Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why writing is better than booze

Yesterday, it started to feel as if I was at an AA meeting. We had several new people show up at our monthly writers' group meeting and we were going around the circle introducing ourselves.

So when Ion before me, commented on the similarity to an AA meeting, I seized the moment to have a bit of fun with my introduction...

'My name is Diane and I'm a writerholic. Luckily, this group does not expect me to give up my addiction and there is no 12-step program to cure me.'

I've been thinking about the whole writing addiction a bit more and have some thoughts about why writing is better than booze (or nicotine or dope for that matter).

Writing is cheap. At the bare minimum, all you need is a pen and paper. Although a computer can be pretty good, but after the initial outlay of costs, the process costs nothing but time and imagination. The same cannot be said for alcohol or cigarettes. (Or photography, painting, sailing, flying or any other number of expensive hobbies.)

Writing is cathartic. You can write out your problems, remove the screaming banshees from your head and sort them out on paper. Sometimes it can even provide a solution, not a hangover.

Writing can be escapist. If reality is getting you down, you can slip into another world of your own creation. Hang out with characters who may be more fun than the real world, even control what happens. And if you don't like the direction the characters take the story, you can rewrite. Better than escaping through alcohol or drugs. Writing can be its own altered state of consciousness.

Writing exercises the grey matter. That's right! You're not killing brain cells, you're feeding them, stimulating them, exercising them, making them jump with joy. If you stimulate them enough, they will even work when you're asleep, discussing the ideas between them in a minature unconscious brainstorming which can unleash a torrent of words when you next boot up the computer or pick up a pen.

Writing can produce a natural high. When you're truly in the zone, and the story is zipping along almost by itself, it can feel fantastic. When you hear an audience laughing at your dialogue in a play that you have penned, it is euphoric. When you capture the perfect phrase or turn of words, you are exhilirated. When you read back your writing months later, you can wonder how you wrote it and where the inspiration came from. And there is no after-effect, no hangover -- unless you've sacrificed sleep and stayed up all night to write.

Writing is expressive. You can say things that you might not say in real life. Role play through characters who are stronger than yourself, or more assertive. You can play with all the 'what-if's?' and create many 'sliding door' moments. And you won't be phoned the day after a drunken binge to have your indiscretions relate back to you.

There are a few drawbacks. BICHOK'ing (Bum in chair, hands on keyboard) for days on end can cause the backside to widen, the hands to cramp and the eyes to lose focus. You must remember to leave the computer every hour, to stretch the legs, to flex the hands, and to gaze off into the distance and re-focus to save your eyesight. Still, it's a small price to pay because your imagination is grateful for the playtime.

So if I had a choice of a night on the booze or the dope, or a night on the computer exercising my imagination, I know which one I would choose!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Issues of formatting

So I finished my entry for the competition and submitted. Diary of the Future now opens with Nicky's little brother dropping fartbombs. I realised recently that I hadn't made use of Tommy's character quite enough. Knowing how annoying little brothers can be. (And yes Chris you were very annoying as a kid, a teenager! Who knew from that you'd turn out to be such a great father.) So now Tommy will make extra very annoying and smelly appearances because his weapon of choice is flatulence.

Last time I entered this particular competition, I received some very odd remarks from one judge who could not cope with the fact that I'd used single quotation marks instead of double quotation marks. Single quotation marks are the standard submission requirement in Australia (and I think the UK) but obviously not the standard in the US. This time, I didn't want a judge to trip over the formatting and be blinded to the story, so I formatted it US style. I changed realise to realize. I changed mobile phone to cell phone (actually did that in the synopsis but didn't do it in the sample chapters.) And I changed the quotation marks. Don't you love find and replace? It's a marvellous thing. Until you realise that all your apostrophes are now double quotation marks. And there as a lot of them! You see, I'm quite fond of contractions. Especially in dialogue. It took quite a while to go through all those pages and change those apostrophes back. Too long!

So I guess the best thing I can do is retrain my typing to use double quotation marks for dialogue. Then when I want to submit to an Aussie publisher I can do a simple 'find and replace' which won't interfere with my apostrophes. But that could be easier said than done. I still haven't retrained myself to type one space after a full-stop instead of two. So the dilemma still stands....

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I've been tagged by Simmone Howell, author of Notes from the Teenage Underground. If you haven't read this book, get hold of it - it's a great young adult story with an interesting mixture of pop art and film-making.

So here's the meme:

simmone said...
found ya! and now I'm gonna tag ya:Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. (If you haven’t gotten to page 123 yet, then turn to page 23. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then get busy and write page 23.) Count down four sentences and then give us the next paragraph.

Craig draws me closer to him, and smiles. ‘And how did that make you feel?’

Okay so I'm in the middle of a dialogue scene so the paragraph isn't very long. And Craig's name is now Zach, so I better do a quick find and replace. And out of context I'll leave you wondering exactly what 'that' refers to... And it ain't sex!

If I turn to page 123 in the printed version, I get:

'Well, thanks for your support, Nicky. It's appreciated.'

More dialogue. What can I say?

So if you are a writer reading this and have a long work in progress: consider yourself tagged. Leave a note in the comments linking to your meme, and I'll drop by.

While you're blogging about works in progress, mangle some prose in the Bonsai Story Generator. It'll give your writing a whole new perspective.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The following is not a blogoff post

No blogoff post from me this week. I've been eliminated from the competition, leaving three wonderful writers still in the race. Check them out and drop them a line: Chris and Evey, Just Another Week, Write2B.

Courtney will be running another blogging competition in July, this time with no elimination but a cumulative total. Drop over to Five Second Dance Party and leave her a comment if you want to play the game.

I was actually surprised that I made it this far in the blog-off. Ironically, I was eliminated just as my chosen word 'dreams' was the topic of the week. I wonder if this has happened with any other blogoff participants. But I'm relieved in a way. This was a hectic week with a work trip to Brisbane and I probably wouldn't have had time to blog. The trip to Brisvegas and the workshop was so full-on, I even succumbed to drinking a coke that first afternoon (I so needed caffeine), and then two glasses of wine later that night. But I haven't relapsed - it was a one-off.

And seriously, we are going to end the blogoff next week (I presume) with the topic SHAMPOO. So glad that I'm not tackling that one.

I feel like I've already won no matter how far I got through the rounds of the blog-off. A new word topic every week challenged every writing muscle I possessed, and probably a few I didn't realise I had. I've discovered I can write on just about any topic presented to me. (still not sure about that 'shampoo' and glad I'm not going to find out.)

One of my big dreams since I first started conjuring up stories was to be a writer. And I have achieved that dream over the years by the mere act of writing, being an active member in my writers' group and participating in writing challenges such as this one. My dream now is to be a published writer (not just published in group anthologies or self-published) and to take a step to achieve that dream, I am now going to log off, turn off the internet, take the laptop out to my front verandah, and work on my Diary of the Future competition entry.