Saturday, February 24, 2007

Links for Writers

A website for writers (and readers) is Writing Corner. You can find resources and articles on every type of writing. Explore and see if you find something that helps you. They also have links to author's websites, which is interesting.

There is a page on "How to Critique Fiction" by Victory Crayne that lists a lot of questions you can ask yourself about your own work to help you make it the best it can be. This page would also help you if you are ever in a position to critique someone else's writing. This is part of a website on writing by Victory Crayne. Lots of other information there, too.

Another page you might enjoy is about pitfalls writers may encounter. It's part of a website for author Vonda N. McIntyre.

Hope you find something useful, or at least fun to read!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Anton Chekhov

I hear a lot about Anton Chekhov and what a great writer he is, but I haven't read much of his work--and the little I have read was in college anthologies years ago. I want to read his work and also about him, but since I am on a severe book budget at the moment, I decided to see what there was on the internet.

At The Literature Network, I found a page devoted to Anton Chekhov. It contains links to his works and there are forums discussing him and his work.

The Literature Network has many other authors and works, so you might enjoy exploring the entire site. Sample the forums, too, while you are there. Those might be interesting to read and maybe participate in.

Exploring different writers can expand your own ideas for writing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Keeping a Reading Journal

A reading journal might help you to understand a piece of writing better and get more out of it. I found a short article from George Mason University on how to go about keeping such a journal. It is in their handout section, so I am going to paste the whole thing here for your perusal.
The GMU Writing Center Guide to Keeping
a Reading Journal


You'll find many ways to read a text. But keeping a journal as you read is one of the best ways of exploring a piece of writing. With this process you integrate reading and writing, and find that you can interact with the work more fully. Take in every detail, every description. Try to avoid hasty analysis because it can prevent you from understanding the meaning of the novel as a whole. Remember, to analyze anything fully you must have a complete understanding of it.

Begin each new novel, play or poem without predetermined bias. If you decide in advance that all good art uses realistic settings and promotes your personal moral values, you close out the possibility of new experiences. You do not have to, nor should you, enjoy every work of literature that you read. But you should be willing to recognize that the imagination is limitless.

Read slowly. This suggestion can't be stressed enough. If you roller skate through an art museum you won't see the paintings.

Read with pen in hand. Underline key phrases, speeches by major figures, or important statements by the narrator. But don't limit yourself. Underline or highlight anything that seems important or striking. Take notes on ideas or questions (don't trust your memory). Write in the margins. Keep a list of the characters and/or major events on the inside of the front cover. Circle words used in special ways or repeated in significant patterns. Look up words that you don't know or words you think you know but seem to have a special weight or usage.

Look for those qualities that professional writers look for in real life: conflict, contrast, contradiction, and characterization.

Look for rhythm, repetition and pattern. Successful works of literature incorporate such structural devices in the language, dialogue, plot, characterization, and elsewhere. Pattern is form, and form is the shaping the artist gives to his or her experience. If you can identify the pattern and relate it to the content, you'll be on your way to insight.

Ask silent questions of the material as you read. Don't read passively, waiting to be told the "meaning." Most authors will seldom pronounce a moral. Even if they do, a work of literature is always more than its theme. Use the questions devised by reporters: Who, What, When, Where. Why and How may take more study--such questions probe the inner levels of a text.

Keep a reading journal. Record your first impressions, explore relationships, ask questions, write down quotations, copy whole passages that are difficult or aesthetically pleasing.

Ideas to Keep in Mind:
Christopher Thaiss in Write to the Limit (Chicago: Holt, 1991) notes that the word journal comes from the French word for day, which is jour. The word indicates that a journal is kept daily (68). Thaiss also suggests that journals are kept for many different reasons: to record events, to keep an ongoing public record, to record feelings, to make close observations for scientific purposes and, finally, to explore emotions, memories and images in order to think and learn about any subject (69-76).

Don't feel overwhelmed. Just relax; notice and feel things. Associate ideas with other subjects, objects or feelings. Try the following three steps:

Write first. Write what you see in the text.

Next, write what you feel about what you see.

Finally, write down your thoughts and feelings. This step helps you develop perceptions.

We hope this short guide helps you explore your thoughts and ideas. A journal enables you to gain insight into the work while integrating the reading and writing process. Use this guide to help you with all of your reading and writing.

I hope this proves useful--I plan to give it a whirl, likely starting with short pieces such as poems, essays, and short stories. It would, of course, work with articles or any type of writing, whether fiction or nonfiction.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Messages in Your Writing

Should you use your writing to promote pet causes? Probably not. However, if you're writing posts on a blog, that is likely the whole point of your writing--to promote certain ideas or to teach something or spread the word about a viewpoint. Essays also might be written for the express purpose of showing why a specific idea is good and to provide supporting evidence for it.

When it comes to fiction and poetry, though, you probably will do well to not overtly promote a cause, although your worldview will probably spill into your writing somewhat. At least it wouldn't be lecturing or preaching that hits the reader over the head or bores the reader silly.

Your writing will have a theme or themes, and that might very well be considered something of a promotion of a cause. There will be some sort of conflict (Man vs. Himself, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature) and the way that is resolved may illustrate your views of one thing or another. Perhaps the best we writers can hope for is to be reasonably subtle and to tell a darn good story to illustrate our view.

The more I think about it, the more I think that in everything from theme to word choice, a writer likely gives away at least some of his opinions on things, but again, if it is subtle and there is a good story over all, it won't be a problem. Writing should capture the reader's attention and interest, not annoy the reader. Let any ideas or opinions or viewpoints flow naturally from the characters and the story, and you should be able to do it all.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Outlets for Writing

I have been working at writing more. I find it helps immensely in spotting mistakes of various kinds that I tend to make, and also in seeing areas where I need to put in more work.

Writing for blogs is one outlet I use. I often am just calling attention to a website or an article, though, and so I quote a lot. Note to self: write more of your own ideas.

Some of the other things I do, although at this stage they are only for my own perusal, are writing poetry, essays, and novels. The novels need a lot more work on the plots. I also tend to explain too much up front, and there goes the suspense and interest. Those are the sorts of things that it helps a writer to become aware of so that those problems can be overcome. Sometimes I overuse a word. I also see things that I do well--little bits of dialogue or a humorous scene that really comes together. These things give me encouragement.

Writing as much as possible gives me a lot of insight, both good and bad, and I think it is the chief way to learn to write well. Like anything else, action has to step in and provide the experience needed to progress.

Practice makes perfect, they say, and so I practice.

One problem with the blogs is that I haven't formed a strong enough idea of what direction I want to take them in. Another is that there isn't enough variety in the types and contents of the posts. However, I enjoy them and feel that I will gradually improve.

I sometimes wish I had more time to write, but at the same time, a well-rounded life makes a more interesting writer. At least in theory!!