I found this cartoon by Grant Snider on the Incidental Comics website. It's too funny not to share, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
By Darrell Cuthbert
I spend a substantial amount of my time as a freelancer creating material that is destined to be used as online content by clients. Unfortunately there there is a lot of poor-quality content out there and this is an endless source of frustration for me and other writers that take their craft seriously.
So much so-called "content" is either thinly disguised advertising and promotional material or simply a re-hash (or even worse a rewrite) of material created by someone else. The rush to generate countless pages of disposable content often results in originality and creativity being trampled in the process.
Faced with mountains of trashy content and competition from "writers" that can barely speak coherent English, much less write it, and are willing to sell articles for $5 (or less apiece), it can sometimes be tempting to shortcut the creative process for the sake of expediency.
Today I came across this infographic from Ezinearticles that reminded me how important it is to make sure that I apply creativity to everything I write and stay true to my craft. Fortunately there are still clients out there that value quality and realise that trashy content actually harms the image and credibility of their business.
I just came across this piece on The BookBaby Blog and really enjoyed it.
Please let me know what you think - do you agree or disagree with his advice or have some thoughts or advice of your own to offer.
In his book Bagombo Snuff Box, the famous post-war American novelist Kurt Vonnegut listed these eight rules for writing short fiction:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Like most rules, they’re made to be broken (as Vonnegut himself pointed out). But his writing tips may be useful as a starting point, or as a measuring stick with which to judge what you’ve already written.
What are your rules for writing short fiction? Do you disagree with any of Kurt Vonnegut’s advice? Let me know in the comments section below.
PS - Dated 20 May 2014
Since I shared this late last year I've re-read the advice a few times to remind myself to apply it.
Today I came across a version of it on YouTube - narrated by Mr Vonnegut himself - enjoy.
Today was my first time attending a meeting of The South African Writer's Circle (held at the Westville Library) and I really enjoyed it.
Since moving back to Durban two and half years ago (after 17 years in Johannesburg) I have been meaning to find a writing group to join but a busy life mixed with an (un)healthy dose of procrastination has kept me from actually getting out and doing it.
So when I heard via a family member that this month's meeting was themed around social media and would feature a talk and workshop conducted by local social media fundi Fred Felton I decided this was the perfect opportunity to jump in and get involved.
Fred did a fine job of taking the group through an overview of some ways successful writers are using social media channels to build a following and boost sales as well as providing some tips and ideas on how we can use social media, especially Twitter, to establish an online reputation and use the publicity this brings to drive book sales.
After the break he conducted a short workshop consisting of working in small groups of 3 - 4 to write a really short piece of flash fiction - most of the offerings were only one or two sentences.
The idea was to learn to encapsulate a story in a very short piece of text - an essential skill when it comes to communicating effectively on a medium like Twitter with its 140 character limit).
Fred has written a post on his own blog titled When Crowdsourcing Collides With Writers containing his own comments and the contributions of each group. Click the link below to read the post. In case you were wondering I was in the group called 2thepoint.
I just read a very interesting announcement from Johannesburg-based digital marketing agency NATIVE about a new app they have developed called bookly. This app allows Mxit users to purchase, download and read eBooks on any cellphone capable of running Mxit.
I like the idea - but have to wonder what the adoption levels will be like. Will Mxit become a tool for spreading literacy among its mostly youthful users or will they stick to only using it for chat? That remains to be seen.
It looks like at this stage the books available will only be from established legacy publishers. In my opinion that's a real pity as this sort of edgy, tech-driven development with its potential appeal to a target demographic that tends to be a bit anti-establishment and open to new ideas would lend itself well to small-scale and indie publishing.
Hopefully as time goes by opportunities will open up for small-press and even independent publishers to participate. I would guess that this type of material may prove to be more popular in this type of forum than more mainstream, commercially-driven content.
Anyway, kudos to NATIVE for thinking out of the box coming up with the idea. I hope it really take off and gets more people reading.
Just spotted this on the Copyblogger website and loved it. Ironically (or maybe not), even though I'm a writer and also sometimes a proofreader for others I never really enjoyed learning about grammar in school and beyond.
I think a lot of that was due to the way it was taught not the actual subject matter as I am actually a fan of good grammar and it really irks me to see advertisements (commercials) or other company documentation released into the public domain with glaring errors.
If you are going to pay a lot of money to develop and publicise your brand or product with snappy graphics and cute taglines, at least make sure you have it properly proofread by someone with an intuitive sense for grammar, syntax and diction.
There is a time for bending the rules for effect - however if you don't know what the rules are in the first place you are not being artistic, just lazy.
I came across this project on Youtube while I was doing some research related to accents and dialects. I'm very interested in accents, dialects, local variations, language development and evolution etc. so this really appealed to me.
Here's what the project owner, Matthew (Matt) Perks, has to say about it;
This project is a collection of accents from around the world. If you'd like to take part, please do so! Just don't forget to add your video as a video response, and if you can, get your friends/parents etc to take part too! =) There are NO rules for this thing, anyone can take part. If you feel that your accent doesn't fit into a particular category, don't worry, simply say how you think your accent might have been influenced. Also, please still take part even if someone else has submitted one for your region already; the more the merrier!
I've already recorded and uploaded my own contribution and didn't notice anyone else from South Africa, or the rest of Africa for that matter, on the map. It would be interesting to see more diversity in the contributions as there are parts of the world that have little or no representation.
Why does the ANC (African National Congress) fear the words of a child so much. Could it be that they know the power of young, free, open minds and have harnessed them for their own purposes in the past.
Having your own weapon swivel around and point back in your general direction must be a scary thing....
One would think that the ruling party of South Africa would have greater priorities than criticising commercials that do not even directly mention them.
Mind the leader of said party has previously filed a lawsuit against a local cartoonist over a shower head - so a little pettiness seems to go a long way in this case.
We criticise that which we fear and we fear that which speaks to our weakness.
© D Cuthbert 2013
Obviously languages have always changed and evolved as societies develop and diverse cultures encounter each other, assimilating and absorbing new words and meanings as a result - but it has been a largely organic process up till recent times.
Technology and its associated jargon, especially in the social media realm, is fast becoming the primary source of new words and phrases. A little ironic as many of these phrases were "borrowed" from English in the first place and either altered or given new meanings - to the point where the new meaning often supersedes the original in prevalence of usage.e.g. web, net, and maybe even mouse.
Is this technological influence on our language linguistic barbarism, an inevitable and necessary evil, or an exciting development that could possibly lead to English undergoing the most marked change since the great vowel shift?
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.
My thoughts on writing, creativity, language, literature and life in general
Subscribe to this blog
Use RSS to receive latest posts.
Click the orange RSS button above.
What is RSS?