It’s Time You Listened To Your Writing!

 

Listening Something that I found recently has really improved my writing. I shared the information with some writing buddies and discovered that they hadn’t known about it either, They were impressed and I was inundated with effusive thanks.

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 Now I’m sharing it with you. It may not apply to all systems until recently I used Apache Open Office and I don’t think it is there. 

Then I switched to Microsoft Word and that’s where I found it. The Audio function. It is at the top left-hand corner of the page when you click over to tools. It says Read, Aloud Speech. For Mac users, there is a Speech function once you access System Preferences. I simply Googled that to find out.

Experimentally I tried it out. It has transformed my writing experience.

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Many of you will have been told to read your work out loud to allow you to spot errors and awkward phrasing. It is still good advice. Audio is better though, as the robotic voice disassociates you from your writing. We all fall a little in love with our words

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It is easy to read your own work and see what you expect to see. I had proofread a document twice without noticing that scared had been typed sacred, Quite a different meaning!

Listening enables you to hear if your words flow, or if there is a section that needs work. It might be a good use of this function to run your document through it before you send it to an editor.

‘Chop Wood Carry Water’

I hit a rough patch with my writing this week, I’d rewritten and edited one piece so many times I felt like my ideas had dried up. My mind was empty. It was then that I remembered this saying and acted on it.

 

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When your mind is going around in its own labyrinth it’s good to have a circuit breaker. and for me, the saying was what I needed.

 

Cicuit Breaker by Chris Ried Unsplash
Circuit breaker by Chris Ried, Unsplash.

Although I didn’t chop wood I did carry the chopped logs into the house. Then I planted up some hanging baskets with violas and watered them in.

It amused me to do as the saying suggested, mundane tasks keeping me grounded in my body and out of my own mind.

pSudsy hands PexelsThe knotty problem was far from my mind as I immersed my hands in water to wash the dinner dishes. It was then that a glimmer of an idea popped into my head. Not a fully fledged idea, just a fragment, but enough to get me excited about my writing again.

What do you do when you hit a rough patch?

Does Creativity Need Chaos?

Do you need mess to be creative? Is a tidy mind an uncreative one?

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It’s a bit like the old writer’s division between those who plot meticulously, ’plotters’ And those who write as it comes, by the seat of their pants, called ’pantsers.’

Most writers fall into one or the other of those categories. Most plotter s squirm at the thought of not having a plan. While more pantsers claim a plan would stifle their creativity.

Equally, I think most people naturally fall into one of two camps on the tidiness and clutter front.

Clutter .jpg Jesus Hilario H Unsplash
 Unsplash by Jesus Hilario H

Confession time I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, old photos, certificates, special clothes, books, so many books, and more prosaic items like pens, and notebooks and glass jars.

Recently I read a book* which not only explored how to deal with your clutter but also what your clutter meant to you. What was your clutter trying to tell you?

One of the insights which shook me was that clutter was not just physical the stuff that you can see, but also mental. Mind clutter includes those random thoughts, of fear, procrastination and even thinking about your clutter.

Delving deeper the reasons for our hoarding make more sense. Those things from the past, the old photos, certificates, or yearbooks They all speak of past achievements and reflect our fears that we won’t achieve more.

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Unsplash .Wedding by Ella Dudia

Old clothes, some are precious memories, no one is suggesting you get rid of your wedding dress! But others may make you feel bad when you look at how slim you were way back then. We are past the era of make do and mend you know you won’t ever wear them again, but they are taking up mental as well as physical space.

Then there are the clothes that you bought that you have never worn, because you bought on a whim, maybe they are aspirational clothes for a life you don’t lead. They too are clutter, no matter how much they cost.

Paperwork, I am sure that it multiplies in dark corners and for a writer, paperwork can easily accumulate. As I speak I have three shelves filled with random paperwork. Some I know are notes from workshops I attended. Others are multiple hard copies of stories that I have re-drafted or edited. Just looking at it overwhelms me. I know why I don’t want to clear it what if I discard a gem? What if there is a brilliant idea there and I trash it?

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But I have no idea what is there and if I need anything I spend ages trying to find it. So, there it is, this month I am making a commitment to tackle my paper mountain, one shelf at a time. Shred, file or simply toss.

Your turn now what does your clutter mean to you? Safety blanket, comfort, mess?

Disclaimer I do not know the author, I have not been paid to endorse the book it is simply my opinion.

*Note the book that I read that made a lot of sense was What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You by Kerri L Richardson.

Collaborate with Caution

At the beginning of the year, a friend of mine told me she had agreed to collaborate with a male published author on his current book They were acquaintances and he said he was having difficulty with his storyline. They’d hit it off and it seemed like a great opportunity

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Then I was slightly envious, but wished her well and said, ‘let me know how it goes.’  I could see the benefits, she was working with a published author, one who knew the ropes and had several books published. She would gain a co-author credit and a chance to get her name known.

Last week she told me the deal had turned sour for her. He was now changing the characters that she had created and dismissing her input. From what she said her contribution was roughly half of the book, but he was claiming the credit for it all.

Their combined story was a detective novel -the villain and his family were her ideas, as were the victims. He wrote the detective. She now says he has taken her work and is claiming that she gave it to him. She also said that she had emails from him acknowledging her input.

I asked for opinions from a writer’s forum that I belong to and it turned out that her experience was not uncommon.

 

Collaboration

The advice was if you do collaborate – have a contract drawn up specifying what each person will contribute and how that work will be recognised. Who is responsible for which part of the book, its promotion, marketing etc.

They didn’t say but I would think that even if you are working with a friend it wouldn’t hurt to draw up an agreement between you. After all, friends have been known to fall out.It need not be too formal, even an email agreeing who will do what might be sufficient.

Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, I am simply expressing what I think is a common sense view. If you have any doubts you should consult a writers’ organisation or a lawyer familiar with creative contracts.

Writers Need Readers As Fish Need Water.

“An unread story is not a story, it’s little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it  makes it live, a live thing, a story.” Ursula K Le Guin

Woodblock print fish

We writers need readers, as fish need water. Without our readers, there is no story,  and no use for the storytellers. We are the weavers of dreams, conjuring up reality out of thin air, for their amusement and pleasure.

 

But before we were writers, we were readers. Who knows the pleasures of the written word better than a writer?  Most writers have long been enamoured of books. There is an old saying “a word is dead until its said”’ This applies even more so to our writing, completing a piece of writing is only half its story.

Writer Nick Morrison Unspalsh

We need the reader to breathe life into those pages, with their own imagination. A  hundred people can read a book, and all have their own impressions of it. Books are not static things, they are where readers and writers combine in imagination and interpretation.

 

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Your favourite fictional character may differ markedly from how someone else imagines them. And they may not be how the author imagined them, either. It does not matter, we each project our own experiences into the fictional world and create a story that is uniquely ours.

In this, books differ from a film, or TV, where every scene is shown to us. Watching them, we are more passive consumers. We allow the story to play out in front of us. It can also be why a film of a book can be disappointing, the director’s interpretation does not gel with what you, as a reader has imagined,

We may be quietly reading a book or a story, but we are active consumers, engaging with those words to create another reality. We have devoted our time to something that in one sense is not there, but in another lives vividly on the page.

Words have power, to heal, to hurt, to challenge, to change. While if never read, then the words have no power at all.

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As a writer I want to say’ Thank you’ to the readers, those passionate enough about books to choose to buy books, to talk about books and to read books.  I say thank you to all those authors whose words have delighted me and continue to do so. You have entertained .me, scared me or enthralled me. I say a huge thank you to librarians for fostering a love of reading, organising author talks and helping to keep the book alive.

It was George R.R. Martin who said, ‘a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” I find this slightly ironic as most readers are women, but I can’t fault the sentiment. An escape into a different world, or a different place or time is as near as your next book.

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You Better Be Willing to Fail

Do you seek perfection? Did you realize the steps along the way include failing? Only through failure can we appreciate success.I’d even dare to say that failing makes success all the sweeter and more prized. Do you Agree?

Mary E. Nolte

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to take up book binding. I bought this planner as a PDF and I decided that I was going to print it out and learn how to bind a book. And then I’d carry that book around all year, to be reminded of how important creativity is for me.

So I watched a bunch of Youtube videos, I bought some carefully selected paper, and I got to work. It took me a long time and a free trial of a certain program to figure out how to print out the PDF so that it would fold into a booklet. I folded the pages carefully. I followed the video’s instructions and I sewed them together with perfectly even stitches.

So far, so good. The next step was to cut off the edges of the book so that everything was uniform.

This is…

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Should You Join A Writing Group?  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Do you feel the need for feedback on your writing or validation? Or perhaps you are sick of struggling on alone, and fed up with your own company and isolation?

Maybe you have hit the creative wall and need a boost?

Desperate to know more about writing and you sense that you are boring your family with your work?

A writing group could be the answer BUT not all writing groups are the same.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

As I have been a member of each of this type of group at some time, let me be your guide, without fear or favour.

The Bad

A bad group suits those in it for various reasons. 1. It may be an ego trip for a couple of the members.

The Bad2.The group may be a talkfest, and not get any writing done

3.The group may take up too much time with the committee and procedural matters.

4.One strong personality dominates, and only certain genres are permitted to be written.

5, Only approved genres are permitted to be written- no ‘nasty ‘science fiction or fantasy!

The Ugly

Some groups thrive on competitiveness and backbiting!

Ugly

Petty rivalries and jealousies abound, they are cliquey and only allow certain members.

In a creative writing course.that I attended a group of three poured scorn on everyone else’s efforts. The facilitator- either did not see or ignored it.As the course lasted a semester, this was not the happiest or friendliest of groups. Unfortunately, it was obligatory for me to attend.

There is no need for you to suffer this kind of treatment if you don’t have to.

Nourish your own ego in a healthy way and walk away

Egos can get bruised, by criticism whether tactfully phrased or not. At one group a disgruntled member sent poison pen letter and serious threats were made!

What Makes A Good Writing Group?

    1.Leadership is inclusive and encouraging

CUte Angel All members are free to participate in the group’s activities and no one member can dominate.

2.Writing prompts are set which may slightly challenge the group. So, in one meeting the focus may be on metaphor usage, while the next time it could be on dialogue or pacing.

3, Writers are encouraged to write in their own individual way. The unique ‘voice’of each writer is preserved.

4, Feedback is provided on shorter pieces, if requested. This can be content, word choice and usage, with suggestions to make the piece stronger.

5.They have an interest in all aspects of writing and members attend author talks, writing festivals and events.

Editing is not within the scope of most groups Although from time to time a new member will bring in a manuscript which they hope to have edited quickly and for free. Editing is professional skill and is usually charge accordingly.

The next post will focus on how to assess a writing group’s suitability for your needs.

What has been your experience with writing groups?