Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Diagram That Motivates – For a Change

motivation - wheel of fortune LEARNINGI read an article today that had a pyramid and went ‘fighting low self-confidence’, so I thought – oh no, another so-very-motivating article that tells you not to give up and leaves you feeling miserable even if you were feeling perfectly fine before you began reading as it meditates about your insecure self-esteem. And so it was at first. But then came the pyramid (I thought, please, just no more Maslow), which turned it all around.
It gave my mind what it needs to keep moving: strategy and purpose. It made the entire writers’ career something that can be grasped, even achieved. Like a bird’s-eye view of all there is to be done. The steps to becoming a successful writer broken down into rungs of a ladder and suddenly they don’t look scary, they look – challenging. Like a plan. If you keep to it and move on, you’ll end up at the end of the road, eventually. Having taken one step at a time.

In fact, I just had to add the diagram to my blog, you can see it in the bottom right corner. (It will also let you know about my steps in the future.)

I had always been a wanna-be, a fan of reading and writing until I became a learner a while ago. I am constantly, strategically extending my knowledge and improving my skills, seeking contact with others in the same shoes, exchanging tips and advice. The next step is a finished novel. Sixth Heaven is in progress and moving forward every single day. As for the multiple novels part, I am not that worried either – the True Story wants nothing but to be written, budging in my head all the time, vampires struggling for attention the angels are getting in their spotlight. As for the rest, well, cross the bridge when you come to it, right?

I won’t make a resolution for taking a step up this year (especially seeing how my resolutions are – not – going). I will just take it. Break down the process, add deadlines, and keep moving forward.

Who else is motivated by strategy more than the ‘just don’t give up’ talk? How far are you up the pyramid yet? Do you find it brilliant, scary or silly?

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Categories: Craft of writing, Motivation, Writer's block | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

B a c k U p !

Here’s a lesson to learn from my experience. Don’t wait to have your own.
Stop for a second to close your eyes and consider just how much harm losing data from the past one day, week or month would do to your life. Now open them, go and back up, especially if you are in a period of doing some intense writing, but do so even if you think you aren’t.

Here’s a horrible experience to show you why. In fact, I got quite lucky – considering the circumstances –, since I had a full back-up from about two months before my hard drive said ‘bye-bye’ and quite a few files saved online. Still, it is hard to describe the loss of even what I’m aware of having lost – not to mention what I might still discover. *Shivers and types on silently*

There is the immediate loss: I was in the process of preparing a paper and a presentation. I was working offline on the train on my way to the uni town, so when – almost at the end of the journey, of course – blue death took over my screen, I lost about a day’s work: typing, assembling spreadsheets, analyzing data… Recreating all that the next day is way more painful than having to write something from scratch. You know you already did it, and that it could all be there in your head… if only you could recall what it said… just the essence… It’s impossible.

Then, later, when you’re happy with your new hard disk and all the data you managed to restore, one day you will start searching for that particular file – that short story or character description you grasped so wonderfully, when was it… oh. That week. Or the game you planned to launch and crafted so carefully, with all outcomes considered, rules worked out, but didn’t add as a draft post on your blog… Well, there. Rewrite. That’s what I’m doing.

Please. Back up your files. All of them. I mean, now. In case your cell phone says, two days after your computer screwed up, “SD card not found”. You know, the one that contains the interview recordings for your thesis…

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University 2.0: Coursera

CourseraIn the previous post I complained about the excessive number of writing guides and the dilemma of choice – but books are not the only source for learning a craft (because art or not, there is some craft to writing you need to learn to become an artist… or at least, I definitely need to). For example, you can take a creative writing Master’s online for 30k $ – unless you are a student earning close to nothing, so I kept looking for cheaper ways. Besides some nice tutorials and series on YouTube channels like Martha Alderson’s or Writer’s Digest’s, we have now some real university courses for free.

Whoever thought that after over five years of university I would feel like enrolling in more courses? But this time, instead of being given a schedule, I get to choose my courses and whether I want to study Modern American Poetry, Genetics and Evolution, Social Network Analysis – or all three at the same time. I visit the lectures whenever I want to and wherever I want to, as they are online, and interact with other students from all around the world. And these are university courses, all free and optional. And much more fun than the ‘traditional’ ones (this probably has something to do with the being optional).

Of course, I’m talking about Coursera.org, which offers 213 courses at the moment, and which I fell in love with the moment I saw it. For someone so curious as me, wanting to know everything, it sounds a bit like heaven. If you’ve ever surfed Wikipedia just because it was all so interesting, you know what I’m talking about. I can finally take the courses of, say, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University and the University of Michigan, all at the same time. Some introductory ones, of course, when it’s not much related to my own field(s). I so felt for the stick figure when it asked “Can I graduate in the universe and everything?” (or something like that), and now I feel a bit like I could. Well, maybe not graduate, but find out a lot more, in an organized way (not like Wikipedia is not organized… or trustworthy, right?). I’m just keeping my fingers crossed to see some more writing and/or literature related courses coming up. We already have the Modern American Poetry, The Fiction of Relationship, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Writing in the Sciences and English Composition I: Achieving Expertise. Anyone else taking or joining any of these?

Categories: Book fun, Craft of writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing guide overload

ImageI want to be a writer. And a good one. Very nice aims with tons of stuff to help. In fact, merely taking a look at Amazon’s relating section can result in eyes shining in awe, drooling, frowning and running away screaming – in this specific order.

I’m a really curious person and a good learner. When I want to do something, I want to do it well and I want to learn from the best in the discipline. I formulate a strategy, do some extensive research about available material, rank them by cost and value and then I act. Problem is, there’s so much material that seems to be really the best that it’s extremely hard to pick out the stuff meant for me. Because there must be some stuff meant for me out there, like some sites and books I’ve already found and learned from.

It’s lucky that Amazon has the ‘Wish List’ option, but again, when I checked my ‘writing guides’ and ‘fantasy’ wish lists before Christmas, I had to give up choosing just a few and ended up ordering none.

I’ve recently started using the ‘fantasy’ and whatever books I’m reading for entertainment in English to improve, well, my English, which always feels like a crucial and urgent task for me. At the moment, I have a Northern Lights paperback (one of two, to be sure) to take notes – yes, notes inside the book, which seemed awkward when I first tried but I’m getting used to now, and which I find extremely useful for grasping grammatical nuances, extending my vocabulary faster and analyzing story structure, character building and other story elements.

As for writing guides, here’s a collection of what I have or will have very soon, by area or skill to improve:

  • English: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression;
    The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment;
    Style: The art of writing well (Harriman Modern Classics);
    It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences
  • Story: Story Engineering;
    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers;
    Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
  • Characterization: 45 Master Characters;
    A Writer’s Guide to Characterizatio​n: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development;
    The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By
  • Other (editing, psychology, whatnot): When Every Month is NaNoWriMo;
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
    Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
    Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View
  • And marketing, of course: We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media

The titles and descriptions sound very promising. Now I wonder how many of these are as good as they sound (some I already know are great).

Oh, I’m also currently reading How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and PlayIt has some real great insights and ideas about the creative part of our mind and how you can strengthen it. More on this later.

Has anyone read or heard of any of the above works? What categories and guides would you add?

Categories: Craft of writing | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Back with a plan

2013Against all odds I survived November and December. With the loss of loads of data from my dear netbook, the opportunity cost* of a few, possibly quite a few, blog posts, a completed Nano-novel and a fully completed thesis, I’m back. I’ve had some time to reflect on what’s slowing me down in this blog (besides the mentioned losses and the utter lack of time) and I modified my strategy. Conclusion: this is the last post I’m doing both in English and Hungarian.

I admit to getting bored to hell translating everything I write and I suspect the same happens with my readers. So, for those who speak only one of the two languages and are aching to find out what’s going on on the other platform I suggest Google Translate, or you can always ask me. I probably won’t attempt an artistic translation, but I’ll be glad to tell you. All in all, here is what to expect:

  • Here, in my English-language writing world: posts on interesting reading or writing related stuff that grabs my attention. Pretty much like before.
  • On the Hungarian site: an interactive game I made up is coming very soon. Not much to do, a lot of fun to have! (If it goes well, I might do this in English as well. Later.)
  • On both platforms: posts every 2-3 days, not more.

See you here and there! 🙂

*learned this expression years ago in Microeconomics – I’m amazed by my memory’s strange ideas of using such pieces of knowledge

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