Daily Writing Tip 57 of 100, Obsessions

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Obsessions

Source – Writing Down the Bones – Freeing the Writer within by Natalie Goldberg

Every once in a while I make a list of my obsessions. Some obsessions change and there are always more. Some are thankfully forgotten.

Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things that they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.

Making a list of my obsessions… that actually sounds like a pretty good idea. It will have to be kept private though. I don’t want anyone to think… I don’t want anyone to know how crazy I am.

You do write about your obsessions and you are afraid that you’re the only one with those obsessions. That never happens, though. It turns out there are not as many obsessions out there as you think they are. They are common and often banal.

Maybe Even Tomorrow

“Maybe it’s just hiding somewhere. Or gone on a trip to come home. But falling in love is always a pretty crazy thing. It might appear out of the blue and just grab you. Who knows — maybe even tomorrow.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

This AMC Gremlin has seen better daze

This AMC Gremlin has seen better daze

Daily Writing Tip 56 of 100, Don’t Be a Chimp

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Don’t Be a Chimp

Source – Gotham Writers Workshop: Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Writing School

“If I could have reached my rod I would have blown his guts out.”
—-The Big Kill, Mickey Spillane

So let’s see where we are in the creative process. Promising ideas + hard work = good fiction. Well, not quite. Something is still missing.

To tell a story effectively, you will need some mastery of craft. By craft we mean the time-tested practices that have proven helpful to the construction of good fiction.

Good writing comes down to craft far more than most people realize. True, anyone can write a story without training, which separates fiction writing from such activities as performing heart surgery or piloting a helicopter. But a working knowledge of craft is almost always necessary to make a story really good, worthy of being read by all those strangers. You could build a chair without any knowledge of woodworking because you have a good idea of what a chair is like. You would cut the wood and hammer the pieces together, and sure enough you would have a chair. But it would probably be wobbly, unsightly, and destined to break. It certainly wouldn’t sell. The same is true of fiction.

You should learn craft because it works. The “rules” of fiction craft weren’t created by any one person in particular. They simply emerged over time as guiding principles that made fiction writing stronger, in much the same way the mortise-and-tenon joint emerged as a good way to join parts of a chair.

When I read of learning craft I think of Malcolm Gladwell and his ten thousand hours. The idea is that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to get really good at something… and, conversely, if you spend ten thousand hours at something, you will get good at it.

I wish I could go back in time to when I was a teenager. I would tell me, “Write for two hours a night, most nights; three hundred days a year. In seventeen years, you will be a writer.”

If I had started at, let’s say, thirteen – I would have been a real writer by thirty. I could live with that.

But I didn’t know that at thirteen. Nobody told me about the ten thousand hours. Shame. So many years wasted.

Daily Writing Tip 55 of 100, Create Conflict

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Create Conflict

Source – How to Write a Short Story – The Ultimate Guide to Putting It All Together, In Your Head And On the Page, a Sparknotes book by John Vorwald and Ethan Wolff

Once you have a germ of an idea for your story, you’re ready to figure out what the conflict is. Conflict is the opposition of people or forces against one another. That opposition can take many forms in fiction: it can happen between people, over ideas or feelings, or from natural or manmade circumstances.

Conflict is essential to short stories because it will spawn your story’s central problem and provide obstacles for your character to overcome before resolving that problem. Conflict activates your characters and creates the tension that engages the reader. When you write a short story, you select and dramatize a defining moment or event in a character’s life. That event create change – change in the character, his or her circumstances, and/or his or her life. For that change to occur, your character will have to confront a problem or crisis.

Germ – Conflict – Characters…. that’s really all there is to a story. The rest is all gravy.

Daily Writing Tip 54 of 100, Understanding Metaphor

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Understanding Metaphor

Source – Writing Life Stories, How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays, And Life Into Literature by Bill Roorbach

Let’s consider some of the many forms metaphor takes before we get back to writing.

Think, for example, about those troublesome analogies on the SAT. You know, X is to Y as XX is to YY.

Here, let’s do one. Fill in the blank: train is to track as airplane is to _____.

Most would say sky.

Each element of an analogy is called an analog. In the above example, train is the analog for airplane, track is the analog for sky. All are comparisons not using like or as, by the way, and certainly metaphorical. And in this example (as in most) magical. No, I mean it: magical.

Think of it: our minds easily and completely accept the idea that dense, heavy bars of extruded steel manufactured by humans are similar to – analogous to – the sky. Which is air.

I love this idea – the concept of all writing as metaphor. It’s true, it really is, and makes things so much simpler. Think of how useless school is. Think of all the times you had to write down the definition of metaphor… of all the times you had to pick out the metaphor in some hoary old chestnut of a text snippet… of all the times you had to write down the difference between a simile and a metaphor.

All that sucks the magic out of writing and reading. There is so much magic sucking going on in school.

It’s no surprise that nobody reads anymore.

Being Crazy About a Woman Like Her’s Always the Right Thing To Do

“Is growin’ up always miserable?” Sonny asked. “Nobody seems to enjoy it much.”
“Oh, it ain’t necessarily misearble,” Sam replied. “About eighty percent of the time, I guess.”
They were silent again, Sam the Lion thinking of the lovely, spritely girl he had once led into the water, right there, where they were sitting.
“We ought to go to a real fishin’ tank next year,” Sam said finally. “It don’t do to think about things like that too much. If she were here now I’d probably be crazy again in about five minutes. Ain’t that ridiculous?”
A half-hour later, when they had gathered up the gear and were on the way to town, he answered his own question. “It ain’t really, ” he said. “Being crazy about a woman like her’s always the right thing to do. Being a decrepit old bag of bones is what’s ridiculous.”
― Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show

Denton, Texas

Denton, Texas

Daily Writing Tip 53 of 100, Working Habits

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Working Habits

Source – The Basic Formulas Of Fiction by Foster-Harris

What you have to do is something probably far different from anything you ever did in school. You have to realize that your mind is like a mirror with two surfaces: a shiny, reflecting, front surface, and a dark surface deep down behind

You have been taught to use mainly the bright, shallow, front surface. Do you remember how many times you memorized in school what you thought would be asked in the examinations, remembered it just long enough to get it down on the examination paper, and then, an hour later, could not recall anything that you wrote? Well, that which worked was your intellect, your surface mind. But what you have to do in writing is evoke images from deep down in the dark surface of your subconscious. You know, like in the trick mirrors in which strange images will appear if you breathe upon them just right?

This book was written in 1944 and is geared to someone writing for pulps, I guess (not that there is anything wrong with that) – and Foster-Harris (his first name does not appear in the book) comes across as dated and shopworn. But I suspect that there is a lot of truth here – basic and useful. Sometimes all that dated means is that it is a foundation, rather than a flourish.

And we all need a strong foundation.

Suzuki Windmill

Goat Ranch Dallas, Texas

Goat Ranch
Dallas, Texas

The famous Suzuki Windmill – new technology for an old purpose from the far east.

I have seen places in my lifetime where people took showers in little wooden boxes that sat underneath a windmill. Sort of a vintage romantic throwback… at least in the summertime.

A bitch in the winter, though.