Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm reading a book about writing - one of many around, but sometimes you just need a bit of outside input, one way or another. It would be great to have an experienced mentor, someone to read my stuff and say exactly what's wrong with it and how to fix it, but that's unrealistic so ... it's up to me.
The book in question is by Sol Stein - Stein on Writing. As a long-time editor, he has some good things to say, and what is useful is to read a book like this while reworking a draft. Not because it's a recipe, but because suddenly a lot of what he says becomes relevant to what I'm trying to do with the draft. Strengthen it. Deepen the characters and motivations. See where the holes are. So I keep a piece of paper handy and every time an alarm bell rings, I write down what occurs to me.
Example: he makes a point about motivation and gives an example. One of my characters jumps up and I think about what he's doing and why, and realise that I haven't really explored and shown that well enough. So I make a note.
Found a good website - - which has been helpful with finding out when a word was first in common usage (or recorded in a newspaper or book, etc). Can't beat the OED but as that is at the library, it's handy to have a quick check via the internet. Anything doubtful is still followed up in the OED though. One example is "troublemaker" - not an 18th century word, I have discovered. At that point, the challenge is to find a suitable replacement.
Another problem word was "toff" - not used until after 1800 so the best substitute was "nob", and it fitted the moment very well!
Took the opportunity to start goal setting today, something that becomes more and more useful each year, as long as I'm realistic about goals and keep focused. It's like a personal deadline or incentive. As a friend of mine said, you don't set goals such as "get my novel published" because to a great extent you don't have a lot of control over that. You set a goal along the lines of "research the appropriate publishers and send my novel out and don't give up". I've known a couple of people who worked on the principle of never letting a poem or story stay in the house more than 24 hours - get it out there again. Novels are a little different, but the perseverance principle is the same.

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