An old cloak
You find an old cloak in your grandma’s wardrobe (or closet) that appears to be made out of shadows.
It is moving in a gentle unseen breeze.
It’s not just readers who benefit from a good story.
We writers can too apparently.
There is a fascinating article on the New York Times Blog about research carried out on people through expressive writing (or life-story writing).
It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.
There are various ways of having your work critiqued. Most of the really useful ones you will have to pay for.
The important thing to remember is that a critique will be constructive and given positively. Writers want other writers to do well and negative criticism is a great way of putting people off. If you take the advice negatively you probably need to examine your reasons for writing in the first place.
Taking constructive criticism is not easy, but if you take note of the suggestions made you will see clear improvements to your writing.
I read about an iPhone/iPad/Macbook app a while back called Day One. It had rave reviews, a nice look to it, and the philosophy behind it keyed into my desire to keep a regular journal while on the move. It even has daily prompts (if you switch them on) to get you in the mood and to remind you to get writing.
So I downloaded it. It really is everything I hoped it would be.
Here’s something to play with to get your creative juices flowing. Hopefully, it will also help to unblock writer’s block if you feel you are suffering from it.
The Periodic Table of story elements is split into Structure, Settings, Plot, Heroes, Character Modifiers (Protagonist/Antagonist), Archetypes, Villains, and more.
Clicking on each ‘element’ in the table will jump you to a page that explains that element in more depth.
There are ways of combining the elements into the basic formula for a story by using the ‘Story Molecules‘ below the table.
TVTropes (the website this Periodic Table is from) is a catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction.
I’ve just finished reading ‘The Uncommon Reader’ by Alan Bennett. It is a charming and amusing story, which begins when the Queen discovers the mobile library in the grounds of Buckingham Palace one day. She goes on to discover the joys of reading, a luxury she has had little time for up until then.
The story is Alan Bennett all over; I could hear his voice while I was reading. I also realised after I was about halfway through the book that it was a discourse on writing as well as reading.
The advice to read, read, and read some more, and to read diversely, is given over and over again by writers and authors. This is just what the Queen does in this story. Once she starts reading she finds it difficult to stop, even taking books with her in the royal car, waving and reading at the same time. Reading is important for absorbing language, grammar, and techniques of writing. Reading fills us with knowledge and inspiration.
Writing can be a lonely business. There you are in your own head trying to entice people into the world you are creating for them – and keep them there – and you’re doing it on your own. This is, of course, a necessity as only you have the story. If the story is so strong it just doesn’t want to stay in your head, then all well and good, it will pour out of you and you won’t be able to stop writing.
But what if you don’t have a strong story or plot line? How do you keep yourself in your own head to be able to release the story that is simmering there?
Do you ever feel like you need a kick up the proverbial? Do you find yourself procrastinating? Can’t ‘find’ the time to write?
Writers can be guilty of all these things.
Writers do all the things in this image (well – sometimes) and more. We spend our waking day dreaming of people and places and events that are real to us.
We have conversations in our heads with people who only exist in our imaginations until we write them into existence. And we have very real feelings when we do something awful (or good) to one of our characters.
We fuss and worry over grammar and punctuation – and other people’s grammar and punctuation, especially when we can’t think of anything else to write ourselves.
And we surf the internet, make coffee, walk the dog, or read a good book when we’re supposed to be plotting and planning – and writing.
If you’re writing you need to pick up your pen or your keyboard and get on with it.