Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lead a better life - Read!

Reading and writing are so intertwined at times those who partake of either or both don't pause to give a lot of thought to those who don't. 

Sometimes it is almost inconceivable that people don't read, don't read well or don't even know how to read. But it's out there.  Scholastic offers a page called Read Every Day-Lead a Better Life. It's the Global Literacy Campaign and it's an eye-opener. 

photo by Chance Agrella
So go for it. Read. Encourage kids to read. Writers, don't just bury your heads and write - encourage everyone to read. 

Grab a book, a kindle, a tablet, whatever and read! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Read and The Write Of It

Sometimes as writers we forget and take for granted the marvel of reading.

And it is pretty much a marvel you know.

We all read, well most of us read, well, a large number of us read and it's kind of funny how we don't think about it, but just do it. A part of every day. and thank heavens writers aren't the only ones who read!

Here's a definition of what reading really is:
..."a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning...a means of language acquisition of communication and of sharing information and ideas. Reading boils down to a complex interaction between the text and the reader, said text shaped by the reader's prior experience, knowledge, attitude and community.  The reading process requires continuous practice, development and refinement."
photo by Chance Agrella
 Or the more dry dictionary definition:
"the act or practice of one who reads...the study of books; academic material."

The second doesn't tell you nearly what the first does, but you get it. The first definition makes it much more clear just how complicated and fascinating the act of reading is.

There are types of reading other than the written word such as symbols, pictograms and music, but let’s stick with what we scribblers know best - reading a book.

Plainly the first requirement of reading is that there's sharp contrast between the letters and the background they're printed on (don't you just love red on black?) and aside from that, readers, don’t you just love it when the text doesn’t fit your computer screen and you’re forced to scroll from side to side, back and for, repeatedly? (er, I think I can see that you don’t). So fiction writers, copy writers, all writers keep in mind the readability factor in the visual.

The other thing about reading is it is usually an individual activity. One person; book or magazine or whatever in hand, reading. Oh, occasionally someone will do a ‘reading’ and read aloud to a group. And, readers, did you know many writers use reading out loud as a tool when crafting what they write? Reading out loud fosters better comprehension, meaning it allows the writer to catch many of his or her errors and to correct them. Handy, huh?

Did you know also that reading really is a pretty intensive process because the eye moves back and forth assimilating text? Very little of a sentence is actually ‘seen’ accurately, thus the puzzles where you can figure out a whole sentence with lots of words or letters missing. That involves eye movement and visual perception which you can Google if you lile, but it’s a whole ‘nother subject.

So, back to reading. Yep, it’s a very active exercise for your mind as pooped to say watching TV or just listening to music. When you read your brain cells engage in activity as the words you read are automatically translated into vivid images painted on your consciousness from the story the reader is absorbing. Fascinating, don’t you think? But there’s more. Your brain is actually a muscle which really does need to be exercised regularly like any other muscle in your body. If you don’t, you risk dulling yourself down. You must keep your mental faculties constantly engaged to keep your brain from getting bored and that will keep you smarter. Yes, smarter I say. But don’t believe me, research that yourself.

Those of you who are regular readers, think about it. When you read you’re bound to explore the works of a variety of authors and thereby be exposed to different literary styles, learn new words, phrases, idioms, and because of that learn to use those things in new ways yourself.

So, be of good cheer, readers and obsessive readers because readers are generally more knowledgeable folks and more knowledgeable are generally more creative and more creativity leads to innovation and the ability to think more ‘out of the box. So keep reading and you’ll find you’re definitely more creative in whatever are of life you aim to excel.

Want to read a bit more and give me your thoughts? Hop over to The Importance Of Reading For All Of Us. Good article for more info.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writers & Readers Websites Wednesday - Author M Pax's Website

Readers and writers alike, you'll really enjoy M. Pax's website.  She's quite the Science Fiction writer.  I read Semper Audacia ( .99) and loved it, also the first installment of Backworlds (free). Enjoy her Backworlds trailer, visit her blog, hang with M Pax and her reader and writer friends. Very nice site, well kept and informative. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Readers - Wonder how Writers Do It?

Really. So you ever wonder what goes on in fiction writer's lives that keep them writing the fiction they create or stop them, inspire them or throw up road blocks?

Frequently we talk here about nuts and bolts of writing, but really it's all about reading and writing. Writers who follow this blog are interested in tips and helpful websites and that sort of thing. 

Readers, no doubt are more interested in the inside scoop.  Correct me if I'm wrong, readers.

So, for today's post I decided it's time to open the door just a bit more and talk about a writer's habits. How I write and keep it moving forward.

One of my biggies and it always has been is write my fiction at the crack of dawn.  No kidding, for me the morning is a glorious time to write. 

I know, I know, a lot of writers "write all night" and "consume gallons of coffee". Nope, not me, I love a great night's sleep, popping out of bed all perky and getting down to writing right after a quick breakfast. My perkiness can definitely be a bit grating for others, but I'm good with it. Bouncy, perky me.

Another thing has always been to give my writing priority in my life. Never did play games about it. If you're a reader aspiring to be a writer, then you'll just have to get down to it. I've written since I was in my early teens, passed up a lot of things other kids were doing so I could write. It wasn't any sacrifice when what I really wanted to be doing was writing anyway. 

When I got older I dedicated many evenings to writing the books I eventually got published. Even did research and wrote notes on my lunch hours. It was a matter of stealing time wherever I could to make it happen. Obsessive I guess, but writing was always what I loved to do, what I WANTED to do. Check out some other writer's blogs like Mary Pax who's a science fiction writer and you'll begin to understand the high priority for writing thing. M Pax is always at it.

Another good writing habit? Drink a lot of water.  You laugh. You'd be surprised how we writers can forget these things when in the throes of a great story. And drinking a lot of water is great on many levels. Makes you take a break from fingers clicking keys to lift the water glass to your mouth. It hydrates you and keeps those brain cells happy and fatigue at bay and eventually it will make you get up from your desk and move - if only to the bathroom.

Ah, the mystery and romance of a writer's life.

Hey, did you readers think all this was easy?

Well, write when you're tired, write when you're stressed, write when you slept wrong and your neck hurts half the way down your back like I'm writing this morning. It's not like these things don't happen to a writer. It's not like writers can just go off in the corner and whine when there's writing to be done. There are deadlines, external and self-imposed and a good writer will stick pretty much to them with rare exceptions usually caused by some disaster.

You wonder how that book in your hand got there? Horror fiction author Stephen King tells us “Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”

Yep, it's that wonderful gossamer world of the writer.  Hey, if you're an enthusiastic reader and that's what you love being, good on you. If you're an aspiring writer, welcome to our world.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Fortean Times

Okay, I not only admit I'm a fan of the weird and wonderful in our world and other folks' imaginations, I state it proudly!  

You too?  
Want unusual, maybe spooky and/or totally weird?  Bring along your sense of adventure, curiosity, natural skepticism and a good sense of humor. Check out the Fortean Times site, wander it's cubbyholes and discover all sorts of story-inspiring weirdness.  Great fun - I could wander that site for a very long time.  Let me know what you think of it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What to Consider When Considering Writing Contests

Writing contests are kind of a lure for writers. The idea of a contest kind of dangles a carrot of opportunity or at least perceived opportunity. What if I win the contest? Will there be a large monetary prize?  Will I be published? Will I be noticed?  Will my work become bestselling work that launches my career?

Well, yes and no.

What if I don't win the contest? Does that mean my writing isn't any good? Does it mean I should give up? Does it mean I'll never get published?

Ummm, don't take it so seriously.

There are up sides and down sides to contests and my advice is to consider carefully before entering. There are a lot of writing contests out there and I do mean a LOT. If you throw a search into google for writing contests you'll come up with page after page of listings that mention writing contests of one type or another. And there are writer's magazines and organizations that tell you about contests all the time. But you probably already know that.

Here's the thing though. What do you expect to get out of a contest? Think about it before you enter. Odds are you're going to plunk down some bucks as an entry fee and as a writer with a lot of contests out there, how many do you think you want to enter? How much money do you want to gamble on a win? And remember there are human beings running these writing contests. A lot of the time a winner may well come down to the taste of the judge or the mood her or she is in that day (assuming the book is not a jumbled mess of spelling, grammatical and other errors). Funny, that can also be a determining factor on whether or not an editor accepts some writing you've submitted.

Okay, okay, I have entered contests in my time. I've won a couple and place highly in a couple others (one of which was the Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriting in which I made it through the Quarter Finals - where there is a very high return for the person awarded the top position).  And since they're a Fellowship and continue every year helping screenwriters get started, I'm comfortable with where the entry money goes there. Additionally their top prize was $30,000 at the time (plus exposure) which is nothing to sneeze at.

But, what I'm saying, is think about it. If contests are your thing, enter the ones that mean the most to you. Whether it's a large monetary prize, publication, exposure, or all of the above and more. Give it due consideration.


Well, here's one thought.  Let's say you enter a writer's contest with a $25 entry fee which is common these days. Now, let's assume about 3,000 people enter that contest. and it has a top prize of $2,500 (which is high). Well, you do the math. The contest sponsor has just collected $75,000 in entry fees and is paying out $2,500 or perhaps a bit more if there is a second and third place. Yes, there are costs for administration, depending of course upon who's offering the contest. But, really, is there a profit here? I mean if it's a publishing house offering the contest and perhaps publication as part of the prize what are they doing, subsidizing publication of the winner's book with the fees they collect from everyone else? I mean they have readers at a publishing house.  I puzzle over that.

Then there are the contests sponsored by large corporate entities (I can't name names, but I think you can figure it out). They're charging entry fees to writers why? If their background is promoting writing as a career and they sell books and magazines and more aimed at that, what is the reason for an entry fee, if there is one?

The point is, I've seen many places offering writing contests with entry fees that vary anywhere from about $5.00 (a very low entry fee) to near $100.00. This can get very expensive for a struggling writer just beginning, so pick and choose wisely. Do the math, wonder about the fees. It'll do you good.

On the other hand, isn't getting your writing polished to perfection, ready to show the world when you might enter a contest about the right time to maybe be submitting your work to publishers of various types? Perhaps you want to go "Indie" and do it on your own. Wouldn't either be as satisfying as winning a contest?

If writing contests make you hesitate perhaps submission and rejection would be a better route for you to take. It's a bit like a contest anyway. You submit and you win or your lose. But, if submitting, you submit again, perhaps do some rewrite and submit again. And it doesn't cost you an entry fee each time you do. And, rejection is part of the process.

I'm not saying you shouldn't enter contests, but I am saying you need to consider before you jump. You don't know what makes a writing contest winner any more than you would know exactly what an editor is looking for in the next novel or article he or she is going to accept.

Read your guidelines for either and go for it.

Other Posts Of Interest:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...