Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Garden of Writing

We all have one -- yes, we do.  A garden. 

You can deny it all you want but everyone has a garden, even if it is nothing more than just a single plant.  Of course, for some, it could be that questionable science project in the refrigerator with the strange hairy growth -- but it is a garden.

My wife, at one time, had a lovely collection of African Violets and they were beautiful with all their blooms and then, one day, it all started to die and nothing she did mattered.  Suddenly her plants were gone.  She even attempted to save some by new leave growth, but to no avail.  The truly strange part of this story is -- the leaves she gave to friends to start new plants; they survived.  So when the plants were healthy and large, my wife attempted to take a leaf and start her violet garden again.  It failed.

Over the years I've attempted to start seeds... only to see my efforts fail a few weeks later as the plants spring forward and grow about 6 inches tall with their little seedling leaves.  That is about 5.5 inches too tall.  They fall over; they die.  Better luck next year.

This year, as I stated on an earlier post; it has been good using the miniature indoor greenhouse.  Well, it stands about 5 foot tall and is about 4 foot wide.  I have more plants than I know what to do with.


I will probably be planting outdoors next week if all goes well.  The evening temps are a little cool but not freezing.  I have the ability to cover the plants in the garden IF it does frost.

And, like my indoor garden, my mind has been sprouting new ideas and thoughts for my writing world, too.  I spent about an hour today doing something I haven't done in quite some time -- I made writing notes.  Yes.  I typed in outlines, notes, tidbits, whatever struck my fancy on things to write.  And my mind traveled some roads I wasn't too sure I wanted to travel, still, I wrote the notes down and now I have a file of seedlings to write future stories.

Fortunately, these seedlings don't need water or light to survive and since I have them written down, to some extent, they have an existence and I should be able to keep them in a 'dormant' mode until I need something to write or I find the free time to write on them.

As I worked on the notes I was reminded of an old movie ... way back to a movie about the Grimm Brothers -- not the dark one of a few years back, but back to the 1960s.  If I remember correctly, there is a scene where the Grimm brother is fighting an illness and the stories yet to be born come forth and rally him on.

That was how I felt today -- these little tidbits, odd thoughts, whatever -- they wanted to be put to paper and stored away for future use.  They are now electronically saved.

Has anyone else ever had a situation similar to this?  How did you handle it?  Did you save your ideas or have they gone like my prior years of starting seeds -- struggled to grow only to die?  I hope not.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Conquer All Obstacles

Jo-Anne Vandermuelen has a novel out entitled "Conquer All Obstacles" and that title alone says it all.  Although her story is of love and passion, the title is valid on many levels which includes writing.

As a writer you are faced with many different types of ruts on your road to being published.  It really doesn't matter if your style is non-ficitonal article writing or fictional novels, those little road bumps hold true to all genres.

There are seven (7) obstacles to overcome in your writing project.  They are:
1) Concept
2) Capture
3) Character
4) Conflict
5) Climax
6) Conclusion
7) Collection

Let's examine these. 

CONCEPT.  We all know what that means.  A thought; an idea.  It is the spark of your imagination to begin the article or story.  Yes, imagination does play a part in a non-fictional work.  Perhaps you've read an article about something in your particular field of work and it ignites your mind to realize you could write an article expanding on this or that.  Or, if you want to go the other way, perhaps an illusionary trip with a short story.  I read a comment about a clown and a baby at a circus -- it burst forth in my imagination and will soon be going out in search of publication.

CAPTURE.  You need to ensnare both your publisher and your audience.  I'm sure when you read clown and circus above, you were ho-hum, but when I added the baby aspect... your mind questioned exactly what I could be doing.  That is the capture aspect.  Also, the title can be part of the capture.  Would you be reading this blarticle (blog-article) if the title had been Seven Points of Writing?

CHARACTER.  Short stories, novellas and novels thrive on characters.  If the created hero is your stock standard, more than likely your reader will be dozing off.  Big, buff heros need reality and that means a weakness, a fraility.  Give them one.  In non-fiction writing, your character is going to be less than stellar.  You will be writing about a real person more than likely.  Then again, maybe your lead characters is a bacterium in an article.  Whatever light you cast your hero (lead) into, they must shine.

CONFLICT.  As Bill Alexander explained many times on his PBS oil painting shows -- to have darkness, you must have light; to have light, you must have darkness.  This holds true in writing.  You must have conflict to have happiness.  This conflict can be as simple as your hero overcoming an inhibition such as a fear of snakes.  Your hero must grow.  I can hear you scream that this is not ture in non-fiction article writing.  Wrong.  Even if you were writing about a new form bacterium, there would be some detail to show conflict.  Perhaps a difficulty in growing it, containing it, using it; all of them are forms of conflict.

CLIMAX.  A short story or novel always has a big thunderous scene where everything comes together.  Even non-fiction has this moment.  Using the bacterium again, the moment of discovery or the realization of the uses of the bacterium; those are climactic aspects.

CONCLUSION.  This is where you, the writer, bring it all together.  Your hero lounges in the sun or the biologists explain how the bacterium will aid mankind.

COLLECTION.  Sending it out to publishers, printers, agents, whoever to get your work seen and to receive the money due you for your long, anguishing hours of torment to complete the piece.

Ah-ha!  The obstacle.  You, as a writer, a typer of words, have fearlessly fought the battle through the first six issues to complete your work.  Now you need to send it out, to finally receive what is rightfully due you.  Hence, the title.  Conquer All Obstacles.  This is one aspect where many writers tend to back down, to hedge into the shadows to disappear.  It is a fear of rejection.  It is only through rejection you learn to grow, to aspire, to become a writer.  If you never submit, you will never have the chance at publication.  If you never get published, then really, are you a writer?  No, you're a person who typed a lot of words aka a word typer.

There truly is a difference between 'a typer of words' and 'a word typer' -- which one are you?
Remove the obstacle, submit and get published.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Writer Do / Don't

We've all seen them -- 10 Things Writers Shouldn't Do; A Dozen Writer Tips; FIVE Way to Better Writing -- etc etc etc ad nauseam.

So today I'm going to give you some tips from the two sides struggling within me.

     Now I'm sure you had a frown cross your brow with that one. A good writer can't have any distractions and a window is just asking for trouble. Something moves and just that quick your mind has been hijacked to gaze out and see what it was. Don't ever put your work area by the window. 
     What crap! Sit that desk right beside the window and you will have a marvelous Muse to start-kick your writing. When unsure of what to do, gaze out the window and let your mind wander. Ms. Muse works wonders with a blank canvas.

     If your mind is working on a piece, the last thing it needs is some idiot singing in your head, especially via headphones. The quiet solace of a private area allows the freedom of thought and gives you the ability to create.
     More bull. Music relaxes whether it be symphonic classics, soft, melodic New Age stuff, head-banging, nerve jangling rock, country or just plain rock and roll.  Music soothes the soul and allows the creative juices to flow.  Give me something to allow my body to move to while I think of the next group of words to type. Absolute silence kills.

Desktop vs Laptop
     A writer is a professional and as a professional, they should have an office with a full computer set up as a place to work. Secretaries don't bounce around from place to place as they do their stenography work; they work at a desk as a professional.  A desktop computer forces the writer to realize he is a professional and put him or her in the proper mindset since it is located where he or she will work.
    Get a laptop, don't waste your time with that big clunky-ass computer that gives you a triple hernia each time you have to move it. A laptop allows you, the professional writer to write wherever and whenever Ms. Muse slaps you up the back of the head. Do you really want to sit in a doctor's office waiting room for twenty minutes while your mind wanders down a fabulous story line? Trust me, by the time you get back to the 'professional writer's desktop computer' the train of thought and all those wonderful words will be a lame and fading memory.

Work Medium - I originally had this labeled as 'Medium' and decided it sounded like a size or spiritualistic type meeting.  Changed it.
     As a writer you need to establish a location where you write and have your quiet time and can be left alone.  Consider placing your desk in a spare bedroom made into an office.  This lends itself to you knowing you are a professional and also tells others in the family you are working when in there.  This also allows you place working notes on the walls and to enhance the experience you can shelve books of writers you enjoy, place encouraging quotes on the walls and paint the walls a cheery color to help calm you.
     This is a pile, a very big pile of you know what! Your office is where you work. If you work on the kitchen table, the kitchen is your office. My desk is in the master bedroom, not far from the bed. Much to my wife's chagrin, when the mood strikes, I can bounce out of bed and work.  I did have a spare bedroom made into an office and the family knew when I was in there I was to be left alone. It alienated me to some extent but my granddaughters didn't understand why grandpa was in there and they couldn't be; so they'd join me.  My wife would yell at me to help her with this or that. The idea of going into a separate room and being left alone by the family is a dream only a single person can truly enjoy with only the front door and telephone to be ignored.  Family can not and will not be ignored.  Life is as life is and family is a part of your life, even for the writer.

     This must be kept away from the work area at all times. When a writer needs something, if it is filed properly away, it will be easy to retrieve. Everything has a place and there is a place for everything. Neatness yada yada yada.
     Yeah, right. A neat desk is the signature of an organized person. NOT!!  A clean desk means the person is spending too much time making sure everything is just so when they should be writing. I am of the cluttered-desk-persuasion and know where close to 90% of my notes are when I look at the stacks of papers, etc.  I'm a crappy filer.  Years ago I had four HUGE piles of paper on a small table in the corner, we are talking about piles of documents stacked about 18 to 24 inches high. My boss came in and wanted a copy of a certain document. I looked at the stack and thought for a minute. She realized it was somewhere in the stacks and started to walk out with a 'Nevermind.'  I told her to wait a minute and I had the document she wanted in less than 2 minutes of searching. My co-worker, the organized one, couldn't find his copy of the document. My wife cleaned my desk at home and it took me 3 days to locate everything, AND I didn't let her throw away the 'trash' as she saw it.  Yes, I scribble notes on sheets of scrap paper which appear to the untrained eye to be nothing more than trash.

In closing I can only state the obvious.  Writers are a mixed lot; do what you feel is necessary to achieve the goal - writing the story.  I would have said 'getting published' but some writers don't want that, they only want to write.  If you are a neat-nik and enjoy head banger music while gazing out the window in your office, so be it. Or if you're the harried mom with a laptop on the kitchen table; the bottom line is -- you're a writer.  Enjoy.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

APRIL - Poetry Month

'Tis true, my love. April, the month of love, of poetry, of talking funny with strange words and in metered rhyme.

All kidding aside, poetry is to be commended. Just think, in the days of 'yore' the ballads were told as memorized verses.  Balladeers strolled from village to village, strumming their lutes or some other stringed instrument of the period.  A good balladeer was one with long songs with many verses filled with love, adventure, good and evil; in other words, something for everyone from the very young to the extremely old.

Storytelling was also available but it was much more enjoyable to listen to a lightly strummed lute as the voice warbled verse after verse.  Many a father had to watch their daughters when a balladeer came to town and voiced his wares for all to hear. What young damsel could defend herself against a soft verse of love coupled with a wink, a smile and strum of the lute.

But I digress.  The Greeks and Romans told their tales in verse. Who has never heard of Ovid, Virgil, Sophocles, or even of Euripedes? They were spouting rhymes before Christ was born.  In fact, a 3,000 year old Egyptian papyrus was discovered with poem on it. (See Note 1)

I write novels, stories, and articles plus a little poetry from time to time.  What I find so amazing about poetry is the fact a story, even a vingette, is told with the least amount of words.  Even the simplest of poems...(See Note 2)
Roses are red, Violets are blue;
Honey is sweet, And so are you.

That poem reveals that the author is in love, and that his true love is perfection, for honey is now considered one of the finest foods and naturally sweet.

All the nursery rhymes we learned as children are basically covert tales and some are dastardly sinister in their meanings.  'Ring around the rosie' and 'A pocketful of posey' is somber in that it mocks and tells the misfortune of the plague when it took its toll in Europe.  The rosey ring was a mark of the plague and due to the number of dying, it became quite common to place flowers in the pockets of loved ones to help cover the stench.  'Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.'  The bodies were burned, and death was so widespread, people were literally dropping as they walked. NOT!! (See Note 3) As good as the above description sounds, it is not true and probably hold true for many of the nursery rhymes that were supposed attacks at the upper crust of society.  Then again???

Still, the fact remains, a poet can tell a tale, a snippet of a story, or the angst of an emotion in a few mere words and in doing so, jerk from us an emotion of response. {insert a couple of finger snaps here with 'yeah, yeah' and 'cool'}

So, with April being the month of poetry, I ask all my readers to find a poem somewhere and embrace it, understand it, and let it flow through you. 

Share your favorite poem with me.

Until next I ramble on...

(1) http://homepage.powerup.com.au/~ancient/love.htm
(2) http://askville.amazon.com/original-author-roses-red-violets-blue/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=39729359
(3) http://www.snopes.com/language/literary/rosie.asp