Technology and the Writer

We all know that writers need to be aware of the Internet and social media.  Not only are we talking marketing tools, but as writers our craft relies on understanding the social fabric of the communities we live in.

In the four years I’ve seriously been engaging with this side of modern life, things have changed so much.  With every new tool I find, I have to spend considerable time learning how to use it.  And just when I start to feel comfortable, the program changes and I have to discover anew where everything is.

Now, I may not be as IT savvy as some, but I’m not exactly IT illiterate either.  I just find that with a day job as well as this writing gig, when I sit down to my computer it’s often a choice between social media and writing my own work.  When your spare time is split across running a household, socialising and writing a masterpiece, it often feels like none of it is getting done well.

So what’s the answer?  Sometimes I think I’d like to give up the Internet entirely until I’ve finished a major work, but when I connect with the virtual writing space, I find I’m inspired.  Writing is a solitary occupation, and for an extravert, that’s a difficult thing.  But I don’t need to engage with everything.  I can pick one or two tools and have a play, within an allocated timeslot.  As usual, it seems that discipline is the key.

One day, I’d like to find something that requires a total lack of willpower and dedication.  I’m sure I’d excel at that!

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Moments of Writing Stillness

Despite all the problems I’ve been having with my story, I’ve found myself over the last few weeks preferring to write my tome rather than do the cyber-posting thing.  Normally, any excuse not to write is a good one, so this has surprised me a little.  However, I’ve gone with it, and my gut instinct seems to have been right.

This is because lately I’ve noticed that I seem to be hitting little spots of ‘stillness’ in my writing.  Sounds like writer’s block, doesn’t it?  Just the opposite is true.

Moments of ‘stillness’ are when you’re so absorbed in your writing that time fades and you hit a run of power and you know there’s some essential truth in what you’re saying.  The emotion is raw but real, your character is alive and making their own decisions, and your heart is breaking every bit as much as your reader’s will be. 

The wierd thing is that usually, I have to work hard for those moments.  I have to set things up, laboriously scrawling word after word trying to get into my groove.  Only after a lot of words and hours of tedium did that moment happen,  when I hit that bit of dialogue that gives me goosebumps, and I think maybe I’m OK at this gig after all. 

But lately, I’ve hit it in a bout of fifteen minutes of writing. 

You read that right – fifteen minutes.  Whenever I find myself putting off writing for days on end, I say to myself ‘I’ll only write for fifteen minutes a day’.  It always works – for some reason whenever I try to up the limit I resist and refuse.  I’d like to say the fifteen minutes becomes longer on most days, but it doesn’t.  Often, I’m watching the clock and forcing myself to remain seated with my pen moving for the full fifteen.  How can inspiration possibly come under such circumstances?

But it does.  And in the last couple of weeks, I’ve found that those moments of stillness I used to have to work hard for can hit within seconds of forcing my pen to start writing.  Maginificent!

I’ve got a problem…

I think I’ve worked out why my writing doesn’t feel right at the moment.  It’s not that it’s any worse than usual, or that it doesn’t flow.  It feels flat, even when the sentences and paragraphs themselves have energy.  I can come away from a writing session feeling like I’ve achieved something, but when I think back on it, I get a grey cloud thing happening.

And then today it hit me – it feels like I’m starting the story again, when I’m actually supposed to be finishing it off.  In order to move my protagonist closer to the crescendo that is the ending of book 1, I’ve had to move them geographically.  As a result, I’ve had to start them off in their world again, building relationships from scratch, finding their feet in a new town and occupation.  It’s not that there isn’t anything happening.  There is.  It’s just that it’s the kind of stuff that normally happens at the beginning of a book when the reader is getting to know the character.  Here, it’s the character who is getting to know other characters, which is having the same effect.

This realisation has been kicking around in my head all day, but I’ve decided not to do anything about it just yet.  It’s more important to me to keep writing so that I find out the nuances of the action rather than to stop now and go back.  I suspect what I’ll end up doing is cutting out a big chunk of what I’ve already written and pushing this part back so that it’s before the midpoint, not after it.  I’ll be able to take some of the earlier stuff, chop it up and relocate it so that I can still use it.  I think the story will be much better for it, to be honest. 

But who knew writing could be so complicated?

To talk, or not to talk

Do you like to talk about your work as you’re writing it, or do you prefer not to?  I’m of the latter persuasion. 

I generally don’t want to discuss my work until it’s finished, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I firmly believe this takes the edge off the writing.  Part of the excitement is seeing the ‘cooking’ coming together straight from the pen.  If I talk about it, then when I write it I feel like the magic has already happened and the writing is just a pale imitation.  Interesting that this is why some writers don’t plan.  For some reason, I can plan without feeling like I’ve already written it. 

Another reason is that any feedback starts to run interference with my producing skills.  If someone makes suggestions, that’s what I’ll hear when I next sit down to the blank page, along with the usual self criticism and doubts.  It’s so much harder to write with the extra talk going on.  Does this mean I can’t take criticism?  I hope not!  Not if it’s given with tact and compassion, anyway.  I’m all for honesty, but not for ridicule or contempt.  And best leave it for the end, when I’ve already got the story clear in my head.

I’ve known people who love to talk about their work, describing what thrills them about it, where they’re up to and what difficulties they’re having.  It’s wonderful seeing the light in their eyes, and watching them get clarity around where they want to go next!  This causes a bit of a dilemma for me, as it makes me feel ungiving when I decline to talk about my own work.  And there’s only so much one can say without having read the book, so the conversation tends to be a little … well … one-sided.

As always, there’s no right or wrong.  Just some points to consider.

Time for a Change

Can I change the way my blog looks?  I like the old theme, but I also like change.  I guess branding should be consistent, but sod it, I’ll be adventurous.

The thing I like about this new theme is that it’s more visual than the old one.  I’m getting back into painting after putting it on hold to finish some study, and I’m finding everywhere I look I see a painting.  Interestingly, this coincided with getting a whole lot of new ideas for books.  There must be something about visual creativity that runs parallel with written creativity.

But it’s also telling me something else.  I’ve got to finish this book and move on to the next one.  It’s all well and good refining and making something better, but it only improves you so far.  I’ve got a bit of room to grow yet, but it isn’t infinite.  This is the first time I’ve had this feeling – maybe I’m ready to try something new in writing too!

The Ideas Bag

I blogged here about getting ideas, and how I’m not someone who has a drawer full of them waiting for me to pick them for my next masterpiece.  However, this probably needs revising.

The beauty of writing is that the more you write, the more you see ideas around you.  I have found in the last few weeks or so I’ve come up with a number of ideas!  Perhaps it’s because I can see the end in sight with my current project, or perhaps I’m just dreading finishing it.  Either way, I have some possibilities for the next project.

The disappointing thing is, not many of them are in the fantasy genre.  They’re all history or crime or a mixture of both.  What does that mean?  Probably that I’m reading too many history and crime books!

Getting Started

I had an interesting conversation with another writer the other day.  He said that for him, the language has to come first.  I have read some of his writing, and it doesn’t surprise me because the language is truly beautiful. 

It struck me that voice is one of the last things that comes for me.  In the first draft, the narrative voice floats in and out because it’s not what I’m concentrating on.  I can’t say that I concentrate on anything except getting it down.  Nothing seems to make that any easier except plugging away at it.  Sometimes I might ‘hit my stride’ for a bit, but more often than not I’m just slugging away, bit by bit, til it’s done.

And to be honest, I’m not unhappy about this, as there’s not much that stops my writing (other than sickness, tiredness, business, and any other procrastination excuse I can think of!).  However, it does make me wonder if I found that magical thing that pulled my work together, maybe the first draft would happen more easily and require less revising later on. 

Does anyone else have anything that they have to work on before they can start writing?

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