WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #8–What if my actual writing and grammar skills are suspect?

Throughout this blog, the overriding goal has been to fulfill your longtime desire to write, first for yourself, possibly for others in your close-knit circle, and, lastly, for the world at large. Thus, unlike the writer wishing to be published, who must present not only a good story, but a competent technical writing, you have an option available to you. And that option is to concentrate on telling your story, and then make the decision as to whether you wish to polish your story beyond where your technical skills are today.

Should you eventually decide that you would like to take your writing to the next  level, such as to publish an e-book or, perhaps, to present you work to a publishing company, an edit will be in order. To that end, you will need to decide the type of edit you wish to have undertaken and, of course, what level of edit your budget will allow. There is the content edit, which focuses on larger issues such as plot, character development, scene selection, and logical story flow; the line edit , which as the name implies, is a line by line detailed review of everything from sentence and paragraph construction to inconsistencies in point of view and to bringing the technical level up to a professional standard; and the copy edit, which is the most intense and detailed in every respect, right down to specific word usage, punctuation, and fact checking. 

Should you somehow feel singled out in the need for an edit of your work, keep this in mind: Few competent story tellers are also great technical writers.  It is a matter of two different disciplines at work–not many great novelist have the temperament to be an editor, and it is rare, indeed, for a great editor to become a great writer. An example of this is covered in great detail in the book, James A. Michener’s Writer’s Handbook, by James A. Michener.  Within the handbook are many of Michener’s manuscript pages on which the editor’s notes are displayed. Here, we have the work of one of the epic writers of the 20th century being routinely corrected and corrected again by a publishing house editing staff. The only difference between Mr. Michener and the rest of us, then, is that he didn’t have to pay to have his work edited.  I can’t imagine why?

This concludes the Writing From Behind the Curve blogs. If they have helped to incite you in even the smallest way to finally write your story, I shall dance to your success. Happy writing to all and to all a good night!

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R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying

 

 

 

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #7–How do I create characters that people will care about?

As much as the story itself, the characters of your tale will tell the tale. Who doesn’t appreciate the crafting of Charles Dicken’s Scrooge, Mario Puzo’s Don Corleone, or Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn? Surely, you have your favorites and they may be many in number. So, how do you, in this first effort to write your novel, conjur up characters who will be instrumental, remembered…and cared about?

The answer, I believe, is already standing there in your memory–standing like a sentinel waiting to be called upon. And the sentinel has nothing to do with conjuring, it has to do with culling and collecting. Culling and collecting what? Let me answer with this proposition: Have you, at this mature age, not met and observed every personality known to mankind–the aggressive, the timid; the brilliant, the dull; the shy, the bold; the articulate, the thick of tongue, and so on? And have you not met and observed every manner of physical characteristic–the large, the small; the beautiful, the homely; the athlete, the weakling, and much, much more? Then there are the arrogant, the irritable, the nasty, the kind, the angry, and the vulgar.

The answer, then, lies within you. Think of all of those you have known, the breadth and depth of them. Think of what role you need your character not so much to perform, but to live in. Then pull from your collection the combination of traits that will make a whole character, living and breathing. A character that, like us, has strengths and weaknesses, has desires and passions, has likes and dislikes, for no one is perfect and no one is all bad–Bonnie still loved Clyde. Rather than conjure, then, combine from the great salmagundi of traits available to you. You are the creator–blow the breath and life into your real characters and they shall become someone to know…someone to care about.

Next week’s blog:  What if my actual writing and grammar skills are suspect?

Blog Link:  http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying

 

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #6–Which of my story ideas should I write first?

If you have been wanting to write for many years, it may be that you have more than one story idea that you have given considerable thought to. So, how does one decide upon the novel to be written first, to select from the pack, so to speak? When I first began to write what eventually became Clarity is Dying, I was in my 40s, had left what was already a lengthy career in banking, and just wanted a challenge to fulfill my longtime desire to write.  At one level, I wanted to know if I had the right stuff. You know, could I stay with a story idea, create the world in which it opened and closed, everything from characters to subplots and so on? Because overcoming the challenge ahead was the central goal for me, I paid little attention to the many-armed octopus that I had been creating in my mind over a long period of time. As a consequence, my first novel is in excess of 500 pages, has ten important characters, has several retrospectives over a 50 year period, and seven or eight subplots that propel the main story. I mentioned in Blog #3 that I did five complete rewrites of Clarity, which in part is attributed to my taking on a bit more than I could chew off in my very first effort.  Said another way, why not get your sea legs first? By staying with a simpler plot, fewer characters, and a story that moves forward from beginning to end, you can juggle less and concentrate on the depth and quality of your story. You will, however, have  actually completed your first novel and prepared yourself for the more complicated writings ahead. 

Next week’s blog:  How do I create characters that people will care about? 

Blog Link: http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/                                 

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying

 

 

 

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #5–How do I deal with this thing called Writer’s Block?

Writer’s Block, or the inability to put words to paper, is spoken of so often within the writing community that there is almost a presumption that you must experience it to be a writer.  The symptoms of Writer’s Block vary, but include anxiety, stress, self-consciousness, lack of preparedness, lack of interest in the subject matter, and so on.  The suggested solutions are just as varied–everything from therapy, to a jog around the track, to a ham sandwich.  However, much of what is written about the subject presupposes that you might be a student or up and coming writer.  But you are neither–you are a mature adult and at least old enough to be the parent , if not the grandparent, of that younger writer-blocked group.  You have finally begun to write your long considered novel, maybe after raising children, or completing the most financially demanding decades of your life, or, perhaps, after entering retirement.  The one thing that distinguishes you, then, from many of the younger class, some of whom may be writing for a grade, or searching for a field of endeavor, is that you want to write.  This is not a task or an assignment; this is not a job; this is the fulfillment of your longtime dream to write.  It gives you an important difference in perspective.  

I had always read much about Writer’s Block before writing Clarity…  So, I was more than a bit surprised that I never, not once, found myself in the midst of a debilitating writer’s block in writing a 500 page novel.  On the contrary, my problem was not in thinking of the next thing to write, but in sorting out the story options that came to me, sometimes Gatling Gun style, in the middle of a paragraph, or at the beginning of a chapter.  So a question materializes:  How could my experience be so different from an expectation of Writer’s Block that seemed so certain that it is almost a proverb?  Consider if you will, the bright young writers in the act of writing their first novels.  Much of the writing is necessarily a fabrication, something not experienced but, rather, conjured up in the mind.  It is the need to fabricate a substantial part of everything that will be in the novel that, I believe, is the well that runs dry.  On the other hand, consider the much deeper well of human experiences an older group of writers has to draw upon–it is the preventative penicillin against Writer’s Block.  Just how many more interactions of all kinds, good and bad, have you had over someone just half or a third of your age.  The point is that you have a world of  experiences just waiting to be called upon.  Open you mind to these recollections, allow them to work their way within your thinking and be amazed, as was I, at how your life’s experiences will give you story lines and characters that will feel real when read…because they are.  

Next week’s blog:  Which of my story ideas should I write first? 

Blog Link: http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/                                 

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying 

 

                                                                      

 

 

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #4–Okay, I’m ready, but where do I begin?

You are on the brink of a great adventure…and challenge.  You are about to finally put pen to paper or, more likely, fingertips to keyboard.  You will create everything about your story–the plot and subplots, the characters and how they interact with one another, the time period in which the story will unfold, the many scenes that will propel your story forward, and so on–your are the ringmaster.  Two new questions now materialize within the mind’s eye:  The first of these is the fundamental question of how to begin, and, the second, is how to find what has always been the most fleeting of commodities–the time to write.

It is time to remind you that I am but a fellow writer and, thus, I can only share my own experience in how I began my novel, Clarity is Dying.  More important, I believe, is for you to let your common sense be your guide.  You see, there are about as many answers to how to begin as there are writers.  Some have found that a detailed outline works best for them, chapter by chapter, keeping them on track to completion.  At the other end of the spectrum, some choose not to pre-determine the direction of the story with even the broadest written outline, not wanting to be in any way limited by their early thinking about how a story will unfold.  Those in the middle might want only the broad strokes of their stories to be placed into outline form and then only as a general guide.  Remember, you are writing for yourself and not for a demanding publisher, so you have the freedom to do what makes you most comfortable–no one is going to ask you to send in your detailed outline or synopsis.  But do give thought to how you wish to proceed.  I fell into the middle category, wanting only the broadest markers for my story.  Some of my best thinking on character and plot development, in my judgment, occurred during the act of writing the novel.  I am in the midst of writing my second novel, Joshua Rye, and for the same reason that I don’t tell anyone about the detail of it while it is in progress, I don’t work with a detailed outline.  I simply don’t want anything to compel me in one direction or another.  I prefer for the story itself to direct me, as it is being written.

Finding time to write is a fundamental issue, if you are, in fact, going to actually complete your novel.  After all, as a premise of Blog #1, isn’t the lack of time to write a  principal culprit in having kept you from writing your novel up until now?  If one follows the advice of just about everything you might read on the subject of writing, however, the strong and consistent admonition is to write daily, no matter what.  And I suppose if you and I were that young writer trying to actually make a living with our pen, we’d better be in there knocking out something daily–our daily bread would depend on it.  On the other hand, for people who are well into their years and have a full plate already, I would argue that the idea that one must write daily is not only unhelpful, but  counterproductive.  In my way of thinking, it’s an easy excuse to rationalize that one cannot meet such a stern requirement; it is an excuse that will stop you dead in your tracks.  Rather, why not think in terms of a schedule to write multiple times over a period of a week or even a month.  Select what you think is a reasonable number of times and hours that you can dedicate to your novel over these longer times.  Then, if a day or two, or even a week passes and you are unable to write, you have not broken your own frequency requirements–you have planned for the vicissitudes of your very active schedule.  Again, you are the ringmaster of your novel, and, yes, this includes your determination of what kind of reasonable commitment of time you can make.  But make the commitment, stick to it, and go forward.   

Next week’s blog:  How do I deal with this thing called Writer’s Block?

Blog Link: http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/  

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #3–But I’ve never even taken a writing class.

Now that you have decided to write that long-considered novel, two very practical realizations–like great serpents rising from the depths–are beginning to emerge.  One of these is the simple realization that it is one thing to have a story idea and quite another to take that idea and turn it into a coherent writing, something that is a challenge for even those who have been well schooled in the art of writing.  And the second of these is, perhaps, more basic yet–if you did not have time to write your novel before, what makes it possible to write it now?  The second of these, I will discuss in next week’s blog, but my answer to both of these quandaries is that you are now approaching these challenges with a new point of reference, a new freedom.  Remember that, first and foremost, you are writing for yourself and that you have something you’ve wanted to say for a very long time.  This means that it is you and not some invisible yet demanding publisher who will decide at what level of skill you may chose to write.  If you are satisfied to share your story with only those who you know, your family and friends, you will have succeeded in finally telling your story, albeit to this smaller audience.  Whether or not it is a technically superior writing is far less important than your accomplishment of your longtime desire to write.  On the other hand, if you wish for a broader audience to read your novel, say through the publishing of an E-Book, a higher level of skill is likely desirable.

So, along the continuum of lower to higher writing skill, where does a higher level of skill come from at this late date?  Life is already full and finding time has always been a problem, so going back to school for this purpose is likely out of the question.  But for you to have an interest in writing, even as an avocation, you most likely are one who enjoys reading.  In fact, over your lifetime, just how many stories have you read and pondered?  You didn’t think of it this way, but you have been schooling yourself to write by way of your reading through all of these years.  Many times, you have been witness to outstanding plot and character development, to the clever inter working of plot and subplots, and to a wide variety of writing styles.  You tell a friend, “You’ve just got to read this….” and then you go on to describe all of the things that make the story a worthy read.  At the bare essence, let’s face it, you know a good novel when you see one.  Now, as one source of your writing skill, you must lean on the experience that you have as a reader, and let it play its role in forming you, the writer.

Even though in the business world I had done considerable writing and constructed many proposals, I still did five complete rewrites of my first novel, Clarity is Dying.  What drove me to do that many rewrites?  It was the knowledge that I was gaining from a combination of the writing itself and what I was reading in the meantime.  You see, there are many fine books on the subject of writing and I found that they influenced how I thought about writing and I saw how they focused and  helped me to improve my skill as a writer.  And that is to say nothing of the wonderful online sources that are available, such as the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (Naiwe.com) on which I write this blog, or Writing World.com, to which I subscribe.  There are articles, complete classes, and blogs for every aspect of writing and they are all just a click away.  When you are in the midst of composing your novel, these instructive resources are fully applicable and far from being as esoteric as they might be for a casual reader.  Email me and I will share the books on writing that I found useful.  The real point is, however, that whatever books or online resources you choose as aids to your writing, they represent an excellent source of help for the goal you have now set for yourself.  The goal to finally put your thoughts, your words, your plot and characters, your personal writing style, to a story that is yours and only yours–a story that only you can tell.

Next Week’s Blog:  Okay, I’m ready, but where do I begin?

Blog Link: http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #2–Who are we writing for anyway?

It has been reported that some 80 percent of people want to write a book during their lifetimes, but that only two percent actually do.  I suspect there are many reasons why the aspirations of so many become reality for so few.  As I mentioned in Blog #1, the many responsibilities of life, I believe, get in the way for most would be writers.  Sure, there are the dedicated young students that love the written word and wish to make a career conveying their message, but even those trained for the art of writing have only a modest prospect.  For every major writer, whose name might be known widely within reading circles, there are tens of thousands of even published writers for whom the bell of notoriety will never toll.  In fact, a typical published book will average sales of just 250 copies per year and 3000 over its published lifetime.  And yet, we are fascinated when at a gathering we may meet a published writer who comes to us with all of the romanticism that we have conjured up for those whose works are worth paying for.  One who, through intellect and hard work, has crossed a bridge that we may have dreamed of crossing all of our busy adult lives.

Time has passed now and we are not that young person anymore, that person who could actually have made the decision to become the writer within, no matter where that may have taken us–to notoriety or to obscurity.  So, we say to ourselves that no one will want to read us at this late date, and certainly not publish us.  And I say back to you, “So what?”  You see, it is the wrong frame of reference to continue to think in terms of being published.  That thinking is the sand in the machinery of your mind that grinds you into inactivity, into abandonment of your life-long dream to write.  Rather, ask yourself this–do you not still have a story to tell and does it really matter if it is published, or even read?  In short, first and foremost, you must write for yourself, not for family, friends, notoriety, and certainly not for a publisher.  Yes, it is narrowly possible that you might become the Grandma Moses of writing, but more than likely you will not, and more than likely you will not be published in the traditional sense.  But you will have said what it is you have to say.  And 50 or 100 years from now, your writing, which will no doubt be floating within the digital cloud, perhaps as a self-published E-Book, will be there for someone to look back into your mind, into what you thought was important to say.  It is a legacy that only you can write, so write it.  Begin now.

Next week’s blog:  But I’ve never even taken a writing class.

Blog Link: http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying

 

WRITING FROM BEHIND THE CURVE, Blog #1–It’s not too late.

It has often occurred to me that certain assumptions are made about the typical evolution of a writer.   You know, that a writer, dirt poor, divorced, maybe with kids in tow, works through the night, relentlessly moving toward that best seller.  The admonishment to this writer from the writing community is, of course, to keep writing, no matter what.  On the other hand, there is little if anything said about the rest of us would be writers–the ones that achieved employment or management of a stable family life early on, stayed with it, took on ever greater responsibilities in job and community with the time constraints imposed therein, and never, then, got around to writing that novel that has been bouncing around in the noggin for the past 20 or 30 years.  Simply, life got in the way.  So, this blog is for those whose ages are 45, 55, or even 75, and who still have that latent flicker–no matter how diminished by time–to write.  Above all, this weekly blog is to say loud and clear that it is not too late, it never was.  It is to encourage you, and perhaps encourage myself through you, to never stop dreaming that dream to write, to begin even now.  My greatest hope is that together we will inspire others to join us, and in doing so, inspire ourselves.  Come with me on this journey–it is time to finally release the writer within.  Your story awaits you.

Next week’s blog:  Who are we writing for anyway?

Blog Link: http://richardsfranklin.naiwe.com/feed/

R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying