Human creativity never ceases to amaze me — as opposed to dolphin creativity, which is frankly old hat and I don’t know why they even bother anymore.
Hehehe. All kidding aside, my friend Audra (or am I supposed to keep your identity secret? TOO LATE!!!) linked me to a very cool article about a new book marketing concept they’re trying in Australia (and possibly elsewhere). The idea is that … well, I’ll borrow the image from the article to give you an idea:
Basically, they wrap up books in brown paper, write vague details of what the book is about, and add a price tag. It’s a book blind date! Instead of being swayed by author name or book cover or whatever, you judge the book entirely based on the five keywords.
Now, obviously this could allow for you to pick up a lot of duds, especially if you’re a picky reader. But I think it sounds kind of fantastic. I can only imagine how many really amazing books I’ve missed out on because I didn’t like the covers (and I’m very much a judge-the-book-by-it’s-cover kind of person).
I’m not sure this concept can really be applied to self-published ebook authors, but … still a neat concept, don’t you think? And if anyone does come up with a way to exploit this idea in the ebook scene, feel free to let me in on the secret!
Today’s post is a rumination on that fickle mistress, Typing. Specifically, the typing that occurs when you spend days and days slaving away writing out a scene by hand in your notebook, and then begin copying said scene onto your computer.
Intellectually, this should be the easiest thing in the world. Take what’s written, copy it word for word into the Word doc, save the file, and call it a day. But like many writers, I am a perfectionist. As I type each word, I think to myself, “Is this the best word? Surely there’s a more eloquent way to communicate Bob the Elephant’s intense hatred for fancy cheese trays.” And then the re-writing begins.
A simple task that should have taken a mere fifteen minutes now develops into three arduous hours of typing, deleting, typing, deleting, flipping through notebook pages to make sure I didn’t say something similar later in the scene, more typing, more deleting … MADNESS! UTTER MADNESS!
Of course, the net result is that the scene turns out far superior to how I had it written down in my notebook. But it makes me wonder … if I had skipped the notebook step and gone straight to computer, how differently would the scene have turned out? Would it have ended differently, had I not used my first, hand-written run at the scene to work out the kinks? Would it be worse? Better? Exactly the same?
These musings were brought to you by my cold cup of peppermint tea, which languished in winter’s icy chill due to the fact that I forgot about it and left it sitting on the counter for thirty minutes.
I don’t remember much about last year’s NaNo, a fact which leads me to assume that I failed spectacularly at creating the necessary 50k words to achieve ULTIMATE VICTORY!
This year, however, will be different. I came up with a kicka** idea yesterday in the shower, and I’m getting pretty psyched about writing it. It’s going to involve college, superheroes, and (potentially) evil twins. I’m thinking it’s going to end up being some sort of sci-fi thriller mystery combo, which will be fun, as I’ve never attempted such a genre before. It’s also going to be quite dark, which I’ve dabbled with in the past and had quite a lot of fun with, despite it not being my usual cheery style.
The tentative title I’m going with is “The Nemesis Contract”, which I think sounds suitably menacing. There’s a mini-series of comics that share that name, but as far as I know, titles can’t be copyrighted. Is that correct?
So I will officially be participating in NaNo this year. I can’t promise I’ll succeed, or even get past the first few days, but I’ll definitely give it a shot. I’ve gotten woefully behind on my writing these days, and I figure NaNo’s a good way to get back on the literary horse (whom I have named “Diction-neigh-ry”).
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of our epic guest post marathon! To wrap up this insightful month, we have Bridget Whelan discussing creative writing, and why taking a class on the subject isn’t the end of the world.
Can Creative Writing Be Taught?
Musicians take lessons and artists go to art school, but people frown if you mention casually that you’ve enrolled in a creative writing course. It’s almost as if writing is like charisma – you either have it or you don’t.
The great writers of the past didn’t go back into the classroom before they penned their masterpiece, non-writing friends mutter darkly, but it seems to me that courses are another way of doing something writers have always done: learn their craft, experiment while they learn, and share the results with others who understand the challenge, before sending it out to the wider world.
Yeats set up The Rhymers’ Club in the last decade of the 19th century, long before he became a celebrated playwright and poet. He and his friends met at the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese just off Fleet Street in central London and, like writing groups today, they (self) published two anthologies.
While art comes from within, you can learn literary techniques that will help you to be the writer you want to be. Against-the-clock writing exercises might seem very contrived, but the poet Ted Hughes believed that they help writers to overcome their inhibitions:
“The compulsion towards haste overthrows the ordinary precautions … Barriers break down, prisoners come out of their cells.”
But I have to admit not always. Ten minutes can seem like an awfully long time when it’s the wrong exercise, you’re in the wrong mood, or you’re saddled with the wrong tutor (It happens). Mind you, even that experience is an important lesson for writers. We are too ready to beat ourselves up if a passage of writing refuses to sing. What we need to do is accept and move on. Work through it. Write.
And that is exactly what you have to do in class.
There is another benefit to attending a course. Until a publishing house is breaking down the door, desperate for a completed manuscript, we have to make our own goals and deadlines, and classroom assignments are one way of doing that.
I teach in Brighton and London, and believe passionately that creative writing is the most vocational subject on the timetable. It always helps to be able to use words effectively – especially when faced with the most intimidating blank page you are ever likely to see: Why do you want this job?
This autumn, creative writing is being offered as an A Level class for the first time. I’m delighted that being creative is officially recognised as a good thing in schools. However, I know that one size does not fit all, and taught courses are not right for everyone.
There is only one certain way to learn the craft of creative writing, and it applies to 16 year olds, post grad students, and retired factory workers with a story to tell and no desire to go back into the classroom:
Write as much you can and read as much as you can.
And keep on keeping on.
Bridget Whelan’s first novel, A GOOD CONFESSION—about a love affair between a priest and a young widow in 1960s London—was called “unputdownable” by Miriam Stoppard.
Bridget has run workshops in art galleries and museums, at community centres, and in adult education institutes. Three years after graduating from Goldsmiths College MA programme in Creative and Life Writing, she returned as a lecturer in non fiction writing. Bridget has also been writer in residence at a centre for the unemployed and low waged.
You can find her blog at http://bridgetwhelan.com/. She publishes a writing exercise every Monday, and on Safari Friday she highlights websites that are useful to writers and readers.
You can follow her on twitter at @agoodconfession, and she would love you to come over and be friends on facebook.
Unrelated media of the day:
I recently discovered this song whilst wandering the interwebs. It’s Japanese, and very odd — full of vampires and very intense guys rocking out on guitars and whatnot. After watching this with my brother, we had to go look up the lyrics, because we wanted to figure out what the connection between the video and the actual song were — turns out, the video is an extremely accurate representation of the lyrics (as in, the song really is about vampires and epic battles and whatnot). Who knew? Anyway, listen and enjoy, and I’ve included the translated lyrics below for your entertainment.
In the gloomy darkness,
The black storm roars.
My only wish
After the battle of destiny
Is to see you.
Why are you devoted
To my loathsome blood,
Is this thought a sin?
Now I will fight
So that the days when we rusted
Can shine again.
With these fangs.
Each one of us
Is burdened with the permanent past.
As we repeatedly seek repentance.
Enduring the unhealable scars.
But still, without hesitating,
We can change our fate.
Tell me, my girl
Is there any hope in tears?
Let me revive
The stole days of love
With my hands.
Dream of that much.
We will keep walking,
Towards the thoughts of our hearts.
I lie in despair.
Tear the shield apart,
And send the light forth!
Open your eyes, rusty hearts
Only you were there.
You taught me about the love that was beginning.
If I devote my life to it,
I will be the one to save you.
Now I will fight
So that the days when we rusted
Can shine again.
Even if I don’t have the you of those days,
I can still love forever.
If someday you decide to
Take back that smile,
It would be a sin.
If this body is corrupted,
Believe in love.
Shouting, rusty hearts.
Just popping in to share some super exciting news — I’ve officially entered Imminent Danger into the 2013 IPPY Awards (Independent Publisher Book Awards). Preliminary research indicates that this is a legit contest — and if it isn’t, don’t tell me now, because I already entered and it’s a little too late for second guessing.
Because the deadline is in two days, the entry fee is $95. Yikes. But you know what, why not? I think I’ve produced a pretty darn cool book, and I’m hoping the IPPY peeps will think the same.
Anyway, if you’ve got $95 lying around and feel like entering your book in what is purportedly the “World’s largest international and regional book awards competition”, this is pretty much your last chance! Deadline is March 16th, so get over to their site and enter! For anyone interested, I used the online entry form, which just involves filling in a few fields, entering your credit card info, and then printing out the resulting page and sticking it in the front cover of your book and sending it off to the address they helpfully provide.
I predict great success and imminent victory for Imminent Danger. Should I not win this prestigious award, I shall do something JAW-DROPPINGLY TERRIBLE!!! — probably along the lines of drowning my sorrows in ice cream and then writhing on the floor in pain because I’m lactose intolerant. The future is bright, my friends. The future is bright.
Unrelated media of the day:
Some English guy in Japan moved into a new apartment and got this note from his neighbour: