Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Revision, revision, revision

Back to Lu Chi's Wen Fu: The Art of Writing
In Chapter VII.  "The Key," the last three stanzas are referring to searching out the best words and revising.

What wants to continue must not end;
   what has been fully stated is itself a conclusion.

However each sentence branches and spreads,
   it grows from a well-placed phrase.

Restrain verbosity, establish order;
otherwise, further and further revision. (lines 5-10)

The ideas in these stanzas are so important to completing a work.  A writer seeks precision, to make the "well-placed phrase."  And when it is said well, the reader understands.  The difficulty comes in deciding if what is written met the demand.  I trust my instincts.  I have been working on an anthology (which I have mentioned in prior posts) and have been going through each story. Two stories continue to make me hesitate to include them, so I finally pulled them out of the work.  What is left is strong, but still in need of revision.  And so, I am off to "further and further" revise.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: #22 2012

Start with this dialogue:  "I can't find it."
Have only one character to start with.  He or she will respond to imagined comments made by someone else not really present.   Perhaps you will want someone to overhear this conversation, maybe the person imagined to be responding.  In any case, let the one character carry both sides of the conversation until you feel that the situation has been fleshed out.

Remember not to let your characters answer any questions directly unless the question is important.  See my post on 3/7/12 (How to write good dialogue) for more ways to make dialogue have a natural feel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A writer's platform: A scary propostion

So I have been working on my "platform" (please grimace while saying this, cringe a little, then reset shoulders more firmly).  I have a Twitter (@LDarbyGibbs) account and an Indie Writer's account, a Google+ something or other and a Facebook page (which I still have not figured out after three months of ownership.  It didn't help that it changed format just when I was getting less nervous about what I should do with it.)  But Twitter is less overwhelming by far than any of them.  After all, a writer should be able to write a sentence or two on the fly.

My most difficult problem is friend requests.  I don't get them often, but when I do, I have no idea how to respond.  Mostly I think, "Why do you want to be my friend?  What about me caught your attention?"  If I can look at their blog, profile or information, I'll see if we have anything in common, or if I find them interesting.  But I don't just say, "Sure, join the party."

Follow me, I'll follow you:  those just make me crazy.  It seems kind of like little kids collecting stickers.  My daughter, when she was little, loved to collect stickers. She would smile gleefully when she received one.  Stick it to something, didn't matter what, or give it away to someone she liked just to see them smile, but she never asked about it again or searched out where she had stuck it.  Followers are like that if they are just returning a follow.  Sure, I want followers, but I want to earn them, not buy them.
Writer's platform just coming into visibility

Where was I:  oh, yes, platform.  Mine is in the just-coming- into-visibility stage.  That is if it were a tangible thing, at this point, you would see a vague outline of wood planks, with darkened circular shapes, probably bolts, notable in pairs at the ends and about halfway along each plank.  I work to build solid stuff, but it's not finished. So, invisible man kind-of-thing just starting to be made solid appearing, but not yet.  This blog is one of those planks, and it is one of two that appears like you could step on it and not fall through. My book is the other solid looking plank.  And see that one over there, off to the right at the top of this foundation?  That one is the anthology I am working on.  The last short story is getting fleshed out.  Then it is heavy duty revise and edit for the lot of them.  Maybe by late June, early July it will debut.  And one more plank will appear.  A person could lay a towel down and get suntanned perhaps.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: #21 2012

This time, find instrumental music that you can listen to, classical, new age, even 30 seconds of music with lyrics, so longs as those 30 seconds run before the lyrics do. Whatever you find, close your eyes and play it for 30 seconds to a minute.  Listen until you can see the scene it would do well to be the soundtrack for.  When you have that image firmly in mind, start writing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lu Chi's Wen Fu

When I was in college, one of the books a professor required we purchase was Lu Chi's Wen Fu.  Just reading the introduction convinced me this was a book for me.   The book is written in poetry, but reads like a guide you climbed to the top of a mountain to sit with in silence, growing knowledgeable just through association.  Though it is geared toward the poet, any writer can gain insight from it.

"The poet stands at the center of the universe
   contemplating the enigma,

drawing sustenance
   from masterpieces of the past.  ("The Early Motion" lines 1-4)
Lu Chi's Wen Fu

This simple book walks the writer through all the agonies of creation, the selection of the right word, bright epiphanies and the moments of satisfaction.  Frequently, it reminds the reader that contemplation and study of  master works is the road to writing well.  I remember reading this book and nodding in agreement with each line.  I also recall finding every time the professor brought this book into discussion in class that I knew what he was saying almost before the words left his mouth.  There was an instant connection to the professor's words, this little book and my own understanding of the art of writing, however much a novice I was (and will always be as we are forever evolving in this craft).

If you are a writer, get this book.  Read it in small bits.  Breath it.  Contemplate it and then read the masters.  Then read the book again, whole, part, in sequence, out of order.  Grab snatches of it and return to it often.  Each reading is a new understanding, a new breath in writing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: #20 2012

How about fishing in the Baltic?
I had a friend who was suffering from some medical problems that the doctors were having trouble diagnosing.  After some months, it was suggested she see a psychiatrist to make sure she wasn't causing her difficulties.  She went and was told that what she needed to do was change the color of her hair so she could start with a new outlook on life, and then she would feel better.  I don't think she left the room until she had vented much of her long built-up frustration on the fellow. I am sure she felt much better after that.  Any way it was a wheel chair and a couple months later when she was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and finally given proper treatment.  But that is not the point I am making.

Sometimes a character does go a bit stale.  Try changing something about them.  Add some hidden complexity that did not show until now:  an old interest in poisonous spiders conveniently useful; a tendency to daydream at odd times, say while driving a car; bothersome warts.  Start out with the character you have come to know too well and find some equivalent to changing her hair color.  Either the character will change or the reaction of other characters to her will.  If all else fails, have one character say something stupid to her.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Writing and kayaking: where worlds overlap

Meandering rivers & minds
This past weekend I went kayaking with my husband and daughter.  We parked by a little lake and proceeded to launch our kayaks. Ready to go exploring, we had all been eying the source creek to our left. 

We didn’t get far into the creek before the lake disappeared and all sounds common to a lake full of campers were so dimmed that only the birds, movement of water and occasional flying wasp were heard.  I had deliberately let my husband and daughter slide on ahead of me and pass beyond the next curve just so I could take in that feeling that I was somewhere far from civilization. 

Along the banks were tight growths of trees, many of which have been undercut by resent high water flow, some having fallen partially across the creek added to the untouched feel of the place.  The cardinals and black ducks complained at our presence, and the fish were well camouflaged by the turbid water. 

I allowed the pretense of being utterly alone soak in.  Much of the sky was blocked by the canopy of trees overhead, but what showed was pale blue with occasional slashes of white clouds.  We had set out on a windy day, yet on that creek, no breeze stirred the trees, and along some lengths of the meandering river even the water was torpid and silty, where slender, curved leaves floated in stillness.

This same sense of being alone and in a untenanted place happens when I write.  The rest of the room I am in disappears and just the images filling the screen in front of me and the soft clack of the keyboard are my world.  I suppose that is why I enjoy kayaking alone so much, even if only a turn in the river up ahead creates the illusion.  The two experiences mirror each other.  I am exploring an unknown space of my own creation, my imagination building up a world.  But like the turn of the river ahead, a turn of my chair brings family up close again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: #19 2012

Storm coming on.
Imagine it is raining heavily. The wind is sporadic, but the lightening and thunder are almost rhythmic. Put a character in this setting or develop just the setting itself.  Consider not just sound, but the vibration of the cracking thunder. Work in as much sensory detail as possible.  Get inside the mind of your character as well if you included one.  Just keep adding details and thought process until you feel it is finished.  If you over do your description, no problem. Any piece of writing can be made useful, even it it just ends up being sold for parts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I am going to sit here and mull this over a bit.

Working in my own backyard.
I've been chatting with another blogger about how to increase traffic on her site. I was looking at her blog, I was noting what I thought was really good about her site.  It is a cleanly laid out blog.  Not too busy and it has a bright feel to it. I read a few of her posts and thought about how she could improve them, what she was probably working to create in her blog.  And I thought of some suggestions I could give her.  In fact, I kept thinking about things I could suggest and realized:  heck, I need to look at my own blog and see what is good about it, what my visitors note when they stop by, and what I hope to create with it.

Over the past few months, I have made changes here and there, added things, determined that my focus is geared to writers, published or comfortably creating without expectation to publish, and I have tried to create a place that will draw and hold attention.  But still, I don't think I have made major inroads in devising a clear sense of purpose or creating a set audience. So in that moment of thinking of another idea for this other blogger, I realized I need to give my own spot more focused attention, more than just posting regularly and following my opening plan. So though I have no ideas for immediate change right now.  I am going to be thinking about change.  And if anyone has suggestions, make a comment. I am interested in what a new eye sees upon arrival at To Begin With....  And I am even more interested in knowing what I could do to improve.

So drop in, stop a while and give me some feedback.

And if you still feel like wandering, go to Nicole's site,  I owe her for making me think more about my own.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #18

Write about a person in an awkward situation.  Maybe she caught someone reading her diary or she found someone's diary and had just flipped the cover when the owner stepped into the room.  Maybe he just realized the speech in his hand was the one he had decided was too raw for this audience and had written another, at this moment still on the kitchen counter where he had left it the night before to replace the one he had nixed.  But here he is standing at the podium one speech in hand, the other largely but not completely memorized, its hard copy version a long way off.  What does your character do?  Set the stage and let your character react to his or her situation.