Tag: writers toolbox

Author’s note: This post was first published November 3rd, 2010.  It looks like Sarah is on blog hiatus.  Still, feel free to comment.  As I am busy climbing a mountain now, I’ll respond to all comments when I return.  Thanks!

Sarah over at The Wit and Wisdom of Another Sarah (you should go check out her place if you haven’t already!) had a great post last week about Alfred Hitchcock–and his various projects and cameos.

We as writers are no strangers to the advice: “Do something different!”  We hear it everywhere from writing how-to books to forums to blog posts to writing conferences.  Originality is a pretty key element of good fiction, and arguably–although in film rather than fiction–Hitchcock was the master at finding original approaches to familiar story elements.

Here are a few examples:

**In Psycho, he kills off the main character halfway through the film, something never done before.  The genius is, of course, that this is the last thing the audience suspects, so the rest of the film feels untethered and eerie–the very effect Hitchcock was no doubt going for.

**North By Northwest upped the stakes when Hitchcock turns what could have been a run-of-the-mill chase scene into something truly memorable by substituting a biplane for a car.  Those scenes where Cary Grant runs across the flat Illinois scree being buzzed by a crazed pilot in a Stearman biplane are downright iconic–and tremendously dramatic too.  The chase scene across Mount Rushmore at the end of the movie is equally memorable.  Reinventing the usual movie chase scene by changing one element to something unexpected, he raised the tension and drama to the next level.

**Lastly, The Birds set the standard for transmogrifying an ordinary element in the everyday world into a truly terrifying phenomenon–long before Stephen King and his ilk picked up that baton.  Who’da thunk it, that someone could take the most ordinary everyday creature and turn them into a terrifying plague?  Hitchcock, that’s who.

Yeah, Hitchcock had the mojo when it came to flipping assumptions on their heads, and there’s a lesson for us all.  The next time you’re working on a scene and it feels unoriginal or flat–a problem that comes up often as I plug away at my NaNo project–ask yourself: “What Would Alfred Hitchcock Do?”  You may be surprised with the results.

What about you?  Do you have any similar tools that help you keep your fiction fresh and interesting?

These days, managing information is a real challenge, especially when the goal is to understand the latest fiction and publishing trends, and also avail oneself of the best how to articles on a veritable cornucopia of writing related topics.

So, I was happy as a clam to read Helen Ginger’s recent post highlighting a new tool that I think every writer should have in their toolbox: The Writer’s Knowledge Base.

The WKB is a search engine for writers, pure and simple.  It was developed by Elizabeth Span Craig and a fellow software engineer to help organize much of the information she’s mined from the interwebs.

And the results are nothing short of stunning.  As a way to test it, I entered a flurry of different search terms.  Each search generated a nice list of related posts.  It wasn’t long before I realized I could be digging around in the tool for days if I wasn’t careful, unearthing tons of great information.

I’ve certainly added it to my toolbox–and to my sidebar!–and will use it in the future.  Go take a look around and tell us what you think.

I think setting goals and staying passionate and motivated is a huge part of being a successful writer.  We can have all the talent in the world, but without the stick-to-it-iveness to sit down on a regular basis–preferably every day–and actually pound out those words, especially when we don’t feel passionate or motivated, we’ll never reach our true potential.

Despite the importance I put on this idea, I still struggle with staying disciplined and sticking with it.  Sometimes I blow off writing.  Sometimes I decide to do something else–procrastinate!–like play a video game or watch the television.  I know it’s not what I should do or need to do or even what I want to do, but I do it anyway, and ignore the nagging voices in the back of my head saying I’m letting myself down.

There are no easy answers to this problem.  The cure to “not writing” is to “write”, as often and as much as possible.  But it is also easy to let days and weeks slip by and not be honest with myself about how little I’ve actually done.

So, to address this troubling dilemma and find a way to stay on target, like many of you, I occasionally identify goals and then measure my performance accordingly.  Publicly stating my goals works well because either I’ll show you all what I’m really made of, or I get to stand here and admit my embarrassment. 

I’ve said it before: fear of failure is a huge motivator for me, but I’ve found over the years that the way to make the fear real is to ensure there are witnesses.  Making the possibility of failure public helps me succeed.  Sounds twisted, but it works for me!

So without further adieu, here are my writing goals for 2011:

  • One hundred WSMG posts
  • Ten draft short stories
  • Five short stories ready for critique
  • Three shorts submitted for publication
  • One short story published
  • DAISY ready to query
  • First 50k words of SHOOTER NUMBER ONE (my next novel idea) completed/Win NaNo 2011
  • Start Twitter account
  • Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya
  • Read a ton of good fiction
  • Support my fellow writers

Obviously this list is pretty ambitious, but I guess I’ve always been a “go big or go home” kinda guy.  Call me crazy.  Anyone got any pointers on getting a Twitter account set up?

Sarah over at The Wit and Wisdom of Another Sarah (you should go check out her place if you haven’t already!) had a great post last week about Alfred Hitchcock–and his various projects and cameos.

We as writers are no strangers to the advice: “Do something different!”  We hear it everywhere from writing how-to books to forums to blog posts to writing conferences.  Originality is a pretty key element of good fiction, and arguably–although in film rather than fiction–Hitchcock was the master at finding original approaches to familiar story elements.

Here are a few examples:

**In Psycho, he kills off the main character halfway through the film, something never done before.  The genius is, of course, that this is the last thing the audience suspects, so the rest of the film feels untethered and eerie–the very effect Hitchcock was no doubt going for.

**North By Northwest upped the stakes when Hitchcock turns what could have been a run-of-the-mill chase scene into something truly memorable by substituting a biplane for a car.  Those scenes where Cary Grant runs across the flat Illinois scree being buzzed by a crazed pilot in a Stearman biplane are downright iconic–and tremendously dramatic too.  The chase scene across Mount Rushmore at the end of the movie is equally memorable.  Reinventing the usual movie chase scene by changing one element to something unexpected, he raised the tension and drama to the next level.

**Lastly, The Birds set the standard for transmogrifying an ordinary element in the everyday world into a truly terrifying phenomenon–long before Stephen King and his ilk picked up that baton.  Who’da thunk it, that someone could take the most ordinary everyday creature and turn them into a terrifying plague?  Hitchcock, that’s who.

Yeah, Hitchcock had the mojo when it came to flipping assumptions on their heads, and there’s a lesson for us all.  The next time you’re working on a scene and it feels unoriginal or flat–a problem that comes up often as I plug away at my NaNo project–ask yourself: “What Would Alfred Hitchcock Do?”  You may be surprised with the results.

What about you?  Do you have any similar tools that help you keep your fiction fresh and interesting?