Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Best Writing Books, My Top Three

You don't need more than three writing books. I have more but wish I didn't. They're not bad, they go over the basics, but if you want to be a writer and you've already started then the elements for writing have already been picked up from your favourite books/films/poems.

Focusing on prose, I give you the three best writer's tools available in book form:

1) The Three A.M. Epiphany
                                      Brian Kitely

2) The Write Brain Workbook
                                      Bonnie Neubauer

3) Lights! Camera! Fiction!
                                      Alfie Thompson

The first one, I have barely worked my way through a tenth of the exercises, but they are so good, so versatile, that for each exercise I find myself writing up to ten really different storys or fragments. That's all that needs to be said about it really. The perfect exercise book.

The second functions as a warm up for a day of writing, sometimes invaluable when you can't bring yourself to continue what you started yesterday and you want something fresh to do to take your mind off of your serious work. I don't think I've created a single piece that I would call professional from this book, but that's not the point. It makes writing more enjoyable and hence made me far more productive in other endeavours.

The third may fluctuate between the obvious and the inspired but whether you find the book a revelation or a waste of time, the worksheets in the back are really the most useful tool I've ever had for writing a novel. I don't feel obliged to answer every question but it makes me look harder at my character's backgrounds ('How does this character see himself in regards to his occupation?') and plot.

If there are any books that you also think are invaluable I'd love to hear your reasons, but what I've found so far is that most other books have failed to provide me with anything that writing practice won't provide.

 (And yet I'm still reading them... XD)

Writing Exercise 1: Picture prompt

I'm aiming to create a writer's tools section for my site (which needs bringing back to life). Meanwhile I'll post my exercises here as I come up with them. The most obvious type of inspiration, for me, is art.

So here is my first picture prompt.

1) Pick one of the two pictures below
2) Think of the first most obvious scenario that goes with the title you've picked.
3) Do the opposite, reverse your premise. E.g.: If the happiest moment you automatically think of is childbirth, then make a death some character's happiest moment. If you can be convincing, human, and not at all Disney-villain evil, then you have succeeded.
4) Once your antithesis is written you may go back to the your obvious premise if you still prefer it.

(I don't want to give you too specific an idea to build on. You're most comfortable writing in your own style and a prompt is there to fire up the connections in your brain that make your natural creativity take hold. I'd be curious to see the variety that this prompt could develop.)

HAPPY by ~thathu on deviantART

Alley of broken hearts by =wchild on deviantART

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Oil and Water

Mineral water being poured from a bottle into ...Image via Wikipedia
On the topic of bottled water, besisdes the obvious problem I have with the paradox of needing more water, when we have access already (you can own a reusable bottle), here's something to think about: what the product you're buying is actually made of.

...oil and water. The world's two most precious resources in one neat package. 
If you take all the oil that goes into making the bottles and you add in the oil that it takes to move the water to bottling plants and then to distribution centres and then take the oil that is used sending trucks around to pick up all the empties, it is the equivalent of filling each bottle of water 1/5 of the way with oil. But bottled water has a water footprint as well as a carbon footprint. On average it take 3L of water to make each 1L of water that goes on the shelf and that other water goes into making the bottles, into cooling the machinery and into washing the bottles...
(BBC television, The Foods that Make Billions, 1. Liquid Gold)

Afterthought: I know there is sometimes a good reason to go for bottled water, particularly in countries like Lebanon where the tapwater is safe for showering and such but otherwise undrinkable without boiling. There's only one serious supplier of water: Soha, another Nestle branch.
I just object to the decadence of encouraging harmful industrialisation in western countries when we can help reserve oil by sticking to water piped efficiently into our homes with minimal environmental effects.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cover Art

I decided to gloss up what I've got and design my own cover art. Here it is:

I'm really happy with it. The juxtaposition of decay and birth sum up the root of my premise.

Yesterday I had a growth spurt in my stats and now I have 37000 words, a mere 4 1/2 thou behind schedule. Not a problem. Last minute pressure is doing wonders for my word count. 

See you at the finish line.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lemony Snicket's Novelling Pep Talk


"Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down."

Looking at all the other people who are passing the finish line is putting me in a foul-slash-apathetic state. I aim to write 5000 words today. 1000 done. It'll be a miracle if I finish. I'm trying to be acurate with the symptoms of psychosis but its hard when I have to limit time spent on research to ensure some writing gets done.

I just want this book done with so I can start the next one, the good one.

I had a rather horrific dream last night, about blood leaking from cucumbers and sliced torsos being held together painfully, keeping a person alive and on display while feeding loved ones a blood-infused drink. Other elements which severely disturbed me shall remain unmentioned because they are now material for novel number two (or is it four with the old attempts?).

First step, the ordinary, second step, the extraordinary.
Already looking forward to step three: the leap of faith.
(I have to wonder if I'm making any sense.)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Falling behind

... like so many tubby marathon enthusiats who delude themselves into a state of good health... Like me.

Four really good days of 2500 words at a time and close to catching up, followed by a weekend of nada. Now 10,000 words behind. I just can't bring myself to write anymore. I don't know enough about psychosis to describe it.

Should just go with it. Editing is for accuracy... Shut up, brain. This isn't your best day.

Don't go there... Goddamnit brain, I know that place is nice... with the castle ruins growing poppies in the cracks and the caved in roof bringing a still weight of fresh air. The corridoor is long and the doors off their hinges. Grass is thickening between the slabs and in one room lies an apothecary of the weird and disturbing.

There's no one there anymore.

Let it lie.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ash Sauce

On The ShelfsImage via Wikipedia

Today I took some old apples and turned them into apple sauce concentrate, adding lemon and some uncooked chunks for crunch. It was perfect and took a lot of effort, boiling an old coffee jar and whatnot. I stuck the jar in the fridge when in cooled and couldn't help taking a dip two hours later.
It tasted like ash. The odour of coffee was somehow still overwhelming and drowned out the apples entirely. I had to throw it out.
Then I thought about my novel. Am I putting that much effort in, taking the purest ingredients of time, commitment and imagination and turning them into mulch?
Just can't write today.

Friday, 12 November 2010

An Example of Repercussions Disproportionate to the Act

Taking scissors to the roots of your long hair. That crunch lasts a split second.



The little money I have - that is my wealth, b...Image by katerha via Flickr

Does one really wealthy, happy life outweigh two miserable hardworking lives? As in would it be kinder to kill one if it means putting them out of their misery and making the other wealthy and happy or letting them both live regretting their lives to their death?

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Tel Quel and Movie Themed Nights

Man's great misfortune is that he has no organ, no kind of eyelid or brake, to mask or block a thought, or all thought, when he wants to.
Valery 1941-3

That is true... I have an idea I'm just not willing to use in this book but which my stupid sodding brain can't let go of. Sod. Sod, blast, and damn. Damn it to hell. Hells, bells and a bucket of blood.


I did have one thoroughly useful idea tonight, and that was to have more movie/series marathons with dressing up and suchlike.

Bring on the Elfen Lied. (Haven't seen that in a while.)

Maybe I should actually get a bit more writing done so I can catch up.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The most unrelatable song

Catchy, yes. And it couldn't represent modern consumerist happiness any less realistically. I'm making it this week's favourite song.

The Capricious Approach

University library of Heidelberg, GermanyImage via Wikipedia

Yay! I've hit the ten thousand mark! I know that many others have crossed twenty thou but I'm quite proud of me!

It turns out the big piece of fanfiction I churned out in three months when I was fourteen was actually 150,000 words, so if I cannot complete 50,000 in a month (the average pace I held) then I have to conceed that my fourteen-year-old-self is my superior. I can't let adolescent-me beat twenty-one-year-old-me.

Incidentally, I found my old blog. It contains almost nothing but interesting extracts from books I was reading. That's something I'm going to have to take up again because I really enjoyed reading it as though it was somebody else's blog. Go seventeen-year-old me!

The Capricious Approach: http://feyperiphery.spaces.live.com/


9690 / 50000

This is as it stands right now... I'm three days behind :S But today is set aside for a serious catch up session and I hope to have at least 12000 by the end of today. 15000 if things go awesomely.
I realised that writing short stories was setting me back so I've dropped those until I can get at least a couple of thousand words ahead (seems unlikely at this stage).
I've got to cross my fingers that no books distract me.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Strange analogies

I turned off my music to listen to the rain. My window is shaped so the rivulets falling are the sound of a crackling fire, and the drops on the window become someone playing with rustling Styrofoam beads.

I'm trying to catch up my word count after yesterday and already I'm struggling. They say that the first part is easiest. True, when you're used to it, but I know my best weeks will be two and four.

Considering that I used to be capable of pumping out 16 a4 pages a day, my word count is utterly embarassing.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Useless Employee

Everyday my boss lectures me on the various ways in which my being is utterly useless.
“I think I’m improving,” I mewl pitifully.
“I might even be able to start manning the till soon?”
“You just stick to packing bags.”
My head sinks to a stony neck as she shuffles off with the perseverance of a saint.
“Hey, Lis!”
I gape as a colleague picks up a jar of pasta sauce and takes aim. It streaks through the air, straight into my palm and I fling it back ferociously, making him nearly topple as it strikes him in the chest.
“No more pass-the-breakable!” He quivers his lower lip. “No!” I snap, passing full bags to a hair-raised old lady. “Play with someone who can afford to get in trouble.”
“But they don’t have your reflexes, Lis-babe.”
“Oh,” I roll my eyes, “all right,” surreptitiously reaching for a roll of hobnobs.

News: It's NaNoWriMo and I'm taking part to kick-start the writing that's slowed to almost a dribble over the summer with all the fuss that goes along with life. So... a word quota is a good motivation. It should be. And yet the procrastination continues.
I found this small bit from a month ago which no longer is a thing of contempt (hopefully this will happen with other things I have since written).