Are there Actually Less Opportunities for Writers? by Christine Duncan

When I wrote that the magazine was dying last week, I said all of the stuff available in magazines is available on the web. What I didn’t say, is that much of it is made available for free from websites who don’t pay their contributors. In other words, we writers have a lot more competition than we used to. Competition that is willing to write for literally nothing. And I’m not talking just blogs.

Some people have always written for free. They’d volunteer to do the workplace blog or the church newsletter. Many people love writing but don’t see a way to get paid for it. Now it seems, that’s even harder.

But I’m not quitting yet.

How to choose

How do you choose what books to read? I have a tendency to stick to my tried and tested authors. I know this is limiting, so I do try to spread my reader’s wings, and try a new author every now and again.

Well, often it’s a book catching my eye as I walk into the library. They have displays near the entrance, and often I end up picking up one of those books, usually drawn by the title or the cover (or the subject matter, if it’s a themed display).

The same happens when I walk into a bookshop, and see what’s on display. However, this is not always a guarantee I’ll enjoy the book – but at least I’ve tried something new. I have discovered some cracking books like this though.

And then there’s book club. Part of the reason I joined book club was so I would read books I’d never think of reading. I have discovered some great books this way – and some awful ones.

Of course this leads on to suggestion by friends. This works too, except when we have wildly different tastes in books.

And finally, book reviews. I don’t actually read many of these, but find they can be very useful for non-fiction books. However, when it comes to fiction books, I, again, find my tastes often differ from the reviewer dramatically.

So, what do I learn from this? Well, personally, my choice of new books usually rely on what’s on display in the library or bookshop, and catches my eye. So I need a good title, a good cover, and a good friend in the local library. Well, I already have two of those….

Are Magazines Dead ? by Christine Duncan

After 131 years, Ladies Home Journal has published its last issue with its July/August 214 offering. It will be available with special issues but it will no longer be available month to month.
I think most people who own a smart phone or a computer, could see this coming. I’m not saying LHJ wasn’t a good magazine. But really what can magazines offer that you can’t get online for free. Want do it yourself ideas? Pinterest is fun. Want recipes? What kind? I need to know that before I recommend from literally thousands of sites. Fashion Advice? Celebrity Gossip? Medical Advice? It’s all online with a caveat that you should be careful where you get your info.
I have subscriptions and gave subscriptions for magazines for Christmas last year. But really, I don’t see them as being available for my grandson when he grows up. Am I wrong?
Tell me folks, is there something you can get from print media that is still not available online?
Today, I went to the Farmers Market, and spoke to someone about issues going on in our city, and she recommended Nextdoor to communicate with my neighbors. I felt just a little sense of loss, that I couldn’t literally go, well, …next door, to talk to the people on my street. But even there I felt a sense of inevitability. We’re all Borg, folks. Resistance is futile.

The Notebooks

I’m trying to organise.

The book I’m writing is the second in a series of five (first is with publishers, waiting to be picked up). Well, it’s five now. Could be more? Maybe more? It’s a vague possibility.

However, my mind won’t stop working on the next three whilst working on this. So I have a little notebook for each of the other books in the series, and when I have an idea, or a reference or a scene, I put it in the notebook. The notebooks are in the kitchen, where I’m likely to walk past them several times a day.

Sound organised so far? Good.

Now, I also have another series planned after this one. So that’s another notebook for thoughts I have about that. My mind just won’t confine itself to one set of characters at a time, let alone one book.

Okay, so four notebooks, that’s doable.

But…I want to write some short stories based around the characters in first series. Another notebook.

And sometimes I want to burst out of crime writing altogether, and write a ghost story, like I used to. Another few notebooks.

I now have a pile of notebooks a foot high. But hey, at least I’m organised!

Except for the scraps of paper with timelines and floor plans on. And the manuscript of the current book. And all the notes on my phone and iPad and back of bus tickets….

What I need isn’t just notebooks. I need a secretary with an excellent filing system.

Wait, I think I just had another idea – I’m going to need another notebook.

Writing Regularly by Christine Duncan

I have been unemployed for a while so I expected that my writing would be doing well. My expectations have not been met.
I’ve done all of the things that usually work for me. I’ve scheduled writing. That works well for writing this blog and for doing the occasional non-manuscript type work. It isn’t working for my mystery writing right now.
I’ve also tried my don’t-go-to-bed-without-writing-a-page trick. I’ve fallen asleep holding a pen.
I’ve made some excuses for myself. My daughter was getting married and my middle son had given me a beautiful grandchild who I babysit as often as possible and yes, I have been looking for work, and picking up the occasional temp job. But I need to get back to writing with more regularity.
So then I had a thought. My writing buddy moved to Florida a while back and our old critique group disintegrated as another woman moved to California and a third died.
I write better when I’m in critique. I just won’t show up to critique without something new for them to look at.
But I don’t want to go through the hassle of finding a new group.
So I’m wondering how crazy is it to Skype a critique? I think I may be about to approach my buddy in Florida and see what she thinks.

Becoming Them

Finding it difficult to get into the head of a character? Here’s an exercise I learnt whilst acting – it transfers nicely to writing too.

So, sit down and think about your character. Think about what they look like, how they sit, how they breathe, how they dress. Coat or no coat? Smile or frown?

Then, once you are inside this character, go outside and walk down the street as this character. Think about where they’d go, what they’d do. Coffee or tea or drink? Will they buy lunch? What will they buy for lunch? Will they say hello to strangers or scowl? How do they walk? Do they limp or stride out? What annoys them? What do they like? Will they hand around the bookshop or the clothes shops?

It pays off. After a while you realise that perhaps their way of hunching over gives them backache, or their habit of talking to strangers at bus stops leads to all kinds of stories. You understand this character far more completely than you were just thinking about them. And once you have these little details sorted out, it’s much easier to get the big, important details done.

Are Writers Arrogant? by Christine Duncan

I’ve spent a bit of time on this blog coming up with characteristics of writers. I’ve thought of a few more.
Writers tend to post those lists on Facebook on the most misused words. You know the lists: You’re vs Your, Two, Too, To, Mute vs Moot. We might not make up the lists, but boy, do we post them.
We’re also the people biting our tongues (or not and then sounding like a know-it-all) when someone says something grammatically incorrect. Not many people take well to correction, so I tend to try to not say anything, unless, of course, the person is a repeat offender. Sigh, so maybe I am a know-it-all.
When other people go to a movie, they tend to talk about the special effects, or perhaps quote a line from the movie. Writers come out of the movie talking about the writing. As in,”I’d like to rewrite that ending. I think he could have tied it up better.” or “I didn’t buy Sandra Bullock’s character in Gravity. Anyone who made it to NASA would be gutsy in the first place.”
Hmm, it sounds like all of these qualities might come across as a bit arrogant. Writers aren’t like that though, are we?