Tuesday, June 18, 2013
---Or Just For Yourself
There are many occasions when you might want to get a gift for the writer in your life, or maybe you want to get him or her a gift for no reason at all. Or maybe you’re a writer and just want to be nice to yourself.
Whatever the reason, occasion or person, I thought I’d ponder a few gift suggestions for the awkwardly stuck. It’s so very easy to run into a stone wall when trying to think of what’s right in front of you, so I’ll spell it out; even break it out into categories – sort of. All you need is a bit of time, some thoughtfulness and some money (whether a little or a lot and in a couple of cases no cash at all).
Books on writing often come to mind. They’re good too. There’s “Writer’s Market” both hard copy and online subscription for when one is looking for somewhere to sell his or her work. A new edition comes out each year.
Also the “HollywoodCreative Directory” which provides lots of leads on where to market a screenplay (this baby is moderately expensive) . Then there’s Larry Brody’s Television Writing From theInside Out, Jason Surrell’s “Screenplay by Disney” and Stephen King’s book “On Writing” http://amzn.to/12s15lc. And if you’re looking for lots of other book ideas you can visit my Writer’s Emporium on Amazon where I’m always collecting stuff for writers. There are a lot more and don’t forget the possibility of buying your writer a novel in his or her genre to read.
If you’ve got the budget, a new thin, flat screen for the computer system incredible blessing. No flicker, much less eye strain for those who sit in front of it for hours at a time. Can’t believe everyone doesn’t have one yet, but you never know. And don’t forget the more basic things a writer needs like cartridges for that printer (or a new printer if the one he or she already has is dying.
Thinking of software? Look into Movie Magic’s “Screenwriter” for the script writer. If you’re short on cash yourself you can collect some links to free software for scriptwriters such as Adobe Story or Celtx (and there are others).
There are a number of magazine subscriptions appropriate for writers. There’s “The Writer” magazine, “Writer’s Digest”, and “Book” to name a handful. Dash down to your local magazine shop, buy a copy of the magazine and send in the subscription card. Wrap the magazine with a note indicating the subscription.
On a tight budget? Don’t let the little things pass you by. Make up a small basket filled with any combination of things like good pens (black and colored), paperclips, paper (8 ½ X 11) and envelopes, post it flags and notes, eraser, note pads small and large, highlighters, fine-line Sharpies, staples & stapler.
Other supplies needed by most writers are things like three-ring notebooks and plastic sheet protectors. Plastic expanding folders are good for storing bits and pieces of a developing or ongoing project. Plastic file boxes hold archived projects and old files.
For the journal keepers on your list think about a really nice journal. They come in everything from clothbound to leather to metal. You can find them ‘remaindered’ or at fancy full price.
And speaking of storage, most writers would welcome thumb drives. Most would also welcome a small rolodex for desk top. I have mine divided into two sections: professional contacts and web information. The first section is obvious. The second contains an alphabetized area where I store information regarding websites, passwords, virus protection, software registration and tech support numbers.
So, there’s your list if you’re buying for a writer. Or, if you’re a writer and want to give hints to get something you really need, print this and post it on your family or friends’ refrigerator or maybe email it. Happy gift giving – and receiving throughout the year!
Take a moment and tell me what you'd add to my short list in the way of gifts for writers.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Today I’m going to give some advice that’ll make some people sit up and spit.
It’s this – Forget the Rules Already and Write.
Yep, that simple.
I could stop writing right now and leave it at that, but of course I won’t.
We humans seem to be constantly in search of advice, guess that’s why “self-help” books sell so well. But really, do we NEED all that advice? Can’t we rely on our own abilities and instincts once in a while – or most of the time? And don’t many of those ‘rules’ just tie writers up in knots trying to ‘do it right’?
Now, I’m not saying we don’t need to know things in order to write well, such as grammar and some decent spelling (though we do have spell checks and grammar checks these days). We do need to know how to format the manuscript or screen script for submission so it doesn’t get trashed upon receipt. The once-upon-a-time of an editor at a publishing house doing all the grunt work of cleaning up a manuscript are long gone. You absolutely must present a clean, readable manuscript or screen script in the currently accepted format.
But those aren’t the kinds of rules I’m talking about. There are lots and lots….and lots of places on the web, in person, at writer’s groups, where you can hear ‘rules’ recited. Don’t to this. Do that. Nobody’s doing it that way!
Hmmm. Here’s the way I see it. Writing is an evolving craft, always has been. If you look back at what others have written, the classics and the ‘penny-dreadfuls’ and compare it to novels, literature and pulp books along the way up to now you’ll see just how writing has changed. Not really because of ‘rules’ but more because of the way society is changing and readability. Some of the old ways of writing a novel could now be called ‘stilted’, but it was perfectly accepted and great reading when published. Things change. Styles change. Subject matter changes. And yet what was old is new again (take for example the fixation with vampires – we’ve seen vampire books before Anne Rice and the vampire romances). So ‘story’ keeps coming around, but ‘delivery’ and ‘style’ changes.
So, what am I saying? Quite simply, forget the rules and write already. Get your story out. Break a few rules and by doing so you may well be creating new ones; someone before you did. You may have to change it, rearrange it, but if you don’t stop worrying about all the rules that are getting crammed into your head about how a story is to be presented, then you’re never going to do it at all. You’ll just keep spinning your wheels.
Really, learn how to handle language, present in an acceptable format and give yourself free rein to cause a few new rules to be created that someone else will worry about down the road.
So write already.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Okay, sometimes I just have to throw in something, well, odd. And if you can't find the odd at Oddity Central you're just not looking.
A fun site with lots of weirdness and attention-getting pages for the reader and the writer. For the reader just because finding all this stuff is entertaining.
For the writer because if you can't find something here to spark an idea on a dry day then you just aren't paying attention.
Enjoy and don't forget to tell me about your favorite weirdness on this site or elsewhere.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Every once in a while I’m asked by a reader; a fan, “what do YOU read?”
You mean besides my own work over and over and over again to edit, catch mistakes and generally polish?
I read a lot. A lot as in a huge volume of material and ‘a lot’ as in variety of material. So I belong to Goodreads and share some of my books there.
In general what I read is some non-fiction including what I’m reading right now, FreeThinkers by Susan Jacoby a book on secularism in the USA. I also enjoy ‘brain’ books by authors such as Dr. Dispenza (like Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself) and just plain weird books like Forbidden Archaeology . All of these can lead to interesting ideas for stories and just fun food for the brain. Like reading about the new physics of dark matter, string theory and faster than light travel as well. You don't have to be a PhD to read them either - the more they confuse you the more it stirs up story ideas.
I also read screen scripts of movies I’ve enjoyed, keeping abreast of the latest writing styles; how a certain scene was gotten across on paper before it became film. Scripts are very tight writing, so they’re usually a pretty brisk read.
Books on writing also share space on my shelves. There’s Stephen King’s On Writing, Larry Brody’s Television Writing From the Inside Out, Alex Epstein’s Crafty Screenwriting, The Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon as a grammar reminder, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering The Craft and a whole bunch others that would make a list far too long to put here. I am evolving a small store via Amazon where I put good and interesting books on writing I come across or have recommended to me at Writer’s Emporium.
Now if you’re talking about fiction (my favorite), then I’m all over the place. I’ll be reading Dan Brown’s Inferno next. I also read pretty much anything Dean Koontz, Orson Scott Card, Christine Feehan, Diedre Knight, Anne Rice, or Sherri Tepper writes. Also westerns by John Duncklee along with a host of other authors. I generally go through about two books in a week. Genres are Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Western, Drama, Horror. It would be more, but I do have to make time to write and read my own work as well.
Still, I don’t want to leave out mentioning Ebooks. I’m discovering indie writers there that I enjoy even as I’m reissuing many of my own previously traditionally published books in digital format.
I’ve read books from authors such as Emily Frankel (who’s Karen Of Troy I very much enjoyed) Backworlds Series (first one's free on Kindle) by M Pax, Beyond Hades and the Prometheus Wars series by Luke Romyn and The Next Planet Over by Dennis Burns. I haven’t stopped there. I have a number of ‘reference’ books on my reader and am finding new writers I enjoy every day. I highly recommend you do some exploring yourself.
There you have it, a very abbreviated list of the kinds of things I read. And, may I add, it does keep changing. Keep reading and writing everyone – it’s a feast out there!
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
For those of you who are into screenwriting or thinking about it - today I mention Movie Bytes. An excellent website for screenwriting contests and markets - and a newsletter so you can have them deliver the latest to your inbox. Really, go on over and check it out.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Where do you write? I’ve had a lot of readers ask me that question and I think I can see the interest. Plainly if one is a doctor or a lawyer, a sales clerk or a waiter, where people work and how they go about their jobs is fairly evident. An office, a store, a restaurant.
Not so with writers. To readers, and many others who don’t read much, writers are a mysterious lot, a strange group, a baffling enigma.
Where a writer writes I think depends on a whole lot of factors such as what kind of writing that writer does, whether its fiction, non-fiction, copywriting, article writing, grant writing, etc. Now I’m going to be bold and assume a large interest might well be placed on fiction writer. After all they create worlds and fascinating environments. Sometimes other worldly, sometimes down the street.
Some seem capable of writing at the nearest Starbucks or at a library. For me, I need to be somewhere more isolated. No distractions. Little noise. I do need a window.
Currently I have a full-fledged office with large L shaped desk, computer and lots of bookshelves and filing cabinets. Oh, and a very large cork board across nearly one whole wall.
It wasn’t always that way though. I stared out with a fold-down desk in a corner of my bedroom with one shelf of reference books alongside (that was pre-web days – I know that seems like a long time ago to some, but it wasn’t really). My total desk space might have been two square feet. Published my first two books from that small space.
About the time of the third advance I sliced off a small piece of the back patio overlooking the lagoon (we lived in Florida then), added my window and moved in. It was small and tidy but I graduated to an actual desk and added a couple more shelves. It was expensive because what had been supposed to be add a single wall to separate the space from the rest of the patio and a window in place of the screen so the space was weather tight turned into a major ‘do’ as I made the mistake of hiring a relative and basically ended up getting ripped off – but that’s another story. Writers are full of them.
When we packed up and moved west, a major undertaking doing it ourselves and then building our own house on five beautiful acres, my office was planned into the house. It’s about twelve by sixteen feet. I wasn’t’ in the ‘wealthy writer’ category so we did a lot of the work ourselves, actually helping to build the house. And one of the last things I put in the office after unrolling the wall to wall carpet (which, yes, I also installed myself) was the wonderful cork board which ended up being about four feet tall by ten feet wide. Don’t know what I’d do without that cork board now. It’s bedecked with my calendar, a clutch of business cards I don’t want to lose, some loved one’s photos and my work space where I can pin ideas for new projects.
So what about that inspirational muse that lets many write anywhere? Well, I could if I had to, return to that tiny fold-down desk or perch in a library, or hang at a coffee shop. But I do a lot of research for my books, have my computer with my high-speed internet connection, telephone, and printer in my office. And don’t forget the cork board. It’s comfortable, quiet, isolated from the rest of the house on the second floor and lets me write without distraction. It’s adorned with my favorite writing mementoes, photos, two large windows and a tiny fireplace, oh, and three rescue dogs sprawled in various snoozing positions. It’s my writing zone and my muse perks right up when I go in. It took a lot of years to get here, but (deep sigh) I’m home.
If you’re a reader tell me where you love to perch or hide or just relax to read. If you’re a writer tell me where you write now, if you just love it or if you’re aspiring to your perfect writing zone. If you're both, even better!