The world of books and writing inspired by the ocean

Graham’s Blog page

Maintaining This Blog Page

From now on, I will hopefully be maintaining this blog page. Hopefully, but that depends on time. This website is a one-person operation, and time is not always available as much as I would like it to be. I mean, if you had an option to cycle to a headland and watch the whales go by as you had your lunch or a cup of tea or two, which would be your priority? Or if you wanted to sit on a beach and write your next book, again, I ask, which would be your priority. Or even if you wanted to ride your new bike instead, I ask the same question.

So, if the blog is not maintained on a regular manner, please excuse my casualness.

But I do welcome guest bloggers to this site. So, there’s an invitation for you to contribute to this site, so go for it and I will certainly consider your contribution. Anything well-written and related to writing, creativity, books, book publishing will always be welcome. With many thanks, I look forward to receiving heaps and heaps of useful blogs from now on. But please note - contributions about adult themes or drugs will not constitute appropriate content to this site, and such articles will be ignored. Thanks, Graham

What's writing all about?

“If creativity is one of our life purposes, something we believe in because we believe in ourselves, then it is physically and mentally good for us to create something unique. All original writing is unique. Does the end result of your writing make you happy? Then writing must be worthwhile - at least to you.”

Being More Productive

If we start thinking about all factors that influence a writer's success, their list would be long by all means:

* literacy;

* reading;

* following the experience of other popular writers;

* learning writing tips and tricks from experts;

* good imagination;

* motivation;

* desire to share thoughts with others;

* inspiration sources to come up with great ideas;

* ... and so on, and so forth.

And what about writing habits? Do they influence our writings? If we take a look at some famous authors, such as Ernest Hemingway or Virginia Woolf for example, we'll notice all of them had some habits that helped them deal with writing process and come up with great books we all read and love today. They wrote, lying on a sofa, they wrote, drinking tea, they practiced night and morning writings, they had cats and dogs to inspire them to write... To make a long story short, just take a look at the the lives of some writers to find out what habits your favourite writer had, and read some thoughts behind these habits to understand their motivation.

Who knows, maybe this information will help you explain your own writing habits and understand how your custom to chew coffee beans (like Honore de Balzac did) can influence your productivity.

Getting Ideas For Your Writing

Most writers, when they begin, find this part the most difficult for showing any reasonable progress. It sounds easy, but often it is not. So we will get a lot of the essential hard work over early.

Few writers can sit at a computer and say, ‘I am going to write an article ... let me see ... I’ll write one about ...’ Yet, with concentration, you will be surprised at how many potential ideas you have, how many points of view about each subject you can think of, and just what else you would like to write about and ideas you can share with your readers.

Ideas for potential articles are all around you. Examples include a profile of the life of a retired radio presenter, bringing up a difficult child, unusual work practices you know of that may be valuable to others, an interesting lifestyle you know of, interesting work or an unusual hobby, perhaps something for the home or a craft item you have created.

You might have worked on a farm. You will have lots of ideas from that—anything that is going to make a farmer’s life easier will be appreciated. Farming magazines would be receptive to good ideas in this regard. Topics could be time management on the farm, the benefits of share farming, to spray or not to spray (an interesting one because of the stupid laws regarding what is an approved spray and what isn’t). Some magazines cater for the city farmers, many of whom are looking for good ideas and new methods that lifetime farmers take for granted. You could also look at innovations in farming.

Anxiety and depression are widely suffered in many communities, but few people realise the full significance of what this means to others. A general view of what it means to suffer from depression, how it holds the person back, how, like many other illnesses of this type, it alienates the sufferer from work, friends and family, would make interesting reading. A possible market for this type of article could be something like a ‘this is what it’s like’ story.

Other angles could include ‘how effective is modern treatment for this type of illness?’ ‘Are there miracle cures for depression?’ ‘Will there be breakthroughs in the near future?’ ‘What’s it like to require and depend on medication for long periods?’ ‘How do you get back into society?’ (include a variety of viewpoints here).

An interesting article could be how treatment for this type of condition has improved (or not improved despite improvements in other areas of health). For some of these angles, Saturday supplements of newspapers could be worth exploring (writing for these supplements would be the same as writing magazine articles). And what about one from a personal viewpoint about the ‘five-star’ accommodation at the hospitals?

Health and fitness: an article on quitting smoking could be humorous. You could also dwell on the belief and determination aspects, and bring that into this topic as well. The idea of relaxation is good, and important. List some of the benefits that relaxation can achieve, both in its own right, and as an adjunct to other personal goals, such as using relaxation coupled with creative visualisation to achieve personal development, to feel better and to handle anxiety and even relationships better.

You might have enjoyed public speaking during your working life. The public speaking idea would be appropriate in magazines such as those catering for personal development and management (often managers give dreadful presentations, so anything that would appeal to managers would appeal to editors of those magazines). A ‘believe in what you say’ angle is appropriate, but could I suggest that you tell readers that ‘if you don’t believe in what you say, who else is going to believe you?’ How to give a dynamic presentation, how to overcome nervousness, how to feel good about giving a presentation, or public speaking. How to ... The list just goes on and on.

In addition to these subjects, you also have potential subjects you might not be aware of.

The door to door experience you had as a salesman could be good for at least two articles—one possibly humorous article about some of the questions and the expectations of your prospective customers. One of the in-flight airline magazines might like the humorous one on this topic. But other angles could include ‘how I increased my sales quota’ (a self-imposed quota, as in setting goals), what does it take to get started as a salesperson (suitable for magazines catering for those seeking opportunities). This could also be brought into an article written for those who are setting up their own business—what do they need to know about selling before they go into business?

Your résumé might have gaps in it. Ask around, and write an article on how people fill gaps in their work history. This could be a very humorous story, and would be suitable for magazines on management (telling managers how applicants fudge their data), and another article from the perspective of applicants who come up with some rather unusual stories to overcome gaps in their work histories.

Listen for ideas, in conversation, in the news, on television, in magazines, in fact almost everywhere. Keep a notebook and write down all the things that you may want to write about. Your notebook stores perceptions, ideas, emotions, actions—all these provide material for articles. A notebook also gives you a little more experience in writing each day, providing you try to write your notebook up well.

An idea is merely the starting place for an article. The next step is to develop that idea, explore the idea, looking for ways to develop it. Everyone has plenty to write about.

It’s often far more interesting writing about several completely different topics rather than concentrating on one rather narrow field. Other writers prefer to concentrate on one, maybe two topics they know well. If you know your subjects well, you can write the articles faster than if you must spend much of your potential writing time researching each topic.

Don’t hang on the one theme that every other writer has chosen, such as AIDS or domestic violence. These themes have been written into the grave already. If you need to write about them, you must take a fresh angle. New information you are able to provide, or new ideas you have, could make the article more interesting, or appeal to new readers.

Be prepared to take an opposite view where appropriate, such as how dangerous the natural world is, with its naturally occurring toxins and deadly plant chemicals, and arsenic, asbestos, silica and diatamaceous earths. Remember that you have plenty to write about!

Finding Time For creativity

People ask how we make time for our creative activities. Easy!

On one day each week, I go for a long walk (around seven hours) either through the forest, or along a long, deserted beach. And on one day each week, I cycle for seven to ten hours either along the coast, or through the forest to a beach. While I am walking or cycling, my mind is active, creating ideas, developing them, and putting the words into order. And because I am out there, thoroughly enjoying myself, the words process themselves, and all I have to do is type them up each morning. To give you an example, I have just revised a manuscript of 125,000. Apart from the first two chapters that I had to combine, the rest of the manuscript needed just tidying up - numerous typos (must learn to type one day!!!), deleting the odd sentence or phrase.

I get up at first light (currently around 5.00 AM), and after learning some French, I spend two hours writing. So I have written 2000 words of my manuscript before 8.00 AM each morning. I am freshest at that time of day, and my writing doesn't encroach on other activities. Can you imagine the equivalent of two working days each week, at my brightest time, just writing?

I never watch news and current affairs (can't stand them). That frees up one hour each day, or one working day each week. And I seldom watch TV, so that frees up another two hours each evening, or 14 hours a week, equivalent to two full working days each week. I spend the three hours each evening learning to draw so I can illustrate my work. Can you imaging having the equivalent of three full days a week, just drawing?

So that's two days each week for writing, three days each week for drawing and art. I still have another five days left!

Be the Writer You Have Always Wanted To Be

That’s really what makes a good writer. A good writer will never give up. He or she will never take no from a publisher or an editor. A good writer will disregard all the trivial criticism from those who can’t write and will move ahead anyway in the direction of their dreams. So go for it. Become the writer you have always wanted to be.

The Idea of Being Creative

If creativity is one of our life purposes, something we believe in because we believe in ourselves, then it is physically and mentally good for us to create something unique. All original writing is unique. Does the end result of your writing make you happy? Then writing must be worthwhile - at least to you.

Go To Paris To Write

Paris is a magical city in more ways than one, especially for writers. Read Dr Eric Mausell's beaut little book A Writer's Paris. He gives writers suggestions of many places they can go in Paris to write their book ... to the cafes to have a coffee and a croissant, to the parks, anywhere where you can sit for a couple of hours and put a couple of thousand words into your tablet or notebook.

Writing Clearly

A good (as in a well-written) article will appeal to a wide readership. Good writing is work that is accessible to all interested readers. Readers should be able to grasp its message the first time, without suffering laborious pains as they re-read many sentences  to see what the message is about.

Find Your Right Place For Writing

And because I am out there thoroughly enjoying myself, the words come with such enthusiasm, and with the right amount of colour, and the right amount of expression to make them meaningful and interesting.

Clever Writing

Clever writing is not text that confounds even the experts. Clever writing is text that is easily accessible to any intended reader. If your intended reader cannot understand your paper, there is nothing smart about what you have written.

Becoming a Good Writer

A good writer develops from that first wish you might have had - that you wanted to become a writer. You will have chosen this option above all else, in preference to anything else you could have chosen. You really wanted to become a writer, and so you shall. 

I once attended a writers workshop where the guest speaker for the evening was someone who was in the Guinness Book of Records. But while we did not envy his fame, we did all admire his tenacity. His name was Alan Gold, and he was included in the Book of Records as being the least successful writer. At the time, his manuscript had been rejected sixty-two times. He had earned fifty cents from his writing - he had sold a couple of pages of photocopying he had made for someone. 

At the workshop, he gave each of us a copy of his book that he had had rejected so many times (he ended up self-publishing the book himself). 

I never throw out books - I love them too much. But that book gave me a warm feeling. I used it to light the fire after I had read the first few pages. It was unreadable. 

Quite a few years later, I was staying in the city where I first learnt about Alan Gold. I overheard someone talking enthusiastically about writing, the merits of writing, what it takes to become a writer. The person I was listening to behind me was Alan Gold, who was talking to several others about his chosen way of life.

Alan Gold, despite his failure, despite his record number of rejections for the one manuscript, had that one quality that will make anyone a writer. He never gave up on what he wanted to become. 

The same will apply to anyone else who wants to become a writer. If they never, never, never give up, there is a good chance that they will become writers. 

Writing is about that magical ingredient in life—personal achievement. It’s what you want to get out of the process of putting words together to make a meaningful piece of writing, whether that writing is a blog for a website, a short story, a novel or any other genre of writing. This one magic ingredient will be in all writing, writing by successful writers. 

Good writers have much passion for what they want to achieve in life. Pursuing their passion of writing makes good sense. For some writers, passion means being naturally talented or skilled at something they want to do. Without passion, writing is just another job, and I am sure many of us are aware of how we feel about just another job - especially one that doesn't pay too well.

Passion is that ingredient in the whole writing process that makes us lose our sense of time and place and self. It's that magic ingredient that makes us forget about everything else that we would normally feel guilty about not doing. When you begin writing, you necessarily become good at it. Skill is something you acquire over time, and with with tonnes and tonnes of practice.

Writing is not easy. It never way. It never will be. Good writing comes with difficulty to nearly all writers. Be patient in your undertakings. Be prepared to re-work your writing as often as you need to. Be prepared to spend a lot of time getting your story or your text just the way you wanted it, easy to read, meaningful, so it brings some amusement, enjoyment or impact to your reader - whatever impact you had intended for your words to achieve. Not all are so gifted they can write one draft, send it to the publisher and get by return mail a publishing contract. It seldom works that way, although there might be one or two who are so gifted. If only! I am sure we would all turn into very good writers. 

That doesn’t mean that you can’t continually improve your craft. Write as often as you can. Write from the heart. Write it as you feel inspired. When the urge to put those words onto your computer or your tablet overwhelms you, that's the time to make a meaningful impact on your journey to becoming the writer you have always wanted to be. But just put the words down ... anywhere for now. If it's not convenient to include them in your computer at the time, at least put them down somewhere ... anywhere ... perhaps in that writers notebook you have got into the habit of carrying everywhere with you - so you don't lose them. Tidy them up later. What they look like, what they sound like doesn't matter at first. It's what you do with those words later on that is so important.

If you strive for improvement, you will achieve just that. Even if you aim for small, incremental improvements to your writing each time you write, just imagine how much those small enhancements amount to over a year or two. The more you write, the better you will be. The more you improve on your previous attempts, the better you will become. The better you become, the more successful you will be as a writer.

Maybe you will ask yourself a silly question - the question of whether what you are writing really matters. If you are not sure, you will always have doubts. Is that short story, the article, the play, the novel, the romance, really worth the trouble, or are you going to ask if it is even worthwhile? Does the world really need another short story Why should you be the one to bother with it, considering the amount of time it is going to take you to write it?

Can you imagine the world if every writer, every artist, every actor, asked themselves the same question - is it worth my time doing this? We would not have had the great literature handed down to us from those great writers of the past - Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Shakespeare, Yeats and the other great poets whose work is still read and admired and appreciated today.

There is only meaning to everything we do if we we make it meaningful to us. If it is meaningful to us, then surely it must become meaningful to at least some other people of this world? We make our own meaning by seizing meaningful opportunities. For a creative person, creating is one of those meaning opportunities.

Why shouldn't we make ourselves proud when we turn to the creative projects we say that we want to tackle? Making ourselves proud is what we are actually after in life, to achieve what we set out to achieve.

Writing, according to some authors, is a spiritual process - one where nothing else interests us more. Creating , as hard as it is, also provide us with joy and happiness. But, given how hard so many people are finding it to stick with their creativity, it is amazing that the world has so many writers, and so many excellent authors.

If creativity is one of our life purposes, something we believe in because we believe in ourselves, then it is physically and mentally good for us to create something unique. All original writing is unique. Does the end result of your writing make you happy? Then writing must be worthwhile - at least to you.

All good writers have one thing in common. They believe in themselves. It’s what they want to do, usually above all else. And they won’t accept anything less than their goal. Think of Alan Gold. He never gave up. It's not your role in life to give up either.

That’s really what makes a good writer. A good writer will never give up. He or she will never take no from a publisher or an editor. A good writer will disregard all the trivial criticism from those who can't write and will move ahead anyway in the direction of their dreams. So go for it. Become the writer you have always wanted to be.

This piece was taken from my new book to be released shortly Becoming The Writer You Have Always Wanted To Be, to be published by Flairnet.

What Constitutes a Good Writer?

Always be interested in writing (you will write much better) and be very interested in what you are writing about. Consider whether it is really worth the $100 or so for those hours (or days) of uninspiring boredom while you write something that does not interest you. Few people have the personal resources to excel at something that is of little or no interest or stimulation to them. So make sure you write for enjoyment, not for endurance. Writing because you have to, not because you want to, simply won't work.

Where can you write? One of the best aspects of writing is that much of the planning and development work can be done anywhere, such as on the beach, while walking, bushwalking or golfing. Ideas will come to you at these times. Writing these days can be done almost anywhere - sitting on the beach with your little tablet, in a park, and, as so many writers are doing these days, sitting in a cafe having a coffee and a crossoint! Isn't that a life to aspire to?

Keep a writers notebook with you at all times so you can write down any ideas - even phrases - that come to you during your activities. Keep it accessible even while you are writing an article. Soon the notebook will contain ideas that could be used in the current article, or ideas that could be developed in the future.

So what constitutes a good writer? A successful one? The answer is, simply, one who achieves his or her goal and sees their work published. Tenacity, never taking no from editors, but being ever critical of their work contributes to a writer’s success.

As a writer, always aim to make the next article better than the last one you wrote. Even with only a slight improvement each time, your style of writing will improve markedly. Look back after a while to check your progress. If you think your first few were terrible, perhaps you may even be embarrassed by reading them, then you truly have made progress. And this will show that you can judge your own work more critically after your have gained experience and confidence.

What constitutes a publishable article? Just because it is returned from editors, does it mean that it is unpublishable? No, it certainly does not. Look for a more suitable market, or a better time to submit it.

What is the best time to submit articles? Cynically, it is easy to say just before the topic you have chosen has become popular, so that you can get your article published ahead of the others that will be submitted to editors. In reality, keep looking for possible themes in life, themes in government, trends, social issues. Try to keep at least even with them. But this does not mean that you could not be experimental in your writing.

The Role Of Editor In the Publishing Process

One of the important ingredients in the whole writing process is to write well so you impress the editor. It is the editor of any magazine or journal who decides whether to publish your article or not, and as I mentioned in a previous item on this blog, whether the editor wants to pay you for your contribution, and, if so, how much.

So let's look at the role of the editor in the whole publishing process.

The editor

What does an editor want? You can judge this to a greater or lesser degree by reading a range of articles the editor has published. Does the editor want variety for the readers? Do all articles read more or less the same, in style, length and subject? Then satisfy the editor’s needs and, through that person, your readers. Editors of particular magazines know their readers. Surveys are carried out from time to time to determine a reader profile—what is his occupation, how much does he earn, does he have a family, own a washing machine, how many television sets, when did he last go on holidays, or overseas? While some of these surveys are carried out for advertising purposes, they also give a clear profile of who the readers are, what they like, what their interests are, and so on. Often surveys will be conducted by a magazine, and a form included with a particular issue. If you receive one, complete it—it will help the editor, and through him, the writers, to tailor articles to more popular types of writing and subjects.

To a writer, the editor is just as important as the reader—you must first of all convince the editor of the soundness of your idea, convince him of your ability to write about the subject you propose, and that you are indeed the ideal person to write the article for his magazine.

But never forget that the editor is human. Many writers hold the editor up as some mysterious figure who is unapproachable, one who only says no to the material they write. The editor, like yourself, has feelings, has emotions, and gets rather annoyed when a writer contributes material that is quite unsuitable for that particular publication. But wouldn’t we all feel that way if we were inundated with inappropriate time-wasting material that we have to read through and consider? I am sure we would.

An editor’s role is to select, from the vast array of articles and submissions received, those that are most appropriate to the magazine. He will probably ask himself, ‘Have my readers read enough about this?’ ‘What’s new in this article?’ ‘Is it well written?’ ‘Would my readers like to read this?’ ‘How will they react to it?’ In other words, ‘is this what my readers would like to read?’ ‘Is it suitable?’ ‘Is it accurate?’ ‘Would it require a lot of my time if I were to accept it for publication?’

Plan your work well ahead to meet editors’ deadlines, but never expect your article to be published in the next issue of any magazine. It might be. But often editors plan several issues ahead, which could mean a delay of several months before you see your work in print.

Why Do You Want to Write?

While I was writing my next book - Become the Writer You Have Always Wanted To Be, I considered the question - Why do people write? Why do they want to become writers?

I think writing is many things to many people.

Let us now look at the main ingredients of writing.

What is writing? It is the sharing of information, experiences and knowledge, with others. There are different ways of writing well. Good writing is recognisable. So is bad writing. But what is the difference?

So why do people write? Some do it for relaxation and for enjoyment. Writing is your voice to say what you think, how you feel, or simply to instruct, inform, amuse or entertain your readers.

Your opinions are an important part of the subject. You can write about how you see something, how you feel about it, or understand it. Your personality gives interest to your writing. People enjoy sharing feelings.

Interest lies not so much in the topic as in what you have done with that topic. An interesting subject can be made boring by bad writing, whereas an otherwise ordinary subject can have life breathed into it by good writing.

Purpose means the effect you want to have on your readers. While all these points may enter a particular piece of writing, one will usually predominate and determine the basic strategy of the writing. Whether it succeeds or fails will depend on how much thought you have given to your readers.

The purpose of writing is to convey information, but your primary duty as a writer is to convey that information in such a way that it is easily understood by all your readers. A magazine article, however, is no place to air grievances or to complain, but in the right context, this attitude can be acceptable. But plan on that attitude later in your writing career!

Financial rewards from writing can be determined by how much time you’re prepared to contribute to your projects. Payments for articles are influenced by a number of factors—the sales of a magazine, the print run, the income received from advertising. Payment to you, the writer, can be reduced if the editor has to spend a lot of time reworking your article. Payment could be more if your article is good enough to be published with little or no editing. Payments for a typical article that includes three or four photographs could fetch about $300 or more. Some writers receive much more than this, while others receive a lot less for their efforts. Occasionally articles attract no payment from some magazines.

Have You a Question About Writing?

Graham Andrews is the author of a number of books, including several books about writing. He loves writing, and working with writers. If you have any questions about your own writing or publishing, contact Graham by email and see how he is able to help you. Graham offers this free service without obligation. Contact Graham through the normal means - see 'Contact Us' page for details.

Write what inspires you - you will be much better at writing if you follow this rule.