” you will have noted her assertion that timed writing exercises are the pillars that support a writing practice.
Just what amount of time you spend on a given exercise is dependant on quite a few factors. How new you are to a writing practice. How much time you have to spare. Where you are writing. Are you writing alone?
The key thing is to choose a time segment that you can fully devote to the exercise. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes or half an hour or for the battle hardened an hour or more. It’s what suite your circumstances.
Things you need:
Paper and your favourite writing implement or computer if you can type faster than you can hand-write.
A kitchen timer. A silent LCD type, not a clockwork one that might just get on your nerves.
A place where you will be left undisturbed for your allotted time.
The rules are simple:
Select a topic or question or a phrase or some evocative words.
Set timer for your time period and start.
Write none-stop for the whole time focus initially on your topic etc. And see where it takes you.
Don’t worry about your spelling.
Don’t worry about your grammar.
Don’t look back over what you have written till your time is up.
Don’t correct anything while writing.
Stop only when the timer sounds off.

I’ve found this a great way to overcome procrastination. I also find it to be a useful as a short warmup exercise before moving onto my project writing for that session.

Life Writing

As a writer, beginner or experienced, an excellent form of writing exercise is to explore your own life. I don’t mean keep a journal or a diary but writing reflections on the past and pondering over the future and panicking about the present but not as necessarily as regularly as daily or even weekly.

  • “I remember…”
  • “I’d love to …”
  • “Heck, how do I get out of…”

Not only is it a great exercise in writing but it is also a valuable resource for your family and culture. How much we risk losing through unprinted digital photographs and unwritten ideas and experiences.
We owe it to ourselves to make sure our memories and ideas have a means of expression. It can also supply so many jump-off points for your writing. Your grandfather’s eccentricities, that old farmhouse they lived in or was it in some rotten tenement in a slum area of a big industrial city.
Lots of questions you could ask yourself…
What’s your first memory?
Who was your best friend? Childhood, youth, and adulthood.
What and where were or are your schools?
Who were your teachers? Do you remember their names?
What ws/is your mother like?
What was/is your father like?
What do you feel about your siblings?
Where have you lived? What type of housing? What size of town? Did you like it?
Your favourite colour and why?
Your pets. Did you have any?
What food did you like when you were young? What do you like now?
What are your favourite games or pastimes?
When did you start to enjoy reading?
When did you start to enjoy writing?
What moves you?
What disgusts you?
What makes you feel good”?
Who’s your mentor, idol, hero or whatever?
Is your sexuality important to you?
Do you question your sexual orientation?
Are you comfortable with your sexuality?
Can you play a musical instrument?
Do you participate in a sport? Which sport?
You get the idea by now. Make up more questions to suite your intent and leanings. Examine your own life and how you impact others and they you. Understanding and insight can flow from these questions and your answers can surprise you.
When your gone you’ll have a legacy that can go beyond you, allow you to exist beyond your physical end, the real you not the DNA that pushed you to breed to its end.

Writing books on the shelf.

I’m currently reading “Chapter after Chapter” by Heather Sellers (an excellent book by the way – I’ll be publishing a review of it soon.) and she mentioned that she had 163 writing books on her shelves. I’m making the assumption that this excludes things like dictionaries and thesauri.

I thought that that was way too many. I checked my own shelves and discovered over 283 writing books on them. No wonder I’ve written so little. All that time spent reading, digesting and trying to implement the contradictory, though honest advice from their authors.

In Chapter 16 – Wise Guides, Heather Sellers offers some very sage advice that when writing any book you should choose six (6) wise guides, six books to help you through the process of writing your book. Three books should be of the same type that you are writing; what you would consider the way you’d want your book to turn out and the other three writing and motivational related. Again, these should be your favourites. During the writing of your book no other books should be consulted.

The best way to find out how to write a book is to write a book.

What would your six wise guides be?

Making writing your practice

I’ve just reread “Mastery” by George Leonard and I am inspired by what he says. You’ll see the ideas cropping up in many writing books under various guises but the stuff he talks about will apply to any pursuit that you might undertake.
That together with a recommitment to working through Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” are really making overcoming procrastination an easier task than I have ever experience d and I think I might have made a personal breakthrough. Have you had such an experience?

How frequently do writers get depression?

I’ve recently discovered that I am suffering from mild depression. The one symptom that really pisses me off is the interminable procrastination that affects all aspects of my life especially my inability to produce any writing of significance. Not to worry, I’m taking positive steps to overcome my issues. Soon I be that prodigious writer that I aspire to be.

Keep going and find YOUR way

I’ve been challenged in a very negative way in my full-time employment that has lead me to really think about what I want to do. I’ve read a pile of ‘living your dream’ and ‘find your ideal job’ books. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. Search Amazon or your favourite online booksellers for some titles that might be for you. Among the pile of books I discovered a gem of a book The Creative License by Danny Gregory (http://www.dannygregory.com/). It’s about creativity (obviously) and drawing and journalling and feeling good about yourself. It’s inspirational and has helped me recharge my commitment to myself and my creative journey, putting me back on my chosen path and accepting that it’s my path and it might not be to anyone else’s taste. That’s the risk that you take when you commit to your own creative future.
I’ve also been on a personal coaching weekend which was run by the Coaching Academy (http://www.the-coaching-academy.com/) which has also help me clarify and prioritise what I need to do to be where I want to be. I would reccommend life coaching to everyone. It really helps you to clarify what you want and how to get there. You can do it on you own if you can be disiplined. Again, look at Amazon etc.
So I’ve reaffirmed my commitment to writing and I am drafting an action plan as I type (poetic license).
Write to you soon.