Writers' Week Open Thread

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One of my goals with Writers’ Week is to build a greater sense of community among writers and aspiring writers. That’s what today’s Open Thread is all about. In the comment section on this page, I encourage you to ask and answer questions related to writing.

Comments are threaded, so jump in wherever you like and feel free to start a new question or topic if the spirit moves you. I’ll be around to throw in my two cents as well as moderate spam.

Step up to the microphone! Start by introducing yourself, and feel free to leave a link to your blog’s about page if you have one.

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0 thoughts on “Writers' Week Open Thread

      • This is a simple FYI for you, Emily. If I happen to be picked at random, please pick someone else. I have multiple copies of Stephen King’s book… and it is awesome so much so I would rather one of the other writers take it and use it!

      • The way I cast my characters happens one of two ways.  The first way is that I put the character together, I find out what they’re about and then I see an actor, actress, or in one case a singer and say, “I think they’d make an amazing [name of character].”  Especially if that casting works, I’ll add extra details.  So, if I used Emma Stone for a character, I would give the character a husky voice or a preference toward dark eyeliner.  If I used Raul Julia, I would try to capture the cadence of his speech.

        There are other times when the pieces define the casting.  I built one antagonist by combining the cover of the anime Ergo Proxy and the Battlestar Galactica season set next to it on my shelf.  Doing this defined my mental casting of Tricia Helfer early on and I just applied some elements for descriptive purposes.

        My descriptions aren’t supposed to be the people I cast by any means.  It’s just a good way for me to see the movie of my story and to pick out details so I can enhance my character descriptions as well as their individual voices.

    • Lbiederstadt says:

      I most often cast my main characters…the men, mostly (the women are variants of me.) In fact, I often stalk them via interviews, news reports, YouTube, the reactions of others. The resulting character isn’t a whole-cloth reproduction of that person, rather an extraction of some of the more appealing apropos aspects of that person. I’ve often wondered whether meeting the real person would tell me whether I’d come anywhere near the person’s character…
          -Lynn@ skydiaries.wordpress.com

  1. Fanderso004 says:

    How would a writer overcome not being able to transpose the ideas, thoughts, and word, going off like fireworks in their brain to paper?

    • Write it, one crackling, purple or yellow or blue firework at a time. Each one you write stops fizzling, crackling and making smoke as soon as you contain it on paper (or via the keyboard.) Then move onto the next and the next and the next. Writing daily (as Len and Emily suggest) helps keep the fireworks steady rather than pummeling bursts which feel as if they will overtake you.

    • It’s also useful to keep an idea notebook (paper or electronic, just as long as you can access it pretty much any time) so that you can make a quick note or two to help you remember the ideas during your set, consistent writing time. I often have great ideas in waiting rooms or at the grocery store, and need to capture them so they are available for expansion later. 

    • It’s also useful to keep an idea notebook (paper or electronic, just as long as you can access it pretty much any time) so that you can make a quick note or two to help you remember the ideas during your set, consistent writing time. I often have great ideas in waiting rooms or at the grocery store, and need to capture them so they are available for expansion later. 

      • The notebook idea is absolutely essential. I’ll talk a little more about it later in the week, but I use Evernote.com to help me keep track of ideas for blog posts and other works. Without it, I don’t think Writers’ Week would be what it is, either.

      • I tend to get most of my story ideas when I’m away from my desk, so for me, a small notebook is essential. Just enough cues to turn on the lights in my head when I am next to a computer again. I once had a big idea at 4 in the morning. Woke up, switched on the light and quickly filled 2 A4 pages with arrows and names and locations in under 30 minutes. Saved me 2 hours of head-scratching on another day.

    • Leigh Ann says:

      Just write it out. get it down on paper on screen. You can always edit the heck out of it later. Out of 4 pages of stream of consciousness writing, you could find one gem to expand upon. Or more!

  2. Fanderso004 says:

    How would a writer overcome not being able to transpose the ideas, thoughts, and word, going off like fireworks in their brain to paper?

    • Oddly, what helped me most was creating the “Diary” category for my blog. It freed my up to write about anything, and always have a place for my thoughts. So I’m not always telling myself, “That will never fit in with your other writing.”

      If you haven’t checked it out yet. Take a look at the 100 Writers Resources that were posted today as well. The prompts section might give you some ideas.

      Finally, have you considered running a series? My ABCs of Freelance Writing series will keep me going for a while when I feel like there is just nothing else to write.

      • I keep a running list of ideas when I think of them. When I have nothing to say I will look at those ideas and/or snippets of conversations or parts of “stuff” that I write and elaborate on that. Also the news gives me so many ideas. Crazy stuff goes on there.

    • Oddly, what helped me most was creating the “Diary” category for my blog. It freed my up to write about anything, and always have a place for my thoughts. So I’m not always telling myself, “That will never fit in with your other writing.”

      If you haven’t checked it out yet. Take a look at the 100 Writers Resources that were posted today as well. The prompts section might give you some ideas.

      Finally, have you considered running a series? My ABCs of Freelance Writing series will keep me going for a while when I feel like there is just nothing else to write.

    • When I get stuck, I start looking through pictures I have in my phone or saved on the computer. Usually one jumps out and gives me a starting point. I can write about anything in the photo…time of day, sunny/rainy/ vacation, mood…subject you name it. Works every time. 🙂

      • That’s a great idea! I have a ton of pictures on my phone and on my computer. My issue is who in the world wants to hear me ramble on about something boring like going to the farmers market, the park, or something silly the kids did at home.

      • Lisa Nicholson says:

        I think that is a great idea – to use pictures as a way to get a topic going.  I am going to try that because sometimes I do get stuck and I am note sure what to write about.

    • Lindsey says:

      I keep a notebook beside my bed, and one by the computer. I jot down topics / quotes from my day / general ideas as they come to me. Some days I fill pages, and sometimes I go a week without opening the book. 

      • I keep telling myself to get a notebook or recorder.  I often have an idea for a story while driving or walking with the kids.  The story pops, almost fully formed into my head, and by the time I get home it is gone.  Completely elusive and no matter what I try, I cannot get it back.

    • Lindsay Bell says:

      Read. Read read read, and then read some more. Read stuff you have no interest in (it will spark ideas, make you think tangentially about what you are ingesting), read newspapers and industry stuff, history and fiction. And then talk to people. Even idle Twitter chit chat can spark a blog post (that’s what happened to me this morning). Lastly, listen. To what people around you are saying. Even on the subway or at a bar. Inevitably, you’ll end up with blog fodder!  

  3. Sjhigbee says:

    I won a national essay competition about being only 6 inches high when I was 10 years old at school.  The prize was a bunch of books – and I recall my grandmother (who I lived with) was furious because I chose several Enid Blyton books, along with a copy of ‘Born Free’.

  4. I wrote a 3/4 A4 page story about Simba from ‘the Lion King’ when I was five years old. I was sat on my dad’s knee, using his typewriter(!). I still have the page somewhere, kept very carefully in a plastic sleeve.

    🙂

  5. I mostly tell stories in my own head. Constantly. (Now I sound crazy, probably) But I find that I really, REALLY struggle to get them on paper.  In fact I almost never can.  Has anyone else gone through this and if so, what are some tips you may have for fixing this problem. 

  6. Angie Mangino says:

    Commit to first just writing what is in your head, one
    firecracker at a time.  Don’t even think
    about trying to capture each sparkler into any coherent order.  Take a thought, write it, and then write more
    about it.  When done, take the next, and
    so one.  Give the creative side of your
    brain full freedom to express itself on paper.

    Once you have all that on paper, the logical side of your
    brain will kick in as you go back to outline the order of what you have, edit
    and rewrite.

    http://www.AngieMangino.com

  7. I wrote a story about a girl and her horse that went on to win the Triple Crown…I even illustrated it! That was back in the 6th grade…wish I still had it. It was chosen to be read to the lower grades for story time. Up to now, that is my writing claim to fame. Haha! 🙂

    • As a sophomore I had to write and illustrate a book for English. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but there was a giraffe involved. I have no business illustrating anything. 🙂

    • The first thing you need to do is write something you can enjoy working on.  If that means spelling/grammar errors, that’s fine.  Your enjoyment creates good content because if you aren’t emotionally involved, your readers won’t be either.

      Any errors can be fixed in the editing process, or as my best friend says, “Fix it in post!”

    • If you’re worried about grammar after you knock out a few chapters or whatever, hand it over to a professional. Getting something back with all those red marks can be tough at first, but you learn so much from them.

      As for content? Let yourself write anything, even stuff that’s laden with errors. Because content and grammar don’t have anything to do with each other until much later in the process.

      • You can apply it to blog posts too. I realize that some might think it’s a bit over the top to hire an editor for blog posts, but it could work–especially considering most of us tend to repeat a lot of the same errors and writing quirks over and over. With feedback on just a few posts, you can actually improve the bulk of your writing.

        Even letting another blogger evaluate your posts (if you’re not convinced enough to pay for a professional editor) can open your eyes to new and better ways of writing. 

        Still … write first. Revise later. Tell your inner editor to shut her trap until you’ve typed everything you want to say. Trying to do the two things simultaneously is always a disaster for me.

      • I think it depends on how much editing you want to do to your blog posts.  I generally do handwritten notes for content, then draft to get it on the computer, then edit for writing changes, like word choice, and the grammar editing comes naturally to me at that point.  I was an English teacher, though, so I think the grammar editing is ingrained, at least to some point.

      • I was just thinking about this grammar thing the other day. I’m comma crazy. I need to sit down and look at my old marked up college papers. I’m comma, crazy, sometimes.

    • When I get frustrated with the quality of my work, I rewatch “Ira Glass on Storytelling.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loxJ3FtCJJA&feature=relmfu Particularly this part:

      “What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

  8. When you write, how do you guys “get” into the look, feel, taste and smell of unusual places that appear in your books? 

    I HAVE to visit the place, or at least smth similar… if that’s impossible, I spend days collecting every single photo of it posted on internet and staring at Google maps… can’t write, otherwise.

  9. When you write, how do you guys “get” into the look, feel, taste and smell of unusual places that appear in your books? 

    I HAVE to visit the place, or at least smth similar… if that’s impossible, I spend days collecting every single photo of it posted on internet and staring at Google maps… can’t write, otherwise.

    • Interestingly (or perhaps uninterestingly?) I have never written about a place I don’t know. But if I were to write about some place exotic, I think I’d have to research too. Maybe even whip out the dreaded Google Street View again.

  10. This question is too specific, but here goes. I am currently working on a memoir, which only accounts for one day in my life (its will be a romantic story, once its done, I hope). The way I am writing, my complimentary character will be introduced in the 4th chapter. Is that leaving it too late? Would it bore readers reading about ‘I this’ and ‘I that’ for the first few pages? Also, how many words should a page have. It is difficult to get the book feel in MS Word, is there something else to gauge how a book would look like in print?

    • Without seeing the chapters it’s hard to say for sure whether it’s too early or too late in the narrative to introduce a character. I wonder if the question isn’t really, “Is it too late to introduce this character” but “Is the story starting in the wrong place?” One of the most common mistakes I see in manuscripts is that the story actually starts much later. If, for example, the first few chapters are more like backstory, leading up to the inciting incident that happens later on, oftentimes it’s best to start with that inciting incident. At what point does the conflict start, or at what point does your character’s life (or in this case, since it’s memoir, your life) start to change? That’s where the story should start, and the backstory can be woven in organically throughout the narrative. 

      Even though memoir is nonfiction and it’s about your personal experiences, I think it’s good that you’re concerned about having too much “I”. Great memoirs transcend the narrator’s own experience, so just watch out for too much internalizing throughout. Also, I wouldn’t worry too much about words per page. It used to be that 250 words per page was considered a good measuring point, but that’s become obsolete. I’d instead just focus on overall word count of your ms, but even then, that’s a concern for the revising stage (unless it’s getting way out of hand, over 150k words or so). Aim to tell the story first; you can always trim or add later.

      Good luck! A story told in one day sounds very fascinating!

    • Tracey Byrnes says:

      Neeraj, to address your question of “…is there something else to gauge how a book would look like in print?” MS offer templates in various sizes that you can download and use (link is here: http://www.selfpublishing.com/design/production-center/articles/ms-word/).

      There are in fact quite a few other layout programs available (for a list, go here:  http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/11/book-design-page-layout-software-a-guide-for-diy-authors/) but it all depends on 1) your comfort level in using them and 2) the budget you have to spend on purchasing them.

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