Thursday, August 30, 2012

Writing Every Day: Ray Bradbury


The next three or four posts I blog (there might be more, if I’m lucky) will be about how to be productive as a writer every single day of your life.

When I started this blog, back in December 2009, I wrote an article titled, Write Every Day. It was my very first blog post. I remember how excited I was when I published it. Through the years, I’ve been kicking myself to do a follow up on that article, the how-to of writing every day.

Kicking myself around paid off in an inspiration overdose and finally, I decided the time was right to sit down and get this over it. I'm taking my hints from words of great writers and personal role models.

First one up’s a great writer who passed away in the month of June (while I was busy flexing my short story muscles); Ray Bradbury. Mr. Bradbury demands four pages a day. That’s four pages every day!

“I always say to students, ‘Give me four pages a day, every day!’” – Ray Bradbury

Why does Bradbury believe you can achieve this feat? I borrowed some of his quotes gleaned off Writer’s Digest to explain this:

1. Write Intuitively
Bradbury believes that writing ought to be intuitive.
            “The only good writing is intuitive writing. It would be a big bore if you knew where it was going.” Ray Bradbury
I’ve accomplished much of my writing assignments in this manner. Just put pen to paper and scribble away.
A word of caution: this might be a trifle tough if you have not been doing a whole lot of writing. However, with time and consistent attendance at your writing desk, you will discover it’s the smoothest way to get progressive work done.


2. Read Intensely
            “You must live feverishly inside a library.” Ray Bradbury
I’ve learned from experience you can’t write worth a darn, if you don’t read ravenously. The subconscious picks stuff off pages of books, things the conscious part of the mind may not even notice, and stows them away.


I absolutely demand of you and everyone I know that they be widely read in every damn field there is; in every religion and every art form and don’t tell me you haven’t got time! There’s plenty of time. You need all of these cross-references. You never know when your head is going to use this fuel, this food for its purposes. – Ray Bradbury
You can’t have unprecedented outbursts of inspiration if you ain’t brimming with necessary resources. Feed your soul.


3. Favor Quantity over Sense
The foremost thought to have in mind when you undertake this literary adventure is this: you don’t have to make sense. Possibly, much of the time.
At first, much of what you write would be crap, anyway.

“You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium… Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come.”
– Ray Bradbury.


4. Dredge into Your Subconscious
“All of the good, weird stories I’ve written are based on things I’ve dredged out of my subconscious. That’s the real stuff. Everything else is fake.” – Ray Bradbury

Your work, your story is really how the little chap on the inside interprets life and people around him. Remember, when you surrender to the inner flow, you unplug your muse to take charge!


5. Thou Shalt Not Intellectualize
Thinking is your worst enemy at this moment! I know, it sounds crazy. And maybe, it is but ask anybody, they already believe you’re nuts for being a writer!

“The trouble with a lot of people who try to write is they intellectualize about it. That comes after. The intellect is given to us by God to test things once they’re done, not to worry about things ahead of time.”

“It has to be exciting, instantaneous and it has to be a surprise. Then it all comes blurting out and it’s beautiful. I’ve had a sign by my typewriter for 25 years now which reads, ‘DON’T THINK!’”

“You don’t have any control over your mind at a time like that, and you don’t want it, see? Let it run wild!”


Go and Do Likewise
I always say to students, “give me four pages a day, every day.” That’s three or four hundred thousand words a year. Most of that will be bilge, but the rest …? It will save your life!

That falls between 800 and a thousand words a day quota. Now, go knock yourself out with the inspiration of these words.

…And keep your pen bleeding!

Akpan



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Sunday, August 26, 2012

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing A Story


 Story is about story. And no character is indispensable.
If you can remember these two rules, you will hurt fewer people in your art of story writing. Writing a story sometimes, is like telling on people. However, how the writer handles sensitive situations and, on the other hand, delivers a wonderful story into our bosom is an attestation to the storyteller’s mastery of human emotions.

For every writer, at some point, the bulk of the worry shifts from how to write a story to how to write a story and not hurt people. I think what I have here is a fair bargain if the only thing you yield is your time.


1. Randomly Selecting Names for Your Characters
For the love of God, do not pick names associated with your locale. In deference to people’s feelings and if you honor your integrity as a writer. Nobody would like to read about their obituaries or scenes describing their termination in the hands of some monstrosity in your story.
            If you write horror like I do, do not slaughter your neighbors in your story if you want to live to tell another story.


2. Duplicating Sexual Characteristics
I started typing How to Write a Story and not Worry about Hurting People as the title of this post and then opted for the one you now have, instead. The basic idea the former title represented is still the bottom line of this post.
            Injecting the personal experience into your stories means you can’t not talk about people you meet each day. In the special cases where your story involves embarrassing scenes, which you can’t afford to toss out because it is relevant to the flow of story, here’s one positive step you should take: change the gender of the real people when adding them into the story. It’s one sure-fire method of loosening the impact of discomfort on the real people recreated in your story.


3. Using the Original Setting
Unless you’re writing a personal essay or a memoir (which, in any case demands that every rambling around other people’s private business be severely curtailed), you don’t have to reproduce the original setting of incidence as your fictional geography.

The month of June had me buried up to my elbows in a writing challenge I set up for myself. I called it NaShoWriMo and challenged myself to write 30 short fiction in 30 days. I think I came off with about 30,000 words in all. Much of what came out was crap but I guess I can live with that. The stories were all drafts, anyway. Now, here’s the real whopper; I can tick off the fingers of my left hand those occasions I mentioned Nigeria in those whacky thirtysome short stories (and I assure you those fingers are not more than five).
            I write speculative fiction with emphasis on horror. And since I couldn’t predict how my fellow countrymen would buy into the idea if I murdered them over and over again in my stories, I improvised. If that sounds loco to you, I won’t argue.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that where you choose as the setting for your stories matter. People who live in those places might react. For better or worse. The accent is on worse.


4. Tinkering with Peculiar Personality Traits
Everybody in the neighborhood knows Papa Jones loves fingering his prick after five or six beers. And here you are a young fine writer, writing a pretty good short story about an aged protagonist who exhibits traits similar to Papa Jones’. The irony of the whole business is that Papa Jones’ son is the local law.
            If you’re lucky, you might end up with a broken jaw. On other hand . . . they don’t exactly build those lock-up cells for nothing, do they?

It’s best to focus on story. Leave off any explicit description that might earn deserved chastisement. And ‘thou shalt not get paid for your stories in cuffs and blows.’ That’s in the Bible, Egyptians, chapter ten.


5. Choice of Genre
You really have to take special care when you pick a genre to write in. Many people don’t care if the story gets a happy ending or not. The genre you select can make the difference between like or dislike for your work.

Writing for yourself is still the best approach to writing terrific stories. The story is always your story whether people accept it or not.

Write for yourself!

Let your pen bleed.

Akpan




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Saturday, August 25, 2012

20 Payoffs of Social Bookmarking


Hi, well met, Reader!
I’d like to discuss the seemingly infinite dividends of social bookmarking with you, if you got the time.
Social networking has caught and held on like a bad case of cold, on the web, these few years. Almost everyone who’s had anything to do with the computer and the internet (especially, the internet) is a member of one or more social networking site(s) (SNS).

            Social bookmarking thrived in the wake of social media platforms like MySpace, Delicious, Digg, Facebook, twitter and between 300-500 other sites. Many internet surfers are yet to dig into the treasure trove of this wonderful web tool even though, it offers a variety of goodies which are often as free as air.

You’ll possibly glean bits and pieces of the stuff I got up here on many websites and weblogs but heck, why can’t I do it as well if I can?
The following lines of sentences are my take on essentials of social bookmarking if there ever was one. You might find I did a rundown of some points but believe me, those are better off as stand alones and don’t need me gilding them over.

So, if you’re ready, here I come:

1. Up Your Visibility

If you blog or own a website, this is for you. This is one way to be seen and heard, of sharing your blog/site across a wide and diversified platform brimming with readers waiting for your content.

2. Human Powered Search Engine

People-generated search provides answers instead of bots running the show.

3. Find People in Similar Fields

Some media platforms like Twitter, suggest people for its users to follow based on that user’s tweets and interests. An avenue to link you up with skills/talents operating on the same wavelength with you, in other words.

4. Develop an Authoritative Voice

Whether we realize it or not, the more we share stuff across the web, the bolder we become in constructing descriptive titles. This can boost you up if you’re a writer/blogger. You learn to believe in the power of your words especially, if the posts shared are from big name media sites.

5. Rub Minds with Big Shot Media Gurus

Top media groups and publishers host Q&As or interactive sessions on SNS platforms. That means you get to meet folks at the top rung of the ladder in your field of expertise easily.

6. Boost Your Site Traffic

This one is ooh so obvious. When you share your posts, more people find it. Easy.

7. Information at Your Fingertips

That’s what social bookmarking is all about. Social media are like information banks because millions update links every second.

8. Links, Links, Links

Millions to choose from and explore!

9. Maintain Your Online Presence

Well-meaning bloggers might frown at this one. But, there are days when it feels like you’re drowning in offline work and barely have the time to write. Micro blogging backed up with resourceful links might be the only technique available for keeping up your online appearance.

10. Fast Indexing of Blogs by Search Engine Bots
Social networking sites submit your links to search engines. So, every time you share your site content, you’re practically, setting up your blog for fast indexing in search engine bots.

11. Boost Search Engine Ranking

Surfers migrate to your blog increasing your blog’s popularity and shooting you up search engine rankings.

12. Increased Fanbase

13. Site Branding

Well, if you keep whacking people on the head with what you’re up to, your face will pop up every time they think about that product.

14. Find Skills for Hire

People sharing their posts are basically, telling us; “Lookit here! See what I can do. Hire Me!”

15. Market Your Talents

You can put your books and other products out there where the buyers are. It’s another way of advertising.

16. Accessible on Multi-platforms

Your PC, smart phone and tablet browsers will take you to your social bookmarks anywhere you go in the world as long as you’re connected to the www.

17. Add Keywords and Tags For Search Optimization

Keywords and tags give you an edge in searches.

18. Generate Instant Backlinks
Search engines often use the number of backlinks that a website has as one of the most important factors for determining that website's search engine ranking, popularity and importance. Google's description of their PageRank system, for instance, notes that Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. Wikipedia.

19. Spread News and Information Faster

20. Increased Awareness

This is a matter of popularity. So many social networking sites, so many channels to display your wares to millions of fans. It’s like a window into a world of limitless opportunities.
What are the odds?

Bleed your pen!

Akpan




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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

7 Good Reasons Why You Oughta Blog That Idea!

Sometimes, ideas pop up into our minds and we don’t know what to do with 'em.
Had any peculiar thought lately and wondering if that idea is really worth blogging? Here, I present you with, not one or two, but seven terrific tips to lead you by the hand into the land of creative blogging.




1. The Internet Would Be a Seedy Place

Why would you leave a piece of info for only one website when you got a relevant message to share in a unique voice? The www is filled with info and resources because people like you and me never give up on giving what we got to give.


2. Increase Your Knowledge Base through Research

This one speaks for itself, really. The more you blog, the more you read across the web to get better ideas about what you do. The more you feed yourself through online/offline research, the more you will blog. It’s really as simple as that. 


3. Show Em What You Got

There won’t be any online research, there might be, on the other hand, but they would barely be fulfilling. If people didn’t blog their ideas, google search staffers would be out looking for jobs. Blogging your creative thoughts is another way of sharing your knowledge and getting ‘em across to surfers that need it.


4. Inspire Somebody to Write

On a personal level, I’ve read blog stories that got me so fired up I had to create something. There’s no telling who might get ideas for an article just by reading your stuff.


5. Build-Up Your Writing Muscles

Keeping at your blog expands your creative glands. You’re practically working out therefore, enlarging and stretching your creative muscles.


6. Keep Your Muse Busy

This point is not the same as the above. While point 5 is about exercising, point 6 is like trying to spark up a relationship, sort of. In relationships, a lot of sharing and communicating is involved. When you hang around your muse a couple of times you tend to sense the inward tugging of inspiration faster and with keener intimacy. I do, too. Look at the results!


7. Somebody Out There Needs You!

Or your ideas. Whichever comes first. This should be at the top of your mind every time you try to back out of an idea. Write or blog until there’s nothing left to give!

Keep your pen bleeding!

Akpan




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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Should Fictional Characters Be Drawn Directly From Life?


We are told repeatedly in creative writing classes, our instructors try their best to stick it up to us in matter of fact that we ought to create believable and realistic characters. In other words, characters that ain’t different from us; people that have something in common with our readers’ personalities.


But Are Fictional Characters Drawn Directly From Life?


“If they ain’t drawn from life ain’t they bound to be flat out, stiff and uninteresting puppets filling up the plot?” Someone might wonder.
And I reply, “Yes, definitely.” You’ll get no argument from me there. The issue I present is whether we should presume to recreate real personalities (famous or otherwise) in our work.

Not so long ago, I read someplace (possibly, on Wikipedia) that the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker, while writing his book borrowed all the personality traits of his best pal and dumped ‘em into his fictional character’s (Dracula’s) profile.

Ian Fleming worked for the British intelligence agency and started writing his James Bond series after he retired from service. During his service period, he worked with two people who used Bond as surnames (as far as I know, both men were not related).


Fleming himself has owned up to using the personality traits and personal escapades of the British spies he worked with in creating his famous character. James Bond is actually not one singular spy’s makeup but many.


The king of horror, Stephen King mentioned in the introduction to his novel, Lisey’s Story that his wife and her sisters were the inspiration for the novel’s main character (Lisey) and her sisters.
            King was quick to note that Lisey and her sisters were not Tabby (his wife) and her sisters. He just studied them for a better understanding of his own fictional characters.

These writers probably had the blessings of the real counterparts of their fictional creations. I want to believe it’s one reason Bram Stoker’s pal didn’t sue him for every penny his novel made for recreating him as a blood sucking count.

And maybe, it’s the only probable exception. It’s okay to use real people if they don’t veto your decision.
So back to our question:


Should Fictional Characters Be Drawn Directly From Life?

I’ll answer that question with something Stephen King once said in his book, On Writing;


Obviously not, at least on a one-to-one basis-you better not, unless you want to get sued or shot on your way to the mailbox some fine morning.


Pay attention to how real people behave and then improvise when adding the details into your writing. That’s one certified way to write fiction and not get shot!

Bleed your pen!

Akpan



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