writing skills/profession

An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wond...

An illustration by W. W. Denslow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, also known as The Wizard of Oz, a 1900 children’s novel by L. Frank Baum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You probably didn’t notice but my last post made it 1500 even, which is a lot of writing. Like a book’s worth easy. And I was a bit startled when WordPress announced it to me because I haven’t been paying all that much attention.

Not like in the beginning of blogging when I counted everything. Page views. Blog visits. Number of posts.

Now, it’s just … oh yeah? 1500. Cool. That only took 6 and a half years – ish.

What’s more amazing to me is that after all this time, I still bother to blog at all.

But I can’t quite seem to walk completely away from the keyboard where blogging is concerned. Personal exposition has always been my favorite form of writing. It’s about as exhibitionist as I get and this in spite of my being a Sagittarius and all.

The widow dating stuff is probably the most popular if my search stats are to be believed.

If someone had told me back in my early single girl days at university that one day people would be reading my dating advice, I wouldn’t have known what to say. I was the hands down princess of the wallflower set. I had virtually no idea of how to get anyone to notice me, ask me out or how to go about initiating and maintaining a relationship. Seriously, hopeless on the romantic front and utterly clueless about relationships summed me up well into my thirties.

I wouldn’t even say that I was all that good at marriage the first time around.

So, the dating stuff, which pulls people in daily, is a bit of a shocking surprise.

Though I prefer writing about current events and politics, these are less of a draw. Understandable as I am not mainstream and neither buy nor sell the Wizard of Oz version of politics. I think that looking behind the curtain and seeing the Wizard for who he/she actually is works better in the long run than blissfully buying into whatever the current hope and change fantasy is. Most people wouldn’t agree, but it doesn’t keep me from reminding them that Emperor’s are rarely as clothed as they appear.

I still write about myself, which is amazing. And people read those posts. Which is equally astounding. And somewhat scary because I know some of these people in real life. I try not to think about that.

Originally, the blog was random, whiny and a bit about my annoyance with having been widowed. It was never really about grieving. Probably because I was nearly done with that by the time I started blogging.

Then, the blog centered on dating and remarriage. But that has a shelf life too.

Though I still write about Rob and I, we are old married folk in practice now if not in boots on the ground years. Perhaps we should count in dog years?

I have never been a mommy-blogger and I still find the writing from your uterus point of view repellant. I bred once. I have children. I mommy. I don’t think any of this defines me as a writer or is enthralling enough to do much of. Even my brief stint at a mommy blog was more a genre experiment than anything else.

So? Will the blogging continue?

Oh, I imagine so. I am not totally over it though I think that blogging as a writing form is at one of its lowest points, having been saturated to the point where everyone thought they could blog because they didn’t realize that it was about being able to write as much as it was about being self-absorbed. The narcissists eventually quit and the writers remain.

1500. It’s kind of inspiring.

Writer's Stop

Writer's Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

1.      Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

This is pretty important. At the end of a story, article, novel or whatever, a reader shouldn’t wish he/she had that time back. Most writers are fairly cognizant that the reader is doing them a favor by bothering to read and at, but some really push a reader’s generosity. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series comes to mind, partly because I finished it not long ago but mostly because he is one of those writers who is philosophical okay with meandering in the narrative weeds and dragging his readers along with him. His books drag on for hundreds and hundreds and then hundreds more pages, introducing a Russian novels worth of main characters with their own ancillary casts who bring in even more minor characters. There are so many point of view characters that when readers, naturally, develop preferences, they find other characters and plots/sub-plots distracting and a waste of time. If anyone needed proof that Martin is just indulging himself, they’d need only compare the novels to the HBO adaptation, which has cut characters and plotlines with equal abandon and is still managing to tell quite a good story. A secondary rule to the “don’t waste your reader’s time” would probably be – if you can edit your story by half and still tell a good story – you’ve burying your lead.
2.      Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

I don’t really believe this to be true of current day story telling. There are plenty of examples of books without a redeeming character to be found and yet people read. It’s not about rooting for the character as much as finding their story compelling, and that doesn’t mean characters have to be sympathetic as much as they just are extremely interesting.

3.      Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

I agree. Although the character doesn’t have to know what it is he/she wants or even be aware of the need/want, but the reader has to known.

4.      Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

Yes, please! But it doesn’t have to be every sentence. Maybe every paragraph or page. Certainly every chapter should find characters, plot and readers farther along than they were.

5.      Start as close to the end as possible.
It cuts down on the meandering and as a writer, you can always go back and add. – either to beef up or to judiciously insert back story.  It’s easier to add than it is to cut.
6.      Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
I was noting this not long ago after Rob and I watched the movie, Beginners, with Ewen McGregor and Christopher Plummer. All stories are about two things really – loss and gain. Death, love, birth, aging, family, friends, lovers. You are losing or gaining or both nearly all the time.
And turmoil is what draws us. Think of the bloggers you read. What’s going on in their lives that brings you to read or makes them write?  For myself, I know that it’s easier to write when things are going on – good or bad. Status quo rarely compels me to come to the keyboard.
The same is true of readers. Zen is an admirable state of being but dull from a narrative perspective.
7.      Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

You should know your audience and you should cater to them. One of the reasons I am uneven and mostly unknown as a blogger is that I don’t write for that sweet spot niche. I wander about and so does my readership. Success means picking you p.o.v. and honing in on it.

8.      Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Agreed. Even mystery and suspense writers need to set a careful stage. When too much info is withheld than readers are caught off guard when characters take different turns or disappear from a story. Surprise is all well and good but if a novel hinges on constantly fooling the readers into believing one thing will happen and then the opposite does – one ends up with angry readers who won’t read your stuff again. People like the occasional surprise but prefer, really, the predictable. The bad guy gets his just dessert. The star-crossed couple comes together at the end. There are writers here and there who can get away with killing off major characters or having the couple part ways at the end of the story, but not many. That kind of story-telling turns most readers off. People don’t read fiction because they want more real life but because they want life that defies real life and is better than it. It’s more adventuresome or romantic in some ways but relatable on others. There is a reason whey some authors are perennially popular in spite of the fact that they seem to write the same book over and over. People like knowing what is going to happen. Real life isn’t like that at all after all.

I am reminded recently that April is Poetry Month. When I was still teaching public school, I knew all the various, and somewhat useless, monthly designations. There was usually more than one, and months could be so weighted down, it’s a wonder they progressed one to the next at all.

Poetry was my least favorite subject to teach but being an English teacher, I was obliged and the grade sevens that I taught were giddy whenever I steeled myself enough to endure more than a few days of it in a row.

Age as not modified much my indifference to poetry, but in keeping with the month, I will share this little gem that I stumbled across in a vain search for some bit of rhyme that didn’t render me even more indifferent: