Saturday, November 27, 2010

Five (more) Reasons to Write

I did it. The NaNoWriMo, that is. Instead of traveling the pathways of retail with throngs of shoppers, I was inside my house the day after Thanksgiving, writing.

Truthfully, I didn't think I could do it towards the last twenty thousand words or so ... actually, it was more like I didn't think I wanted to do the last twenty thousand. After all, it meant I would have to edit the ugly monster if it went anywhere. And, I think the story may have lacked compelling characters and perfect plot. (Also known as "major issues" with the story.)

But here's the cool part: I have a "book" completed. Hurrah! Not that I'll ever let it grace the eyes of an innocent and unassuming reader. Maybe not even myself, either. Do you know how much groaning and eye-rolling that would require?

Whatever I choose to do (probably leave it on my PC for a long time), here are five things I learned while writing (even 50k words in less than a month) and why it can be good for you too.
  1. You are superwoman (man): Really, writing is tough. We have to come up with something worthy to write about and actually make it sound good. The awesome thing about NaNoWriMo is that my work can read horribly, be so grammatically incorrect and as interesting as a piece of toast, and we are called winners! It's great to feel like superwoman (even if it only lasts a few seconds.)
  2. You learn how to be creative: Making your story come alive is a great way to fuel creativity, especially if you can't afford anything. How? Well, things that you can't do, because lack of funds make it unallowable, is allowable in writing. We live vicariously through our characters, go to places we never visit in real life, and overcome obstacles (that the characters overcome) that we would never have to. That's creative! And hey, maybe applicable to your life one day.
  3. You learn how to be disciplined: This is huge, and a reason why something like only 10% of the NaNoWriMo writers actually complete their novel. It takes an odd sort of dedication to finish something that fast. But this discipline is like using a muscle; once you repeat it enough, it becomes something habitual and useable! I'm learning how to meet deadlines (even if semi-fictitious) learning how to do something I don't want to do (just like exercise) and stretching myself to be a better writer by using these brain "muscles."
  4. You learn that writing is freeing: This is true, you know. Again, like reason number 2, we get to be creative with our art. Writing is almost like being able to live out things we want to say, or do or be, but we don't have to really do it. My back hurt the day after I finished writing my book. Hadn't hurt all month. Do I think this had to do with not being able to free my thoughts? I think so. Free your thoughts, free youself.
  5. You learn to drink lots of coffee without noticing: Okay, so this isn't necessarily a good thing. But I love coffee, so it isn't bad either. Can't tell you how many hundreds of cups of the black stuff I drank and how many times I wondered where it disappeared to. Many writers attest to the disappearance of the drink to some time/space continuum; one they find themselves lost in while immersed in their writing. I fully agree with that theory.
Writing is a wonderful thing, even if it's within the context of a crazy competition, and I'm (hopefully) becoming a better writer. Now, what about you? If you've done NaNo, or just want to share with us your latest endeavor, please do. We are all learning.

Happy writing!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Translation and Writing: So Happy Together

My guest post today is from Anne Goff, writer and translator who has some great points to make about translation and why we need to think about it when writing. Enjoy!

We're Not So Different, You and I

When I got my degree in translation and when I started working as a translator, I had to deal with a lot of confusion and misunderstanding from my friends and family. I still do. Topping the list of questions I face:

- Just what does a translator do anyway?

And

- Why on earth would you want to be one?

Today, I want to answer question number one. A translator takes a text that is written for one audience and rewrites it for a different audience. In essence – a translator is a writer. All writing is translation and translators are writers who work in two different languages.

“But,” you say, “I’m a writer! I don’t translate!” Are you sure? Really? As a writer you are always thinking of your target audience. (And if you’re not, you should be.) This awareness will impact every word you put on paper.

Let’s illustrate with a story. – A man goes to a party. A lot of alcohol is consumed at this party and tempers flare. A gun is drawn and the man is shot.

Now, how would you tell this story? You don’t know. You can’t. Not until you know who your audience is. Think how differently you will approach this story if your audience is a high school classroom, a roomful of sociologists, an executive of a major motion picture company… The original story may be translated into a morality tale; a case study; or an intense, high-drama, action scene. Each of these translations requires a different vocabulary, a different register, a different final text.

My thought process when translating is very similar. In translating a press release, the story of a company’s achievement, the facts don’t change, but the story does. As I tell such a story to an American audience I will smooth the flowery flourishes of the original French into the calm professionalism appropriate to business communications in the United States.

I cannot be a good translator without being a good writer. And you? You can’t be a good writer without being a good translator. There are a million ways one person can misunderstand another; our job is to translate our source texts, our stories, our thoughts into something our readers will understand and appreciate.

Do you think your job is easier than mine? After all, you’re only contending with one language. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the translative aspects of writing. In the words of Bernard Webber:

Entre
Ce que je pense
Ce que je veux dire
Ce que je crois dire
Ce que je dis
Ce que vous avez envie d'entendre
Ce que vous croyez entendre
Ce que vous entendez
Ce que vous avez envie de comprendre
Ce que vous croyez comprendre
Ce que vous comprenez
Il y'a dix possibilités qu'on ait des difficultés a communiquer.
Mais essayons quand même...


Or, in English:

Between
What I think
What I want to say
What I believe I say
What I say
What you want to hear
What you believe you hear
What you hear
What you want to understand
What you believe you understand
What you understand
There are ten possibilities that we’ll have difficulties communicating.
But let's try anyway, shall we?

Translation and writing both attempt the impossible – to communicate not the words, but the ideas of one mind to another. Impossible, right? See, therein lies the fun. But now I’m answering the wrong question. What was I supposed to be saying? Oh, right – a translator is a writer!

-Anne













Happy writing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Will (Not) Work For Free (Forever)

There is a time and place to write for free. I think we all understand that. And there's a time to acquire your skill, be a lowly intern -- basking in the bottom-dwelling ranks of the work place -- and we're generally okay with it because we know that's how it works; that's how we get to be paid one day -- and of course, how we hope to move up to a slightly higher rung of the ladder.

However, there comes a time, when we get past that; where we are at the higher rung, and now looking down at those below us with a smile. When and if we work pro-bono, it's because we're helping someone else, or we feel the cause is so worthy, we just have to donate our time or risk feeling like a loser.

I have a writer-friend, who also happens to be a snazzy French-to-English translator, who has her own business AEG Translations-- in other words, she's a PROFESSIONAL. Also meaning, she gets paid to do the job; the one she studied and worked hard for. Yet, to her dismay and the absolute hilarity of it all, she seems to get a lot of people asking her to work for them ... for free.

Her rebuttal to the latest request was on her blog, and I laughed and agreed so much, that I had to repost it. No, she didn't actually send this reply (I don't think) but it sure made me smile.

Here it is:

Dear John,
Thank you for the message! I am happy to provide test translations to potential clients. I understand that this is a test translation, that I will not be paid for this work, and that it does not guarantee that I will ever receive paying work from you. I know how important it is to verify that the people you work with can perform as promised.

To that end, while I'm working on the test translation, there is something that I need you to do. In order to ensure that clients can meet payment deadlines and that there will be no problems with the chosen payment method, I require a test payment from all new clients. To make sure that your account has not been flagged by the chosen payment service the test payment will need to represent a reasonable sum of money. Please send US$600 to my account before the end of the business day tomorrow. (This test payment is non-refundable.) My payment information is included at the end of this email.

I'm sure you will understand why such measures are necessary.
I look forward to working with you!
Sincerely,
Anne

If you too have had one of these "experiences," share it! We'd love to hear about it. Anne, thanks for writing out what we really want to say sometimes.

-HJS

Monday, November 8, 2010

Good Things Come From Threes - Guest Post by Kimberly Rempel

Today's a great day for a guest post. Why? Because I get to host a post written by author Kimberly Rempel, whose book Beauty in Darkness is now out and ready to read. (Oh, and I'm still working on my NaNoWriMo so this post is perfect timing).

I've decided to start a column called "Good Things Come from Threes," because it's true. You've heard the phrase "Third time's the charm," right? Well, I find that answers I'm looking for in work and home -- even answers I'm not looking for-- usually get verified in a process of three affirmations. (Though sometimes, they're not good.)

It's no different for a writer. There is easily a zillion combinations of three things that can propel you to write, edit and have your book published.

It's just a matter of making sure to recognize what they are! Take a look.

Good Things Come from Threes -The Path to Publication

First, thank you Heather for your invitation to guest post. I’m so excited to share the top 3 things that helped me become a published writer. The release of my first book,  has caused me to look back a lot. The project spanned a couple of decades (wow … now I feel old) so I needed to look back - to reconnect with what I’d written, and to remember the things that helped me along the way.

Publishing Beauty in Darkness has taught me a lot already. Marketing however, is a whole other story. I just want to quickly share with you the synopsis: “Glimpse a soul exposed, explore truth and observe heart secrets. And somewhere between cigarettes, germs and baby toes, as we examine this soul open before us, we see in ourselves the need for Beauty In Darkness.

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of this highly praised collection, email me at dawn123@mts.net. We can send it straight to you ($15 including shipping), or you can get in on the blog tour coming up, and generate traffic to your blog while getting your copy for FREE.

Okay, enough of that. Here are the 3 biggest things that helped me to become a published writer.

Writing Mentor: Many moons ago when I was still a closet writer, I happened to discover that one of my customers was a writer. She took an interest, and we arranged monthly meetings where she would critique my work. I had shown my work to family before, and received the "Atta girl" I hoped for, but it hadn’t helped me to improve my writing.

But this woman pushed me. She questioned each word, painstakingly evaluated the sound, rhythm and implication of each stanza. She taught me basic writing rules: "show, don’t tell" and "involve all 5 senses," as well as "Use short, concise sentences." She was ruthless. My writing improved dramatically.

Writers’ Club: Soon I got up the nerve to join an out-of-town writers’ club and later even co-founded a local one. The critiques received in those meetings are priceless! I am continually pushed to excel, to improve, to persevere. It’s amazing to hear each writer give their unique critique of a work. I learn so much from what others contribute – and my writing toolbox continues to grow.

It’s daunting to lay your words on the altar of another’s critical eyes. (i.e. – writers’ club critique time) One of the big lessons I learned right at the beginning was that it is the words that are critiqued, not the person. Phewf!

Deadlines: Perhaps it’s the procrastinator in me, but I work best under deadlines and pressure. My face may contort and speech become little more than distracted grunts, but I sure get writing done! Without deadlines, I tend to float around convincing myself that "I’ll get to it yet." Yeah, right. One author advocates that writing happens not by waiting on epiphany or timing, but by "applying butt to chair." Yes, yes it does. And deadlines are the glue that helps me apply butt to chair. Nice image, I know. Classy.

So those are my ‘top 3’. I’d love to hear what works for others! Maybe locking oneself in a room for 30 days until 50,000 words form a story is one of those priceless motivators…

-Kimberly Rempel


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo--What is that?

Yeah, I thought the same thing too: What kind of weird name is NaNoWriMo?

It’s weird because it stands for National Novel Writing Month. And it’s something I kept seeing a lot of my writing friends sign up for in the month of October. Did that make them as weird as the name for doing this too? Yes and no.

While I’d heard about this “contest” over the years, I wasn’t too sure about it. After all, it’s about writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Not only is that grueling, but it’s also demoralizing.

Seriously, can you image how bad the material is after 30 days of (no-holds-bar, no-looking-back without editing) writing? Pretty horrendous. But then, that’s what the month of December is for: to correct the hideous beast one might want to call a manuscript.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I think I might just dive into the month-long craziness and do it for myself too. Well, it's more than maybe, because I’ve already signed up!

Yes, I’m way too busy. Yes, it’s madness. Yes, it’s something that I might fail miserably at and not even finish. But hey, since when has that mattered before?

I know how to fail (easily the winner in my family), I’m busy anyway (yeah, kids, dog, husband, house and work just isn’t enough), and I’m a writer (I’ve already been diagnosed as mad. And it's irreversible. I mean, really, who in their right mind would write for a living?)

But, you know what? I can fail forward. I plan on learning tons this month about the writing process.

I do, however, have a couple of things to ask you to honor:

1. Don’t ask me what I’m writing about. I have no clue.

2. Don’t ask for snippets of it to dissect. Even I won’t do that to myself until Dec.

3. Forgive my absence, as blog posts become less frequent. Hopefully I’ll have lots of tasty morsels to write about when I’m done with this project.

4. Sign up like me! It’s not too late. We’ll get great practice, have great fun, and become great insane, individuals wondering what the heck we were thinking when we’re done.

I’m already a day late in starting the book that I don’t know how to write, so I better get crackin'. Happy writing to you too. This might be the best way to get that “idea” for a book out on paper. There’s nothing like now to do what you’ve always wanted!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Voting and You

For me, voting is a complete privilege and an amazing freedom. It’s also a responsibility that I think we as free (as of now) Americans have to participate in order to keep our freedom. Most of the time when I hear about government, politics or campaigning, I don’t think of my simple vote as integral to the "pushing forth" of what I want to see. Yet, how can I not think that it is? If multitudes of people feel as I do, and I know they do, then we’re missing out on making a difference if we don't vote.

However, plenty of people don’t feel this way. They’re disillusioned by the past (Nothing has changed, so why make the effort?) Some think voting is a waste of time (Hey, I’m just one vote. Big deal). But maybe that’s because they’re not passionate enough about their philosophy? Maybe they’re not passionate enough about having a voice because freedom doesn’t mean much to them anymore? Have we forgotten that we GET to have a voice here in the USA?

Even if we don’t like any of the candidates, it doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to get a great candidate for the next election through our selection right now. By not voting, we’re letting other voters choose our future for us. Even if you think that’s fine and dandy today, what happens when you finally feel you need your voice heard? That door may already be closed.

All I know is that in the past (I do absentee now), when I got to my polling place, I didn’t fear someone would bomb it. I didn’t fear that other people would shun me, come after me, hound me or shoot me, all because of how I voted. We still live in a place that allows major freedoms in our voting system. We get to vote --to choose --what we think is right for our country and not what a king dictates for us to choose as it once was for us, hundreds of years ago -- and unbelievably, still is in other parts of the world.

Your freedom to vote is a luxury. If the government isn't to your liking, or even if it is, exercise your right to make a difference in whatever way you want. Do it for your fellow Americans. And most of all, do it for your own conscience and soul.