Stone Hearts

Reblogging: Stone Hearts, by poet, Delia. . A real, tell-it-like-it-is poem about the social jungle and trying to find authenticity where there is little to none. Delia often writes, real, raw and authentic prose and poetry that will catch you unawares, and reach inside you, grab you, and make you see beyond the obvious. K. D.
via https://artemisdelmar.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/stone-hearts

10 Great 10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems!

Some years ago, I found this interesting and these helpful fixes to writing problems that I come in handy. Good fiction takes time. You cannot sit down at the keyboard and pound out the Great American Novel in one or two sessions. (Take it from me; I’ve tried.) Says the author of this piece of writing. I don’t remember who the author is and if anyone knows, please let me know. I would like to give him or her credit!
No, we must be patient with our art and our craft, we must read, we must study, we must write. And write, and write. Then we must think, cut, rewrite, polish and look again.
But there’s such a thing as agonizing too much over your writing. Just as excessive reworking with charcoal and gum will ruin a drawing, too much scrutinizing and amending will sap the vitality of your original words. Most aspiring authors fall victim to this from time to time, causing needless pain, delay and, frankly, stunted results. It’s the hard parts that get you. When you come up against a knotty structural problem, take a breath and do what professionals do:
• Calmly evaluate the problem.
• Decide whether it really is a problem.
• Work out a solution.
• Implement it.
• Move on.
• Revisit the situation later.

1. I’M MISSING A CRUCIAL PIECE OF INFORMATION.
You’re writing a key scene, and you realize that you really need to know something, but it’s either impossible to find out or too costly in time or money to do so.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: If you can’t find the exact data you need, get as close as you can and wing the rest.
Recently I was on a conference panel with other authors discussing intensive research, and after everybody shared exciting (or humiliating) stories about our quests for authenticity, we all agreed on one thing: When the chips are down, make it up.
You might be surprised at how much you can make up in a convincing way. Maybe you need a recipe for the perfect poison and have no idea where to begin. Invent a character who’s a chemist, and have that character develop a poison that’s as lethal as cyanide, as innocent-smelling as strawberries and as traceable as water.
Be bold!
2. MY ACTION IN THIS SCENE DRAGS.
We’ve all been there: You’ve got an action scene that’s starting to bore even you. Granted, your story is moving forward, but it feels cumbersome.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Resist the urge to pile it on; rather, tighten what you’ve got.
You could spend hours—days!—trying to inject more life into a scene, but the best solution is often just the opposite. Usually a quicker pace will do the trick.
One of the easiest, most effective ways to tighten prose is to turn full sentences into fragments and opt for one-line paragraphs.

3. ONE OF MY CHARACTERS IS STARTING TO SEEM LACKLUSTER.
Sometimes you get too careful with a character, especially if you’ve based her on yourself or a close friend or relative. If this seems to be the case, consider adding weirdness.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Give her an obsession.
Obsessions are great because they’re simple to drop into a character’s personality, and you can use them repeatedly to spice up your plot.
Think what you can do! Give a ghetto hooker a fixation on growing the perfect eggplant in her window box, turn the commander of a space station into an incurable pack rat, bestow upon your straight-A prom queen a fascination with arson, twist a fat, old cop into a joyful, compulsive transvestite.

4. I HAVE TO COMMUNICATE A LOT OF INFORMATION, AND IT’S OVERKILL.
You’re at a turning point in your novel, and you’ve got one character revealing information to another, or making connections in his head as the puzzle pieces fall into place. Or your omniscient narrator is explaining a lot of stuff to the reader. And it doesn’t feel natural.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Turn narrative into dialogue.
Don’t underestimate the modern reader’s ability to infer, generalize and make connections. A professional’s first instinct is to cut exposition, but when you’ve sliced away all but the essential and you’re still looking at an awkward block of text, turn it into dialogue. Scope around for a handy character for the first one to talk to. Then, give the two some back-and-forth, something to disagree about. Create a little conflict while delivering your basic facts.

5. I DON’T KNOW WHAT SHOULD COME NEXT.
You’re writing something new; perhaps you even have a rough outline. You’re galloping along, happy and breathless, and you finally bring a scene or chapter to a satisfying conclusion. Then you get that uh-oh feeling.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Have a 10-minute brainstorm.
I actually feel great in this situation: I love to brainstorm, and I know I’m about to have ideas I’ve never had before.
Flip to a fresh page in your notebook or computer notepad, check the time and give yourself 10 minutes to write down anything and everything that might come next. Record every idea that comes to you, even if it seems ridiculous or awful. Keep going. If you do this with a feeling of open exploration, you will come up with a good idea of what should come next.
The answer is a paradox: The more honestly and thoroughly you brainstorm, the sooner your material will sort itself out. The chaff will be obvious—and there will be wheat.

6. I’VE GOT A COMPLEX PLOT, AND ALL MY FINAL UNRAVELING FEELS FORCED.
You’re proud of your plot, and you want to show the reader that you’ve thought of everything. This one’s as tight as a drum! But now it feels as if you’re ticking off boxes on a checklist, and the effect is artificial.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Choose some loose ends to leave loose.
Readers will know they’re in good hands if you pay off your suspense. This is key, and it bears repeating: Suspense is the most important aspect of a book to build and bring to a satisfying climax and conclusion. This holds true in any genre; even the most sedate literary novels are built on a foundation of suspense. In this way, Mrs. Dalloway and her flowers have everything in common with Hannibal Lecter and his fava beans.
Challenge your impulse to wrap up everything with a bow, and you might achieve a more natural result.

7. I NEED A BRIDGE BETWEEN TWO SCENES, BUT I’M AT A LOSS.
Transitions can be the bane of fiction writers. I think this goes back to composition teachers in high school, who insist that there “be a link” between every idea. Oh, the contortions we used to go through to satisfy that requirement! Forget it.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Insert a chapter break, or use the magic word.
An excellent way to bridge two scenes is to actually separate them. A chapter break can eliminate the need for a bridge altogether. Pick a novel you like and study the last and subsequent first pages of chapters. You’ll find that most modern novels freely jump forward (even backward) in time, or sideways in space (from one character’s viewpoint to another’s, for example), and the overall effect is smooth. Give it a try.
The magic word is meanwhile. Rather than a big-deal transition, meanwhile might be all you need.

8. MY ENDING MADE MY CRITIQUE GROUP GO, “SO WHAT?”
You’ve written your novel, you’re at the point of bravely hearing any and all criticism, and you’ve just found out that your ending leaves your writing buddies cold. You feel (understandably) frustrated, and maybe a little angry. Now what?

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Add passion, violence or both.
A weak ending, of course, may signify major problems with the rest of the book. But not necessarily. If you’ve built convincing characters and worked out a believable, suspenseful story, but things still fall flat at the end, this could be because you haven’t gone far enough. Some authors simply take their foot off the accelerator toward the end, either from fatigue or from an unnecessary sense of restraint. Whatever the case, if you discover you’re one of them, you’ve got to ramp up the emotion.
Now, you don’t want to be cheap, but be advised that exploitation works. Readers expect to be knocked out of their socks, and it’s really OK to give them that.
So try heightening the ending you’ve already got. A good way to do it is to add passion or violence—or both.

9. MY AGENT/EDITOR WANTS ME TO CUT 10,000 WORDS!
Many authors on the brink of getting published are told by a prospective agent or editor, “I love this novel, but it’s too long. If you can cut it by about 10,000 words (or whatever terrifyingly high number), I think I can sell (or publish) this.” They don’t want any specific cuts at this point; they just want the manuscript to better fit a common format.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Micro-edit your way to success.
You can spend lots of time rereading your manuscript and painfully strategizing what hunks to cut, but an excellent way to quickly trim it to size is to cut one word per sentence. This technique is pure magic. Or, you can divide the number of words you need to cut by the number of pages you have, and come up with an average words-to-cut per page. Of course you won’t be able to whittle down your whole manuscript in 10 minutes, but take it as a challenge: Time yourself, and I bet that once you get the hang of it, you can blow through 10 pages of a draft in 10 minutes. This is a job you can do in the interstices of your day; you don’t have to find large spans of time for it.

10. THE WHOLE THING STINKS.
Every author is stricken, at least once per book, by Creeping Rot Disease. CRD begins as a dark feeling that takes over your mind and heart when you least expect it. You look at your manuscript and the feeling creeps over you that all you’ve done is foul a perfectly good stack of paper. It’s lousy. It’s not original. It’s nothing any agent, let alone editor, would look at twice. I’m wasting my life, you think. I’m a fool.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Take a break!
Believe me, when CRD strikes, you are in plentiful, excellent company. Terrific authors have drunk themselves to death trying to self-medicate against CRD.
The better solution is to take a break. Turn off your computer, close your notebook, cap your pen (because the problem is not with your manuscript, it’s with you) and do something completely different, like:
• Walk outside. Pay attention to the first great-looking tree you see. Hang out with it for a while. Get some good coffee. Phone a friend and spill your guts.
• Prepare a mini picnic lunch and open the window. Make a sketch of a simple object, like a bowl or a bottle. Or do anything else you can to break the stream of negative thoughts.

 

SPECULATIVE FUTURISTIC INSPIRATION

SPECULATIVE FUTURISTIC INSPIRATION

Creative Writing Prompts by Melissa Donovan, https: http://www.writingforward.com

Get inspired by the future. How would people in the Middle Ages respond to a television? What would someone from the 1700s think of a helicopter? What would a person from the early twentieth century think of a computer, or more specifically, the Internet?

They would think these things were magical — either illusions or genuine supernatural occurrences. They might even believe the persons yielding the magical objects were witches, wizards, or gods.But you and I both know that’s not the case. Televisions, helicopters, and computers are all very real, and thanks to modern technology, most of us have access to them.

We humans have a tendency to believe that we are at the apex of knowledge — that right now, we know as much as we ever will. As much as we love fictional, futuristic stories, we tend to think of them as fanciful. Sure, a great writer or a skilled filmmaker can help us suspend our disbelief for the duration of a book or a film, but sitting in your living room on an ordinary day, it all seems rather unlikely, doesn’t it? People bouncing around in time? Fighting intergalactic wars in outer space? Come on.

But if you stop to wonder what our world will look like 100 or 1000 years in the future, these fantastical ideas don’t seem so crazy. What incredible inventions will be developed over the course of the next millennium?

Asking questions about the future is an excellent way to generate ideas for speculative fiction. Let’s Take a Trip to the Future Let’s do some thought exercises to flex your imagination. You’ll need to envision what the world looked like in the past, what it looks like today, and what it might look like in the distant future.

Use these questions to spark ideas and then write anything you want: a poem, a story, a personal essay, or just a short scene. The goal is to engage your imagination, remove barriers that block all the possibilities, and open your mind.

Medicine

Some of humankind’s greatest achievements have been in medicine. We now use all the technologies at our disposal to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses — from pills and vaccines to X-rays and MRIs. From a device as simple as a stethoscope to one as complex as microscope, we’ve made wellness possible in ways that couldn’t have been imagined a few hundred years ago. What is yet to come? How will health care change in the future? Will we walk through a machine that scans our bodies to detect any possible ailment? Will there be a heal-all pill? And for each advance we make, will another new devastating disease rear its head?

Travel

Advances in travel are awe-inspiring. There was a time when humans were limited to travel by foot. Then came the wheel, which made the cart possible. Later, ships carried people across water. Eventually, trains made high-speed, long-distance travel possible. Next, the airplane. Then, spaceships took us higher and submarines took us deeper. Where will we go next? Will intergalactic travel ever be possible? What about teleportation? Time travel? A thousand years ago, it’s doubtful most people believed traveling to the moon was possible. Where will we go a thousand years from now?

Personal Technology

Technology has grown rampantly in the past few decades. Since the 1970s, almost all households in developed countries are equipped with more than one television, stereo, and computer. We can store an entire library of books, movies, and music on a device that fits in the palms of our hands. Two hundred years ago, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to go to their house. Fifty years ago, you had to find a phone and dial their number. Today, you reach into your pocket, pull out your device, and press a button. How will personal technology advance in the next 100 years?

Have Fun!

It’s not easy for everyone to imagine things that don’t exist yet. It might help if you can summon your old history lessons. If you can conceptualize where we’ve been and contrast it with where we are now, you might start getting ideas about where we’ll be at some point in the future. Run with your ideas, even if they seem crazy, absurd, or impossible. The purpose is to let your imagination run wild and to have fun.

Once you’re done, come back and tell us what inspired you. What did you write? Was it fun to explore the future? Will you keep writing?

How to Give Your Narration Flavor

How to Give Your Narration Flavor is certainly a way to add life and personality to each of your characters. Great Post!

A Writer's Path

by Andrea Lundgren

Readers frequently talk about the style or narrative flavor of authors they enjoy. They’ll say, “That sounds like something __ wrote,” or “This reminded me of ___” or “The tone of that was flat.” But sometimes, we authors we sometimes don’t know what gives us our writing voice. What makes writing sound different or interesting and engaging?

Our voice is really the flavor that is distinctly ours. It’s like the spices that make Italian different than French or German cooking. They may have similar topography or features; in certain portions of those countries, there may just be an imaginary line between one part and another, to where the climate, soil types, and weather are identical. Similarly, our writing might be similar to that of another in genre, plot elements, and character types but yet be unique because of the “spices” we employ.

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Stone Hearts

Reblogging: Stone Hearts, by poet, Delia. . A real, tell-it-like-it-is poem about the social jungle and trying to find authenticity where there is little to none. Delia often writes, real, raw and authentic prose and poetry that will catch you unawares, and reach inside you, grab you, and make you see beyond the obvious. K. D.
via https://artemisdelmar.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/stone-hearts

palabras DelMar

Stone hearts
And stoic faces
Bodies moving
Unfamiliar places

Trying to adjust
Appearing to fit in
Harboring inside
What can’t be shared at all

Internally digesting
Events that make you cringe

Knowing that it’s yours to keep
Preserving classification
Your privacy in tact
No one privileged enough
To get through the external hallowed out remains

Who dares dig deep?
Into your darkest night
Tunneling through
That formidable wall

Destruction
Obscurity
Gloom
And despair

Grunts of dejection
Exhaled in the night

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A Tuesday Review: The Son of Nepal by J.J Sylvester (Book 1 of the Sons of Thunder)

Visit J. J Sylvester’s website and see a sample of his books: via  https://theeverplanes.com/2017/04/23/the-son-of-nepal

5 Stars!  This intriguing novel, The Son of Nepal, by author J.J Sylvester, is a fascinating and uniquely beautiful story. It is told with a Middle Eastern flair for story-telling, that I found utterly enchanting. When a novel can transport the reader to a different place and time – that is extraordinary. It is beautifully written, with a lush cadence like prose that moves brilliantly through the entire novel.
Johannan, our hero, is very brave in his pursuit to find a cure for his beloved’s blindness and gives himself over to be used by a Great Spirit, such is his desire to return the gift of sight to his beloved. What is Johannan to learn from his quest, as he searches for months on end to find the magical cure, but only a true heart, he has been told, will the Great Spirit choose to grant Johannan’s wish. Johannan suffers great hardship in his pursuit to find a cure for his beloved, and therefore, he should be rewarded, shouldn’t he?
Will the parables this novel evokes ring true or will they not? We are often told: be careful what you wish for, true love conquers all, think before you leap, and everything comes with a price!” What price will Johannan pay or will the Great Spirit, bestow on him the happy life that Johannan has sacrificed so much to achieve for his beloved?         Johannan’s story is powerful and is so meaningful, even about our own lives, that we should take heed, for we are vulnerable as well. Is what we wish for honorable and good? It is only in our hearts, that will it ring true. I highly recommend The Son of Nepal.

WHAT MAKES BAD WRITING BAD

virginia-woolf

 

Virginia Woolf: “The psychic risk of a novel such as Woolf’s The Waves is vast – particularly for someone for whom psychic risk was so potentially debilitating.”  This article is Written by Toby Litt who is a London-based writer. Hospital, his latest novel, is published by Hamish Hamilton. ( A reblog from 2015)

Bad writing is mainly boring writing. It can be boring because it is too confused or too logical, or boring because it is hysterical or lethargic, or boring because nothing really happens. If I give you a 400 page manuscript of an unpublished novel – something that I consider to be badly written – you may read it to the end, but you will suffer as you do.

It’s possible that you’ve never had to read 80,000 words of bad writing. The friend of a friend’s novel. I have. On numerous occasions. If you ask around, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a really bad novel easily enough. I mean a novel by someone who has spent isolated years writing a book they are convinced is a great work of literature. And when you’re reading it you’ll know it’s bad, and you’ll know what bad truly is.

The friend of a friend’s novel may have some redeeming features – the odd nicely shaped sentence, the stray brilliant image. But it is still an agony to force oneself to keep going. It is still telling you nothing you didn’t already know.

Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly.

Bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self. The person who will admire it first and last and most is the writer herself.

When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating misjudgment

While bad writers may read a great many diverse works of fiction, they are unable or unwilling to perceive the things these works do which their own writing fails to do. So the most dangerous kind of writers for bad writers to read are what I call excuse writers – writers of the sort who seem to grant permission to others to borrow or imitate their failings.

I’ll give you some examples: Jack Kerouac, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou. Bad writers bulwark themselves against a confrontation of their own badness by references to other writers with whom they feel they share certain defense of worthy characteristics. They write defensive admirations: “If Updike can get away with these kind of half-page descriptions of women’s breasts, I can too” or “If Virginia Woolf is a bit woozy on spatiality, on putting things down concretely, I’ll just let things float free”. If another writer’s work survives on charm, you will never be able to steal it, only imitate it in an embarrassingly obvious way.

 

Bad writing is writing defensively; good writing is a way of making the self as vulnerable as possible. The psychic risk of a novel such as Woolf’s The Waves is vast – particularly for someone for whom psychic risk was so potentially debilitating. When Updike began writing Rabbit, Run all in the present tense, it was either going to be a great technical feat or a humiliating aesthetic misjudgment. (Excuse writers aren’t, in themselves, bad writers; not at all.)

Often, the bad writer will feel that they have a particular story they want to tell. It may be a story passed on to them by their grandmother or it may be something that happened to them when they were younger. Until they’ve told this particular story, they feel they can’t move on. But because the material is so close to them they can’t mess around with it enough to learn how writing works. And, ultimately, they lack the will to betray the material sufficiently to make it true.

Bad writers often want to rewrite a book by another writer that is written in a different time period, under completely different social conditions. Because it’s a good book, they see no reason why they can’t simply do the same kind of thing again. They don’t understand that even historical novels or science fiction novels are a response to a particular moment. And pretending that the world isn’t as it is – or that the world should still be as it once was – is disastrous for any serious fiction.

Any attempt to write fiction in order to make the world a better, fairer place is almost certain to fail

Conversely, bad writers often write in order to forward a cause or enlarge other people’s understanding of a contemporary social issue. Any attempt to write fiction in order to make the world a better, fairer place is almost certain to fail. Holding any value as more important than learning to be a good writer is dangerous. Put very simply, your characters must be alive before they seek justice.

Bad writers often believe they have very little left to learn, and that it is the literary world’s fault that they have not yet been recognised, published, lauded and laurelled. It is a very destructive thing to believe that you are very close to being a good writer, and that all you need to do is keep going as you are rather than completely reinvent what you are doing. Bad writers think: “I want to write this.” Good writers think: “This is being written.”

To go from being a competent writer to being a great writer, I think you have to risk being – or risk being seen as – a bad writer. Competence is deadly because it prevents the writer risking the humiliation that they will need to risk before they pass beyond competence. To write competently is to do a few magic tricks for friends and family; to write well is to run away to join the circus.

Your friends and family will love your tricks, because they love you. But try busking those tricks on the street. Try busking them alongside a magician who has been doing it for 10 years, earning their living. When they are watching a magician, people don’t want to say, “Well done.” They want to say, “Wow.”

At worst, on a creative writing course, the tutor will be able to show you how to do some magic tricks; at best, they will teach you how to be a good magician; beyond that, though, is doing magic – and that you will have to learn for yourself. For what a tutor can’t show you is how to do things you shouldn’t be able to do.

Toby Litt is a London-based writer. Hospital, his latest novel, is published by Hamish Hamilton.