All posts tagged Writing

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What’s In a Name?

Who loves their name? Who hates their name? I am in between; I neither love my name nor hate it, but I do find it to be all too common. It seems like every fifth person I meet shares my name, and while that is not necessarily a bad thing (it is a great icebreaker), I’m of the mind that part of one’s individuality has to do with their name. For that reason, I love the names that are creative and unusual; names that one does not see or hear everyday. When it comes to writing and authorship, the art of naming is one of the greatest skills that one could have; naming involves not only the title of the novel, which is the first part of the story to be read by the audience, but also the names of characters, whom must become real and lifelike individuals for the reader; part of the character’s ability to be seen as a real person, is their name.

The news is full of stories now on what celebrities have named their children; some make individuals simply shake their head in confusion. Why? Where do they come up with some of these names? When did this trend start? I’d like to think that the people that had a hand in this phenomena, were authors. Think about it! The power of naming in a novel is a great skill; authors must choose names for their characters that they believe are fitting. As I have already stated above, this skill is essential in creating a real, and life-like character for the readers; people can read a name and simply write off the character because they cannot take a name like that seriously. I’m not saying that this is right, but it does happen and an author must keep this in mind when writing. The art of naming takes great skill.

One author, in particular, has a great skill in naming her characters! Very often, she chooses to take the harder route, and gives a number of her characters strange and unusual names; the fact is though, this is part of the reason that I keep coming back to her. Her skill in naming makes her characters all the more lovable; it gives them a personality that she is able to portray simply by giving them such a name; this author is Sandra Brown.

I was reading some of her older works, when this trend sort of came to me; I had never really noticed it before, but Brown seemed to have a preference for the weird and unusual names. More often than not, she avoided common names such as Ashley, John, Mary, and George, and chose to go with the more flamboyant. Focusing on only the books that I’ve read from her, the list below shows some of her trophy names.

Tough Customer – Dodge Hanley
Smash Cut – Creighton Wheeler
Smokescreen – Raley Gannon
Play Dirty – Griff Burkett
Chill Factor – Dutch Burton
Ricochet – Judge Cato Laird
White Hot – Sayre Lynch, Huff Hoyle, and Beck Merchant
Hello, Darkness – Dean Malloy
The Crush – Wick Threadgill (one of my favourites!)
Envy – Parker Evans
The Switch – ‘Chief’ Hart
Unspeakable – Jack Sawyer
Fat Tuesday – Burke Basile and Pinkie Duvall
Exclusive – Gray Bondurant (becoming one of my favourite male names!)
Charade – Alex Pierce
Where There’s Smoke – Key Tackett (another of my favourites)
Mirror Image – Tate Rutledge
Best Kept Secrets – Reede Lambert

Well, there are some fairly common names in that list, but Sandra Brown, as has been shown, has a propensity towards the unusual names; maybe this adds a little romance and mystery to the characters, as the unusual names are generally male (except for Sayre in White Hot); in a strange sort of way, the name Key and Wick, for instance, are pretty sexy 😉 The names are also memorable, and as such, make the character memorable; this is not to say that characters with common names will not be memorable, as it is part of the skill of the author that makes a character so. Sandra Brown has a skill for picking the most unusual names, and it is that talent, among others, that I enjoy when reading her novels.

Adventures in Authordom 5: Crossing That First Finish Line!

I last wrote in my previous Adventures in Authordom, that reaching the end of a large written project is extremely difficult for me; not only because I never know how to end something, but because I reach a level where I simply tire out and want someone else to finish the project for me.

I promised myself that I would finish writing the first draft of my novel before the end of October; the main reason for this being that I am going to start my Masters in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation on the 28th. I didn’t want to set aside one major project for another. If I didn’t finish the first draft of Diary of a Diabetic before starting my Masters, I was never going to finish it.

Well, on October 11th at 4:30 P.M. I finished the first draft of my first novel! My feelings at that time were not pride or extreme happiness; it was honestly relief. I was tired and I had a headache. I really just wanted to take a nap! It’s not the most awe-inspiring description of a great moment, I know. What can I say? I am proud that I finally buckled down and finished writing something I believed in. I am happy that I’ve at least finished that first step, but that’s what it is: the first step.

I believe my feelings are the way they are because I know that it’s not finished. There is so much editing to do now, plus additions, that I know the novel is not finished. At this point, it is 145 pages but I hope to beef it up to at least 200. There are things that I cannot remember and that require help from other people; there are parts that need to be fleshed out. This finished draft is more like a 145 page outline. I will probably be editing this piece, simply looking for grammar and sentence errors, for the next two to three years. This will be while I complete my Masters, so my time will be split. My mother has also promised to read it over because she will be the person to help flesh it out and provide her memories as well. What happened to me has basically happened to her, so she will have some stories that need to be written in as well.

I know my first thought to writing that last sentence was relief, but now I smile every time I tell someone that I’ve finished writing a novel. It is something to be proud of, and I hope that all you writers out there don’t give up! Even if you don’t get it published, even if it never sees the light of day, writing a novel is a definite accomplishment. I’m happy that I made myself a goal and reached it. The long process of editing and revising is ahead of me, but I know that once I have completed that, I will be writing to publishers. The fact that I am one step closer to that goal makes me all the more proud. So many of my stories have been passed over or forgotten. Some only have 3 chapters, other have close to 20; although I do have plans to pick up writing for at least one of them, Diary of a Diabetic is my first completed work. It’s my baby; I can’t not be proud of it. I hope other people get the chance to read it as well, but that’s in the far future.

Right now, I have a finished the first draft. I smile to myself with pride and relief. For a while, it didn’t look like this piece was going to work, but I got through it. I encourage everybody else writing to make it through the muddle to that last sentence. The relief is so worth it!

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Adventures in Authordom 4: A Profound Sense of Accomplishment

You’ve put in the time and the effort; the research, the blood, sweat and tears. You’ve written your heart out, putting a lot of work into something that you believe in. Writing a novel is not an easy feat; it takes dedication. The sense of accomplishment, though, is something that cannot be replicated. Not only finishing a piece, but having it published is something to be proud of.

In 2009, I was in my final year of completing my Undergraduate degree in Law and Justice and Political Science. As such, I had to complete two theses, one for each subject. It was definitely something that I was not looking forward to. Just the thought of writing two major papers while completing eight other classes with their own papers, would send me into a panic. By the end of that year, I was pulling my hair out, stressing out and snapping at people. It was not pretty, but I did it. My law thesis, titled Why We Do Not Kill: A Discovery of the Influences on the Abolishment of Capital Punishment in Canada was thirty-five pages. It attempted to analyze all the reasons given for abolishing the death penalty from theoretical, to social, to the deterrence factor and conclusively give the most logical of those reasons as the true cause. While doing that, I also included a discussion on Canada’s attitude towards the death penalty and whether or not the abolishment was a permanent decision. I finished the paper, did the presentation and never really thought of it again. I did enjoy writing it and I learned a couple of new things when researching, but it was a paper like any other I’ve done and so I filed it away.

In March of 2010 I received an email from my professor for my law thesis. He had worked out a deal with a publishing company to create a work of University Law theses. There wasn’t much chance of any sort of profit, but he wanted to include my thesis on capital punishment. I jumped at the chance and immediately made the appropriate changes to my paper, sending it off. I got caught up in work and writing my novel, that I completely forgot about it. Until now.

I fired an email off to my thesis professor wondering if he could fill me in on any news regarding the book. I couldn’t have imagined the news he gave to me. With a release date of September 2010, it was already announced on Amazon.ca at the following link:

http://www.amazon.ca/Essays-Comparative-International-Julian-Hermida/dp/3639242122/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280802750&sr=1-2

It’s not my big break, it probably won’t even get me into the business, but my happiness on seeing the cover of the book was so profound, words could not even describe it. I couldn’t stop smiling. My name was on Amazon! It didn’t matter if anyone was going to read it; my name was on Amazon! And this is why writing is such a worthwhile endeavour. That sense of accomplishment that one receives upon seeing the completed cover of their work is a worthy ending to the blood, sweat and tears shed during the writing process. Your work is made immortal in the truest sense of the word and the feeling that comes with that is priceless. I stared at that screen for a long time baring my teeth in a Cheshire cat-like grin. No matter how small the work’s impact will be, at that moment, I felt like the tallest woman on the planet.

So keep writing, keep researching and keep shedding that blood, sweat and tears. At times you may feel like no one is going to care about the manuscript you’re creating. But you care, and that’s enough to get the process started. If you believe that your manuscript is worth publishing, then you can convince others of that. And who knows? In the near future, you might be wearing a Cheshire cat-like grin as well. I hope so.

Cheers,

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Adventures in Authordom 3: So close, yet so far away …

You tell friends and family that you are writing a book and the general response is a subdued, ‘oh, that’s good …’ Not many people will take it seriously until you go to them and say, ‘I’m being published!’ Why? Well, writing a novel is a lot of hard work. There are probably a lot of people out there (and I fell into this category) that would write and never finish. Something would come up or life would get in the way; it is very easy to quit when writing a novel, sometimes too easy. And since getting a work published is very hard and time consuming (there’s also no guarantee that the money will be rolling in once published either), stories are always being set aside.

The fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t be as far as I am in my current manuscript if I hadn’t treated it like a job. I made myself assignments and goals (ten pages per week, which isn’t a lot, really) and the next thing I knew, I had close to 200 pages written with one chapter remaining to be scribed.

My first thought was ‘oh my, I have a nearly finished manuscript!’ But once the excitement decreased, my second thought was ‘can somebody else write the last chapter please!’ This is my curse when writing and it used to happen to me all the time in University when it came to papers. The curse became the bane of my existence especially when I was writing my theses. My Law and Justice thesis, titled Why We Do Not Kill: A Discovery of the Influences on the Abolishment of Capital Punishment in Canada was a mere thirty-five pages compared to my Political Science thesis, which was titled A Culture of Fear and the 21st Century: The United States After the Events of September 11 reaching a total of ninety-five pages. During those beginning pages, I would be pumped and enthusiastic about the topic and of the thought of writing something new. I would purchase book after book on the topic; locate numerous papers and find interesting and unique charts, diagrams and illustrations. My papers would always be above the recommended number of pages, sometimes well over. But the closer I near the end, the less enthusiasm I would have, the more tired I would become. I would simply want the paper fairy to come in and finish it for me. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it would never be close enough. I would, generally, reach a point where I would simply end the paper, walking away going ‘okay, it’s done!’

This is what is happening with my current written endeavour and because I want it to become a published piece, I cannot simply end it in frustration to satisfy my own tired brain and fingers. I want to end it with a great soliloquy, an emotional declaration that my audience will not only love but also be able to connect with. It is not fair to me, as the author, to give up on something so important, and it is not fair to the audience, who have put time, effort and money, into believing in my work.

So I trudge on, looking for inspiration as to how I should end my novel. I have started the last chapter, but it won’t be until the end of August or later when it will be finished completely. In order to end my work, I need to see a certain landmark. I won’t tell you what or where it is, but hopefully it will give me enough inspiration to not only convey a sense of hope and motivation in my writing, but also in those that read it (no matter how small that audience may be). If I can’t do that, then I will feel, personally, that I have failed in my endeavour. Yes, I am tired, my fingers and wrists are sore, my brain is just wanting it to be over, but my belief in what I am doing will not let me falter. To me, this work will be one of the more important things that I will most likely do in my life.

So, even though, my curse is nagging at me like a little devil on my shoulder and the light at the end of the tunnel is still looking too far away, a couple more months of writing will hopefully not kill me. I’ve been working on this novel for close to two years now, sixty days to a finished manuscript is something to be proud of.

Adventures in Authordom 2: Ummmm …

Okay, looking at the clock it is 7:00 p.m. I am going to get, let’s say ten pages written, in an hour. I haven’t been writing much so I need to get down and get at least a few pages done. Crack the neck, stretch the back and fingers; open the file, let it load and then read the last paragraph that was written in order to get myself back into the story.

Okay, we’re ready to go and … nothing. Crap.

Writer’s block is a wonderful thing isn’t it? It’s not just writing down sentence after sentence and not liking them; it’s staring at a blank screen and watching that cursor flash. No matter how long you stare at that screen, nothing comes. Has this happened to anyone? Because while writing a book this year, I have had it happen numerous times.

Sometimes moving on to a different section of the book will work. Some fiction writers create their novels in pieces, writing separate scenes as they come and then fitting them together later. I can’t do this for fiction pieces; I need to write those in order or else I will completely miss something. Non-fiction makes it easier for me to do this though. Adding a simple line in bold ‘ADD MORE FOR THIS CHAPTER’ I then move on and write about something else.

Sometimes it takes moving on to an entirely different story all together! Do you have any other works in progress? Well, work on them for a little bit; add a scene or two and then come back to your current piece later.

Sometimes it is not that easy and Writer’s Block is an even crueler mistress. Sometimes, one simply has to walk away. I don’t like forcing things, because they will come out even worse. If what you are writing is your first novel, then you really have no deadlines. Take your time, make it great and those agents will come flocking to your door even faster. The problem with walking away from the piece, especially if you are just starting to write, is getting back into the scheme of things after a period of time. If you are not careful, this can cause stories to be dropped or simply forgotten. If your goal is to get published, then you need to look at writing as a job. ‘Okay, I NEED/HAVE to get back to writing.’  Once you are published, your next book will have a deadline and so learning how to deal with writer’s block quickly and efficiently is important.

Writer’s block is part and parcel of writing anything. How you deal with it is up to you. I have taken to creating different projects for myself. Doing different things will keep the mind fresh and make it easier for ideas to flow. My projects/activities include: this blog; reading; watching movies; video games; sometimes just listening to a CD (usually instrumental); and trying to learn an instrument (a bodhran is my current instrument). So many projects may make it difficult to completely finish or even start any of them, but they keep the mind busy and learning. If you can do that, and not let your mind focus on the writer’s block, it won’t take over.

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Adventures in Authordom 1: So Many Ideas …

Some published authors take a year to write a novel, and they publish one every year, the same month, like clockwork. Other authors can take up to five years or more for a novel to be written. Of course, things like research, length and complexity of the plot all factor into how long it takes to write a novel; it could also be the writer’s pace and technique for writing. My favourite authors have a range of publishing times from every year to once every five years or so; because of this, I’m never without a book to read (because of my purchasing habits, I don’t think I’d be without a book anyway; to see my purchasing habit/problem see post titled The Bottomless Bookshelf).

It has now become a goal of mine to become a published author. And so far, it has taken me about 9 years to write a novel, and I haven’t even finished it. Although I am close! My problem is too many ideas. And when writing your first novel, trying to pick which idea to go with first is sometimes too difficult. Since the beginning of high school, I have been writing my published novel and it has changed, merged, been dropped, been put aside for other ideas etc, to the point where I have about three novels started (one novel which began as two separate ideas). I set my focus on one specific idea at the beginning of this year, and I have worked on it as diligently as I can. The other ideas are still in the back of my mind and every time some piece of plot development comes to mind, I’ll put it in my little brown book.

To illustrate why it’s taken me so long to stick with an idea, I will outline the way my mind has worked.

  1. Romantic Suspense (slightly comedic); up to eight chapters written; stopped writing because the deletions were equaling more than the additions.
  2. Police Procedural; Introduction and two chapters written; stopped writing because research was too difficult to complete.
  3. Murder Mystery: Introduction only written; inspiration was the song “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia;” cannot remember why I stopped writing it, the idea was simply dropped.
  4. Autobiography and Self-help book; close to being finished with only two more chapters needed; took a while before this idea actually worked.
  5. Murder mystery/Suspense; the idea formed when Idea 2 and Idea 3 were merged. All of the issues with research and plot development seemed to fade away. Characters were renamed and reformed; more background was given to them, making them more rounded; close to thirty pages written.

Even though the ideas have been dropped or set aside, I have kept everything that I have written for each novel. The pages may be scribbled all over, showing that what was written wasn’t going to work, but I’ve kept it nonetheless. Just like the merging of Idea 2 and Idea 3 did by creating Idea 5, my written excerpts may create something beautiful later on when I look at them with new eyes.

My Autobiography/Self-help book is the one that I have chosen to work on until finished. It started with the idea close to two years ago; it was dropped once when I couldn’t seem to find the right voice and writing technique for the piece, but I came back to it. At the beginning of the year, I decided that I was going to write this piece until it was finished and four months later I have nearly completed the novel, with two chapters remaining.

It’s called (so far) Diary of a Diabetic, because I am a Type 1 Diabetic and have been since I was seventeen months old. The idea formulated for a couple of reasons:

  1. I went through a pretty rough time trying to find help to pay for the Insulin Pump (the story is featured in the novel) and many people told me that if I was going through it, than other people were going through it as well. I thought, well, then someone has to get what is going on out there. Also, if I write this, people thinking about getting the pump will be prepared if they try to ask for outside help for funding.
  2. On Facebook, I have a number of fellow-Diabetics that have added me as a friend, for the express purpose of asking me questions regarding the disease.
  3. T.V. ads and news stories create misunderstandings between the different types of Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is not properly depicted on television, and the different types are blurred into one disease.
  4. I figured that enough things have happened to me that I could, at twenty-three, write an autobiography and it would also act as a sort of Guide to Diabetes; a book people do not get when they are diagnosed.

I, of course, have had moments where I think to myself, is anybody going to read this? I have created a pretty specific audience, is it going to be enough to get it published? And then I have my dreams of appearing on Oprah or Dr. Oz and discussing my life with Diabetes. There are moments of utter frustration and depression and then there are moments where I have total faith in the piece. Ideas are aplenty, as you can see from the number I have gone through and the number books in stores, inspiration is everywhere, but you have to have faith and confidence in your idea. You have to back it even if you feel like no one is going to read it. Your first step though, is to pick an idea and simply stick with it.