Have to have a job to pay the bills, but it’s far away and I spend three hours a day commuting. J is for Job in the sense that I don’t get paid for writing and I like to have nice stuff.
And then, help. Help, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to blog about. I don’t know how to make what I want to say sound interesting. What do you do when you need help?
When I get stuck in my writing, I have a few places to turn to for help. The first is my extensive collection of books on how to write. Which can always be supplemented by buying more books. This is particularly useful when I know what I need to do, I just don’t know how to go about it.
Or I can turn to either of the writing groups I’m involved in. I can get lots of different perspectives on the problem, which helps open up potential solutions. Most useful when I don’t think I’ve fully got to grips with what the problem is and I need help seeing it from other angles.
And of course, there’s always the interwebs. Opinions and advice galore! It takes time to filter it and you often have to wade through a load of shit in order to get to what you need, but on the plus side, I’m quite likely to find myself going off a tangent and finding something new. I love following internet trails to find out where they go.
Where do you go for writing help?
Grammar, punctuation and spelling are the tools we use to convey subtle meaning to the reader. Even if the reader doesn’t know enough about grammar to truly appreciate how we’ve done it, they will respond to what we’ve done. The word grammar derives, via Old French and Latin, from the Greek grammatike tekhne meaning ‘art of letters’. It is an art – you’ll notice I said fashions of grammar rather than rules. Grammar is what the majority agree is an understandable way to structure language. It is how we order words so that we can communicate.
The ‘rules’ change, sometimes slowly and sometimes quite fast. What you were taught at school may or may not be correct and I guaruntee that, unless you did linguistics at university level, it avoided the glorious complexity of language structure. Grammar in written English is different to grammar in spoken English. Lolspeak becoming a language of its own which is incredibly exciting. The writer who gets what grammar does and how to use it in both expected and unexpected ways has the power to use her words to maximum effect.
An excellent resource for improving your grammar is the Daily Grammar Lessons blog. The other is reading a lot.
mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously
Fortitude is something that writers need. Writing can be hard and very often it forces us to face our inner truths and demons.
Weirdly, an image search for fortitude mainly returned pictures of trainers so I made my own. First, there’s the demotivational poster, just a reminder that taking things too seriously can be counter-productive.
And then there’s the seious one.
The artist who created the second picture (which is amazing) is Gild-a-Lily on DeviantArt, but I can’t find a link.
This should be a moment of terror. The character believes they might die. But it’s terror tempered with determination to live, the will to push themselves mentally and physically beyond what they’ve ever done before. Maybe there’s a little elation in the mix. In an action scene like this the character’s adrenalin will be high and that complex cocktail of feeling has to come off the page and raise the reader’s heartbeat.
What I want is overblown drama on an operatic scale. I want to leave my reader exhausted and wrung out. But it’s hard to push myself to get there. I’ve learnt to moderate my emotions and I’m afraid that, instead of being moved, the reader will think I’m ridiculous. I don’t want to make a fool of myself so I draw back and I contain the emotion. I let it out in tiny little drips that people barely notice. And, for real life, that’s ok.
It’s like a tap. For real life, I want a gentle trickle. For my writing, sometimes I want a torrent. But the tap is stiff with disuse and I struggle to fully turn it on. When I do manage it, I feel embarrassed. I’m working on that by practicing writing pieces that are as emotionally laden as I can make them. These are just practice pieces that will never see the light of day and so I don’t have to worry whether a reader will find them ridiculous. I can learn to control the emotion tap in private and when it comes to writing scenes in my work-in-progress then I will have the skill to get the emotional balance right.
How do you feel about writing with emotion? Is it easy or difficult? Are there some emotions you find harder than others?
Playing video games
Messing about on the internet
Hanging out with friends
Getting a master’s degree
Playing with my cats
Reading non-writing related blogs and news
And of course there are the things I think I should be doing:
Hanging out with friends
Keeping up with my correspondence
But instead I’m writing. At least in theory. I don’t have a lot of spare time at the moment so everything that I could do I have to think ‘will this take time away from my writing?’ The answer is almost always yes because I can’t reduce the hours I work (which is not all that many to be fair) or reduce my commuting time, so there’s nowhere else for the time to come from. If the answer is yes, then ‘is this something I’m willing to give up writing time for?’ If I’m honest, in the past, I often have given up writing time – because I’m tired, or because it’s hard, or because I didn’t believe in myself enough, or because I didn’t feel I could say no to friends or family or other obligations. But I’ve reached a stage in my writing where the answer is going to be no much more often.
Oh look, a butterfly. Being chased by a lolcat. What was I doing again?
I realised recently that actually it’s the other way around. I was working on my novel, trying to get to grips with all the elements of it, and I realised I have loads of characters. I’m not sure where they all came from. And while I was putting them into my spreadsheet I realised that each one is quite fleshed out in my mind.
Thinking back to all the scenes that started the fragments of all the stories that are gathering dust on my hard drive, it wasn’t about the events at all. They are all characters searching for a story to be in.
So, weird place to be in. But good.
By the way, I thought a post on characters was a good opportunity to showcase the work of my talented cousin who painted the picture in this post. If you like it, you can see more of her work at her Deviant Art gallery.