Sunday, April 15, 2007
Getting the Most From Your Creative Writing - Two Top Strategies
The most successful creative writers do not just describe scenes or events; they write about them in such a way that the reader feels that they are actually experiencing the event themselves.
Two ways that a writer can do this are by the use of show not tell and onomatopoeia.
If there is one aspect of creative writing that is more important than any other, I would have to say that is show not tell.
Show not tell is a technique of writing whereby the writer shows how something feels, not how it looks. The aim is to create a picture in the reader's mind rather than using a whole lot of adjectives such as exciting or beautiful.
Describing a woman as beautiful is not very helpful to the reader as everyone has their own vision of beauty. However, when the writer describes the cloud of jasmine perfume that surrounds her, her voluptuous body and her mass of thick chestnut curls, the reader gets quite a strong feeling about the woman.
When you are describing something, try to describe its color, smell, sound, taste, shape and texture as applicable.
The following description of a garden evokes a feeling in the reader.
An old gnarled plum tree loaded with enormous purple plums stood in the middle of the garden. A family of magpies had made their nest on a top branch and all day long the garden reverberated with the screeching of the fledglings as they called out for their next meal. Bees buzzed around a rambling jasmine vine that twisted over an old decaying hen house. The thick scent of jasmine hung heavily in the air.
Such a vivid description of the garden includes the elements of color, smell, sound and shape. The reader has a real sense of being in the garden. The use of color, smell and sound has created a mental image that brings the garden to life.
Show, not tell is about getting the reader to make their own observations.
On the one hand one could write, 'The dress was old'.
Another way to describe the scene is, 'Mary gently lifted the dress from the cardboard box. The satin was now yellowed and the imitation pearls were dull and chipped. She wiped away a cobweb from the bodice and held the dress tenderly to her cheeks'.
The word old is never used, but there is no doubt in the mind of the reader that the dress is in fact old. However, the mood that is evoked by the description of Mary looking at the dress draws in the reader so that they feel they are actually looking at the dress too.
The use of onomatopoeia in creative writing also creates a mood. Onomatopoeia is a grouping of words that imitate the sound of the thing they are trying to describe. Examples of onomatopoeia are buzz, sizzle, screech, crackle. The use of these words in writing evokes a feeling in the reader because they can hear the sound. Onomatopoeia brings out the full flavor of the word. When writing children's books this is particularly important. Children love these 'sound' words.
The use of the above strategies will bring much more life to your writing.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
An Interview with Bestselling Novelist Michael Connelly
Bestselling author of several mystery/thriller novels, including Blood Work, City of Bones, and The Narrows, Michael Connelly has enthralled millions of readers for over a decade.
Originally a journalist for several Florida markets, Connelly was one of three reporters short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1986 after covering a major airline crash. Soon thereafter, he packed up and moved to L.A. to work as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. After three years of working the crime beat for the Times, Connelly began writing his first L.A.-based crime novel, The Black Echo, which won the Edgar Award for best first novel, and introduced the world to his internationally-adored protagonist, LAPD detective Harry Bosch.
In this interview, Connelly discusses his approach to writing, his latest Harry Bosch novel--The Closers (which hit bookstores in May 2005)--how being an outsider as a teen affected his writing, and why he waited thirty years to begin writing fiction.
You didn't start writing fiction until you were thirty years old. Instead, you worked as a journalist covering police beats and the courts—and used this experience as research, knowing that one day you would be ready to write fiction. How did you decide it was finally time?
It was sort of a natural progression. I just sort of instinctively knew it was time to try it. It was still another four years before I sent anything out into the world and another two before anything was published, but I just hit this point—maybe it was turning 30—where I told myself if I didn't try soon I never would. I also think that by that point I had accumulated enough images and experiences as a person and as [a] cop reporter that I was thinking I had the ingredients and it was time to try to make a cake. Lastly, the summer I turned 30 was the same summer I spent a lot of time with a homicide squad. I had full access on three separate investigations. I knew I would never get a better look at that world than that, so the only thing left to do was write about it in fiction.
You've stated that the single best piece of writing advice you've ever gotten was to write every day—and that this advice came to you from writer Harry Crews during a lecture at the University of Florida. You said that this is advice that you still live by. However, do you ever have days when you sit down to write and the story won't come to you? Or days when you just don't feel like writing? If so, how often, and how do you deal with these times?
I've been doing this for a long time now and it is hard to write every day. In the beginning I did—365 days a year. Now what I try to do, and most times accomplish, is to write every day once I begin a draft. So I have periods where I am not writing. These are usually between drafts and between books. The greater message he [Crews] was sending was, I think, that you need to always be thinking about your story. The best way to do that is to write every day. I believe that I am always thinking about my story, but I don't need to write every single day of my life to keep it churning in my mind.
You said that during your years of being a journalist, you knew detectives who couldn't put the job away when they went home. As a novelist today, can you say that you, in fact, can? Or do your stories oftentimes awaken inside your mind when you're busy doing other things?
I really don't want them to go away. I think the key thing to writing is to keep it churning in your mind. This to me is more important than actually sitting down at the computer. It's the interior activity. So when I do get away from my writing I start to get uncomfortable. I don't like going on vacations without taking my work with me.
I read in a past interview that you were a bit of an outsider as a kid. Do you feel that the emotions you experienced as a result of being an outsider helped cultivate your interest in becoming a writer?
As a teenager I went to four schools in four years and that sort of gave me outsider status. I think it made me more of an observer than someone who is in the middle of things. This is a good attribute to have as a writer. At the time I didn't know that. I didn't think that I should become a writer. That decision came later and it is only after many years [that I] can look back and see how my writing skills may have been honed back then without me realizing it.
Please describe your writing environment.
I like changing things so my writing environment changes from year to year, book to book. At the moment I write in a windowless room without a desk. I sit on a couch and write on a laptop. Last year, I had a room with a nice water view and a desk that weighed a ton. I had two big Apple screens on my desk and could spread four pages across them. Usually when I start a new project I shake things up in some way. Sometimes it's just changing computers but sometimes it is completely changing the environment. For me change is good. The only constant is change.
In the essay, "Characterization," that you wrote for Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America (Writer's Digest Books, 2002), you said that a good plot is empty unless filled with the blood of character. Why, in your opinion, is strong characterization such a critical part of a good story?
I think it probably comes out of my instincts and interests as a reader. As a reader I like to delve deep down into people and see how they react in different situations. I have found that I am the same way as a writer. I am more interested in interior rather than exterior circumstances. I think it plugs the reader into the world a lot better than plot aspects do. Of course, this is not to say plot is not important. You run the risk of slighting one thing when you talk at length about another. Plot and character are both two big plates that you have to keep spinning through a book. It's not much of an act if only one plate is spinning.
Did you experience much rejection from agents and publishers before your first book, The Black Echo (Little Brown & Co., 1992) was published? Please describe your experience.
Technically, I didn't get a lot of rejection. While I sent out a blanket letter to more than a dozen agents, I ended up getting the first agent on my list. It just took him a while to respond and in the meantime I was rejected by a half dozen or so agents who were further down my list. My agent then sold my book to the third publisher he gave it to. This sounds like it was all very quick and easy. Only at the end. As I said before, it was at least 6 years from the point I decided to try to write a novel to the point that my agent called and said he had sold The Black Echo.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I like what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said about the best advice he could give a writer. He said something along the lines of; "Make sure that on every page everybody wants something, even if it is only a glass of water." I think what he was saying is that it's all about character and character is delineated by wants and needs and how they are filled or lived with unfulfilled.
Besides writing every day, what other advice would you like to give aspiring novelists?
I think you have to experience the world to write about it. That's not to say you must write what you know—I don't believe in rules like that. I am just talking about experiencing the world. Living in order to write about living. Your mind should be a blender. Everything you do, see and experience gets thrown in. Throw in what you learn and what you hear. Throw in what you read in good books and see in movie theaters. Throw in what you see on your travels. Throw in the good and bad things in the world. When the time is right you flick on the blender, mix everything together and hopefully pour out a smoothie that is all yours.
Read more about Michael Connelly and his work at http://www.MichaelConnelly.com
Friday, April 13, 2007
Article Marketing - Why Article Marketing is my #1 Choice of Traffic II
So in Part I I began to cover the difference in volume that I would be willing to trade to have article traffic over search engine traffic. Basically I would take 100 article generated visitors daily over 1000 search engine visits. Now I used search engine traffic as my example because a lot of people think that search engine traffic is really good – actually in my opinion, search engine traffic is 20 times – that's right – 20 times less effective than article traffic.
I know that might seem crazy to you because you have seen so many sales pitches for search engine traffic programs – but do the testing, yourself, and see what happens. Oh!, and by the way, I have tested probably 30 different sources of traffic and article marketing comes up #1 – go figure. So that is why I prefer article marketing traffic, that is why I would take 100 daily article marketing visitors over 1000 search engine visitors.
But that only tells you that I have done the research and those are my results. But what I haven't told you is why it is that way.
So why do I think that article marketing is so much more effective than just about any other source of traffic out there?
Think about this. Article marketing traffic is prescreened. What that means is that if someone reads one of my articles and clicks through to my site, they already like me. They want what I have. They are hoping to get more of what they read in my article, at my web site.
The only catch is with me, you cannot get it from my web site – you can only get it from my email list. But that is another topic all together.
Labels: Article Marketing
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Proofreading Your Writing
How many times have you been completely positive there were no mistakes in your writing? Handed it in and…oops – an unexpected mark, due to some foolish mistakes only!
Let me give you a clear explanation on why it usually happens. I have had such a problem about couple times. It is all about patience and diligence. Once you have written your paper, do not hurry to turn it in. Just get away from it at least for a night. Go through it again in the morning with a fresh look. I assure, you will find some shortages you have not noticed before!
Trick your mind. In order to get a different perspective on what you have written, try to alter size, color or space. So that it seems like you are a totally different document. Sometimes it helps a lot if you ask your friend to read your paper. That person will look at it with completely fresh eyes. He/she will not accept the topic the way you did, which is good, because your teacher might not either. So, go ahead, give your work out on criticizing. Anyway, it is better to accept critique before getting a final mark.
Make sure your paper meets the requirements. Check if it has an appropriate introduction and conclusion. If needed, does it contain arguments, supported with evidences? Have you divided the paragraphs appropriately? Meaning, does each separate paragraph contain different information? Make sure you made a necessary transition between the paragraphs. Does you tone correspond to the one required (formal, informal, persuasive, etc.)?
Proofreading is a last and important stage. It is worthy of taking some pain to proofread. You will definitely not want to be caught with careless spelling or any kind of mistakes after a hard and undertaking work.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
News Writing Tips – 4 Ways to Spin an Angle
News writing can appear to be a restrictive discipline in that you are limited to writing what other people do or say. However, within this scope there are plenty of ways in which you can tell your story.
When learning how to write like a journalist, a good reporter could take a simple piece of information and spin into different angles, depending o the kind of publication he or she is working for.
For instance, take the following made-up quote from a make believe world-famous architect who is commenting on a city's council building that is undergoing reconstruction.
"I think it needs a lot of work. It looks amateur in a few places but if your architects put their minds to it, they can make it into a world-class facility."
One publication could take a negative view of the comments by writing: "World famous architect John Smith criticized the city's council building, saying it looks like the work of amateurs".
Another news outlet may look on the bright side: "The city's new council building could become a world-class structure if planners put their minds to it, according to leading architect John Smith."
The ethics of how to angle a news story could be debated forever, but the fact is that there are may ways to skin a cat when it comes to news writing. And the function of this article is to provide budding journalists with ideas on how they could align stories to various situations.
Positive or negative – most editors would tell you to write positive stories. However, always look for a negative side as well, because it may be more important. A new shipping port would be great for the economy, but what about he environment?
No news is still news – Sometimes, you can push authorities into making a decision. If you want information on whether the new highway is on or not, and no one wants to help, you could write: "The government is still dragging its feet on the proposed new highway…"
Neither confirmed nor denied – these articles may be a tad tabloid in nature, but they are stories nonetheless. For example: "John Rapper refused to comment on accusations he stole songs from his former partner." How does this kind of article make John Rapper look? However, in these stories, it is only ethical to make sure there was an allegation in the first place.
Stick to your guns – sometimes, the helpless newsmaker has no choice about what he says on the press the next day. That is because whether he likes it or not, the journalist has already decided on an angle. Is Tiger Woods still upset about his Masters failure? Yes or no, it is still a story. "Tiger Woods has vowed to make up for his Masters failure." or "Tiger Woods will not be haunted by his Masters failure when he tees up again."
These are just four examples of how news writing can be expanded using only the tiniest of angles. Of course, these tricks are open to abuse, as you may find in many of the sensationalist publications. However, they are import news writing tools and, if used properly, can serve you well in your journalism career.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Should I Write 1 Article or Many?
I am sometimes asked about breaking articles up and submitting the separate steps needed in a "how-to" article.
I advise against making it 10 separate articles in general. And I'm not really a fan of the Part One and Part Two method as a matter of principle. However, there might be a case for choosing a different form for writing and submitting your article.
Should you submit the steps separately as an article for each step? Probably not.
Let's say you have an article with "10 Steps on How To Drive Bees Crazy and Create More Honey."
If your steps are short, that is, 3 to 5 words each, you really only have one choice and that is to submit it as one article.
That said, if your steps are a bit more involved you might consider breaking them up into separate pieces.
Most of the time you can decide which is the best approach for your article based on some simple guidelines.
A general rule of thumb:
1. If the tips are short and the article is under 700 words= 1 article
2. If the tips are a little longer or the total is more than 700 words = consider creating 2 articles (suggestion: submit one, link to the second half in your resource box. Title for number one: 10 steps to Starting Your Own Business: Getting Started - Steps 1 through 5)
3. If the tips are long, re-write them in an abbreviated version, then also write out the longer/more detailed versions. Post the single more abbreviated list to article directories. Then, refer readers to your site to get the detailed version(s) you have posted on your site. You could also ask them to signup for an email course that drip feeds them or provides them as a pdf. You could even offer the ten steps as a pdf or ebook/report without a signup and have the report branded with your site name, url, and include a link to an info product you have created or to several, or even to several products that you are selling as an affiliate.
So, you can see, there are different approaches you can take to writing and submitting "10-steps" kinds of articles.
Choose the one that works best for your business model, or better yet, use two or more variations to drive more traffic to your sites, get more newsletter signups, and eventually, sales.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Copyright infringement - What's New To Handle Stealing?
Copyright protection is a big, big news these days. It seems like as we browse the internet there is another piece touching it. Click on the tv and a popular actress or performer is supporting the importance of it. From Itunes and file sharing debates to film duplication, copyright is far and wide. In this story we will explore copyright and at a bare minimum, look at the reasons why creative people would copyright their work and list work types that can be copyrighted.
Copyright and what it is
Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a precise delivery of a concept or information. In its simplest form, it is just "the right to copy" an original creation. Most of the time, these rights are of restricted time. The symbol for copyright is , and in some countries may alternatively be printed as either (c) or (C).
What does it protect
Copyright may cover a variety of creative, scholarly, or artistic forms or "works". These include poems, theses, theatrical plays, and other literary works, movies, choreographic works (dances, ballets, etc.), musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, software, radio and television performances of live and other broadcasts, and, in some countries, industrial designs. Designs or industrial designs may have separated or overhanging laws applied to them in some jurisdictions. Copyright is one of the laws covered by the all encompassing term 'intellectual property'.
What is not protected by copyright
Copyright law covers only the individual form or manner in which ideas or information have been created, the "form of material expression". It is not designed or intended to cover the actual idea, concepts, facts, styles, or methods which may be suggested by the copyright work.
For example, the copyright for the Donald Duck cartoon prevents unapproved persons from distributing copies of the cartoon or making derivative works which mimic the Donald Duck cartoon.
But it does not prevent anyone from creating a cartoon duck. As long as it is different enough from Donald Duck. Other laws may require legal limits on production or use where copyright doesn't. That's when trademarks and patents can be applied.
Copyright has a variety of time periods in different jurisdictions, with different categories of works and the length it endures also depends on whether your work is published or unpublished. In most areas the default length of copyright for many works is lifespan of the author plus 50 years. The copyright always expires at the end of the year concerned, rather than on the exact date of the death of the author.
Public domain and copyright
So when is a book is in the public domain? In the states, all books and other items published before 1923 have expired copyrights and are in the public domain, and all works created by the United states government, regardless of date, enter the public domain upon their creation.
But if the intended use of the book includes publication (or distribution of a film based on the book) outside the U.s., the arrangement of copyright around the world must be studied.
If the author has been deceased more than 70 years, the work is in the public domain in most regions.
Can you transfer your copyright
Under the United states Copyright Act, if you want to transfer ownership of your copyright it must be transferred in writing. No official transfer paperwork is required. A common written note that specifies the work involved and the rights being given is admissible.
Non-exclusive grants (often called non-exclusive licenses) need not be in writing under U.s. law. A non-exclusive grant is when you allow someone to utilize your work by giving them your acceptance. For example, you allow a writer to include a paragraph of your novel in his work. Your permission can be oral or even implied based on the behavior of all the individuals involved.
Transfers of copyright ownership, including exclusive licenses should be formally filed in the U.S. Copyright Office. While recording is not vital to make the grant effective, it offers important benefits, just like you would get from submitting a real estate deed when you buy a house.
File your copyright
You can download the paperwork yourself from the US Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov. This is the cheapest option available, at the time of this writing the US Copyright Office frequently charges $30 per submission. You will need to settle on the right form for your work type, but the Copyright Office does a fairly good job of organizing their paperwork so users can find what they need. Browse through their online Help files for instructions on how to fill out the forms and what materials you will need to mail in. With a little exploration and work you can do it all yourself. If you need additional guidance there are a number of commercial websites that will assist.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
188 Stage Hero's Journey (Monomyth) - American Werewolf (1981) Basic Deconstruction
The 188 stage Hero's Journey (Monomyth) is the template upon which the vast majority of successful stories and Hollywood blockbusters are based upon. In fact, ALL of the hundreds of Hollywood movies we have deconstructed (see URL below) are based on this 188+ stage template.
Understanding this template is a priority for story or screenwriters. This is the template you must master if you are to succeed in the craft.
[The terminology is most often metaphoric and applies to all successful stories and screenplays, from The Godfather (1972) to Brokeback Mountain (2006) to Annie Hall (1977) to Lord of the Rings (2003) to Drugstore Cowboy (1989) to Thelma and Louise (1991) to Apocaplyse Now (1979)].
THERE IS ONLY ONE STORY
THE 188 STAGE HERO'S JOURNEY:
a) Attempts to tap into unconscious expectations the audience has regarding what a story is and how it should be told.
b) Gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.
c) Gives you a tangible process for building and releasing dissonance (establishing and achieving catharses, of which there are usually four).
d) Tells you what to write. For example, at a certain stage of the story, the focus should be on the Call to Adventure and the micro elements within.
ABRIDGED TIPS, EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES:
(simply go to http://www.screenplay-structure.com/ or http://www.story-structure.org/ for full details)
AMERICAN WEREWOLF (1981)
FADE IN: Yorkshire Moors.
Border of the First Threshold: getting out of the truck.
Warning of the First Threshold: keep off the Moors; stick to the roads.
Meeting the Hero and the Shape Shifter: David and Jack.
Backstory: Travelling; Northern England first, England later.
Developing Characters and Relationships: an interest Debbie Klein's body….walking along the road….say knock knock…
Entering the First Threshold: walking into town.
Threshold Guardian: the Slaughtered Lamb.
New Creatures of the Cave: the people in the pub.
Authority Figure / Unwelcome in the Cave: any coffee…No; any tea…No.
Trial: the five point star on the wall.
Foreshadow of the Journey: "London…Leicester Square…."
Pulled into the Middle Cave: debating the five point star and candles.
Developing Characters and Relationships: the characters in the pub.
Middle Cave: What's the star on the wall for?
Pushed to the Inner Cave: Go!
Rules: Stay on the road.
Pushed to the Inner Cave: Go!
Rules: Stay on the road.
Developing Characters and Relationships: it's in God's hands now.
Contravening the Rules: wandering off the road.
Inner Cave: the wolf cry; can you hear it?
Pulled Back: we must go to them.
Foreboding: what was that sound?
Pulling Back: deciding to go back to the Slaughtered Lamb.
Warning of the Trial: it's a sheep dog.
Trial: attacked by the werewolf – saved by the villagers.
World of the Physical Separation: London, in the hospital.
Meeting the Romantic Challenge: Nurse Alex Price.
Meeting the Mentor: Doctor Hirsch.