the exciting momentum of good writing days

 

jetpens
(It’s like they know me. Jetpens)

I have recently happened to have several good writing days back-to-back. A good day for me looks like: spending quality time (ie a lot) doing the work (butt in the chair) and coming away with a positive feeling, that the work in progress has been improved. My boyfriend gave me a new notebook (The Crossfield from Nanami Paper) which prompted me to dig back into my fountain pens. (I’m using my big fat Jinhao 159s from Jet Pens with my rainbow of Diamine inks from Vanness.) Handwriting is just one more way I can change the pace and see things anew. The goal should always be to distance enough from the work that we can cut mercilessly! In order to get it in the best shape we can.

vanness
(Seriously, it’s like they know me. Vanness)

I decided to incorporate a previously separate piece (3rd person fictionalized memoir set during junior high) into the larger manuscript I’m crafting (1st person memoir set during high school, college, etc.), which has been an exciting breath of life into the whole project. Writing new connective tissue, dropping into scenes with dialogue instead of breezing past with narration, changing perspectives from third to first! And you’d best believe I’m droppin’ bombs on Google Search like a mumma frumma. (I’ll include some of the fun ones in a separate post.)

Significantly, I was also able to pick back up the commentary from A Famous Author I received a couple of years ago, and receive the positive and negative notations without the emotional smack I experienced when I first reviewed them. That’s a great sign, because it’s another indicator that I’ve gotten farther from the material emotionally and will be able to chop it up till only the good bits are left! Welp, that’s the goal.
On my drives to work I’m listening to the audiobook Killing Commendatore, the latest from Murakami Haruki (one of my all-time favorite writers), and the synchronicity (or utter chaos) of the Universe just so happened to lead me to this timely point in the book where two main characters are discussing creativity:

“Menshiki said, ‘It’s like an earthquake deep under the sea, in an unseen world, a place where light doesn’t reach, in the realm of the unconscious. In other words, a major transformation is taking place.  It reaches the surface, where it sets off a series of reactions and eventually takes form where we can see it with our own eyes… The best ideas are thoughts that appear unbidden from out of the dark.’ ” —Murakami Haruki, Killing Commendatore

 

Meanwhile, I’ve had that itchy thought in the back of my head for a while now reminding myself to find “that beads quote,” because I couldn’t remember exactly how it went or who said it but I remembered thinking when I read it that it was really good, and that I should hold onto it. So I finally remembered while at a computer instead of, say, behind the wheel, to do just that.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed, quietly putting one bead on after another.” —Brenda Ueland, If You Want To Write

 


Isn’t that just too good!? I love it. Not surprisingly, it’s everywhere all over the internet, but now it’s here too, so there. I hope your writing is going well. I hope you’ve found your flow and you have happy, easy days where the words just pour from your fingertips. But if that’s not the case right now, that’s okay too. Just don’t give up. Bad days don’t last forever, and the act of always coming back is so much more important than the results of a single session. “The master has failed more times than the beginner has tried.” Let’s always keep trying.

If you need encouragement, read Dr. Mrs. Stephanie Vanderslice‘s new book, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life. I absolutely adored it and it may just contain the exact words you needed to hear.

Love,
Jobe

geeksguide

30-Day Challenge

Everyone loves a good 30-day challenge. Renegade Millionaire Robert Minton says he loves them because they compound:

“If you continue each 30 day challenge after the initial 30 days, you can dramatically change your life as time passes. One positive change becomes 6, 12, 24, 48 positive changes.”

And it’s true. Great habits that you can keep going after the challenge is complete feel really good. For those of us writers out there (and I suspect we are legion) I thought it could be fun to start the new year with an Editing Challenge.

So I’m thinking about editing and how best to invent this challenge that works for everybody, and apparently a Google search for “30 Day Editing Challenge” is a great way to get results—if you’re into film editing. (Which is not what I was looking for.) There are tons of images, Pinterest hits, and YouTube clips focused on 30-day challenges for AV peeps, many having to do with favorite tv characters or songs. But “30 Day Editing Challenge” presents a severe dirth of suggestions for writerly folks, which kinda surprised me.

Then it hit me. We can play the 30-Day Minimalism Game!

Day 1 – get rid of 1 thing
Day 2 – get rid of 2 things
Day 3 – get rid of 3 things

Only we’ll discard edited pages! See! It’s brilliant, right!? (Total genius. I know. Sometimes I amaze even myself.) And you can use the hashtag “minsgame” if you’re an Instragrammar (te he) like me.

The idea would be to take a huge stack of edits you’ve gotten back from peers, profs, or printed out and marked up yourself, and commit yourself to working through that stack, whittling it down to nothing by the end of the month.

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I had trouble holding everything still with the measuring tape in one hand and the camera in the other, but my stack is roughly 2″ tall. (And that’s just for the project I’m currently working on.) I’m not the only one who has one of these, right?

But maybe not everybody has a physical pile of pages, and a 30-day editing challenge could use some more editing-based structure. So then I thought, hey, we could work through editing and revision tips and tricks, kind of a mix n’ match style build-your-own. That way everybody can apply what works best for them. And Expert Editor Duncan Koerber helpfully provides 100 tips! That’s more than enough to choose from, surely? Pick one a day for 30 days. But just in case, if you’re the kind who wants specific, daily structure, Writerly Life’s Blair Hurley did exactly that.

Maybe you don’t have feedback from other people, but you’ve got something on the page that’s in a sorry state—perhaps a nano novel recently scribed? You could print that out. Or you could do a “file–> save as” to save the original to judge against the copy you’re changing.  Because deleting 18 pages counts as 18 pages even if you can’t “see” the result! For the nano-ers, here are 6 steps to try from the nano blog, and not surprisingly, Lifehacker has some good words for us too.

If all of this sounds like great fun but you just want to quick-fast-and-in-a-hurry version, I’ve compiled some of the most common editing and revision suggestions below:

  • Show Don’t Tell – mark up your draft with two different colors, one for Show, and one for Tell. It’s okay to use both (action and narration) but if you’ve got huge unbroken chunks of just one or the other, you might look closer.
  • Active vs Passive – mark up your draft with two different colors, one for Active, and one for Passive.

Try These Tools

 


The Writing Center says:

  • Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won’t catch others.

The Grammarly Blog puts it into words this way:

  • Edit in multiple rounds. Go through at least twice for ‘higher’ concerns (what is missing? Who is the target audience, and is it written with them in mind?) and then ‘lower’ concerns, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation.

And Expert Editor concurs:

  • Look for one type of problem at a time. Don’t go into editing or proofreading attempting to find every problem in one pass. It’s hard for our brains to remember a long list of editing and proofreading categories. Instead, make multiple passes through the document. For example, you could choose to look only for wordiness or only for punctuation. This approach keeps your mind focused. If you look for every possible error in one pass, you’re more likely to miss errors.

The Muse says:

  • Nix Adverbs and Adjectives as Often as Possible. On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.

The University of Toronto agrees, telling us to:

  • Elevate the verb, so that the real action of the verb occupies the role of verb in the sentence. 

The Writing Cooperative reminds us:

  • If a sentence doesn’t add something new, it doesn’t matter how beautifully written it is: CUT IT OUT!

The Write Life adds this tidbit:

  • Replace negative with positive. Instead of saying what something isn’t, say what it is. “You don’t want to make these mistakes in your writing” could be better stated as “You want to avoid these mistakes in your writing.” It’s more straightforward. If you find negative statements in your writing that contain don’t, shouldn’t, can’t or another such word, find a way to rewrite them without the “not.” That will probably mean you need to find a more powerful verb.

Defiance College provides a handy graphic to differentiate revision vs editing, in case it concerns you, though I’d say let’s do all of them:

6e20e84c2a903a5a1181171c32fe0097

And basically all the sources ever will give you these same pieces of advice:

  • Read it out loud.
  • Read it backwards.
  • Have someone else read it.

Constant Content adds this modern addition:

  • Read Your Writing in a New Format. If you typed it, print it out. Alternatively, convert your Word document to PDF format, or change your text to a different font, color, and size. These techniques will help you see your content from an “outsider’s” perspective and give you a more critical eye.

And always remember to:

  • Say it with a simpler word!

OKAY! We ready to rock this 30-day challenge? Let me know how it’s going! Much Love,
Jobe

Bicycle, Bicycle

Did you have a lovely summer vacation, darlings? Since I finished my thesis and graduated my master’s program, I let myself take a break. But now is that important time when we get back on our bikes and zoom, zoom, zoom! The daily habit is the single most important tool at a writer’s disposal. A bad writer writing improves at a faster rate than a good writer at rest! As I’m preparing to do a short reading tonight, it seems like the perfect opportunity to explore writerly options for online assistance. If you have a little piece you’re looking to edit, revise, update, or improve (go, thesaurus, go) why not give these a try?

Amanda Shofner at The Write Life wanted us to know about these six : Grammarly, After the Deadline, AutoCrit, ProWritingAid, the HemmingwayApp, and WordRake. (If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll remember some of these.)

Issa Mirandilla at Hongkiat also used six as her magic number, with new additions EditMinionWordCounter, and ClicheFinder.

light-writing-bike

Grammarly takes over everything if you let it, so I suggest if you’re trying a bunch of tools out like I did, use this one last so you know which features are G and which are the others. It allegedly costs money but it’s working on my machine for free (no I didn’t do anything jinky, and no I didn’t enter my credit card information for a “free trial.”) It requires a log-in but allows a Facebook option. Not to brag or anything, but this tool is basically awesome. (Do I get awesome points for recommending it?) Maybe they get you hooked first and then ask for money…

After the Deadline, ProWritingAid,  EditMinion, and the HemmingwayApp are all places online where you can dump your text and get instantaneous feedback right there. AtD gives commentary on spelling, grammar, and occasionally, style. PWA requires a user (or sign in with Facebook) and gives you the biggest bang for your bicycle, including categories like overused words, repeated phrases, plagiarism check, and sentence length. EM falls somewhere between those two. It’s lower tech than AtD but does more. Useful stuff, and additionally, a setting to tell you which of the words you used were invented by Shakespeare–I only used one of his, “bedroom.” EM also endears itself to my heart because it was created by Dr. Wicked, who you may recall also came up with the ingenious tool WriteOrDie (indispensable to Nanowrimo-ists everywhere). tHA does more than AtD but explains less, if that makes sense. Check them out and see what you think.

WordCounter and ClicheFinder are just what their names imply, and these functions are both part of PWA and EM. I got an error message for CF when I pasted my 2,000-word piece, but their example text works, so maybe there’s just a word limit.

AutoCrit costs $30/mo but it lets you try for free if you provide your name and email address. Now that I think about it, it’s probably so you can’t keep pasting new text and using it for free indefinitely. You also have to answer two questions but I guess you could lie if you wanted to. And I guess if you’re willing to continue creating new email addresses–anyway, this tool gives info that none of the others do, exciting stuff like how you work compares to published authors in various categories! For anyone with the spare change who is writing a great deal, this looks like it would be worth the cost.

WordRake costs, too. They let you do a 7-day free trial if you provide your email address. This is the only one that required a download, and you have to pick if you want to use it with Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, or both. So I guess if you don’t have those on your computer you’re out of luck. Once it’s installed you re-open your program, highlight your text, click “RAKE” and watch it appraise your work. Then you just accept or reject each change. I wonderful if the uninstall will be a headache–I’ll let you know.

Being-A-Writer-Is-Easy-It-s-Like-Riding-A-Bike

 

Meanwhile Jane Callahan on Zapier explored fifteen different writerly tools, with a more comprehensive approach, from work flow to scheduling, collaborative writing to edition control. A few of the usual suspects appeared, namely Scrivener, along with the ever-popular HemmingwayApp and After the Deadline. There was even a Reverse Dictionary that might be of use to folks.

But the one that caught my attention was BlindWrite. Much like WrittenKitten and WriteOrDie, the concept is to help you write. WK gives you a kitten every 100 words, WoD blares horrible noises and flashes menacing red lights at you if you stop writing, and this new-to-me addition, BW, fuzzes out your words as you type so you can’t go back and edit until later. But don’t worry, you get all your words back, they’re still there, you just aren’t allowed to see them while you write. Just one more way to turn off your inner editor.

Until next time,

Jobe

PS Images found by searching “writing bike” on Google images.

Random Round Up w Jobe

Itching for some literary bling? Storiarts has got you covered!
Mental Floss has found us this cool editing tool! Try it and see!
Dying for the perfect new pair of bookends? Bookriot has got you covered.
Sarah Galo at Buzzfeed gives us a reading list of 47 Books for College Grads.
Hope you enjoyed this Random Round Up. The featured image was found searching “random” on Google.
-Jobe