Writing Can Seriously Damage Your Health
Yes. Writing can seriously damage your health. And it doesn’t take long. Hunched up over a keyboard all day, or staring at a computer screen for hours on end (without blinking) can have some devastating consequences.
And then there’s the diet. The constant grazing (usually chocolate) and the copious amounts of tea, coffee or wine. No wonder Jane Wenham-Jones spoke of Writer’s Bottom in her book Wannabe A Writer?
There’s a technique for book writers (both fiction and non-fiction) called book journalling. David Hewson calls it a book diary in his Writing A Book in Ulysses. The idea is simple: any thoughts relating to your book are entered into one journal for that book. That could be a physical notebook, or it could be a file on your computer. (I create a file in my Research folder in Scrivener.)
One of the most common resolutions writers make is: to write more. Actually, if you’re seeking publication, a better resolution would be: to submit more, or to ship more.
It’s easy to seek perfection. (Attaining it is another matter.) However, that search for perfection meets the resolution of doing more writing. But does it actually achieve anything?
Many of you will know that I’m a fan of the Scrivener software. I use it for all of my writing (articles, short stories, novels, non-fiction books and even for recording my pitches).
Last week saw the launch of the updated version (for Apple Macs). Scrivener 3 is an amazing piece of software, although regular users will spot many changes. Some of the tool options have changed locations. To help with this, Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies, has produced a free online course that quickly reviews the changes. It can be accessed via her website here: https://scrivenerclasses.com/course/jump-into-scrivener-3-your-transition-guide-for-mac/
Last week I read a blog post from Frances Garrood (http://francesgarrood.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/farewell-womags_15.html) about her decision to stop writing short stories. It was a short, interesting piece about how she’d arrived at this decision. And it struck me that, when it comes to the business of writing, sometimes you need to accept that it’s time to move on.
There are many reasons why a writer stops writing in a particular genre or for a specific market. Frances wrote about how she used to write lots of short stories for the women’s magazines, but now finds her time is spent focussing on her novels. As a result, she said she now finds writing short stories harder, because she’s more used to writing novels. She’s evolved as a writer.
Last week’s post (What To Do With My Business After I’m Dead) looked at a book that fellow Writing Magazine columnist Tarja Moles has published. This week, another fellow Writing Magazine columnist, Lorraine Mace, explains why she’s bitten the bullet and self-published her children’ novel, even though it was something she swore she’d never do.
“Vlad the Inhaler was the first book I wrote,” Lorraine explains, “and so it has always had a special place in my heart. In 2007 I was taken on by one of the UK’s top children’s agents. She loved Vlad and was certain she could find a home for him in one of the big five. We came close, but it wasn’t to be.”
“In 2012 Vlad was picked up by a US publisher and looked set to do very well. I wrote the second in the trilogy and that was also published by the same company but it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven. I was able to take back my rights just over a year ago and, sadly, believed that was the end of Vlad’s publishing lifespan.”
Covers. They are hugely important but, generally-speaking, not where a writer’s skills lie. Yes, we often know what we like, but that doesn’t mean to say we have the right ideas. Nor does it mean we shouldn’t think about them.
If you write a book that is traditionally published, then your contract will usually contain a clause stating that you will be consulted on the cover. That does not mean you will have the final say. Far from it. It just means that the publisher might approach you and say, “Here are three ideas, which do you prefer: A, B or C?” You might reply that you love B, detest A and are indifferent with C. Your publisher will probably go with A. But it doesn’t matter because you were consulted. They have met their contractual obligations.
Do your journal? I do, and it’s something I’m doing more regularly. Is there a business case for journalling? I think so, because it’s an opportunity to mine your brain for ideas and thoughts. Sometimes journalling helps me to identify a theme, or a connection between ideas, and hone them into shape.
Fellow writer and friend Stephen Wade is celebrating the publication of his latest book: Write Your Self. It’s a guide to making the most of journalling, and explores various themes and techniques for exploring your self, through journalling. By asking the right questions, we can learn more about ourselves generally, as well as ourselves as writers. The contents of those journals then become a huge resource for our creativity.
So this week, I thought I’d offer Stephen an opportunity to tell you more about his book:
Last weekend I watched Trumbo. So this is a film review … sort of.
Dalton Trumbo was one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, but in 1947, he, along with several other writers, were imprisoned for their political beliefs. (They faced court hearings where they were asked if they were members of the Communist Party.) Refusing to answer, they went to jail, where Trumbo served 11 months for contempt of Congress. When he was released, he found he and his other imprisoned writer-friends had been blacklisted by Hollywood Studios.
Many of you will know that I’m a Scrivener fan. I understand that Scrivener isn’t for everyone, in the same way that Word isn’t for me. But for those of you who are using the software, have you ever thought of using it for keeping track of your writing projects, in addition to creating your writing projects with it? Let me explain …
A couple of days ago I shared a post on facebook that said:
“Dear friends older than 37: You don’t have to put two spaces after the period anymore. That was for the typewriter era. You’re free.”
It resulted in a raft of comments ranging from:
– “I never do.”
– “Why not?”
– “But I use at least three.”
The post was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying to those writers who were taught to type on a typewriter (including myself), that we should have broken this habit by now. I must admit, it took me many years.
It’s been a busy week in the writing world on two different fronts: one which fiction writers may already be aware of, and another that probably won’t have registered with writers using Windows computers.
The first event concerned Woman’s Weekly magazine, whose staff issued an email, out of the blue, last week to advise that following a restructure at Time Inc (owners of the Woman’s Weekly brand), the entire fiction team was moving on.
Enid Blyton … writing
When you wake up on 11th August, raise a toast to Enid Blyton, who was born that day 120 years ago.
I recently re-read her first Famous Five novel, Five On A Treasure Island, which in itself brought back many happy childhood memories.
Bigger windows? No. I’m not talking about a new Microsoft Operating System. Instead, I’m talking about broadening your window of topicality.
Topicality is important. Write something well in advance, with a topical hook aimed squarely at a publication’s readership and, if the editor likes it, it could be used in that topical-dated issue.