Current Announcement

Stuff always being prepped in the background.

Lots of stuff has happened in the last few years. And some of the older posts need maintenance. A buffer of entries is being developed.

In the process of updating tons of parts of my website, shops and web presence.

Tons planned for this year including splitting some topics into separate blogs.
See the Announcements page for a bit more info.

May 22, 2015

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Major Options for a Fiction Writer

For the 1st time ever I felt compelled to respond to a question on Yahoo Answers. That is the question was interesting enough and I had relevant advice to mention. The question was from someone who wanted to be a fiction writer who was asking advice on what she should major in in college, her aunt recommended Journalism which she’s not at all keen on and she’s thinking of going for a creative writing major. It sounds as though she’s serious about being a fiction writer and she mentions developing her writing skills as the key factor behind the urge to attend college. [view the question & other answers submitted]

The answer I submitted:

If you despise journalism do not under any circumstances study it as your major, you will only grow to hate it more as time passes. No offense to your knowledgeable aunt, but you are the one who would have to deal with the consequences of majoring in something you despise. I too loathe journalism, I took a journalism class once due to late registration, and will never be into doing that type of writing. Though I have nothing against doing a few interviews for my blog.

Some thoughts on how best to approach your dilemma:
* If you truly want to excel as a fiction writer, you may be better off not majoring in anything specifically writing related.
* College is very expensive. As far as majors go, creative writing is a not a particularly functional degree. 
* If you need to earn a living on a day to day basis and do not have the luxury of waiting for your writing to find it's place amongst the stars: you need more marketable skills (a more marketable degree) that will BOTH enhance your fictional writing goals and interests & be easy to use for a day job. The day job will likely be necessary for quite awhile while further honing your writing skills, completing your initial fictional novels (assuming novels will be your main format), and more to cover basic needs and bills.
* English & Writing classes have a tendency to attempt to systematically destroy all things a fiction writer loves, especially when taken on as a major.
* I also hear you can't do much with an English major; except maybe become an English or writing teacher. Though additional teaching certification is typically required. Perhaps being a creative writing teacher might be the way to pay the bills, perhaps major in teaching (or major in whatever is the most applicable relevant major for becoming a writing teacher is) and minor in creative writing. All while using your down-time and summer vacations to pursue a fiction writing career, it could be a good way to go. The discomfort of dealing with people would be offset by teaching the awesome creative writing classes. I personally found my semester long creative writing class in high school beyond beneficial.
* Buy books on writing, grammar, punctuation, techniques and so on. Read them and explore the methods and exercises within them on your own. Explore any facet of fictional writing that peeks your interest. Take notes about what you like and dislike while studying said books.
* While reading fiction pay close attention to the wordplay in the story and the ways in which the story is crafted and held together. Know what you like and what you dislike in the way the author told the story and strive to keep your own tastes in mind as you write your own stories. This is something no degree can offer and no teacher can teach you, yet it is extremely important to developing your skills as a writer.
* Take a creative writing class as an elective. And/ or add a creative writing correspondence course from a reputable source (check with the Better Business Bureau while selecting your correspondence school). And/ or try taking a creative writing class at a community college or via your local community center, or some such thing.
* The major that I think could be most beneficial in your situation- business. All the better to market your writing & manage your fictional writing career, and useful in numerous day job type fields, it has the added bonus of being a day job choice that will not overly deplete the creative juices you will need to pour into your fictional writing work.
* Also, psychology is a great minor for someone who is very interested in writing fiction. Knowing the psychological angles could really enhance your fiction writing so long as you avoid writing stuff that sounds pulled from some psych 101 tome. Additionally, it would compliment a business major. If you don't like dealing with people I would not opt to make the psychology your major. Though realistically, a psychologist is dealing with far less people on a regular basis than say a cashier at a grocery store and in a much more controlled environment too, not that I'd ever recommend psychologist as a day job for a fictional writer type. At the very least whatever minor you choose should be something that can enhance your writing.
* You might consider minoring in creative writing and choosing a more widely marketable skill for your major, in a field that will enhance your writing career.
* Join a creative writing support group or something similar.
* You might consider postponing college a bit longer or skipping it entirely, until after you have tried out many of the other less expensive things I have mentioned. If after trying those out creative writing is still your passion, then consider whether or not you want to go to college for it. A college degree really isn't necessary to be a fiction writer. If something in which a degree would be worth the money you'll spend on it sparks your interest later on down the road consider it then for that.
* According to Sherrilyn Kenyon, NY Times best selling author, paranormal romance, in an interview I saw awhile back (as well as other random writers and people in the publishing field) - there is more money in non-fiction. So be sure to learn those skills as well. Who knows you may enjoy doing something like writing non-fiction e-books to supplement your income, possibly even someday you might find yourself writing non-fiction books about fiction writing techniques.
* If the only reason you're are planning to go to college is to hone your writing skills then I'd recommend not going for any degree at this time. You'll hone them more by habitually writing, and perhaps auditing a couple of relevant classes, and many of the other things I've mentioned.

* I read the first page of the writing sample you included. I might read more later if I have time. I would say that you have solid grasp of many key writing fundamentals. Though you could use a bit more study of proper use of punctuation. In many instances the way you used punctuation I found distracted me and pulled me out of the story. Your punctuation became less distracting as I went down the page- illustrating nicely the principal that to write well one must simply keep writing. The story itself shows promise and potential. I loved the line about his hair looking ridiculous if he didn't "set it into palatability."

My job - Artist/ Writer, owner of Bent Realm Studios
My college experience - I was only able to attend for two months. Five years later I'm still paying that off and I'm not even close to finished. I did meet my fiancé, the love of my life because I went to the school I went to, when I went, majoring in what I majored in (which in fact was what I expected to get out of it, though I did think it would be a nice bonus if I got a nice career out of it too). The major had been Video Game Design. I also learned some valuable useful info while there that benefit my ultimate writing and art goals.
Correspondence course - art
I've been writing and drawing seriously since 1994, but I have only begun the genuine attempt to make a living with it this year. I wanted to do do something very specific with my work long before the means to do exactly as I wished even existed. I also wanted to develop my skills majorly prior to making this attempt. I prefer writing fiction but don't mind writing reference-centric non-fiction.

What would I have done differently- Practiced writing and drawing with specific goals and deadlines more often than I did.

I hope that helps even if in only a small way. Who knows, maybe it’ll help someone else even. But that’s my $20 on the matter (my two cents adjusted for inflation). And drat I just noticed that I accidentally used “you’re are,” bizarre how much difference the display makes in editing. I also just noticed what actually posted to Yahoo Answers was drastically cut short. That is incredibly irritating. The submission process did not indicate a character limit, nor did it inform me I had passed it. I’ll have to edit it to include a link to this post. World –1 Me- 0… wonder if it really is a good idea to start keeping score on that…my impulse would be to retro-count the score too. *sigh*

Writers, what have your experiences with the usefulness of college degrees been? Artists? Crafters? Makers? Who has stuff to add to what I said? Who has majored in creative writing? Did you graduate? What were you able to do with said creative writing degree? Who else has character limits make them randomly feel like beating a coconut to death? What other majors would you recommend for someone who wants to be a fiction writer?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adepts, Dabblers & Chocolaty Death

Initially, I considered calling this Random Thoughts Inspired by Death Sex. Since this has plenty to do with the blog post Death Sex by @VickiDeath. However, enough of what’s in here has long dwelt within my brainmeats being un-voiced, not to mention too much a rip of her catchy title. She’s only started using her blog regularly recently. Though more recently than I. Her blogging shows promise, I’d say.

In her post, she talked about two questions she gets repeatedly that largely pry into her techniques and methods for creating certain effects in her art. She then goes on to explain why those two questions annoy her hardcore. Once again, I was writing way too much in a comment and realized I’d started a new blog entry. As does happen when a blog poster goes being all thought provoke-y.

Thoughts largely &/or vaguely related to her post:
Thought 1 – Art Teachers & Students

There is no end to the amusement when non-artists treat all artists as teachers. Not all artists are interested, willing or even capable of being teachers. Of course, on the flipside there is always the saying - those who can’t do teach.

I wonder if the art teachers who have students come away feeling as she did, do they fall into that category? As though they learned very little or only re-hashed what the student already knew or even deciding to discontinue their art studies. Some who discontinue their formal studies do continue to be an artist and learn on their own.

Are those teachers unable to earn a living with their art, unable to make a career of it and therefore just bitter enough to quickly have their students dismiss them? I’m sure this happens, the traditional art world is very hard to break into. Notice I say traditional. Certainly some feel teaching is their place and art is simply what they are to teach. Those are the art teachers you are more likely to learn a lot from, but the population being what it is, that’s rare. Even more so as funding for art programs gets continually sliced to shreds.

Or maybe the way art needs to be taught has changed. If people are asking questions that should be posed to a teacher directly of artists who have given no real public indication that they care for being a teacher or imparting hard fought self-taught knowledge to those looking for quick easy answers, then yeah, that is a clear sign that something needs to change [a post expanding upon this will be linked here later]. Granted one cannot always tell when someone has been mostly self-taught, but self-taught or not the path of art is typically hard fought. That was fraught with rhyming…yep.

Thought 2 – Broke Artists Cringe When Brands are Mentioned

If people asked me those two questions I'd not answer and be more than irritated too. I have nothing against doing a little art teaching [a related post will be linked here later] or sharing knowledge, but those particular questions are of a maddening variety.

I pay little attention to brands & makes when knee deep in an art project & dislike writing down what I use through out the process, that & growing up poor causes disdain for discussing brands.
Besides telling somebody your tool is an f'n generic q-tip and having them be so shocked, probably not as satisfying as one might imagine.

Personally I have to work with what I have, I’m not in a position yet to buy fancy art supplies, or even new ones all that often. Luckily, from the time I started playing hard and purposefully with art around age 14, people who gave me presents went for the easy here’s some art supplies kid, and I’d randomly buy some when I had money. I’ve a decent stockpile to last while I wait for the money to stop being such a heartless prick to me.

Plus going into detail about specific techniques is time-consuming, especially repeatedly. If I was just an artist maybe that wouldn't make much difference to me but I'm also a writer. When I'm doing art, I'm thinking about the art. The writer needs to be turned off while I complete my illustration, painting or whatever if it’s not for sequential art purposes. The project, not the ins & outs of what specifically I’m doing, that stuff goes to or comes from a more subconscious place and I get lost in it. I like to work fast and hard, from deep inside where explanation is more like a stranger.

I’d love to make videos to teach with, I think it would be the only way I could do it. Film myself working on art, narrate it later and even write notes for instructional blogs and eventually books. Do I have a video camera? Of course not crazyface! However my mother has a plot to send me a webcam packed in chocolate bunnies soon. Chocolate bunnies?! Ha! Of course it will be packed in chocolate bunnies, Easter just happened and my mom is awesome like that. She has a webcam she bought for one of my sisters that never got used. I think the sister accidentally killed her laptop by drowning it with hot chocolate. This is what happens when the oldest doesn’t even get a card for graduating high school and the 3rd child gets a laptop, it’s called karma. Either that or just keep your drinks away from the electronics.

Thought 3 – the Dabblers Are Not Allowed to Eat the Adepts

A lot of my art & writing skills are largely self-taught. Naturally, I can relate to the fabulous Miss Death’s disinclination to divulge such hard-won life lessons to dabblers. One can tell they’re dabblers too.

To be a true artist, once you discover your interest in making art -you spend your life organically learning all you can absorb about the process of making art and then applying and improving upon the knowledge picked up throughout your quest. It is intense hard work, dabblers haven’t the stones to live that quest. Adepts should never share too much info with dabblers. As an artist, whatever your chosen art form, you embrace the pain. I think some people call it studying.

I never really studied so much as bothered to learn as I went. I used to have people ask me, after I aced a test, if they could study with me. I don’t really know how to study. I’ve seen it on TV. It looks nothing like what I do. The looks on their faces when I would tell them sorry I don’t study for tests was …alarming. So I’m not one to advise precisely how to study art on your own, per se. Everyone has a different learning style, they just need to find theirs.

I’d say the questions that the fabulous Miss Death keeps getting ticked off by, imply “dabbler.”
What do I mean by dabbler -
  • a lack of seriousness about being an artist
  • an expectation of the world to give them quick easy neat answers and things served in silver platters
  • a habit of slurping up the hardwork of others and trying to ride it like it can take them somewhere they cannot go, a propensity to play around in someone else’s garden wreak some havoc
  • flittering away giggling or complaining at the earliest signs of real challenge
  • an utter lack of giving a crap if they dented the holy hell out of something in the process
  • Like they wouldn’t properly appreciate the gift of your knowledge if you went out of your way to articulate on your own techniques
  • nor are they the sort to genuinely appreciate any skills they gain, nor are they the sort to actually connect with their own art.
But more than that is the fact that they were asked of an artist who does not post tutorials or even links to tutorials, or in any other way publically indicate that she is the teaching sort. Yet she gets asked.
I imagine that sounded harsh to some but dabblers make me have headaches and you’ll notice I kindly left out the word lazy…oh wait there it is. I have no taste for dabblers, and I imagine I am far from alone in that.

Dabblers are not to be confused with people who:
  • aren’t sure if they want to start exploring art
  • have recently started and are looking for guidance
  • have not accepted how much of an artist they are yet.
  • The “I AM an artist” realization is a unique personal moment that comes at it’s own pace, often only after clearing away enough of the debris from the train wreck that is life.
  • are just kinda lost as to where to explore next
  • were never encouraged or permitted to explore art as a child
  • If not from dabblers, those questions would have come with an indication of some sort that they were just seeking your guidance for a bit. Non-dabblers are the kind who are far more likely to ask an artist who publically indicates an interest in teaching, whether by posting tutorials, art lesson videos, tips, &/or tweeting links to art how-to’s, tips & tutorials. 
The questions I get repeatedly asked that make me crankiest- (Usually by non-artists)
  • Wow, you drew that? Yes, yes I did draw that. That only makes crankiness because of the repetition…and well, look at the question and tell me how it would make you feel. Yeah.
  • Will you draw me a picture (for free)? Drawing pictures for other people…well if it’s not a gift I thought to make someone and they’re not paying me, then I’m going hungry and all my clothes have holes in them for no good reason. I’m not doing that so much anymore.
  • Will you design me a tattoo? That one always throws me, and more often than not they would indicate they’d not be paying me for that. I’ve thought about it. It’s not something I’m ever going to do for free. It’s something enough people have requested or suggested that I’m likely to someday offer it as a service or in packs of designs for tattooists to buy. For now I’m going to field all custom tattoo design requests over to Vicki (request from her shop or via her email that she gave in the interview when I asked her about custom tattoo designs). Even if I do start offering it as a service myself I’m likely to randomly direct people to her for that, since it’s her forte.
---- This thing is clocking in near 1900 words! I read somewhere that blog posts of that sort of length are considered very long. Yes, new concept to me, learned it a week or two ago. Either I’ll be able to do more posts at widely acceptable sizes or I’ll get even more used to writing than I already am and pour out novels, as I’ve been so often accused of. I’d like to believe I’ll wind up with a fair mix.

What questions about art, writing or crafting make you crankiest?
Do you see yourself as a professional artist, writer or crafter?
What was your “aha! I AM an artist” moment like or are you still waiting for it?
What are your experiences with dabblers?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Working on a bunch of posts for this right now. I expect one to go up later today, and to post with more frequency. The last month & a half have been tricky with stress & random goings on in my personal life. It's truly difficult to post some days, I imagine as I become more practiced & used to my new schedule that will have less of an effect.

Meanwhile, wondering what everybody else is up to quite often lately. So I thought I'd post a general check in.

  • Who has done or started any of the National Poetry Month challenges?
  • In general what kinds of arts, crafts, or writing are you guys working on?
  • What kinds of topics would you guys like to see most in this blog?
  • For the writers, what's your daily word-count looking like lately?

    As for me, I typically have a hard time counting my words, for me that's the hardest part of it. Well, I have to go right now, falling asleep at the keyboard.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April is National Poetry Month

During April, I will be posting many things in honor of National Poetry Month. Basically a month long event. There will be various poetry related challenges. Not all challenges will be exclusively for writers. Yeah you heard me right. Some will be for artists, some will be for crafters & makers. Also to come - a few discussions and poetry information posts. I’m not sure how deep into poetry tutorials I’ll get but there will definitely be some how to info.
All challenges are just here for your own amusement and to encourage creativity. Yay creativity! Participate at random as you like, feel free to share results, achievements, crankiful griping and so on relating to these challenges in the comments on any post in the National Poetry Month category. I’ll be participating in some of them as well.
Here are the challenges that should be spread out through the entire month.
Challenge #1 – A Poem a Day
Write at least one poem per day in the month of April. Any topic any poetry style.

Challenge #2 – A Poem a Week
Write one or a few poems a week during the month of April. Same deal as challenge #1.

Challenge #3 – 20 Short Form Poems
Write at least 20 short form poems this month. By short form I mean poems up to 500 words in length. Any topic, any poetry style.

Challenge #4 – 10 Long Form Poems
Write at least 10 long form poems in April. Long form as in any poem over 500 words. Pick whatever topic, and any any poetry style that can exceed 500 words.

Challenge #5 – 5 Poems with Illustrations
Write 5 poems, any kind. Then do one of these variations. Variation 1- write  your poem in calligraphy or some other fancy lettering and draw some sort of sweet border. Variation 2 – write your poem then illustrate a scene or image from it. Variation 3 – If you don’t want to write your own poem, if your an artist not a writer, then pick a favorite poem and either do the lettering & border variation or the illustrate a scene thing. For variation 3 it is a good idea to only use a poem that is under public domain.

Challenge #6 – Some Poetry Inspired Crafting or Making
As the challenge name implies this one is about crafting or making inspired by a poem. Either write the poem yourself or use a favorite. Remember if you plan to sell the result and didn’t write the poem yourself be sure you have permission or it falls under public domain, not all projects require that but some do, so watch yourself. Depending on how long your particular craft etc takes to complete you may want to do more than one. Pretty much take any element of the poem and somehow incorporate it into the project. Examples – embroidering the poem onto some gorgeous bit of cloth for hanging on the wall, screen printing your favorite line with some fancy bit of awesome included, do up a little sculpture inspired by some element from the poem, poetry inspired metalwork or jewelry, make an item or object in the poem (for example if there is say a description of a magic mirror make some version of it). You get the idea.

Well, I figure this is a nice way to kick off National Poetry Month. Have fun with it, blow your own mind if you can. There will be more challenges (typically more specific) plus discussions etc. this month. Not that that’s all I intend to post this month, but there will be plenty more for the month. Oh, and if these challenges aren’t exactly as you want them, then customize them, maybe even mix and match elements between these 6 month long ones. Remember I’ll be posting more, so many will be suitable for use in conjunction with these.

Which of these challenges do you think you’ll tackle? What kinds of poems do you like to read and why? What kinds of poems do you like to write and why? If you hate poetry, why (be tasteful)? Have you ever written long poems? Would you consider yourself a poet? What genre do you use most while poem writing? Horror is my most frequently employed genre for poetry.