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Posts tagged ‘Blogging’

J is for … Journal

penThere’s something satisfying about writing things down. Not typing onto a computer; the act of physically, taking a pen and writing something down. I used to do this a lot when I was younger, before I had a computer, or a typewriter (yes, I’m old enough to remember those). I would sit and write in notebooks all the time. Writing stories, or just my thoughts.

 

Even those terribly emo poems I wrote as a teenager, about love and death, and how miserable life was.

It wasn’t just creative writing. It was a way of taking the emotions I was feeling deep inside and examining them in the light. Why did I feel that way? Was it me? Or was my reaction to something justified? Sometimes, simply writing it all down allowed me to get it off my chest and move on. It allowed me to talk through the things I didn’t feel I could discuss with anyone. Most of the time, though, it helped me to work through my issues and realise they weren’t as bad as I thought, or simply not worth the attention I was giving them.

Somewhere along the line, I discovered that I could write more with a computer because my fingers flew over the keys and I could write as fast as I could think, and that was that. I stopped writing journals. I would write emails or forum posts to the people who made me angry, and then delete them without sending. That became my catharsis. Sometimes, I’d actually hit send, or post. This is never a good idea, because you always end up being the jerk, regardless of how justifiable your anger felt at the time. Nine times out of ten, the other person isn’t trying to wind you up, or deliberately stamp all over your feelings. They’re simply oblivious, and you having a melt down in their inbox, or on a forum, is the first clue they get that there’s a problem.

It’s the same on social media. You say exactly what you think at the time and ‘boom’, it’s out there. Often before you’ve had the opportunity to examine why you feel that way. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. In fact, once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. Even when it’s embarrassing.

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Especially when it’s embarrassing.

 

 

Where was I? Oh, yes. Journals. I’ve started writing by hand again.  I explained my reasoning in this Medium post but in a nutshell, I discovered that writing by hand helped me follow a conversation better while taking notes for work meetings. I then discovered that writing by hand helped my creativity while writing fiction.  I’ve started writing new scenes by hand in a notebook and then transferring them to the computer to edit them there. It’s working well so far, as I plough through a major rewrite of my novel. Where I’d been struggling to keep the momentum going before, I’m writing at a good pace at the moment.

I can write anywhere with a notebook. Sometimes it’s just to jot down a thought before it’s forgotten. Others it’s to write a whole or partial scene. A character sketch. An overheard snippet of a conversation that might work well in a story (or spark a story). Anonymised, of course. Or a reminder of an idea that could turn into something bigger when I get the chance to mull it over.

I keep a notebook with me all the time now, along with a pack of those little note tags, so I can mark the spot where I wrote about a new idea, alongside a spot where I wrote a new scene for the novel.

I have a special notebook at home for writing down those things that bother me. It’s a purpose-made one that a friend bought me and it’s especially for those ‘why are people like that?’ moments. Some days I use it more than others.

I also have a notebook that I keep in my desk at work for work-related things: to-do list, upcoming things to think about, reminders to check for responses to my questions, notes from meetings.

Writing by hand is also having another beneficial effect; it’s improving my handwriting. I’ve been using fountain pens to write with instead of ball-points, and it slows me down and makes me write more carefully. After a couple of decades of typing virtually everything, my handwriting was awful. It’s still not the best but it’s improving all the time.

Being off the computer more, is also helping my peace of mind. Less social media, less procrastinating, fewer opportunities to get drawn into a futile argument with someone I don’t know over something I have no control over. I know things are awful, politically, but arguing with people on the Internet isn’t going to make any difference. I’m not going to change anyone’s political outlook with a pointed tweet, no matter how pithy I think it is. That doesn’t mean I don’t think I can do anything, just that I should focus my energies where I can achieve something.

So yes, I heartily recommend buying notebooks and journals. Take your writing with you wherever you go. Write wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. And get those negative thoughts out where they can’t fester. Examine them honestly and work through them.

Thanks for reading. Now I’m going to go write in the sunshine.

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I is for … Improper use (in this case, me, myself, and I)

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I know the title sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but bear with me.

Something’s been bothering me for a while now – ever since I came back from living in the United States. My dear fellow Brits, there’s no easy way to tell you this, so I’m just going to put it out there.

Most of us are using ‘yourself’ and ‘myself’ incorrectly.

There, I said it. Please don’t hate me.

It’s particularly prevalent in contact centres and I’m not sure why they do that, but it drives me up the wall.

I will call my bank and the lovely, friendly person on the other end of the line will say something like:

“Hello Cheryl, what can I do for yourself today?”

And, being polite, because I know how rough it is to be on the receiving end of a rude customer, I will say:

“Hello, lovely friendly person on the other end of the line, I’d like to talk about my account please.”

On the inside, I’m screaming.

I wonder if somewhere along the line they’ve been told that saying ‘you’ and ‘me’ is bad? Or, perhaps someone heard someone else say it and thought it sounded cool and it spread through the contact centres like a plague of norovirus. Or a plague of people using ‘impact’ as a verb (don’t even).

Whatever the reason, I’d like to do a quick tutorial on when to use me, myself, and I.

The easiest way to remember for ‘me’ and ‘I’ is to use I for the subject of a sentence and me for the object.

The subject is the one who performs the action; the object is the one who has the action performed on them. So, for instance:

I walked the dog.

I am the subject because I performed the action to the dog, the object.

She threw the ball to me.

She performed the action, so she is the subject and the action is being done to me, the object.

Myself comes into all this when I (the subject) refer back to myself.

I gave myself a treat for passing the test.

I bought myself a chocolate cake.

When it comes to you and yourself, it’s much the same, except ‘you’ works for both the subject of the sentence and the object.

You ditched me.

In the above sentence, ‘you’ becomes the subject because ‘you’ did something to me, the object.

I gave you a call, after the party.

In the above sentence, ‘you’ becomes the object, because I, the subject, did something to ‘you’.

However, when the sentence tells you to do something on your own behalf, we use ‘yourself’.

Give yourself a break.

Have a word with yourself.

Ask yourself where you want to be in five years.

We do say:

I’d like to introduce myself.

We don’t say:

You can give the information to myself. (we say, you can give the information to me).

We do say:

Make yourself comfortable.

We don’t say:

We’ll get the information over to yourself this afternoon. (we say, we’ll get the informaton over to you this afternoon.)

I hope that helps you tell the difference between me, myself, I. And you and yourself, of course.

Why don’t you give yourself a pat on the back for reading this far!

 

 

 

G is for Groups – writing groups

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Writing can be a lonely business. Especially early on, when it feels as though it’s impossible to know whether your writing is any good, or what you need to improve. You can share your writing, of course, and your family will give you all the encouragement and support you need to keep going. To learn writing as a craft, though, you need input from people who know the craft. This is where workshops and writing groups come in.

Sharing your writing with people other than your mum is always a daunting experience. Receiving a rejection from an unseen editor is bad enough, but having someone go through and point out all the weak spots and areas for improvement can feel like those dreams where you forget to get dressed and realise you’ve gone to work naked.

Oh, you don’t have those? Okay, moving on.

I’ve joined a few writing groups over the years and found them extremely helpful. Here are some non-profit ones I’ve taken part in (links in the titles where available).

Critters

I joined Critters way back in the late 90s, when I first started online. I thought it might help me with the writing portion of my university coursework, and it did. Through Critters, I got to know a lady who would become a great friend, and whom I’m still yet to meet in person. Hopefully, one day. I interviewed her – Elizabeth Kelley Buzbee – here on my blog, a couple of years ago about one of her novels.

Joining Critters taught me how to give and receive critiques of my writing. It also let me take that first step in sharing my writing with people for the specific purpose of receiving feedback. I’d recommend it to any writers in the SF, Fantasy or Horror genres. You are required to put in a bit of work to earn the critiques (at least one critique a week), but the reciprocity works out. Andrew Burt, the guy who runs the site, is a genuinely nice man. Not only that, but the site is completely free and relies solely on donations from good-hearted Critters.

Dargonzine

I joined Dargonzine around the same time as Critters. It’s less a writing group and more of a shared world writing experience. It does have the same feel as a writing group, though, and all the stories are workshopped before they’re published. Again, it gave me more experience of workshopping my writing and what I learned there I could apply to my non-Dargon writing.

Beaverton Evening Writers

I joined this group when I moved to Portland, Oregon, and I was excited because they were my first face-to-face group. I was also extremely nervous!  I needn’t have been, though, because they were lovely.  They meet every two weeks, send writing ahead of time and give the critiques in person. This allows for a kinder, more gentle delivery of critical feedback, which I think is essential.

After I moved away from Portland, I kept in touch with the writers and we put a short story collection together for charity: Five Elements Anthology.  I follow the blogs of two of the writers. Sheron Wood McCartha writes excellent Sci-Fi book reviews, and D. Wallace-Peach blogs about writing, her novels and all manner of interesting subjects. Check them out.

Youwriteon

This is another online group, supported by the Arts Council of Great Britain. While the site looks a bit old-fashioned (it’s been around quite a few years and could probably do with some TLC), the feedback is pretty good, and if you get enough reviews there’s a chance to get feedback from people in the publishing industry. You don’t have to work as hard as some sites to get your work reviewed (critiques appear to be one for one, and they give you the first one free). They also offer a free self-publishing service on a partner site, Feed-a-read.

Northwrite SF

When I came back to the UK I missed being part of a face-to-face group and looked around for something similar to the way the Beaverton group worked. I found it in Northwrite SF, run by Jacey Bedford (you should check out her novels, she writes wonderfully engaging SF and fantasy and is published by DAW).  I’ve learned a lot from this group. They’re all lovely people who read and critique with a keen eye, and give honest, constructive feedback. They meet quarterly in Yorkshire.

I also have a great critique partner, whom I also met while in Oregon but not through the Beaverton group. We swap about 3,000 words a week on our works in progress and look at the big picture stuff rather than pick over line edits. We keep each other going when the energy to write is low and one of these days I know I’m going to be introducing her debut novel, so watch this space!

As part of my coursework for my upcoming MFA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, I’ll be workshopping with my fellow students, which I’m excited about. I’m sure the experience I’ve gained through all these fab groups will help me support others through their learning progress and teach me more about my own writing at the same time.

What about you? Do you workshop your writing with others?

B is for Blogging …

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I almost came unstuck this week. Whose bright idea was it to begin a ‘writing A to Z’ when there aren’t many interesting topics beginning with B?

Oh, yes. Mine.

Right then. Rather than give up or miss a letter, I’m going to take a more holistic approach and look at the end product. In this case, the blog. Whether you’re in business, a creator, or simply want to write about a favourite hobby, blogging is a great way to make contact with like-minded people.

But where do you begin?

There are several questions you’ll need to answer before you start writing:

  • Why – What’s the purpose of your blog? What are you hoping to achieve?
  • Where – What blogging site/platform are you going to use?
  • Who – Your audience.
  • What – Subject matter. (not quite the same as the purpose).

Why?

A simple question but one that you need to answer before you start. Why are you blogging? Are you so enthusiastic about your favourite hobby that you want to share it with the world? Or are you a business guru with a lifetime of knowledge to share with colleagues in your field? Or maybe you make something amazing and need a platform to tell the world how great it is so that you can sell more?  Whatever the reason, you’re going to need a place to call ‘home.’

Where?

There are several good blogging sites out there, with prices that range from ‘free’ to ‘premium’.

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With a variety of ready-made themes to choose from and customise, WordPress is the most popular blogging site on the Internet. An impressive 60% of the world’s blogs are hosted on WordPress and you can even, for a price of course, link a WordPress site to your own domain. WordPress does have a high learning curve but is rewarding in the amount of customisation possible. If you want the most professional-looking blog and you’re willing to put in the time to get it just right, WordPress is your platform.

medium

Medium is a great site if you simply want to concentrate on sharing your writing with others without the bother of customisation. You can choose to monetise your page for members only, where you are paid for your contribution based on the amount of engagement your stories generate and ‘claps’ you receive.

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Blogger has been around since 1999 and is now owned by Google. The customisation tools are far more basic than WordPress but they’re easy enough for a beginner to use and with a Google ID you can log in and be blogging in a relatively short time. A good place for hobbyists and people who want to reach out to others with similar interests.

wix-logo          weebly-logo-300x121

Wix and Weebly are quite similar and both have easy customisation that allows anyone to make a professional-looking blog in a short time. Both are great platforms for beginners because the tools are so easy to use. Wix has an AI that will help you to build your site based on the questions you answer and Weebly allows you to drag and drop elements right on to your page and build as you go.

Who?

Okay, so you know why you want to blog and you’ve settled on a site and made it your own. Before you sit down and start writing, you need to decide whose attention you want to capture. There’s no use in putting all those lovely words and images out into the void without having somewhere to aim them.

You need an audience.

What’s the point in putting all your time and energy into telling people how to make the world’s best cottage pie, complete with pictures and a ‘how to’ video, if you’re going to then go and target a vegan community? Unless you’re aiming to have the most short-lived food blog in the history of the Internet, you need to find the right audience.

As a writer, I share links to my blog in online writers’ communities, Twitter and  Linkedin.

Use a little ‘Google-Fu’ before you start work, and look for online communities you can join to find people who share your interests. And once you get their attention, make sure you hold it by adding a ‘subscribe’ button to your home page. Of course, to keep their attention you’re going to have to decide what you’re going to write about.

What?

Choose a topic that you love to talk about. Passion for your subject matter will come through in your writing, so blog about what you love. Make sure you know your subject well. There’s nothing worse than looking for advice on something, only to find a blog that gives vague or incorrect information.

And that’s it. You’re ready to go off and create. If you write it, they will come. If you write it well, they will stay.

Leave me a comment with your blog address and I’ll come and say hello.