Sunday, 29 April 2012

Why I Like to Write

Why do you like to write?

This question popped up on a mini-interview for a e-magazine for which I write articles or stories.  The question surprised me and I wondered, why do I like to write?

I have always loved to write.  I can't remember a time when I was not making up a story, whether I was dictating it to my mom, scrawling it out in childish handwriting or writing the first pages of a story in every notebook I could find.  Writing is more or less part of me.

So, why do I enjoy writing?  Well, few people do things that they do not enjoy.  (Although if God tells us to do something, even something we don't "enjoy" or "like"...we better do it! :))  I love writing because, through an article or a blog post, I can express my opinion, share advice, or write down a funny story that happened to me.  Through fiction, I can create worlds and invent characters, and make them real.

Through a story line I attempt to weave a Biblical truth into the story.  I want to make my books worthwhile.  I don't want my stories to be something you read and put down and learn nothing from.  I want my books to be the kind where you enjoy them, put them down, and realized you learned something or in some way were changed or touched by the story.  Whether I accomplish this or not is up to God and me but if writing is my gift that I submit to Him, I believe He will use my writing in the way that He wants.  Currently I still enjoy writing fiction so I believe, at the moment, that's what He wants me to write.

The other day I saw a little journal with a quote upon it reading, "We write to taste life twice." (by Anais Nin...not really someone I'd recommend looking to for advice, but this one quote seemed okay)  That's not exactly why write, but that quote encompasses some of my reason...  Through writing I can put myself - and the reader - in places I've visited, or places no one on earth has never been to, through imagination and words.  Honestly, I adore writing, but I know it is not a gift to be used lightly.  There is a saying that the pen is stronger than the sword (or in our modern day world...the keyboard is stronger than the gun?) and in many ways I agree.

Well, this blog post is kind of sporadic.

Question Time!
Why do you like to write?  How did you become interested in writing?
Do you believe the keyboard is stronger than a gun? :)

-- Klara C.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Writing Advice From C.S. Lewis

I am often asked, "What is your favorite book?"  I usually reply with, "That's a hard question - I have so many favorites!  But The Chronicles of Narnia and A Tale of Two Cities are certainly at the top of the list" (or something like that).  So naturally, I greatly admire C.S. Lewis' writing style, creativity and ideas, as well as the ability to express important truths in an exciting and wonderful children's series.

Several weeks ago I received an update from NarniaFans concerning a letter C.S. Lewis wrote to a girl named Joan.  I love to write my own favorite authors, so enjoy reading C.S. Lewis wrote in reply to his fans.  In this letter to Joan, he sent her writing advice!  I've pasted the letter here.

The Kilns,
Headington Quarry,
26 June 1956
Dear Joan–
Thanks for your letter of the 3rd. You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same. His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except thething itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.
About amn’t Iaren’t I and am I notof course there are no right or wrong answers about language in the sense in which there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. “Good English” is whatever educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be so in another. Amn’t I was good 50 years ago in the North of Ireland where I was brought up, but bad in Southern England. Aren’t I would have been hideously bad in Ireland but very good in England. And of course I just don’t know which (if either) is good in modern Florida. Don’t take any notice of teachers and textbooks in such matters. Nor of logic. It is good to say “more than one passenger was hurt,” although more than one equals at least two and therefore logically the verb ought to be plural were not singular was!
What really matters is:–
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.
With love
C.S. Lewis

That's some great advice!  

-- Klara C. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Aftermath

There are millions of books in the world.  A percentage of those books are worth reading.  Sometimes, they are a relaxing or slow read and perhaps take months to finish.  But they are powerful, enjoyable and wonderful.  There are also exciting books - the kind you can't bear to put down.  The ones that you sacrifice sleep for...the books that force you to stay up until 3:00 in the morning so you can finish them before school the next day.  Both kinds of books can be epic.

I just finished reading a series that I've been following for several years.  I knew this book would be the last book, and was pleased that it matched the epicness (pardon the repetition) of the pervious books.  But when I finished the book around midnight last night, I could feel the aftermath.

For me, a myriad of feelings rush over me when I finish a good book.  They are usually thoughts and feelings like...

- It's over?  What?  Nooo!!!
- I love _______ (a character)
- Such-and-such a scene was wonderfully written.
- I hope there's a sequel!  

For some books, it's almost relief when the book is over.  I can stop wondering what will happen to the character because now, I know!  (unless the novel ends in a cliffhanger...)  Of course, the suspense of what will happen to so-and-so is part of what drives the book on and forces you to read.  I enjoy the suspense...  usually.

I usually reread my favorite scenes and try to relive the moment of when I first read them, not knowing what would happen next.

I usually end up jealous of whatever girl gets to have the handsome guy protagonist. 

If the book is, for example, a romance, then I want to change my book to be more romancey.  If the book is an action / adventure, then I'll want to add more action into my own book.

If the book is extremely good, I usually end up slightly depressed.  Simply because the book draws on all sorts of my emotions and when it's over, I can be a little letdown (especially if one of my favorite characters dies).  

That, for me, is the aftermath that occurs when I finish reading a good book.  It's rather hard to describe, so if you are staring at this blog completely clueless as to what I'm trying to say, please don't write me off as a crazy person.  I'm not, really (I don't think).  

Well, enough rambling.  I just wanted to write out the signs of aftermath for you.  :)  If you as a writer experience similar feeling when reading books, then try to figure out what parts and elements of those books cause you to become so drawn in and so connected to the story.  Then, try to make similar connections with your own readers.  You might end up doing some analyzing and studying, but hey, summer is on its way!  That means we have time to mess around with literature, right?

-- Klara C. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Be Interesting!

Hey, I'm back!  I've been busy with school and also, working on my latest novel.  As I was working on it just now, I decided to post an article!  :)

Writing should be interesting.

When I was 7 or so, a certain series of easy-read books enthralled me.  I loved the books, and made my mom read all my favorite ones.  She, however, wasn't so intrigued, considering they were written for young children and also lacking interesting words and varying sentence structure.  For seven-year-olds, that's somewhat acceptable.  But if you're writing for older children, teens or adults, then your writing needs to be interesting.  I'm not necessarily referring to the story line, although that should be captivating, too!

How can you make your writing interesting?

1. Vary sentence lengths 
Hannah walked to the store.  She looked at the purses.  She bought a red purse.  Hannah walked home.  Hannah was happy.  She liked the purse.

Boring, right?  How about...

Hannah walked into the store.  An hour passed as she looked at all the different purses - the store had all kinds, from leather, crochet, or fur!  She finally bought a plaid red purse.  Then, she walked home smiling - she'd found the perfect purse!

I read a book recently made up mostly of fragments, or short sentences.  This book happened to be an action / adventure book, so the quick fragments fit the style.  However, I still enjoy reading varying sentence lengths...

2. Be Specific
How did Hannah walk?  Did she stroll?  Waltz?  Skip?  Run?  Race?  The above paragraph could be improved by specifying how she walked.  Also, how did she look at the purses?  Did she rifle through them, examine each purse carefully, or simply scan over the selection with her eyes and immediately make a choice?

3. Use Interesting Words
Some people don't like to read older books (take Dickens or Austen for example) because "they don't understand what the authors are saying".  This could be simply because sentences were much longer in "those days"...  or because the words are now archaic, or the story line moves slowly.  (Honestly I don't believe any of these points are satisfactory reasons why not to read Dickens or Austen, but I'll devote that subject to another article.  :))  As writers, we want our readers to understand our book...  but I believe we should also challenge readers.  One way we can do this is to use interesting words.

Now, if you throw the word "sadistic" or "indefatigable" into a children's novel, your reader might be a little daunted.  If you inserted one of those words into a historical fiction novel, written in 1800's times, in the style of Jane Austen or another similar author, it might not seem so out of place.

But, you can still challenge your reader by using new words that fit the style of your story.  You can subtly explain the meaning of the word, like this:

The unstoppable, indefatigable man continued on his journey, despite the rain.

What do you think the word "indefatigable" means, judging from this sentence?

To find out the answer, use your mouse to highlight the following:

Indefatigable means "unwavering" or "unstoppable".

Can you figure out an interesting word to add into the story about Hannah and her purse?

When you are reading and come across a word you don't know, then write it down so you can look it up in the dictionary later.

Tip: Start collecting interesting words.  Here are a few that can "spice up" (pardon the pun) your writing...




Looks like my list is a little lacking...let me know if you can find some interesting words!!!

-- Klara C.