Writing Skills are Necessary

September 27, 2011 at 3:06 am | Posted in Writing | 2 Comments
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Here is part of an interview I gave last week. The question was:

Do you have any advice for new authors?

This was my reply. I have added a little more to it as well.

One of the things I would say to new authors is “follow your dream”. However – and this is where the former teacher comes out – you cannot follow that dream without the skills and tools you need to do it well.

There are too many self-published writers out there who do not have a real grasp of even the most basic writing skills – grammar, punctuation and, often, vocabulary.

Writers also need to be able to tell a story in a way that can be understood by the reader. It is no good putting in lots of action, or having unusual characters and/or setting, when your story does not flow, where the reader wonders what is going on, who is who, or why events are occurring.

You want to put the reader into the story, so you must make it logical and believable within its context. This may be contemporary, historical, fantasy, alternate, whatever.

So, if you need to write, want to write, and have a story to tell, then learn the skills that will help you to tell that story to the best of your ability.

It is hard enough to get your work out into the world when it is well-written, and when it has appropriate and realistic setting, context, characters action and story. Most discerning readers will put aside a poorly written novel in favour of a well-written one.

You can always write for yourself, and then the skills don’t matter. But, if you want to write for others, you must master the skills of writing. To be a writer is hard work. It doesn’t just happen.

These days, getting out there is extremely difficult, even if you have a perfect story, perfectly written. You cannot submit your writing to a publisher or an agent and expect them to fix up the grammar, the punctuation, the spelling, and the problems in the storyline. You have to get that right first yourself.

I suggest that you get yourself a book that will teach you about sentences, about grammar, and about setting out your dialogue. These basic skills that are not often taught in school any more, and that is a serious omission from the curriculum. If you can’t write well, you cannot communicate the exact thoughts that you wish to. So, if you want to write well, you will have to teach yourself how to do it.

© Linda Visman

27.09.2011

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Fighting the Black Dog

September 19, 2011 at 9:20 am | Posted in Mental Health, Writing and Life | 1 Comment
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The less exercise I get and the less I exert myself to do something constructive or creative, the more likely I am to fall into a depression, even if it is only a mild one. The black dog is always looking for an opportunity to sneak in.

The more regularly I exercise, the better I am. And when I speak of exercise, I don’t mean just going for a 15-minute walk. I don’t count it as exercise unless it has pushed me in a way that tests my strength and stamina, my heart and lungs and muscles.

My exercise, apart from aqua aerobics when I can get there, is not in a gym, using state of the art machinery. I get mine while doing constructive things around the house.

I have always loved doing physical work, inside or outside the house. I was mowing the lawns as a ten or eleven year-old girl, even though I had an older brother.

I have enjoyed moving furniture and re-arranging rooms ever since I had my own place to do it in. I have dug many a garden, some of them large ones. I have made garden edges and footpaths; constructed henhouses and yards for our fowls and ponds for the ducks. I have built outdoor bird aviaries, planted – and sometimes cut down – trees and shrubs. And I have mowed many a yard over the last fifty-plus years.

There is something so positive about doing these sorts of activities, that depression is pushed aside. It finds it hard to compete with the satisfaction I obtain from a strenuous job, especially if it is well done.

Yesterday, I spent a total of about seven hours moving large bookcases (we have an awful lot of books) and cleaning the rooms they are in. This afternoon, I have spent an hour and a half mowing – with a motor mower you push – and sweeping the paths. I feel great. Two days of good physical activity have sent those lurking feelings of depression packing, at least for now.

More sedentary, but creative, activities can do something similar. Among other things, I write in many genres and do scrap-booking. I also help others with their writing. All these activities stretch my mind and take me away from the black thoughts.

Sometimes, it is extremely difficult to make the first move. One’s whole being is repelled by the thought of coming out of the darkness of depression, as I know only too well. But if one can overcome that inertia, then the rewards are worth it. They may not seem so at first, but repeating the exercise will strengthen the light of positivity, however weak, that is always struggling to show itself.

With a mixture of physical, mental and creative activities, I know I can drive away the black dog of depression.

But I need to keep at it. When I sit back and do nothing for too long a time, that dog will come sniffing around again, trying to bring me down.

© Linda Visman

Motivation – make your own

September 9, 2011 at 10:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

I received an email today from a Newcastle/Hunter region publisher. A poem that I submitted seven months ago for their next anthology has been accepted for inclusion. I had pretty well forgotten all about it so, when I received the email, it was a lovely surprise.

Something positive like this, where your writing is seen as worthy of publication, is a great boost. Too often, I look at myself and see only a fraud, a wannabe author. I doubt my ability; I look at the distractions that take me away from writing far too often; I think of my next novel, stalled about chapter five, and wonder if it will ever be completed.

When I am in this frame of mind, I don’t look at the poems and short stories that have been published in several anthologies. I don’t listen to the voices of those who have read my first published novel and love it. And I don’t think of my other stories and poems that will one day also be in print.

I love writing, but I also fear it. I love reading, and when I read a beautiful phrase, sentence, paragraph, description, I admire it. But I also think, ‘I can’t do that’. When I write, the story usually comes slowly. I can identify with Gene Fowler, who said, ‘Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’ Sometimes, it seems there is more blood on the page than words.

I want to be in that beautiful state of writing that rarely comes. The one where you are lost in the words, the characters, the setting and the plot, and where the story seems to write itself. I have been there, but all too seldom. The more I try to write these days, the less I seem to achieve. How can I get past that brick wall that is blocking my way?

What is it with writers; perhaps even with artists in general? So many of them/us are plagued with doubts and fears, and suffer breakdowns to a degree that seems higher than the population in general. Is it one of the dangers of becoming an artist? Or is it that these feelings of inferiority, fear and lack of self-esteem are precisely what makes them an artist, a writer, in the first place?

Maybe I will just have to do what is often recommended for those who are at a standstill – get your bum on the seat and write. Not only write, but do it regularly; make the time and don’t wait for the perfect moment to arrive. That takes a measure of self-discipline that I don’t know if I possess. The only way to know is to start.

That’s why I have written this little piece – just to show myself that I can!

 

© Linda Visman 09.09.2011

The Most Destructive Force to Mankind

September 5, 2011 at 2:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

There are many natural forces that could destroy mankind. Some of them could cause complete or almost complete destruction. These might be:

– a huge asteroid colliding with the planet;

– a world-wide super virus that has no antidote;

– a build-up of core pressures in the earth, causing enormous volcanoes, earthquakes and super weather events all around the world.

However, these scenarios are not likely, at least in the reasonably foreseeable future.

The most likely force that could, and probably will, cause major destruction to mankind is mankind itself. Indeed, it has already been going on for at least hundreds, if not thousands of years.

We have interfered so much with the earth that it is heading to a point where it will be beyond recovery. Over-population, over-use of non-renewable resources, wars and economic competition, the destruction and/or contamination of food producing land and water resources and other destructive practices, mean our world will one day be unable to sustain us.

Mankind is its own worst enemy, and I can understand why authors write, and readers and audiences devour, books and movies about the destruction of our earth. One day, unless we change our ways right now, it is very likely that Armageddon – or the end of the world as we know it – will indeed be upon us.

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Early Bird or Night Owl

September 2, 2011 at 10:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It is interesting that both of these exemplars of human behaviour are birds. I
suppose that’s because it is birds that usually welcome the dawn with their
melodious – oh, all right, raucous – chorus. And it is the owls who are awake
to hunt during the night-time hours.

As for myself, I haven’t seen a proper sunrise for several years – not that I am
boasting about it – but I have spent many night hours reading, writing or
working on some project or other. On occasion, I haven’t even gone to bed at
all.

It takes me a while to wake up in the morning – I tend to cling to the remnants of
sleep for as long as possible – especially when I have gone late to bed. I can
certainly function very well in the early morning if I have to, but I do prefer
to do my own thing when everyone else has settled down for the night. It is
quiet; there are no phone calls to interrupt the train of thought; and you can
keep going for as long as you want to – as long as there is nothing important
to do the following morning.

My husband and I are opposites in this; he gets up early. There is value to this
for both of us: we get time to ourselves – him in the early morning, and myself
in the late evening and night. That uninterrupted, quiet personal time is
something to treasure, to do whatever it is we want to do. Of course, there are
downsides, but I think that, on the whole, the benefits carry the day – or
night.

 

© Linda Visman

02.09.2011

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