Archive for the Writing Category

Even the false spring…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2016 by Mj Rains

false spring

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.
The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

~Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

paris

paris mail

a moveable feast

Advertisements

Eight Essential tips on writing a short story…via Kurt Vonnegut…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2016 by Mj Rains

vintage typewriterKurt Vonnegut was certainly never dull…especially when giving advice to other writers. Here are his eight essential tips for a short story that I keep in mind every time my fingers stroke the keys, or my pen hits the clean white page…

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter who sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

For more great articles by Kurt visit Open Culture page. I’m heading for “How to Write with Style” next!

The seeds of stories…

Posted in Thinking About Words, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by Mj Rains


The seeds of our stories are planted within ourselves. We might jot down ideas in a journal or pour our hearts out on the page of a first draft in a highly personal and uncensored manner. We formulate our innermost thoughts and then record our experiences, or sketch fictional characters and plots. We reach down deep within ourselves and see what germinates. This is healing. – Tracy Strauss, Harnessing Creativity

Kissing the muse…

Image of Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, Rolling Stone Mag 2012

The next time…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2015 by Mj Rains

the wit continuum

The next time you talk with somebody, try to listen with every part of your body, not just your intellect.  Let you breath be slow and full as you take in whatever that person has to say, however she needs to say it. Try not to compete, to prove wrong, to dominate, or to redirect.  Savor the person’s unique pitch and rhythm.  Listen for what’s being revealed and for what’s being veiled.

~  Jeff Davis, The Journey from the Center of the Page

A Writer’s life is like being on a Ferris-wheel…within a Sherlock episode…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2014 by Mj Rains

ferris wheel

A writer’s life, and life in general, is often compared to a roller-coaster ride, but I like to think of it as being on a ferris-wheel. A circle up, a circle down.  On the sweep up, everything is cool, in order, coming together, filled with the anticipation of the top, the peak, the fruition of all the set up, the buckling in, the securing of the gate, to make sure you can safely reach the top and enjoy the ride.

At the top, the view is amazing. We see everything without obstruction. The air is clear, crisp, oxygenating, almost ethereal. We fill our lungs. We feel high, because we literally are.

Now put all this imagery into your job as a writer. We’ve all been on the ferris-wheel of writing. We’ve all been at the top, where we write every day, inspiration comes easily, as easily as your lungs take in that crisp, clean air at the top, and we see our story before us, almost writing itself. Ideas continue to flow. We can’t wait to get back to the computer screen because it’s no longer a blank lifeless page staring at us, but is filled with our words, words we are sure will be the next greatest novel ever to exist. Sometimes the ride stops for a while, to let some other riders board, and we get “stuck” at the top, but it’s not being stuck at all, because we are so high with our writing, our story, our characters who’ve become our friends, our family. We are not “stuck” at all, unless, of course, you’re afraid of heights. Unless, of course, someone next to you starts to panic a bit..

“We can’t stay here forever, right?” this Other voice says.

This Other voice is the procrastinator, the inner critic, and he usually wins.

The ferris-wheel ride continues. We move downward, we slack off. We are not at the top anymore but are creeping down, sometimes slowly…

Slow Descent = playing with websites/blogs more than writing, cleaning closets, watching tv, following 20 people we don’t know on Twitter, taking pics for Instagram…

…and sometimes quicker…

Quick Descent = I have to get off this ride because it’s not good. We listen to the Other voice saying, No one will like it, You are a lousy writer, Why bother, surely it’s been written before. And we think we have to start over.

And starting over gets shoved aside because now we are on the downsweep of the ferris-wheel. We get few circles around. We are bounced briefly up again, but it doesn’t last. Finally…it stops at the bottom. The safety harnesses are unbuckled, the door is unlatched. Time to get the fuck off and let someone else ride.

tumblr_mzkjwsupfp1t1nkcqo1_250Let’s go back to the top – and that Other voice. This “other” you that decided to come along, uninvited, on the ride even though he didn’t want to.  I like to compare this “other” you to the villain in the last episode of BBC’s Sherlock Season 3, Magnussen. He has this control, this power, and it’s source is his words. Only his words. You can listen, take heed, do as he says, and because he has all that power, you believe you have no choice. We discover in the episode all the information Magnussen holds over people to control them, all his “files” are merely stored in his head. His power lies only in what he tells people, how he manipulates them, and his wealth makes it happen. Our inner critic is Magnussen. He’s got nothing however. His “wealth” is our insecurity, our doubt, our lack of believing in ourselves as writers, or in our story, and he uses this doubt well to get what he wants. He takes us off the ride. He brings us down. We descend into his delusions. He tells us again that we are not good enough. “You are nothing,” he says.

And, as he does to Sherlock in the episode, he sets you up so that you go to prison for something you didn’t do. So, my advice: Do what Sherlock did. In the climactic scene Sherlock stands up to him. After all, the Inner Critic/Magnussen admitted all the evidence is in his head. tumblr_n62kuqSp0p1sopacdo1_250Sherlock grabs a gun, even though authorities have arrived to intervene and are yelling at him to step away from the villain so that he can continue to live and steal people’s lives… In one swift move, Sherlock grabs the gun, points and shoots. You can’t believe he had it in him, to kill a guy point blank, but he does. And we have this power too, to kill the inner critic while we are on the upswing, while we are on the top of the writing ferris wheel, before that inner critic has time to get comfortable.

Seems graphically blunt, I know, but I’ll go further. I say, after shooting, throw the fucker off the top and make sure he splats completely.  Nothing left. (Hopefully he didn’t land on anyone…) And then, stay on the ride. Let it sweep down and up continuously, because down is fun too. It’s where we loose our stomachs and giggle and dive in. It’s where we know we are going to be to be swept up once again…

…up where the air is so cool…
where our writing flows no matter what…

What a ride…

%d bloggers like this: