Keys or Cursive?

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Okay, nobody actually writes in cursive anymore.  Unless you’re from the ancient days when handwriting was an actual subject in school.  Like my mom.  But hey, it’s an alliteration and it sounds cooler than ‘Keys or Pens?’, or ‘Keys or Handwriting?’, or ‘Keys or Block Letters?’.  So I lured you in here.  Sue me.

This question, no matter how it’s worded, stems from the fact that somewhere through the stumbling of years, the beauty and creativity symbolized by a cursive page written in a journal or on a loose leaf page of paper was replaced by the quickness of the keyboard and the blinking cursor’s promise of endless possibilities.  Especially for writers born in the 2000s, and those yet to be born, the blank page is no longer an invitation to create – the empty screen is.

We know what we have gained.  We can type more quickly, erase with a button, copy and paste, restructure documents with one hand, organize our files in a neat list so we can open them with a click, type ‘flds;afkld;sjafk;ldsajfkl;dsajfl;dsa’ over and over when we’ve hit a wall, which for no reason at all makes us feel much better than sitting and doing nothing does, then delete that nonsense with a simple command+a delete.  Pointing all of this out is easy.  Most people would say it’s obvious.  But, in addition to everything we’ve gained, have we lost something, too?

Maybe in return for quicker, easier writing, our stories lose a little bit of their character.  Maybe having time to think as we’re writing is good.  It lets us go more places in our head, weigh options instead of just going for what pops in there.  Can you imagine Arthur Conan Doyle sitting and pondering in front of a computer, with his face reflecting the cold light of a backlit computer screen?  Or do we think he probably sat staring out a window, thinking adventurous thoughts as the sun streamed in through the glass?  What about Hemingway?  Did he have to turn the brightness down on his computer because he was staring at it for 6 hours at a time and starting to get blurry vision?  It’s not such a romantic notion, is it?  But the question is: does that matter?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe the romanticism of writing is important.  Maybe writing is just evolving.

Everyone knows the popular JK Rowling story.  She was sitting on a train and the idea of a black haired child with a lightning scar popped into her head.  If she could have opened her computer and written it all down right away we wouldn’t have the Harry Potter we know and love.  She’s even said in interviews that the extra time to let the story bloom in her mind was the most important thing that ever happened to Harry.  Occasionally, taking a longer time to write something down gives us more time for thought, and helps us go somewhere truly magical.

Now – and I put this disclaimer at the end because hopefully I’ve already tricked you into reading all of this – I have to admit that I’m on the keyboard side of things.  I didn’t even write this by hand and then type it up onto my blog (lost an opportunity for a case study there… Oops).  But I know that there are still people out there who prefer to write by hand, and even as a computer user I’m slightly enamored by the idea of sitting at a desk with a fountain pen and some good, thick paper, and just letting the ideas come for hours at a time.

So, are there any writers out there who write in cursive (or block letters, for the inelegant clowns, like me, among us)?  I know some people journal by hand because they find it calming, or it’s a ritual.  Do you journal by hand?  Does anybody out there do a part of their fiction process by hand?  What do you think about it?  What do you see as the pros and cons of writing by hand?  Of writing on the computer?

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What Are You Reading?

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I’ve been having some trouble recently.  Some reading trouble.

I’ve been reading a lot of books, and I’ve been going through Goodreads lists, checking bestseller lists, trying to figure out which books are on the rise and which are overrated, but I can’t seem to find the books I want to read.  The books I have read are good, but not great.

The last book I read was The Pelican Brief, and the book I’m reading right now is American Gods.  American Gods is great so far, Neil Gaiman definitely has a way with his writing, and I’m only 1/3 of the way through the book so I’m sure it’ll get even better. What I’m really looking for, though, are the books you just can’t put down.  The books you keep reading until 4 in the morning when you started at 10, because you absolutely need to find out what happens next.  So often I find that if the book is a thriller it doesn’t have much meaning, but if it has a lot of meaning I’m not thrilled.

I don’t want to put a book down, then look at it the next day and find I’m not compelled to pick it up.  We all try to do this with our writing – get our story out in such a way that the people who read it can’t seem to find time for anything else.  We want readers to have to find time for eating in between reading, not find time for reading in between TV shows.

So I’ll ask you… What books are you reading now, or what books have you read in the past, that you found captivating.  What books have you read that you’ve loved?  Think about the ones you couldn’t put down.  Think about the ones you took with you when you left the house because you knew you’d have ten minutes of free time while you were waiting for your name to be called at the doctor’s office.  Think about the ones that made you wish the wait would take just a little bit longer.  What book was that?  What made it so great?

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Memorial Day

Plenty of inspiration to be had on this weekend.

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Have You Ever Been Struck by Lightning?

Not literally – though if you have literally been struck by lightning you can answer that question, too – but have you ever had an idea so explosive and exciting pop into your head that you felt you just had to go with it?

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I have to admit that this does not happen to me very often.  Ideas pop into my head all the time, and I have a few organized files where I make sure to write them down so that I can come back to them later (read: never).  But being hit by an idea that you just can’t ignore is something special, and I think that I’ve only had it happen to me twice.

The first time was about four years ago, when I had an idea for a four book series that I am still completely obsessed with.  It’s been running around my head ever since, but I’m not yet ready to write it.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m lazy.  I’ve kept myself busy writing other things like books and short stories ever since.  I’m not yet ready to write it because I firmly believe that it will be the best idea I ever have, and has so much potential that I want to do it justice.  And because writing is a craft, and I’m still getting better, I’m content to wait.

The second time this ever happened to me was three weeks ago.  I was driving to pick up food and bring it home to watch the Washington Wizards game with my friends and there it was.  The car in front of me swerved and I almost crashed.  That got me thinking about a few things (other than ‘holy shit I almost crashed’) and before I knew it a fully formed idea for a short story (which has since become a long short story) popped up.  I immediately went to my room when I got home, opened my computer, and began to write down my thoughts in half formed sentences like, “And then he goes back, but because of before he forgot to do the other thing and had to call to ask if it really was the truth,” which I looked at the next day and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  But luckily I got enough of my ideas down to remember the story.  I’m actually happy that I was driving at the time because it gave me enough space to fully think about the story before starting to write it down.  Eventually my food was cold and I had missed the first half of the Wizards game, but in my head it was worth it.

I’m now a day or two from finishing what will be close to a 10,000 word story, and I love it.  When I think about how it came to me, and wonder if it would ever work for full length books, I find I don’t really have an answer.  Can you really get the idea for a 100,000 word story in an instant?  Maybe it’s possible for short stories because they pack so much meaning into so few words, but a book just has so many people, places, themes, symbols, developments, conflicts (and hopefully they all have meaning).  Maybe the idea for a book can start as a bolt of lightning, but the time you take developing it changes it into something else.  Maybe a book consists of one big lightning bolt followed by several more that help shape the story.  Maybe a book is a lightning storm.

I think the real challenge is remembering the individual flashes of lightning.  It’s so easy to dive into the actual writing and feel like we’re lost in the middle of a cloud.

Does your writing usually start as a bolt of inspiration?  Or do you prefer to plan your work?  Do you have ideas that you can’t not write?  Or do you pick and choose which ideas you want to pursue with care?  Was my ‘writing is a lightning storm’ analogy too much?  Or are we all just going to let that one slide?

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Why Do You Blog?

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I’ve seen this question posted on just about every blog out there in the universe.  Why do you blog?  (As a side note, when did ‘blog’ become a verb?  It’s like asking, why do I book?  Or, do you guys want to hang out later and television?  Maybe afterward we can beer and food).

But I’ll roll with it (I’m part of the generation that invented words like tweet and Yolo, which I use in conversation.  But don’t tell anybody).

So.  Why do you blog? I guess I created this blog and post on it regularly because everyone said that if you’re a writer, it’s what you’re supposed to do.  That’s a great answer, right?  No.  It’s not.  But it’s also only the beginning of the story.  The truth is I would never have decided to make a blog page, name it, give it a theme, and post on it because I just simply had to do it.  Is that how anybody gets into blogging?  Why do I keep asking all of these questions in the middle of my post?

I started blogging because I was supposed to, but I continue because I like to.  Writing blog posts for others to see keeps me accountable.  If I’m writing short stories or a book, I could write a word a day and nobody would ever know whether or not I was making progress.  Here, people can see whether or not I’m writing.  This blog has 290 followers, 289 more than I thought it would (my mom would obviously read it even if the world was exploding), and you all make me feel that if I don’t post something I’m letting somebody, somewhere, down.  And that isn’t a burden for me.  I genuinely like it.

So I keep on posting.  And posting gets me into a writing mood.  Being in a writing mood makes me eat… uh, write.  Makes me write. Writing makes me feel good about myself and makes me happy, which is important.  So I guess I’m saying that I blog because it makes me happy.  I think that there are worse reasons to do something.

Why do all of you post on your blogs?  Do you do it regularly?  Do you like being semi-accountable?  Has your reason for blogging changed since you began?  Do people enjoy being bombarded with four part questions? Image

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What Do You Listen To As You Write?

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the magic of coffee.  Today I want to touch on the second motivational tool that makes my writing world tick.  Music.

I know that not every writer listens to music while they write – some prefer silence, some prefer listening to the hum of activity around them, and some can simply write in any situation.  I, however, love listening to music while I write.  I used to listen to whatever twenty or thirty songs were my favorites at the time.  After that I tried listening to classical music.  Then I tried instrumental versions of popular songs.  And later I tried all kinds of different things.  About a year ago I landed on what I think is the perfect writing music for me.  Movie scores.

I love listening to movie scores because they almost always are without words, which helps them stay in the background.  Movie scores are made with the sole purpose of inspiring people – creating emotions, making you think.  And being inspired, in whatever way, helps me write.  Movie scores are motivational.  Okay, maybe it makes me look like an idiot if I’m sitting in Starbucks with a vacant stare looking like I just saw Superman take flight for the first time, or like I just saw Maximus reunited with his family in Gladiator, but there’s always a tradeoff, right?

The fact that I love movies (the good ones, the ones that inspire you and send a message behind all of that action and adventure), and that listening to movie scores is something I would do just for fun, makes sitting down to write all the more appealing.  And tricking ourselves into getting to work and putting actual words on a page instead of daydreaming is as important as anything we do, isn’t it?

Here are just a few random good scores:

An Ideal of Hope – Man of Steel

Soulseeker – Thomas Bergensen

Becoming One of the People – Avatar

Warrior of Light – Game of Thrones

Discombobulate – Sherlock Holmes

Take a listen if you have time.  For those of you with Spotify this is easy.  My favorite playlist is “Best of Movie Soundtracks” by GuiguiF. It has 977 songs running 68 hours (there won’t be any need to listen to repeats any time soon) and is updated regularly.

What about you?  Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what kind of music? Does it inspire you?

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Graduation

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It’s been a while since my last post, but I promise I haven’t forgotten about this blog.  For the past two weeks I’ve gotten through the last four finals of my college career, been to beach week for one final celebration with all of my friends, and walked at graduation (without tripping and falling).

All of that has kept me away from FictionAllDay and from writing in general, but it my opinion it was worth it. I’m really excited to move forward in life – I won’t have the constant worry in the back of my mind about homework and tests, but at the same time I’ll miss being with all of my friends.  I don’t start work until July, which means that I’ll have more time than ever to write, and I’m really excited to finish up revisions on my completed book and get started on a new one that I’m more excited about then I’ve ever been before (and hope will also be better than anything I’ve written before).

Moving on to a new part of life isn’t always easy, and it’s more than often scary, but I believe that it’s exciting as well.  I hope that getting into a routine instead of having the tumultuous schedule of college life will help me write more than ever even after I start work, and I have high hopes for the near future.

But hey, doesn’t every writer tell themselves that they’ll have more time for writing in the future? Am I just kidding myself?  I don’t think so.  I hope not.  Maybe.  Okay, possibly.  Ugh… Probably.

I really need some way of keeping myself accountable for writing… like a book contract… and the promise of money.

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And don’t forget coffee!