Sunday, February 27, 2011

Healing a Case of Writer's Block


I've heard this term many many times from novice writers, like myself, so I decided that this was an excellent topic to battle. Merriam-Webster.com (online dictionary) defines writer's block like this: a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece I believe quite firmly that writer's block isn't some disease or broken bone that physically prevents you from putting the pen to the paper, as some people seem to regard it. Writer's block is a "psychological inhibition" which means that you are mentally preventing yourself from doing it. Now why would we do that? There is a lot of different reasons, but I think the most common one, especially with teens, is fear. The fear of writing something wrong, or something dumb. The fear of being seen as an amateur. The fear of having their work rejected by peers, teachers, readers of your blog, publishers ect. It's better to have nothing new, than to have something new that's awful, right?

WRONG!

I recently heard a friend say this "Writing is a process", and I couldn't agree more. When you're writing don't think about how the finished product is going to turn out. Turn off that little editor who sits in your head saying, "Bad grammar, and poor description. FIX IT NOW!" The hardest, but most important thing to do is get the piece done, whether it's a blog post, an essay, or a story, it applies to all writing. The trick to avoiding writer's block is to never stop and analyze your work while you're still working on it. It's something all writers guilty of, especially me, and I can tell you from experience that doing that never leads to good. You start to see all your mistakes and feel discouraged, and end up not finishing. You must keep writing without worrying about the quality if you intend to finish something. After all, you can't revise something that isn't there.

So now that you have all this work that is probably a little less than great, you need to revise. Revision is how your piece turns out so nicely. Even professional writer's can't just spew out a perfect piece. So when you start analyzing your work and wondering if people will like your writing in the middle of a piece, stop and remember that revision is where the magic happens.

Another thing to remember is that writing takes practice. You're not going to become the next J.K. Rowling, or Stephan King overnight. This is going to sound very unlike me, but don't set your expectations unrealistically high. When you're constantly not meeting your goals you'll feel discouraged and writer's block will creep in. Be reasonable, make your goals challenging but don't make them impossible. For example, don't say "I'm going to write ten pages a day" or "Post a blog everyday", when you've only ever written two pages a day, or posted once a week. Setting achievable goals keeps writer's block away!

Now, the other popular reason for writer's block is: "I'm stuck. I don't know what to do next!" When you don't know what to do next in your piece remember your 4 "w's" (who, what, when, where) and your "h" (how) That should help you get the ball rolling again, especially if you're writing a story. Ask yourself questions like "How did my character feel about this?", "What are they going to do about it?", "Where is your character right now?", "Who's there with them?", "When are they going to do that thing they're supposed to?"

I hope this has helped you a bit! I know that I haven't covered everything, so I posted some links to helpful tips on writer's block on the "Helpful Links" page. Also, don't be afraid to share your thoughts in the comment section!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Help Me to Help You

I was thinking that in order to be relevant to my readers, it would be a good idea to have some sort of request page. So leave me a comment with topics, and anything to do with writing you'd like me to cover. I can't promise anything, but it will certainly consider your ideas!

The Fruition of Procuring a Reputable Vocabulary

If that title didn't make you scratch your head, than kudos to you! However, if you're like me who had to look up those words specially for this post, here's a translation:


The Joys of Having a Good Vocabulary



Every writer needs to have a good vocabulary in order to succeed with there creative endeavors. Why, you may ask, well your words are like colours of paint for an artist, or like thread for a weaver. Imagine if Monet only used black and white in his paintings? Or, if all fabrics were made from white cotton thread? First of all, Monet's paintings would be boring and wouldn't be displayed in art museums around the world, and second, we'd all be wearing the same white t-shirts. In short, these creations would be boring and unattractive. It's the same with your writing. If a writer only uses average words and plain language, than people won't be interested in their work and will get bored easily. Now that we know why it's important, what is good vocabulary and how can I get it, are the questions to ask.



What is Good Vocabulary?


Let's just start by defining vocabulary, so we're all on the same page. Your vocabulary is the words you hear, speak, read and write. If I need to define good, well let's just say you've got bigger fish to fry than this! Alright, so what does it mean to have a good vocabulary? Well I found this quote that describes my thoughts to a tee:




"A good vocabulary does not mean you know many long or difficult words. Instead, it means that you know how to express yourself so that the reader will understand your material" -Author
Often times I'm inclined to think that you have a good vocabulary if you know big and obscure words. The truth of the matter, like the quote points out, is that if you have good vocabulary then you can effectively express your thoughts in an interesting and engaging way. For example:



Bad: Penny was attired in a pallid repugnant muumuu.



Good: Penny was wearing a pale unattractive muumuu.



Although, the first sentence does make me, the writer, sound smarter, the reader can't understand it! I don't know about you, but I'd rather people understand my work than seem annoyingly smart. The second sentence was still interesting, but it was also understandable, which is the desired effect.



Regardless of what it may seem, it's okay, even good, to use big words. However, you must use them sparingly and appropriately. Let's go back to our examples for a moment.



Bad: Penny was attired in a pallid, repugnant muumuu.



How to use an uncommon word correctly: Penny was wearing a pallid, unattractive muumuu.



You see how I used one word (pallid) that was uncommon? It was still interesting language, but it wasn't over done or hard to understand, because the words around it allowed the reader to infer what it meant.



Summary: Using lots of uncommon, big words in a sentence is confusing for the reader. While using one or two uncommon words in a sentence is good. Having a good vocabulary means that you can communicate to your reader in an interesting and understandable way.



Now that we've got that figured out, let's move on.





How to Get a Good Vocabulary

1. Whenever you come across words that you aren't 100% sure of look them up. You'll most likely be able to figure out what it means by the sentence it's in, but look it up anyways so you can use it effectively in the future

2. Do word searches, crosswords and other word games. It's fun and you will learn new words, especially if you're playing game where you have to come up with words for a certain set of letters

3. Again, READ! Reading, like I've previously mentioned, is key to writing. Besides, how else do you think you're going to apply #1?



I could go on, but I think you get the picture, besides this post is already getting too long!




Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Write What You Know"-Unraveled

I'd first like to start off by welcoming you, an inspiring writer or an interested reader, to this blog! Now that's out of the way, lets get down to business.

If you've ever read any "How to Write a Novel" webpages or books than you've most likely heard that writers do best when they write about what they know. I'd have to say that I do agree with that, but I didn't for the longest time. Here's why: I could write fairly decent scenes of sword fights, or tender love scenes, yet I've never been in a sword fight with a mortal enemy (thank goodness!), and I'm not in love. So, I discredited the statement to an opinion of some uptight, right-wing writer who wanted to dampen the dreams of a lowly teen writer who has much of their life left to experience.

However, I was wrong (gasp!). The truth of the matter is that I didn't understand what it meant to "write what you know". I believed, as I'm sure many of you do, that the only way to know about things, and emotions well, (as the statement suggests) is to experience them. The truth of the matter is that there are many ways for us to write what we know without actually experiencing the event or emotion. I came up with a list of some of the most effective ways to do just that.

1. Read
This is by far the best thing to do, besides writing, to improve your writing skills. There are two things, other than the entertainment, that you should be thinking about when you read any kind of writing (fiction or non-fiction). A) Look at how the author using their vocabulary and arranging sentences. Do you find it effective, making you want to keep reading or is it boring and dull? Think about what makes it good or bad (are their metaphors and colourful words?) and apply it to your own writing. B) Learn something from it. Observe how characters in a novel act when they're in love, or some of the trials of being in a relationship. Whether it's about how to sail a ship, or the main character in the novel is doing Yoga, you can learn something. Thus, adding to what you know and what you can write about with skill.

2. Watch Movies, T.V., Videos on the web ect.
This is similar to reading, in the sense of learning something. When you watch some one doing something it makes it a lot easier to write a scene about it, because you can visualize it. An example, I watched the sword fights in Pirates of the Caribbean when I need to write one, so I can see how they carry it out and make it interesting. Again, you are adding to your wealth of knowledge.

3.Listen to People
Talk to people and learn about their lives. For example, if you've never been in love, talk to one of your friends or family members who is. This is especially helpful when you're writing a character's emotions. I know how hard it is, especially for a teen, to strike up conversations with people about events that have happened in their lives, and their emotions, but it's worth it. When you hear how people have dealt with things it real life than it brings that realistic feeling to your story.

Those are just a few ways to increase what you know and I know that there are many more. Feel free to comment with some of your own ideas to increase your knowledge. I urge you, don't fall into the trap of thinking that the only way to know about something is to experience it. Of course, experience in something is always desirable and one should take advantage of opportunities to do new things, but it's not the only way to write good scenes. So get out there and not only experience life, but read, listen, and watch it. Believe me, your writing will thank you!
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