Monday, April 18, 2011

Writers Are Broke - But They Dont Have To Be

To wise writer's, it is well-known that even with a few books under the belt, it can still be hard to get a full-time income. So most writers are in 9 to 5 jobs they hate, while writing on the side to cover the bills. But they don't have to.

Freelance writing is a big business online. The internet is the future of all business, so there is a lot of demand for article writers, press release writers, content writers, and even essay writers. So if you're a writer with a tight grasp on spelling and grammar, and can type fast on the keyboard, then there are people on the internet, right now, offering money for your services.

So let's do the math. If you sign up at Guru (note, I get nothing out of this, this is NOT an affiliate link), and construct a profile. You can ask for up to $100 an hour, to write articles for clients. You simply put your advertisement up (FREE), create your profile, and then bid on jobs.

Right now, I'm offering 0.05 cents a word, this doesn't sound like much, but for a 500 word article, which would take about 15 minutes to write, would cost $25, which if you do the math, equals $100 an hour!

So if you work, 20 hours a week, while doing your fiction writing on the side, you could potentially be making $2,000 a week profit, sounds pretty sweet huh?

Now here is the process.

Step 1: go to Guru, and sign up for a free account, and create your profile. Don't forget to put all your experience with writing down.

Step 2: Open up word, write a few articles on random topics. Make sure their well written (if your a writer, that will be easy), and upload them to your profile as samples.

Step 3: Bid on 5 projects a day (35 a week), and before long you will be getting responses, and making money. That easy really.

Take note. Don't set your wage too low. You are WRITERS! so believe in yourself. Your time is precious.

Hope you can make some cash while you pump out that novel :)

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Master Of Your Craft

It takes 10,000 hours to master the writing craft, so let's not beat around the bush. To become a published author, earning a full time income, and to be considered one of the wise ones in your field, you have to put in 10,000 hours to get there.

But why 10,000 hours? In Malcolm Gladwell’s "Outliers", he shows that researchers have discovered that every master in their respective fields has been training for approximately 10,000 hours. Even the likes of Bill Gates put in 10,000 hours worth of computer programming in school before he hit it big with Microsoft. The Beatles use to play for 10 hours straight on stage in Hamburg before striking it big time. Even Mozart, a considered child prodigy, didn't compose his first masterpiece till his early 20's, which meant he was practising full time for well over a decade before it.

So what's this mean for you? It means there are no easy shortcuts. Almost everyone thinks they have a book in them, and as many people believe they have the ability to write one, and will do so by their life’s end. But in reality, this is ridiculous. It's like someone saying, "Yeah, I will probably participate in the Olympic games at some point in my life". People grossly underestimate the skill and ability needed to write a novel, because on the surface, it looks easy. But in reality, it’s the masters of the craft that make it look effortless.

An example I think is the Harry Potter series. When I first read it as a teenager, I was like, "This is so easily written, I will dominate the writing market," It wasn't till years later, when I picked it up again, that I realised how well written the series was because I had a greater understanding of the craft.

So what is the real point of this post? Well it's to make you realise this isn't a quick journey. That if you're really serious about being a published author, then you got to be willing to take the long road. You must realise that it may take you 10 years to get there, that it may not be your first book, your second book, or even your third or fourth book that sells. You have to be in it for the long haul, and must write just to write. If you do this, then the journey will be a little easier on your soul.

Have a good one

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finding Your Writing Voice Style

Often when writing teachers discuss the topic of voice in fiction, there are very iffy, ambiguous definitions associated with it. You hear a lot of them saying, "It can't really be described, but you know it when you see it," and "you can't really teach voice." I beg to differ, I believe all objects in existence can be broken down conceptual, and when we can't, we are just being lazy.

To start, I want to identify several areas, that when linked together, form the overall concept of voice. I'm attempting to come to a philosophical definition of voice, so that as writers, we can use it as a working model to help others, and better our own "voice."

Firstly, we have the objective world that the story takes place in. This includes the history, the culture, the environments and all the characters in the piece. This is important to know as an author because you can't develop a plot or a protagonist, if you don't know the objective facts of your world. Once you know these, then its time to narrow down. But take note, some beginner authors stick here. They tell their story from an objective point of view, which leads to a very boring story.

Secondly, we have the protagonist. Your character has a particular "world view" of the objective world. They don’t know the objective world, because human beings can never know their world completely objectively. There will always be subjectivity in any perception of your environment. So you must know your characters subjective view of this existence. What do they like? What do they believe? What are their values? their history? Who is this person and what makes them who they are? This is important, because its this information that creates a "Point of View". You must have a POV of that existence, because its HUMAN to have one, and its this point that creates engagement with a HUMAN reader.

Thirdly, you have an author. As I wrote earlier, a new writer will skip the second point altogether. They will just have a flat character, who almost works as a piece of cardboard floating around in the objective world, with no real point of view. But a good author will internalize this point of view, they will inhabitant it, and live in, and adopt all the entire subjective viewpoint of the main character. The author must then work, almost as a best friend, or fan of the main character. They must be the characters cheer leader, and have the same world view. This is what voice is, its "expressing the POV of the character authentically." When the author adopts the POV of the character, and communicates authentically from that POV, and ONLY that POV, the author’s words will be aligned with the characters words.

For example, if John hates the school nurse, and thinks she is a grumpy old bitch, and then the author will express something such as, "John sat down. He couldn't believe the grumpy old bitch was still there, had she not died yet?" This is voice in action, and it exists because the author saw an objective world, narrowed it down to a subjective view that was owned by a particular character, internalised this point of view, and expressed authentically from it.

Lastly, we have the reader. What does the reader want out of a story? Well, if he or she is the norm, they want to take a adventure, or a series of dramatic events that moves them emotionally in some way. For a reader to be moved, they have to feel connected to the story, and this is achieved when they are connected to a HUMAN point of view. If the character has a personal view of existence, and the author has internalized this point of view, and expressed authentically from it, when the reader reads the book, they will identify with the view because it’s a human POV, and thus, feel moved by it.

Concept of voice created. Hope this break down helps.


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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Scribophile Review

For the past few months I have been a member of a social media site called "Scribophile", and I must say its the best writers community on the web. I have been searching for one for literally years now, and It's awesome that such a community exists out there. This post is going to be about explaining what Scribophile is like, and to inspire you to get your ass on there and sign up. This isn't an affliate advertisement either. There is no incentive for me to inspire you to do this, It's simply the best thing I have done for my writing, and I want you to do it too.

Now, Scribophile is a free service, but there is also a premuim section as well. On the free section you can upload two works at a time, and then users will earn "Kharma points" by criticing others works, and the longer, the more points you earn. This is important because you can't get reviews, or post more works, unless you have enough Kharma points. So this give and take process is better for users as it forces people to interact. You also need Kharma points to enter contests, writers circles, and sending private messages.

In the premuim section, which I think every writer who is serious about writing should do, (It's $80 a year, and if this seems steep, then just do a little calculation in your head. How many of you spend that much on a night out on a Friday night, esepcialy if you start drinking while your out? Now, ask yourself how important is your dream? This is the question I asked, and the answer came quite logically, besides, its freaking worth it, let me tell you). Premuim membership allows you to post as much work as you like, it allows you to get deeper insight to your critiques by allowing people to input data about your work, such as how good your characters are, how engaging the plot is, how vivid the imagery is, etc. It also allows you to enter writers circles and contests without the need for Kharma points.

Now below is what the main dashboard looks like. It has a facebook feel for it, and shows you your karma points, reputation, the number of citiques others have liked of yours, if others have critqued your works, view your private messages and look at your wall, (yes they have a wall like Facebook where other writers can post).
The writers circle is a feature I really like. It allows you to create private groups for your niche, and invite people in so that you can develop a mini critique circle. I am going to create one soon about dystopian novelists, so if you’re interested just send me a comment and sign up!

I think these critique circles are essential in becoming a published author. Even the most seasoned authors submit to critique circles, so get use to the process.

There is also a blog on there, where featured writers post great articles on the writing craft. So really, it is an entire writing community and will tremendously help your writing craft. If you feel this is for you, then pop over to Scribophile and sign up. I just want to stress I am no way shape or form associated with any Scribophile creation or management, I'm simply a user who thoughts its great value for any writer out there.

Have a good day. I know I will. I'm finally back from my Indian backpacking trip, and am currently chilling in the south of Sweden before hitting up the UK again. Least I won't get sick anymore!


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Friday, April 8, 2011

Writing Craft Lesson - Expressing Thought

How to express what a character is thinking? This was the dilemma I was dealing with this week. Although, it’s fairly obvious to a writer how to do this. I started to put the process under a microscope, and over think what I was trying to do by trying to come to a "universal" or "right" way of doing it.

My dilemma was this. In some books, such as "Song of Ice and Fire" by George R. R Martin, he always expresses character thought through the use of italics. This would be shown in the following way, "John moved to the wall and rested his back, How in hell are we going to survive this?"

These italics mean that the thought is coming straight from John, as if we have a telepathic connection to him. This is great for establishing a direct connection with the reader to the character, and is what I used for most of my writing.

Then I began to read "Under the Dome" by Stephen King, an unusual read for the most part. King expresses his characters thoughts by pumping his POV through the use of a strong voice, i.e. "There was that stupid woman again. She sat down, crossed her legs, and expressed a mug look to the audience. Mark groaned and sat down."

King is just expressing imagery, but the fact that he’s expressing a point of view, or an opinion into the words, (that stupid woman), we obviously assume that it’s the characters opinion of her that is generating this description. For me, this style of expressing thought gives the writing a greater flair because it adds personality and voice to the writing. It may lessen the connection between reader and character, but I feel it may add a little more mystery to the story.

So I guess it seems that I prefer the latter right now. I feel it makes the writing more engaging. I just asked this question on Absolute write, and the response seemed to be relatively the same. Most believed that there wasn't a right or wrong answer, unless you stick to a few fundamental principles.

Basically, the readers experience is king. If the reader isn't confused, and obviously gets that the words are in fact the thoughts of the character, and is perceiving the characters point of view in relation to the events around him or her, then it’s perfectly fine.

Also, choose what one works for you. As the writer, if you’re not comfortable with what you're writing, then it will show. You will express fragmented sentences that won't flow right. So just express it the way you want to, the way that your natural voice wants to express it. If the readers get it, and it feels good to you to write it like that, keep writing it that way.

Lastly, be consistent. If you keep switching from the thoughts of the character expressed directly in italic, then to the narrator expressing it through POV, then you begin to confuse the reader. The reader doesn't want to have to "work out" what approach you're taking. If they have to do that, then they have left the story and may put the book down altogether.

So in conclusion,
It doesn’t matter which approach you take, as long as the reader knows what you're doing, that it feels good for you, and that you pick one approach and stick to it.


P.S Since this blog is getting some readers now, I think I may add a writing craft lesson every few days, with some philosophical theory placed in between. I think it will be the best format for the blog, but feel free to have your say.


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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nations Don't Exist - Their illusions

In the modern world, the word "nation" is so essential to how we perceive the world, that it's acquired the tag of an absolute - a concept not to be challenged. We have given nations the tag of an objective entity that lives "out there" in the world, but in reality, they are as fictional as the stories we write.

Nation's haven't always been around, in fact, they are a new concept to the human mind. It wasn't until the birth of the printing press in the industrial revolution that people could communicate over a long enough distance, and without such a form of communication, how could people decide if they were a "common" people?

So this 19th century invention, led to people to identify with other people over long distances, and in time of conflict, pushed them into grouping together to form a stand.

Now, how was this "stand" formed? Well by picking and choosing certain "indicators" that they were indeed a common people, i.e. language, religion, skin color, dress. These indicators allowed for a group to believe, “we are common because of these things." (It’s an Illusion, but it served a practical purpose of uniting them, and thus bettering their needs).

Ethnic groups are made the same way. But the difference between an ethnic group and a nation is that the nation feels like its owed political status. That they are allowed to govern themselves, and determine how their collective should be structured, and played out in the universal "story" of humanity. Because that's all nations are, they are "stories." If you ask anyone who belongs to a nation (which is 90% of the planet), they will give you a "myth", or a story of how their people were formed, and it’s usually a noble adventure of how the people stood up, and took what was theirs, often neglecting gaping holes in the story that would suggest that they have nothing to do with each other at all.

So really, a nation is just, "a group of people who believe they are a nation," and it’s this definition that explains why terrorism occurs. For example, in Kashmir, they believe they are a nation, but India and Pakistan refuse to grant that right, so violence erupts. When you consider that nations are just fictions of the mind, you begin to see how ridiculous these conflicts are. But you can't tell them that, they are very real realities to the mind that possesses them.

I believe this knowledge is inspiring. It allows us to see objectively our place in the world, and possibly see a future where nations won't be at all. Pushes to make this a reality are already being seen, such as in the European Union, although there is still a long way to go until a global nation is developed. If human beings could expand their awareness and see commonality with human beings at a whole, and build nationalism based on universal indicators, rather than minute, individual ones, we could see a great change, but this would probably be idealism at its finest. But I believe as social networking takes hold, and the “printing press” revolution occurs again, but this time with web 2.0, we could see that change facilitated.

Now, as dystopian writers, it’s important to take this knowledge into consideration. It allows you to craft your nations in a more precise matter but addressing the "indicators", the "myths & stories', and the actual history of their creation. I believe by better understanding our world conceptual, by building more objective, and all encompassing models of existence, we can build better worlds in our stories, and thus bring them to life in more rich and meaningful ways.

Enjoy your day

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Political Spectrum

Politics is an important subject for any dystopian novel. In most dystopian literature, there is a repressed group, and their repression is usually due to a political arrangement that has left them on the outskirts of society. This can be for a number of reasons, in the novel I'm working on, it is because of the "division of labour" issue found in a lot of societies where basically resources are found in one area, and not another, so that area gets developed, those ethnic groups prosper, and the ones on the non-resource rich land suffer. It's a reality that is everywhere, and it’s very real.

I have a degree in Politics. It’s something I got interested in during my backpacking around Asia and seeing a lot of depressing shit, i.e. starving children, bodies, especially in parts of India & Nepal. Seeing these things angered me, and made me want to find the source of the problem, thus, politics.

But what actually is politics? I believe to write great dystopian fiction, we as writers, must have a firm grasp on its definition and its expressions. Then we can work it into our stories, and use the knowledge of the concept to our advantage.

Politics is part of human nature, and is essential to any collective grouping. When a collective group decides they are a group, i.e. a nation (a topic to also be discussed at a later day because it’s very important, and I believe awesome to know), then they must designate a central power source so that they can feel safe. By limiting the power of the individual, the individual feels safe because they know that there is an outside source keeping watch. This is why repressive Kings in the olden days were a valid means of government. They kept everyone obeying, which kept everyone safe, not a bad deal.

But as technologies grew, and the industrial age came out (especially with the printing press) suddenly, mass messages could be sent large distances, and communicated to many people, so a more complicated approach of dealing with the collective had to be established. That's how all the forms of different politics you see today have been formed.

Now I believe that politics’ essential purpose in human nature, is to help monitor conflict. Within every purpose of government is this ideal. This is why the search for Utopian societies always fails, because conflict is part of human nature. There will never be a situation where conflict is absent! This is why politics is what it is. Even democracy isn't perfect, but it’s the best we got (Democracies illusions will be discussed at a later date, and no, I'm not a communist.)

By understanding politics on a conceptual level, by understanding why it exists and its function in human nature, we can write better dystopian fiction. We can create more complex and realistic worlds. When you understand the abstract concepts, you can play with them in your worlds.

Politics is going to be a topic discussed a lot on this blog, and I hope to give it a firm conceptual meaning and discuss it at length so that as a dystopian writer, it can be expressed poetically in fiction.

That’s it for now

P.S If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, do it immediately!

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