Never, Ever Give Up!

Hey everyone!  This will just be a short post with a very inspiring story/video for you guys.  A little update with me:  After a vigorous job search (and interviews) I’ve finally landed a full time job!  No more part-times for this little lady.  I’m giving myself a solid two weeks or so to get into the routine and find a balance for working, errands, and writing/blogging.  My posts will probably be a bit more sporadic for a while.

As for this video, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard a story so inspiring.  The message?  Never, ever give up!  No matter what you’re doing, be it writing, job searching, or getting into shape, just keep moving forward.  🙂

(Also, I may or may not be a Yogi who found this exceptionally heartwarming and inspirational.)

All the best to you guys!

StoryCorps: You’ll Laugh, Cry, and Want More

So last week I posted about how I enjoy stories of all kinds.  This week I’d like to share with you this wonderful organization called StoryCorps.  If you haven’t heard about it yet, well, prepare to be enthralled.  Here is what their official site has to say:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants.

Along with recording all of these stories, they also put several animated versions of interviews on YouTube.

I cannot put into words how much these personal stories have touched me.   Whether they make you laugh, like the interview about a Sunday School teacher, or make you cry, like the story of a loved one lost on 9/11, these stories are worth listening to.  They’re captivating, heartbreaking, touching, uplifting, and inspirational.   Stories at their finest.

I whole-heartedly recommend that you guys check out their website and YouTube channel.  But beware:  I hardly ever cry, but half of the four minute animations make me start bawling by the end of them.

Exhibit A: The story of Danny and Annie.  This is my favorite of their animated stories, and it’s so touching, I cry every time I watch it(which is a lot).  So grab the tissues!

Writing for Yourself vs. Writing For Others

This week on Sunday Versus I’d like to discuss how I view writing for yourself, as opposed to writing for your readers/audience.  Specifically I’d like to focus on creative writing instead of blogging, writing articles, or non-fiction writing.

To start off, I’m going to direct you to a great article called Why You Should Write First for Yourself.  If you’re in a rush it basically breaks down 3 reasons to write for yourself.

1. It releases you from the temptation to entertain.
2. It allows you to be honest and transparent in your writing.
3. It gives you a chance to communicate your unique message.

Those are three major points that, as writers, I think it’s important for us to keep in mind.  Sometimes we can be swept away with ideas of writing the ‘next big thing’, or find ourselves falling for a genre-trap just to get our feet through the door.  Have you guys seen all the supernatural/vampire novels being published?  It’s in high demand, and what a lot of publishers are looking for provided your writing is edgy, or the story is full of page-turning drama.

And hey, if you’re writing a supernatural novel with action and tension, and you’re taking your time to do it right, then that’s great.  Just make sure you aren’t rushing it.  Take your time to tell the story that you want to tell.  A gripping can’t-put-it-down novel is great, but is it best for what you want to say?

Too much these days I feel like it’s all the rage to write gripping, fast-paced, page-turners. From Dan Brown to Suzanne Collins and J.K.Rowling.  What happened to savoring a well written novel with delicately laced layers of meaning?  Where every word serves a specific purpose?  Why isn’t that popular?  I know why.  It’s because we live in a world where we can connect instantly to people around the globe, where nobody can be far enough ahead of each other, and you can never have too many things on your list of things to do.

So maybe that is where the theory that if we want our writing heard, we must write for the readers, comes from.  After all, if we have a message to say, a story to tell, we have to do our best to get out into the world.  Perhaps that’s the mindset you have to be in to want to write for your readers.  Wake Up and Write For Your Existing Readers is an article that promotes that way of thinking.

In a way, I can understand it.  The majority of what I write, isn’t written with a certain message in mind.  It isn’t written to be read by the masses.  In most cases my current writing is me practicing, playing with vocabulary, characters, settings, and style.

But when an idea comes along, that you can’t help but believe it’s meant to be heard by many, why wouldn’t you try to write it in a way that readers will warm up to?  It’s still you controlling how the story and the message turns out, even if you tweak it here and there for readers.

For me, though, it does make a difference.  Yes, I want to write something that people can relate to and enjoy.  I will have an editor and beta-readers for my first completed MS.  I’ll take into account what they think will help improve my novel–But only if I agree.

I don’t write to transform the world or other people. I write to help transform myself.  With each piece of writing I work on, I learn more about myself and take away much more than I think my readers will.  I admit, even this blog was created a bit selfishly.  I encourage discussions and opinions from readers not just to motivate your thinking and writing, but also to broaden my own knowledge and views.

Most of the time when I browse other peoples blogs, I feel so inexperienced in comparison.  Although I may not have the most original or informative topics to post about, I hope through talking to others on this blog, that at least one of us will walk away with just a bit more insight on writing.

So, on that note, I’m going to end this by asking: Who do you write for?  Am I too harsh on those who write for others, or should we be balancing both sides in our writing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Forcing vs. Flowing in Writing

In my experience there are two ways to write.

Example 1. You frantically scribble away on the nearest napkin as inspiration strikes you at a very inopportune moment, and you’re left with a smudged copy to store away for the next month before you’re inspired enough to revisit it.

Example 2. You sit down at your desk and stare at the computer screen until your fingers begrudgingly begin to type.  Before you know it you have a very, very, rocky draft that vaguely resembles the scenery you meant to describe, and is left as such until you force yourself to edit it.

Pretty obvious which one is ‘going with the flow’ writing as opposed to ‘forced’ writing.  What isn’t so obvious?  Which one produces better writing.

I have arguments for both styles.  Ultimately I think it’s up to the writer to decide a certain combination of the two that works for them personally.  But- here are my thoughts on the matter.

Flow.  Everyone has had that lightning bolt of inspiration hit them.  It doesn’t even have to involve writing!  There’s a moment, where all of a sudden, things become clear, and you know what you have to do and what you want to do.   So you go and just do it.  That’s what happened to me when I went and saw the movie Hugo.  It inspired this short story.  And I’m pretty happy with the result.   The words just seemed to flow from out of my fingers, and I barely had to think about what I was writing.  I believe it’s this natural, raw inspiration that produces the most fluid and honest writing.

But if you only write when you’ve caught the lightning bug, those spurts can be few and far between.  Even if it produces some of our best work, we can’t completely rely on it.  Sometimes we have to hunker down and treat writing as what it really is: hard work.

Forced.  This is where we struggle, as writers, to produce our stories.  Every decent writer needs to spend time on their writing.  It’s like clocking in hours at a job.  Even if you don’t want to, or don’t feel like it, you need do it.  Why?

Because you can’t edit and perfect what isn’t on the page. 

This is especially true when you’re in it for the long haul.  Short stories and Flash Fiction are wonderful for the strikes of inspiration.  But when you enter novella and novel territory, more often than not there will be days when you force yourself to write the story, even if it isn’t flowing out of your fingertips.  It might not come out exactly as you want, unlike some of the spur of the moment stories, but you can always go back and edit.

So, if you’re like me, and just starting to realize you want to be serious about writing, then find that balance.  Be ready to find inspiration in unlikely places.  And if that fails, don’t be afraid to sit down and write against the current.  Take your own writing seriously.  Don’t let if fall by the wayside just because the words are struggling with you.

Why Can’t I have Literary Guilty Pleasures?

Tonight my girlfriends and I went to eat sushi(a not-so-guilty pleasure), and watch the latest installment of Underworld(a very guilty pleasure).  The movie had a terrible plot, mediocre acting, over the top gore, and was incredibly cheesy.  I loved it so much.

Which got me thinking.  Why is it so easy for me to indulge in bad movies, but if I’m faced with a cheesy and cliche novel I just want to hurl it across the room?  Is it because I hold books to higher standards?  Or maybe, as a writer myself, I can’t stop thinking about how I would improve it, and what I would’ve done differently.  Or perhaps I just enjoy the visual stimuli of massive explosions and gore much more than I probably should.

Or, and this is the last ‘or’ I promise, maybe I just don’t admit that the books I love are guilty pleasures.  To some, Harry Potter could be considered a guilty pleasure.  Even Tamora Pierce’s novels might be on the same list.  They aren’t the best literature has to offer, by far.  But the way they transport me into their worlds keeps me coming back for more.  Just like the Underworld movies, and the Resident Evil movies.

So, I guess the difference is in how bad I think the movies and books really are. Resident Evil and Underworld? Guilty pleasure because I know they’re bad but I’m not ashamed to admit I like them.  Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce’s novels? Not a guilty pleasure because although people can argue that they’re bad, I’ll never admit it.

Oh, and before anyone asks, books such as Twilight fall under the “makes me want to hurl them across the room” category.  How dare vampires be sparkly?!  I’ll stick with re-reading Dracula, thank you very much.

 

So, what are some of your guilty pleasures?

Book-based Movies vs Movie-based Books

Has anyone else noticed that there are a plethora of movies based on well written(or not) novels, while the number of well written books based on movies is disappointingly small?  Then again is there ANY new movie these days that isn’t based on a book or play, or heaven forbid, another movie?

I wouldn’t mind reading a book based on another form of media.  In fact, I’ve considered searching out the books based on the video game Assassin’s Creed, most people play that game for the story anyways.  What’s stopping me though, is that the very few books I’ve picked up that were based on movies, have either been mediocre or down right terrible.

I believe there are several main reasons that all contribute to these mediocre re-tellings.  And honestly, I think they could easily be overcome if a bit more hard work is applied.

First off, I don’t think companies spend enough time looking for an author. Perhaps they think any old writer will do, or they don’t want to shell out the money for an outstanding author, or maybe the writers they approach refuse the job because they aren’t inspired enough by the story.  You have to find someone who’s really passionate about the story.  It’s like the difference between Peter Jackson’s take on The Lord of the Rings, vs the terrible rendition of Eragon.  The same in writing, you need to feel the passion for the story from the author- something that goes way beyond hiring a decent writer.  A good writer doesn’t always make a good story.

Secondly, readers prefer novels because they have the ability to go more in depth into the story and the characters.  Movies have a lot of material to work with, and they don’t have to spend time describing the details of the world-because we see them visually.  That’s not at all the case in books though.  And somewhere along the line, lost in translation, is all that flavor and depth that books have.  Most books based on other media are flat and dull, the world/scenes just don’t jump off the page because they’re more focused on the plot than the world building.

Lastly, I think the book versions generally try to take the story too literally. (This excludes the series of Star Wars, Star Trek, and the like which expand on the original source.)  In movies dialogue is mostly re-written, plots are changed, and in some cases a character is left out/merged with another character.  What I notice about direct movie to book writing, is that they try to perfectly emulate the movie.  There’s hardly any deviation from the source material, and although that can be seen as dedication, it can really water down the representation of the source when switching mediums.  More time should be spent on figuring out how to create the story as a great novel, as opposed a screenplay without parentheses and brackets.

It takes a lot of work for a movie to come together to represent a book.  If only the same amount of time and work went into translating a movie into a book.   Although, thinking about it, maybe as writers it would be a great exercise to re-tell a story from a game/movie/tv series.   I think we could learn a lot about the craft and how we write by attempting to translate into writing a story we’ve visually taken in.

Why do you think there’s such a difference between translating the two mediums?  And what are some of the books you’ve read that are based on other media?  If any of them were good, please send me in their direction!

Sci-fi vs Fantasy: Future vs. Past

OR:  Why Science Fiction is given more social significance(not popularity) than Fantasy.

To clear the air, growing up I read mostly Fantasy and Fiction novels.  It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I took a Science Fiction as Literature class at a community college, which really got me started on reading Science Fiction.  Ever since I have happily been a huge fan of both genres, reading classics and new pieces alike for each.

Over the years of not only reading both genres, but also writing in each, I’ve had several thoughts on the differences between the two.

You start each with the same basic core, a world rooted in either scientific advancements beyond our achievements or a world full of magic and fantastical things that don’t exist in our world(Arguably. The child in me will forever be a believer!).  There are exceptions, but they mostly prove the rule with these genres.

Since both genres are filled to the brim with imaginative creations and surreal circumstances, they should be considered practically the same, right?

Well, no.  In fact, in my eyes they couldn’t be more different in how they read, how they’re written, and how the modern world interprets them. But then, what distinguishes them as so different?  In my opinion it’s the way we interpret their relative time period.

Despite the obvious that each genre sets ups alternate or fictional worlds, people have a tendency to relate those worlds to the one we know.  Our minds relate Science Fiction mostly to a future world, somewhere we could see humans ending up.  On the other hand, we associate Fantasy with a past world(generally medieval, but not always), a history that could have been.  Of course, as I mentioned above there are exceptions, such as Harry Potter being set in a modern world, and the entire Steampunk sub-genre of Sci-fi which is generally set in a Victorian-era alternate history.  However, exceptions aside I know I don’t need to elaborate for everyone to agree on the general view of each genre.

So what does this have to do with the importance we put on each genre?

It’s like this:  Would it be easier to plainly convey a message about modern society in an alternate/futuristic universe, or in a past/magical world?   If you answered in a past/magical world, then I am really interested in reading a sample of your writing!

I think we try to generalize Fantasy as right vs. wrong, good vs. evil.  Science Fiction on the other hand, we observe as cause and effect, and overcoming previous decisions.  And here’s the whole point of this blog:  Society puts more importance on Science Fiction because it’s thought provoking and deals with “what if this actually happened”, while we use Fantasy as a great escape from the world we deal with daily. 

I know I see a change in my own writing when tackling the different genres, specifically with themes that I choose to convey.

What about all of you?  Do you approach each genre differently while reading or writing?  If not, do you think my theory should be revised?  I’d love to hear everyone else’s opinion on this!

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