Friday, August 28, 2015

Will There be a Santa Claus, Virginia?


This post is stolen from my other blog, http://multimediameditations.com/, where I mostly write about movie stuff. This blog is for my writin' stuff. But I figured that since I write about movie stuff, and this blog is about stuff I write, then I should put those posts here. Because it is stuff I've written--just about movies, not about writin'.

There are two posts, one I wrote yesterday, the other today, about a classic old theater that's knock-knock-knockin', unless the folks of Somerset can restore it.  Here are the posts: 

http://multimediameditations.com/2015/08/27/old-theaters-never-die-they-just-go-to-that-great-film-library-in-the-sky/

http://multimediameditations.com/2015/08/28/will-there-be-a-santa-claus-virginia/

And, as always...

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Definition--A Statement of the Exact Meaning of a Word, Especially in a Dictionary



Research. We do it without even being aware we're doing it sometimes. It's a necessary part of writing, and sometimes, for us research junkies (and procrastinators) it's a diversion and a distraction. I don't know how many times I've gone chasing the rabbit down the hole hunting for just that perfect word. You know how it goes. Start looking for another word for 'lazy', and you find 'snoozy' (which I thought was one of the Seven Dwarves, but hey...), so then you decide to look up 'snoozy' to see when and where it originated, and so on. You know how it goes.

What that brings me to, finally, is this. Whether you're doing diversionary research or actual work-related research, you need to know where to look stuff up.

Once upon a time it was our trusty library. But now we have the power of the Internet sending its shower of sparks into our fingers and brains. Thing is, it's a vast ocean, and we might not know where to hunt stuff up. Here are just a few tips I've picked up along the way. Feel free to contribute with comments if I've slipped up somewhere.

Dictionaries. We always need a dictionary. One of my old favorites is Merriam-Webster at http://www.merriam-webster.com/. This one's my go-to. The pages aren't too terribly cluttered, plus it has a thesaurus tab. Here's where the adult ADHD kicked in. I had to resist the urge to look up 'thesaurus' in the dictionary tab and 'dictionary' in the thesaurus tab. Plus, for us word junkies, it has a Word of the Day tab.

If you want other dictionaries, you can always go to Google (or any other search engine of your choice, such as Dogpile or DuckDuckGo) and enter 'dictionary'. That will pull up several options for you. I just did that and got:

Dictionary.com at http://dictionary.reference.com/
Oxford Dictionaries at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us
Cambridge Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus at http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/

Those are just three examples. Several have a thesaurus attached. You might have some favorites of your own, mine just happens to be Merriam-Webster.

As you just saw, there are tons of thesauri (yes, that's the actual plural) to choose from, including our old friend Roget. You can find Roget's Thesaurus at http://www.thesaurus.com/Roget-Alpha-Index.html. The home page is almost disturbingly clean and free of clutter. Check it out.



Sometimes we need a picture. You know, the 'picture's worth a thousand words deal', to help us visualize what we're trying to describe. Or perhaps we need it in our blog posts. The one I use most often is Google Images at https://images.google.com/. Using my earlier search example, the word 'dictionary' pulls up tons of dictionary photos, cartoon drawings of dictionaries, and for whatever reason, a picture of Homer Simpson dressed up sort of professorial. I have no idea why. Which just goes to show you that you need to use your brain cells when looking up stuff online. It's powerful, easy, and fast, but sometimes the results you get are just plain ridiculous. Times like that, you can't beat a paper and ink dictionary. Just be aware. And think.


Keep writing, friends.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!


And, I’m back. Took a couple of days off while I let the neurons cool down. They overheat sometimes.

I love to read different books—keeps the creative fires lit. Sometimes it’s comic books. I still love my DC comics. My two favorites haven’t changed much, at least as far as my interest, in 50 years. It’s still Batman and Superman. But I’m having trouble sometimes keeping up with the recent changes in the DC universe. Bruce Wayne was Batman, but he was killed, then got juiced with some immortal stuff, and now Bruce Wayne’s back, but he has no memory of ever being Batman. And Clark Kent lost the glasses and suddenly a lot more people have (finally!) figured out he’s really the Super-Dude. But he’s a lot less super than before, and he’s a lot more street savvy.

Crazy, huh? Yes, but it’s fun. As long as they keep with their plan, I’m cool. Let’s just go with it and don’t do one of those things where now Bruce has his memory back and he’s the Bat Guy again. I like the change, let’s just keep it rolling.

Sometimes I’m in a Gothic mood and want to read some Poe or Lovecraft. Especially in the fall. Just feels right as the wind’s blowing harder, the days are shorter, and I just saw a raven outside the window.

Other times it’s some Thurber. His insight into what it’s like to be a fallible human, his clarity of language, and his sharp humor are perfect at times.

But right now I’m on an L. Frank Baum kick. I read “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” a few years back and love it. What’s great about it is that it can stand alone from the movie, which I also love. One of the things I like about the book is that Dorothy really did go to Oz, carried there by the twister (cyclone in the book). It wasn’t the result of sever head trauma as it was in the movie. I remember when I first found out, as an adult, that she didn’t actually visit Oz in the movie. It was just a dream. I felt a little ripped off.

So, recently, I read “The Marvelous Land of Oz”, the second book in the series. This time we start off in Oz, with a young boy named Tip. Dorothy’s not in this one at all, as she’s still back in Kansas. The adventure this time focuses on Tip’s escape from an old witch named Mombi, who has kept him as her slave for years. Now, he’s on his way to Oz to get help from the Scarecrow, who rules benevolently over the Emerald City, thanks to his magnificent brains.

And now I’m on to the third book, “Ozma of Oz”, which brings Dorothy back into the story.

These are terrific books with great adventures and characters, written by an author with a fantastic imagination. He gives us Jack Pumpkinhead, and a Woggle-Bug, and Tik Tok (a copper, mechanical man). And I never realized it before, but he loves to play (or prey) on words, as do I. Here’s an example:


Dorothy is looking for entrance into a palace, when she reads a sign that says, “Please knock at the third door in the left wing.” She learns that the left wing is on the right because “…there used to be three wings, and two were torn down, so the one on the right is the only one left.” Rim shot, please.


It’s also enjoyable reading because it’s from a time many years ago, and the expressions are a little different. At one point, Billina, a talking chicken, fights a rooster. She says afterwards, “Didn’t I do him up brown?” One reference I read said this expression indicates this means to “…trounce, or defeat thoroughly.” Here’s the link to the reference source: http://alt.usage.english.narkive.com/qBDpXnFm/to-do-something-up-brown.


Besides all else, this is a terrific series to read. We get new characters (so far) in each book, and the books refer to previous works. We get to know and love these characters.


What’s my point to all this rambling? Just that as writers we need to read. This writer, in particular, needs to read everything. Sometimes it’s light. Sometimes it’s a book that hurts my head. But all authors have something they want to tell us. Whatever you like to read, enjoy it. And above all, have fun.


Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Write That !*!@## First Draft in a Mere Ten-Plus Years




As I wrestle with my inner critic and half a dozen other voices in my head (sure is crowded here—where did all of you come from?), approaching the close of my latest round of edits on my novel, I’ve decided to let my writer readers (reading writers?) in on my secrets. I know you’re all wondering, “How’d he finish it so fast?”, and “Gosh, I wish I could write something that easily.”, and “Why are there cat toys on his desk?”

 

Well, here it is, for the first time ever, Tom’s Guide to Writing a Novel in a Mere Ten Plus Years”.

 

Step One: Get idea. Mull it over a while. Forget to write it down.

Step Two: Get idea back. Write it down. Plink down a few ideas. Go play World of Warcraft.

Step Three: Write in journal, full of excitement about starting a novel. Don’t actually work on the novel, just talk about how excited you are in your journal. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Four: Tell friends and family and all the people at your coffee shops how excited you are to be working on a novel.

Step Five: Play World of Warcraft.

Step Six: Tell wife, husband, life partner, significant other, benign alien, or therapist about your novel.

Step Six: Play World of Warcraft.

Step Seven: Weekend getaway to work on book. Write a few short, short scenes at the beginning, then perhaps something near the end, then a battle sequence because battle sequences are cool. Write non-sequentially because you have the attention span of a…oh, look, there goes the kitty…

Step Eight: Begin keeping backup files of your work. Make backups of your backups. Count this as writing time because it had to do with your novel.

Step Nine: Fired up, you’re ready to dive in. Unable to remember which copy is the correct copy, spend your writing session time comparing, copying, pasting from one file to another. Save on a floppy.

Step Ten: Find correct copy, reword battle sequence because battle sequences are cool.

Step Eleven: Join critique group. Get positive feedback, but battle sequence needs work. Charged up, you go home, make another copy, save it on another floppy. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Twelve: Work, work, work on the battle sequence. Reorganize files. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Thirteen: Return to critique group. Have them critique battle sequence again because battle sequences are cool.

Step Fourteen: Wife/husband/life partner, etc., says it’s time to write other parts. Try to write other parts. They all suck. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Fifteen: Try to write other parts again. Writing sucks. Swear you’ll never write another word again, ever.

Step Sixteen: Tell friends, family, etc., you’re never writing again.

Step Seventeen: Take a day, week, month, year, or several years off from writing, but the idea won’t leave you. Keep playing World of Warcraft.
Step Eighteen: Return to writing.
Step Eighteen, part A: Write blog posts instead of novel...oops...

Step Nineteen: Repeat steps eight through eighteen numerous times until wife/husband/life partner says, “Just start writing.” “Oh. Okay,” you respond.

Step Twenty: Write, write, write as though your hands were on fire.

Step Twenty-One: Look at the mess of files you have on multiple floppies, CDs, flash drives, emails, scattered papers. Swear you’ll give up writing.

Step Twenty-Two: Wife/husband/life partner dons the muse/editor/hero costume and wades in to all the mess you’ve created, as said wife/husband/life partner is capable of following a sequence of thoughts sequentially in—and here’s the amazing part, because you are not a sequential thinker—chronological fashion, and actually organizes your seemingly random randomness. “What?” you exclaim. “You mean this stuff actually connects together?”

Step Twenty-Three: Renewed, you charge in, astounded that, somehow, there just might be a story here.

Step Twenty-Four: Exhausted after your first dash in, swear you’re going to give up writing forever and ever. Play Angry Birds.

Step Twenty-Five: Wife/husband/life partner says, “Stop playing Angry Birds. Set a timer for half an hour and write. When the timer goes Ding! you can play Angry Birds.” “Oh. Okay,” you say.

Step Twenty-Six: Using the timer/Angry Birds technique you, somehow, exhausted, neuron-fried, and limping, cross the finish line, walk upstairs and announce that the first draft is complete.

Step Twenty-Seven: Celebrate with a Guinness. A very large Guinness.

 

And that, my friends, is how to complete a rough draft in a mere ten-plus years. Easy, right?

 

Y’know what, though? Once this first one’s out the door I’m gonna do it again. And maybe this next time I can shave it down to just five years…

 

Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Genre by any Other Name



“What kind of a writer are you?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“You know…what kind of stuff do you write?”

“Oh, you mean, what genre do I write?”

“Yeah, that’s it. Do you write horror or sci-fi or romance, that sort of thing. Or maybe you write steam-punk or alien romance. You know.”

“I think I get it. Well, I just consider myself a writer. I just put words down. I never really thought about a genre.”

“Oh. Well, do you have aliens?”

“Uh, yes, there’s an alien guy, but it’s not really about the alien aspect.”

“But there’s an alien, so it’s sci-fi. What about scary stuff. Any scary stuff?”

“Sure, there are some scary parts. You see, my main guy…”

“…the alien?”

“Yes, the alien. His name’s Charlie, and there’s a party at his house one night, and…”

“…and he goes full-out alien and eats everyone, right? Then we have sci-fi/horror. Like the movie, Alien. ‘Cept you’ll need to change his name. You can’t have an alien people-muncher named Charlie. Any love interests in your book?”

“What? Wait, you’re confusing me. I just write what I like. I’m not at all sure how it’ll evolve yet. There are scary parts, but it’s not a horror story, actually. And Charlie is interested in…”

“Hold it, I’ve got it now. Yeah, he’s interested in an Earth woman. Or perhaps a guy. Then we can have all kinds of cross-threaded sexual relationships. Maybe Charlie is both Charlie and Charlene? Or something else entirely different. Now you’re really getting out there.”

“No, you’re not listening. Charlie just happens to come from another planet. He’s trying to fit in as best he can as a software engineer, and…”

“Yeah, there ya go! And he reprograms all Earth’s defense systems so his fleet of alien spacecraft can attack, right? Bestseller material, man. Oh, wait, gotta go. Late for an appointment. I’ll be looking for the movie.”

“Okay, sure…yeah…”

As The Writer’s friend takes off The Writer thinks to himself, “Huh! Guess I’m writing a sci-fi/horror/romance/soft-core porn/alien attack book. And I thought I was just telling a story.”

This short parable has been brought to you by The Authors. It is not meant to imply anything. Or perhaps it does. The Authors simply apply the paint on the canvas in broad brush strokes. It is up to you to interpret.

I’d be interested in hearing your comments.

Here's a link to a friend of ours. It deals with writer stuff, too. Check it out, please. I think you'll like it. It's called Smack Dab in the Middle.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, August 17, 2015


I compose at the keyboard. It's exciting and keeps the writing fire burning. It doesn't always work, though. Sometimes there's a traffic jam at the intersection of brain and fingers, and I just sit here and stare, vacantly, wondering what comes next.

It's called stream-of-consciousness, or free-writing, and when it's really happening it's like I imagine surfing would be like--riding that wave, playing with it, not really knowing what's coming next.

Then there's the wipeout. End-over-end tumbling, the words don't cooperate, I'd rather play with the cats, Angry Birds is calling. Or just a quick random search on the 'net which goes for hours.

Sometimes it produces something. At those times it's great. Oh, that's not saying that the something won't require editing on a mass scale, but it just feels good when I really get stuff out that I can use. I don't know how the process works (much like the Wizard of Oz in his balloon), it just happens. Sometimes.

It's also a good warm-up for other, tougher tasks ahead of me, like...the editing I need to wrap up on my book.

How about you folks out there? Any free-writers? Do you use this technique to generate something? Or do you map things out? There are plenty of times I wish I could do an outline, follow it beginning to end, with clear ideas of where I'm going. But that's not how it happens for me. I have to spill the batch of Lincoln Logs on the ground, sit there and just start doodling.

And, speaking of doodling, here's a link to my wife's article she wrote recently for "Zen Doodle Workshop" where she describes how to design and make a deck of cards using pen and ink techniques. Click on this link.

“Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg


Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Who is a Writer?


Ah, good, I just now remembered what I wanted to write about today. I went to bed last night, really tired, and started off with this:

What's fun about this is that it's all about writing. What I hope, is that...

And then I was too tired to write any more. But I had enough energy to watch an episode of Star Trek.

So, picking up from last night, what I hope is that we'll all trade ideas and frustrations and excitement of writing on this blog.

One thing I thought about is when, exactly, did I become a writer? Or, better yet, when did I think of myself as a writer? And how do we define it? Is there some magical line we cross, or a ritual we perform, where on one side we're not writers and on the other side suddenly we are?

I've always wondered about this. Saying you're a writer, at one time, meant John Steinbeck, or Mary Shelley, or Agatha Christie. Certainly not me. I never did anything prolific in school, or won awards. But then, somewhere in that "angry young man" phase of my late teens through twenties, amid late-night writings on napkins at Sambo's (a restaurant, long-gone, in Owensboro), consuming mass quantities of caffeine and cigarettes, connections were made in my brain.

But I didn't, for many years, think of myself as a writer. I'd write short essays about stuff I observed, then shove it in a drawer. I was an electronic technician/computer programmer, not a writer.

I kept coming back to the pen, though, over the soldering iron.

And that, I think, is what makes a writer. For all of us. Yep, I'm speaking to all my writerly friends out there, and all you who are afraid to write. When you keep coming back to it, thinking about it, worrying about it, chewing on it like a cat toy, loving it, hating it, cussing it, swearing you'll never write again 'cause all you write is crap, then you're a writer. You may currently be a non-writing writer, or a writer who hates their stuff, but you're a writer.

I'm not preaching at you folks, I'm actually telling myself this. You're just hearing what I've said to myself to keep myself coming back to the page.

That's enough for now. Here's a link to another writer friend of mine, Ben Woodard. Take a look, please.


Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

All Things Writerly

Greetings, everyone. Tom here.

I'm inviting you folks on a journey. A journey for all kinds of writer stuff. As with my other blog, multimediameditations, this is a laboratory--but a lab purely for writing stuff.

Here you'll find things I've written, links to other writers' blogs, web sites, and places where you can find their books.

You'll see me on the good, the bad, and the ugly writing days. Days when I can't get one single thought on the page and those where I have way too many ideas. There'll be word play, quotes about writing, and hopefully, stuff to help you on your journey, too.

Here's a link to my wife's book on Amazon, a fun novel about a young woman adventuring in single living, titled "Singleminded". My wife's name is Wendy Currier. Look for more from her.

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go."
-- E. L. Doctorow