12 useful tips for young writers

Writer Ray Bradbury shares his advice on the most important things to remember for young and new writers. The best part about his advice is that it is direct without any fluff, and most of all,  it clicks.

The 12 tips below are taken from OpenCulture.com‘s Colin Marshall. These were the notes and gist Colin got from Bradbury’s 1 hour keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University.

  1. Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”
  2. You may love ‘em, but you can’t be ‘em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and L. Frank Baum.
  3. Examine “quality” short stories. He suggests Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. Anything in the New Yorker today doesn’t make his cut, since he finds that their stories have “no metaphor.”
  4. Stuff your head. To accumulate the intellectual building blocks of these metaphors, he suggests a course of bedtime reading: one short story, one poem (but Pope, Shakespeare, and Frost, not modern “crap”), and one essay. These essays should come from a diversity of fields, including archaeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature. “At the end of a thousand nights,” so he sums it up, “Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff!”
  5. Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.
  6. Live in the library. Don’t live in your “goddamn computers.” He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to “graduate from the library” at age 28.
  7. Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones.
  8. Write with joy. In his mind, “writing is not a serious business.” If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. “I want you to envy me my joy,” he tells his audience.
  9. Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license).
  10. List ten things you love, and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and “kill” the later — also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears.
  11. Just type any old thing that comes into your head. He recommends “word association” to break down any creative blockages, since “you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.”
  12. Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, “I love you for what you do.”Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, “You’re not nuts like people say.”
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That vs Which, Its vs It’s, and other grammar jargon

Clarifying a few things in my lay language. For the full jargon, go to the links.

That vs. Which

In short, the meaning of a sentence will not change if you remove the part of which, but it will change if you remove that. Example:

  • My car that is blue goes very fast.
  • My car, which is blue, goes very fast.

The first one talks of a specific car and makes that portion very necessary. The second does not.

Try not to use that after a comma because it will most likely be incorrect, like the examples below:

  • This computer, that I have never liked, is very slow.
  • The blue desk, that my father gave me.

Among vs. Amongst

For American speakers of English, the question is irrelevant. Americans say among.

Its vs. It’s

It’s = It is

Its = anytime you cannot use it is

Her’s vs. Hers

Hers = Example: Is this his or hers.

Her’s = No such usage, ever.

Fewer vs. Less  or Much vs. Many

Fewer = anything that can be counted. Same for many.

Less = cannot be counted. Same for much.

And you can start a sentence with conjunctions.

Definitely check out 50 words that most  people pronounce wrong.

If you finally think you are ready, take this quick quiz and find out.

What I'd like to do with my leftover Easter eggs

How 1984 is 2012

“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.”

Many have said this tale before, how their year is like Orwell’s infamous future, but that doesn’t mean I cannot join that roster of writers. This is my fanciful attempt at bridging how many aspects of 1984 are eerily similar to the present with some quotes from the book interspersed in-between; or my longest blabbering yet.

Much of this may seem far-fetched and dismal but come on, if it’s about 1984 it has got to be that way.

The world is seen through the sensibilities of Winston Smith, the only one in the entire land of Oceania it seems who possesses a mind that helplessly cannot forego logic. This is his Achilles heel. “Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.”

 1. Newspeak: the new words formed by a systematic reduction of words from Oldspeak everyday by the Party. Thinkcrime, doublethink, goodwise, speedful, etc. This way there are fewer choices to express your thoughts outside and even to yourself.

Today: The new shorthand. I have heard of teachers and college professors who complain not just of poor capitalization but that they read things like “2 b or nt 2 b, dat is da qstn” in exam papers. I kid you not.

 2. Memory Loss: Winston often wonders, “Was he, then, alone in the possession of a memory?” Weekly chocolate rations reduce from 30gms to 20gms but it is announced that your rations have increased to 20gms and everyone around him has a smile. In the book Eurasia is the current enemy nation-continent but was actually Oceania’s ally four years ago and the current ally East-asia was its enemy. The roles keep changing as need be.

“But if there was hope, it lay in the proles. You had to cling on to that. When you put in words it sounded reasonable: it was when you looked at the human beings passing you on the pavement that it became an act of faith.”

Today: how our enemy got to be that way and how many hands were involved is not mentioned as many times as simply as this is the enemy. The history of the matter is not taken into account. Be it countries we are at war with or how banks wield so much control over Congress.

3.   Information control: the Party destroys all records that do not suite it in the Records department or alters the old ones. There are no books or papers that the Party has not touched.

Today: This may seem most unlikely since information is the one thing that is most liberalized and on nearly everyone’s fingertips. Today it is easier than it has ever been. But who is paying for it? Someone has to and it is getting harder every year for the handful of reliable media organizations to stay that way because viewers prefer not to pay. Wikipedia is the sixth most visited website right now and even I’m tired of seeing their contribution drive which has been going on for over a month, and yet for example if everyone who viewed it from say…India… in a single day gave $2 then their drive would end that very day.

Another example: the big protest on Net Neutrality. Something so basic as keeping the internet equal for everyone was being opposed by giants like  Don’t-Be-Evil Google.

“Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”

4.   Two Minutes Hate: it is two minutes of video footage of the enemy compulsorily shown to everyone. The people are driven into a frenzy of hate. It is a venting of hatred, almost celebratory. The cause could be the acts of the Party itself but this is a better channel to release it. Winston knows this but even he gets caught up in it. He begins to shout and curse at the people on the screen, then his hate shifts internally towards the young woman standing next to him, then even towards himself. It seems comical because the enemy is almost caricature. The wicked soldiers are stern, expressionless and ugly with their gun pointing at you and marching forward. Now flashes the face of Emanuel Goldstein, the master bad guy, on top of all the evil Eurasian soldiers. You know it is frenzy because Emanuel’s face morphs into the face of a sheep and everyone is still screaming!

 “The horrible thing about Two Minutes of Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in… A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill… and yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.”

Today: 24hrs news networks leave the job of analysis for Casper The Friendly Ghost and instead go with feeds and snippets instead of actual news. Everything is laid out in B&W and one-sided numbers are crunched; the casualties on the other side are not A-priority.

“If he (citizen of Oceania) were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred & self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.”

 5. Telescreen: The oblong metallic and reflective object that is placed throughout the city and in every room. It can hear and see your every movement and dole out party messages.

Today: CCTV at all junctions is common but mandatory fingerprint scans on new IDs. It is also easier to check-up on someone mainly because people post a lot of embarrassing info. themselves but also when folks like AT&T tap the internet usage of its subscribers due to govt. pressure.

“If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.”

 

This post isn’t directing to one country or another. Every country has and does resort to these things. If you can draw any more parallels between the book and today then please do let me know.

The book concludes with a note that in 1984 only academics could write in Newspeak but by the year 2050 it will have superseded Oldspeak completely.

 

“He though with a kind of astonishment of the biological uselessness of pain and fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the moment when a special effort is needed.” “It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body.”

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”


Joy and horror of French lovin’

Very mini book review of Me Talk pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

This is one book you definitely should glance through. I say glance because since the book is a compilation of several autobiographical essays, reading any one at random will still cause you to laugh out loud. That is the mildest guaranteed reaction.  If you believe milk can spew from your nose, that too.

It starts with his childhood in North Carolina with his firecracker of a family and progresses towards his meandering twenties. ”Part Deux” focuses on the later tribulations of learning French culture and its language after he moves to live in Paris with his partner.  Sedaris’s sharp observation of the mundane and remarkable ability to convert it into an enviable zany life is pure talent. His writing seems effortless, which always means it is not. No wonder his books have sold over 14 million copies.

Why not judge for yourself?

Listen to him read a chapter from the book. Learning French by a sadistic teacher and describing Easter in a handful of words never sounded so good.

Or read the very first chapter here.

A funny little interview with the man.

The love of Ayn Rand

As everyone knows, the opinionated Russian-American writer was a bowl of endless love. Enough unconditional compassion to fill the world. No really, she had so much empathy for even the most downtrodden that she bestowed glowing praise to the works of a sadistic serial killer. Mother Teresa’s got nothin’ on her!

The retinue-loving brunette’s books are still incredibly popular today, in fact second only to God’s perennial bestseller. Now that’s some appeal, although it is limited basically to USA — weird connection between a certain American id and her, you see.

Her heroes from The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are “a cocktail of extreme self-love and extreme self-pity: They insist they need no one, yet they spend all their time fuming that the masses don’t bow down before their manifest superiority.” More here.

She’s got a following of Greenspan, Reagon, every single US congressman, and tons of Wall Street CEOs. Basically, you either lover her or hate her. And I love her to bits…  just bits.

So does Stephen Colbert!