Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writers and Readers Websites Wednesday - UDEMY
Have you visited UDEMY yet? They offer online courses on a wide variety of subjects - including writing, humanities, photography, and many more - among them my own course I teach there on Romance Writing called Romancing Your Novel. 

Want to learn something - go check out UDEMY.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Writers Don't Wait For Inspiration

 “You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

― Jack London

One of my favorite quotes on writing.

I don’t know how many writers still carry that image in their heads that a writer sits around contemplating until struck with a brilliant ideas at which point said writer begins to write in earnest. Hopefully not many.

I don’t know how many readers also have that same image of writers in their heads.

To both camps I say, get it out. Stomp that idea to death and do it now.

Hemingway had it closer with his famous quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Combine that first quote above with the second and it’s something closer to what writing is all about.

Seriously, you can’t sit and wait for ‘inspiration’, you have to pursue it, look for it, grab it when it comes your way. If your muse is busy, read something that might spark an idea, take a brisk walk, play with your dog. Do something that relaxes and inspires you and throws that door open to new ideas.

Staring off into space can be you conjuring an idea, but if all you’re doing IS staring off into space, you need to get moving. Stir the pot!

Sometimes it’s as simple as tossing words onto paper, type something or write something, anything, then follow with more words. A full-blown idea just might kick in.

But whatever you do, don’t think sitting around, waiting, will do it for you. Some ideas strike out of the blue, others need to be tracked down and subdued.

Because an idea doesn’t come to you easily don’t think if you simply wait long enough it will.

It won’t.

Part of the trick is always remaining open to new ideas and experiences; always think of the ways of the world as grist for your mill. If you’re continually ‘tuned in’ ideas flow much more easily. There really is nothing magic about the muse hitting you over the head with a fresh, new idea. You’re generating them all the time and there’s no end to strange, interesting, funny and bizarre happenings and behaviors to feed your need.

Hey, writing standing up doesn’t hurt either!

So, get up, grab a club and go after that muse.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writers Thinking About Settings

If you don’t think much about it and just sort of throw settings in as you need there, just for color and background, then maybe you need to pause and think about that again…..


Okay, done thinking? Hope you’ve come to some good conclusions, namely just how important settings can be to novel or script. In fact, setting can become so central to a story that it’s almost another character. Think about it – Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian series – he created his own Mars.  Settings and characters to go with it. There were precise and detailed settings full of color and life on  their own. And when the movie was made all that detail became real on the screen. And, the director didn’t need to have pages and pages of written instruction to get there. 

He also didn’t need a lot of those pages when he has at his fingertips the ability to project lots and lots of images for the ‘reader/watcher’ to absorb.

Novelists are at a disadvantage when compared with their counterparts of movie world. It’s true, novelists must create the setting with words, passion and emotion that scatter across the written page. Screenwriters however, have a different disadvantage in that they must learn to put the same across on the page in very short passages.

However it’s done, by whoever is writing, setting dictates the need for detailed and precise descriptions of locals. And that means the writer must have a good grip on possibly a police station, a morgue or a rough city street for mysteries.  If it’s a thriller being written it might call for a more confining setting like an airplane, a small down, a haunted house or an island.  

A setting immediately takes the reader where the writer needs him to be. Without that immediately grounding in surroundings the reader loses his center and that’s definitely a negative for the writer.

So think about your settings and make it easier on yourself by realizing there are types of setting. Some are definitive in that the action MUST be set in a certain local. By that I mean if your book or script has a historical setting and something well-known that happens there then THERE can only be one specific setting.  The Gunfight at the OK Corral can’t be set in modern day New York City. So the writer is going to have to bone up on Tombstone Arizona in the 1800’s and get the details right.

On the other hand some scenes don’t necessarily need a specific setting. A guy asking a girl to marry him can be pretty much anywhere the writer wants to put it if it’s current history; whatever fits the story, or takes it in a new direction.

So what I’m saying is sometimes a scene is deeply rooted in the story and MUST contain a number of pre-determined elements. Other times, when you create a scene and that scene is not inherent many opportunities open up. There are possibilities to add an unexpected setting. You could use that to add tension and perhaps allow angles to emerge that help you create story additions you hadn’t thought of.

Play with your settings, even ones that may seem relatively minor. You might be able to add a whole new angle to your story.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writers and Readers Websites Wednesday - Story Generators

Kinda desperate for a new story idea? Or at least something that will kickstart the creative process and get that brain wandering off in new directions? 

Toss in location generator, first line generator and more and this site is perfect to get those ideas churning. 

About themselves Writers Plot Idea Generator says: This plot generator creates original and random story lines for plays, novels, short stories, soap opera, TV series or a movie script. The plot lines generated are not guaranteed to make sense but they do inspire writers by triggering a creative chain of thought. Most of the results might be off-the-wall but some are pure gold. Keep trying and sooner or later the perfect idea will appear. Some plots sound like a short story; some will fill a novel or could even be the start of a huge franchise. 

Go ahead, test it out, play a little! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“I cannot live without books.” (writing, reading and learning) ― Thomas Jefferson

Have you ever thought about how much the United States – and all it’s readers and writers owe to Thomas Jefferson?  

Throughout his life, books were vital to Thomas Jefferson's education and well-being. When his family home Shadwell burned in 1770 he most mourned the loss of his books.

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia. As a boy, Thomas Jefferson's favorite pastimes were playing in the woods, practicing the violin and reading – yes, READING. He began his formal education at the age of nine, studying Latin and Greek at a local private school. At the age of 14, he took up further study of the classical languages as well as literature and mathematics. A boy who grew to a man for whom reading and learning was second only to breathing.

Yes, he drafted the U.S. Declaration of Independence; he was the first secretary of state (1789-94), second vice president (1797-1801), and, as the third president (1801-09), the architect of the Louisiana Purchase.  Impressive. 

But, for those who love books, even more impressive is his gift to the nation of the Library of Congress. Now I’m not saying he built it, but he did acquire thousands of books for his library at Monticello, that personal library constantly evolving. And when the British burned the nation’s Capitol and the Library of Congress (with it’s 3,000 book collection) in 1814 Jefferson, having acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States, offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for that loss, promising to accept any price set by Congress.

The broad scope of Jefferson's library was a cause for criticism by congress of the purchase, but Jefferson extolled the virtue of its broad sweep and established the principle of acquisition for the Library of Congress: " I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from this collection . . . there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."   

The total number of books received by the Library of Congress from Jefferson was 6,487 which more than doubled the original size of the library. Then, proclaiming that "I cannot live without books," Jefferson began a second collection of several thousand books. The man was obsessed – but in the view of readers in a very positive way. 

Jefferson hoped for a national impact from his library and commented, "an interesting treasure is added to your city, now become the depository of unquestionably the choicest collection of books in the US, and I hope it will not be without some general effect on the literature of our country."

Then, disaster, a second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed nearly two thirds of the books Congress had so recently purchased from Jefferson.

Nevertheless Jefferson's collection was the seed from which the Library of Congress grew into the world's largest library today. It is these days accessible to all Americans through its Web sites and in three buildings on Capitol Hill (if you haven’t visited, put it on your list) and it continues to grow. 

Other than books, the collection includes millions of newspapers, maps, prints, photographs, sound recordings, films and digital materials, as well as the personal papers of hundreds of famous Americans including 23 U.S. presidents. 

If you have a shelf of books at home, and I suspect you do, think of it as the beginning of your own private library. Imitate Mr. Jefferson. 

Take time to visit your public and school libraries often (yes take a break from the computer). From the beginning, libraries have played a vital role in American democracy. And we all know librarians are not to be messed with!

And don’t forget to thank Thomas Jefferson, source of a whole lot more than the Declaration of Independence.  A modest man, one who believe that his greatest gifts to posterity came in the realm of ideas rather than that of politics. 

Upon his death, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence, his simple tombstone in the family cemetery at Monticello reads: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University Of Virginia."

We could sure use Mr. Jefferson now.

Images – library of congress 


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