The Science behind “write drunk, edit sober”

Write Drunk Title

Do you drink when you write?

I used to. And in a lot of ways, I thought it was a great idea. I could connect to experiences and feel them coursing through me, channelling from my fingers and onto the page.

But it doubled the time I needed to write. The drunker I got, the more I’d be mashing the keyboard instead of typing. Hamfisting each line, I’d be constantly hitting delete and going back to correct myself.

Sometimes the red squiggly line would appear under a piece of text and I’d be scratching my head. What did I mean?

One man who mastered the art or writing drunk was Ernest Hemingway. He liked drinking so much they named a cocktail after him; The Hemingway daquiri.

One of his most famous pieces of advice was “write drunk, edit sober”. On the surface this makes sense. You embrace the effects of alcohol and let it guide you to a creative place, then return in the cold light of morning and try to organise this into something useful. But does it really work like that?

The Science Behind Writing Drunk and Editing Sober

From Visually.

 

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2017

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5 English Writing Basics to Remember

writing-basics-title

There’s a lot to be said for writing well.

I’ll admit, if you read anything in Morgan Freeman’s voice, it’ll sound cool. That’s just a fact. But poor writing is poor writing, and not expressing yourself properly can be detrimental to the point you are trying to make. Regardless of how good your intentions, or useful your information, or how great your internal Morgan Freeman voice is; your words will suffer.

It’s easy to forget in this modern world of information overload how important the fundamentals of English really are. You’ve got your basics such as punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Beyond that comes word choice and vocabulary. Beyond even this you enter the realms of wordplay and articulation (the fun of semantics).

The building blocks of English are timeless, even when the language itself can adapt and evolve with each generation.

I like to read something to jog my memory about writing structure rules whenever I’m feeling a bit of writer’s block. We need to know the rules before we can break them (as is sometimes necessary).

So, with that in mind, the lovely people at GrammarCheck.Net have come up with this lovely infographic to help to jog your memory about some of the basics to help make your writing better. For most of us, this will be simple revision. The odd refresher here and there is always welcome in the Itchy Quill house!

5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

 

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2017

Words to Avoid in Your Writing

common-words-title

Where I come from, a diverse vocabulary could get you punched. Honestly. As if by using myriad words to describe your everyday comings and goings makes you arrogant. Like you’re rubbing your education in someone’s face.

I know.

Some words are more popular than others. Often this is due to trends, social group, or even laziness.

Sometimes words just aren’t used in the righ way. Someone I work with recently told me a story about how she ‘literally lost her shit’ when she had an argument with her boyfriend. I was perplexed, ‘you pooped your pants?’ I asked her. ‘No!’ she said, ‘I mean he makes me so angry.’ ‘So angry you poop?’ I said, before she walked away and left me sat there, confused.

In school I remember we were always scolded for using phrases like ‘really nice’. “English is full of wonderful words Itchy. Why not just pick one of those instead?” my English teacher used to say. So if I’d written ‘this cake is very nice’, what was I really saying? I could have been more specific by using any of the following:

‘This cake is delicious / extraordinary / a work of art / a revelation’

Each statement above gives a better impression to the person I’m speaking to (the cake creator, for example), and also gives you a better impression of who I am. My word choices reflect my feelings. If I’m lazy with praise, I’m probably not that impressed.

This kind of writing sensitivity is useful for those of us penning stories. One cannot possibly hope to express oneself without the power of the written word. Subtle differences in meaning and usage can change the mood of a sentence dramatically.

So, to give you some help identifying common words and also offering some suggestions, we’ve found this great infographic from the folks over at GrammarCheck.Net

6 Overused Words & What to Use Instead (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

However, language is a river, not a lake. It’s flexibility and constant shifting are what make it fascinating, as each generation omits the old, develops the new, or adapts the existing so as to feed the needs of their environment.

For some great examples of how this has happened in the past, there’s a fantastic post on ideas.ted.com called 20 words that once meant something very different.

As for awesome; OK, it’s had it’s day in the sun. When I was a wee lad, everyone said it. For everything. It was seen as an Americanism (like MacDonalds), and yet its influence spread through the ranks of English youth like tamgotchis. It’s time for it to go out in a blaze of glory, and what better use for it than this awesome song from The Lego Movie.


© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

Grammar Cheat Sheet

grammar-title

Who hasn’t had one of those days where you proofread and spot a ton of mistakes you’d normally never make?

Nobody is perfect. Less than that, none of us can be fully capable of spotting our own mistakes all the time, or even remembering all the rules for this wonderful language we speak; English.

Sometimes the biggest struggle with writing can be the act of physically sitting down and forcing yourself to spew something worthwhile. But there are other times where we manage to get the words down, only to hear that it might be riddled with mistakes. This could be down to exuberance, lack of care, speed, or anything.

Yet the fact remains; good writing needs good grammar.

So, to help you with this, we managed to find a wonderful cheat sheet over at grammarcheck.net that covers 21 of the key rules to remember.

We hope it helps you!

Bye Grammar Mistakes! 21 Rules to Remember (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

Typography 101: Serif v Sans

serif-v-sans-title

A lot of thought goes into good writing. There’s a message, first and foremost. Tat’s crucial. Right?

But what next? Is it the display? The old adage not to judge a book by it’s cover, as so sensationally proven by this blog (lousybookcovers), is hardly a maxim. It’s in fact one of those things we’ve embedded in our lexicon and yet not stopped to think about.

So what else is improtant? Grammar? Syntax? Voice? Plot?

Once you’ve navigated that little minefield, there’s the question of readability. As a kid I remember having a whale of a time messing around on Word art. However, that’s not going to get you much in the way of blog followers (unless, as it happens, that’s what you’re blog is about!), so what will?

In this day and age, it’s about being user friendly. Quick loading pages, interesting content that can be read quickly and digested in mere moments, and also the basic formality of which text is most comfortable to read.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the two great rivals for our typographic attention; serif verus sans…

Serif vs Sans-Serif Fonts [infographic] - An Infographic from BestInfographics.co

Embedded from BestInfographics.co

The Write Positivity; How To Stay Positive When Writing

positivity-title

We all get a little blue from time to time. It’s natural.

Sure as the sun will rise and set, or the moon will gleam on a clear night, you’ll get a case of the Mondays, the moody Maggies, or the melancholies from time to time.

And any kind of art, anything that gets you to put your heart on your sleave can leave you feeling vulnerable, exposed, or even weak. Emotions run high. We get defensive, or cuts slide a little deeper than they should.

When it creeps in and takes hold, a negative thought can develop a certain gravitas that enables it to overpower our usual motivations and patterns of behaviour.

At best, this could be an inability to write the words needed for a daily target. The block of writers. Yes, that pesky possum in the pipes of your creative plumbing. One that you flush on the morrow.

At worst, it could mean you trash a great idea as your internal bleak brute wrestles you into submission with utterances of you’re not good enough and this is crazy, or even what are you thinking?

We need a certain amount of confidence to even try these wacky ideas. Breaking the mould and pushing for originality requires us to break away from convention. This is something that a lot of us are naturally resistant to. We want to fit in. We desire success. We crave props and kudos.

Some just long to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

None of this can be done without the self-assurance that comes from the freedom of having confidence in yourself, and a positive belief that what you’re doing will work.

So negative thoughts can be cancerous on our creativity if left to fester.

With that in mind, let’s look at some easy ways to keep yourself pumped up and positive, even if you feel yourself pulled into an ocean of negative notions.

 

"Listen to your computer"

“Listen to your computer. It knows things about things”

 

Pat Yourself on the Back And Stay Realistic

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be ridiculously hard on yourself about small things because you want to be the best. That’s fine, so long as you put the same energy into the good too. To demosntrate this point better, let me give two examples from heroes of mine: Jurgen Klopp (current football manager of Liverpool FC), and Shad (a Canadian rapper).

Jurgen Klopp, in a recent interview after winning a game 4-1, was asked whether his decisions before the game were ultimately responsible for the win. Klopp, in characteristic nonchalance, responded that when his team lost the week before, the decisions were still his. He believed in the same system, the same characters, the same ideology. He was lambasted by his critics. Yet here, a week later, that system, characters and ideology were being lauded as groundbreaking. Did he want to take credit? No. That’s for the players to enjoy. He doesn’t give himself a hard time when they lose, and so he doesn’t give himself a high five when they win. He focuses on the journey, and the bigger picture. Are they playing the kind of football he likes, win or lose? Yes. Then really, what more could he ask for? Any lucky person can win, and any unlucky person can lose. But to sustain a vision, an identity, and a philosophy in your output, that is what really matters.

Shad, through his song Rose Garden (watch the video here) utters the lines:

You never question when you get the blessings
So don’t get vexed when your life is stressed

Basically, you don’t waste time overthinking your blessings, so why do you spend so much time on the negative elements?

 

"Don't be so negative. Honestly, I don't know where he gets it all from"

“Don’t be so negative. Honestly, I don’t know where he gets it all from”

 

Diversify Your Attention

In my life I’ve held various management positions. Part of management is recruiting new staff. And one thing that always made me chuckle was the ‘hobbies’ part of the CV. Pretty much every single resume I’ve ever seen lists travel, reading, and socialising as hobbies, with little else.

Why? We’re all pretty interesting people, with plenty of things we do for leisure. Life is more than a paycheck your TV. Make time for yourself and your pleasures.

Writing, though for most of us a passion and something that inspires giddiness, should never be our sole source of such whimsy. Allowing this will mean all satisfaction and sense of well-being will come from this one, cruel mistress.

So make time for other pursuits. Walk. Pump iron. Read. Play Squash. Jam on the harpischord. Skype family. Play boardgames. Volunteer. Paint. Whittle.

Whatever it may be, find other ways to stimulate yourself and blow off steam. Your writing will thank you for not being your only source of release. You’ll cherish those moments spent at the keyboard / pad / quill.

For some ideas for what to fill your free time, see our article Things to do on a Sunday (Besides Troll Facebook).

 

"I like high fiving. That's a thing, right?"

“I like high fiving. That’s a thing, right?”

 

Devote Time Though

No matter what you do, make time for your art. Knackered after work? Just remember; you’re tired because you worked hard for someone else to get rich. Now you’ve done that for them, do it for yourself too. Everytime you go home and veg in front of the TV, ignoring your art, you’re giving someone else the fruits of your labour, and robbing yourself.

Forget this at your peril!

 

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y'know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y’know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

 

Ask for Answers…

Seek feedback, and share your work. Often you’ll see different perspectives, both positive and constructively critical. Engage in a writing group, or start your own. Do NaNoWriMo and meet other budding authors. Write stories for friends as birthday / Christmas presents. Start a blog. Anything that gets people to give you opinions on your work opens you up to getting some alternate perspectives on what you’re doing, and can give you that much needed satisfaction.

Also, having to answer to an audience and justify your work will help keep you focused on your voice and your craft.

 

"How's it gonna sound?"

“How’s it gonna sound?”

 

But Adapt Your Perceptions to Fit Them In

That said, don’t take everything to heart. People’s opinions are incredibly diverse, and you’ll never please everyone. Take in what is useful (both good and bad) then discard the rest.

Accept that you won’t be adored by everyone. Those that are overly critical or rude will often be speaking from a place of jealousy or projecting some of their own negativity on to you. Eventually you’ll find a group of people who’s opinions you cherish, and who’s feedback you can use productively; both their criticism and their praise.

Defending your work can also have the added affect of making you closer with it. We all had the odd disagreement with our family members when we were growing up. Yet the minute someone else started having a go at them we’d leap to their defence. Your writing will become a sibling, or a child. You’ll find yourself seeing the good and the bad in it, and learning to accept it (warts and all) as you chisel away, always looking to upgrade and tweak.

 

"Now pay attention"

“Now pay attention”

 

Cut Out Extremes

Life isn’t just a series of the amazing and the devastating. There are bits and bobs in between. The normal. The average. The ok, or so-so.

Embrace that.

Just because the thing you wrote today isn’t going to melt the faces off your readers, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth celebrating. And just because you’ve written something that reads like a brail stop sign, it doesn’t mean you need to renounce your writing forever and jump into an estuary with breeze blocks on your tootsies!

Peaks and troughs, ups and downs, lefts and rights. Life is full of ’em. Keep that in mind when you’re feeling a little glum or sullen. The world will keep turning, and you’ll be back to writing soon enough.

When you feel like giving up, keep going.

 

"No pain no sprint. Life's a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don't be a quitter, alright?"

“No pain no sprint. Life’s a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don’t be a quitter, alright?”

 

Ultimately, Find Your Rainbow

Trust me, there’s always one out there somewhere. The onus is on you to find it. So look for the wins in your losses. You might etch a story and the plot hits a brick wall that you can’t break through. In that scenario look for the character, scene, setting, voice, technique or twist that worked well and then develop that separately. Or accept that practice alone was another step in the right direction. Or that being dedicated enough to write something should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Don’t wait for other people to point it out to you. Find it in yourself, and look for the things to cherish.

In the long run, you’ll thank yourself for it.

 

"Fuuuuuuuuuuudge!"

“Oh yeah, and autosave. Always autosave!”

 

Special thanks to Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, patrisyu, phanlop88, stockimages and Sura Nualpradid @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

What I Learned From Finishing The First Draft Of My Novel

Manilla Church Title

So I did it. Yeah yeah, it’s finished. It was painful, hilarious, testing, stressful, simple, complicated, disastrous and most importantly; fun!

Regardless of whether it goes on to be published or not, there’s a lot of lessons to take from the experience (some of them expected, some of them surprising).

It’s Easier Than I Thought

So when I started out on this journey, I didn’t know whether I’d actually be able to get to the end. I’ve started many a story before, and normally one of three things happens:

1. I didn’t have a large enough idea, and it turns into a short story / novella.

2. I have another idea half way through, and then switch all my attention to that one.

3. I lose interest / grow intimidated by my own idea, and give up.

The struggle is real. And yet, with this little nasty, I managed to keep going and finish it. I started it on the 5th of March, and it was finished by the 2nd of June. It sits at 102,508 words, so it needs work. But getting there was a lot easier than I had anticipated. How I got there was simple.

"It's not rocket science, honestly"

“It’s not rocket science, honestly”

Setting Targets Pushed Through My Procrastination

I started out small, forcing myself to write 500 words a day. Easy peasy, lemons are squeezy. Then, once my brain and fingers were on side, tricked by my awesome scheme into seeing how easy 500 words was, I upped the count to 700. ‘You call that a challenge’ they cried, drunk on word counts and punctuation.

I ended up banging out 1,000 words a day, averaging 1,150 words a day in April and May. I know this, because I made a spreadsheet that I could log my totals into every night. This seems geeky, I know. But hear me out. I’m a child of sandbox computer games, so my brain responds to simple stimuli like upgrades, xp, and stats. If I can develop this real world data to reflect the effort I’m putting into myself and one of my hobbies, it gives me personally, an extra level of satisfaction. Gone are the wasted days of thinking about wanting to write. In their place, a tangible, real-time record of every word I’ve written.

It might not be everyone’s flavour, but it certainly worked for me.

Nerd Alert

Nerd Alert

Write It, Warts and All

The only way I could realistically squeeze a thousand words into my day (taking me anywhere from 30-60 minutes) was to just write them out, knowing I’d be back at a later date to edit. Unrestricted word slamming, churning word-chunder onto the page without stopping to wipe it up. Groovy.

For the purists out there, I know this might sound like a nightmare. A friend of mine prefers to write the detail now, rather than know it will need to be returned to later. For me, this was too much of a start / stop approach, and I’d quickly be demotivated as the mammoth task facing me would seem like an overbearing mountain. Hence by doing it my way, each day felt like a tangible step in the right direction, even if I knew what I’d written might be dogshit.

Also, this gives you the chance to rant out key facts, feelings, scene setting or monologue and know it will be returned to and tidied up later.

Sure, if a single scene feels like it needs attention, or the desire to edit is so strong you can’t fight it, then there’s nothing to say you can’t do that. It’s flexible.

Just remember, a thousand words a day gets you to a novel in about three months. That’s decent. Then you’ve got three months to edit. At that pace, you could write 20 novels in your twenties alone!

It also helps break the story down into sections, instead of one long road. First draft done? OK. Now, on to draft two. Instead of stopping every few paces to check your laces are tied, you’re sprinting to the end and worrying about it then. Sure, you might have more blisters, and the laces will probably be frayed, but you got there. You did it.

"Wooo"

“Wooo”

Fail to Prepare and Prepare to Fail

I read a post recently on the wonderful Terrible Minds (Chuck Wendig’s personal writing blog) about the need to plan your story. The post is actually by another writer named Rob Hart, and he uses the analogy of building a house when talking about constructing a story. In his own words:

It was like if you’re building a house, but the blueprints are constantly getting changed, and the builders aren’t communicating, and suddenly there’s a toilet next to the fridge. And you have to figure out how to move it, but once you do, it screws with the plumbing lines… (read the original post here)

I can’t think of a more lovely way to put it; once you’ve set stuff up, moving characters, threads, plots, pivots, all of it can be disastrous if not thought about and juggled with sense and purpose. And both of these things come from a solid plan. Though it’s tempting to plan as you go, and write on the coat-tails of inspiration, you’ll hit trouble if you haven’t set out in advance, clearly, the threads and pathways your story will take.

When I started out writing the story, I had a brief idea, and a few characters in mind. I wrote these out in a notebook, then left them there. I then took a long train ride and pondered the greater story (with no writing) – my thinking being that I’d work through the gunk in the filter and get to the good stuff.

Then I slept on it, and thought over it some more. The gutsy stuff I’d come up with didn’t seem so necessary in the cold of the following morning. So I erased a few random details, and looked to string together the rest in a different way. Then again. And again.

I tried to explain the story to a friend, and realised it had no purpose, and no overall meaning. Ultimately, you should be able to sum up your story in one sentence. I went away again and pondered this, simplifying and removing and adding until I had it.

I ended up with a story that had a start, a middle, and an end. I planned this out by hand, then on my PC.

Finally, I was ready to start writing, and the rest took care of itself. It changed (a lot), but having a base, and an idea of what was going to happen, when, and why, meant I had the minerals to concoct and adapt. The elements were the story components, and once identified, it made this particular method of word alchemy that much easier. And crucially, the toilet never ended up in the kitchen!

There were other complications though...

There were other complications though…

90,000 Isn’t So Big

In fact, it’ll creep up on you in no time. I planned the story to fall into three clearly identified sections of 30,000 words each. Each of these sections was divided further into three 10,000 word portions. This really helped with the planning and staging, and mean’t I had clear signposts to measure my progress, and make sure I didn’t waffle on in certain parts.

In the end, this total disappeared into the rear-view mirror, and I know for sure I’ll need to cut it down once the editing begins.

Still, it’s nice to have too much and not enough.

"OK, no need to show off"

“OK, no need to show off”

It Came to Life

It really did. I’d sleep and dream about the characters, and wake up in the middle of the night with great ideas. I’d scramble through my bedside table finding my pens and paper to jot down these ideas, only to wake in the morning and realise it didn’t fit, or that I’d already written it out like that.

The ideas grew, and the story started to tell me what was happening. Ideas came to me seemingly from nowhere, ideas that slotted in perfectly and tied up loose ends I didn’t realise I had.

Once the ball was rolling, and I was regularly checking in with my characters, everything just seemed to gather its own head of steam.

Once you get going, you won't be able to stop

Once you get going, you won’t be able to stop

It’s Possible to Hate a Wordfile

By the end, I was dog tired, and completely and utterly ready to finish. It took more will power than at any other moment to finally finish it. I knew the ending, and knew exactly how I wanted it to end. So creativity wasn’t the issue. It was the effort. The effort of knowing that it needed finishing, even after all the energy and time I’d put into it. Like it was a spoiled child or something. I was just desperate to be able to say the words; I’ve finished. It’s done. It’s over.

The funny thing is, now it is over, I realise in reality it is actually only just beginning. Following the advice of Stephen King, it sits in a desk drawer at the moment, maturing and hopefully not stagnating and fermenting. My hope is I’ll open the draw in August and find a novel waiting for me that I can be proud of, and one I can work on through the next few months and finish.

I guess we’ll wait and see…

surasakiStock

I’d love to hear about your experiences writing, and the struggles, stories, or surprises you have encountered. Please comment below.

Special thanks to Anamwong, Marco Torresin, Marin, Stockimages, surasakiStock, and tiverylucky @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016