Sunday, January 23, 2011

Random Recommendation: An Occurrence at Owl Creek

Do you love to read stories with twist endings?  Do you strive to write compelling and memorable stories?

If so, then read the story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek" written in 1890 by Ambrose Bierce.  Simply put, it is an amazing story.  For its time, it was truly ground breaking.  Movies, such as American Beauty (1999), owe Bierce a debt of gratitude for paving the way.

You can read this masterpiece online here.

If you haven't read it before, I encourage you to do so.  Even if you have, read it again...I give it a giant Thumbs Up!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Don't Overthink It!

In 2006, the World Cube Association eliminated the "No Inspection" event for the Rubik's Cube(For those of you who don't know, the WCA is thee governing body for twisty puzzle competitions.)

Every competitor was now allotted 15 seconds to pick up the cube to study it prior to their solve attempt.  This gave them time to plan and predict their moves ahead of time...before they started.  Some speedcubers objected to this pre-solve inspection time.  They even tracked their own unofficial "No Inspection" records online.  Don't get me wrong.  A well thought out plan can build confidence and make the execution stage go more smoothly. 

But for writers, you can sometimes overthink your story.  Too much time spent plotting out your story can stifle your flexibility and creativity crafting your piece.  It can even lead to writer's block if you're planning more than you're writing.

Sure, there are benefits to planning out structure, plot, setting, and or characters. I've done this before and it's like using a grocery list. Check off the items as you march down the aisles so you can get home to cook dinner.  Doing this can save time.  It can mean less revisions later. In fact, in my earlier post, "Are You Afraid of Process," I talk about the benefits of process applied to writing.  Instead, make it an adventure.  Jump in and start to write.  Do a cannonball into the pool.  You will have much more freedom to explore your story if you simply jump in.  And what better way than to start in the middle?

One trick you should try is called "in medias res," which is Latin for into the middle of things.  The premise is to start with the action before really establishing the setting, plot, or characters.  You just might find out that your pink bunny character fired the shotgun for a much better reason than you had originally planned.

In any case, don't overthink it.  Give yourself permission to explore.  Start writing and see where it takes you.  You just might surprise yourself.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  It's 2011.  Time for New Year's Resolutions.

If you're like me, then you might set a goal at the beginning of the year and then before too long, that goal seems like a distant memory.  Diets are blown.  Exercise programs get dusty.  What was once an ambitious, yet achievable goal now seems like an impossible dream suited only for superhumans.

I'm certainly not superhuman, but I did achieve one goal:  I can now solve the Rubik's Cube blindfolded.  I don't say this to brag.  I say this because it can be is possible.

I don't worry about how fast I can do it or how elegant I look doing fact, I look pretty ridiculous wearing a blindfold holding a Rubik's Cube.  It wasn't easy to figure out and it took a lot of practice.  But now I can do it routinely.  The point is, I set a goal and didn't get distracted by all of the other details that only serve as fertilizer for excuses.  Always keep the end goal in mind.

I struggle with this as a writer.  Just write.  Write the story.  Get the draft done.  Get to the end goal.  Don't worry if it's perfect or won't be.  I need to blindfold and gag my inner critic for a while and get writing.  Things will be missing and need to be fixed, but that's part of the process.  These are all distractions that sometimes paralyze me and keep me from my end goal...the story.  So, I resolve to write more freely in 2011.

What is your Resolution this year?