Bad stories that are being written in the world, and how we can edit them

Delete button. How to edit truly bad stories Image source: Fonts and Fiction Blogspot

How to edit truly bad stories
Image source: Fonts and Fiction Blogspot

This post is a long one, sorry, but stick with it! I really believe this is something we need to make time for.

 

 

Recently, I was looking for inspiration for a part of my novel where one character interrupts a battle to give a passionate speech that marks the beginning of the road to peace. One of the first results when you Google “speech about peace and war” is Martin Luther King Jr.’s little-remembered 1967 speech opposing American involvement in the Vietnam War, ‘A Time to Break Silence’.

I had no idea that reading this speech would change the topic that I would blog on today.

“A time comes when silence is betrayal. In Vietnam, that time has come for us.” – Martin Luther King Jr., ‘A Time to Break Silence’, 1967

Many of you, upon reading the title of this post, assumed that I’m talking simply about my profession of editing. “I say there are bad stories being written out there, and we gonna git ‘em fixed!”

I wish I was.

In the world today, as there has been every year since the dawn of man, there are bad stories being written. By governments and individuals. By my government in Australia. By individuals who I know who think that the government is doing the right thing.

And I need to talk about it. I need to tell you about it. I need to talk about why we are writing a “bad” story and how we can edit it so that we aren’t ashamed of what we have written.

“I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.” – George Orwell, ‘Why I Write’ Essay

 

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Is that a real word?

P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) with the scriptwriter and songwriters responsible for the Disney movie version of Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) with the scriptwriter and songwriters responsible for the Disney movie version of Mary Poppins
Image Source: Robert Deluce

Richard Sherman: Room here for everyone / Gather around / The constable’s “responstible”! / Now how does that sound?

P.L. Travers: No, no, no, no, no! “Responstible” is not a word!

Richard Sherman: We made it up.

P.L. Travers: Well, un-make it up.

Richard Sherman: [Hides sheet music of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.]

Scene from Saving Mr. Banks

 

I edited a book once by an author who used words wrong.  Just plain wrong.  There’s no other way to say it.

He said “supposably” and “supposedly” (those aren’t real words!) instead of “suspiciously” (which is not even close to the meaning of those “words”).

When I called him on it the first few times, he got all snippy.  “How do you know what’s a real word and what isn’t?  I hear people saying ‘supposably’ all the time.”

“Um, that’s my job.  I get paid to know correct grammar and spelling.  And that’s honestly not a real word.  And even if it was a real word now, which it’s not, it’s still not a word that a peasant would have used in medieval times.”

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Sting: overcoming years of writer’s block

StingIn March, Sting gave a TED talk called ‘How I started writing songs again’ (http://www.ted.com/talks/sting_how_i_started_writing_songs_again).

As a youth, he lived by a shipyard, and constantly thought of getting free. As we all know, he did, selling more than 100 million albums and earning 16 Grammy Awards.

But something changed – he got writer’s block, stretching on for years. To overcome this, he recently found himself writing new songs by returning to the stories of the shipyard workers he knew as a boy.

I found his talk incredibly moving, as a creator and as someone who remembers a difficult childhood. In his talk, Sting sings songs from his upcoming musical, as well as my favourite of his songs, ‘Message in a Bottle’.

This ties back to my posts about incubation and writer’s block. I’ve written about how incubation of years has helped me to rewrite stories that I first imagined in high school now, as an adult. In Sting’s case, an unwanted incubation period that stretched for years (the writer’s block preventing creation) was solved by returning to childhood stories that had been incubating from even longer ago, bringing new creation.

Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? How did you get past it?

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Keep on creating – lessons from the masters 2 – Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book / movie Eat Pray Love, has always been a fascinating speaker to me.

For Elizabeth Gilbert, the success of Eat Pray Love meant a form of failure.  Her next book completely bombed because everyone who wanted a sequel to Eat Pray Love didn’t get it, and everyone who hated Eat Pray Love was annoyed that she had written another book.

But what could she do about that?  Nothing.

So she says she had a choice – to retire and move to some gorgeous villa, or to keep writing and see if she couldn’t succeed/fail again.  If she was going to avoid being paralysed as a writer and a human being, she had to get up and get started on her next book.

TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: 'Success, failure, and the drive to keep creating'

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Does adulthood squash creativity or am I just lazy?

This post will be a rant.  Expect it.  Don’t be too disappointed.

See how I make disclaimers?  That’s because I’m an adult.  And adults have expectations of other adults.

The expectation that I am fighting off by this disclaimer is that I should be able to write a coherent post because I am an adult and I am educated and I call myself a writer and I edit other people’s writing for a living and I got enough sleep last night.

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The Power of Procrastination

'Procrastination cat will do it tomorrow' from Lolcat Research

‘Procrastination cat will do it tomorrow’ from Lolcat Research

 

Today we talk about the power of procrastination!  But wait – how could procrastination possibly be a good thing?  I’m so glad you asked!

 

All you ever hear is that procrastination means putting off important (but difficult) things and doing unimportant (but more fun) things instead.  Ecclesiastes says procrastination is for the idle: “If you wait until the wind and weather are just right, you will never plant anything, and never harvest anything.”

 

And that’s definitely true.  But procrastination – if applied in a useful way – is not all bad.  In fact, Dave Windass (of the TED talk “The Power of Procrastination” http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxHull-Dave-Windass-The-Power) argues that procrastination is actually the key to being MORE productive, if used *in the right dosage*.

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Incubation part 3: Why we (should) sleep on it

Why should we sleep on it? This post discusses incubation, sleep, and dream theory! My own experience, words from a sleep psychologist, and a wacky experiment examining the creative process.

"sleep and dreams and creativity" by Rachel Olsen: http://rachelolsen.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/dreaming-and-creativity.html

“sleep and dreams and creativity” by Rachel Olsen: http://rachelolsen.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/dreaming-and-creativity.html

My own experience:

So you remember how I was working on a novel and I just couldn’t finish it? Right, right, that was months ago. Well, I finally had a breakthrough!

I originally envisioned this novel in three parts, but currently only two parts of it work well. So I was thinking that parts one and two combined work as a standalone novel, with some revision.

But the problem that was to be solved was, at the end of part two, the heroine and her lover part on opposite sides of an intergalactic war. As enemies. So sad! And since I’m the kind of person who doesn’t deal well with sad endings (open that box of worms another day), this ending had to be fixed!

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