Write Now Prompt for August 28, 2015

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

When they decided to try out the newest restaurant in town, they had no idea what they were getting into.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Gone But Not Forgotten

OldBooksAlmost everything that I wrote more than fifteen years ago no longer exists.  The box containing my old notebooks and any school assignments I’d deemed worth saving disappeared during a cross country move.  The world is probably a better place because of this.

A few things do survive—certain papers or stories that for one reason or another were transcribed to computer and managed to survive the steady upgrade of computers over the years.  When I read these few survivors I cringe.

It’s not that my writing was bad, it was just….  It was unpolished, adjective-heavy, repetitive, sparse on meaningful description, and plot laden.  It was young.

But—and this is important—it was full of ideas, and it was full of excitement.

As an adult, I’m better at taking a random idea—i.e., a writing prompt—and with time and patience working that into something useful.  I’m better at revising a raw rough draft and molding it into something polished.  But what I’m missing now, what those early books were full of, were ideas that sprung completely from my own head—ideas that I was passionate about developing.

Sure, some of those ideas have hung around.  The ones I spent more time trying to tame were repeated enough that they are at least partially committed to memory.  But when I think back to the ideas I lost, I find myself wishing that I was able to revisit some of the crazier ideas with the honed skills I have now.

Do you still have the stories, notebooks or ideas you came up with in your past?  How far back?  Do you find them helpful, or do they just make you cringe?

I’d love to hear your answers in the comments—or pop over to the Today’s Author Forum and talk about it with other writers.

Interview with Author Alison Boulton

Years ago, I discovered a book called Tom’s Daughters on a writing website and it was so good that I bought a version when it was self-published. It was the first e-book I ever purchased and remains one of the best I’ve read. I still remember the characters like they were real people. So when I heard that the author, Alison Boulton, was publishing a second novel – I jumped at the chance to do an interview.

KO: What did you learn about self-publishing from your first book? How are things different this time around?

AB: An acquaintance suggested that he helped me self-publish Tom’s Daughters as an e-book to see if he could ‘make us both a fortune.’ I was happy to accept this as it hadn’t been picked up despite being sent to numerous agents. I wasn’t comfortable negotiating the formatting and the technical stuff required to put in on Amazon for Kindle. He also did the cover from a photo I provided and set up a website. I think the deal was that he got 25% of revenues. The downside was that when sales were slow he lost interest and I got frustrated nagging for information and at not having control to update accounts myself.

This time round I wanted control from the beginning, and I also wanted a book that I could hold in my hand. I’ll put it on Kindle later, of course, but having the paperback makes publication and being a writer feel much more real. I think other people’s reactions have been more positive too.

KO: Where do you get your story inspiration from?

AB: For me a story starts with an image or a couple of images that are linked in some way. With Tom’s Daughters I wanted to write about sisters, but there was also the picture of a young woman with a small child in North London. The issue of the mysterious father was hovering in the background.

With Chasing Sunflowers it was again the image of a child, this time a boy, painting sunflowers for his mother. It was clear they were in Amsterdam where I also lived for a few years, and that the mother was lonely.

I then have to sit and try and work out the bones of a plot. Sometimes I write random scenes or conversations. Chasing Sunflowers was written first as a short story, but then it slowly grew into a novel, changing and developing in the process. The actual ending was the last thing to become clear.

KO: What kind of writer are you? Do you plot everything out before writing or does it evolve throughout the process? Do you force yourself to write every day? How long does it take to write a novel?

AB: The writing definitely evolves, but there has to be a certain amount of plotting too, plus a timeline of events. It always takes me a while at the beginning to sort dates out – how old was that character when this happened, etc.? And some thought must go into how the threads of the story entwine and unfold to keep the reader interested. There should, I think, always be some sort of denouement at the end. And I don’t really like sad endings, so I haven’t written one yet!

And it takes me ages to finish a novel, maybe even two or three years, because other stuff – like teaching and running our holiday complex – get in the way. I have to earn a living, unfortunately. I’m hoping the next one, currently called The Red Balloon, will be quicker though. And I do try to at least look at it every day but I don’t always succeed.

KO: Tell us about Chasing Sunflowers. Who is your audience?

AB: Chasing Sunflowers is the story of Kate, who moves to Amsterdam with her husband and young son. Lost and lonely in a new city, she develops a passion for the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Her decision to study them leads her to artist Rudy de Jong and following in Vincent’s footsteps, she makes a trip to Arles which transforms her life.

So, it’s a book about a woman who steps outside her own life, and how the experience changes her. There’s quite a lot about Amsterdam, the south of France and Vincent van Gogh too.

My first audience is me, since it was me I told the story to first and I liked it. So after that people a bit like me, I suppose; usually female, maybe over 25, though my daughters who are 20 and 22 enjoyed it too.

KO: What are your favorite books?

AB: I mostly read books about ‘real’ people and characters in plausible situations. I’m not a fan of Magic Realism or Fantasy novels. I hate anything sensationalist, badly written or too soppy. I love Ian McEwan, AS Byatt, Anne Tyler, and Doris Lessing amongst many others. Some of Lessing’s writing is futuristic, but then I love the prophetic nature of her work. Also EM Forster; I always say Howards End is my favourite book. I don’t know if it’s really true but it’s definitely up there.

KO: Alison, thanks so much for sharing and best of luck with the new book.

Write Now Prompt for August 25, 2015

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

Soon after they arrived at the campground, there were police cars everywhere.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: Beginnings and Endings

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We all write differently in terms of planning and outlining or writing from the seat of our pants (or something in between).  Today we’re curious: Do you prefer to have a well-formed beginning in mind before you start writing and then you write or plan until the ending becomes clear?  Or do you find it preferable to know how the story will end and then plan out or write until you accomplish the desired ending?  Or do you have another preference in terms of how you get going on a new work?

Discuss this topic here in the comments or head on over to the forums to start or engage in a more thorough discussion.

Write Now Prompt for August 21, 2015

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The news that her uncle had passed away hit her hard, even though she hadn’t seen him in nearly thirty years.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Writing Change

I’ve always wanted to write.  In my teens I had a love for speculative and science fiction.  In particular, I loved dystopia and post apocalyptic stories.  Books like, Earth Abides, Alas Babylon, 1984, Brave New World, and On The Beach, were subjects that interested me.  In the movies, Planet of the Apes, Phase IV, THX1138, Silent Running and other similar stories drew me in.  I wanted to write those kinds of stories.

At sixteen I even started to write a post nuclear war novel that I titled, The Day After.  Sadly in 1983, after years of little progress that title was stolen from me by a made for TV movie of the same subject.  Figuring I’d never sell the title, I gave up writing it.  Likely for the best as I’d gotten stuck writing endless descriptions of the tools the people used with very little story or character development.

After that my writing went in two different directions.  One was professional, on my job I did a fair amount of technical writing (procedures, manuals, theory of operation guides) and the other was short stories.  My fiction writing was undisciplined and I tended to writing bursts, sometimes with years between producing anything.  Some of it was okay, but most lacked the polish a good story needed.

My tastes in books started to change as I entered my mid-thirties.  I read less fiction and more religious books on theology, preaching, the Bible and so on.  Most of my writing during this time of my life was actually sermons I wrote for church or various workshops I attended.  Again, my writing was in binges, based in inspiration that rarely came.  It was frustrating writing, with only occasional flashes of quality.

It was about this time that I started back to community college with an eye toward completing my BA.  I was already employed as a software engineer and after having to retake calculus twice, I decided that I’d pursue my dream of being a writer.  I left the engineering and math classes and entered the world of English and literature.

It wasn’t easy.  In addition to a lack of discipline, I also suffered from three problems when it came to writing:

  1. I couldn’t spell – seriously, I almost failed the 6th grade because I couldn’t remember how to spell words.  Once I asked a teacher how to spell, ‘of.’  If it wasn’t for spell checkers, on-line dictionaries and my wife, I couldn’t spell anything (really, took me three times to spell that word ‘anything’).
  2. I couldn’t read my own hand writing.  They almost held me back in the third grade because no one could teach me how to write with a pencil.  If it wasn’t for typewriters and now computers, I’d just be one of the carpenters banging nails into your house.
  3. Proofreading was a mysterious art beyond my comprehension.  I’ve been told the theory, even took a class in it, but for the life of me I just couldn’t seee tpyos.

I had to find ways to cope with these impediments.  A good computer, word processing software and internet access has helped tremendously.  On the proofreading front, it’s my wife who graciously does most of the copy editing for me.  Without the tools and help from my wife, I wouldn’t be able to write as I do today.  I still struggle with these issues, but I make small improvements with practice.

Progressing through my English degree, I learned to perfect my writing skills as I wrote paper after paper for my classes.  Each had tight deadlines and specific requirements.  This helped give me more discipline and control over my writing process.  There wasn’t anything magical in the education, just a willingness to work hard.

Something else happened as I progressed through getting married, and studying English – my tastes in literature changed.  While I still like a good SciFi story, it’s no longer the first thing I reach for.  I am more likely to pick up a history book or a biography.

Along the way I also ran into Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  Cameron’s concepts have refined many of my notions on what writing and creativity is all about.  I am especially mindful of her notion of “Breathing in.”  That is, doing things that feed your artistic soul or in her terms, the artist’s date.  For me that is things like hiking in the woods, reading, working in my wood shop, visiting art museums, seeing movies and so on.

Writing doesn’t all happen at the keyboard.  Much of it happens in the car on the way to work or while walking around the roots of a redwood tree.  This part – the words on the page – is just the result of a longer process of creativity. That was a notion I missed in my early years of writing.

Today I write in ways I never intended as a teen.  Most of my writing is on my blog where I’ve managed to mostly keep up a weekly writing routine.  This writing is generally personal essays, light humor and poetry.

Poetry is the other major change in my writing.  Until recently, I wasn’t much interested in poems.  I studied them when I had to at the university, but never had a passion for them.  Some of my professors did note from time to time that my writing had a ‘lyrical’ quality.  Oh, I wrote a few poems over the years.  Some in my 20s, a couple in my 30s.  There was a poem about a computer, a house that burned down and even a love poem or two.

But there was one transformational experience that has changed my writing. In, 2011 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  The radiation treatments have worked and I am three years post treatment with no re-occurrence. Last year I thought it was time I wrote a book and thought I’d start with a book about my experience with cancer.  I’d blogged about it, so the theory was that I’d just tidy those posts up, add detail to them and expand it into a nice work of prose.

I sat down to write
and just couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t get past the emotion of
those days,
those fears,
those tears.

A sentence wasn’t long
enough to contain
that short punch to the gut
of the call
from the doc.

Only in abstract,
only in vision,
only in emotion,
could I show that tale
where the world shifted
and perception changed.

Holding the feeling my hand
and seeing with my heart
was the only way
my brain could paint
a story for your eye.

Today I write different
Today I think different
I embrace change
and let my words take flight.

That book of poems,
now sits on the coffee table
with a red pen as Heather edits
and I contemplate the next step.

So I’ll close with this thought:
embrace the change that is you
and keep writing however you can.

Andrew

Tell the Story

A few weeks ago, we asked the question each of us has probably been asked many times: Why do we write? We had a few people answer both online and offline and the general theme of the responses was simple:  “I write because I can’t not write.”

This was always my answer in the past, too.  But after a few years of basically not writing, at least not writing in the way I always used to write because I “had to”, I’ve started doubting that answer.  I mean, if I’m being honest here, I’ve successfully not written much of anything for quite some time, so clearly I am actually quite capable of not writing.

Yet, I feel like I am – and should continue to be – a writer.

The reason I say this is because I have stories to tell.  A lot of them.  Stories that are unique to me and only able to be told by me.  Sure, I’ve already told a lot of stories, some really good, some less good. But I know I have a lot more in me because they are all trying to come out in one way or another.

I’ve been reflecting on my creative struggles a lot recently. Most of the struggles are due to outside factors such as work, kids and life.  But some of them are definitely simply related to inertia – now that I’m not writing regularly it is easy to continue to not write regularly.  It’s just like going to the gym every day — when you’re in the habit, you just keep going to the gym each day, even if you don’t feel like it.  But if you skip a day, it is much easier to skip the next day, and the next day, and the next.

And so here I sit, worn out from the daily grind but still full of creative energy.  I’m so tired when I sit down to write that I tend to drift off to sleep almost immediately upon beginning to write, my head nodding slowly down, hovering slightly above the laptop keyboard. It’s not that the stories aren’t there for the telling, it’s that they can’t type themselves!

So what is my answer when I’m asked “Why do you write?”  As I mentioned, it always used to be “I write because I can’t not write.”  But now I’ve got a different answer:

“I write because I have stories to tell.”

Is there really a difference in these answers? I suppose in the grand scheme of things there is not much of a difference in them.  The small detail of actually putting words on the page is there, looming larger than life no matter how I might phrase my answer.  But if you parse those two answers carefully, there is a subtle difference.  One makes writing be almost like a chore – something I must do, something that is required.  The other gives a more rational explanation and a more realistic expectation – the writing is about the story being told, not about the writing being done.  I tell stories all the time, wild and whimsical tales of excitement or woe, epic victories and massive defeats, paper bags and plastic bags.  Stories that make my kids roll their eyes at me and stories that make my kids’ friends laugh at how odd I am.  The stories are there and they come out, whether I get them on paper or not.

And so, I am a writer.  I am a writer because I have stories to tell and I tell them.  The next step is to get back into putting them down on the page so that they can be shared outside of the small circle of people who ride back and forth in my car as we go to baseball games or band events.  Maybe then I can get back to the simpler answer of writing because I can’t not write.  But until then I will keep telling my stories and I hope you will keep telling your stories, too.

 

Write Now Prompt for August 18, 2015

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

His boss was not pleased that he had come to the big presentation without preparing anything in advance.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.