What Counts as Writing

What Counts as WritingI feel that in the online writing world, there is a lot of pressure to constantly practice writing.

Many people post about how many words they write a day, what they wrote about, and what progress is like on their latest venture. But not every writer is ready to be an author, and not every writer has time to practice traditional writing every day.

The standards can be set pretty high amongst bloggers for writing, and that can be a bit overwhelming for some. Especially for those who already have full-time jobs, kids, pets, etc. Are they less devoted to writing? No, of course not. Not all of us have the luxury of writing whenever we feel like it, or of spending hours and hours at it a day.

But just because they aren’t working on manuscripts doesn’t mean that they aren’t producing anything. Writing encompasses so many various trades and skills that even thinking about it can help you to improve your content. So, for those who struggle to find time, what else counts as writing?

  • Texting. Yes, I believe that texting is a form of writing. It teaches you about the new communication trends that are emerging due to mobile usage. It helps you to understand new dialogue possibilities and practices.
  • Conversations. Dialogue is a key part of creating strong stories. Just speaking to other people and observing how they interact can help to improve dialogue in your work.
  • Reading. Of course, reading is one of the biggest components of writing well. If you read anything, from news articles to a quick blog or social media post, it’s better than nothing at all.
  • People watching. How do you create interesting and diverse characters? By watching other people and taking pieces of the ones that intrigue you. Writing is in part made up of what we know, and so, the more we know, the more that we can write.
  • Writing what you don’t want to. So you want to write comedy, but you are stuck writing about insurance all day. Writing is writing, my friend. And words are words. Every click of the keyboard is shaping and molding your skills, whether you know it or not.
  • TV and video games. TV and video games are virtually books that have come to life. My thoughts are that they are useful in exercising your descriptive writing abilities as well as relationships, characters, story arcs, and more.

Writing isn’t just about putting pen to paper and writing about what you want to. Stories take work. They take time. Even writing 10,000 words a day won’t guarantee that you are a good writer, or that your work will make it. When you don’t have the time to write what you want to, don’t feel guilty.

Just try to learn from the vast number of experiences taking place around you. Relate them to your work, and use the world as your classroom. By doing so, you can create a very rich writing experience both for yourself, and your readers.

What do you do when you don’t have time to focus on writing stories? Do you ever feel guilty for not writing enough? Do you ever feel pressure to write more?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Readers’ Choice Wednesday

Dearest readers,

I apologize for my absence. I was taking a much needed vacation after 6 years of only taking Christmas off.

Because I am still suffering from jet lag, I am going to start myself off easy with another readers’ choice Wednesday.

You know the drill, take a look at the picture, practice your descriptive writing skills, propose a setting, expand your vocabulary; whatever suits your fancy.

Teddy bearFor my part, I would like to share a recent experience.

When I was small, I had a stuffed dog, with a heart in its mouth. I dragged that poor creature everywhere: through mud puddles, to snot infested classrooms, and everywhere in between. Where I went, Puppy went too, tucked neatly under my left arm.

When I moved away from home, I was certain that I had lost him forever. I thought about him sometimes, letting memories cover me in a fine film of guilt, but I never thought I would find him.

Then, as my mother was digging through a box looking for another long lost treasure, he tumbled onto the floor. Stained and smelling of dust and must, but alive and well and whole. The feeling of tucking him up under my arm again was the most comforting thing I’ve felt in a long time.

Inside of him, Puppy has much more than stuffing. He has tears and laughter and mud and secrets. His stitching holds in every hurt, every wonder, every joy that I experienced as a child. And I hope I never lose him again.

What was your first stuffy? Do you still have it?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

 

Readers’ Choice Wednesday

Alright, we’ve made it to another reader’s choice Wednesday (new name, it’s sticking). If you don’t know the drill already, it goes like so: either use this picture as a writing prompt to practice some descriptive writing, tell us what it reminds you of, talk about what kind of story would take place in it, or share a memory.

If you don’t feel like doing any of those, just enjoy a nice picture.

This picture means home to me. A place I will be returning to for a visit for the first time in many years. A place where everything is familiar and I know the curves of the shores like I know my own name. The air is heavy and sweet, the passing of time slow and quiet. A place where everything is all right even when it isn’t, and a place where you can fall apart and have loving hands put you back together again.

Nova Scotia

I hope that you all have a place like this of your own.

So, what does it make you think of? What memories does it prompt? What kind of a story would start here? how does it inspire you?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Monday Motivation: Descriptive Writing Edition

Welcome to Monday, friends.

Today’s quote is actually one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, so I am glad to share it with you all.

Motivation Monday

If you feel like you need to work on your descriptive writing skills, or you just want to practice, please feel free to join me on Wednesday for either a writing prompt or wordless reflection (reader’s choice).

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

 

The Act of Writing

The Act of WritingThe other day, I was discussing different pieces that I have written with my manager. He asked me if some of the content I had written before (print articles for a bridal magazine) wasn’t more exciting than what I am writing now (law, real estate, business, finance, etc.). I had to think about it for a few moments.

Neither topic is really all that interesting to me, to be honest. I’ve never been much for flowers and dresses and so on, and my own wedding was quite a quiet affair. And law is more interesting to me in a way, but I am not writing about law for my own country. I generally write about US law. So, that doesn’t really teach me anything except that US law is terribly confusing.

While considering his question, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t the genre or topic that I enjoy when writing. It is the act of writing in and of itself. I don’t care as much for what the words are saying as how they are put together. I absolutely love reconstructing sentences and paragraphs to shape them into something that makes more sense or that flows more freely.

I suppose this is what happens when you take the skills of a writer and an editor and mash them together. For me, it doesn’t really matter what I am writing, or even if I am the one writing at all, I see shaping the piece as a challenge, as something that I can really delve into.

And oddly enough, it’s often small bits of copy that cause the most trouble. For example, even what will be used for a call-to-action on a business website, such as “Ready to start your free trial?”, or “Know anyone who could benefit from free _____ resources? Pass this along!” can take a lot of time and effort to get right.

It doesn’t matter to me if I am writing or editing fiction, non-fiction, for work, for pleasure; it’s all alike to me. Good writing is good writing in anything. It doesn’t differ between genres or topics. It is the same whether you are writing an informational article about how to purchase business assets or a flash fiction horror story.

Writing well is something that should be built into you as a writer, and it should be ingrained so deeply that even when you leave a note for your significant other, or you write out a grocery list, you should at least entertain the idea of doing it properly. And I don’t just mean the grammatical and spelling parts of writing. I mean knowing how to construct a beautiful sentence. How to arrange one word after the other, like a bouquet of flowers. And then, knowing how to piece many of them together to make a beautiful paragraph, a beautiful story.

This is what I love the most about writing. Not the ideas, not the thrill of someone liking your story, not a compliment or a review. I love building something great. It’s almost like working with something tangible, like puzzle pieces or building blocks that you fit together. The same satisfaction comes when you have produced quality work. You can look at it and know that it is well done. It is smoother than a polished stone. It is the best that it can be.

That feeling is the best part of writing. The act of doing it well is precisely what excites me and what drives me. It allows me to be a versatile and tactical writer, and it keeps me interested and engaged throughout any topic, no matter how boring.

Are you the same, or do you abhor the act of writing? If not the act, what part of writing makes you tick?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Wordless (or Writing Prompt) Wednesday

Take part in this exercise if you choose, or simply take a few moments to enjoy a pretty picture, the choice is yours.

If you’d like to participate, share how this picture makes you feel, what stories might take place in it, or even just list a few adjectives that it inspires in you to practice some descriptive writing.

This Wednesday, I’d like to share some personal nostalgia with you instead of a description. This picture takes me back to visiting my grandparent’s house as a child. Their farmhouse boasts about 150 years and was built by my great-grandfather’s very own hands. It can only be reached by driving down a long avenue of towering old trees. Trees that have seen horses change into cars and children change into bones. Those trees made the world seem like a fairy tale when I was small, as they dappled my skin in the summer and sparkled with frost in the winter. These trees hold all the stories of my family.

Path lined with trees

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Writing: Skill vs Style

ChessThe uniqueness of writing is similar to how a fingerprint is to each individual. At first glance, they may seem the same, but upon closer inspection, they are vastly different from each other. It’s part of what I find so interesting and enthralling about writing as it is precisely what makes us like or dislike different content.

But one should note that there is a difference between style and skill, and neither should be confused for the other.

Style is what adds flavor to the writing. It is how the writer pieces together sentences and push the flow of the content towards a current. Style is word choice and dialogue preferences and common habits of the writer. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Skill is how a writer structures a story. It is how they know when to use a different word, or slip in a subtle description. Skill is the story itself, while style is how the story is told.

A good way to tell the difference between the two is to think of Gandalf; tall, bearded, grandfatherly wizard that he is. Perfect for telling stories, and even better for adventures. If Gandalf himself is what builds the story, that makes him the skill and his voice the style. In writing, our brains are the skill, and our hands on pens and keyboards are the style.

The best stories are made of the two coming together in a beautiful dance. Softly, with rounded edges and smooth surfaces. Woven so tightly together that one cannot be pulled from the other. The best writers have slowly stirred the two into their veins over time, merging them naturally.

The worst stories are made up of one or the other, with no joining of the two at all.

Without style we encounter either bland stories, or cheap copies of better ones. When writers avoid any focus on style, they tend to either copy the styles of others, or they leave it out entirely. This makes for plain, boring stories, that may have excellent structure, but fall short all the same. Think of how awful it would be to hear Gandalf read you a story in monotone.

Writers who prefer to write with skill alone tend to make excellent journalists and instructional manual writers, but their content is not exactly engaging. In order to have style, you need to search for it by spending a lot of your time reading and writing so that you can seek it out and capture it.

Without skill and only style, we have very colorful writing that makes no sense. It’s like Gandalf on acid: a side story here, an overwhelming description there, all with a dash of unicorns and rainbows in the middle of downtown Halifax. It’s vibrant, it’s sometimes engaging, but not for long. Readers generally lose interest quickly, because of the terrible writing and poor technical abilities throughout the work.

Many, many writers self-publish stories that have a lot of heart in them, but very little skill. Style is well and good until you need to understand the anatomy of a story, then it sort of falls apart like a body with no bones. You gain skill the same way that you gain style: by reading and writing until you have a solid understanding of the technical aspects of authorship.

The lack of the two coming together is yet another downfall of self-publishing, and contributes to the daunting number of mediocre e-books flooding the market. Unfortunately, it is a big reason that it is so difficult to find footing when publishing on your own, as it can be extremely difficult to make your book stand out among a sea of bucket list check-marks.

While I do appreciate that self-publishing has allowed many writers to skip over the often disappointing and difficult journey of finding an agent, submitting to publishers, and waiting for rejections or acceptances for months and months, it has also robbed us of a gatekeeper. Self-publishing has no acquisitions process, which means that anyone can publish anything for any reason, at any skill level, with or without a defined style.

When there is no slush pile to sort through, the actual gems are buried even farther down than they were before, making them nearly impossible to find. Those writers that marry skill and style together in the best ways are lost and sometimes never found. For me, it is one of the things that keeps me from self-publishing.

Do you think that style and skill should go together?

What is your favorite example of the two coming together? (I recently read Red Rising and really appreciated how the two intermingled).

How do you feel about self-publishing?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Wednesday Words for Writers

Time for another picture to inspire you to think of new words in new ways. Either treat it as a writing prompt, or some wordless inspiration, it’s your choice.

What does this picture make you think of? What does it make you feel? How would you describe it?

Misty Forest

 

For me, it makes me think of Macbeth and the witches on the moor. It makes me think of Sherlock and The Hound of the Baskervilles, the only Doyle tale that I can’t read before I go to bed, lest I have horrid nightmares.

It speaks of cold and damp and fear, but it also speaks of comfort and quiet and life, depending on how you see it. Just looking at it fills my head with that strong, cool smell of damp earth and fresh pine. The smell of forests after a rain, and the absolute calm of a morning in the woods.

Care to share your own thoughts?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.