Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Not Always About the Money

Whenever someone tells you to be practical, you may immediately think, “This is about money.” This may lead you to think that you have to write to get money, and that you have to write to appeal to the people who will give you the most sales and therefore allow you to earn the most money. After all, when you finally get all the money that you want, you can do pretty much whatever you want to do – and for that matter, you can write whatever you want to, right?

I won't say that it's wrong to want money. But when you start writing only to get money, you may end up producing something that is not only up to par with your standards; but something that you might not even want to be remembered by. Granted, not all money-making writing projects are bad or are expected to be badly written. But remember, when money is the only thing that drives you, you can burn out quickly. Your writing can turn into a duty, and not an enjoyable one, at that.

The complete opposite may not be advisable either. Completely eschewing money and writing for free will work only if you already have a lot of money to begin with, are living off your parents, or if writing is a side job for you. The key is to balance your work: you might want to have some paid projects that are not exceptionally brilliant but that pay your rent; and you might want to have some projects that don't cover the bills, but that you enjoy doing nevertheless.

When you write something for the money, try not to think about getting just the money, but actually reaching out to your audience. Chances are, you can get more writing jobs in the future and you can fatten your wallet. On the other hand, if you are writing something that you enjoy, try to avoid thinking about what to write to earn the most money. Remember, you have to enjoy writing. When it stops becoming enjoyable, then you may need to stop writing first and rest.

In the end, you can please no one but yourself. Take a look at your writing, whether you are earning money from it or doing it for the sheer pleasure of writing. Is it good? Would you read it? Would you buy it if it were on your newsstands or on a shelf in your bookstore? Would you borrow it from the library? When you start writing to make yourself happy, then you might just come up with something that people will actually like.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A First Sentence for NaNo

National Novel Writing Month is almost over, but if you have that spare chapter to write and that last hurdle of ten thousand words to go, then maybe you need a first sentence prompt!

Here's something you could try to get your neurons firing:

"It was blue."

All right, maybe that isn't so neuron-firing-magenic. But still, you could try it! Now, go ahead and write as many words as you want. You're nearing the finish line! You can do it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A "What If" for NaNoWriMo

Here's a "What If" that you can use for encouraging yourself while National Novel Writing Month rolls along. Write a short "What if" essay on your novel.

Specifically, tell your readers what your life would be like if your hastily-written, one-month-to-finish novel were published. Would you be famous, starring in your own movies, making the rounds of the talk shows, and getting millions of dollars stashed into your bank account? Would you still be joining NaNoWriMo?

You have only 1000 words at your disposal, so use them wisely. Post your answers in the comments section, or put in links to the page where your essay is posted. Happy fantasizing!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Special NaNo Unblocker: Why Should You Keep Writing?

Thanks to National Novel Writing Month, a lot of writers are away from their blogs and typing away at their computers. However, not all writers are lucky enough to get words out. Thanks to the tension that a 30-day novel brings, some writers can get cobwebs, not literary freedom. Might an unblocker help?

If you're in the mood for writing but can't get anything out, then you may want to try this. Take a piece of paper and a pen, or open up a new document on your computer. Now, you have exactly 30 minutes to answer the following question.

"Why am I doing this?"

Now, you don't need to be in NaNoWriMo to answer the question. You can let it be an open question. Why are you doing what you're doing? Why are you studying? Why are you writing? Why are you looking at random roadkill?

Now keep on writing...keep on clearing out those cobwebs...it's free writing, after all, and no one is correcting you.

Enjoy the NaNo unblocker!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Critics Don't Have That Much Power

We read critiques everywhere, and everything nowadays seems to be subject to criticism. We may not always believe the critics when they say that this movie is the worst thing to ever hit the cinemas, or that this book is impossible to put down. Still, critics form a good part of today’s print media, and they can influence what books sell, what movies earn money, and even what restaurants can go from anonymity to standing-room-only.

Critics can also influence writers. In dictating what books sell, they can unduly push writers toward certain styles, plot lines, and even characters. This can constrain a lot of writers, you included, especially if you want to make it in the world with a voice that is as unique as it is independent.

One way that you can avoid being imprisoned by critics is thinking that they don’t have the power that people give them. It sounds very New Age, but think about it (and fix up your mindset so that you don’t end up being a slave to critics):

* People can choose not to read critics. No one is ever forced to read critics, much less agree with them. People have a choice, and lucky you if they choose to read you over and above what any critic will say.
* Critics are people. People have opinions. Opinions will differ. There is no right or wrong opinion: it’s JUST AN OPINION.
* Critics are not the barometer for what’s good or what will sell. It’s up to a lot of readers. Besides, best-sellers’ lists are not the barometers for what is considered good writing either. Remember, not all good writing sells; and NOT ALL THAT SELLS IS GOOD WRITING.
* Critics can be swayed by freebies. For instance, some critics can review books favorably because the author handed them free copies, or promised them free books for life, or gave them a goodie bag that had nothing at all to do with the book. Granted, not all critics are like this, but remember, people’s opinions can change because of many things, not just because of a book.

These are only a few things to keep in mind when you start writing your novel. I’m not teaching you to hate critics: I’m teaching you to see another side of the issue; I’m teaching you to look beyond what people expect you to produce. Good luck, and happy writing!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yet Another Unblocking Exercise

Unblocking allows you to write whatever you want, at a pace that doesn't allow for editing, and sometimes, in an atmosphere that does not require a lot of thinking. Mind you, unblocking can be therapeutic as well – and it's time to show you how.

Write or type as much and as fast as you can. Don't worry about grammar or syntax, or whether you are logical and making enough sense to make Plato happy. Just write and let all your emotions out. Use this as your first sentence:

The one man that I don't think I could ever stand...

When you are done, walk outside, take a deep breath, and, if you can, don't read your work. Throw it out and use a new page for your next exercise. Sometimes, we have a lot of worries that entangle our thoughts and create unnecessary cobwebs in our heads. Unblocking is one way for you to get rid of your worries. Unblocking can even give you ideas for your writing!

Ready? It's time to use your emotions! Happy unblocking!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What the Dickens!

Rumor has it that Charles Dickens was paid to write by the word, so his works are extra-long for that extra-special treatment for his pocketbook. His stories, however, are still loved the world over, whether they talk about ghosts of Christmas, or young people finding love in all places.

Reviewing Dickens is also a challenge, and on many different levels. Working against the background of the Industrial Revolution, Dickens’ work has to be critiqued according to the times in which it is set, and how these times affect the goings-on in his works. Moreover, many of Dickens’ characters have become staples in common parlance (Micawber, anyone?), so they need to be critiqued not just in the context of the work, but in how they have transcended the pages of a book to become part of everyday language.

Speaking of challenges, you will review a novel by Dickens. There are many ways for you to attack this activity. You can critique the characters and whether they are moved forward by the plot too much and appear too helpless to withstand the many challenges that come their way; or they move the plot forward and take their lives by the reins.

You can critique the plot and see how the story is influenced by Dickens’ life and time. You can critique the little stories that weave to form part of the bigger story that the novel strives to tell. You can critique even from a feminist perspective and see how Dickens empowers (or disempowers) women in his work. You can select which novel you want to review by visiting http://charlesdickenspage.com/works.html, picking a novel, and then either visiting your favorite bookstore or ordering it. If you already have a copy, lucky you!

Whatever it is you choose to do, good luck on your review! Reviewing Dickens can be an invigorating experience. It can allow you a glimpse into the life and work of one of the greatest literary masters, and it can allow you to understand what makes his work timeless.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A What If for the Brokenhearted

The what ifs exercise is meant to open up your imagination and make you write stories that can go anywhere from realistic to out-of-this-world. But what happens when you get a what if that is an inevitable part of life – a what if that is almost impossible? Moreover: what if the potential answer was too idealistic and sweet?

Here's a challenge: come up with an essay that is engaging, descriptive, and yet entertaining all at the same time. You can write as many words as you want, and you do need to post your essay (or a link to it) in the Comments section of this blog.

Oh, and here's your What If:

What if there wasn't such a thing as heartbreak?