Archive for August, 2009

Final message

August 28, 2009

Exercise 6: final message- write a final message that your character might receive after the death of his/her father‘s death.

Peter opened his father’s safety deposit box as he was instructed.  His mother gave him the key after his father’s funeral with the instruction to open it immediately, before the reception.

Inside the box was an envelope with his name on it.  Inside, he found two pieces of paper written by hand by his father, which was important, because his father seemed to do all his writing on a word processor.  He sat down in a chair to read what his father wrote.

“My son,
I know it’s hard to believe, but as your father, it was never my job to tell you how to live your life.  My only job was to inspire you to make the right choices while keeping you safe. Now I’m going to give you one final piece of inspiration.  Remember this, and pass it on.

When I was ten, my own father gave me a book of poetry that I have treasured these past 30 years.  Inside the front cover he had written something that he said I wouldn’t understand for several years, but the meaning would become clear as I get older.  This book, and the journal I started the day you were born, are yours.  Your mother knows where they are, and will give them to you at the reception.  I wish for you to continue writing in your journal, of your life and what it teaches you.

Now I will give you what my father wrote in that book, and the meaning, in hopes that you may be as inspired by it as I have.  I will give it to you fully, and explain the three parts; separate but connected.

‘Thoreau’s Journal August 28, 1841:
True verses are not counted on the poet’s  fingers, but on his heart strings.
My life hath been the poem I would have writ,
But I could not both live and live to utter it.’

Line one: A poem written by the hand cannot truly capture the essence of the poem written in the heart. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn‘t try to capture a part of it)
Line two: From the moment you are born, to the moment of your death, your life is the poem of your heart.
Line three: I admit to seeing two things in this.  The first is if we spend all our time trying to write down the poem of our heart we will never have the chance to live because our heart’s poem is constant.  The other thing is since our heart never stops writing the poem of our life we will never be able to finish it ourselves.

Of course this is the message I received from it, and this has been the inspiration that has kept me writing poetry.  I have given you what I can, the rest is up to you.

Live well, be inspired, and be an inspiration,

Your loving father.”

Peter left the bank with tears running past his cheeks, and the envelope in his hand.  Half way to the reception he pulled the car over, got out the note pad his father told him to always carry, for ideas, and began writing a poem.

Enjoy,
Allen

Someone to count on

August 22, 2009

The other day I was doing my writing prompt out of the “Pocket muse”, and it asked for me to describe a fragile connection, and it got me thinking.  The most fragile connection is the one that so few people think is fragile that they don’t give it enough credit for being fragile.  That thing is friendship.

Whether it’s through a mutual interest, or compatible personalities, it’s a given that friendship is a connection, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard to keep it strong.  True friendship is something to be revered, and once someone takes it for granted the other person starts to feel used, and betrayed.

Friendship is never just about “what can you do for me?“, or “what can I do for you?”  True friends are there to celebrate with you when things go your way, or comfort you when things get rough, and if you need something they will help without hesitation, and without demanding anything in return, and you will do the same thing for them.

There will be times when a friend will say something, or do something that hurts your feelings.  Remember, it’s probably not intentional, but instead of turning your back on them with unexpressed emotions, tell them what they did, and give them a chance to apologize.  Unexpressed emotions will grow to consume you to a point of hatred for the other person.  Petty misunderstandings are the biggest killers of friendships, and if you let them, future friendships can suffer from unjustified mistrust and paranoia.

Understandable, not all problems are petty, but almost all problems can be forgiven, if you are truly honest with each other.

If you want a meaningful and lasting friendship, you need to take a chance on trusting the other person.  There is no place in friendship for letting pettiness consume your relationship.  The worst pain we experience in our lives comes from those we love the most, because its impact reaches our heart, and it can effect us the rest of our lives.  That kind of pain can make us mistrustful of everyone we meet in the future.

For that reason we must learn to be honest in our relationships, and try to correct the problem before it lasts too long to correct.  Forgiveness is the beginning of the healing process, but it’s necessary if trust is to be regained.

Don’t let mistrust ruin your chance for happy and healthy relationships.  Be honest and forgiving of each other.  It’s not always easy,  but it’s worth the effort if the payoff is having someone you can count on.

Enjoy,
Allen

Focus on article publishing

August 15, 2009

About ten years ago I wrote an article, quickly proofread it, and sent it into a magazine that handled that type of article.  After waiting one month, it felt much longer, I received a reply in the mail.  The rejection letter was a standard form letter; “Your article doesn’t meet our needs at this time…”  and at the end was a note saying,  “The article was too tangential.”  In the end, I just threw both the rejection letter, and the article out, frustrated.  My bad!!!!

Last night after reading the article “Life After Almost” in the September issue of  “Writer’s Digest” I now realize it probably would have sold if I would have rewritten it with more focus.  Today’s blog is not about the encouragement you should receive from personalized rejection letters.  That was covered perfectly in the article.  Today, I’m going to approach the subject of focus.

While writing, it’s easy to get off the subject and follow a new line of thought.  This is perfectly fine in the first draft, and is something almost expected.  As we free write our articles, we tend to write as thoughts enter our mind, so going off  will happen.  If you try to send in something that is random, or “tangential” you will be rejected.

After your initial draft, you will need to edit.  While you are going through the first edit look for any common threads that will make up the article; don’t forget to file away the material you don’t use, they can become future articles.  Once you have the common threads, these will now become the skeleton of your article.  This skeleton is your central theme on which to focus your article.

Now that you have your focus, you will need to add a little muscle, nerve and heart.  At this point, you’re still “taking notes” but this is where your article’s structure will come from.  At this stage you also need to write down any questions that you will need the article to answer, and do the research that will give you the information.

The final phase in writing a well focused article is adding the skin that will hold all the pieces together.  Now you will need to organize all the pieces in a coherent order, fill in the missing transitions and connecting words, and write it in the best possible way to convey the message you are trying to write.

Also, in the final phase, you will need to proofread carefully to make certain there are no grammar, and spelling errors.  Keep proofreading until you are comfortable there are no mistakes.

I realize every writer has a different method to approach writing, and there is no “one” method to writing a perfectly focused article, but this is the one I’ve found the most helpful.  I hope it does the same for you.

Enjoy,
Allen

Haunting pages

August 9, 2009

When I first heard the news about James Patterson using a ghost writer, I looked it up on the internet.  It never ceases to amaze me that fans can be so fickle that they will turn on you for showing the slightest hint of being human.  I looked up the information, found it to be true, but I still don’t care myself.

Some of the blogs I read reminded me of the crises during the 80’s with a group titled “Milli Vanilli” when news leaked that they were not only lip-syncing, but it was not to their own voices.  When news of this got out, record sales plummeted, and fan clubs broke up crushed that their idols were fake.

To be a fan of anyone to that level is, if you’ll forgive the cliché, like sheep led to the slaughter.  Sure they may take care of your entertainment needs, and sign a copy of a book once in a while, but they are just as human as you are.  You invest so much time and energy into loving them that when their weakness does show through your world is turned up side down.

Try to think back to when you had first picked up a James Patterson book.  You had no idea what to expect; maybe you heard from a friend that his book was worth picking up, so you did.  Then while you read it you were drawn in by the characters, and thrilling plot.  When you picked it up for the first time, you didn’t care who’s name was on the book, you were just looking for something to entertain you.

The people who write books, act in movies, sing, play sports, or work in any other entertainment based industry, are people just like us.  They have just as many problems, and are capable of just as many mistakes, so why put them on a pedestal.  With a little hard work, and drive, you can achieve just as much success as they have.  They are no better than you are.

When you read a book, you should read the book to entertain you, not just because someone famous wrote it.  As long as it’s entertaining you who cares If he wrote it or if someone else wrote it and used his name.  Writers have been doing that for a long time, the only difference is that James Patterson admitted it.  Don’t let that keep you from enjoying the finished product.

Challenge: Find a book that you never gave a chance, just because of  who wrote it, and read the book.  Give the book 10 pages, and if you don’t like it, you can put it down knowing you gave it a chance.

Enjoy,
Allen

Life in print

August 5, 2009

I love the saying “All of life is copy.”  I heard this for the first time on the special features of “You’ve Got Mail” when Nora Ephron was talking about the lesson she learned as a child.  She came from a family of writers, and as far as I’m concerned, she is an amazing writer herself.

The lesson of this little statement, that she learned from her father, was that there is no subject so private, or so sacred, that you cannot write about it.  If you are so worried about who might be offended, or hurt, by what you write, don’t let it stop you from writing what you need to.

Writing has an amazing way of helping you through the healing process of a tragedy, or a bout of depression, and if it helps you, it may help others.  Don’t be afraid to put down exactly what you feel.  When writing fiction, negative events in your life can serve to inspire scenes in your story, or an entire novel. How you use the event isn’t nearly as important as getting it down on paper.

As an example, I thought I would give you just a little of my main character’s history, as it was inspired by my own history.  The name of my main character is Sarah Bradley.  Her father left her and her mother when Sarah was 7, with a woman he was having an affair with. He never came back.  My mother left us when I was 7, but it had nothing to do with an affair, and she did come back.

Sarah always dreamed about writing, and traveling.  I always dreamed about writing and photography; traveling didn’t matter that much to me.

She has a horrific schedule with her job as an executive assistant at an advertising agency, which keeps her from writing.  I have two jobs and take care of a handicapped wife, and that keeps me from writing as much as I need to.

Her mother is creative.  My mother is creative.

As you can see, parts of her history are the same as mine, and other parts are not.  The parts that are not I’ve taken from other people I know, and people I’ve read about. Those things I include can be deeply emotional for me, but by writing them down helps me to erase some of the scars.

Don’t forget, the things that happened to us in the past become a part of who we are now.  There is nothing that you can do to change that, so why not write about it, it may be that event will add dimension to an otherwise flat story line.

Challenge:  Take a negative event in your life and do something positive that may help someone else; add it to your writing.

Enjoy,
Allen