Our Mission Statement:

The mission of Pens & Pages Writers Guild is to facilitate and encourage writers of all genres, to share resources and tips about the writing process and, most of all, to provide a positive and productive forum that will encourage and support each writer in his or her creative endeavors.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Take One Moment

The forces of life flow in many directions …. good and bad, happy and sad. Don’t worry. Everything always balances out.

When life begins to fall in on us, we tend to lose our creative spark. The creative process can range from joyful enthusiasm to painful disappointment. It is coloring outside the lines, finding other ways to accomplish your goals, and not always following the rules.

True, it is hard to find the time we need to express ourselves. Becoming a hermit sounds like a good solution to distancing ourselves from daily hassles and society in general, but our computers would probably not work well in a cave. So take a deep breath and calm the whirlwinds in your minds.

Creative idleness renews the spirit. Everyone has an inexhaustible fountain of ideas, whether they know it or not. We must work to keep imagination alive. The spirit cannot thrive without the creative inner self. A person does not have to be energetic and active every waking moment, filling the air with constant chatter … “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Imagination needs slow quiet contemplation in order to achieve the freedom to grow. When you sit down to write, take one moment to breathe, to clear your mind of all the clutter, then pick up your pen or place your fingers on the keyboard and off you go.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase … just take the first step.” M.L. King

Grannie C.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Congratulations Solard! +-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*' +-*'+-*'+-*'
NaNoWriMo 2008 Winner +-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'+-*'

Monday, November 24, 2008

Changing Gears...

Thank you, madebyAmanda for posting the Orwell's Rules post -- timely information from a classic source!

Here's something I came across when satisfying a little curiosity that you all might enjoy -- since most of us have expressed interest in being published...

This link: http://www.pwcwriters.org/penpoints4.htm

Contained therein is a concise bit of information on the different approximate word counts for different types of published works. Begging pardon of anyone if you've already seen it -- I hadn't, so thought I'd share.

Happy...uhm...Day that begins with "M" day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Orwell's Six Rules

These are the George Orwell's Six Rules referred to in the article Solard linked to. This quote is from his essay "Politics and the English Language", the full text of which can be found here.

"But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."
I think in general, these are sound principles. The key, though, is #6. Rules can be helpful, but if they're messing up your writing, BREAK THEM. The rules are only a means to an end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Now for a walk on the wild side...

Heh -- did I get anyone with the title...? Don't worry -- I'm pretty PG13, almost exclusively, and this blog post is no different.

In working on my NaNoWriMo story today, I committed the ultimate "sin" and started reading back over what I've already written (only looking for timeline stuff to keep me on track with what I'm currently writing, mind...)

But invariably, as is the case with, ahem, good intentions I found myself editing for ... wait for it -- {{{{{PASSIVE VOICE}}}}} (the little wavy brackets there? -- those are the 'echo of DOOOOM' you should be hearing when you read {{{{{PASSIVE VOICE}}}}})

Anyway, I was (hah! take that Conference Experts!!) trying to look for creative ways to replace my "was's" and such when I came across this link:

In light of our PnP group discussion last night (and all the accompanying trauma for Robin -- God bless you today, little Writer!) I thought when I read this little article "A-HA! Eureka! and other exclamations -- This MUST go on our PnP Blog!!!

So, to you, my fellow writers in training (oops -- probably should have hyphenated that last term, but what the heck -- I'm feeling rebellious today!)

Go to the link. Read it. Live it. Damn the torpedoes, cry Havoc! and let loose the dogs of WAS.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Writers Stigmata

(Iposted this on my website, some of it's redundant with y'all but thought I'd share anyway, with a few revisions!)

I am such a mess! I have some serious stigmata stuff going on! No, I do not have blood oozing out of my palms and feet. I have writer's stigmata, a whole 'nother condition.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood formon your forehead. ~Gene Fowler (1890-1960)There you have it, a condition that I have contracted. Writers stigmata.

I joked with my writing group that I taped a nail, pointy side up on my keyboard so I could self-flagellate during the writing process to manifest drops of blood. See, in Gene Fowlers era, pen and quill or manual typewriter drew blood easier when the urge to bang your head on something during the process set in. Today's surfaces are more rounded and forgiving causing only minor discomfort when head bashing ensues, hence, the nail.

See? I really thought the whole writer's stigmata thing required actual rending of skin to be legitimate. I have since learned, that's not the case. It's a mythical, spiritual rending that must be experienced if you want to hear the Heavenly Tabernacle Choir break out in refrains of "Hallelujah" while the men in little white coats are carting your slobbering self off to the loony bin during your burst of creative genius.This condition is sneaky and can hit you at the most mundane moment. One minute you think you're fine, happily typing along while patting yourself on the back for being the possible next "it" writer and then WHAM! You realize you're done. You're shit. You suck and you by God, better not quit your day job.

My name is Robin and my stigmata set in about 14 hours ago. I have a wonderful, supportive, amazing writer's group here and I was so excited that it was "my turn" to submit a couple of chapters of my WIP for critique! So, my "other" job has wound down so I had a whole day to dig out my story, polish chapters 1 and 2 and give it to my new best friends.

I was elated! Humming like a fairy tale worker bee, I opened the file...giggled and sighed over my masterpiece...printed both chapters and sat at the table with an actual pen and began to edit (again). I applied a lot of the things I've learned over the last year from the Writer's Conference in Amarillo to the "how-to" books I've purchased from the speakers there and elsewhere. I slashed scenes I liked but that did not "move the story forward", I checked spelling, punctuation....I looked at tone and tense...I questioned using first person narrative and stayed with it. I was on a roll!

By 7:00 pm I was convinced that chapters 1 and 2 would be winging their way to my loving group for their enjoyment and fantastic idea's on how to make it better! SO! I went back to the keyboard...literally typed the whole thing over from my handwritten notes...spell checked, grammar checked...and then did the unforgivable.

I checked for passive verbs (a very common rookie mistake). We speak in passive voice so it's very easy to write in passive voice. However, when we speak we have the luxury of voice inflection, facial expressions, body language and other visual signals to make our point. We don't have that with words on paper so we have to use the strongest words we can...right? So I did the "check" for passive verbs function.

This function highlights every passive verb in your masterpiece. This function is an unforgivable bastard. I am convinced this function is the germ that weaseled into my mid-brain and set the writers stigmata into end-stage.

I hit, "find" and my masterpiece came back into view....murdered. It's blood was yellow highlights. Humans have red blood (okay, it's blue without the addition of oxygen but stay with me). A manuscript has yellow blood. Mine was pricked by the passive verb function and was in danger of bleeding out.I used "was" 42 times in 2,000 words!

I became convinced that my story did not have the necessary anticoagulant so it was up to me to go in for emergency surgery and purge the passive voice...post haste. So I scrubbed up and went in. I tried to get every last tendril of the passive verb so that it would not cause any problems down the road for my precious manuscript. I sutured it up and then did a patient evaluation post op.

Sadly, my patient was sorely diminished by my radical surgery. A shell of the story she once was. (see? that damn word "was" is my demon!)In despair I railed at fate and realized I was not God, I couldn't save this manuscript from it's true nature.

I called a fellow writer moaning about the vagaries of writers stigmata. Solard had sympathy for like, one second. Then she blasted me with the complete truth. Writing is art and your voice is your voice. I told her about what I learned at the conference about passive voice and how it was a rookie mistake and about how I had fallen prey and she stated, "Robin, I am not a writers' conference veteran, but I'll tell you one thing, if a conference took the 'soul' out of my writing?....I'd never go to another one." God bless her!

I was like a surgeon who'd lost a patient and stumbled into a church with a benevolent priest. While I am wailing about my inability to save a life I was gently reminded that there is a power greater than myself. That the "creator" was almighty and the surgeon was educated, but flawed.So, I am going to give my manuscript over completely to the creator and shove the surgeon back into pre-op until it's necessary to do some minor cosmetic surgery.

But for now, I'm going to trust that the Writing Goddess (me!) knows what she's doing and trust my wonderful group.I'm kicking this out to my critique group...a first...and it sent me on this rant. If anyone out there wants to tell me that writer's are not hypersensitive and actually WANT critique...call me up and I'll call you a liar to your face.

No, I don't want critique, I want accolades and refrains of "you're a genius! This is better than War and Peace!" Hey, at least I'm honest.

I'm a writer who has never received a rejection letter...ever. That's a major point in my favor. Shadowed by the fact that I've never submitted anything for rejection kinda makes the previous statement passe.

See, right now I think I'm a good writer, maybe even excellent. If I put it out there and get shot down then I can't hold that thought and then....the men in little white coats.

That's a somewhat amended version of what I put on my blog, and I do not have an ulterior motive for posting it right before my critique session! Unless it's subconcious and then, who knows!? I just want you to know how much you all mean to me before I kick you all out of my house for not loving my writing and swooning over my brilliance! LOL!

Tough business, wonderful pursuit and I love all of you that punched your ticket and boarded this train with me! ONWARD!
Posted by Robin at 8:42 AM 3 comments Links to this post
Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Developing a Daily Writing Habit (or, How I Make Myself Crazy)

I once wrote an essay comparing my compulsion to write with an addiction, like alcoholism. I'm not sure now that it's that extreme, but in some sense I still can't NOT write. My problem is getting some control over the compulsion, to not just "binge write" when everything builds up. For years, off and on, I've tried to develop a daily writing habit. After all, most of the great writers, including Flannery O'Connor and Ernest Hemingway, had one. So I guess what I'm saying is, if I'm gonna be an alcoholic, I want to be the kind who drinks a fifth of whiskey a day, instead of the kind who goes on an awful bender every month or so.

I've tried different things, and most of them work for a little while, before something disrupts my schedule and I fall off the wagon (and here my metaphor breaks down, because the correct term would probably be 'climb onto the wagon'). When I think about it, there are very few things that I do "on schedule" of my own accord. It's just not part of my personality to be consistent.

There are things that I've found that help me:

1. Keep track of my accomplished daily writing goals with stickers or smiley faces on the calendar. At heart, I'm still five years old.

2. Write on Mondays. I give myself the weekends off, and if I don't make a resolution on Monday to get back into the swing of things, I'm prone to give myself the whole rest of the week off, too. Monday sets the tone for my whole week.

3. Do some writing that doesn't accomplish anything except to get the 'blah' out of my system. Right now, I'm doing three longhand handwritten pages a day, in the morning, just freewriting whatever is on my mind. It is called "morning pages" and is a technique from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. I've also done similar timed freewriting excercises from Natalie Goldberg's books. Doing writing that doesn't have to accomplish anything seems to clear the small nagging things out of my thoughts when I go to do my real writing.

4. When I've been not writing for a little bit, sometimes a change of scene helps jolt me back into it. I go to a restaurant or the library with the express intention of sitting and writing. I take my notebook and a pen and sit down and write for half and hour, or whatever. This is also something Natalie Goldberg recommends, although I had to get over a little bit of self-consciousness the first few times. I've also gone with my husband in the truck with the express intention of it being sort of a rolling writer's retreat. I don't go in the truck most of the time because after a very short period of time, it gets to be REALLY BORING. When I get bored, I go back into the sleeper and write. It's bumpy, though.

5. Sometimes reading about writing will get me excited about writing again. If I'm not careful though, I will substitute reading about writing for actually writing.

6. Talking about writing with other writers (Yay writing group!) makes me feel like a slacker or a poser if I'm not writing much, so I usually go home with a renewed desire to write.

How does everyone else trick themselves into writing? Or is it just me? I feel sometimes like my inner child is the one who writes, and I am a parent always getting on her case.