Sunday, September 11, 2011

Those Who Can't Do, Teach

Good afternoon, writers! The word of the week is "finicky," as in being incredibly picky, meticulous, or exact in standards or choices. For example, in my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally, Sally is very finicky about her order when she goes to the diner, telling the waitress exactly what she wants and how she wants it.

Have you ever heard the expression "Those Who Can't Do, Teach?" Many people have. Although there are some situations where it makes sense (ex. gym teachers), I find that in many cases, it's wrong.

I have found that through teaching others, I actually learned more and solidified what I already knew. Being able to explain something to someone means that you already have a tight grasp on the material. If you can't explain it in a clear and concise way, chances are you aren't so sure of it yourself.

By making posts on this writing blog, I've realized that I know more about writing than I thought I did. Just try it: go out and tell someone what you know. You don't have to make them an instant writing fan, just tell them what you did today. Tell them about your passion for whatever it may be, such as writing, and you might find that not only your skills over time will soar, but so will your confidence. Plus, you're helping someone learn something new. Imagine that!

Well that's all for today, bloggers! I hope you enjoyed today's post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at Time to go sharpen that pencil...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Can't Decide!

Good evening, followers! The word of the week is "advise," as in to inform or give advice. It was actually a Middle English word used in the 14th century from Anglo-French word "aviser," which came from the word "avis," meaning "opinion." It makes sense; some people often advise others with their opinions, not necessarily facts.

Today's topic, my friends, is decisions. We all have problems and each problem has some form of solution. Every character is different, therefore their decision-making processes will be different. While I like to pace when I'm thinking and ask others for help, a character of mine would rather make a guess based on what he knows and make his own mistake than dare ask anyone for help. Getting a grip on your character's thought process (especially if the story is in first-person) is very important for writing an understandable and realistic novel.

After you get a good-enough idea of how your character's mind works, it will seem like they're practically making the decisions on their own. It just takes some ground work! Really explore through your character's head and they'll start working on their own.

Well that's all for today, bloggers! I hope you enjoyed today's post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at Time to go sharpen that pencil...

Question: How do you and your characters go about making decisions?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Remind Me To Write That Down!

Good afternoon, followers! The new word of the week is chary, which means heavily cautious or hesitant about dangers and risks. It can also mean slow to gain or give. It comes from the Middle Ages, when "chary" meant "sorrowful," dating back to the Old English version of the word, "caru" (an early form of "care," and another word that originally meant "sorrow"). Wow! I guess even the word for sorrow had a sad beginning/origination.

Anyway, today's blog post is about lists. You may be thinking, "Lists? What does that have to do with writing?" But it does! Not only is writing a list, well, writing, but it also helps you to formulate thoughts and get inspiration. I make tons of lists in my writing journal: likes, dislikes, things to do, memorable events (sad, happy, tragic, etc.), everything. It can be about anything. You can even write a list in the form of your character to get to know them better and see what they might think about.

Here's a sample list. I wrote about things I like.

Sleeping in darkness
Bubble baths
The beach
Tea with honey
Singing, especially in the shower
The color purple (not the play)
Theater (Drama Club and Broadway)
Writing – fiction
Making cards
Using colorful pens
Making people laugh and smile
Flowers – scent and appearance
Eating seafood
Dressing up and wearing jewelry
Dessert, especially chocolate
Dark chocolate
Maraschino cherries
Licking cake/cookie/brownie batter
Chips Ahoy in the microwave
Romantic movies and novels
Harvest moons
Getting a back rub or foot massage
The Sun
White clouds
The daytime
The sound of crickets at night
Watching a thunderstorm
My bedroom

You should also include the date, since sometimes you can look back and be like "Oh, I might have been thinking with this in mind because this happened that day." Certain events put people, as well as characters, in different moods. People's thoughts also change often, sometimes each day, so it's interesting to look back on old lists. Maybe a year from now I'll think the sound of crickets chirping is annoying. Perhaps there's an event that caused me to think that way, like I was bit by a cricket or something (I'm not sure if that's possible, but bear with me here). Throughout the story, your characters develop and, although they may think the same way, they could have very different beliefs than when the story began. It's kind of like watching your character grow up.

Well that's all for today, bloggers! I hope you enjoyed today's post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at Time to go sharpen that pencil...

Question: Do you make lists? Either for writing or for other things in life?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Open Yours Eyes to Love

Good evening readers! Today I'm here to bring you the lovely topic of romantic-fiction (no pun intended, if you can find it).

Today's word of the day is venerate, meaning to idolize, honor with devotion, or worship something or someone. Sometimes people venerate the ones they love, which can show the depth of either their affection or their stalker tendencies. Anyway, onto the topic.

My inner hopeless romantic would simply enjoy reading a sappy love story with passionate kisses and a happy ending, but my inner writing would find that a terrible, terrible book. Despite the fact that many people read romance for, well, the romance, a romantic fiction novel needs to have all of the juicy goodies any other novel has: complex characters, a well-developed plot line, a setting for all of the interaction, and more. Romances aren't always about "boy meets girl" and there doesn't have to be a "happily ever after." Many novels also include romance a subplot, not wanting the entire novel to revolve around a romance, but also wanting to include it as a large part of their story. Let's face it: only the die-hard romance fans can stand reading a novel with a terrible plot and bad characterization, even if it is an overall romance.

Some people like reading "fluff"-like novels, ones that are sappy romances, but only if they are written well and have some substance to them. However, it's very hard to write a romance novel well without making it sound cliched. From the meet-up to the kiss scene, it's hard not to make everything sound completely stereotyped and incredibly corny. Even romance fans will groan at the appearance of yet another overused plot line or a typical character. No one wants to read a repeat of a book, even if it was good. Some writers will make a relationship progress way too quickly, just to get to the "good part," which I suppose varies for each person.

But don't get me wrong, there are some romance novels with a great use of language. There have been a few romance books that made me laugh out loud, brought me to tears, or both! The caliber of a romance novel depends not only on the writer but on the reader's taste, as does any novel. Don't think of a romance novel as a different concept entirely. It's just a different genre, like how every other type of novel falls into a genre. They're all in the same category; they're just different species. Take care when writing your romance, keep an eye out for overused plots/characters/phrases and avoid cliches, but overall, try to include some unique, creative spice into your romance. As long as you do that and follow any other techniques for writing a well-written novel, you'll be more than ready.

That's all for tonight, writers! I'm exhausted, but I hope you enjoyed today's post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at Time to go sharpen that pencil...

Question: Do you like to read/write romance? Why or why not?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm a Huge Fan of Yours!

Good evening, bloggers! Before I get started with today's topic, I'd just like to inform you that the word of the week is perfidious, an adjective meaning "treacherous," "faithless," or "disloyal." The actual Latin root of the word, "perfidus," means "faithless." Wow!

Today's topic is fan fiction. There is a big debate when it comes to fan fiction: some love it, while others hate it. Some find it helpful for gaining writing experience, while others think it's a waste of time. Personally, I think it's fun to read, but this isn't a blog on my personal opinion. This is a blog on information, and that's what you're going to get.

For years, people have extended the joy of a good book, band, movie, play, or game, by using the pre-existing characters from that entertaining past time and creating stories with them. The name comes from the fact that they, the fans, are creating fiction on their favorite past-times. Whoa!

Pro: For starters, it's a great way for someone to stick their toe into the writing field. Instead of starting out with the whole deal, having to create the characters AND the plot AND the world they live in, fan fiction gives the new writer an template of characters and settings to use, subplots to dive into, that way they only have to mix them around and mold them into something new, rather than starting from scratch. It's a lot easier for many people to write fan fiction than original fiction. After all, everything's all set; all you have to do is set the formulated characters on a new adventure.

Con: However, some people, like myself, find it harder to write fan fiction than original fiction, since they find it hard to get into the characters' heads. When you're writing your own story, you need to get inside the character's head in order to learn his personality and learn what he would do in certain situations. In fan fiction, there's an extra step. You have to step into the author's head so you can understand and step into his or her character's head. Some people write fan fiction without playing the character very well, but as a perfectionist, I prefer to do it right or not do it at all.

Pro: Some authors/creators/imagineers find it flattering that fans would create fiction based on their original works. They take it as a compliment.

Con: Others think of it as stealing. Think about it: Would you want someone publishing a story about the characters you worked so hard on? It's like they took the easy way out. That could be YOU with the published new book. Even though fan fiction is hardly ever published, people still post it online on different websites, such as Fan and Live Journal.

Pro and Con: Some authors become such great writers from the frequent practice and they can't get out of the habit of writing fan fiction. I find so many stories online that I can't help but think, "This is amazing! If only he or she changed the character names, this would be an original story!" Not only are some fan fiction pieces extremely well written, but the settings and characters get molded so much that they become completely new people. It really helps people discover their own writing style with the easy practice.

Con: It's really sad that amazing authors get stuck in the habit of writing fan fiction when they could be doing so much more.

Pro: It helps people create a name for themselves. If you're popular enough in the world of fan fiction, it's much easier to get a fan base once you hop onto original fiction. For example, Sarah Rees Brennan started out in Harry Potter fan fiction, then wrote her own original novel trilogy with a ready-made fan base of people continued to love her writing after reading her fan fiction.

Con: Some publishers will refuse to support an author that posts work online, as if part of them is already published to Live Journal or other sites, their work being seen for free instead of published. Even if it's fan fiction, publishers dislike the fact that a prospective published author is posting his work online, and thus will not publish his original fiction if and when he ever starts writing it. It can be a big road block for aspiring published authors. This happens a lot more for people who publish their original fiction online than it does for fan fiction, but some publishers just dislike it.

In the end, fan fiction has its pros and cons. It's up to you to make the decision, I just supply the facts.

That's all for tonight, writers! I'm exhausted, but I hope you enjoyed today's post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at Time to go sharpen that pencil...

Question: Do you read or write fan fiction? Why or why not?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I have returned!

Hello, followers! Sorry for my leave of absence, but now that I'm on summer break, I have a great deal more of free time to devote to the blog (as well as my writing in general).

This week's word is scuttlebutt, a noun that means, basically, a rumor. It's a fun word to say and it was originally said by sailors. Cool!

Okay, so today's topic is setting the mood. Now, unlike being moody, you don't want the emotions in your story to be all over the place. You want to have a certain scene feel a certain way, then create the mood to make the reader feel the same. If you have a spooky setting, you can't suddenly be using happy, rainbow-and-unicorn adjectives (unless, perhaps, you're writing a comedy). I'll give you an example.

Time was running out. The cuddly little troll ran after me with his adorable knife in the beautiful night. The dozen red roses lining the trees tickled my sides with their thorns.

See? Bad idea. If this is supposed to be scary, why is the troll so cute? Let's try revamping it, shall we?

Time was running out. The troll growled as he rushed after me, raising its bloodied knife to me as its feet slammed against the grass. The ominous night sky made it difficult to run through the dark forest and pointed thorns frequently scratched at my skin.

Do you see how different this scene is from the previous one? It's all in creating the mood; just by changing the choice of words, you can create a totally different atmosphere. If you're writing a horror, use disgusting, grotesque words. If you were writing a romance, you wouldn't use those same disgusting, grotesque words (unless the main character is dating a bum. Aw.). You would use softer words to describe things, creating a dreamier, more romantic mood. Sad scenes should use more depressing words.

Well that's all for tonight! Keep checking back for new posts! :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Quick Post!

I know you all weren't expecting a post today (it's only Thursday, after all). I was just posting a quick note to let you guys know that I have been entered into a poetry contest on Daily Writing Tips' website. If you could vote for my poem here (only if you like it, of course), I would appreciate it. =] Thanks a lot, and see you Sunday!