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Archive for the ‘The Art of Writing’ Category

Film… Movie! Movie… Film! It’s the same difference isn’t it?

In Screenwriting Tips & Advice, The Art of Writing, Writing Tips and Advice on 19/10/2014 at 15:16

moviemaking

OR…

FILMMAKING

Whatever…?

The written word versus the visual one?

Well…

both really

I write with a filmmaker’s eyes…

I film with a writer’s structured mind…

Do you see? Do you see?

I see… already!

Hello fellow scribblers, key strokers, filmmakers, scriptwriters, daily creatives etc., etc.

Please tell me life has been kind to you?

Tell me you have met with success no matter how small.

A lifetime or two hundred suns ago.

Oh please don’t exaggerate. Ok.

Right, some time ago, as you know. I made a conscious decision to tinker with scriptwriting. And in a short space of time, I wrote a radio play, a stage play, a two, two-hour film adaptation of one of my novels, a half-hour television script and a number of other film and television scripts. I felt totally satisfied and believed I found my creative niche at long last. Well, at long last was up to that time.

I still craved. Creative minds do that, they crave. Whatever they are doing their minds are craving, yearning. It’s an intellectual drug. They need new experiences, new subjects to learn, new people to meet, new places to visit, new food to taste and so on. Well, for me I wanted to develop my screenwriting to the next level.

And what for heaven’s sake would that be?

Well, I’m glad you asked me, my dear conscious self. It’s like this. I became frustrated trawling through the internet looking for photos of a look alike protagonist or antagonist or love interest for my next screenwriting saga that I can pin on my board, or impatient by writing a short character description before they enter the scene. I wanted the real thing. I wanted people, because in my head, my characters were alive. Their dramas were vivid. Where they lived was real and their emotions, painfully human. There seemed to be only one avenue open for me.

To film my own scripts. To learn filmmaking and its various facets. To spend my time filming, meeting other filmmakers, to watch films, to join filmmaking groups, read filmmaking books and magazines and so on. The last time I felt this thrilled and occupied was when I began to learn how to write. I had to learn a new skill with all its pains, and its ups and downs. Remember the time when your scripts were rejected time and time again. What did Oscar Wilde say? ‘I’ve received enough reject letters to wallpaper my bedroom.’ Ah, the joy of learning.

 

quiet please filming in progress

So guess what I did with my time over those sunlit days and moonlit nights in the last few months? Yup! I became a film apprentice. As I mentioned in my last blog I have amassed my learning equipment, travelled high and low, met a lot of inspirational people and created at first, some outrageously amateurish footage. But it was fun. I learned a lot and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I filmed new angles with cheap home-made equipment. I had great fun coming up with new filming perspectives. But I was on the way to making my scripts become real. Currently, films similar to ‘The Blake Witch Project’ are masterpieces compared to what I still consider my mediocre efforts. But do you know what?

What?

They are my mediocre films. I am at that perfectionist stage when anything below that level is puerile, kindergarten output. But hey, I’ll get better. And in a coincidental way it has brought me back in touch with how I started as a writer, by writing short stories. I was quite surprised at that outcome. Now I have written several short scripts to create as my calling card. I have even dug up some of my old short stories – YES, NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY. As I said, I found these old short stories and am currently adapting them into film shorts.

Film festivals, have always got room for short films. And when I pondered some more about filmmaking, or moviemaking, making your own films is little different to a self-published book, although that is a lot cheaper to reproduce than a film. But the market to being noticed as a filmmaker is far broader than the one for books. You have festivals, the internet and television to spread your visual word.

Films, movies, a well-crafted script, short stories, documentaries, these are forms of expression. Of reaching out with a theme, a visual message. But isn’t that what fiction or non-fiction books, short fiction, articles and poetry is doing. I am still voicing my messages, but now I have increased my chances of being heard. It’s not about me wanting to become famous, far from it, it’s about increasing my audience.

 

lights camera action

 

It really is ‘Lights. Camera. Action.’ And do you know what? No matter how old I’ll get, I will always stop, assess and learn new ways to increase my audience, and my skills. I will never be happy with one medium and that has always been the case from the time I was able to hold a pencil and scribble some indecipherable something on a page and glow with pride, shouting ‘I did that. I did that.’

So until I meet with you again, just sit back and assess yourself and your skills and ask if you can go off into a new direction. And if you want to, then ask yourself what is stopping you and get rid of that hurdle, work your way around it, through it, underneath it, anything. JUST DO IT. Don’t just sit there and wish.

Well… until the next time we cross paths, love you and those around you. Listen, encourage and be patient with you and them. Remember, they will be the first ones there when you want your ass kicked, hand stroked and your cheek kissed.

Keep well. Remove your creative blocks. And be at peace.

Believe in you.

Nev

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Go left. Go right. Be this. Be that. Write this. Write that.

In The Art of Writing on 23/03/2014 at 15:26

decision 1

OR…

I want to be a writer

BUT

what do I write?

what type of genre?

fiction or what?

books? screenplays? poetry?

Hello again chosen ones! Have you chosen the right keyboard keys for the next phase of your life? Well… it’s your decision.

For as long as you can remember, you’ve wanted to write. Then when the time came you were faced with what some call ‘that blank page of doom’. Do you know how many films have been made from this moment? How many novels have been written? How many radio plays?Well, neither do I. But for some writers that introduction has caused unforgettable pain. The blank page.

But not for us, right. We are made of much sterner stuff. Ok, now what sort of things will go through your mind when you first meet the blanc one? Well, I think that very much depends on what you write about, or rather what you want to write about. Novels, short-stories, poems, films, plays, for television, radio, copy-writing, journalist, essays, non-fiction, school resources… Please ask me to stop?

Thank you. You see writing is the basis of modern life. Writers are needed everywhere. The real list is huge. Ok let’s try and break the list down to a munch-able chunk. How about this? Would you like to write fiction, or non-fiction?

decisions 2

Fiction is another list consisting of novels, short-stories, poetry, screenwriting, scriptwriting (the last two are very different by the way; screenwriting is anything for the screen big or small, and scriptwriting can be what someone says, the presenter at the Oscars, news reporter, weather man, Government officials especially at election times, although I believe the last point should fall in the fiction department too, media advertising, that can also be copy-writing etc.).

Non-fiction is anything that isn’t fiction. Duh! I know I can be a real Homer Simpson at times. Of course, we are talking about anything that people can: make, eat, build, repair, swim, wear, ride, drive… Someone please stop me again. Phew! Thanks to that man in the back. It’s a huge list. So we are saying, no works of the imagination. Nothing fictional.

Okay! That was easy. The writing decision is in your writing hand. You either want to write in the genre (what is genre?) you feel you were born to write in, or what is inspiring you, at the moment. So to squeeze the last blood of you the sort of questions you ask when you meet Miss Blanc Le Paige depends if you are writing fiction or non-fiction.

If you have plumped for fiction, then some typical questions might be: what form will my fiction take (novel, poem etc.)?, what is my story?, who is my main character (protagonist)? who is he or she fighting (antagonist)?

And if you are writing a non-fiction book, then the question might be, what is my subject matter? That’s all you have to ask.

decisions 3

That’s it. You have met Miss Paige and you know what you want to write about.

I’d like to end by wishing both of you a wonderful journey and a superb future. Next time, I will tell you what really happens as a result of that meeting.

Enjoy your dreams and your loved ones. And oh yes, do love that person in the mirror, for he or she is a real person and needs your love.

Oh dear, what am I unleashing?

Do let me have your thoughts, or let me know how you are getting on?

Until next week… keep well, loving and full of peace.

Believe. Believe. Believe.

All my loving

Nev

Happy Merry Holidays & A Jingly Happy New Year

In The Art of Writing on 21/12/2013 at 14:51

OR

Have a great time is wished

To those Who may

And

To those Who may not celebrate

These present giving days in December.

Unknown

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING MY BLOG. IT IS TRULY APPRECIATED.

I would like to wish you and your families a happy festive time

and

genuinely wish you a happy and dream fulfilled 2014.

_________________________

See you next year.

Take care and enjoy your selves.

Much love and gentile wishes.

Neville. X

Everyone’s An Expert? Yeah. Right!

In The Art of Writing on 14/12/2013 at 20:05

Unknown-1

Or

If you want any plumbing done…

Don’t ask a hairdresser.

Hiya Pen Pushers, Writers, Entertainment Counsellors

There comes a point in a screenwriters’ life, in fact, any writer’s life when they begin doubting their originality, uniqueness, and a voice that which sets them apart from other writers. When their storytelling skills are predictable, flat and dull.

What causes this dilemma? What creates that destructive thought which escalates to gigantic proportions and causing you to doubt your once cherished work and make it seem cliched, childlike and cringeworthy?

Let’s look at it like this… Writers on the whole tend to be sensitive, which is unusual when you consider the harsh critical feedback they receive from critics, readers, family, friends, agents, publishers and so on. So they write their project, are pleased with their results and ask the nearest family member for their opinion.

Wrong move genius!

Unknown-2

What does he or she know about writing? Are they screenwriters but not necessarily novelists? Is that person a published writer but not an editor? Are they journalists – which still doesn’t make them fiction writers? Do you see where I’m coming from? There are so many combinations to consider. Even within the writing field there are areas which can only be understood by the practitioners of that field.

So asking a complete novice, a non-practioner, a non-editor, a non-critic, a non-fiction reader… yadda yadda yadda. Well, this can only lead to disaster, a falling out, a divorce… and so on.

If you want someone to critique your work, then you have to choose a writer. Not any writer, mind you. But a writer in that genre, field, style, in that area. If you write romantic fiction, then if you want an honest answer, you should really ask a published romantic novelist. Does it end there? Nope! The writer you asked might be a great writer but a crap critic. Great at critiquing and editing their own work but shit at giving feedback.

So let’s imagine you have chosen your perfect person, they’ve read it and then you get that silence. That ‘well..?’ That ‘ok how can I put it?’. Then as you listen to all that is said, your face and body begin melting. Your brain refuses to function. Someone appears to put all the heating on. Then someone opened all the windows and put the fans on. Get my drift… You are now feeling shit. You’ve just been told you have no imagination, your work is dire, your characters are two dimensional, the plot is turgid, predictable and boring.

Now you have decided to stop writing and become a shop assistant. I will never put pen to paper again, you shout. They’ve really destroyed my confidence. How can they do that to me?

Whoa… slow down cowboy. Remember, you asked them. You were the eager one. At the of all this, there is only one person to blame. YOU! As I said earlier, if I want any electrical work done, I go to a professional electrician, not to shoe salesman. Got the point.

Now pick that pen up, start writing and when you have gained a bit more experience about writing and people, then return to your sad manuscript. Edit it and send it off. Let editors, publishers and writing professionals tell you what’s wrong and what’s right with it. But only then. Capice?

________________________

Right. The film that blew me away this past week is ‘Onibaba’, a 1964, black and white Japanese movie, directed by Kaneto Shindo.

‘A mother and and her soldier son’s wife live on a swamp and scratch an existence by selling armour from soldiers that either die or they kill in their area. Then a friend of her son returns from the war.’

This is an astonishing movie and I was quite excited to share it with you. If there is a true indie film, then this is it. A great script, superb acting, small budget, a small harsh set consisting of two bare huts on marshy ground surrounded by tall grass. The movie gripped me for almost two hours and shocked me with the unexpected, horror, tension, frontal nudity and erotic scenes. It is an original movie and for fans of contemporary films, go and see ‘Onibaba’ and wonder where so many films got their ideas from.

The nudity surprised me. At first, I though they made a mistake with the editing, thinking that perhaps one of the women’s breasts fell out of her gown. But no, from that moment on, the nudity increased and so did the daring, the eroticism. It can’t be. This is 1964. This is years before nudity became popular. Before horror was so horrific. Before human relationships were portrayed so vividly. And the ending wasn’t what I expected.

This film is a true classic. It is daring, ground breaking and original. And I really recommend you seeking it out and seeing it. It is a very rare film, so you might have difficulty finding it. However, put a search out on the web, get a bucket of popcorn, take the phones off the hook and settle down. This is a real majestic cinematic experience.

Right. That’s it for this week.

Take care of yourselves my dear friends. Love one another and remember you have to work at love because it doesn’t grow by itself. Appreciate who you have in your lives and cherish them.

So until next week. Have a wonderful seven days of love and laughter.

Lots of love

Neville

The Write Way To Write…

In The Art of Writing on 30/11/2013 at 15:36

images

OR…

Does writing mean…

inspiration?

inspiration?

inspiration?

Hello buddy writers one and all…

Have you had a heaven sent miraculous productive week? Have you written the next wonderful Hollyood blockbuster and literary masterpiece?

So where did you get the plot ideas? Now honestly, how many of you put your hands up and said I was inspired.  Or I didn’t write anything because I wasn’t inspired. Now let’s get one thing straight. Writing is a job. As a journalist, do you think I have to sit at my desk and wait for inspiration to hit me before I started writing? Nope! My chances of remaining a journalist would be less than a day. In fact, not even one story.

Writing doesn’t work like that. You don’t wait for inspiration to slap you around a bit  and then start writing. You write, then inspiration happens. Words flow. When you write, the first few minutes are sticky, turgid, your brain is tired. Words do not appear to flow. But your brain is a muscle and needs time to warm up.

Now honestly, how many of you say that to your loved ones in the hope he or she will say. ‘Darling. Just leave it for today. See how you feel tomorrow. You can’t be expected to write all the time.’

Wrong! You do if you’re a journalist, student and anybody else who has to write for a living. You can’t just sit there looking like Homer Simpson waiting for a knock at the door from Mr Inspiration.

If you want to be a writer, then you have to write. Remember what Ernest Hemingway said? ‘Writing. Easy. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.’ Something like that. He’s right. Do you think great works of fiction comes from someone sitting at a typewriter, with an open mouth, waiting? Nope! Dream on.

If you chose writing as a career, or it chose you. Hmm! Then it’s a career. You get up, ablute, (wash), have some breakfast and carry on with what you left off the night before. I like to put in a full working day when I write, or anything associated with writing, such as research, plotting my next project, updating character files, read the industry journals, answer emails, check out writing websites and anything else to do with my writing career.

So that’s how I get inspired – by writing, talking shop, reading, watching movies, associating with, anything linked to my career. If you adopt that strategy, then writing will penetrate your pores, dreams and aspirations.

So try it and don’t use that ‘I’m waiting for inspiration’ excuse. Because that’s what it is – an excuse which your brain will find comfort in and nothing will get written down

_______________________

So, what films have you watched in the last few weeks Nev?

Why, thank you for asking, little feller. Nope, it wasn’t a Western. But I did watch a great film from 1937.

Oh, it wasn’t one of those black and white affairs was it?

Yes, it was and it was an absolute joy. Just because it wasn’t in colour little feller, doesn’t make it any less a powerful story.

Ok. So what film was it?

Well, actually you remind me of one of the characters in the film, George the non-believer, the doubter, the least colourful character there.

So what was it called and why was it so special.

Lost Horizon Poster

You want to hear what I have to say without any more sarcastic remarks? Ok, here goes. The film is ‘Lost Horizon’, a film by Frank Capra. And what a film. Luckily for me I managed to see the 132 min version. Long considered to have been destroyed or lost. This version still had 7 minutes missing, but these were sadly replaced with production stills over the audio soundtrack. However, I didn’t lose one second of the joy for the film.

Don’t watch the 1973 musical version of this because it destroys the point of the movie. This is about finding Shangri-La. A dream each of us has in whatever form our Shangri La will look like. This is a film promoting peace, well being and love. It is full of thoughts of the evils of modern day living along with the stresses, pains and short-lived ideals. The theme running though is an isolationist philosophy. This is about giving someone a flower instead of a punch. And it’s about a place where crime, criminals do not exist and everything is settled by discussion and fairness.

The watching time shot by and although some of the scenes were predictable, it still didn’t detract from the story, the characters, the filming and the settings which were wonderful. A critic said that the Shangri La set looks like a post-modern tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright prairie architecture. I agree. In contrast to the outside world, Shangri La was just that. An oasis in a desert.

Wonderful film. Catch the 1999 132 mmim restored version by UCLA film archivist Robert Gitt to get the full flavour of Capra’s gorgeous film.

So that’s it for this week. Again, have a great week, I mean fortnight. I am off to London next week to attend a film production weekend given by Dov S. S. Siemens. I really respect this great teacher. If you’re there, come over and say hi and we’ll share a bag of chips.

Otherwise, I will see you once again in two week’s time.

Have great writing moments. Love one another and be good to each other. Be truthful and sincere.

All my love, until the next time – in two weeks, keep well, loving and full of peace.

Nev

One Man’s Meat is Another Man’s Poison

In The Art of Writing on 05/10/2013 at 13:37

scrabble word

OR 

Choose what and who you listen to and get some writing done

or

You will read, study and think yourself out of writing

How are you? Did you have a good week? Were you kind and loving to everybody you met? Yes, even to those who may have wronged you, or you feel bitter towards. If you haven’t, bitterness will grow into an unstoppable health reducing, untreatable malaise.

So, let’s crack on. What is common in the following three statements?

1. I suggest you eat this cheese because it has life preserving properties

2. I love tea because it contains niacin, which as everybody knows makes you pee and will help remove water retention.

3. I eat snails because they are one of the best foods you can eat. They are full of protein and have zero fat.

Got the answer? Are you getting the picture?

Yes, what is good for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. And what is being offered is sound advice, personal opinions, and their perspective on the subject.

So … what on earth do we do with all the writing tips, hints, courses and theories about writing. You know the ones; story structure, outlining, drafts, number of book chapters, how many words per novel, how many minutes for a screenplay, how to get an agent if you’re a screenwriter, and so on?

Well … here is my take on the subject in a short sentence, so you will remember this week’s blog. My contribution to the writing pot. My personal opinion.

CHOOSE YOUR COUNSEL … and … BE SELECTIVE

Let me elucidate.

Why, thank you Holmes. Do carry on.

If you spend your time reading, absorbing and putting to practice every atom of writing advice available out there, many things will happen, but namely three things.

1. You will become a confused reborn dead human. Why are there so many zombie films and books out there? That’s a joke by the way. I don’t want to offend any zombies or zombie writers. But you will become a disenchanted writer and abandon this whole writing thing.

2. You will lose your identity and your writing voice. You will become a six letter word beginning with ‘z’. Yes, a zither. Duh!

3. Finally … and this is a serious biggie. You will never have time to write and develop as a writer.

Don’t buy every book and every magazine on writing ever written.

Don’t bookmark every writing website.

Don’t attend every writing course available.

Just … write.

Now, if you feel you have a weak link in your writing armo(u)ry then yes, strengthen that area and seek out advice, about only that weakness. But don’t question your writing skills, your end result and take in every bit of knowledge you can grab hold of in the hope that it will write for you, make you a magic writer, a literary expert. A genius. It doesn’t work like that.

Don’t question your abilities in other words.

Remember this:

YOU ARE BETTER THAN MOST BUT NOT AS GOOD AS SOME

Stop seeking perfection. You will never be perfect and no amount of reading, or every bit of advice heeded will make you so. Being perfect isn’t the way to write. It isn’t the way forward. Forward, we are talking here. Not at a stand still while we read everything. Forward. Besides, no writer dead or alive is perfect.

Writers make mistakes. Writer miss mistakes.

There are some wonderful sites, blogs and books offering you advice out there. Find the ones that talk to you, in your language. The ones that make you feel as if you have a personal tutor in the room. One you can relate to. Take the advice you are seeking and move on with your writing.

In other words … if you want to be a writer, choose your counsel (who you listen to) be selective (choose your advice carefully) and put that advice to practice by writing.

SO FOR GOD’S SAKE – WRITE.

Writers become writers by writing, not just by reading every little tidbit, then take on so much information, they become confused, question their abilities and destroy the belief in themselves and their writing.

So advice is good. There are some wonderful writers out there who have been where you may be now and are willing to show you how to improve and increase the belief in you. Go and find the tutor you’re comfortable with and get writing.

Right, I have pontificated enough on this subject. I think you get the general message.

It’s that time when I wish you all a wonderful week. Remember, give your love to everyone. Everyone deserves a little bit of your love. You all have a lot to give. After all, no one put a condition on how much love you can have and carry around. So share it around.

Have a great week and support each other.

Good luck with your writing, whatever form it takes.

And love your writing.

May you always be deeply wrapped with each other.

Ta Ta, my lovelies.

Diary? or Journal? or Notebook? or Blog?

In The Art of Writing on 28/09/2013 at 12:53

writing

Hello scribblers, pen smiths, or whatever you like your writing self to be called. Hope you’re well, had a great week and have been loving, kind and supportive to others and yourself?

Right, this week we ask whether it be Diary, Journal, Notebook or Blog? Not the fancy capitalisation, but your tool(s) of choice.

Before I answer that, let me explain. Why do such items exist? Well, let’s look at each one in turn and we’ll start with the diary. If you used a diary when you were younger, then ask yourself how you used it. Your daily deep thoughts, inner feelings, aspirations, incidents, secret love(s), hopes and so on.

A bit of contemplation in the form of a question now. WHO WERE YOU WRITING THAT DIARY FOR? You might say, for you when you are older, or for your grandchildren, for others to read, God forbid when you are gone, for your mother, for your new loved one to read? You see, most of you will probably say you don’t know. I didn’t know when I started writing mine at the age of small. You just did it. Someone mentioned it, friend or relative gave you one – with a little lock and key – or you bought yourself one.

But in essence, a diary was your psychological friend, your private ear, your holy grail. It became your nightly tryst. You poured your heart out, whatever feelings bubbled to the surface, you cried or smiled or shouted and wrote. So a diary is just that, a log for your feelings. So would you make yours public? Maybe not.

You could say a blog is serving the same purpose. An outlet for your feelings. Some blogs are like that, but I wouldn’t be too sure how far the author would go to express their feelings. But for you and I, don’t forget the point of this blog and this posting – writing, how to write, the techniques of writing et al. Now onto the journal…

Yes, I know Journal is French from the Latin diurnalis, which means daily. But this is where the difference starts to become a little obvious. A diary is a personal journal, whereas a journal is recording events, business dealings, something you need to refer back to and quite happy, within reason, for others to see. As a photographer hobbyist, I have always encouraged others to record camera settings when a photo delights them, so that they can replicate it and prevent that image from becoming a ‘one-off’.

Now that’s a journal. And that’s what journalists – yes it derives from journals – do. They record an event for newspapers who then print it and sell it to you to read.

However, many individuals maintain a notebook: artists, railway enthusiasts, number plate collectors. and so on. Well, writers do the same. They capture snippets of conversation, interesting individuals, how they walk, talk, habits, dress sense, buildings, situations, names, smells, sounds, tastes, textures, anything unusual, attractive, less so, interesting, absorbing, stimulating. Gosh, you know what? What? It really is quite endless what you can capture. But those are the sort of snippets I record and use in some way in my writing. A mixing bowl of creative inspiration.

Keep a notebook by your bed to record your dreams. Put one in the bathroom. Take a couple with you wherever you go. Sit down at a cafe, have a coffee and make a note of what’s going around you. Let your notebook become your invisible camera ready to snap what’s around you and whatever is going on in your head when an idea pops into your brain.

Nowadays we have the internet, world wide web and blogs (web logs). Blogs have blurred the difference between diaries, journals and notebooks, and now individuals record their thoughts, or give advice, or publicly offer their skills to their readers and blog it for others to read.

So, there we have it, the difference between diaries, journals, notebooks and blogs. This matters to us writers because they are all important writing development tools. We need them all because they are offering us the opportunity to become more rounded, more creative and more productive.

So what is our mission this coming week and ALWAYS.

Get a notebook and begin recording the life you have seen or felt, for us to read.

And to one LARGE UK newspaper retailer, you know who your are, that annual book you sell before and after Xmas for recording events is spelt D I A R Y not D A I R Y. I thank you.

So until next week, take care of each other.

Love one another

And love your writing.

Express your love and may you always be in love with each other always.

There’s a lot of love being handed around this week. Go grab yourself a slice.

Dedication = Determination + Frustration

In The Art of Writing on 21/09/2013 at 15:53

do not disturb

Plus tolerance, love, patience and a bucketful of love and devotion.

Hello fellow blog followers. Yes, we are back after a two week working break in far off lands trying to earn a crust or two. As usual, I digress, move from hither to tither but eventually I get to the point.

And the point of this week’s blog is … dedication. You have worked that out haven’t you? It’s the sort of dedication a parent has for her child, a loving gardner has for a garden, a nurse for her patients. You know the drill. But in this context we are talking about YOU as the WRITER and your attitude to your WRITING.

Full time writers are dedicated, passionate and in love with words, their writing, and other writers’ works. They sleep, talk and dream words and believe me when I say it is a very solitary occupation. You believe me. Thanks. Anyway, you will get knocked, criticised, battered and at times humiliated. But that’s just a process writers go through in their search for self-belief in themselves and in their writing.

You see, you have to nurture that process, that belief. It isn’t going to come knocking on your door and say ‘Hi. Would you like some self-belief? I am proud to have you write me. The way you use my words is literary beauty. My! Isn’t your writing the best I have read?’ Nope. That ain’t gonna happen. Dream on. And that is a dream. Do you honestly think you are going to be given the gift of word without some sort of tempering apprenticeship? Trials by fire? Pain. And I mean pain. Soul destroying, gut wrenching, head splitting, the exploding body type of pain. No, of course not. Oh gosh, I hope I’m not putting you off. But how do you think diamonds are created. The finest pottery. Coal. Pardon me, that one just slipped in.

The most beautiful objects and processes you can think of didn’t appear overnight, they were nurtured with dedication over, in some instances a long, almost eternal time. Luckily, writing is achievable in our lifetime, unlike diamonds. But you’re going to have to work at it.

It’s a recipe.

Resilience, determination, frustration, tears, tantrums, frustration, pain, patience, frustration, resentment, envy, frustration. Oh, I need to mention frustration. You know. That blank page trance. That blank mind stare. That blank hands on keyboard look. Sometimes with tears streaming down your face. That ‘that’s it, I’m not writing anymore. I’ve given up on it. It was stupid anyway. I was only doing it because dad wanted me to. I’ve always wanted to be a politician. And anyway, they don’t publish books any more.’ Hmmm!

So, if you are still with me, then you have all the traits of a writer. You show a dedication to your art and I bow in respect to you. I am so proud you have refused my taunts, my desperate helpless pleas of hopelessness, my deliberate almost violent attempts to deter you from writing.

You have grasped my point and I applaud you. Good luck with your writing, whatever form it takes.

So until next week, take care of each other.

Love one another

And love your writing.

May you always be in love with each other always.

Where, oh, where is my protagonist?

In The Art of Writing on 17/08/2013 at 11:58

old crowd

When I started writing fiction – at about the time Fred Flintstone was a boy – an old writer passed a tip to me. If you’re stuck on how your main character (we call him or her a protagonist nowadays) looks, then get a magazine, find a photo of who you want, cut it out and stick it on the wall where you’re working. Then you have someone to describe. Then pinch the way Uncle George speaks through his nose, add that to the limp Auntie Dolly has, a little of your Grandad’s twitch and the way your father snorts when he laughs. Put the whole lot into a pot and you have your character. A photo of a stranger with the characteristics you’re familiar with. Your leading man or woman for your epic tale. Rejoice.

Once I stopped bowing on my knees before this wise and learned man. I stood up and grew, and grew, and grew. I was rising high into the sky, until I realised I was on the back of a dinosaur getting up to stretch his legs.

My apologies. Wrong story. Fred Flintstone again.

So that was then, I didn’t have the pleasure of modern day technology and I continued to use that technique for all my fiction writing, short or long. In fact, little has changed in over forty years. We still have scissors, magazines and drawing pins, or thumb tacks if you come from the States. But now we are blessed with a lot more than that. We have the internet. Magazines are pouring out from every news-stand and what we have now which we never had then are cameras, a plethora of them; digital cameras, polaroids, phone cameras, iPad cameras, laptop cameras, video cameras, games console cameras. Oh I’m sure there are many more.

Anyway, before I forget what I am supposed to be writing about. Now while we are in this modern age but before digital cameras, I used the internet. I go and find a photo of Sean Connery or Bridget Bardot (for the much younger amongst us … these were two Hollywood film stars – we used to call them sex symbols then, because everyone wanted to be, look, dress, walk, talk and eat like them), print out the photo, cut it (scissors – very useful tools) and put it on a board in my writing room.

Then the age of the digital cameras.

Now, I have always been a people watcher. Most professional writers are. They sit. They observe. They note in their journal. They eavesdrop. They note in their journal. They smell. They taste. They put notes in their journals. Are you getting the picture? Good. Yes, they note everything in their journal.

When I am watching people, I look at their mannerisms, what they wear, how they eat, drink, what they eat and drink, the combinations of food, people’s reactions to them eating and so on. But what I have brought into my human pot is my other love – street photography. And now I snap away with a purpose, to look for my next male or female protagonist, or antagonist, anyone that catches my eye that I want to immortalise in my writing. I have taken photos of waitresses, taxi drivers, pedestrians, passengers, military, police (shhhh!), in fact, anybody who caught my eye and I was able to photograph discreetly, then I have immortalised. I went everywhere with my camera. People got so used to me and my camera they were asking me to take their photos, street singers, barmen, people sitting on benches. In fact there are too many examples to list.

The joy … I would go home download the photos, delete what I didn’t want and placed the others in a folder ready for my next project. Any characters who attract my attention for my current project, I highlight them, crop them and print on A4 paper. Photography also gave me the opportunity to take in some fresh air and a break from writing.

Simple, pleasurable, active, productive while immortalising society and its individuals. And we call this work? Well it is really. So that’s it. A fun way of inspiring you, your characters and your fiction. Those techniques coupled with the notes in your writing journal and you have the ideal writing package.

So … until the next time. Watch how you cross the road. Keep away from fried food and love one another.

Be good and be happy.

TaTa

Actively passive or passively active – Part 3

In The Art of Writing on 10/08/2013 at 12:41

laptop on beach

Well, the third and last part is here.

Editing is very similar to the writing process. How many times have you said? Right … this is the last draft before spotting a mistake or you needed to rearrange a sentence, or maybe I should change Tom’s name to something a bit more dramatic like Justin.

What? Now! Now, as you’re about to wrap things up, you want to change things?

NO!

Think in threes.

1. Write the story.

Leave the mss to simmer – a week maybe.

2. Check for spelling, obvious mistakes, replace passive words, check characters’ names, read it out aloud – remember your ears are your best critics, or read it into a digital recorder or similar and hear it again, at your leisure.

Anyway … leave it to simmer again.

3. Correct the errors from above and that’s it.

Now let it go. Don’t look at it again. It’s done. Finished. Finito, understood. Put into a drawer, forget it. Now have a short break and move on to the next piece. If you want to be a professional writer, then think professionally. Remember, you attract what you think. So think positive. You’re not an aspiring writer – you’re a writer.

Re-read the last two weeks and then come back to this. You’ve done it. Good.

Now, following on from last week. Here are some words that positively reek of passivity – passive writing. What’s the verbatim definition of passive? LACKS ACTION. Or as I like to think of it – LAX ACTION. Geddit? Think about it for a while. Let’s explain what I mean.

As Frank Zappa once said ‘Imagine …. hmmmm!’ Think of someone (your imagination, remember) who gets up in the morning, doesn’t wash, oblute, but opens a can of something (your imagination), sits in their comfy chair, throws their legs onto a cushion and switches the TV on. AND THAT’S IT. But wait.

Someone brings them food, and takes away their previous plates. They fall asleep. Is fed and watered for the rest of the day. They get up. Have something else to eat and drink, scratches their guts for a while and go to bed. Then after a night of breaking wind. They get up and repeat the entire process.

What I’m saying is this, like the blob in the chair: passive means lazy, lacks action, predictable, dull, unimaginative, uninteresting, BORING!!!

Point made? Good. Now here is the final list of words to eliminate, replace, or at least use in a creative way.

*  am

*  are

*  had (a hate word)

*  has (yes, another one)

*  HAVE (one more from my hate list)

*  it

*  is

*  been (guess what? Yup! Hate list)

*  to be (or sorry Shakey not to be)

*  there are

*  there is

*  there was (see a pattern developing here?)

*  there were

*  WAS (my personal hate word, like that)

So, there you have it. The secrets of editing. Hard? No! Fun? Yes!

Have great fun. Be stringent with yourself. Stick to the three sections. Remember while you are spending time editing, redrafting and ruminating, you are keeping yourself away from valuable writing time with another project.

Until next weekend, have a productive and peaceful week.

Remember, love each other, with honesty in your heart.

Tata.

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