Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Are you writer? Do you spend hours alone in your room, staring at the walls until 3 a.m. when you finally are exhausted enough to sit down and let the words come without you getting in the way? Do you look at what few friends you have and think, “She’d make a great character for my book”?

I'm writing a novel

Is this you?

Becoming a Better Writer

One way to improve your writing is by joining a local writers’ group or workshop. But what if you’re a shut-in, or (like me) don’t have reliable transportation to get you there?

Another way is by reading a lot. At least, that’s what most of the successful big-name authors say—and who am I to argue with them? But getting to the library, for example, can be hampered by the two instances I listed above.

Another drawback to reading a lot can be money, or, more specifically, the lack thereof.

Enter Medium

Medium “is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is owned by A Medium Corporation.[3] The platform is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host.” (Wikipedia)

In Plain English, Please

Think of Medium as a Facebook for writers—minus the trolls, divisiveness, and advertisements. But even that doesn’t to begin to cover what makes Medium such a great platform. Remember what I said about joining a local writers’ group? Medium is that very group on steroids: it’s an international writers’ group.

You can connect with other writers by interests, topics, location—either publicly or privately (which I still have to figure out).

For me, Medium is first and foremost a source of different writings (Medium calls them stories). They’re fresh, topical, and can include everything rom the latest abstruse scholarly article to fiction to poetry to you name it. But best of all—at least to me—is that I can post a story and know that people will respond on it politely and with thought.

Plus I get some great fiction, too!

Medium

If you don’t have it and consider yourself a writer, go get it! Right now!!!

Long before any cartoons, long before any movies, and long before any graffiti, there was Bilbo Baggins. And long before Bilbo, there was J.R.R. Tolkien.

I don’t remember whether I was 17 or 18 when a friend pressed a copy of The Hobbit into my hands, with the whispered secret knowledge that “Bilbo Lives!” In a way, it was her small revolt against the ubiquity of Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land and its byword of “May you never thirst.”

It’s funny, now, when I think back 50 years later, that I don’t even remember her name, that rebellious friend who started me on what has become a life-long quest for well-written fantasy, science fiction, and the various sub-genres we now lump under the heading of Sci-Fi (or sometimes, Sci-Fy).

Today I came across an old, somewhat weathered paperback copy of The Hobbit, and I was instantly transported back to that day in the hall of Highlands High School when I first heard of the book subtitled There And Back Again.

“Bilbo Lives!” never became the great rallying cry that “Frodo Lives!” turned out to be. Maybe The Hobbit came too soon, or maybe The Lord of the Rings had better press. Either way, had there not been The Hobbit, there would have been no Lord of the Rings (LOTR), in the same way that had there been no monthly The Strand magazine, there would be no BBC series called Sherlock.

And there most certainly would never have been that great classic of modern literature,

But I digress.

The Lord of the Rings

We were in the early years of the reign of King George Jr. when The Fellowship of the Ring was released in theaters. Shrub (so-called by Texans because he was the little Bush) hadn’t yet embarked on his take-no-prisoners approach to the environment, but already I could see the parallels to the Orcs tearing down trees in order to fuel the flames which would birth the great army of Uruk-Hai that would soon ravish the land and enslave millions if Frodo failed in his mission.

After watching The Fellowship, I came out of the theater wanting to be Arwen (Liv Tyler), elf-maiden, and fierce warrior. And to be honest, the fact that she (like me) had the hots for Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortenson, didn’t hurt, either.

LOTR, Redux

17 years later, the Eye of Sauron has reopened. This time it has taken the form not of the ultimate evil but rather that of complete incompetence: Donald Trump as Gollum. Slimy, hate-filled, monomania wrapped in fascism and served up via a Russian samovar. Toxic masculinity at its absolute narcissistic worst.

Where is the Frodo Baggins who will destroy the ring in the fires of Mt. Doom? Or will he fail, and the country itself be driven there by Gollum?

Please. Vote sensibly in the mid-term elections this November.

But there is such thing as writer’s laziness, writer’s excuses, writer’s burnout, and any number of other excuses we use to justify our lack of desire? production? output?

I’m usually out of bed by 8 a.m. This morning, however, I slept in until 10. Yes, I know: I’m a worthless sinner. NOT!

But sleeping in so late – no matter how much I needed to – pretty much messed up my daily schedule. Between my tea and fixing breakfast and checking my emails, I didn’t have time to write. Or did I?

Here it is, 12:30 in the afternoon, and I’m finally writing. Oh, I could have started an hour ago, but I had nothing to say.

Which got me thinking: do I really have to await a visitation from Erato or Calliope or some other imaginary Greek muse to tap me on the shoulder with her magic wand to inspire me? Or can I just take out my iPhone and start typing?

Fortunately, I don’t believe in gods, goddesses, or any other imaginary characters, which means that whatever I decide comes from me and me alone. Nobody else.

Sure, sometimes I’ll read something that gets me thinking, and that might inspire? prompt? me to write a reply or a response.

But ultimately, I’m responsible for my own actions. And ultimately, only I can decide whether I’m going to use an imaginary excuse like writer’s block, or whether I’m going to pull up my big-girl panties, go to work, and write my arse off.

Writer’s block? Don’t make me laugh.

On Writing For Medium

Posted: 21 February, 2018 in Blogging, Medium, writing
Tags:

How To Find Your Voice and Become a Superb Writer

Save your work, then step back and preview it. Periodically, as I am going along, I “listen” to what I have written. This ensures it still sounds like “me”, that it flows and represents the way I want my story to come across. –Enrique Fiallo

This is a crucial step, and given today’s fast-paced cyberspace, perhaps the hardest. I spend far too much time on social media, with the result that I feel pressured to respond to the latest Facebook post or Twitter tweet and so most of my responses are flippant, with no real thought behind them.

But Medium is different. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m different when I’m in Medium. I like to think it’s because my visits here have taken on a somewhat ritualistic flavor: I spend time brewing a fresh cup of tea (using whole leaf tea, naturally) and engaging in deep-breathing exercises while it brews.

I then sit down with my mug of tea and open the Medium app, usually on my iPhone. I peruse (yes I do know what the word means) article titles, and click on ones that seem interesting. Sometimes – as in this case – I’m prompted? inspired? to write a response.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Twitter. This is Medium, and I don’t want to come across as some young smart-ass punk (can I even be that at 67 years of age?), and so I do my best to respond in a deliberate and thoughtful voice. (I save my smart-assery for my blogs.)

Once I’ve finished my response I then go over it, making sure it is coherent and consistent. I delete a comma here and add one there, change a word to one that makes more sense or gives more clarity.

Above all, I want to communicate clearly, and if doing so requires me to break some arbitrary rule of grammar, so be it.

After, it’s my voice.

And Anyone Else Who Thinks They Know the Rules of Writing

Dear Mr. Lovecraft,

At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.

Do you mind if I call you Herb? That is, after all, your name: Herbert Phillips Lovecraft.

Anyway, Herb, I tried your advice about writing at night, and it sucked. See, I’m a morning person. Always have been, always will be. I guess it’s just encoded in my genes that I’m at my most productive around 8 in the morning.

But just for shits & giggles, I tried your way — and gave up after 3 days. First, I could barely stay awake past 10 pm. Second, I still woke up at 8 the next morning, even after forcing myself to stay up until midnight — when I was far too tired to even have an idea, much less write it down.

The about writing is this, Herb: nobody can tell anyone else the “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Writing is communication, and the method is unique to all of us. I tried writing at night, and it doesn’t work for me. Does that mean I’m not a writer? Or — and this is, I suspect, more likely the truth — that I’m not a writer by your standards.

Here are some other ways I don’t write:

  1. With a quill pen, which I understand was once quite fashionable
  2. Standing up and leaning on my mantel
  3. With a typewriter
  4. With a pencil or a pen

All of these were once “rules” of writing for certain specific authors, and which have never worked for me. I grew up with typewriters, first manual and later electric. And while I used to love my IBM Selectric typewriter, and later, my IBM Displaywriter, I’m now perfectly content with my laptop, iPad, and iPhone.

The only hard and fast rule I have consistently adhered to for the past 50 years of writing was one taught by Dr. Louis Bittrich in my advance-placement college Freshman Composition class: “You can’t break the rules until you know them and understand why they’re there. Only then can you deliberately violate them, if it helps get your message across.”

So Herb, this is where you and I part company. I really love a lot of your work, but I’m afraid your opinion on writing at night will, for me, remain just that: an opinion. I tried it, it didn’t work, so I’m going back to writing in the morning, over a steaming mug of strong black tea.

Sincerely,
A Fan


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