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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Lost your blogging groove?

You should have noticed, and I apologize for not having shown myself up. I haven’t been posting much last couple of weeks. My blog seems to suffer. I can’t figure out what’s happening exactly; may be too much of festive time. Oh! And it’s still half way to the usual yearly celebrations.

Well, it’s got nothing to do with these. I’ve been busy attending wedding ceremonies nearly every weekend. Last week it was my niece’s wedding and we had dinner two consecutive days, Saturday and Sunday – in traditional oriental style, although we skipped the Monday slot.

We had also to mark our presence in another wedding at the same time. But that’s not all. There’s my brother-in-law from Reunion Island. He’s here with his wife and son for a week. This means I’ve got to organize for lunch, dinner and outings. Yesterday I took a leave from work… to drive them to the seaside; and the weather was hectic – rainy and windy. We didn’t get in the sea; just had some informal football with the kids along the beach at Le Morne, the extreme south western tip of the island.

I’ve also noticed reduced traffic on my blog. What about you? I don’t know if it’s the time of the year or what. I think many people might be on holiday, or perhaps the middle of the year is just uninspiring. It’s winter time here right now and you don’t feel like staying long at the keyboard. And the days are running fast, faster than I can cope. It’s like my blogging’s frozen.

Anyway, if you find yourself in my situation, it’s likely you’ve lost your blogging groove. In such case I’d therefore refer you, if you’re interested, to Darren Rouse’s 7 Days to Rediscovering Your Blogging Groove project. It might help boost you up.

Have a nice time.

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Successful writing is about good writing. Good writing requires a mastery of the language in which you want to write. And even more if it’s not your first language. English is no exception. Grammatical, punctuation and spelling mistakes can make all the difference between a good stuff and a slush item.

I recently read an article Grammatical Griping by Victoria Grossack at Fiction Fix, which I want to share if you are interested in furthering your basics about punctuation, spelling and grammar. For many it may sound like “it doesn’t matter much”. Whether English is your first language or not, there’s still something that you can add up to what you already have in your knowledge stock.

Here’s in a nutshell what Victoria Grossack talks about:

– Punctuation, which has to do with the proper use of periods and commas, colons and semi-colons, dashes and hyphens, apostrophes, helps us convey the meaning we want to; not something else.

– Misspellings can be as funny as irritating in what otherwise could be a good read. Spellcheckers cannot always catch all our mistakes.

– Subject-verb agreement, use of pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs are all that can make up grammatical mistakes if not used properly.

There’s also a number of links that offer more in-depth treatment of the issues mentioned above. An example is How to Use English Punctuation Correctly. Another one is How to Use Apostrophes.

Incidentally The Care and Feeding of Apostrophes is another interesting and informative site mentioned at Nick Daws’ Help With Apostrophes.

Hope that makes sense.

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Writing Tools

I just wanted to share what I picked from Nick Daws’ latest post at mywritingblog.com. You remember Nick, the freelance writer, editor and coach I interviewed some time ago?

Nick alerts us on Fifty Tools Which Can Help You in Writing. This is a set of articles written by Roy Peter Clark, Senior Scholar at the Poynter Institute. “These articles,” says Nick, “are aimed primarily at journalists, but any writer could benefit from studying them, and many are relevant to fiction writers as well.”

I must confess I haven’t had time to go through all the articles myself. But I’ve been able to peruse quite a few of them in a random manner. I can tell you they are full of tips, illustrations and exercises that will no doubt help improve your writing. Like Nick I’d be surprised if you don’t find anything useful.

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Everybody wants to become a writer. Everybody cherishes his name in print. But you got to start somewhere. Every beginner often gets stuck right at the start. He’s lost. The first step is the hardest, isn’t it?

Is writing a big deal? …Ummhh. That’s a big question. It depends. Perhaps not for those I’d call erudite. For others, especially beginners, it’s kind of “Ooohh… But how do I get started?” These are the ones that need to do something. What? We’ll try to find out together.

Many writers find it difficult to sit down and write everyday. But that’s just what you have to do if you want to be a writer. So much time is often wasted doing nothing or just dwelling on non-constructive thoughts and activities. If only these times could be used to concentrate on the writer that you want to be, you’ll realize that in the end it may not be that big deal to get started writing a book and getting it published.

I just came across two articles written by Sid Smith at Write and Publish Your Book:
(i) “How to Write a Book: Steps For The Beginner”; and
(ii) “Want to Write a Book? You’d Better Start Now”.

Sid Smith gives an insight on how you can go about writing a book in simple terms. Here’s in brief what you need to do to get started:

1. Invest. Invest time and money in developing and improving your writing skills. No one becomes a writer overnight.
2. A writing class or tuition is essential to learn the lingoes.
3. Read books about writing.
4. Writers’ groups or online forums for writers are very helpful. There are many. Find out the appropriate ones and join them. I belong to one, mywriterscircle.com, where you may interact with many established writers eager to help. You can even submit a piece for professional comments.
5. Equip yourself with the tools required for writing. Basically you’d need editing software.
6. Plan your writing and write. Keep to a strict writing schedule.
7. Keep aloof from time wasters. Just write. Write every single day. That’s what serious writers do.

So sitting down and doing the writing is all about writing that book you so much cherish.

Don’t give up.

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There’s much debate among writers whether to self-publish or go traditional. Both have their merits and it’s not always clear whether you’ll make a buzz in either case. If you got the money for traditional it might be worth the sweat you’ll undergo in self-publishing.

Self-publishers are often considered as hacks because their writing hasn’t been found good enough to be published traditionally, so it goes. But arguments are that it’s not always the case and traditional publishing does also produce some hacks with poorly edited novels.

I just saw a very interesting post at “The Truth About Writing” by Fred Charles entitled “Why Other Writers Annoy Me: The Self-Publishing Stigma and Other Ranting”. Fred has a pertinent stand about this issue. The comments that go with it are thought provoking too.

Incidentally there’s another blog post “self-publishing” linked to it at “Shamus Writes” with some quite interesting comments too.

I’d recommend these for anyone contemplating publishing.

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Writing is not like any other career. You need to love writing and be motivated to write consistently. You learn writing most of the time the hard way. This can never be over-stated.

Reading interviews of established and working writers, learning from their views and getting inspirations from their thoughts are what can get you motivated to write if you are thinking about writing as a career.

You remember some time back I interviewed an established writer, Nick Daws? If not, you can read about it here. Well, Nick has been interviewed again, this time by an American journalist A. Brewster Smythe for the Associated Content website.

In this interview they examine and discuss issues like the influence of the “new media” on the “print media”, the challenges facing newspapers, and whether a degree is needed for a writing career.

Nick seems to share my thought on the controversy about academic degree which I discussed in one of my previous posts. “Many of the world’s best writers have been self-taught or followed non-academic paths”, he says.

Nick also tells about how he began to write correspondence courses.

You can access Nick’s interview from here.

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Do we need any special qualifications to become a writer? What do we mean by qualifications? Academic? On-the-job? Attending writing classes? Vocational qualifications? Would a degree in English, for example, be a pre-requisite? Or would you need to have a degree in writing or journalism, whatever? Those are the questions many aspiring writers often ask themselves when they get into the realm of writing.

There’s no straightforward answer to it. Different people appreciate it in different ways. Most writers, coaches or writing course providers would say you don’t need an English degree. They’d say a good command of English is all you need.

Indeed, you should be able to write and express yourself in a way readers would understand what you want to convey. You have to like writing and be prepared to work at it, consistently, as I mentioned in my post “Habits of daily, scheduled writing vs good writing habits”. There are a variety of ways you can do this: blogging, creative writing, reporting, essay, or whatever. Perhaps that would be the starting point, the basic secret. Remember, I didn’t say qualification.

But if you are aiming at freelance writing then it’s got to do with couple of more important things. You’ll be dealing with professionals in the field, editors of magazines and papers. You’d need to master a number of skills, from writing and research to communication, inter-personal and organizational skills, basic management skills.

In simpler terms it means: expressing ideas clearly and succinctly; doing background research before writing any content for a magazine article; ability to interact with humans (editors, literary agents); organizing ideas, proposals or assignments to reflect well-crafted pieces you want to sell; and managing your time. Nobody would be interested in an article that doesn’t hook, where the story seems to lag and starts boring at the first couple of lines. Good story telling techniques are all the more crucial.

So to sum up the whole issue, I’d say: You may have a good English degree, but it’s important that you acquire skills that would make of you a successful writer, if it is this that you are determined to be.

Keep writing.

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