Why you should be blogging right now!

Hello readers,

Blogging is an incredible way to get into the habit of long-form writing. Authors like Anne Lamott – sidenote: Please read her honest and entertaining book about writing, Bird by Bird. If I know you, I’ll even lend it to you. – understand that half the battle is training yourself to sit down and write every day. Putting something down on (screen)paper is essential. Only if you write many many many things will you be able to dig out the gold among the detritus in the (digital) trash. Having a blog is a great way to get into this habit.

Why else should you be blogging right now? Because almost as much as you want to be an extraordinary creative writer, you want a job. According to the Society of Digital Agencies’ annual outlook survey, “blog writing, editing, and copywriting were named an increased 2012 priority by 61% of organizations, and an ongoing priority for 37%” (“Wanted: People who can actually write . . . and edit”). This makes being a good blogger the #1 digital talent an employer is looking for. Demonstrating strong long-form writing and editing skills, creating engaging content, and being able to attract readers are prized skills to hiring organizations.

Your blogging encourager and career advisor,

S.E. Lund

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Erotica e-books: pleasure and privacy

Happy Monday!

I came across an article (Discreetly Digital, Erotic Novel Sets American Women Abuzz) in the NY Times Books section online, and thought it was topical. This book started as online fan fiction, and morphed into something marketable. More intriguingly, the article got me thinking about the e-book format and erotica. As someone who used to be a bookseller, I’ve seen first-hand how uncomfortable some people are buying erotic novels and other books about sex. The digital age has provided people who cherish their privacy to get the information that they want discreetly. No wonder Fifty Shades of Grey is “no.1 on the New York Times e-book fiction best-seller list for sales in the week ending March 3 and No. 3 position on Amazon’s best-seller list.”

Privately yours,

S.E. Lund

Can we have a Buffy/Harry Potter/Game of Thrones cross-over? or, the Glories of Fan Fiction

Hello reader,

One of the most prevalent forms of online creative writing that I have encountered is fan fiction. If you do not understand this term, my favorite definition comes courtesy of UrbanDictionary.com:

Fan Fiction: Stories written by fans of a certain TV show, cartoon, anime, book, or movie using existing plots, characters, or ideas from the series but then continuing the story, adding new characters, changing the ending, or changing the plot.
Most are written by an obsessed fan who invents a character that’s supposed to be like him/her, only […] prettier, smarter, and stronger who falls in love with whoever the fan has a crush on. Many [fan fictions] have poor grammar, thin plots, and bad spelling. But there are a few with original ideas, great story lines, and interesting fan characters written by creative writers. These ones are worth reading.

This almost fully sums up my encounters with fan fiction. Much of it (I feel confident saying the majority of it) is self-indulgent, pornographic, or simply a huge insult to the original author/creator of the text from which the fan is borrowing. However, I have run across a few writers who manage to stay true to canon while creating another story in the world of the text, and I have also found some very engaging, well-written stories of this type.

I like the idea of fan fiction. As someone who has sometimes needed encouragement to begin the creative process, I’ve found it to be a useful exercise to think of some of my favorite fictional characters and place them in a situation that was not included in their novel. For example, I might write a scene in the world of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, in which (**spoiler alert**)  Lydia and George Wickham receive an invitation to the wedding of Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

It can also be interesting to test how well you know an original character by placing him or her in another fictional world. For example, if I was writing a short story that featured a pessimistic butcher named Curtis, I might write a scene where he gets transported to The Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. To write such a scene I would have to consider the following: How would Curtis react? Is he the type of man who believes in the fantastical? Has he read Lord of the Rings, and if so, would he be able to identify where he was before being told? Would he be angry, embittered, confused, surprised, or excited, and how would he act out those emotions? Is he the type of man who would ask for help from the nearest hobbit?

Even if I never plan to expose Curtis to magic and alternate universe travel in the short story he is meant for, it might help me to know that his first reaction at arriving in The Shire was a giddiness he never expresses in his normal life. He has loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy since he first cracked the pages of Fellowship when he was thirteen. He likes the idea of being in a world where everyone knows who and where the villain is. Though he is lacking examples in his reality, he truly believes heroes exist. His focus would not be “how do I get home?” but instead “what part of the book are we in?”

Fan fiction is also useful in that you can see the strengths and, more obviously, weaknesses of other creative writers and look for those issues in your own work.

There are a huge number of online communities dedicated to this activity. The most prevalent fan fiction site to cover all genres is probably FanFiction.net, but most fantasy novels and shows (Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Inuyasha, et cetera) have specific fan fiction forums.

Here’s the big warning:

I think experimenting with fan fiction is a wonderful way to push through writer’s block and test the strength of your characters and other aspects of your writing. Remember, however, that if you are appropriating someone else’s ideas, there is only so much you can grow as a writer. My advice is to use fan fiction as one trick up your sleeve, rather than the whole show. Also, though I’ve read fan fiction online, I choose not to post any of my own because of plagiarism and copyright considerations. I’ll write more on these issues in another post.

Fan fictionally yours,

S.E. Lund

A journey to excellence

Dearest reader,

You’ve stumbled upon a blog – or actually, a blogger – with an ambitious goal:

I will write (creatively) for 10,000 hours.

“But why would you do that?” you ask.
“To become an expert.”
You look at me, head tilted, one eyebrow raised, and shake your head slightly.
“That sounds boring,” you say. “Why not do something more entertaining for 10,000 hours? Like juggle. You could become the best juggler the world has ever seen. You could make juggling into more than a clown’s favorite activity. You could make it a sport to be revered.”

Now, I’ve got to admit that you have a point. To be the world’s foremost juggler, maybe the best juggler in history, would be super neat. It would certainly be more interesting to watch than writing. Plus, as I can already juggle (four balls on a good day), I have a solid base on which to build.

But my ambition is not the be the world’s foremost juggler. I just want to be a really, really fantastic writer. What’s more, I enjoy writing more than juggling. Love it.

So even if no one but my patient boyfriend, ultra-proud mum, and occasional writing group ever notices the difference between hour one and hour 2500, this is something I want to try.

WHY 10,000 HOURS?

If you’ve read Outliers by Malcolm Galdwell, you may be familiar with the 10,000 rule. Basically, Gladwell puts forth the idea that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is the magic number for true expertise in an area. I’m sure we could all come up with examples of great achievement without this kind of time expenditure, but it is an interesting and inspiring idea that if a person has an average amount of innate talent in an area, the difference between being good and being great is simply a matter of dedication and willingness to work.

THE JOURNEY

I think the digital age allows for a host of opportunities for creative writers. There are sites for posting short stories and poetry, and there are sites dedicated to helping novice writers through writer’s block, with inspiration, with editing. There are online communities which allow you to write collaboratively with complete strangers, and there are blogs, which can function simply as publishable journals. The time we live in gives us dozens more opportunities for sharing, connecting, and writing publicly than ever before.

Part of what this blog aims to do is test out and share those opportunities with you, as I work my way from hour 1 to hour 10,000.

You might ask how long it will take to get there, and that is a reasonable question. Let’s do some math. If we break this down into reasonable chunks – let’s say one hour a day, every day, without exception – it will take me approximately 27.4 years. Two hours a day will take about 13.7 years, three will take 9.15, and four hours of creative writing per day will take 6.85 years.

Basically, sit down and strap in for the long haul, folks.

One down.

Sincerely,

S.E. Lund