Posts tagged ‘Writing’

It has been over a year since I added a post to this blog.  Things got a little crazy, and then I couldn’t get into my blog to be able to make changes, but all of that is resolved now (or least as resolved as it can be!).

Anyway, I’m back and I’m sure I have some things to say.  Just don’t know what they are right now!  I think this is going to continue to be a place where I can expand on things beyond what I would normally put on Facebook.  After all, who really wants to read through an overly-detailed description about someone else’s vacation?  This way, it’s here, if you want to read it you can, and if you think it’s bullshit, so be it!

I will be posting as I have time.  No pressure to write every day or anything like that.  Just going to write when I can and when the mood inspires me.

See you soon!

About once a quarter, NPR mounts a writing competition called “Three Minute Fiction.”  The rules are fairly simple.  Create a piece of original fiction, no more than 600 words in length, and have it meet some specific criteria put forth by the current round’s guest judge.  In previous rounds, the criteria have included things like using a specific list of words, including certain events, or even requiring specific wording.  The current incarnation falls under the guidelines of the latter, specifically dictating the wording of the first sentence:

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.

A simple proposal, but full of possibilities.  I really enjoy writing to that moment when the possibilities are endless.  Sometimes it is harder than others, but the journey along the way always teaches me something, whether it is about myself or the world around me.  I have been spending a little more time working on the creative aspect of my writing, and have joined a local group of writers to help foster the spirit of creativity.

As soon as the competition is over, I will post my short story, entitled “Full Circle” in this forum.  I look forward to any feedback anyone might have!

I am a closet gamer.  I don’t have the thousands of gamer points my husband or children do on XBox.  I have never fully completed any version of Diablo on the PC, and I have never played World of Warcraft, but I do enjoy playing games.  Some are on XBox, some on Wii, some on Facebook, and some on the DS.  Regardless of platform or location, most of them are light-hearted, fun games.  There are no first-person shooters, and very little violence.  I never really thought my gaming would amount to anything, but just recently I got the opportunity to have my electronic habit show for something.

My husband writes for a website called Platform Nation.  The site is a great resource for gamers, as it is a site devoted to gamers writing about games and gaming, for no other reason than the gamers want to share the information.  No one gets paid to write for the site, although occasionally a courtesy copy of a game will be sent out to a writer in order for that writer to review it.  That exact scenario played out at our house this week, but I was the unexpected beneficiary.  My husband’s editor put out a call, asking for a writer willing to review a DS game.  Normally, any time a free game is offered, the editors at Platform Nation have gamer guys lining up at the door, but for some reason, none of the usual suspects wanted to add their byline to a review for a Disney Princess DS game.  I can’t imagine why . . . nothing more manly than having your name attached to such games as Ghost Recon, Call of Duty, Left 4 Dead, and Disney’s “Tangled”.  Anyway, when the editors did not have any volunteers, my husband asked if it would be OK for me to play and review the game, even though I am not an “approved” writer.  A few emails back and forth later, and the little cartridge was on its way to me.

I spent a few days playing through and finishing the game, then came the hard part.  I usually have no problem finding something to write about, but this time I was stuck.  I never realized how much pressure could be attached to objective criticism.  Often when I write, I am giving my opinion of whatever I am writing about, and I don’t feel the need to be objective.  If someone does not agree with what I write, that is fine, because I am only spouting my opinion, and opinions are like belly buttons – everybody has one.  If your opinion does not agree with mine, great!  That is your right.  It is far more difficult to try and objectively evaluate something in order to give other people information about the thing, without adding opinion.  That type of writing to me is dry and lifeless.  After all, who am I to determine whether something is good or bad or whether or not you will like it or dislike it or find it appropriate?  Trying to establish “this is good, this is bad, this could be better” without adding personal feeling to the evaluation is extremely difficult.  Suddenly, I have a whole new respect for Roger Ebert and his movie watching.

Anyway, I finally got the review written, and my husband submitted it.  The powers that be must have thought I did an OK job, as the review was posted the next morning. It was an interesting experience, although I am not sure if I will do it again.  I think it would depend upon the game . . . but anything is possible.  In the meantime, you can find me at home, sitting at my desk with my laptop, playing MahJong Titans.  Just saying.

About a year ago, my husband asked me to come look at something on his computer.  Not sure how he had stumbled onto it, but he had discovered Steampunk.  Sometimes he’s cutting edge, sometimes he’s late to the party.  This time, I think he was a little of both.  For the uninitiated, Steampunk is that unique fusion of the modern and the antique – technology and Victorian styling.  For great visuals, rent Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing or Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey, Jr. version).   And while it is certainly not something you find in the mainstream, its popularity is prolific.  There is a huge culture surrounding Steampunk, as evidenced by the size of its Wikipedia page.  There are myriad sites devoted to the asthetic – blogs, shopping sites, and music (one of my faves being Abney Park).  If you are looking for it, you will be able to find it, but like many counter-culture things, it is not going to jump up in front of your face and advertise itself.  Usually I find new things because of the variety of sites I surf and things other people send to me.  Tonight I came across the next thing for modern-day authors to covet, thank you Twitter and Roger Ebert.

For your consideration: the USB Typewriter.  Jack Zylkin is a genius and I humbly bow down to him.  I want one of these!  Preferably the Underwood, but I’m not entirely certain about the green.  My sensibilities say it should be flat black.  I remember having to take typing in high school (my mother told me it would be a useful skill, no matter what field I decided to go into, because I could always make money in college by typing other students’ papers for them).  It took effort and deliberation to push down the keys of a manual typewriter (yes, I’m that old – or my school didn’t have the money to get that many electric typewriters – you decide).  And God forbid if you made a mistake.  Your only choice then was to either try and correct it manually or start all over.  That takes dedication.  You really have to be committed to what you are writing, otherwise each time you type it, it changes a little.  I guess that is the beauty of the writing process.  Each draft includes changes, until you just don’t change it anymore.

Anyway, I am ready to shop.  I am wondering if Jack would custom-make one of these for me if I came up with the typewriter.  I am thinking of one of those 50 pound jobs that comes with no warning labels or attorney-drafted disclaimers against such things as strained backs or crushed fingers.  But of course, I would also need to get an iPad . . . which begs the question: if I am old enough to remember manual typewriters, does that mean I am too old to be on Santa’s watch list?

Santa, if you are reading this, you know what I want . . . .

Physicists and other such brainiacs who spend their days pondering space-time agree that the possibility of alternate realities in parallel universes is valid.  Every choice we make, or fail to make, results in a step down a particular path, in turn determining which choices will be presented to us in the future – eliminating some, adding others.  If you think of it as a giant flow chart, you get the idea: pick this path and these are your choices, pick this other path and your choices change.  Theory says that the outcomes of all possible actions exist simultaneously in parallel universes.  So, in effect, it really doesn’t matter if you eat the chocolate cake or not – somewhere you do.

I was considering this today as I read a portion of a manuscript given to me by an acquaintance.  In one of these parallel universes, I am the modern equivalent of Meg March, sitting in my attic gable, pounding out the Great American Novel.  That Me chose to devote herself to her writing, and is a wildly successful author.  In a parallel universe.  Which isn’t this one.  ANYWAY, reading this story made me rethink the craft of writing.  What does it take to be a good writer, and why are some people more gifted with that thing than others?

I met the aspiring Author whose work I am reading because of a license plate.  I know that sounds odd, but I have always been a fan of quirky license plates, and trying to figure out what message someone is sharing with their personalized plates.  I am speaking of the ones that go beyond “my initials, their initials and a number.”  In North Carolina, you can mix letters and numbers within one field, and there was a car I saw, usually about twice a week, that had the license plate “ESC4p3”.  I always thought that was cool.  Here in Illinois, the letters and numbers have to be grouped separately, so there is no escape for me here, but I do see people who have gotten creative enough to get their message out there.  Such is the case with the Author.  His license plate looks like a jumble of letters and one number, but when read phonetically is actually an obscure French word from Medieval times (don’t ask how I know this, I just do).  When the opportunity arose, I asked him – a total stranger at that point – why in the world he would put this word on his license plate.  He was dumbfounded that I not only knew the word, but also its meaning, and so began our conversation.  It turns out that the word is directly linked to his writing, which opened the door to the present situation.

The Author is working on a collection of short stories that all revolve around a central location.  While I have only been introduced to two characters, the storyline was intriguing enough that, by the time I got to the end of the excerpt, I had an interest into what happens next to these people.  That is good storytelling.  Unfortunately, from a technical aspect, the writing needs a little help.  I am sure that the Author is on the right track.  He definitely shows promise.  What he lacks is a good editor (and NO, I am not interested in the job).  But with a little direction and encouragement, I can see his book in print.  I would even be willing to pay retail (less, of course, my Barnes & Noble 10% discount).  But again, this begs the question, how does one get to this point?

I have been told by various people that I am a good writer.  Most of them have a vested interest in supporting my aspirations because I cook for them, drive them to activities or do their laundry.  At the same time, I know at least one of them has a policy of complete and total “Brutal Honesty,” so if it sucked, he would tell me.  So maybe I’m not that bad.  I just wish I had the luxury of being able to devote my time to fostering that creative force and squeezing those creative juices from my brain that form those things worth reading.  I was recently reminded that the brain is a muscle, and like the rest of the body, needs to be exercised regularly.  Of course, one need only look at me to know that exercise is not my forte.  But still, I am willing to try.  The most common advice given by Famous Published Authors is to write every day.  And after all, some of the most prolific writers aren’t writing the Great American Novel.  They are writing for Harlequin.