Aren’t Bloggers and Writers the Same Thing

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Feature image from SRTRENDS

The Writing Festival Season is about to start and I’m absolutely thrilled to be participating in the EMERGING WRITERS FESTIVAL for 2015.

This year I’ll be joining SAM VAN ZWEEDEN and  MICHELLE McLAREN to talk all things blogging.  I’m nervous, excited and starting to wonder if I am completely out of my depth.  As the days tick by and the panel discussion looms ahead, I realise I have no idea what the hell blogging even is?

Firstly, I want to make one thing clear.  I hate the words Blog, Blogs, Blogging, Blogger and Blogged.  They sound like they’ve come straight from the toilet.  I try at all costs to never say these words out loud.

When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them ‘I write…online…for a few websites…that I own.’ Continue reading

Ira Glass, on Creativity

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Is the work you’re making as good as your ambitions?

A few days ago I was talking to my sister about the trials of creativity.  We were discussing the difference between what we wanted to do, and what we were capable of making.  It is so frustrating – in the beginning of a creative career – when you are not quite as good as you want to be.

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The 5 x 5 Rules of Writing

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For those of you who could not get to the National Writers Conference this weekend, or were not there at 10am, here are five of the five by five rules.

The 5 x 5 Rules of Writing –

‘Our five Festival Ambassadors share the writing advice they wish they had known when they were starting out – in the form of five rules for writing – an inspiring guide for the next time you sit down to write. It’s 5 x 5  with Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hannah Kent, Krissy Kneen, Benjamin Law and Felix Nobis. Hosted by Sam Twyford-Moore.’ Emerging Writers Festival 2014.

My Top Five

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Throw your hat in the ring.‘ Maxine spoke of what can happen when you throw yourself into an award application, grant application or writing project.  ‘You never know what might happen?‘  She encouraged us all to take chances as she spoke of applying for the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript on the very day that entries closed.  ‘See what happens and take chances.‘  She won!

Felix Nobis

Be your own manager – you have a responsibility to be a good manager to yourself.’  Felix reminded us all that no one is going to just give you the information you need.  He pressed the importance of our responsibility to know about the grants, funding and awards that are available to us. ‘Find out who has got the money and how you can get it.’  He spoke of the importance of being informed on a national, state and local level.  In being your own good manager, make sure that the writing part of you ‘Responds directly to the application criteria.  So many applications don’t even meet the application criteria.’

Krissy Kneen

‘Every novel will hit a rough patch… At 20 000 words your novel will start to smell like it’s crawled up your own arse and then come back out again…You’ll want to vomit when you think of it.‘  Krissy humorously spoke of the doubt writers have and how you might start to search for a better / different idea.  ‘I can tell you, those ideas will hit a rough patch also.’  She reminded us that every writer will find themselves struggling with a manuscript at some point, but to push through this.  Krissy spoke of a book being written in the rewriting; saying that is was much easier to work with a (really really really) terrible first draft, than an empty page.

Benjamin Law

‘Get an accountant.’ Benjamin’s very practical advice for Emerging Writers touched on a subject that is not often discussed during writing festivals – Tax.  Benjamin raised our awareness of a Specialist Art Accountant, reminding us to ‘…understand your rights.’  Also discussed during this rule was superannuation and the importance of setting aside a portion of your income for tax and superannuation accounts.  Investigate what you can claim on tax and then actually do it!

Hannah Kent

Don’t wait until you feel ready.’   Start now!  During her five writing ‘rules’ Hannah shared with us some advice on how best to relate to your own doubts.  Hannah told us all to begin as soon as possible, don’t wait for the confidence to start, as it may never happen.   ‘…doubts about writing aren’t going to go away.’   It was wonderful to hear such an informed and honest account about becoming accustomed to feeling the difficulty of writing and about coming to expect it.  ‘Be brave and do it anyway.’

Such a great part of the National Writers Conference.  It is already the afternoon on Saturday and I can still hear people talking about what the 5 x 5 from the Festival Ambassadors.  If you did make it to the National Writers Conference this morning, which were your favourites?

 

 

Criticism; And what to do with it

Receiving criticism, emerging writers diary, writingCriticism.  I always knew it was coming.  Every writer, every writing book and everyone tried to prepare me for it.  I have been writing full time for about a year now.  I have been posting content on this, and another site regularly for a long time.  Mostly I have received quite positive feedback, but nothing could prepare me for the wave of nausea and doubt that puled the floor from under me, when I posted an particular article a little while ago.

Over the last year I have learnt a great deal and have loved watching my skills progress – slowly but surely.  I am proud of how far I have come and I am excited for the future… But when I received messages like this one – I had to wonder ‘What the hell was I doing?’ 

Nothing can prepare you for the first time you put your work out there and you receive a barrage of negative, or should I say ‘constructive criticism’.  Logically you know how to handle it, but emotionally and physically, you can’t help reacting.

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From Reddit

You might be thinking this comment is is not that bad.  Well, there was a lot more than this. This comment was the best of it.

What is the worst part in all of this, is that they are right!  I am wondering if I am just not good enough to be a writer.

So what do you do with Criticism?
  1. Receiving Critcism, emerging writers, the emerging writers diaryFirstly you need to make two columns on a blank piece of paper, for sorting out your criticism into two categories
  2. Title those two categories as follows – Bullshit Hater Nonsense – & – Helpful Tips Just Worded Badly

After the initial shock, or receiving criticism, start to sort through it.  Which catagory does it fall into?  It is just Bullshit Hater Nonsense?  Or is there a Helpful Tip in there that has just been worded very badly?  Either it is wrong – and you can fuck them off – or it is right and you have the chance to learn, change and improve.

Because of the messages I received about my grammar, I went straight to the shops and brought the little Green Grammar Book and started to read it.  Wow, I still have so much to learn about writing, but that’s ok.

Why Criticism is Great!

Having your writing criticised is the best thing that can happen to you.  It means you’re a writer.  Every writing student will go through this at one point or another.  It is a right of passage through to the other side – Professional writing.  

  1. You are brave enough to put your writing out there.
  2. You are working as a writer.
  3. People are engaged enough in reading your work to respond to it.
  4. You are engaged enough with your audience to hear any criticisms.
  5. You have the chance to learn something fantastic from it.
  6. You have the chance to reaffirm your writing style and your voice.
  7. You are more advanced than every other person claiming to be a writer that has never shared a single word.
  8. You might not know everything on earth – Who Cares!!

I have since gone back and read over all of the other criticisms I received.  I read them over and over again until they did not have any power anymore.  Some where helpful and I have learned from them.  Others I have already forgotten.

If you have got any great words of encouragement to emerging writers we would love to here from you.

 

 

IMG_0493Meghan Brewster is a Blogger, Freelance writer and general spinner of Fiction. She is the founder and editor of The Emerging Writers Diary, as well as Itp & Me, a website dedicated to managing the rare platelet disorder, ITP. To learn more about Meghan Brewster follow this link. By making purchases through links on this website you are helping to support a young emerging writer. Thank you.

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The Hero’s Journey (Realising your Screwed)

19th August 2013 – Don’t you just hate it when you think you are writing really well and then you meet someone who smashes all your dreams apart.  Perhaps this has never happened to you before.  You are lucky then.  I am not!

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The Hero’s journey Diagram

This happened to me over the weekend.  I went to a meeting with the Writers of the Far South Coast.  I listened to the speaker talk of a heros journey and I started to sink in my seat, my shoulders folded in on themselves and I tried to hide.

I have heard all of this before, dont get me wrong.  I have listened to this talk probably 4 times before.  But something about yesterday struck  me.  I searched back through my novels 87 000 words, as I sat there.  I know it is all written quite well.  I know things happen during the novel.  I know there are events and they happen in a sequence.  I know there is conflict and tension and surpirse and love and all of that stuff.  What I don’t think – is that the story truly holds itself together.

In short – I am screwed.  As a piece all on its own, it would not hold together.  If I let it go sailing down a river, it would disolve.  If I pushed it out of the nest it would crumble.  If I stood it up on the bench, it would topple over.

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Contemplating smashing computer apart…

I was thinking about making a cake.  About all the things that makes a cake taste good, butter, sugar, cream, walnuts, chocolate and coffee.  Yum.  But with no egg the cake is nothing – it won’t hold together, it won’t bind and it won’t rise slowly in the oven.  I have just made a big pile of nice tasting ingredients, sort of mixed together.

Do I start from scratch?

Is this where I am?

Do I stop everything and pull it apart and try to build it back together?

I learnt the rules so that I could break them, but instead I just forgot they existed all together.  What an idiot.

You’re probably thinking…. Ummm Duuurrrhh!  What are you ten, that is so obvious.

I guess I just – well I thought the world I created would be interesting enough, the characters so intriguing and cute, the writing would be so great that it would just – Work.

I think I have to start again.  From Scratch.

Please, if you have ever gotten almost finished and then realised that you have not even started, please let me know.  I need to know I am not the only crazy idiot out there.  How many times have you re written your novel from scratch??  Call me.

 

Getting to Know my Strengths and Weaknesses

REALISING WHERE I AM NOW – TO HELP PLAN THE FUTURE 

It is coming up to the end of my first year as a writer.  I am starting to make new plans for the next year.  I am collecting all the memories of this past year together and seeing for the first time just how far I have come.  Stopping and reflecting like this, is such a great opportunity to stand back and see your work for the great achievement that it is.  I am now starting to make plans for my next year ahead; more reasonable, more realistic plans.  I am looking at where I am now to help plan where I want to be heading.  I am looking at where I am failing behind, to better see the areas of my practice that need attention.  I am realising the skills I have learnt, so that I may give myself a moment of recognition and congratulations before plunging in, head first, to a second uncharted year of writing.  Here is what happened and why I really should not have posted it.

STRENGTHS AS A WRITER

1 – Optimistic & Hopeful

I am very good a remaining optimistic that things will eventually go my way.  Perhaps this because, if I stick with something for long enough, it does.   I am young enough to not yet be able to quantify how far ahead of a future I have.  Perhaps on my thirtieth birthday all of this optimism and hope with fall away and leave me as bone.  But for now, this might be my most promising strength.

2 – Willing to Learn & Change

My willingness to learn is really important.  There is so much I have no idea about.  The more I study and read about writing and it’s history, the smaller and more naive I feel.  The best way for me to learn to try and read as much as I write.  There are free courses online that I have looked at, blogs about writing – following your favourite authors online is a good one.  I follow all my favourite authors, because they have so much to offer me.

Willing to change how I have been working and try different practices.  Willing to read outside my genre, willing to try writing early in the morning, and then compare it to late at night.  I was willing to move to a cheaper town, willing to work and save money to write, willing to give up the things I wanted for the things I needed.  Willing to become what I needed to become in order to make this work.  And I still am.

3 – Creativity and Alternate thinking

I don’t know where this comes from.  I wish I did.  If I knew where to source creativity I think I would be a very rich person.  I just know that somewhere inside me there is a notion of difference, of turning things inside out and around.  Perhaps I have an infection in my middle ear that means I have never quite learnt the meaning of flatness, or balance.

The most common question people ask me, after

‘Is it Meeg-Anne or Meg-Hunn?’ is this

How did you think to do it like that?’  The answer every time is…

‘I don’t know, I just did.’

It just never occurs to me that there is a ‘way’ to do anything, and if so, where I would have found out about it.  I sometimes wonder how everyone else learnt to do things the same way.  Like, was there a class at school I was not admitted to that taught everyone not to make a pizza base out of risotto or froze yoghurt muffins?  I want to know when everyone else learnt that Grated potato was not a good chicken stuffing??

My partner and I have recieved at lot of feedback from a dish we invented a long time ago, when we first moved in together.  He is Chinese and I am non de script white.  Our ideas of flavour in the kitchen usually vary, coming to the ultimate head, when we decided to make wonton soup, sort of mixed with a borscht recipe.  Needless to say the beetroot dyed the stock and the floating fleshy wontons made it easy to name the new dish – Pearl Harbour.  It just happened!

4 – Willing to Ask for Help

There is so much support out there if you are willing to look for it.  But it is hard, and takes practice.

5 – Aware of My Weaknesses

I am very honest about my skills.  I understand that there are things I am good at and things that I’m not.  Take this article for example.  I know I am really good at poaching eggs – and packing a suitcase.  I am good at braiding other peoples’ hair and identifying different smells.

I cannot make muffins or laksa or a really good fried rice.  I cannot tune a guitar or add numbers together, in fact I would go so far as to say I cannot count at all.  I cannot visualize value numerically and I cannot attribute them with a value or weight.  I am not very empathetic and do not find other peoples work politics interesting to hear about.  My weakness for looking bored when someone is talking about their ‘health’  is certainly something I need to work on.  But my understanding of the following Five weaknesses pertaining to my writing, is something of a strength of mine.

WEAKNESSES AS A WRITER

1 – Spelling & Grammar 

Everything I write looks American.  I rely completely on the spell check of Word press and My Office software.  If it wants to replace an S with a Z, I let it.  I know that I am bad at spelling, but I also know why.  Because I genuinely believe that spelling doesn’t matter.  This is why I have never bothered to get very good at it.  I just don’t care.  And I know a lot of writing purists will scream at reading this, but I think there is so much to focus on when writing, and more importantly when writing well, that I put spelling right at the bottom.  Get a life! I say to those people who think spelling is a lost sacred art.  That being said, spelling is a weakness of mine …  I should try to improve.  A little.

2 – Story & Plotting

Story and Plotting are huge challenges to writers.  I have read Robert McKee’s Story, and I nodded along when he said that story talent is rarer than literary talent.  I was also delighted when he informed me that both of these skills could be improved with practice and dedication to learn.  I am very interested in working on my Story and Plotting.  I don’t want to be  too bored to eve read over my own first draft.  Unlike my deficiency in the spelling category, I am incredibly interested in getting better at story and plotting.  Anyone know any other great books?

3 – Organisation & Time Management

Over the last year, I have developed highly elaborate and embarrassing schemes to help me be more organised.  The problem is I am too embarrassed to ever let anyone see them and offer help or advice.  Mostly they involve unsealed envelopes, hand written lists, a secret code of boxes and stars and ruled lines in purple pen.  I still struggle to remain in control of my daily and monthly tasks, to manage my savings, my exercise routines, my work, my drafts and small projects, my social obligations and my forward planner.  But I want to get better at this too, so I will find a way to learn.

4 – Routine & Regular Practice

Habits are made and broken by the way we spend our time.  They do not arrive by accident into our lives without our consent.  It is us, and us alone who choose to create habits, either negative or positive by choosing to do something over something else…again and again and again until it is automatic.  I have decided that this is going to be the best way to over come all my other weaknesses – if I can get better at building strong, positive habits.  Oh yes.  I am going to give it a go.  this weakness might just be the one I hope to change first.

5 – Finishing Projects

I am very good at getting distracted by the next exciting thing.  I am not very good at getting things finish.  I am happy for things to take a thousand years to get done.  I have no sense of urgency about my work, it just plods along.  I find it very easy to excuse away a failed deadline or an incomplete project.  This is a habit of mind.  A negative habit.  (See above

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 If you are having a particularly bad day, why not try and do the following exericise, but only write down your five strengths.  It might just open your eye to how well you are going, as you work to become a full time, emerged writer.

What will you do to avoid Editing?

6th July 2013 – You know you are in trouble when you are cutting the split ends out of your hair.

I am doing anything I possibly can right now to avoid reading through my most horrible first draft ever.  Not even Anne Lamott can help me.

The Emerging Writer, ProcrastinatingThe Emerging Writer, ProcrastinatingIn her book on writing, Bird by Bird, Lamott writes about a horrible fear that she will die before she gets to correct and read over her ‘shitty’ first drafts.  I have that fear right now, but far from encouraging me to rush in and correct the mistakes, I have been paralyzed by the god awful mess of it all.  The task is surely too huge to ever be finished.  I am doomed.

I am doing my nails and I have cleaned the house.  I am not busily re-reading my ‘shitty’ first draft. I am paniced and I am sitting on Facebook, I am reading posts by Sarah Wilson, I have started gardening.  I am emailing my family and I am planning dinner for tomorrow night.

I am meticulously sorting through my dry brown hair, cutting my split ends out.  ‘I’ll just get this finished’, I tell myself, ‘Then, I’ll get stuck straight into my draft.’ – Oh, that horrible 50 000 word piece of crap of a draft.  I am 100% sure that every single sentence and word needs to be written again.  Oh god – it is all in passive voice! – It is all told not shown!  I am so freaking out.  I am panicked.

Coming Across Giant Holes in your Story

27 June 2013 – I have been ruthless with my work at the moment.  I am doing a lot of research and really being ruthless about the layout and outline of the plot and location.  I want to be clear about the details and consistent with the trajectory.  I dont want the word count to get any bigger until the plan is air tight.

Huge holes are opening up in front of me, as I pull it apart and build it again

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From Another Angle

This frame I am building is going to have to support more than 100 percent of its current weight.  I have to make sure it is strong so I can write it faster – and have it ready in time to give it to The Reader.

I was not too sure if having a due date to give to The Reader was going to have a negative effect on my work but it has turned out to be a blessing.  I think I was being far too precious for too long.

As I work faster and with a slight distance to the work, it is easier to see the flaws.  Huge holes are opening up in front of me, as I pull it apart and build it again.

I am also starting to really understand that this book will be one of many.  I have stopped holding it so close to me – I am feeling a professional distance brought on my the coming of my dute date – more of a get it DONE notion.  Not that I am not deeply attached and affected by the story.  I just feel like it is more of a teenager than a toddler now.  It has come away from my metaphorical breast.

Heading to Sydney this weekend for a whale watching trip.  Should be fantastic to get so close to them.  Just worried I wont get too much work done on the trip up and back.

A Good Day for Getting Nothing Done

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Brunch

11 June 2013 – I am so distracted today.   I don’t know why.   I cant concerntrate on anything.  All I want to do is eat hot chips and fall asleep.  I convinced my partner the best thing for us to do is to head out for breakfast.

Back from breakfast and I’m googling slow cooker recipies for dinner.  Today is the perfect day for blog writing.  When I can’t focus on anything huge, I can just write one post.  Just one and I know I have written something today.  Even if it is just this.

Getting Away from the Computer Screen

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24/7 Printing

18 May 2013 – Feeling so frustrated at the moment.  We still dont have any where to live at the moment, staying with friends.    I have not actually written seriously for days.  – Everything is so unsettled and it is hard to sit down between things to get anything happening.  I forget where I am even up to.

I have a bit of time spare tonight so I might head to office works and print off what I have got to read over in the park.  You gotta love Office Works, open all night.  That will be nice, to hold it in my hands for a while.  Actually feel productive.  ( ps, it’s also nice to write were people might see you doing it, gives me a little thrill. )