Friday, 26 April 2013

Self-Doubt

A Writer's Schizophrenia 
Photo by Drew Coffman

Two weeks ago, Terri - a blogger friend and fellow writer of mine, wrote a post about writers being crazy. Her words went like this:

"We sit around, thinking about horrible things to happen to fictional characters, and then we write it down as if it actually happened. We're forever talking about character 'voices', but they're just the voices in our own heads..."

And how right was she? Spot on, no? But in addition to her post, I’d like to say there’s another voice that takes residency in our minds: The Voice of Doubt. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Reaching No.1 in the YWO Charts

Hooray!!/Damn it!!


And there I was thinking I’d be lucky if I even got into the top twenty, and then this morning I wake up to find I’ve nicked the number one spot! (The link is subject to change if I drop out! Also, I know my name up there says A. De foe, but I like to roam different forums under different pen names...don't ask.)

How do I feel?

Well, it’s a strange bitter sweet thing. As it goes on You Write On, if you manage to get into the top five at the end of the month, your opening chapters are sent off to the editors at Orion, Bloomsbury and Random house to be critiqued. After that, your work remains on the best-sellers list where it enters the Book of the Year competition. Altogether that’s around about sixty books, and from those sixty, six books are chosen to be published through YouWriteOn and maybe, depending on sales and reviews, picked up by one of the big publishers.
How’s that for getting your foot in the door?
Good, isn’t it?

Although it doesn’t help if you haven’t actually written a story...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Don't Be a Dunce

Dictionaries - Use' Em!

If you always use Microsoft Word to write your wonders, get a pocket dictionary. I’m going to get one. In fact I’m buying one on Amazon right now…

HAH! Never mind. 
My partner has one on the shelf. Brand new! Hmm, I say brand new as in: it’s pages have browned over time but it’s never really been used. Anywho, why am I saying to get one? Because MSword will make you feel like you can spell anything in the dictionary when,  more than likely, you can’t. These next words I’m going to write phonetically, but see if you can spell them: 

* Man-ou-ver. (OK, I admit that’s a French word. Fine.)
*Fo-re-nor.
*Hi-ro-gli-fiks.
*Cen-ta-fold and fi-ba-glass….but spell it THE BRITISH WAY! Ah hah!

Maybe you can spell those words. Maybe you can't. Or perhaps, like me, you can spell them but you get a letter or two wrong. Though who cares, right? That trusty old red squiggly line in your MSword document will correct all that for you.
But what happens when you have to write by hand one day? Ey?
In my youth there was no computer, I did everything by hand, and in those days all I had was my large, trusty dictionary/thesaurus. I’d know the pages like the back of my hand, flicking through to the letter I needed without much fumbling. I loved it, and from it I learnt how to spell because I’d have to read the word and copy it down onto paper. If it was a really troublesome word, I’d have to do it a few times, but by the third time I’d have it mentally logged and know the spelling inside out.
Not these days though. These days - let’s say the last seven years or so - my spelling has been going down a very steep hill…
Don’t turn out like like me. 
Don’t rely on MSword. 
Don’t give up on a good old-fashioned dictionary.

Buy one, a pocket one if you have to.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Getting Real..

There’s no mucking about.



If you want something half good then work half as hard. It's as simple as that.
If you want it to be close to awesome, then put as much into it as you can. With the help of a few people, I realised I can’t be half-hearted about anything I’m passionate about. Basically, I don’t want anyone walking in on me doing something weird like…not writing or reading.

It’s time, my friends, to get serious.


This year is my last year of writing for myself. I love writing and I sometimes love my own writing, but next year my aim is to have someone else love it. That someone else I would love to be the guy who lives less than a mile away. He groans the minute I start talking about my writing and stares at my kindle with a little disdain whenever I nudge it in his direction. I almost got lucky this week when he was put on Jury Duty because, until he was put on a case, he may have been waiting around for ten days with nothing to do.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Procrastination, Thy Enemy

Fearing the End

Procrastination is often born out of fear of failure, and there’s nothing worse to drive home how much time you’ve wasted but the manky sight of a failed project. 

Not wanting to make mistakes can lead you to do other things you know you’re good at, things you know you’ll succeed at 90% of the time. Although sticking to what you're amazing at can make you a master at whichever trade, it can also put you at risk of falling behind. Where others are advancing - trying out new things and putting themselves in uncomfortable situations in order to evolve - you’re still polishing that same sword. 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

It's a Love Hate Thing

Excuse me poetry, 

I know you don’t know me, 

But you really put me in fits; 

With your rhyming verses and cryptic surface, 

That shit really gets on my tits... 

~ Sharena, 2013



So, I joined Twitter and began following a bunch of interesting groups. Two groups always advertise competition opportunities, a lot of them poetry. I ignore them.

I have this theory that with poetry you can convey whatever it is you’re trying to say in four or eight lines. That is, if you use your words wisely. Most however, go on and on. But honestly? What I’m really trying to say here is; I’m not a fan of poetry.
This didn’t occur to me until I was around fifteen years old when I was given that bloody anthology filled with poems about yellow canary jackets and a few other barely comprehensible stuff. Or were they comprehensible?



And that’s where it all went downhill. Because there was a time when I just used to read the poems and mull over them. I’d think about the words and either like them or dislike them. There was little thought put into it, just a sort of appreciation of the words that flowed. But then along came that anthology and there we were, twenty odd students with HB pencils scribbling notes on the margins of these poems, trying to understand what the poet was bangin’ on about. Had I been by myself, I would have read it, liked it, thought about it and then moved on. Disliked it? Then I would have moved on even quicker. But no, there we were trying to break down one single line into a paragraph of interpretation. 
I had to ask my teacher.

‘Miss? How do you know that’s what it means? Did the guy say it means that? Because…he’s dead. So did he say that before he died?’ 
‘No,’ she said. 
‘So when I go into the exam, if this poem comes up, can I write down my own interpretation? Or does it have to be this one?’ 
‘It has to be that one.’ 
‘But if there’s no definite interpretation, who’s to say I’m wrong about mine?’ 
‘I know, I know,’ she said, shrugging, ‘that’s just the way it is.’ 

So on we went, reading more poetry, and they just seemed to get more and more obscure. And I started to think these poets don’t want us to understand what they’re saying. These poems are borderline personal. They were almost diary entries. If they wanted us to get what was going on in these verses, maybe they would have just said it. 
Maybe they want me to have my own interpretation. But why would I do that. Wouldn’t I just write my own poetry, in my own book? 
Or perhaps they just want me to appreciate all these words they’ve married together. Why is poetry even written this way? 
Could you imagine if, in real life, people spoke like poets? You’d go insane! 

‘Hey, how’s it going?’ 

‘It’s on this day, the morn has risen, and in which way, our hope doth glisten…’ 
‘Uh?’ 
‘How I have succumbed to this conclusion, that is, my worry, and your confusion…’ 
‘Do you know what? I’ve left my bath running, I just realised. I have to go you know.’ 
‘The trunk is stripped as the cat cries, the dog then barks and the dove flies...’ 
‘Uh huh…’ 

Yeah. You would. You would go insane. Because it seems, almost, that the aim of poetry is to make as little sense as possible. Some I can appreciate, but like modern art, most of it just goes over my head. 
I like it simple...


My Writing Process

Creative Space, A Map and a Fossilized Idea

Ok. I’ve been absent for a while working on my new novella CAPTCHA and while I was away writing those two and a half chapters, I decided to come back and do a post about my writing process; something that has sped up over the years.

In my mind, not too long ago, I imagined everyone just did the same thing. An idea came up, followed by foggy planning then in they went, spilling ink everywhere. Low and behold, it turns out we all have our wacky way of doing things.

For me, a single sentence can spring to mind, almost like a tagline, and what follows is a mad dash for a scrap of paper. I always have this fear that any idea I have will flitter away like a dream, and I’m partly right. If I happen to be out and about, maybe on my way to an appointment or to meet friends, there is the real threat that my miniscule idea will be pushed out through hours of conversation or other things going on around me. What I try to do then is text that one sentence to myself or, in between those long conversations, continuously jog my memory until I know for sure that the idea has fossilized.

After that? Hours and hours of daydreaming.

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