Monday, December 24, 2012

Gifts for writers

I Google this every year to see what new ideas the internet comes up with. Usually it's a plethora of journals, inkwells, books about writing, and writing software. Occasionally someone will think outside the box and include a USB powered coffee mug warmer or a subscription to Writer's Digest or Glimmer Train.

This year I found Chuck Wendig's terribleminds blog with a list of 25 things for writers. The list is mainly more rambling from Chuck, including a shameless plug of his own merchandise. I disagree with most of it, particularly his expressed hatred for blank notebooks. I personally write in notebooks everyday, preferring it to the computer because there are no distractions in a notebook. Of course, there could be any number of mentions about self discipline here, but there's just too many things to do with a computer to ignore. Let's not forget also that it is called writing, not typing.

Did I mention I have no idea who Chuck Wendig is? He is a writer of some sort, and I looked his books up on The reviews were favorable, but I'm not sure if it's my type of work. I like Chuck Palahniuk as much as anyone, and I daresay Mr. Wendig does also.

On Wendig's blog there was a reference to Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own". I looked that up as well and found it was a fictional essay book written by Woolf about writing and feminism. I have never read Virginia Woolf, but I watch "The Hours" everytime it's on, and I wrote a play about her in college that won the "Best Play" award in my creative writing class.

What I did like about terribleminds was the apparent honesty that Wendig writes with. I have a tendency to censor myself on the internet, and it leaves me a little uncomfortable that I don't write what I think I'm going to write. I suppose this is character development, and I have yet to find the spot I am comfortable with. I choose to avoid profanity as much as possible, aware that my kids know how to use a computer.

I am reading "The Poisonwood Bible". Good book so far.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Scrivener writing software

I bought a new laptop which has Windows 8 and decided to try out a new writing software. I googled around and found Scrivener for windows, which has a 30 day free trial. I was mainly influenced by the fact that the trial is 30 days of use, not 30 calendar days. I've downloaded trials in the past and forgot about them, only to open the files later and find that the trial period had expired.

The program is quite complicated to start with, but not unlearnable. Most of the features are set up to organize, format, and export a novel, screenplay, or short story. There are nonfiction categories as well, with a great toolbar that includes research and media file folders.

The program automatically saves every draft, which for me is not necessarily a benefit because i like to keep my original rough drafts and then save multiple rewrites so I can go back and reference each evolution of the story. I believe there is a way to turn it off, but I grew bored with the extremely lengthy tutorial and proceeded to test out the software.

This led to an 850 word beginning effort on a new story which is based on a nagging thought I've had for years: the worse writing advice ever given and writers who write about writers. Stephen King is a pretty regular offender at this, and often writers who try to write characters in other professions end up seeming clunky because they have no experience in the field they are trying to portray as real.

The program is pretty good so far, with a compilation feature that allows you to export everything to Word as a rich text file while retaining a working draft in the program. The cost to activate trial version is $40.00.

GlimmerTrain competition for new writers ends this month. Final draft efforts for a short story to send in this weekend.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What surreal is

It's seeing a deflated balloon caught in the surf and wondering if it can ever be a balloon again, and shedding tears at the concept. It's fishing at night while the moon and stars shine above you and the beach is empty and there are green waves crashing around you,

and you are alone. It's finding yourself in a situation that you don't understand, a situation that you did not choose, and feeling at home. It's looking at the world around you and for once not questioning how you fit in but understanding that you don't fit in and that's okay, because there are plenty of people who do. It's that moment when you realize that, in spite of the years you have spent thinking you are different and somehow untouched, that you are in fact exactly like that which you see and you are okay with it. It's staring into the tempest and letting the sand and the saltwater blow into your face and you don't flinch because this is nature and you are part of it. It's staring unblinking at the sun. Surreal is that moment when you see all around you and you understand it and you no longer feel the need to put yourself into the context of this thing, but accept instead that you are a background and that all of this will continue with or without you. Surreal is when you finally realize that your time here is fleeting and that you will make your mark or leave no mark at all and there is nothing you can do to change this. There are other worlds than this and you were born unto this one and you have the gift of deciding how it will turn out, if you can only see what is in front of you and distinguish between what is real and what is surreal.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tropical storm Debby brings Fifty Shades of Gray

After much hype, I finally took the time to visit and check out the reviews on the Fifty Shades trilogy. I captured the current standings below, as of today’s date. I haven’t actually read the books, but I did read the excerpts and found the writing was not entirely as bad as the negative reviews portray. However, I was only able to read six or seven pages, and the reviewer’s complaints seem to be mostly based upon the repetitive nature of E.L. James’s writing.

The really surprising thing I discovered is that this whole series began as fanfiction of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. I do own a copy of the first Twilight book, but have never read it. I was inspired to purchase the book by an interview I saw on Oprah Winfrey’s show, but soon after the purchase I watched the movie and found the book too similar to read. I was a little disturbed by the obsessive relationship of Bella and Edward, and his continuous statements of how he couldn’t be with Bella yet he wouldn’t leave her alone. Not a healthy relationship, but I digress……

In studying the reviews listed below ( I did not read them all) it would seem that the first book in the series has a significantly larger input then the two sequels. The ratio of 1 star vs 5 star is 2/3rds as many bad as good, while the sequels have a roughly 1/7th as many negative reviews as positive. The in-between reviews are roughly the same proportion for each book. Nearly ten thousand people purchased the books and found the need to write a review of it, and I read many reviews of the third book that were negative, yet the person writing had read all three books. Expect the movie to do well, as did the Twilight series, and accept the fact that not all writing is for everyone, but there is a reason thousands of Harlequin books were written. I’m just not sure what it is.

Fifty Shades of Gray

7,145 Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:

Fifty Shades Darker

1,110 Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:

Fifty Shades Freed

1,041 Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:

And just for comparison purposes……

Twilight: Book One

5,398 Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:

Monday, March 12, 2012

A weekend away from writing

Yes, I took the weekend off and spent the time planting my garden. I have some pumpkins growing which were started from the seeds of last year's jack o' lantern. Hopefully this will save me the arduous task of dropping $30.00 at the local pumpkin vendor this year. I also planted zucchini, corn, hot and sweet peppers, radishes, and onion sets. Still have a lot more to plant next weekend but curses! my roto-tiller broke and I have to affront repairs. The growing season here in Florida starts anytime it wants to, and it can get extremely hot at any point. I learned from visiting a website put out by Florida State University that the germination and flowering of plants is determined by soil temperature, not length of growing time. This explains why last year I had bean plants that had two or three leaves on them and started blooming. I planted late, and they got rather warm. Hopefully this year I am on time, but I'm two weeks later than when I wanted to start. Pictures coming...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Contest Season is upon us

2012 starts off with some good competitions available. GlimmerTrain has the Fiction Open, with a prize of $2500.00. The contest occurs four times a year , with the first in March. 

Writer's Digest has the 81st Annual Writing Competition 
 GRAND PRIZE:  $3,000 cash, a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City, and
individual attention from 4 editors or agents.

I have three stories I am going to submit to each one,  hopefully I can lock down some prize money and get a couple by-lines for my resume. Not that I'm looking for a job, mind you. In fact, I don't even have a resume. What I do have is a box full of notebooks and manuscripts from a decade of writing that someday will go to my local community college where students will travel from all over the country to peruse through my archived scribblings. 

In the meantime, I have added a video of the ending of Factotum which contains Matt Dilon narrating these lines from Bukowski's poem "Roll the Dice". I have put the text here in case the Youtube video gets taken down, as is prone to happen.

Charles Bukowski
“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.”

I became a Bukowski fan in 2005 after reading "Ham on Rye." "Factotum" and "Post Office" were good as well. They are listed on my "Books I've Read" page with links to purchase them through if so desired.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What writing is

My Uncle Vinton was one of the most influential persons in my teenage years. He taught me to play guitar and drink whiskey without shuddering. He was a strange fellow- he once typed his own copy of Huckleberry Finn on a manual typewriter, copying from the original book. What made this strange was he actually had the book- why type a copy? Among his many obscure talents he was a guitar player, a sketch artist, and a woodcarver.

My grandfather had cut down a rogue cedar tree and Vinton claimed the trunk for his own. He cut it up into small chunks which he carved into pieces for a chess set. The carvings were very intricate- the bishop was a demon with wings, and I remember the detail of the face was such that you could see the eyebrows and the lines on the face of this small figure barely four inches tall. It was crouched down on one knee with its chin resting on one fist like the thinker, and the wings wrapped around its shoulders. I marveled at the detail and asked him "how can you carve this out of a chunk of wood?". He answered with the age old advice of " you just cut away everything that doesn't look like the bishop." Easy enough to say if you have the talent.

I have tried to apply the same principle to my writing,  I have tried to write stories that cut away everything that I am not trying to convey. I have tried, through each story written, to capture human nature in such away that no one who reads the story will doubt its validity. Granted, quality of writing will always be subjective, but some writers have achieved talent which can not collectively be denied. This, then, has been my goal: to write a story that may not be accepted by everyone who reads it as good writing, but accepted by a majority of people as such. To cut away everything that is doesn't look like the bishop.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First post of 2012

I saw this at GlimmerTrain. I found it interesting enough to repost. Also, google website is up and running.

I have an idea that some men are born out of their
due place. Accident has cast them amid strangers in
their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known
from childhood or the populous streets in which they
have played, remain but a place of passage. They may
spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred
and remain aloof among the only scenes they have
ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that
sends men far and wide in the search for something
permanent, to which they may attach themselves.
Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the
wanderer back to lands which his ancestors
left in the dim beginnings of history.
Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which
he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here
is the home he sought, and he will settle
amid scenes that he has never seen before,
among men he has never known, as though
they were familiar to him from his birth.
Here at last he finds rest.
—from The Moon and Sixpence
by W. Somerset Maugham, 1919