RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Are We Teching Ourselves Out of Creativity?


WaitThey have invaded every aspect of our lives just like Ray Bradbury suggested they would. Computers determine everything from climate control inside our homes and cars to how long I need to cook my food in the new-fangled crockpot I just bought. And you know what? Like sheep that absently follow the Shepard into slaughter so have humans gone in terms of computers. We have all bought into the concept of making our lives easier all the while never actually realizing that we are literally easing ourselves out of jobs…hell out of usefulness.

Remember all those Science Fiction movies where computers and robots take over the world? Well the one thing that many movies watchers fail to see in those movies is that those scenarios are our fault. We created those situations and we are at fault for the fall of humanity in each and every one of them. We, the humans, were just trying to make things “easier”….what where we thinking?

I just read an article on Flip – A News Gathering Program on my iPad, about how even writers could one day be replaced by software and computers. That’s right, there are eggheads out there who are trying to create algorithms that will write a book. No novelist, no starving writer, just a computer program in a dark room somewhere slapping words together for the masses. I don’t know about you, but the concept terrified me. But let’s go back to the first sentence of this paragraph…”I just read an article on Flip – A News Gathering Program on my iPad”, OMG…I’m part of the problem.

Admittedly I am a gadget junkie. If it’s cool and it lights up I would like to own it. I’m kind of stupid in that way. For me it isn’t about the ease but sometimes it is just the “cool” factor yet, I am still to blame for the advent of stuff being created to replace me. I use to write long-hand (for those of you techno junkies, “long-hand” is when you use a pen and a piece of paper to write down what is in your head…I know so old fashioned huh?) but now I have a digital journal on my iPad. I also use to write the first draft of my novels in long-hand. Somewhere in the garage there is a whole box of yellow legal pads with my first two books written on them…now I have a program (actually several of them) to write me books. I’m currently writing this column on my iPad which I will then transfer to my laptop and then put it up on the blog….I am so close to not having to write it at all…I’ll bet there is already a program out there that will compose an article about any subject I want. It’s frightening when you think about it. (Of course that article won’t have my rapier wit…but hey you have to sacrifice something for advancement right?)

This realization made me sad this morning and then it made me kind of angry at myself. I have been using my iPad to write, my laptop to create, I have been reading digital books instead of buying the old standards (which I actually enjoy more, the standards that is) and I have been searching for those programs that will make my writing easier, more organized. And do you know what I realized this morning?  My search for those programs has often stopped me from actually writing. I am often so busy searching that I don’t write…I’m too busy trying to find the “right” program. I am a part of the problem and I have to stop.

There may come a day when computer programs attempt to write novels, short stories and articles but you know what? Without the human element I have to believe that the work will not have the same feel as a book written by an actual person. Missing will be the heart that the writer invests in his/her story and I think real readers will miss that to a point that, in the end, writers will always b around to some degree. As for me and my part, I am going out today and purchasing some comp books and I’m writing my next book first draft long-hand. I owe it to the craft and maybe…just maybe…if I’m not searching for the “perfect” program I will actually get some writing done…imagine that…a writer….writing…..hmmmm……

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Community – Whether it’s Zombies or Writers…It’s Important


zombie_apocalypse_Recently I was reminded of the importance of community. I have been having a tough time with my writing and like many of our kind (writers) I was suffering in silence….alone. I was sitting (often in the dark) admonishing myself for not being able to figure it out. What kind of writer was I after all, if I couldn’t just break through the dark cloud of non-writing that had descended upon my keyboard? Well, I was…dare I say it….normal….

Every writer goes through their dark times. For every writer their trigger is different. For me it was the stress of failing health and economics that I just couldn’t seem to keep up with. I had fallen into a depression of sorts where my writing was sloughing off, hiding in a corner from my pessimism. I really couldn’t blame my writing, hell I didn’t even want to be around me. I needed something to pull me up by my bootstraps because, frankly, I couldn’t seem to reach them myself. Enter a fellow writer…

Colleen Sells is the editor of the Cup of Comfort books. I met Colleen when one of my stories was chosen to be in the very first edition of these uplifting and inspirational books. Think Chicken Soup only with a soft, read by your bedside feel. Colleen had not only been an inspiration when we first met but she became a friend who, over the years, was always quick with a kind word. We hadn’t spoken in a few years, having lost track during the crazy times and one day a few weeks ago I happened upon her website. I dropped a line to say hello and after several emails back and forth, Colleen once again was the source of inspiration for me. I feel better and my writing is back stronger than ever.

One of the things that Colleen has always been big on is community. You need other writers, she had told me, and they are the only ones who understand what you feel. She’s right, we all need each other. To shore this concept up I was watching The Walking Dead last Sunday with my daughter and she pointed out the obvious. “Hey,” she says after an intense scene, “event he zombies kind of need each other to lure the humans out.” She was right, even the zombies had formed a kind of community whether they realized it or not.

So next time you are feeling down or blocked, remember that you are a part of a community of writers and reach out. We do need each other and there is nothing wrong with saying so. I know that I need you….and I want you all to know that I am certainly here for you.

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kickstarting My New Project


Dark-Corners5I am finishing a 70,000 word thriller that will tell the story of a young couple who discover that the horror of their family past has been passed on to them along with the family home. The story marries all the elements of a thriller, a supernatural story as well as some government conspiracy throw in for intriguing back story.

Although I have a few books published through “traditional” publishing houses, I thought it might be interesting to self-publish this one. More and more authors are finding this a great way to get their work out there AND keep some of the hard earned money that comes in as a result of their work. This project is my throwing my hat in the ring.

The money raised will help pay for the many aspects of self-publishing. The cover was created by an incredible up and coming artist named Jordan Colvin. (I’d love to pay him for his work) and there is some editing that needs to be done before we can toss this thrill ride of a story out into the world.

So visit Kickstarter and the project page and see if you can help me get this project going at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/310052489/dark-corners-could-use-a-little-light

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


04.06.10-LinkedIn-Status-UpdateMy regular website is updated and there is a second writing blog called Random Thoughts that you may find interesting. Take a look at http://jaifarris.com/

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I Can Do It! I Can Do It! I Can Do It! (Well Maybe I Can Do It)


6017_484893534910943_2003066770_nSelf-doubt…it is the kryptonite of the writer. It is our garlic, it is our silver bullet, and it is our road block on the highway to getting published. It sucks.

For me personally self-doubt can stop me cold. I can become so overwhelmed with self-doubt that I can hardly open the laptop. I have (in the past) found myself sitting at my desk, playing Candy Crush and self-talking myself out of working at all just because of self-doubt. What if I really suck as a writer? What if no one wants to read my work? What if they laugh when they aren’t supposed to? What if I should have been a plumber and I have missed my calling? These are all questions that run through my scattered mind from time to time. Self-doubt can paralyze you and your work.

I believe (and this is just my opinion) that we writers are so loaded down with self-doubt because what we do is such a quiet thing until it is published. Let’s be honest, we are building something but it isn’t like an addition onto the house that everyone can readily see. Other jobs allow for the person doing them to get updates from fellow workers…”hey great job on that lawn Bob” or “Great report Tara”…writing is a lonely job and more often than not there is no one to read through the previous day’s work and say, “great job Jai…you’ve got a real winner here…keep writing”.

Writers also have to deal with the fact that most people don’t understand what they do so it’s not like there are a lot of people to talk to when the self-doubt does creep in. For this reason it is a good idea to create a database of writers whom you can talk to when you do need to bend an ear. It is important to talk about your work and get some sort of feedback. If you don’t get feedback self-doubt will settle in.

So what are some of the things a writer can do to combat self-doubt? Here are a few things I have learned over the years….

Know you goals – You have to set goals and then you have to hold yourself accountable to those goals. Because writing isn’t like other jobs where there is a boss to scream at you, you have to do the screaming yourself. Set a goal and you won’t have time for self-doubt.

Create that database of writers – The internet is wonderful for this…I have writer friends on Twitter, Facebook and Google +. Just because your support group is digital doesn’t mean they are any less supportive.

Remind yourself why you love to write – I have a screen saver that I created that lists all the reasons I love to write. When I am really full of self-doubt I make it my desktop so that I can be reminded of why I do what I do.

Put the self-doubt in a drawer – Self-doubt is a fact of life. Plumbers, electricians, even parking garage attendants experience self-doubt from time to time; see it for what it is and file it under “crap I need to ignore”. Self-doubt is just the fear that we might fail…and we might…but if we see failure as a lesson and not a life altering event, we can get past that self-doubt.

There are no boundaries to hold you when you are a writer. The universe is our notebook and we have the ability and the privilege of writing down what we see, real or perceived. What a great way to spend our time. Now put self-doubt in a drawer and get back to writing….

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Use Your Past…That’s What it’s There for….


Move-On-QuoteSometimes we have to see things through new eyes. We have to take a giant step back and ask ourselves, what am I doing and why am I doing it? Then, once we have answered those questions, we need to take some kind of action in order to step towards our goals. Recently I had to do that myself and you know what…it feels pretty good.

Several years ago I went through a very traumatic experience. We aren’t talking, “OMG I’m out of beer” but the kind of traumatic experience that redefines who you are.  In 2005 I became a whole new person…problem was, I didn’t realize that until very recently. I went from being a carefree, generally optimistic kind of person to a brooding, wow everything-kind-of-pisses-me-off kind of person. It was subtle so many of my friends and family didn’t see it at first, but my spouse who has to look at me every day, knew something was off. As for me, well I think I knew but I was sort of in denial. I kept up the façade of being the same old me but inside I was a wreck. But I wasn’t the only one suffering…my work was too.

Without boring you with the details let’s just say that the change in me was directly related to my writing. My writing was the cause of the traumatic experience so, of course, deep inside, I sort of blamed it. Because I blamed it I became almost paralyzed with fear every time I even considered finishing a project. I could start it and I could work on it for a while but send it out into the world to get recognized? No way….that would mean attention and my fear would have none of that. I had to figure out something though and soon, my spouse was simply getting tired of the excuses as to why I couldn’t work. Then, recently, I had a heart attack and when one of my writing friends came by to visit me in the hospital she said something that very well may have saved my life and my writing….she told me to get over it and she explained how I could do so productively.

Our past, she explained doesn’t define us unless we allow it to. That, she said, was what I had been doing. I had taken this traumatic experience and allowed it to handcuff me to the fence. I had the keys to those handcuffs along but I was refusing to use the key, worried about what might happen if I allowed my writing back into my life in the same intimate relationship we had shared before. I argued of course…it’s what I do…I whined that I was afraid and that my writing had gotten me into trouble in the first place…she stopped me, shook her head and told me that my writing hadn’t gotten me into trouble living in my past did. Confounded about what to do in order to pull out of it, I sat in my hospital bed feeling a mixture of guilt and fear. Then my friend offered the simplest of solutions….write about it.

We all have a past. Some of us lied when we were kids, some of us weren’t kind to our parents, some of us divorced cheating spouses and some of us were the cheating spouse…whatever your demon is, it doesn’t belong in your way, it belongs in your writing. The best way to get rid of what ailed my writing was to use it. I use everything else in my life after all. I write about my kids, I have friends whom I have based characters on, hell I even used my mother as a serial killer once…why not use this really bad memory too?  I’m not going to say that it is easy going…that fear is still there but I am working through it now and I am actually beginning a new project, something I haven’t done in a long while. So if you have a past memory that is interfering with your work, why not put it where it belongs…into your writing. You are a writer and what makes you a good writer is that your work is authentic and that only comes from experience…good and bad…use your past….that’s what it’s there for….

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Healthy Writers, Inspiration, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

He Said and Then She Said and Then He said but Then She Said…


he-she-saidWriter’s Note – Reset Sunday will be back this week so watch for it….

This is one of the problems most writers face within the first couple of manuscripts they produce…the “he said/she said” problem. Now most of you are wondering if this is a column about dialogue and it is but it is more to the point about “saying”…

We have all read those books where the author feels the need to tell you who said what in every line of dialogue. I am here to tell you that you don’t have to do that. If your story is well written, you’re your reader should be able to follow a simple conversation without all the handholding. The only time a writer should have to point out that he said or she said is in the very beginning when you are defining who the conversation is between. Then using he said or she said leads the reader to the characters part of the conversation. After that, in a conversation with just two people using he said and she said is adding words to your word count that you don’t need and it makes your story sound like it was written by a 2nd grader.

Having said that, let’s talk about another closely related dialogue issue…using the word said ALL….THE….TIME. There are hundreds of words that a writer could use to convey that there is a conversation going on and many of those words serve the dual purpose of also setting tone. You don’t want your characters to always just “say” something…sometimes you want them to acknowledge, add, admit or affirm something. What about allege, agree, announce, argue, articulate, ask, assert, aver, avow, bark, beg, bid, bluff, bluster, boast, brag, butt in, challenge, chant, chime in, chirp, cite, claim, command, comment, communicate, concede, confess, confide, contest, continue, contradict, convey, correct, declare, defend, deliver, demand, deny, disclose, divulge, echo, emphasize, encourage, enquire, exclaim, explain, express, gripe, groan, grumble, grunt, imply….whew…we could go on forever. You can say something but wouldn’t it be more fun to growl it or convey it?

I understand that we have all been conditioned to he said and she said but at the end of the day when your reader is turning those pages you want him/her to be drawn in by the excitement of your story and that includes how your characters communicate. So go back over that manuscript…are you he saiding and she saiding too much? Use the hundreds of other ways to convey how your characters are speaking and bump it up a notch. Your readers will thank you and your manuscript will sound like it has been written by someone other than the author of the Dick and Jane series.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 11, 2013 in grammar, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: