Archive for July 23, 2009

Imagination is a Muscle

Posted in Writing Related on July 23, 2009 by carltonmellick

I’ve been saying this for years, but recently I’ve heard Neil Gaiman say it:

“The imagination is a muscle. If it is not exercised, it atrophies.” The more you use your imagination, the stronger your imagination becomes.

If you are a writer, especially a bizarro writer where strange imaginative ideas are the most important aspect of your work, make sure to daydream as much as possible. Daydreaming is the best way you can exercise your imagination. Do it as much as you can, in little spurts all day long. I’m sure most bizarro writers already daydream a lot. That’s probably why you started writing in the first place. But as you get older and become absorbed by the real world, your imagination is likely to suffer or you might feel like you’re running out of worthwhile ideas. Just take some time out every day to daydream. It might seem immature and a waste of time to other people, but it will actually exercise your brain and help you to become a better writer.

Many have said that some people are just natural born writers. They say these people have a certain spark that they were born with that just can’t be taught in schools. I disagree. I think that spark is just the writer’s imagination, which has been built up from years of daydreaming. If you are lacking in creativity all you have to do is daydream more and your imagination will build. Maybe even try playing with toys again. That’s what Ray Bradbury did.

Of course, another way is to just write a lot. Writing forces you to imagine and the more you write the more you will strengthen your imagination. Still, it’s good to train it as much as possible before putting into action, especially if you don’t write every single day.

Day 2 Pep Talk

Posted in Writing Related on July 23, 2009 by carltonmellick

I’ve been talking a lot about marathon writing. The one a lot of bizarro writers try, that I highly recommend, is the 3 day writing marathon. That is where you write a 100 page book in just three days. It can be more or less than 100 pages, but you do have to make it to the end.

Today I received this comment from Bradley Sands:

“I’m doing a three day tomorrow. Last time I tried, I woke up on the second day without any motivation to go on and I didn’t. You should give me a day 2 pep talk.”

So that’s what I want to talk about: the second day slump. If you lose interest in your marathon book on the second day it might have to do with a dislike of what you have written on the first day. You might not have prepared yourself mentally. Perhaps you didn’t even know what the book was going to be about yet. In order to avoid this, I recommend preparing yourself before you start the marathon. Come up with a bunch of ideas. Know exactly what you are going to write about. Most importantly, build up your excitement and confidence on this project. When you lose confidence you will slow down.

However, these things happen no matter how well you prepare yourself. The most important thing to do is convince yourself that you have to finish this no matter what. You have no other option. If normal discipline doesn’t work for you, I recommend putting money on the line. Bet a friend $100 you will finish your book in three days. If you don’t want to lose $100 you will finish it no matter what. Or you can spend $100 on a cheap motel…if you don’t want your money to go to waste you will finish your book in three days no matter what. Don’t worry if the book is crap. Finishing it is most important. It’s better to write a piece of crap in three days than not to have written anything during those three days. If you waste three days, big deal. At least you gained some writing experience.

A big thing to know is that if you finish your three-day book, even if it sucks, you will get a huge satisfying feeling of accomplishment. It might even inspire you to start a new project right away…one that might be much better. If you quit halfway through you will feel pathetic and depressed. You might even get discouraged from writing for a while. So make sure to finish it even if that sense of accomplishment is your only reward.

Here is some more advice that I find useful:

1) Focus on hour-to-hour goals. Try to write at least 500-1,000 words an hour. Watch your clock and watch your word count. Meet that goal even if you have to write some garbage. Try to keep your fingers on the keys typing nonstop for as long as you can (without writing stream of consciousness, because you probably won’t learn anything that way).

2) If you get stuck on something, feel free to skip ahead.

3) Focus more on plotting and characterization and less on the language. One sentence can take an hour if you obsess over it. Leave the poetics for the second draft.

4) When you need to take a break or are done for the day, always stop in the middle of a paragraph where you already know how it ends. This way you will know exactly what you need to write when you get going again. You will instantly get back into the swing of writing. Never stop at the end of a chapter or a section that you’re stuck on.

5) Eat, sleep, breathe, dream your book. Don’t watch TV or have a phone conversation, even if you are on a break. While you’re having lunch, taking a shower, or on a cigarette break, these are the best times to think about your book and brainstorm what will happen next in the story. You want to go to sleep thinking about your book, then dream about the book, then wake up the next day excited to get back into it.

It’s going to be hard, but you can do it. Just write. As long as you sit in front of a computer for three days straight without any distractions and keep typing you will finish it. If it’s not any good throw it away and then try again.

I hope this helps, Bradley… And if it doesn’t help you I hope it helps somebody else.