Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

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Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Black Sword » Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:17 am

Hey all - as we all know, I run a publishing blog in my nebulous spare time, where I publish short stories, novels, and other work. I'm hoping to add our resident carlos to our staff, so he should expect his test to appear in his email soon.

Anyway, I hit upon the idea of a "Writer's Life" a while back to be able to update more regularly than the bruising work of editing others stuff for publication. I do plenty of writing besides my beloved PSIII fanfic, so I've finally gotten into the act as well. Rather than share my tribulations, I'm sharing how to write well. Some people are skeptical about the value of creative writing lessons, but I hope the stuff I'll be blathering about helps.

Anyway, here's the column I wrote and published today. As always, you got questions, I may have answers, so don't be shy!

http://menasepublications.blogspot.com/ ... sue-3.html
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby carlsojos » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:28 pm

*with a hand quivering from way too much caffeine, I drop my test in the mailbox despite ample time before the not-quite-dead-yet-line*

I prefer the more comprehensive Perdue OWL when it comes to a reference handbook, but I will admit that the Elements of Style you recommend pointed out some fine points I wasn't aware of.

It's interesting that you recommend having a role model from the very get go; I'm the kind of person who regularly operates solo, and the closest thing I have to a writing role model, are people I've marked as competitors to eventually upstage once I'm able. I guess it would be easier if I had someone to look up to, but I think that part's entirely optional- just a little bumpier without it.
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Postby Wing-0 » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:34 pm

This complete n00b will continue to read your link for great justice.
I'm glad it's you writing that instead of a complete ass like my literature teacher back when I was in high school. That [FEMALE DOG] was the reason I stopped writing and only recently began to type something different to angry posts and academic stuff.
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Black Sword » Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:51 pm

What can I say, I go for the classics.

To your point, carlos, I strongly (even violently) disagree. It's good to have goals, such as surpassing Writer A, but you also need to learn what you admire. Do you like witty banter amongst your characters? (David Eddings) Do you love scenery porn? (Robert Jordan) Do you like complex politics and epic scale? (George R.R. Martin) Or do you wnat a strictly historical atmosphere brought to life? (Colleen McCullough) Perhaps you prefer space opera? (Frank Herbert) Or do you like hard, gritty, and down to earth? (William Gibson)

I haven't even tried very hard, and I've already named a large number of great writers in a large number of niches, each with different strengths and levels when it comes to different items. Each one of them cites role model(s) for inspiring them to write, and sending them down the ink-stained path. Here's the question: how can you surpass a master when you don't know how it's done? Writing can't exist in a vacuum. As an example dear to my heart, sword arts developed over many centuries, each swordsman building on what the past master taught him. The first swordsman learned by beating his enemy, the other clueless dude wielding the sharp pointy thing, so even the development of a fundamental human activity like war requires interaction between a minimum of two.

Reviewing your test. I'll be in detailed touch tonight. So far, though, it seems like you have potential.

WING-0 - nuts, now the pressure's on. My whole speech above me may set you off the writer's path. >_<
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby carlsojos » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:36 pm

Black Sword wrote:To your point, carlos, I strongly (even violently) disagree.

You've detailed your view quite well, and I notice quite a few parallels with what people have told me in other fields (career, racing, the list goes on...). My question is: do I necessarily have to have a master to surpass? Indeed, while I'm still unsure of what exactly made me write, I have developed a couple hypotheses, which points a finger at, among other variables, a single writer. That writer, I've only read one of her incomplete works, and I likely won't read another unless bidden to do such. I'd say my presence here on this forum is the furthest I've chosen to follow the trodden path, and I've already turned to focus on myself, where my real target lies. What I admire, isn't necessarily the story itself, but rather the methodology that creates it- and that is a topic that I have never attempted to analyze in terms of what other writers do.

To utilize your swordfighting metaphor, perhaps I consider myself as one of the witnesses of such a duel. Amazed at the weapons instead of the wielders, I forged my own blade, ignoring the bequests of my inner demons. But rather than seek to learn the art of the champion I had beheld on the field, I instead turn my blade against my own shadow; the perfect enemy who will always have a parry for my every thrust, and I, a dodge for every retaliatory strike. Why can't I be both my own idol and enemy?
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Black Sword » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:09 pm

The short version? You can't get better fighting yourself. You develop weaknesses that anyone else will recognize and exploit. Conflict is necessary to reach full potential, and if you do not strive to surpass a master, you stagnate, as you have no idea what you're trying to accomplish.
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Wing-0 » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:24 am

Black Sword wrote:
WING-0 - nuts, now the pressure's on. My whole speech above me may set you off the writer's path. >_<


Not quite, actually.

I read the three entries of Writer's Life, and I have found it to be an interesting read in terms of seeing what someone who writes thinks about it.
As I have said, I don't consider myself a writer. In the case of my very, very amateur and immature storytelling, it is just a tool to allow me to learn something as basic as narrating something my brain concocts in a language that is not my own.

If we were to speak of writers I admire, I would mention Phillip K. Dick because of the fictions he created and Haruki Murakami because of how his descriptions of situations grab me and make me imagine subtle things like gestures as small as a finger twitching or the look of someone's eyes to describe what that person is feeling or thinking. Another one would be the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges because of many of his stories, with "El Libro de Arena" which means "The Book of Sand" in English as a personal favorite. So yes, I actually have a few writers I admire. Fortunately, I'm not an illiterate.

Another part that I liked in that blog entry is the link to The Elements of Style. The reason being that as pointed (in order) by Tanith, Benoit and Augmented Fourth with a very high degree of elegance and patience, I have problems with those very things William Strunk Jr. deals with in his book. That should be something that could help me develop my linguistic skills further instead of just speaking and writing like a common thug in this tongue, despite of being able to speak and write with (surprise!) elegance in my own.

So if you were talking about probably driving me away with that, no. I would like to add that my humble fanfic is a learning platform for me. I want to be able to tell a story in a language that is not mine, writing it primarily in that tongue. Of course, I must add, the central idea is to entertain a very particular type of people. People who can laugh at fart jokes, dangling blue penises and someone scratching his testicles and being misunderstood. It's acquired knowledge for me that in order to do something, one must try to do it. That is precisely my intention. I want to practice my English in a way that forces me to learn more about the language instead of a simple colloquial usage, and why not? Make someone laugh once or twice. Of course, I don't intend it to be just toilet humor...

If I could describe situations better than Murakami, create more vivid fictions than Dick or pull someone's attention with suspense more effectively than Borges, that'd be quite nice, which is why I want to learn from them. I however don't delude myself. Those are people who devoted (or still do) their entire lives to the craft, while my attention is centered on a different type of academic pursuit. Still, why not learn from them that way, with the outmost respect for their persons and careers? After all, there is this one quote I love from an old show I just don't remember the name of... "If you want to punch a guy on the nose, aim at the back of his head."

But getting back to the topic of your article (If I didn't misunderstand because of my lack of sleep and the author is someone else), you simply take pride and detail your thoughts on your craft, just as much as I take pride in mine. I can't count the times science has been butchered in TV and movies, when a little of advice could have corrected any later problems, such as the misconception that scientists are like the character of Doc Brown from Back to the Future, Doctor Frankenstein or what have you...

TL;DR, I read the thing. I am still learning and I'm not an idiot to think myself a freaking Shakespeare of dirty comedy. While I'm still shy and quite sensitive of criticism, the three people who have helped me reading my stuff have been nothing short of FRAKIN COOL and their time hasn't gone to waste in my learnings. Yes... That last word was intended like that... =P
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Tanith » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:08 am

Apologies for my delay in reply.

First, excellent article, BS. I agree with you on all accounts and even smiled as I eyed my copy of S&W's sitting next to me at my computer desk. I also have a writing guide published by Houghton Mifflin, but I couldn't tell you the name of it, as I'm sitting at work right now and it's not in front of me. I think items 2 and 3 of your article tie into each other, and though I don't find it extremely necessary to have a role model, it's certainly very helpful. My tastes in fiction are all over the place and I'm too fickle to focus on a single author, even within genres. (Though I will say that if I had to choose, I would also choose Philip K. Dick, at least for sci-fi and speculative fiction. The man has incredible knack for creating tangible alter-realities.) However, I think the most important thing is to keep reading. Read and read and read until you discover what motivates you, even if it's based on specific books rather than specific authors. (Does this make sense? I hope so.) Then, once you start writing, don't stop. Keep writing.

The author Dan Simmons (another favorite of mine) has an excellent blog on writing and publishing worth checking out. Start here:

http://www.dansimmons.com/writing_welll ... 006_01.htm

Second, I loved your post, WING-0.
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Black Sword » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:26 pm

I never suspected that stating that people should have role model(s) would end up being the most controversial part of what was supposed to be an easy way to slide into teaching how to write! I now have fodder for a full column on the subject next month. Though I doubt people will think as highly of it, because now I'll be doing research into the minds of writers, and that's never a good place to go.

I'm not a huge fan of Philip K. Dick, so I'm afraid I'm hopping off the bandwagon there.

WING-0 on-topic: Pretty much, yes. I love writing and literature. Bad writing and bad literature give me conniptions, much like bad science makes engineers and scientists slap their own faces so hard their wrinkles develop around a palm-shaped imprint.
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby carlsojos » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:39 pm

Black Sword wrote:I never suspected that stating that people should have role model(s) would end up being the most controversial part...


Neither did I. I just normally do things my own (more difficult) way, without regard for lessons previously learnt. Still trying to determine whether I can rebut again; this isn't a topic I want to BS around, given how integral it can be to a person's strategy. I might even be wrong this time... :shock:
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Tanith » Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:02 pm

I wouldn't say it's all that controversial. I think it's good advice; I think it's more a part of your second item, that's all, and that it can be expanded to include certain books as role models and not just authors. A good, hard study of one of the masters of literature is excellent advice, because you can see their great works, their first works, their later works, etc. You really get a feel for how that particular author developed their own style over time. I just finished reading "Voices from the Street," a novel by Philip K. Dick (sorry!) that, if I'm remembering this correctly, he tried to publish but it was never taken by a publisher in his lifetime. Actually, I think it might have been his first novel attempt. It's interesting getting this snapshot of Dick and his writing before he was well-known.
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Postby Wing-0 » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:10 am

I wonder how available or unavailable are to you books by non English authors. I'm referring to Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina), José Saramago (Portugal) and Octavio Paz (Mexico) to name just a few.

Personally, I'm no fan of Paz. He actually gets on my nerves, but Saramago is totally cool. Especially one of his latest novels, Cain, where he tells the story of Genesis in the Bible from Cain's point of view and a HUGE dose of humor... Something I never thought possible. I actually got that book because the church tried to ban it... Yes, ban a book in the 21st century on religious grounds...
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Tanith » Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:40 pm

I know you were addressing Black Sword, but I wanted to say that I've read several of Borges's short stories in English. I found them wildly entertaining. Very surreal and imaginative, though I always feel a little sad when reading translated works.* I know I'm missing something.


*I feel a bit better when it's the original author that's done the translation, or the author at least has given a specific translation his/her blessing.
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Wing-0 » Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:27 pm

actually, i was addressing you all. :P
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Re: Writer's Life Column at MeNaSePubs!

Postby Black Sword » Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:10 am

I have access to Borges and a few other well-known writers, but I'm being stubborn about reading them. I'd rather read them in Spanish, but the thing is, I have Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Spanish sitting on my desk, and I keep putting off reading him. Why am I not reading my countryman's great works?

...because like any good Colombian, I freaking loathe Gabo's politics.
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