The not so Weird and Wonderful

You know when you do something and you feel it’s a little… “out there”?

That is; “out there in the world of slightly strange, but still on the right side of socially acceptable”.

This action makes perfect sense to you. Compete, beautiful, beaming sense. And the thing is, you don’t want someone to tell you that it’s perfectly normal; nay, rational. Because somehow, the world thinking it’s weird (and we do know what the world thinks) makes it special. It’s special in its weirdness.

But then, like a wet leaf blown into your face on a windy day (it has happened) you tell someone  about this little morsel of prised weirdness. And they nod, finding it reasonable.

Poo. Reasonable is boring. Not the work of an eccentric closet-genius.

How disappointing.

Basically, I did something that makes perfect sense.  It really isn’t that singular…I wish it was!

All I did was pop all writing files onto a hard drive and then restored my Dell laptop to factory settings.

I installed only Microsoft Word, the rest of Office got left out. I rearranged the start menu, pinned word to the taskbar, then returned my writing files and placed them in optimal places. Voila!

Dedicated writing laptop.

It is beautiful. And not that weird right? Especially since it’s not my sole computer.

But I don’t feel fully complete.

I want to go further. You see, factory settings=a lot of things already installed. So that you can turn on your new laptop, maybe install Microsoft Office, and behold! Ready to go. Ready to go to do a bunch of very basic things. So that people like me, who don’t use their laptops to hack nasa, who only work on Windows (unless it’s a mac, though sometimes even then), can actually use it.

That’s all well and good.

Or at least it was. I bought my laptop for writing. I bought my netbook for writing too. And they both got a little cluttered. In fact, they came cluttered. Filled with things I don’t need. At least not on two.

So how much can I remove? At what point it the laptop crippled? See, I don’t want constant updates. I don’t want to download and install this, that, and the other. I don’t want a hundred processes happening or dozens of programs. I know I sound like an old lady, but I’m craving a little simplicity here. Isolated simplicity; I can do all non-writing things on the Mac or the netbook.

How far can I go? Is it even possible to remove something your laptop really needs?

Wouldn’t it be glorious to open your laptop and be sucked into your writing world? Firstly because you want to be there, but secondly because, really, there is nowhere else to go.

I have decided that it would indeed beglorious.

So if anyone can advise me about further laptop clear-outs, go wild!

And if anyone has done something to aid their writing that actually is weird and wonderful, do share!

 

 

 

Taking the first step

Need to write a scene filled with heart-clenching fear? Want to feel that shivery sweat and shaking breath?

No problem!

Here’s what you do- think about taking the first step.

And what is the first step? Well obviously writing the…precious creation? Sum of all imaginative works? Epitome of literary wonders? Doesn’t ‘book’ sound a little too drab now? People are writing books left right and centre. Once you peek into the circle they all float about in the word ‘book’ suddenly seems a little less grandiose.

Nonsense. You wrote, or are writing, a book.

This is big. Even if it’s big for a scary number of other people too.

Back to coming at my point from the side…

Living vicariously through our writing is either totally sad or totally awesome. Sad because, come on, get a real life. Awesome because your own scene has you in a twist.

Could it have someone else in a twist too?

(See how I crept up on that?)

But that’s how it happens. That outside-of-your-personal-writing-bubble thought sneaks in. And you think, you wonder, you almost sort of hope- is it just me? Am I the only one who likes this? Could mammy dearest like it? What about harsh best friend? What about the world?

The first step, the first toe-dip, into the world of publishing is letting someone read your work.

Your heart’s beating a little faster, isn’t it?

When it’s just you, there’s no censor. Sure you already know you’re half cracked. You know you have convoluted corridors leading to dark corners. You know you can be diehardedly romantic, deliciously sinister and unashamedly steamy. You’re not judging you.

But having the inner workings of your mind exposed? Gah.

The thing is, a book containing only what the author feels safe having the world read is going to be one hell of a bore. It would be nice and polite.

It would be-

‘How are you?’

‘I’m fine!’

Instead of-

‘How are you?’

‘I’ve just been reliving last night in my head, so I’m a bit turned on right now.’

That brings me to my first point- if you’re embarrassed about the content, it’s probably a good thing.

(If you’re dim-witted enough to scrawl truly embarrassing stuff, then you’re too dim-witted to know about it.)

The next thing is the writing.

Chances are you know your book is not ready.  It’s not done or finished or any other absolute that I don’t think can ever truly be applied to a book.

You hope that the reader will see past the not quite there yet straight to the masterpiece beneath. You’re afraid they won’t.

So, how do you press send?

Somehow you’ve moved from ‘would someone else like this?’ to ‘will you give this a read for me?’

You’re freaking out now. How do you prepare? You want a perfection brush that you can varnish every sentence with. Because as you panic, even though you were good enough to write the book, you sudden think that you just don’t cut it. You think you can’t make it good enough.

What do you do?

Read it. Read it out loud. Read it for things that don’t sound right. Read it to make sure that what you think you wrote is the same as what you actually did write. Read it for heart-gripping blunders. Read it for yourself, because you might be afraid to look at it for a while once it goes out.

And then shut your eyes.

You won’t have caught everything. It doesn’t matter. So you sometimes screw up and say’ threw’ instead of ‘through’. I’ve said ‘right’ instead of ‘write’ twice in this blog already. Whoever you’ve asked to read your work, be it someone you know or an online community, will not judge you on the odd slip. If you can’t write worth a damn it will be clear in every sentence. One wrong word won’t sway the verdict. But if you can write, if you really do know that ‘your’ is not ‘you are’, it will show. It will show in the work as a whole. A handful of mistakes will not throw your skill as a writer into doubt. If the person who is going to read your work is a writer too then they know how often those mistakes happen. And they’ll know how easily they hide from your searching eyes. They screw up too.

Now this is something I really want to stress.

Making excuses for your work. Lying. Just don’t, ok?

Like ‘it’s just the first draft’ (ahem, been over it six times.) Or ‘rough draft, just want to know if it’s worth the bother’ (it’s my beating heart; I’ve poured over it for days.)

Don’t.

Don’t say that you didn’t read over what you’ve sent them to read over. Don’t say it’s unedited. Don’t say it’s fresh from your fingers or hot off the printing press. (Unless of course it’s being sent to a friend and is the absolute truth).

You’re expecting them to read it and give you feedback. Don’t let them think you didn’t bother spending time on it.

Be brave. Be honest.

Don’t give excuses alongside your work.

What you should give alongside your work is anything you want them to look out for. Guide their feedback.

Feedback? How exciting! Or terrifying. Or both. That’s the next step- dealing with feedback. So if you have a suspense scene to write, save it for just before you open their reply!

For more posts about writing go here -> http://nomadnovelist.wordpress.com/

How not to edit

Turn on the tv

Stare at nothing

Prepare to do something

Do tiny plaits in your hair

Do more tiny plaits in your hair

Walk aimlessly around the kitchen singing

Empty and pack the dishwasher as slowly as possible

Take a magnifying mirror and study your face

-be horrified

Stare at social networking sites

Look up cheap shitty news

Nap

Think about doing what you’re supposed to be editing

Ponder why you’re not doing it

Philosophise

Eat

Make tea

Organise things

Look up the health benefits of coconut oil

But then!

I actually edited.

See, I enjoy editing really. It’s just, it takes me a while to get started. Once I start though, I’m in for the long haul. It’s 2.30am. What’s left of my early night is ever-decreasing, and the dark circles will not thank me for this.

Now you might think that this short blog is a cheat, thrown up quickly to satisfy my daily quota. You’d be wrong.

It took an embarrassingly long time to get that wordle picture there. But I had to have it. It’s proof of my editing you see.

Also, there seem to be words in there that I don’t recall typing…curiouser and curiouser!

To stressed-out writers

Remember when you got that one idea that would fill a book?

Remember when you relished the thought of writing the story that stretched out in front of you?

Remember when you were excited about the unknown twists and turns?

Remember when writing five-thousand words was an achievement?

Remember when your own scene made your heart race?

Remember when you read out loud and liked what you heard?

Remember when you had an epiphany that breathed more life into your story?

Remember when you looked through the eyes of whichever character had the best view?

Remember when you met the rewriting challenge with gusto?

Remember when you smiled as you edited, happy to be leaving better writing in your wake?

Remember when you were asked about your book and you didn’t care that it would take hours to explain?

Remember when you believed you could be published?

Remember when you imagined seeing your book on shelves?

Remember when you dreamt about turning real pages and seeing your words flash by?

Remember when you wrote with reckless abandon?

~~~~~~~~

Remember when the placement of a comma wasn’t pivotal?

Remember when your beginning wasn’t the be all and end all?

Remember when you didn’t know the odds of commercial success?

Remember when you didn’t analysis your characters’ every word?

Remember when you didn’t tear appear your plot looking for weak spots?

Remember when not writing was not a big deal?

Remember when you didn’t know the rules?

Remember when you didn’t care about anything other than your characters?

Remember when you didn’t ask yourself what the point of the scene was?

Remember when you didn’t mind using adverbs?

Remember when you didn’t know that you had to have a ‘voice’?

Remember when having to have a ‘voice’ in your writing sounded a bit peculiar?

Remember when you didn’t think ‘Is this good enough?’?

Remember when you didn’t think ‘This is shit.’?

Remember when it didn’t feel like a chore?

Try forgetting.

Natural writer

I’m not a natural writer.

Writing is not my ‘talent’. I didn’t make up stories as a child. I didn’t thrive in English class. I didn’t notice the words in books.

So how is it I’m nearly finished my second book?

I’m a natural imaginer.

Ideas are tenacious. Have you ever tried to ignore an idea? They don’t like it, let me tell you. They poke at you. They sneak up on other thoughts. They grow in the corners of your mind. And one way or another, they’re going to get out.

When ideas build up into scenes you’re really screwed.

So one night I had a fully formed scene in my head. At first I imaged it out like a scene from a movie. Then, I imagined it out in words.

I opened my eyes to my dark bedroom. I had to write the words. I had to save them, preserve them. If I didn’t they’d slip away.

I turned on my reading light.

The wooden floor was cold when I got out of bed. I didn’t care. I went to my wardrobe and pulled out an A5 notebook I had made years before.

To be honest, I’ve not idea how I made it.

Pen.

Sketching pencils aplenty. But a pen? I had to search. I was getting irritated. My masterful words would fade into oblivion for the want of a pen. Things were bad.

Meltdown averted, I located a humble plastic ballpoint. It was in a dust bunny under my bed.

Anyway.

I sprawled out, half my face mushed into my pillow, and wrote the scene with a reckless-writing-abandon I now long for. With the scene finished, I went to sleep happy.

And I woke up excited.

That first scene was finished, but I forgot to shout ‘CUT’ to its characters.

That was twenty-nine months ago. Since then there hasn’t been a single night where my imagination rested.

And I have little choice but to write.