Category Archives: Education

Moving On

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

They say writers have an easy life. How so? They work at home, or where they like, whenever the mood strikes them. It could involve writing in a journal on a bench in the park or in a seat on a train or airplane. It could be midnight or three am. They can stop at will and have a snack – or a beverage – and maybe do a round at the gym. But this is a myth perpetrated by those who do not know. There is something called writer’s block and an essential ingredient in the mix called – inspiration. If I want to pen something really good, I have to wait for the right moment. Fortunately, they are not few and in between.

When I am waiting and have some idle time on my hands, I think about cleaning up and doing a bit of organizing. I need to get from my printer to the door. Ha! Printouts abound on every surface of my designated office room, especially on the floor. From time to time, if I want to avoid looking like a hoarder, I have to get rid of old stuff. The thing is: I hate tossing my work. It is like disposing of your baby or brainchild. I do archive my writing, of course, so this is no excuse. I just like seeing my output all around like a soothing cocoon.

As painful as it may be, I have to move on. I have come a long way, and rereading my early material is not particularly helpful. In fact, it is a detriment. The only thing it provides is knowledge as to how far I have come. It is time to take matters in hand and get at the task. I am going to buy a home shredder like one of these (small and compact, but effective) and make mince meat (or mince paper as it may be) out of my old work.

Shredders are therapeutic in an odd way. You thoroughly destroy a document and it is a symbolic catharsis. It means something is over and done with and you are ready to start anew. You don’t have to crumple up each and every tidbit, which takes inordinate time with so much strewn about, but you can get loads of material in one plastic bag, ready for the trash.

Going through the motions helps me want to get back on track and generate more of this paper flow to replace what is now missing. After all, the paper is evidence of my status and standing as a writer.  I like the proof of my productivity, but the mess is more than my friends can bear. I vow to get the shredder out more often so each time it is a faster task. Maybe I should keep it closer at hand. I suddenly feel like writing.

November 24, 2018

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A (Potential) Leap Forward in my Career

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

I am gainfully employed as a copywriter but recently, I heard about an opportunity that could help advance my career much faster.  I do freelance writing for clients in between working on my real creative challenge: a novel. When I get writer’s block, I simply jot down ideas for the current job. With these day-to-day, sometimes rather mundane assignments, I don’t get to play with twists of plot, development of character, or authentic dialog. But each one is a challenge in its own way.

The work of which I write in this blog is writing an instruction manual for a new state-of-the-art trampoline. I will have to include all relevant information about assemblage, maintenance, and repair. There are also tips on trying out easy exercises to acquaint yourself with the device. At the end of the manual, I will include professional suggestions for advanced skill development. I want to add the history of the beloved trampoline and how it got to be in every gym in the world. A good writer will make readers interested and want to know more.

To do a superior job and know what I am talking about, I visited the gym dozens of times, working with a trainer that I found on Facebook on the trampoline. It is a formidable task to learn this sport, but once you get the hang of it, you can’t stop. It is so much fun to jump up and down to warm up, then execute a sitting position, rotating from front to back, and performing summersaults in the air. The higher you go, the more exciting it all becomes. I am never going to compete in any tournaments, but I am proud of what skill I have developed. Now I feel that with first-hand knowledge and the information that I read at https://www.trampolinechoice.com, I can write a better manual. At some point, I need to perfect my technique and make the stunts look as nice as diving. More height will get me more accolades from my trainer.

What makes it a potential advancement for me is the nature of the company that is employing my services. It is a major manufacturer of sports equipment, and if I succeed, they have promised me additional work writing manuals for major game supplies. This could provide work for many months to help support my novel, plus I will become a name in the industry. I could secure all kinds of other assignments once I put this one on my growing resume. It is like a tech/digital writer getting major work from IBM, Dell, or Panasonic. Writing manuals and instructional material is a specialty that not all writers have. I can place myself at the center of this field and perhaps serve as a consultant for other writers. While I encourage would-be novelists and creative writers all the time, I have yet to extend this practice to other writing areas. I expect to get a lot of self-satisfaction out of this enterprise. Getting the trampoline manual job was a real coup.

November 5, 2017

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A Little Gift to Myself

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

Have you ever read a really boring description of something you want to buy such that it almost turns you away from your purchase? Take a look at any site on line and you will see what I mean. It doesn’t matter what the product is. As a writer, I am sensitive to the use of words and expect a good turn of phrase even in an ad. I was disappointed to see what the pros have to say about a fun and utilitarian mini kegerator (one keg volume). I was not particularly impressed. I looked online since I wanted to treat myself after my last paycheck as I was feeling rather flush. The blurb was simple enough and rather dull. I know I could have done better.

The writer went on and on about the BM23HC-B draft beer cooler with a durable forced air refrigeration unit. The mini kegerator features a 3 inch insulated tower with a dual tap, unusual in units of this size. The design allows for the intake of cold air in order to keep the beer at the proper temperature before serving. The dispenser has good mobility with 4-inch swivel casters for optimal access when inserting a new keg. The material is wear resistant (gray vinyl on steel), with a stainless top fitted with glass rails for storage. Yada yada yada. By the time I got to the 115/60/1 electrical connection with an 8 foot cord and plug set, I was asleep. I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the appliance was Energy Star Certified and UL listed, whatever that means. The warranty did impress me at two years, but the details of the conversion to a hydrocarbon refrigerant went right over my head.

Where was the fun in having a kegerator in your home? How does it help entertaining become a breeze? What kind of beer is it likely to hold given the hundreds of options available? No mention of a whole new world of experience. I would have put in more benefits of the unit and less about the features. Buyers just want to know how big it is, if it is easy to use, and how it will change your life. These things have to be discernable as you read between the lines.

I would have started out with “need a beer dispenser for your man cave that beats an ice cooler every time?” “We have everything you need at Crack a Cold One to entertain the guys in style.” “Enjoy an ice cold draft beer in the privacy of your own home.” “The exciting world of draft beer is at hand.”

I am writing a novel and hardly want to spend time writing product descriptions. There are loads of idle freelancers out there to do this. I just want to see more effort go into the blurbs to make the product more appealing. As you read, you no doubt will ask “do I want or need this item?” The words should make you say yes!

October 28, 2017

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A History Lesson

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

Gold mania! This is what happened during the California Gold Rush of 1849. It is such a colorful period in the state’s history that it would make the perfect background for an historical novel. I have found the topic to be fascinating given the psychological dimensions of the craze. I will fabricate authentic fully-rounded characters and feature a gold sluice (such as these) as part of a murder mystery. I hope nothing like this has been done before. I couldn’t find anything like it on Facebook. Maybe I will go out panning for gold myself to make the details more believable. This has been a good history lesson for me, and hopefully for you. See what you think.

It all happened with a discovery in the Sacramento Valley in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill. Gold nuggets were found prompting literally thousands of prospectors to flood into the area as word got out—and it didn’t take long. They came by land and sea to this northern California outpost. The magnet was the precious metal trapped by a special box called a sluice. During the Gold Rush over 750,000 pounds of it were extracted by miners. Wow! Was there enough to go around? There was at least for a few years. Picks and shovels were sold in bulk.

In case you are weak in American history, this was the time of the Mexican-American War giving the U.S, control of the territory that would later become a state of course. Meanwhile, news spread like wildfire and many amazing stories of overnight fortunes were told. This is fodder for my novel. I will have a young handsome prospector and a gorgeous saloon gal. He was one of the ‘49ers as they were called wearing that identifiable hat. He strikes it rich, turns in his gold sluice, marries the pretty lady, and retires to an enormous farm where they spend their final days. He lucked out as women were very scarce in those days. As for the murder, it is a secret yet to be divulged. I am still working on it.

Imagine out of nowhere came a bustling new economy and the growth of San Francisco into a major metropolis. My novel will include descriptions of mining camps, boom towns, lawlessness, prostitution and gambling, and of course violence. Fighting over a gold sluice is the heart of my story. It gets complicated when one of the men involved falls in love with my heroine, the saloon gal. You can see that my material is rich and vast. It is full of difficult and dangerous labor, excitement and thrills. Hydraulic mining was developed by 1853 that increased profits but tarnished the beautiful landscape. There was good and bad associated with the California Gold Rush. But it was largely over by 1852 in terms of easy to find surface gold. The state drew more population, however, as there was a lot of money available on for new opportunities. This is a true example of the American dream at work.

August 19, 2017

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Still Stuck at the Day Job

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

I am no slave to household chores, not me. I don’t have the time or inclination. I would rather be working on my novel any time. While I am now an employed copywriter with plenty of free-lance jobs, I long to enter the big-time realm of published authors. I do see my name on the Internet at the top of various articles while I also go incognito when writing for websites. I welcome any opportunity, but some clients are just so demanding. If I am not motivated by the topic, the work is tough. I have to wrack my brain, for example, to discuss the features and benefits of vacuums and compare brands like Bissel and Hoover. I don’t find it the least bit inspiring.

It’s hard to be creative with so much information on the Web, especially about top products. They are so well known and you end of stating the obvious. I don’t like copying existing material. I insist on originality. We know these machines are well-made and fine-tuned. They help make your life more productive. For an investment of a few hundred dollars, you can attack dirt and dust in seconds. And there are all those great attachments. Which one has more? The Bissel has some and the Hoover has others, but they cover the territory equally well.

After reading about vacuums for hours and hours on Facebook, I knew more than I cared to know. I was almost motivated to leave my work and start hunting on line for one of my own. However, I soon came to my senses and sought to get back to my novel. The funny thing is that when I delved in, I started putting odd imagery into the story. For some reason (that I well understand), I added a vacuum to the plot. The main character had a major breakdown and had to fix it himself. It was in thousands of pieces on the garage floor when his wife came home and saw the state of the appliance in horror. She looked doubtful about his ability which caused immediate aggravation, especially since she bet that he couldn’t remedy the malfunction.

As it turns out, my hero couldn’t put it back together since it just looked like one big impossible puzzle. He tried and tried, using the old method of trial and error, but no luck. After a wasted day and a whopping headache, his wife shoved him aside and sent him into the house. He promptly went into his man cave to sulk. After watching a favorite old flick, which didn’t help his mood, he wanted to see what was going on. Maybe he should have stayed inside. He saw that his wife had completed the job perfectly and that the vacuum was purring away, ready to work. It was a real blow to the ego for sure when he lost the bet. Next time he will remember to get out the manual.

July 9, 2017

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Adding Depth to a Character

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

As a writer, you have your challenges. Novels don’t just pour from your brain onto the computer screen. Of course, I do go on jags where I get inspired and a couple of chapters seem to flow naturally. Then you go back and make the characters more realistic as you flesh out the plot. You read your notes, you fabricate incidents, and you make it plausible for readers to accept. Unless you are writing science fiction or fantasy. These genres have different requirements. I love researching about people to add flavor to my own characters. I decided to make one of them a woodworker so that he would have an artistic side. The details of a book are what make it authentic so I delved into articles on tools and types of craft wood. I learned some terminology and even came up with a particular project for the character to work on. Then I would incorporate this into the plot, perhaps a murder mystery or a romance.

Woodworking is a very skilled proposition. You must apprentice with a master to learn your craft. The tools are tricky. You have to explain to readers about turning tools, cutters, scrapers and gouges. To make it more real for me as the writer I visited a woodworking shop called WoodworkNation.com and was allowed to try my hand at various implements. I can’t say that I got good results, but I did learn enough to expand the depth of my central character. I had a good sense of the ambiance of a workshop. I could now describe the various kinds of wood lying about and the finished examples of beautiful crafts made for sale. The question is whether a murder would take place in the shop or with a wood implement.

After much reflection, I fixated on a table leg that was solid wood and thus rather heavy. It was a great way to conk the victim on the head and do him in. I am not trying to be funny. Many murder mysteries use things in the environment that are simply close at hand. The murder can be impromptu or premeditated. I had to decide. Now the issue was whether the woodworker was to be the killer or the slain. Then I would add a colorful twist—some telltale blood so that the perpetrator could be caught. I was having fun concocting all the ins and outs of the murder plot. I was proud of one chapter that described the woodworker at his craft in colorful detail. I wanted readers to feel that they were really there. Good descriptions and actions can make or break the plot. They create the context that holds everything together. The mark of a great writer is to create visual images that bring the story alive. You also want an interesting character that others will care about. You will root for the protagonist or wish him ill depending upon how he is positioned. I hope you will enjoy my new masterpiece.

June 22, 2017

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Burnin’ the Midnight Oil

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

My fantasy is to finish my novel in my lifetime. Ha! It has been taking a long time. Writers out there know of what I speak. We all go through productive phases and writer’s block. It can be maddening. I often stay up late at night to finish a page or a chapter. Sometimes I get in a rut and retire for the night at a later and later hour. You can bet that it is hard to wake up in the morning. I can be exhausted even before I start my day. This is not a good pattern to be in. While I am trying to change my ways, and stop burning the midnight oil, I have purchased an alarm clock complete with a radio and morning lights to help me keep a schedule. This is important for anyone—to establish a routine. Some writers limit their creative work to the afternoon for example. If you work in an office and are not at home most of the time, you will have to juggle your time.

I love that the best wake up lights are a much nicer way of waking up than with a traditional alarm clock. You can choose the brightness and go for sunrise simulation if you like. You can choose among several colors that appeal to your mood. I used to get up late regularly and was dubbed “unreliable” by friends and colleagues. I am not proud of this epithet. My clock now takes care of me without fail. If you don’t have a roommate or spouse to gently remind you of the time, this is the practical solution I recommend. I sound like I am writing ad copy, don’t I. No matter. I am into my clock today and want to share my experience with others. A writer always has words at his immediate disposal.

You can browse online and see some great deals on these innovative alarms or you can hint loudly to friends and family that you might appreciate one for your birthday. I just treated myself. It was a necessity that couldn’t wait. I know it is tough for most of us to get up after a long night that stretches into the wee hours. I hate to quit, however, when I am on a roll. It is not that I am socializing on Facebook or out and about with friends. If I start writing, I don’t want to break the surge of creativity. Writers know that these streaks are few and far between. If I allow myself one or two late nights a week, I might actually finish this novel. I always believe in doing something every day so you don’t lose your train of thought. Don’t wait a month, for example, between writing sessions. Sometimes I put down a project and when I pick it up again, I have forgotten what it is all about. Take a tip from me, you budding writers, that a routine is best.

June 3, 2017

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Stop in Your Tracks

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

As a copywriter, I get all kinds of fun assignments. It is often a challenge and there are topics I prefer. When it comes to sports, I practically volunteer to do it for no charge. I want the opportunity to write about what I love. Most sports appeal to me, but give me a basketball game any time. When I was a kid, I loved to play outdoors in the schoolyard. When I became a teen, it moved indoors into the gym. My heart is still in elementary school, however, when I first learned the game. When I recently got a job doing advertising for a company that makes outdoor basketball shoes similar to the ones here, I jumped at the chance.

There are so many kinds of shoes, many touted by famous players. Popular styles come and go as fads. I had to try my hand at making this new product appealing to amateurs. There are more of them than professionals. The shoes feature an interesting type of tread. I will present this as a way to up your game. Everyone who plays wants to be better and not just fashionable. What else can I say?

I got the idea of looking at various characters on TV crime shows and in books who get caught because of the unusual footprints their sneakers make. It is apparently easy to identify a particular brand, even of a basketball shoe. There are many famous cases in real life that were solved by matching distinctive tread. Thieves and killers are literally stopped in their tracks by investigators with sharp eyes. I will concoct a great story for my new product. I will get customers involved in the mystery and uniqueness of shoe tread. Normally we don’t pay much attention to it. I will make people listen.

I am deep in thought on the subject of basketball shoes, especially those used outdoors. They are a different type than for a gym. They have to be more durable as they take a beating from the asphalt. It is a lot different with a polished wood floor. People will buy the outdoor type for personal recreation so it is a larger market. This makes my work a little easier. I have hit on a couple of ideas: the iconic basketball shoe has a new soul (get the pun). How about: new enhanced tread will become the new classic. What would make me buy another pair of sports shoes? What would get you off the couch and online placing an order? When you write ad copy, it is all about the customer. You invade their world with your words and you hope they stick or at least make a good impression.

My ad campaign has been running and I am looking forward to hearing news. I hope my copy is effective and boosting sales. Only then will I be rehired for another round. When you introduce a new product, you must keep it out there in the marketplace until it becomes well known.

May 5, 2017

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The Antagonist

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

Forget the underdog, I love the antagonist in a story. The antagonist is actually the most important character.Your plot is driven by the main character’s interactions with all the antagonistic elementsin the story. You can have a great, well-developed hero (I am using the male form of hero only for naming purposes but you can substitute the word that fits your character best: heroine, pet, inanimate object, or anyother form your main character takes). Without someone for your main character to go up against, your story will never hold your readers’ interest. Nobody wants to read a book about a great person that nothing happens to and who has a wonderful life. It isn’t interesting, it isn’t realistic, and it certainly is not relatable.

Think about your own life: do you remember all the uneventful days that you get up, go to work, come home, and are completely uneventful? Are those the stories you tell around the water cooler or on a night out with friends? Or are you reliving that time you stood up to your boss, fixed something that seemed impossible to sort out, or took a chance and met somebody new? Which story would you rather hear from someone else—an average day in their lives or that one time when they did something incredible? I know which one I’d pick. Since you’re trying to get readers to hang in there with you from the beginning to the end of your story, you should know which one is the correct choice, too.

Your hero needs a struggle. Struggling is a fact of life regardless of who you are, and it can take many different forms. It can be a physical struggle, like climbing Mount Everest, or it can be an emotional struggle, like coping with a loss. Your hero needs to change over the course of the story, discovering something about themselves that readers can identify with along the way. Something needs to happen to him, and that something is usually introduced by the antagonist.

Not every antagonist is an evil villain. They can be regular people who simply challenge the hero to be something more, something better. Some antagonists are not even people—it can be anything from an element of nature to a physical object or even a concept. Anything can be used to pit against your main character.

An antagonist needs to be nearly as well, if not as well, fleshed out as the main character in order to be a believable foe. There is no suspense, no page-turning compulsion if the adversary is not worthy of your hero. Their motives can be revealed over time or at a single point along the way, but they need some kind of justification for going up against the main character in your tale. As a way to move your plot forward, they deserve the same focus and dedication you spend on the other elements of your story. Your readers will thank you!

December 31, 2016

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Writer’s Block

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

writers-block

A writer’s muse can be a fickle creature. One day the words pour out almost like a waterfall, but the next day everything is trapped behind a blockade. A dam is built, seemingly overnight, that prevents any meaningful writing. It can last for a few hours or several years. But a torrent of words will eventually come along to sweep the blockage away.

The difference between getting over writer’s block and letting it overpower you is completely within your control, however. There is a “cure” for writer’s block. You must do the thing you think you cannot: you have to write. Keep in mind that no one expects you to write The Next Great Novel at this point. All you need to do is write something. It can be terrible, it can be the worst thing you have ever written. It does not matter. The point is to get the writing part of your brain active again. It may only be a small crack in the dam at first, a trickle of words. But those words will begin to have strength behind them and eventually they will break through the wall.

To understand why writing helps to cure writer’s block, you need to understand what is causing your writer’s block in the first place. For some, it is a simple lack of direction. The sheer amount of possible topics overwhelms you and makes it difficult to start. To prevent this from happening, you can write down a list of everything kicking around in your head to see if anything sparks. Once you have your options laid out, you can narrow them down and move forward with the idea that inspires you most. Others are intimidated by the blank page (or the white screen). Usually, these people are held back by the fear that whatever they write won’t be good enough. Remind yourself that this is only the first draft and you can do as many of them as you want to get it right. Writing is a messy process, but you can’t make something great if you don’t start it at all. There is another group of people whose story gets stalled for one reason or another. When that happens to me, I go back and read over everything I’ve already written to see if it can guide my way forward. I remind myself of what happened when Stephen King was writing The Stand. There were too many people and too many things going on, and he almost abandoned the book. To free himself from his writer’s block, he blew up a bunch of the characters, which solved his problem quite nicely.

If I am really stuck, I will try a writing prompt (right now I like the Wreck this Book series; not everything is a writing activity but it certainly gets my creative juices flowing) to sort of help me along. My goal is never to get a certain amount of words or pages written on any given day; my goal has always been to write every day. Some days I write a lot and other days it feels like pulling teeth. But writing for me is like a muscle—the more I use it, the better and strong I will become.

November 30, 2016

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The Editing Process

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

the-editing-process

I constantly self-edit. Every morning before I start writing, I re-read the last few chapters completed so far. Like Hemingway, I have found that it keeps me focused on the details of the story and helps prevent writer’s block. I try to read my writing as objectively as possible. No line is spared. Even the words I am the proudest of are scrutinized. Is there a better way to say this? Do I need that comma? Is there a better and more accurate word I can use here? I am like an oyster, slowly adding layers onto my story until I have a beautiful pearl.  It can be a long and painful process. Sometimes it feels as if I am losing a little piece of myself as I change lines that I was so proud of only days before. I tell myself that it is a necessary part of the work. Time and perspective, as well as occasionally reading something aloud, helps guide the changes that I have to make.

I love that both writing and editing are called processes. They truly are a series of steps that we take to get to the best version of our work. Writing is my first love, but I believe editing is an ongoing part of shaping the story into what it will become. Without it, my writing would be riddled with typos, misspellings, awkward lines, and lost opportunities to say something in a better and more interesting way. Editing makes me a better writer, and my words more interesting to read.

At work, I have a boss who edits my work. He does it in the traditional style, printing everything out and red-penning with all that proofreader shorthand. His eye for good writing is incredible. I sometimes wish I was as good as he is. However, I know part of the reason he is so successful is that he is detached from the writing process—his job is like the unfeeling and unrelenting ocean, smashing a bottle and smoothing it down until it is beautiful beach glass. I have yet to learn how to be so detached; besides, I would miss writing too much.

Here at home, it is just me going over my novel and making the changes. I may hire an editor when I am finally done with everything, even if I end up having to self-publish. Or should I say, especially if I have to self-publish! I would just like to get another, more professional set of eyes on it. No one else has actually read any of it so far because I’ve written it in bits and pieces, skipping around as I see the scenes in my head. I have files scattered all over my hard drive. I don’t know if it would be a good use of anyone’s time to read it until I can put all the pieces together.

Well, that’s my two cents. Time to get on with my writing for the day!

November 14, 2016

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Putting Pen to Paper

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

putting-pen-to-paper

There is no real trick to becoming a writer. There are only two things required: that you are not afraid of hearing the word “no,” and you have to write all the time. Even if you don’t think you have anything to say. You need to write whether you want to or not, regardless of whether you are getting paid or only writing to get something out of your head that no one else will ever see. It is a commitment, it is a struggle, and the potential for success is very small. Yet, here we all are, reading books on how to self-publish and telling ourselves that we have something worthwhile to say.

I know there is a saying that goes, “Everything worth saying has already been said.” But I disagree. I think every person has a unique voice and no two people would capture an event in quite the same way. We all have stories to tell, stories that the rest of the world deserves to hear. It does not have to be a life-changing event or a heroic struggle. It could just be a thought you had as you watched the clouds pass by your window, someone you saw when you were walking down the street and instantly were able to create an entire backstoryfor, or something from your past that you are trying to work through. Sometimes we don’t choose the story; sometimes it chooses us. When these things happen, we owe it to ourselves and our potential audience to put pen to paper and write the words that are inside us.

Sometimes these words turn out to be short stories or novels, others would work better in verse or as a play. You won’t know until you start and let the words take shape as you go, like clay on a potter’s wheel. It doesn’t even have to be good; at least, not right away. A first draft can be a complete project or simply serve as a blueprint for the story you will later build. But it is just that—a draft. Re-read it with a critical eye and see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Did the story get away from you or was it a little too laser-focused? Are there things that you need to flesh out or something that was too long winded? Now is the time to trim the fat and tighten it up. Just as an archeologist patiently sifts through the soil and carefully chips away at the ground to uncover bones, we should shift through our words to uncover the story beneath.

Sharpen your words as if they were knives. Use them to carve out a believable world for your characters to live in.Allow your audience to forget their own hardships and wounds while they visit the place that you have created, in the hopes that when they return to their real lives, they will be forever changed.

November 7, 2016

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Once More, With Feeling

Posted by   Luke   |   Categories :   Education

All writing is essentially manipulation—the author is trying to get his or her audience to feel a certain way. It could be about a product, a political candidate, some sort of social cause, or to develop sympathy for a certain character or situation. For the most part, people don’t feel like they are being manipulated. When you watch a sad movie, for example, you don’t usually feel like you have been duped into crying. When you read a thriller, you feel compelled to keep reading long into the night. Not because the author forced you to but because you are invested in the story and curious about the outcome.

At work, I have to write in an enthusiastic, but not necessarily emotional, manner. For the most part, I attempt tosway people toward whatever it is I am trying to pique their interest in. Copywriters who are good at striking the right emotional note with their words are as effective as those salespeople who say they can sell ice to an Eskimo. The only real difference between us is that salespeople interact with their customers and I sit in front of a computer screen all day. I also am not always familiar with the items I have to write about, which can make things a little more interesting.

Sometimes it is hard to put that confident salesman voice away when I am writing for myself. When I find myself using many of the same words I use at work constantly, I know I have gone too far and need to check myself. It ends up sounding like I am selling my characters instead of trying to establish empathy for them. Other times, my writing is flat because I try too hard to reign it in. Then I overcompensate for that sales pitchy quality I need for work, and it reads like an instruction manual written by a robot. That’s why it is so important for me to reread everything I write and refine it—it takes work for me to strike a happy balance between pitch-y and authentic.

Because that is the goal we should all be striving for, right? Authentic writing. Readers have to believe that the worlds we describe are actual, plausible places. Our characters need to be envisioned as flesh and blood, breathing and speaking. Even if we write science fiction and create entirely new species and planets, our audience has to find enough to identify with or we will lose them. It does not matter if it is the tiniest glimpse, once your readers catch on to that real-ness, they will latch on and find purchase within the footholds of your story.

Am I the only one who has this problem when they write? Do you find yourself reading over what you have already committed to paper and telling yourself, “Once more, with feeling?”

October 31, 2016

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