Reading, Writing and Research

A post from a writing friend Leife Shallcross, got me thinking about what I read, how I get ideas, what I write as a result and what research I do. Added to that, another writing friend, Donna Maree Hanson blogged about her writing drought and how she got going using writing ‘dates’ – meeting with fellow writers for the purpose of writing.

This past weekend I got going on a shortish story when Donna and Marisol Dunham came to stay for the weekend. Donna actually got around 13,000 words written, Marisol wrote 2000 words but got around a sticky situation with her plot by re-writing bits and planning out a new plot direction to overcome the issue.  I slowly and thoughtfully wrote about 4,500 words of the new story. It was fun, productive and the wine with dinner on Saturday night followed by a game, made it a great weekend.

I’m still learning the craft of writing. I’m told it’s a lifelong enterprise. But what I love about reading is that I now read differently. Yes, the characters and story are still most important, but I now look at what is good about the what I’m reading. Do the words flow? Are the characters well written? If I love them, why? How is the story structured that makes me keep turning pages and going on to the next chapter?

I see from my favourite books that I like a fast paced book that tells me about the character’s background in bits and pieces throughout the story. I like good dialogue and I realise that writers who really love and know their characters, despite what they do the poor buggers throughout a book, get me to like them too. I keep that in mind now when I’m writing. Not that I let my internal editor slow down things too much, but I do write more slowly to ensure some of my writing ‘ticks’ don’t show up. Things like word repetition. It seems I love ‘small’ a lot.  Or slipping into ‘to be’ verbs rather than active verbs.

Our critiquing group has a lot to do with improvement in writing too. It’s hard sometime to hear that something you really thought was good has some hiccups that need fixing but it’s really worthwhile sitting through the pain to get the gain.

And then there are the other writers. One thing I have found is that writers in general are very, very generous with their time and are fun company. Even well-known writers like Isabelle Carmody or Russell Fitzpatrick or Kaaron Warren are happy to come to writing workshops and conventions to talk to apprentice writers.

So I read all the works of writer friends who are published, and that is delightful. Most fun reads recently included ‘Shatterwing’ by Donna Maree Hanson, ‘A difficult second album’ by Simon Petrie, Tehani Wesseley’s anthology ‘Phantazien’ and Alan Baxter’s ‘Bound’.

Then there is the research.  When I’m writing, like this past weekend, and especially when I’m doing a science fiction story, I need to make sure that what I’m writing doesn’t hit a nerve with science that is wrong and/or impossible [although sometimes skipping explanations entirely is useful]. These days we are so lucky to have the internet. A quick read on Wikipedia and follow the links to the scientific paper and journals. Then, before sending it out, a favour asked of knowledgable writer friends and, voila, something reasonably good from that point of view.

I also read many more blogs than I used to. There is so much good and/or fun information out there just for a little time at the keyboard. Between blogs and Facebook writer groups, it does get a little hectic keeping up.

Finally, it seems I also need to stop putting two spaces after every full stop. Apparently it’s old hat, old school, no longer acceptable. But after more than 40 years of ten finger typing, it’s a hard habit to break {hmmm… good title for a song}. But going back and deleting or find/replace is also annoying. Guess I’ll have to change that too.

Having spent time with doing this, I now have to go back to the PowerPoint and notes I’m preparing for a workshop next month. This was decidedly more fun though.

 

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