Building Bridges

Building Bridges

As a writer, there’s a command you must stick to: “Keep your readers interested”, and building a solid bridge between you and your readers will keep them engaged, and it’ll help you to create an audience.

Make it easy

Some time ago I was surfing the net. I was looking for some sound advice on writing non-fiction because I wanted to improve my craft, and I found a copy of William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well“. First published in 1976, the book’s been printed many times since then, an sold over a million copies.

William Zinsser offers no-nonsense strategies that all writers —fiction and non-fiction—can use, and one of the very first is that if a reader fails to understand your story or your article, it is your fault not his.

This made me think about the times when we’ve made it difficult for our readers to understand what we write, of the times that we have cut the bridges that make it possible to reach our readers. If you make it too difficult for them, your readers’ll leave you, and they’ll go and look for another writer who’s better at the craft.

Then, how can we make it easy for them?

Keep it simple

If I were to pick a single tip on how to keep readers engaged, I’d choose this: “Simplify”. We don’t need to use long, difficult words or tangled, obscure ideas to show the world how clever we are. What we need to do is to think clearly about what we want to say, and say it cutting all the unnecessary words until our ideas are neatly expressed.

Keeping our writing simple, however, isn’t easy. Few sentences come clean the first time and most of them’ll need rewriting. How much rewriting? As much as it’s needed until we can answer this questions:

  • What I want to say?
  • Have I said it?
  • Is it clear for my readers?

Cut, cut, cut

Pompous, cluttered, strange senteces will annoy and bore your readers. We shouldn’t  be afraid of taking our prunning shears and cut everything that doesn’t add to the clarity and simplicity of our stories.

We must look out for unnecessary adverbs (those -ly little bugs), adjectives that add nothing to the noun (a tall skyscraper), or senteces full of words (why saying that they’re experiencing precipitations on the Southern part of the country if we can say that it’s raining?).

Myself, I fight a personal battle against implement. Whenever I hear that new economic measures will be implemented to guarantee the wellbeing and prosperity of the country, I feel like emptying my bank account, grabbing my wallet and running away as fast as I can.

As writers, we have to show our true self to our readers using a language as clear and simple as possible. We are bridge builders.

Beautiful sketch of a bridge by Pete Scully  – https://petescully.com)

 

 

 

Ancient Publishers Inc.

Ancient Publishers Inc.

More than sitting down, Newbie Author collapsed on his bed. By his side, he had the dozen or so rejection letters he’d got for his first novel, and on top of them, a creamy, expensive-looking business card. “Ancient Publishers Inc. Mr. J. Dust. Publisher” it said in elegant, black letters.What was he to do? He needed to speak to his agent. 

Newbie had met Priscilla Bookworm at a café. She was the first agent who’d agreed to take him on her list, and he couldn’t help feeling grateful for that. 

“I totally, absolutely, loved your book, dear”, she said, sitting beside Newbie. “I’m sure we’ll get you a contract in no time.” She fished Newbie’s manuscript out of her Vuitton briefcase. The pages were well-thumbed, as if they had been read may times.

Ms B. had painted a rosy future for Newbie. Traditional publishing was the right move. “Imagine the prestige of being in their catalogue”, she said flashing her bright, white teeth, so perfect that Newbie thought they were false. “Wouldn’t that boost your confidence as a writer? Because you are goood enough to be accepted by a serious publishing house, you’re not one of those losers who self-publish their books”. 

“Yeah, sure”. Newbie looked at his manuscript. On the table, with Ms Bookworm right hand placed firmly on top, it didn’t look like it was “his” anymore. “I’m a bit worried, though”, he said. “I wouldn’t like the publishers playing around with it much”. 

“Oh, dear!” One more flash of her teeth. “Of course they’ll take care of proofreading, editing, art, and design. But it’ll be done by pros, to make your book sparkle. And their marketing department is great. Think about all the publicity you’ll get. ¡You’re going to be a celeb!”

The no-time contract had in fact been a 10 month-waiting contract, but she finally landed one with Ancient Publishers, Inc. Things couldn’t be better. Or could they? 

Ancient Publishers Inc. were on a respectable-looking building, all polished wooden floors, wrought iron balconies and marble staircases. And his publisher, Mr Jacket “call-me-Jack” Dust, was a perfect match for the background. All about him said: “Trust me. I know what I’m doing”.

“As you surely understand, Mr, Author”, said Dust, “it’s a big risk for our company to take unknown writers. Sales are not guaranteed, a huge investment in marketing is needed…we’d rather work with already published writers. Less risky”.

Newbie’s hopes begun to sink. Was he going to be rejected, after all?

“However, your novel is not without interest”, he said. “It’s far from perfect, but we’ll take care of that. Our staff will turn it into something we can sell. Of course, you’ll have to give us control over the manuscript, and that includes all necessary changes as well as the film and translation rights“. Mr Dust pulled a fat document out of his drawer. “Now, Mr. Author, if you care to sign this contract, you’ll get an advance, and our usual 7% royalties fee “.

Jack Dust took Newbie’s novel and placed it on a high pile of other worn manuscripts. “And this is where it’ll end”, Newbie thought. “Will my novel be my own after they’ve finished with it? Will it ever be read with pleasure?” He got up and walked to the door, leaving the contract behind. Unsigned. 

 

Underground is no place for a writer

Underground is no place for a writer

Aspiring and newbie writers…stop living underground!

When you’re new to writing, or when you’re not getting paid for your stories yet, you may tend to consider writing as secondary, as a hobby, as something you do whenever you have some free time, thus burying your talent and your passion, and going underground.

I’ve been guilty of putting my writing second to my day job many times, of letting my well of inspiration almost go dry.

As a creative person, working my ass off in non-creative, routine tasks had nearly left me with no words inside wanting to be shared. My values and principles clashed so much with my day job that I started doubting about my passion and vocation, and stress started to build up.  And we all know what stress does to creativity.

Soon, I felt too tired to write every day. I started making excuses and I quit my writing routine. The less I wrote, the less I wanted to write. Words weren’t calling for me anymore and “the pool where we all go down to drink” —as Stephen King refers to inspiration in his novel Lisey’s Story— was suffering from a bad drought.

That was living underground for me, a time with no inspiring light, with no schedule and no commitment to my passion for words. Then, one day, I came across Eric Maisel’s A Writer’s Parisand I read about the joy of writing anywhere, everywhere, and the commitment to write everyday, no matter what.

I also learnt about how easy it is to stop writing because as most artists do, writers seldom have tons of self-confidence. Once you start making excuses for not writing, doubts settle in, and your stories don’t look that good anymore.

I wouldn’t say that a book cured me from my non-writing phase, but it taught me what real writers do, how do they live and work, and got me on my tracks again.

If you are a writer, writing is your main job and occupation, regardless of what you do to earn your living. When you see yourself as a writer, call yourself a writer —not a teacher, or a shop assistant who accidentally “writes a little”—, and work everyday in your stories, you stop living underground, and you bring your writing out into the light.

That’s where all writers, painters, musicians and artist must live.

Featured image: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/moore-grey-tube-shelter-n05706

 

Recharge

Recharge

She’s been trying to nail her novel for several months.She’s been following all the advice about productivity and organization available in blogs and books. She gets up at 4.00 a.m. to try and write the number of words she’s set as her writing goal. She’s working her ass off to finish that first draft, and to keep up with her mates at NaNoWriMo Camp. She’s putting all she can in this project, and still the plot is dead, her protagonist is boring, and she hasn’t even have an antagonist to speak of. Although she tries not to edit as she writes, she can’t help having a look at the already written pages, and she doesn’t like what she reads. It doesn’t feel right.

He’s been trying to get his painting finished for a long time. He’s got the idea, he’s got the technique, he’s determined to have something to show at the next local art fair. What he hasn’t got is time. He goes to his day job, works all day, and when he returns home is so bloodly tired that most of the days he collapses in front of the TV, and falls asleep. He’s got the painting in him, he’s got the passion. He just lacks the energy.

Who could blame an artist for being tired, for stuggling and, still, feeling that he’s not going anywhere? Artists do. Most of them suffer from “the bicycle syndrome”, meaning that they are convinced that, unless they keep moving forward, they’ll stop and fall down. These thoughts of perfection and constant movement are at the root of most unwritten novels, unfinished paintings, unsung songs, and unlived creative lives.

All creative people will always try to do better, but they should also try to acknowledge all the time, effort, and willpower they have invested so far. They should recognize that sometimes is OK to stop and recharge.

You can do lots of things to recharge: unhook form social networking for a while, change the place where you write, or use a notebook and a fountain pen instead of your laptop, take your painting tools out to a park, go to a museum and work there, or just wander from hall to hall, letting your brain and your soul soak in the beauty and the peace…Anything will do, as long as you are ready to forgive yourself for not keeping your nose to the grindstone.

Stop. Recharge. Reevaluate your options if that’s what you need. Mid-course corrections, and changes of direction are acceptable. When you come back, you’ll be able to take a fresher look at your work, at your art.

When the image is new, the world is new

Gaston Bachelard – The Poetics of Space.