Category Archives: writing tips

Some of my old school favorite writing resources

I’ve had a few people ask me recently what I like to keep close at hand while I write and edit and since a picture is worth a thousand words (and also a lot quicker) I thought I would just show you.

Writing stuff

Sure, the internet is a great tool and all, but it is also a great distraction and I find when I really dive in I usually turn off any internet connectivity so lo-fi beats wi-fi for me when it comes to productivity. What about you, any tools and tips you find you can’t live without when you get to work? Let me know! I’m always looking to grow my toolbox!

What does editing really look like?

So, I got back the first round of edits (thanks Matt!) and am knee deep in them now, and was talking with a friend about the editing process. She was a bit curious about it, thinking that once the writing was done that most of the work was done and about how much actually changes and I thought it would be a pretty good – although short – post because, well, you will see.

This is a picture that I took of the page I am editing. It is actually pretty typical of most pages, there are some notes and comments off to the side that the pic didn’t get, and this page just randomly didn’t include many of them, but there are typically a number of them that call out important points that the writer might have missed or overlooked or just plain got wrong, In addition to this, there is also often an overall letter that discusses the structure, characters, etc of the entire book that doesn’t necessarily address one specific part of the book, but more the work as a whole. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting for you to see, so enjoy!

Edit

So, yeah, editors are a big deal, and really important to the process. Absolute monsters and lifesavers all in one, and I guarantee that your favorite writer wouldn’t be your favorite writer without their favorite editor(s). When they thank them in the acknowledgements it isn’t because they caught that double “the” or the mispelled word (though undoubtedly they did that – also, yes I misspelled mispelled on purpose so congrats if you caught it), but it is for making the story and the characters so much closer to what they are in our head, and what we failed to put on the paper – and often they make them even better than they were in our head. So, with that, another big thanks to the editors I have worked with and those I will work with in the future, as well as a big I’m sorry for the condition of the story you have to read – thanks for believing in me!

Now, back to the word mines with me!

P.S. Even as posted this shot, I saw a few things to change, so remember this is just a draft…

It’s all success even when it’s not

I know, when you aren’t a big shot writer, it’s easy to imagine that we are all living it up like Hemingway, on some island paradise, knocking back the drinks, going on big game hunts (with cameras these days, because we’re cool like that), doing a bit of spying for our respective governments and generally living the lives we write about.

hemingway

While that may be a true a few weeks out of the year for some of us, the rest of the writerly life is one of endurance and perseverance. Oh sure, you may think that the movie Rocky is about a boxer, but its really an allegory for the life of a writer. You get hit. A lot. You get back up and you keep punching those keys. What comes out is sloppy and its ugly but you keep going until the bell rings (that’s the deadline, by the way). Then you do another training montage – outline – get in the ring, write, okay yeah the metaphor is a little thin at this point.

Anyway, what I was getting at is that writing is ugly business and it is painful. The author you see on the shelves at the bookstore has likely been turned down several times (hundreds even!) before finding a home with a publisher. My friend and fellow writer Aeryn Rudel has decided to own this ugly side of the work with his very excellent blog Rejectomancy.  One of the really cool projects he has going there is a live-blogging called Real Time Rejection, which begins with The Journey of Story X. It has received a single rejection so far, and it will be interesting to follow along with it and see where it ends up. He also has some free stories up on his site, so go check him out, I think you’ll enjoy it!

Writing Katas

I used to take martial arts for years. One of the things that traditional martial arts do is a thing called katas, which is basically a stylized dance that goes through the martial arts moves. I can still remember many of them for both Tai Kwan Do and Kempo even though they were basically a lifetime ago. The point of them is to train your body to flow from one move to the other and to know the moves. To commit the movements to muscle memory to make sure that you really know them and to really integrate them into your martial artist toolbox so that they are there without thinking about them when you need them. You usually start and finish at the same point on the floor.

I hadn’t really thought a lot about the idea of katas until I was recently taking a software java class put on by 8th Light Software. They have a really interesting concept of software craftsmanship using the idea of a kata to hone that craft. It opened my mind the concept of the kata outside the physical and it is something that I have carried over into my writing craft. Where the martial arts kata is very structured and the same every time, I do the writing one kind of different, I have a few “setups” and then write the paragraph. It’s kind of a seed I guess. The point is to not write the same thing every time, but to write something.

How are they done, you might ask? And not only how, but why? After all, if I am writing, shouldn’t I be writing something that goes to my project that I already don’t have enough to work on as it is?

Well, those are all good and valid questions. Let me answer each of those in time, young seeker of knowledge, though not in the order you asked.

Let’s start with the “why?” Writing is a craft and the best way to get better is to do it. One of the most difficult parts of writing is the creative part, and the idea of the kata is that the idea is already there and this is, ultimately, a mechanical exercise, a honing of the craftsman part of the work more than the creative part if you will.

Now, on to the next part, this doesn’t replace your project. This is a warm up. You are sharpening your tools before going to work. I find that this is a great thing to do when I only have 10 minutes to write, or if I am feeling the dreaded writer’s block.

Finally, how do you do it. This is up to you. I personally started with a paragraph. I have a few different katas that I do now. I’ll list a few below and you can take them and run with them. Remember, the point isn’t to save them. You should start and finish with a blank page. Also, only do one at a sitting.

Character enters a room.
Action fight between characters.
Describe a town as it comes into view.
Describe a man.
Describe a woman.
Describe an alien.