Category: On Writing

Writing Anxieties: Words, Words, Words!

Writers trade in words. We use them, play with them, manipulate them, use them to make sense of the world, to express ourselves, to obfuscate, to distract, to amuse, to affect. Words are the very root of our trade. Some might say that our true root is storytelling, but that is the remit of a narrative writer, either fiction or non-fiction. Words connect the novelist to the poet to the journalist to the screenwriter to the technical writer to the blogger to the cook writing up recipes for publication. We express ideas through the medium of words.

So why are they an anxiety for me? (Well, to be honest, it’s more of a general worry than a deep anxiety, but I’m curious to hear how other writers deal with it.)

Several reasons. I look at my work, and I see repetition of words, often in the one piece. ‘Oh look,’ I said on the second glance over a short story recently, ‘how many times have I managed to use delicious? Crap.’

I have fall back words too, the ones that keep cropping up not matter what I write. This could be when it is erotica in particular – ‘press’, and ‘against’ are two I notice. Let’s have a ponder why I could possible rely on those ones…

I worry that for a writer I don’t have a large enough working vocabulary. It’s not that I don’t know the meaning of lots of words – I’m not running to the dictionary with every page of literary novel, for instance. It’s more a matter of using them in my own work, and using them naturally, for at the same time you don’t really want to write a piece that looks like you’ve scooped out the contents of the thesaurus and dumped them on the page. I was criticised for this recently in something I did, and the critique-er wasn’t entirely incorrect – at the time I was writing, though, I did think it was necessary though because there are only so many times you can say ‘shiny,’ for instance. The smart thing, though, would be to recall that it’s a matter of selecting the right word for that precise moment.

A further thing I noticed is that I have a problem with little words, the filler words that are a symptom of first drafts. ‘still’, ‘then’, ‘just’, ‘even’ (actually, ‘even’ is very much part of how I write. A stylistic tic, maybe?) It’s like the apocryphal story of Mozart – instead of too many notes, too many words. This does get better with practice, and is a symptom I think of beginner writers, the need to overstuff a paragraph to make it absolutely clear what you mean, but in doing so, lose the overall effect; just as a four line caricature sketch can convey loads of personality, the correctly chosen four words can create an immediate, powerful image.

What helps me through this? A few things. One, to remind to myself to read more, and widely, to see how people make use of their words. Two, that I’ll probably get better the more I write and the older I get. Three, the Find function in most word programmes is very effective in weeding out repetition. 😉

Any other thoughts folk on words, words, words?

Writing Anxieties: Criticisms, Many and Varied

I recently had an unfortunate fall out with a friend. Well, ex-friend now. I won’t go into too many details, but the blow up was sparked after this person having made a couple of comments that made it clear they did not like that I wrote erotica. In amongst the many things that were said (and there were many, many things said, on both sides), the idea came up that I don’t handle criticism well, and was defensive about the writing that I do because, deep down, I wasn’t sure that I really believed it was ok to be writing erotica.

It got me thinking about the different kinds of criticism that people involved in creative pursuits, if they take them seriously, have to deal with. And, of course, how I handle it.
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Writing Anxieties: Prolificacy and Productivity

In April I made huge plans to write 5-6 new pieces and submit them. It felt like a challenge, but doable, sacrificing only a little bit of sanity. Unfortunately, I was knocked somewhat sideways by a small blow up in my personal life, and that took its own toll on my ability to sit down and write. I got some work done after I went on leave (am back at work as of today), but not as much as I’d hoped or planned.
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Writing Anxieties: Focus, Refocus

(Really must not try update wordpress between 10-11pm – seems to slow right down and eat half my posts! So this is finished off from last night.)

There are benefits of a tight deadline you are determined to meet. For one thing, it focuses your energy and thoughts onto finishing it, everything else, the peripheral distractions, dropping away, or otherwise you figure out how to use those distractions as a genuine break from your work rather than as a time-sapping way to avoid doing your work. In the midst of writing this latest one, I was getting into Memrise, and it was a very nifty way of taking time out from the story, being both fun and productive and only taking up a little bit of time.

Trouble is though, that deadlines pass. Once they are gone, then so does my focus. I know there are other projects to do, I know there are other things to write, but after that extreme, tightly focus, almost forced energy, there is also the desire, and dare I say, need to have a break. Well, break-time is well and truly passed. True, I have finished reading one of the dragon books I’ve been meaning to for a while (review to come soon I hope), and yes, I have managed 700 words of a new story, but that one is irritating me as I have the crux of the sex scene, but I’m still figuring out the character dynamics, which are not coming easily. There is time before that’s due and it is only allowed to be short, so that’s something, but still, brain is trying to decide between that and half a dozen other projects I could be getting on with and it’s starting to bug me. Trouble is the simple ‘pick a direction out of a hat’ thought doesn’t really seem to have worked in the past, so that’s going to be a joy in itself finding the next one to really get my teeth into.

It worries me because it relates back to an earlier post I made about finishing things. If you can’t focus on one thing, or even two things, at a time, how can you possibly hope to get stuff done? Yet I know it’s doable, with a deadline breathing down my neck. Perhaps the thing to do is wait until a week before the next deadline?

Yes, you’re right – stupid idea that. Ok, off to work where maybe something will inspire me in the right way.

(On the bright side, I’ve had a big clear out of my Firefox bookmarks. That’s something, right? Right?)