Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Post: Military Writers Teach Far More Than Strategy (Part One)

Hadrian's column, Rome
After a short, unavoidable delay, April’s Guest Post is ready. However, it cannot be posted all at once, so instead I will be posting a new section at 9:00 AM PST on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday until it is complete.

Wednesday will be reserved for the regular Wordsmith at Work days. I hope these posts on the history of military writers will be edifying to those who are interested, and if you’re not, feel free to come back on Wednesday or next week.

For now, this is Part One of Four. Enjoy.

There is much made today of military men who write. They are criticized and reviled at all levels. And yet, it is the memoirs and written accounts made by military men which have given us the clearest history of the world.

It is an odd dichotomy of our human existence that these who have caused chaos in greater way than any others provide the most illustrative and concise knowledge of how people from their time lived and thought and believed and acted. We may wish to decry them, for personal, moral or philosophical reasons, but theirs is the records we have and it behooves us to study them diligently.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why Are You Standing There?

All the world's a stage, and all the
men and women merely players.
Before we get into the topic for today, I have to announce that today's guest blog post has been unavoidably delayed. The Marine who is writing it got called on suddenly and has to go fulfill his duty to our country. I think that's an excellent reason for it to be late. It will probably be up Monday.

Now! For the past few months, I have been trying to teach a friend of mine all about how to be more dominant, mostly for our mutual amusement. The first few "lessons" focused on the idea of making use of the space around you to take more control in relationships.

This is one of my pet theories: how people stand in relation to each other and to the objects in the room says a lot about them, and about their relationships with the other people in the room.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordsmith at Work: Major Changes

(Slightly) unrelated: an open gate like my open opportunities?
I have to say, I'm slightly nervous about the subject of today's blog post. So many things are still up in the air, and I keep wanting to cancel it altogether. I don't know if it's going to work and I don't know if you will support me in this endeavor.

But enough beating around the bushes (yes, those ones over there). The next step on my journey to creating a cohesive online web presence is this: change my website! Don't worry, I'm not going to make the switch tomorrow. I just wanted to announce it as I started the process so you know what I'm working on.

Let me break it down a bit. I'm still trying to figure everything out--maybe then it will make sense to both of us.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Is Writing a Solitary Art?

Today I am writing a blog post as a response to another blog post. That's legal, right? I've seen it done before, and ever since I've been wanting to try it myself. I made myself wait until I found something I cared enough about to write a whole blog post in response, and now I've found something that matters that much to me.

These paragraphs are from Veronica Sicoe, a writer I recently stumbled upon and whose posts I've enjoyed reading. One post she made, however, struck a chord with me. It's called 13 Myths About Writing, and while I agree with almost every point she makes, especially #13, I disagreed with her very first point, quoted here for your convenience.
Myth #1. Writing is a solitary activity
Just because we sit in front of the computer a lot doesn’t mean we’re isolated. Sure, once upon a time when writers had only pen and paper, or typewriters if they milked their family for money, they were alone when they labored away at their works of literary art. But nowadays, sitting in front of the computer doesn’t isolate you. Quite the opposite.
The writer of today doesn’t battle solitude, he battles emails, blog comments and newsletter subscriptions. There are thousands of writers out there, flocking in forums and on writing platforms, chatting away and making friends, beta-reading and reviewing hell for leather. And don’t get me started on social media and the lovely new concepts of hyperfiction and interactive fiction.

Friday, April 20, 2012

From Passive to Active: The Reluctant Hero

From Wikipedia
Readers root for an active hero. They don't want to see the hero who doesn't want to be here and isn't going to help and is instead going to whine about every little thing that happens to him. They want to see Batman. Things don't happen to Batman. Batman happens to things.

However, as Joseph Campbell noted, most heroes will refuse the call to adventure. This may be because they have changed worlds unexpectedly and want to go home, or because they're naturally passive, or they don't feel like they're suited to being the Hero.

In these circumstances, it's tempting to simply make the hero be braver or smarter because you want them to be, but it's key to introduce change naturally. The character must willingly change, not because you force them to.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wordsmith at Work: New Beginnings

Eggs always symbolize starting again to me.
Announcements, announcements, announcements! Coming to you at the tail end of Tuesday night, I'll be telling you about some important changes I'm making to this blog.

Let's start with the most important fact: the posting schedule has been changed. New posts will come Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday and Friday I'll talk about writing, and Wednesdays will be Wordsmith at Work days.

Why the change?

Ever since I got home, I've felt lethargic and trapped. I've been completely unwilling or unable to get anything done. Even getting this week's blog posts done on time has been extremely difficult (hence my posts on break-taking and trying to focus).

Friday, April 13, 2012

3 Steps to a Focused Writing Environment

Have you ever had those moments when you find it completely impossible to focus? When, no matter what you do, you can't seem to just sit down and write? Sometimes, the easiest solution is to make sure you're in the right environment. It's easiest to be focused when the area around you is focused too.

Before going into my methods of achieving this, I must add a word of caution. The Most Important rule is to write, and if having a complex pre-writing routine prevents you from writing as much as you should be, then you need a new routine.

With that said, here are the top three things that help me focus and get down to writing!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why You (And I) Shouldn't Take Breaks

Source: via Kimberly on Pinterest
I am supposed to write a post for this blog every Tuesday and Friday, but this past Friday I simply forgot. What with finishing finals, packing up to go home, and trying to get my dorm apartment clean enough to leave it, the fact that it was Friday and therefore a blog post was due simply never crossed my mind.

For this, I am deeply sorry. I love writing blog posts, even when I don't know what to write, and I intend to continue to try and make my schedule as often as possible.

However, I learned a valuable lesson from missing a day. As I sat down at my computer today and thought about what to write, it seemed as though I was more reluctant than usual to write something. The ideas were jumbled and confused, which was normal, but I couldn't seem to settle on one.

I realized that, by taking a break from blogging, I had broken my flow. Last time I missed Friday, I simply posted on Saturday, no big deal. This time, I didn't even attempt to make it up, because I wasn't able to try until Sunday and it didn't seem worth it to me.

One of the most commonly suggested ways to break writers block is to take a break from the writing. Walk away, set it down, come back to it later.

I am here to say taking a break may not be such a good idea.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What the Creative Process Looks Like (Sometimes)

I was standing in a bookstore with a close friend, reading aloud the titles and authors and commenting on them, when he spied a single word on a spine. Half, it read. “Hey, I have an idea.”

He proceeded to sketch the outlines in the air. What if you wrote and published a series—book one, two, three, and four—and then wrote books 1½, 2½, 3½, and 4½, before bringing them all together in book five? The half books would cover the events between the full books.

What order would you read them in?

Any order you wanted. You could read one through four, and then the half books, finishing with five, or you could read them in numerical order—one, one and a half, two, two and a half. If you were really ambitious, you could read the half books first, then the whole books, always finishing with five.