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Write for Yourself

Do you write for yourself or for the market? This is a question all writers must ask themselves, hopefully sooner rather than later. Well come on then; do it. Do you write for yourself or for the market?

If some of you don’t know what those actually mean, I will give you an example. Say you’re a writer who loves to write science-fiction humour for young adults – that’s fine. But what if the market (that is, what’s selling at the moment) is serious fantasy? Now you’re in a real pickle. Do you carry on with your humourous book or do you throw it in the garbage and begin a fantasy novel just like the ones that are selling? It’s a difficult choice, as it can make or break a writer if they desperately want to be published. But what’s the answer, then?

Well in a book I am currently reading, called Richard Joseph’s Bestsellers, Alan Dean Foster (writer of the Alien novelisation) said this:

“Everything I had been trying to write ‘to the market’ was going nowhere, while something I wrote out of love and personal interest sold immediately.”

Fair enough if it’s his opinion, but why should we even begin to trust his advice? Because his world-wide sales are in excess of ten million copies. Wow. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. But you may argue that what works for one writer may not work for another, and that’s true. So let’s a dig a little bit further into this to come up with an answer of our own.

Let’s take another example, one when you were (or still are) in school. There were certain subjects you enjoy more than others, weren’t there? Perhaps there were ones you utterly despised – like me and Physical Education! 😛 You may have tried your best at that horrible subject, or tried to write that History paper with all your heart, but in the end you weren’t as good as the best in your class, were you (not trying to bring you down here; I hated most of the subjects in my school)? You had your favourite subjects, the ones you were good at or at least did your best at. This is what writing should be like for us. We shouldn’t force ourselves to write what we aren’t good at or what we don’t enjoy – we should be writing what we do enjoy, subjects that make our bodies quiver with excitement!

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Of course, what interests you as a writer may already be what’s currently selling on our shelves, and that’s great! If that’s the case for you, then get cracking! For those of us who aren’t so great at writing what’s currently on our shelves, though, this can be a little bit of a problem, so let’s tackle this problem head-on.

What do we do when we don’t want to write what’s popular? This is difficult to answer, and probably one we won’t be able to answer fully, but we can at least try. Essentially, we as writers just need to keep writing about what we love, as that’s what motivates us to write that novel or screenplay or short story – our love for its themes, characters, and so on. That love should make us proud of the work we’ve done, even if publishers and agents don’t so much as take a whiff of it. As Oscar Wilde said:

“An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.”

Wise words. If we’re not willing to at least try a new idea (in its broad sense, anyway) then there’s almost no point in us writing at all. In fact, you could go as far to say that the people who copy the ideas of what’s popular at the present may not actually be dangerous or original, just as Wilde said. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be that writer that breaks the mould – somebody has to be!

Thanks for reading; I hope you gathered some opinions of your own through reading my own! If you want to check out the book which I quoted from, you can get it from Amazon here – Richard Joseph’s Bestsellers. It’s a good book in which the writer interviews several writers about how they became bestsellers, from Roald Dahl to Tom Clancy.

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Falling Flames: a 50/50 story (Part 3)

Before we begin, may I apologise for not publishing a post yesterday – if I’m honest, I was just too lazy! Anyway, what a predicament Jasmine is in! Her mother seems to be dead and her two choices are going to the temple or continuing on. But which will she choose? Ready? Here we go!

_______________

Jasmine was exhausted, and carrying her mother on her back did not help. But she could not go up to the temple; it was too far. The climb looked horrendous and overhanging thorns and weeds determined her decision even more. She would continue on.

*

The sun was scorching both earth and flesh. At least, that’s what it felt like. The sun was at its highest in the sky, and still Jasmine had found no sign of people; no house or cottage was in sight. Her lips had cracked and split over an hour ago, but all she could do was wipe off the blood; there was no water to wash her mouth with. And then she saw it.

A thatched roof rising above the hill.

She thought it was a vision. A mirage, even. But it was there, almost eager to welcome weary travellers.

Or dying travellers.

Jasmine suddenly had a burst of strength and speed, and she limped quickly towards the thatched roof, her mother bouncing limply on her back. She reached it in a matter of minutes, and she nearly cried when she saw what the thatched roof was.

It was a small cottage, complete with a vegetable patch and wary cat. Bits of broken carrot and lettuce scattered the cramped yard, and trees shaded the entire area.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

‘Help!’ she sputtered, cracking her lip again from the effort of even moving her lips. ‘Somebody help us! My mother is…’ Jasmine glanced backwards, looking at her mother. Deathly still. ‘My…my mother is unwell!’ She hung her head.Scratches could be heard from inside, followed by a creaking of the front door. It swung open.

An old man appeared in the doorway. He was average height, but with a very short, scraggly white beard. Several teeth were missing from his welcoming smile, and a silver dagger was held in a brown belt at his hip.

Jasmine’s body realised what it had accomplished and she collapsed onto the fine-dusted ground. She could feel the weight of her mother on top of her, as useless as a corpse. Jasmine swallowed, wincing from the pain it caused. Maybe she was a corpse.

Gradually, everything faded to black.

*

The next thing Jasmine knew, she was lying in an ancient wooden bed wrapped in several blankets. She checked her lip. It was painful, but no blood caught on her fingers and they seemed moist.

She looked up.

The old man was sitting in a chair next to her, quietly rocking back and forth. He smiled. ‘Well it’s nice to have you back, child.’

‘What’s happened? Where’s mother?’

‘Stay calm, child, or you’ll tire yourself out.’

‘Where is she?’ Jasmine repeated.

The man’s face suddenly contorted. ‘Stay calm or I’ll leave you for the crows!’ He sat back again. ‘Now to answer your question, your mother is fine…in a way.’

Jasmine’s eyes widened. ‘In a way?’

‘Yes. I noticed she’s been in a fire, and it’s done some damage.’

‘And what exactly is damaged?’

_______________

50/50 question: will Jasmine’s mother be disabled in some way, or will it be more supernatural? Heads it’ll be disabled, tails supernatural!

*Bad voiceover impression* What is wrong with Jasmine’s mother? What exactly were those falling flames in the sky? Join us next time for another episode of Faaaallling Flaaaaammmesss!!!! 🙂

The Writer’s Creed – a poem

This post is simply a short poem which I wrote today; it may not be epic or especially serious, but I trust you all like it anyway. 🙂

I ponder why we like to write, and why we like to read,

Is it because we have, somehow, an unrecorded creed?

Maybe this creed will tell us all of what we need to know

concerning words, and nouns and verbs, and writing what we know.

Oh! if there was a writer’s creed, rules which we could obey,

Commands of when to use a word, a sentence, or a phrase.

It would be so much easier, if writers could thus pride

in a creed which was omniscient, a writing coach and guide.

 

I know of such a writer’s creed, it lives within our minds –

A talent which is granted us, a skill God has assigned.

It is our vision which is our creed, our library.

 All we read is stored and kept, even Great Gatsby!

We use some data that is stored – it shapes our writing voice,

Ah! it is so, how can it not? In this we rejoice.

For whilst we practice writing rules, presented to us by others,

We could just as easily break them by entirely going against what they say; for example, by having far too many syllables in one line of a poem without it even rhyming.

 

© Thomas Kitchen and Writer’s Cabinet, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Kitchen and Writer’s Cabinet with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing is Insane!

“Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.”

                                                                                                                – Graycie Harmon

How true this is. In writing, whether that be short story or novel, there must be characters, and those characters must have flaws. If you don’t create your characters with flaws, then there will be no drama, no tension, and no obstacles to get in their way. It doesn’t matter if the flaw/flaws are internal or external – what matters is that they must be weak. These characters are humans, just like us. They are made of flesh and blood, no matter how much you think that they’re actually made of titanium.

An insane asylum must have insane people for its cause to be worthwhile. If it does not, then it is worthless. So it is with writing; if you don’t have flawed characters in your piece of writing, then you might as well throw it away. Keeping an empty asylum up and running is a waste of money, and so is buying a book with flawless characters. People want to read about others which are just like them, with the same problems and situations as them. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a fantasy novel or romance novel – writing a book about people means writing a book about people’s problems.

Maybe you’ll go insane halfway through writing a book. That’s fine; every writer is a little bit insane, anyway! 😀

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

However, don’t let your inmates escape. Flawed characters are good and scarred characters are good, but there is a cut-off point: don’t flood your readers with so many character flaws that it overwhelms them, or seems unrealistic. The better the balance, the better your asylum; you’ll learn to make your own asylum stronger with every character that goes a bit wild and escapes!

So be the doctor in charge and keep your inmates in check. After all, you’re spending most of your time with them! 😛

Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.”

                                                               – Unknown

Tomorrow’s Lecture and the first 50/50 story!

Sorry this post is a tad late, but I had quite a few things to organise today for tomorrow (University!) and otherwise. Yes, and as you can tell from that previous sentence, my first lecture begins tomorrow – a two-hour long ‘Skills for Academic Studies in the Humanities’. It sounds a little boring, but I was silently waiting for the degree proper to start anyway, so I’ve had that wish fulfilled at least. 🙂

Concerning the first 50/50 story, I have no idea how many posts it’ll be, but that’s part of the fun! Obviously it can’t continue for too long as NaNoWriMo begins next month, but I’m assuming it’ll consist of at least four posts. I still, however, need your input: every story needs to begin with a simple premise, and I’ve decided to let you readers be the supplier of that premise. It can be as silly or as serious as you’d like, likewise with the mundane or heart-pounding. Basically as long as it’s not rude or racist I’ll give it a shot – just post in the comments and the first premise which sounds reasonable will have the reasonable honour of being the foundation of my first 50/50 story. Your comment can be detailed or simple:

 

Simple

A man walks into town with the thought of buying his first lottery ticket.

More detailed

A man walks into town with the thought of buying his first lottery ticket, but his next-door neighbour thinks it’s a bad idea.

Very detailed

A drama about a man called Kevin who thinks of buying his first lottery ticket, only to find that his next-door neighbour Maggie thinks it’s a bad idea, as it will create a new bad habit that will cause him to drop further into financial debt.

 

Obviously I’m going a bit overboard here, but you get the idea. So quickly write in the comments and think of something good before someone else does – you’ll even get a shout-out about your own blog! Now get cracking! 😀

 

50/50 Stories and NaNoWriMo

Well another week has passed and another one is gradually edging closer, but for writers this can be a good thing, especially if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I am still planning to participate, but with my Creative Writing lectures beginning this Tuesday, it’s going to be tough. Granted, NaNoWriMo is designed for fairly busy people, but writing ‘x’ number of projects and essays for the degree, writing three posts a week for the blog, and writing 1,600 words a day could be a little tricky.The good thing is that I have my novel’s synopsis planned out, so all that needs to be done before the first of November is to draw a map, create character-bios, and possibly a more detailed chart of the story. It is feasible, but I also have many books to read for my course and I may not have a lot of free time. Basically what I’m saying is that I will probably attempt to participate, but it may end suddenly and brutally.

If I do begin my crazy yet wonderful journey in about a month, there will be two changes – one, during November the posts will almost always be an update on my NaNoWriMo novel, and also for others to share their endeavours. Two, I’m also sure that the blog posts will be shorter – maybe very much so – as I will have many other things to write as well.

Now, moving on to the ’50/50 stories’ part – this is the second idea that I had, talked about in Wednesday’s post. Essentially, the concept is this: you lovely readers will give me some sort of task to write about, whether that be going to the supermarket or a police officer trying to stop a bank robbery. Then I write a specific number of words (I haven’t decided the amount yet) and at the end of this word-count, a cliffhanger will take place, be that mundane or spectacular.

Ask the audience or 50/50?
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

For example, let’s take the supermarket scene. At the end of this scene is a choice (50/50) – should the character talk to Mrs. Wesley or hide himself from her? Then whatever the decision is, in the next 50/50 post I have to write a 500 word scene based on that choice. Perhaps I’m not making any sense, I don’t know, but I do have one dilemma: do I leave it down to you readers to choose what happens, or do I flip a coin and decide that way (don’t worry; I won’t cheat if I flip a coint at home. Just trust me.)? I really need an answer to this, but seeing as the previous poll was a bit rubbish, I’m tempted to make the decision with the flip of a coin.

I think the 50/50 concept might challenge myself to write without really knowing where the story is going, and I find that quite exciting. Also it may give me story ideas; perhaps it will be of benefit to you readers as well, I don’t know. Anyway, leave a comment to tell me which way you think would be better, and if you want to comment on anything else – NaNoWriMo, a movie, a certain book – then that’s no problem: the more, the merrier!

It was great writing to you all again, and I hope that on Monday I will have many comments to read! 😀

University, rain, and plastic ducks!

It seems like a very momentous time in my life, and in some respects it is – the very first day at University, a mixture of feelings whizzing through both my head and stomach. But when your first day consists of choosing modules which are pretty much chosen for you, getting your hair very wet several times from walking in constant rain, and flicking plastic ducks off bridges to see who is the winner, it all seems a little different to what you wre expecting. That said, it was the first day, it was great to meet some new people and see new places, and I am looking forward to the lectures (which start next week).

The first semester is all compulsory, but in the second semester (on top of the compulsory ones) there is a choice to pick one of three modules: a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), something to do with archaeology, and a module entitled ‘From Gods to CGI’, which is taught by the School of Classics. This is the module that I have decided to do, as I presume it will broaden my horizons and will possibly give me story ideas.

Also, may I remind you to vote in my polls, deisigned to make my blog better. If you haven’t yet voted, vote here. Thanks for reading; see you all Wednesday!

 

On your marks…get set…go write! (Part three)

Hello again everyone! So here we are: the last post of this three-part series. It’s been a fun ride (it sounds like I’m giving up blogging altogether :P), but I’ve been taught many lessons because of it, and I hope you all have to. But enough chit-chat – we’ve run that race and we’ve crossed that finish line; the writing project is finished! Well, almost…

Winning the Race

 

“It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle.”

                                    – Richard M. DeVos

 

You’ve prepared yourself for the race. You planned ahead. Then you ran, either fast and hard, or slow and steady. The finishing line was in your sights, and then…victory! You cross the line and you raise your arms in the air. But however amazing and proud you feel, there’s still work to be done.

 

1.) Keep your muscles moving – even after the race is finished, do not sit down. You have to keep moving, and this applies to writing also. Once your project is finished, don’t take a break (of course you can relax, but that’s a different thing). Instead, write a paragraph every day, about anything you want – just keep those writing muscles moving. A runner doesn’t stop practicing just because he’s won a race, and neither should you. Write very little compared to what you did do, and remember to read novels and books about writing as well: both are invaluable.

2.) Remember that you’ve finished the race! – even though you shouldn’t brag, be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Not everyone can do what you’ve just done. Congratulate any other ‘runners’ that have crossed the finish line and celebrate together. Victory is far sweeter when shared.

Celebrate together and have fun! Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

3.) Winning isn’t everything – especially in writing. Who cares if James from your class finished his novel before you finished your four-line poem? I’ll say it again: write your project at your pace. You’ll enjoy yourself far more, and it doesn’t matter what ‘position’ you are at the finish – what matters is that you’ve finished! 

4.) Don’t stop there – you want to become the best writer you can be, so don’t stop learning and running other races! Try to realise what you did totally incorrectly in the race, what you could improve on, what you did well. All of this will help you to shape and hone your craft until you’re ready to become a professional athlete (published author)! But even then, you don’t stop learning. Every race changes you, usually for the better. Now go out there and put your running shoes on!

 

And that’s the end of the series. 🙂 If you want to suggest a topic for me to write about, or just want to ask a question or comment on my blog, then please write in the comment section below – I’ll be very happy! 😀 Don’t forget to like and share, and follow me if you want up-to-date posts. Thanks.

 

“It doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
                                                                                      – Fred Lebow

On your marks…get set…go write! (Part one)

Preparing yourself

Consider this:

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.” 

                                            Priscilla Welch

Now, this quote could apply to many things in life, but since this is a blog about writing, I think I’ll stick with that. I’m going to split this into three parts, part one being today’s post: preparing yourself. I hope you enjoy.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

                                                                       – Benjamin Franklin

A runner has to psych himself up mentally before the race starts, and this is very similar for writers, whether they are doing their first big project or their twenty-second. Here are a few points that both runners and writers have to do before starting:

1.) Picture the race in your mind – a runner looks at the lane ahead of him and works out his strategy depending on the type of race: 100m, 1,000m, 10,000m. He does not look at the contenders next to him, but rather focuses on himself, what he can do. His personal best. And so writers must do the same. If it’s the writer’s first attempt at a major piece (novel, short story, a poem, etc.), then he must decide the ‘length’ of race he is running; a short-story writer is not going to plan and write in the same way as a novelist, or whatever else. The writer must work out what he is comfortable with, to do his personal best.

Think of the olympics. Many runners, swimmers, and high-jumpers entered fit, ready, and prepared to do their best. Some walked away medal-winners, but others simply went away with a big smile on their face – they may not have won any medals, but they ran, swam, or jumped a new personal best for themselves, and that’s more than anyone can ask for. A writer must do the same. He must not think of the other contenders in taht sense, but of himself. If he thinks of others, then he will depress himself and he will not be able to run as fast as he can. Do your best, not anyone else’s.

2) Let go of any fears maybe you’re afraid of losing the race, that you won’t be able to make it. But let me tell you straight away – if you go in with that attitude, of course you won’t make it! I remember running outside during a P.E. lesson (not my greatest moment), the mud and the cold seeping slowly into my body until I thought I was going to freeze. However, I simply said to myself, ‘surely I’m not going to quit now; I’ll just try to get to that tree over there.’ Once I managed that, I would set another target for myself, then another. I didn’t think ‘Oh man I have like twenty minutes of running left and I won’t be able to make it and I’m gonna die of cold…’ because then I would’ve given up far earlier. If you begin the race with the right attitude, you may just find yourself at the finish line far sooner than you thought.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

3.) Learn from everyone when a runner wants to be the best, he tries to learn from the best. He trains with the best and eventually – with a bit of experience and good fortune – becomes the best. But he doesn’t just watch and learn from the best; he looks at the worst, the ways runners are not meant to run. He may also look at new ways of running, ways that are just as effective as his ways. Through researching all of this, he can become better, become the best he can be.

Writers must also do the same. Writers must read the best-sellers and the great books that didn’t quite make it to the top. They must learn how to craft a piece of writing, hone it until it is nigh on as perfect as it can be. But as with the runners, writers must also read terrible books – not to get jealous that they were published, but rather be thankful that it was not them who had written the tripe. They must take notes on how not to write a novel or a short story. Remember also that writers also need to read things that perhaps they don’t want to read; read new ways of writing like runners do with running. Maybe you’ll like the way they write and take many tips away with you, making your writing even better. Perhaps you only take one tip or maybe even none at all, but at least they now know that the style they have read is not for them.

Learn from the best, learn from the worst, learn from the different.

So that concludes part one; part two should be up next post unless I decide to post something else, which is unlikely. Please follow me if you liked the post, as you can get up-to-date stuff! 😉 Thanks.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

                                                                                – Stephen King

Another degree update and a link to a very good blog

Hello – I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend 😀 Mine was a mixture of feelings, as my ill Grandmother passed away last night. On a lighter note, however, I have received a further few updates on my Creative Writing degree. 🙂

I now have a degree start date, and that is September 24th. There is an Open Day for the university this Saturday (15th), and it should be a day when I find out far more about the course itself and the books I need to read beforehand, etc. I have already found one other person doing the same degree as me, so I will probably be talking to them before we start so I at least know someone when it all starts proper.

Financially, progress is slow but steady. Some things are already in the post to be sorted out, and I’ve managed to create a quick budget for myself to know how much I should be spending, and on what.

So there you have it. A little bit more news until things really begin to explode, my brain included – my stomach is beginning to churn as I think I’m worrying/speculating too much.

Now, on to the second part of this post, even though it’s a quick one. I want to give you another link to another brilliant blog. It’s called Nine Writes, and I know it’s well written because she enjoys blogging and writing, and when someone enjoys something, it tends to be of a good quality, and this one is. Check it out: http://2bnine.wordpress.com. She’s also in my blogroll!

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I’ll hopefully write again on Wednesday. Bye for now! 🙂