Friday, April 29, 2011

Just Right or Just Write?

In my relatively short time on this Earth, I have been lucky enough to meet and know many talented authors. Regardless of the genre they primarily write for they all share some similarities by necessity, but they can also show some rather stark differences as well.

When it comes to writing style every author is subtly different from one another in almost every area except for one. What I have found is that nearly every author can fit into two very distinct areas in regards to the way they put pen to paper, I call these two categories “Just Right” and “Just Write.”

“Just Right” authors tend to edit their work as they go along. They try to minimize drafts by getting it perfect the very first time, every time. They will spend an abundance of time on each page making sure that every word, every sentence, and every nuance is spelled correctly and is absolutely critical to the message they are trying to get across.

The advantage of “Just Right” is that they will have, more or less, a fully completed and edited book when they finish. The disadvantage is that they will likely miss their deadline. Also, since each chapter takes far more time to create they are much more likely to lose trains of thought and will have to be voracious note takers to ensure that they do not forget to put something down. They will constantly be interrupting their stream of thought so will have to take extra care that they do not get burned out or develop “writer’s block.”

“Just Write” authors take the approach of Daniel Farragut in the Battle of Mobile Bay and say “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” in their writing. A page they have just finished, in record time most likely, will be full of a jumble of ideas spelled completely wrong. They will, however and importantly, finish that page. The advantage of this style of writing is that these writers get down every thought that they mean to get down. They are not bogged down by editing so they just let the words flow. The disadvantages are that at the end of the book they will basically have to write another book with all of the editing that will be required. Of course it is possible to hire an editor these days for minimal expense, so this disadvantage can be mitigated by quite a bit.

Obviously there will be hybrid writers who tend to do a bit of both styles, but not get too bogged down by either. These writers are harder to classify but will tend to stick more plainly in one category or another with time.

I started writing with an old Apple //e hand-me-down, and as such did not have the luxury of a spell checker for quite some time. This initially forced me into the first “Just Right” category because I did not want to accidently miss a glaring error. However once I upgraded to a more modern device I naturally fell into the rhythm of “Just Write.”

Which category do you prefer, or feel more comfortable with?

Grant Virtue

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Keeping Focus on your Writing

If you are anything like me sometimes it can be hard to focus on just one project at a time. Often it seems like while good ideas are ever plentiful actual time can be harder to come across. It can be all too easy to just try to cram a bunch of subjects into one book, painting, poem, story or whatever it is that you are creating. This can lead to a confusing mess for your audience to figure out and will ultimately take away from what you are trying to achieve.

There are a couple of tips to keep in mind that will help you with this potential issue. The first is to remember that the only deadline is yours. Publishers are generally very good about the amount of time that they give authors for each book, so you almost never need to rush. You have to take the time to refine your subject matter and really focus on what you are trying to tell or teach your readers.

The second thing to keep in mind is that you can write more books. If you have fifty topics crammed into one book, why not take a few of those out and just write more books? Sure it can be hard to juggle multiple books at once, but it is preferable by far than the alternative of having a disjointed book that exceeds its scope. Having multiple projects at once is also a great way to avoid writer’s block, as I illustrated in my previous article here.

The third is that the size of the book does not matter nearly so much as what it contains. Certainly there can be a lot of pressure to conform to the “standard” 50,000 word minimum but that really is up to you. Pumping up the word count purely for the sake of it went out with Dickens. Take a look at my earlier book “Ten Simple Rules for Living a Blessed Life,” for example. It is not a large book by any means, but it is also not supposed to be. It couldn’t very well be “Simple” if it came in at 300 pages.

By keeping your focus on the topic of the book as you outline it will help you not only create a book that people will love and recommend to friends and family for years, but will also keep lots of fresh new ideas in your mind for future books.

Lastly, just keep writing!

Grant Virtue

Friday, April 15, 2011

Frustration and Understanding

How many times have you ever driven to work and have had to swerve to avoid hitting a seemingly suicidal bicyclist or pedestrian? It is okay to be honest, it has happened to us all. When it does happen it can be very scary and also very frustrating. It can be hard to understand why someone could appear so unaware that they would get in your way like that.

What you may not get right away is that to that bicyclist and pedestrian you are just as scary and frustrating. It is all too easy to forget that other people are acting and reacting to pretty much the exact same stimuli as ourselves. While from your perspective you couldn’t see how they didn’t see your car but you may be completely blocked by parked cars to the pedestrian.

So how do we avoid frustration when these situations are not only inevitable but nearly impossible to prevent? Perhaps the easiest way is to simply recognize that the other person saw the same thing but from a different point of view. No one but you can possibly have your exact perspective so we must give leeway to others. The most effective way to gain understanding with our fellow humans is to emulate them for a time. Try riding your bicycle to work or the grocery store once a week, or go for a long walk in the evenings. You will quickly see that motorists can be just as likely to display suicidal (and even homicidal in some cases) tendencies as the bicyclists and pedestrians that used to get on your nerves.

I use the example of transportation only because it is universal, but this applies to all areas of life. From time to time we find people that we consider to be annoying, but we must still strive to find a place of understanding with them. They are really no different than us, they are just living their life as they see best at that present moment. Chances are probably very high that they find you just as annoying and frustrating anyhow, so any sort of grace that you show can come back to you. Every time we overcome these frustrations and find peace with our fellow people we are making the world a better, more tolerant place to be in. Less frustration in your life means a happier, healthier and ultimately longer life.

See you on the road!

Grant Virtue