Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Word Wednesday Dec. 21/11

This week I wanted to just offer a quick tidbit about a word you should avoid using. I've been writing and proofreading essays for the past couple of weeks and my biggest complaint is the use of the word "thing". The word "thing" doesn't help me understand anything. For example:

Her father loved her more than all of his things.

This does tell me that her father loved her, but isn't it much more convincing when you tell me what those "things" are? For example:

Her father loved her more than all of his antique books, his job, his electronics, and all of his precious stones.

Sometimes it's harder to replace than that, but I encourage you to avoid using the word "thing" when writing. There is always a better way to describe an idea or object (I was about to say "something" instead of idea or object!) than using the word "thing".

Hope that helps and have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Writing Projects

Today, I wanted to write about some fun writing projects to take on around Christmas. Sometimes I get so caught up in my stories, that I never pause to put my writing skills to use for other people or do side projects. However, last year I was introduced to a whole new world of writing around Christmas. It was just so much fun, so I've made up a list of some of the best ways to put your writing skills to use in the festive season for your reading enjoyment.

1. Present Letters
This is a personal favourite that is a little bit kooky, but tons of fun. Here's what you do. You look at a present you intend to give to someone and write them a letter to go with it, taking on the persona of someone relevant to the gift you're giving. For example, last year we gave my grandma a new telephone, so I wrote her a letter from Alexander Graham Bell and taped it onto the box.

2. Short Story Gifts
Write a short story (preferably about Christmas), format it nicely, and then give it to someone. Either make one up, or transform a treasured memory into a story. The options are endless. Share your imagination with someone this year! Does that sound corny...? Ah well, it's Christmas.

3. Christmas Cards
Now, this is a pretty common one, but the uncommon thing that I'm suggesting is to write something truly meaningful in the card. You may already do this (if so good on you!), but most cards our family gets just have our names written in the card and a signature. Think about what makes you love the recipient of the card and tell them. It's okay to fill up the blank side of the card. Being a writer, words come easier to you then others so make use of that talent.

4. Poetry
Come up with some personal poetry to put in your Christmas cards. I for one am not a poet, and my skills pretty much begin and end with "Roses are red, violets are blue..." and I still struggle to fill that in! Anyways, if you are a gifted poet then get those blank cards and add your own Christmas poem in them.

5. Write a family memoir
Take a look over the past year and write about what you as a family did, things you learned, how God worked in your family etc. Start off lighthearted, and end with a serious reflection on the year. Make it as long as you wish, format it nicely, and give out to members of your family.

There is my short list of ways to use your writing skills at Christmas. These ones are on the more serious side of things, but you can do things that are purely fun (like making up new words for traditional carols). Like I said earlier, the possibilities are endless. Honestly, I've found that people genuinely treasure these personal creative touches. It trumps any gift you could buy. Have fun, and have a very Merry Christmas (it's the best time of the year)!

P.S. Let me know of any ideas you come up with in the comment section or if you do any of these ones I mentioned. I love hearing about other's Christmas writing projects!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Right Brain vs. Left Brain and How it Applies to Writing

I've mentioned it earlier that I've been reading You First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb. I've been sifting through the pages looking for tidbits of information on and off for weeks now. Speaking of which, I need to go renew it (I've probably racked up an unreasonable amount of fines at our local library from it).
Alright, back. Now that that's taken care of let me get on with what I want to say. Today, I wanted to talk about something that the aforementioned book talks about. You guessed it, the right and left side of the brain. In layman's terms the right side of the brain is the creative side and the left side of the brain is the logical side of the brain. Some people like to think of it as the writer (right) and the editor (left), or the artist (right) and the critic (left). You get the picture.

Personally, I think balancing the two sides of your brain (picture that!) is a huge struggle for any writer, teen or adult. It's a constant battle, with me at least, between being "inspired" and being discouraged and overwhelmed with what I am doing. This blog is a prime example. A Splash of Ink has been dormant for a couple of weeks. Here was my thought process:

Right: OOOO! I should write about the two sides of the brain! Yeah, I'll even take some notes from Your First Novel! It's going to be great!
Left: Is it really worth it? You don't have THAT many followers. Besides, you're "busy".
Right: would be fun...
Left: No, it really wouldn't. You're accomplishing nothing by keeping a blog
Right: Oh, okay I suppose

And so on and so forth. Finally I came to the point where I just sat down and wrote this post regardless of who was going to read it. Looking back at the book, I realized that I should probably implement some of the exercises and warm ups that it recommends to satisfy both sides of the brain. I figured I'd share some of them with all of you writers to help you along with balancing the universal writer vs. editor that lives in every writer.

Reading- reading is good for both sides of the brain
Right: It grows spirit and gives us hope for where we want to be.
Left: It's research and analysis.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when reading:
-What do I like/dislike about the characters?
-What would I change to make it better?
-How does the author make use of *insert literary device*
-What makes the book stand out, or what makes it make me want to bury it on the shelf?
Other tips:
-Give yourself permission to stop in the middle if it isn't very good
-Read the best books of the genre you want to write
-Listen to audio books as well, to "read" when reading isn't possible (taking the bus, walking somewhere, working out etc.)

Timed Writing Sessions- this is for the left brain, but satisfies the right brain as well
Left: It provides a workout and practice session to improve on writing.
Right: It provides opportunity to create.
Other tips:
-Put on an egg timer or an alarm that isn't in plain sight so you don't get distracted
-Don't reread or scratch things out

Back Reading- again, this is for the left brain but satisfies the right as well
Left: Refresher for writing the coming section. It eliminates irregularities in plot.
Right: You can "inspire" yourself with the beauty of what you written earlier, and see how you've improved.
Other tips:
-Read what you've written earlier in the story

Positive Feedback- this is a right brain exercise
Right: It's encouraging and gives confidence
Other tips:
-Mark up your work with encouraging words like "Bravo, excellent, superb"
-Write positive reviews for yourself like "Characters were deep and emotional"
-It might sound silly, but give it a try.
- Don't let your left brain shut it down for you!

Look at where your book will be on the shelf at a book store- this is a right brain exercise
Right: Again, it helps visualize success and gives confidence. Helps solidify genre choices.
Other tips:
-Pick an exact spot. This will help you write with an audience in mind

That's my short list of exercises that I took from Your First Novel. Hopefully they help you get in the mindset to write. All that being said, it is important that you don't spend all your time doing exercises and warm up. The point of these are to get you to write. In order to make that happen, I find it helpful to set an allotted time for warm ups, and then when its over I get down to my writing project.

Good luck and happy writing!
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