Friday, April 30, 2010

The horror of spelling and grammar

The horror of spelling and grammar, well in any case my spelling and grammar is a horror to be seen. I've to edit and edit before anything I write become less of a sore to the eyes. That's how I see it, though my wife would say I am over critical. (It's her Love talking.)

Though she has to admit I am partially right, being that she is my proofreader, she must have suffered a lot from my writing. For example she still taunts me with my overuse of the word "Towards" in my first finished manuscript.

Horror defined by a dictionary: An overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear: to shrink back from a mutilated corpse in horror.

Well I have to admit the more I write the better my spelling and grammar is becoming. Sometimes I can write a whole sentence without one misspelling or bad grammar. Copying over the work of better writers has payed of. My grammar is not an overwhelming and painful anymore, just painful.

Spelling and grammar for me is a daunting task, sometimes I shudder in fear with the thought of writing. My wife sometimes....actually all the times says I over dramatize. But hey, I am the one reading what I wrote first and I am first to edit my work, I suffer, I really do. Despite all that when I happen to edit my work to a higher level, I feel extremely satisfied.

I believe for many it is something we have to learn and surpass, not letting ourselves be overwhelmed by the task ahead. Despite our shortcomings we need to go forth and only by doing so will we surpass said shortcomings.

I may think my spelling and grammar may be horrible, but I also know yesterday it was worse. Progress be it step by step is what makes me go on writing. One day I hope to have surpassed my shortcomings and that day will be closer the day I publish my novel.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

In March I wrote about receiving two books, one about grammar and the other about editing. I finished reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" and as promised I would write a more in-depth review.

Before I start, first a bit about the authors.

Renni Browne: She used to be a senior editor for William Morrow and many other companies. In 1980 she left mainstream publishing to found the book-editing company The Editorial Department.

Dave King: He works as an independent editor at home and online at his website.

Now about the book; I want to start with saying I loved it and it helped me in better understand certain things.

The book has twelve chapters in total. I will not write about all the chapters but only those that had the most impact.

The first chapter is about "Show and Tell". Sample writings are used to explain how "Show and Tell" works. Everything is explained in a clear and understanding, easy to read way.

It helped me understand a concept of writing I knew a bit about it but could not place yet. I am confident now that I will be better in knowing how and when to show and tell. This chapter alone had enough value for me to justify buying this book.

Chapter three covers a subject many writers struggle with; "Point of View". In much the same way as the previous chapter and following ones, the subject is explained by example. To me this is a great way to open ones eyes about how things should be done.

This chapter taught me about how to better utilize POV and made it clear why not to ping pong switch the POV between characters. By showing how it's done, you get to see how much better and clear a story can be. It's easy to get lost while reading when the POV keep changing at random.

Chapter four "Proportion" describes why not everything should be written. Somethings are better left to the imagination of the reader. Too much explaining can slow down the pace and bore or frustrate a reader. E very important lesson.

I used to write too much detail about the goings of my main Character. While reading I kept thinking about my first manuscript and how many things I still needed to edit and I know now how I will improve my writing.

"Easy Beats" chapter eight showed the way to better add beats or omit them. Before I read this book I already recognized the need for beats. Though I already used beats I am still thankful to this chapter. I now know better the why and how to add them. This will make you book read much more flowing and when needed to slow down the pace.

The last chapter is about "Voice" It explains what voice is and that it will grow with practice. Before reading this chapter I have to admit I had no clear idea about voice. I always thought my voice was the way I write and surprisingly to myself that was in a sense correct. By having it explained to me, in the way this book has, I now feel more comfortable about the knowledge.

As I understood Voice is something that we writers develop with time, the more confident we become in our own ability the more clear our voice will be. It's okay to observe other writers voice but not to assimilate and try to make that voice our own, because that will only hurt our own writing. It's just better to let it become what it will become.

I have said before and will say again I am happy with this book and I believe it will help my writing and probably in those of others.

The chapters are clearly written with many samples, all is explained in an easy way to understand. At the end of each chapter there is checklist and Exercises.

The checklist is some questions about the subject at hand in combination with your own writing. This is an wonderful way for you to think about how you yourself write and by doing so making clear the mistakes you might make.

The exercises are sample text given, on which you must use the techniques taught in the chapter. The answers are at the back of the book. By doing them you remember better what was taught.

I think this book is a must have for those starting with writing and good buy for those of intermediate skills but not clear yet with all the techniques. For those with greater skill the book might not be of much use but for freshening up the subject.

I sincerely recommend this book.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What has swordfighting got to do with writing.

"The Unfettered Mind" by Takuan Shoho, "The Way of The Living Sword" by Yagyu Munenori and "The Sword & The Mind" by Hiroaki Sato are books about the mind and sword-fighting.

I used to practice Kendo. Despite having stopped practicing, I haven't stopped practicing in my mind, I often think about Kendo and sword fighting in general.

I bought these books to gain more knowledge about the art of fighting and by that improving my skill in Kendo. Though it did much more for me.

Takuan Soho was a Zen Buddhist who advised many famous Japanese master swordsman like Miyamoto Musashi and Yagyu Munenori. In "The Unfettered Mind" he tries to apply Zen Buddhism to Martial Arts.

Yagyu Munenori was a master swordsman and daimyo (Feudal Lord) and founder of the Edo branch of Yagyū Shinkage-ryū. "The Way of the Living Sword" is a study about the connection between martial arts and the mental process of Zen.

Hiroaki Sato is a Japanese poet and translator. "The Sword & The mind" is a translation of ideas and experience from these three sword masters, Hidetsuna, Muneyoshi, and Munenor.

The big question is what do these books have to do with writing, besides being beautiful pieces of written text.

Kendo changed, in great deal, how I think and deal with everyday problems. It was a life changing moment when a fellow Kendoka in full gear came charging at me and I felt my mind at peace and my hart without fear nor doubt and I charged head on.

I learned, when needed, to let go of fear and doubt. If you can't let go, the fear and doubt will paralyze you and you will suffer that what you fear, by moving forward you might escape the sad fate that awaits you.

To writing this translates into that however bleak the market can be and how challenging the task ahead may seem, if you keep doubting yourself and fear failing you will never take the steps needed to succeed.

Another lesson I took at hart is the way to become a master in your art. A beginner does yet not know the techniques of the art, he could have raw talent and make beautiful art yet there would be no form into it.

By practicing and learning the required techniques one sets a strong basis of knowledge but by being constrained by what one learned, loose the fluency and spontaneity of the beginner.

To become a master one would need to unlearn the rules and gain back the fluency and spontaneity of a beginner but unlike a beginner use the ability to steer ones talent.

In writing we should strife to get to that point where we do not need to think about the technique we use and write without the constraint of the rules we learned.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Practice by copying

Dean Koontz one of the great names in writing wrote Life Expectancy in 2004, I think I bought this book around 2006--I may already have said my memory is not all that great?--I loved the story and his writing.

I read it without expectations, it was a chance buy a gamble on my part because I did not know who Dean Koontz was at that time. Now I feel a bit stupid because he writes in the genre I like to read, so missing a author like him is something to be ashamed off.

The story and writing in itself will not please or entertain everybody, for those used to Mr. Koontz writing can compare to his other books and deem this one, one of the lesser. For me it was my first and I liked it.

If you look at the picture I guess you noticed the wear on my copy. After I finished reading it, my wife , who doesn't read much, flipped through it on a chance occasion and got hooked. It's the first time I saw her actually read.

She told a nephew of hers about this book and he came visit one day and borrowed it--My wife had not yet finished reading--after a few weeks or be it months he returned it. By that time the book was well read and to make matters worse we lost it.

On one of the many cleaning sessions we finally found it, tucked away somewhere . My wife wants to finish reading it, but at present time can't make time for it in the meantime I use it for practice.

When I start writing about something I like, I tend to go on and on about the subject. What I want to tell about, beside loving Life Expectancy, is that a way to practice ones skill in writing is by copying the work of a successful author.

By writing down the finalized words, sentences, paragraphs of a published book, you will get a better picture of how and why certain sentences are written. You get many examples how things can be done or can go wrong. You even may find errors kept in the book after editing, showing that even the great authors and their army of editors can leave one or more mistakes in.

Many people now a days only type, we tend not to practice our hand writing skill. By writing with ink and paper we train our softer motor skills and stimulate our brain. I hope that soon my hand will get used to it and stops aching after a few lines of text.

By coping the whole book one can learn the flow of another writer and hopefully integrate some of it into ones own writing.

At the moment I am copying Life Expectancy (By hand) and The gunslinger (By typing). So far I improved my spelling and to better structure my sentences, but I still am not there yet. By keep practicing I hope to improve in the long run.

We each can learn from those whose skill are farther than our own, and they themselves should keep learning cause even in those who know less there is some lessons to be had.

Disclaimer: All copies made by me will be discarded after finished practicing .