The Writing Manifesto

This was something unique to one of the courses. I had never before come across the idea of having a writing manifesto. This is a declaration – public usually of your policy and aims. Presumably any such declaration is going to be a forceful lever motivating you in your desired direction in this case writing).

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/grammarly/write-manifesto_b_5575496.html.

It’s a good idea before writing a manifesto of your own to look at manifestos that others have written for example:

The Futurists Italy 1909

Manifesto of Futurism

  1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
  2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.
  3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.
  4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with ardor, splendor, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.
  8. We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.
  10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.
  11. We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervor of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.

The New Puritan Manifesto

  1. Primary storytellers, we are dedicated to the narrative form.
  2. We are prose writers and recognise that prose is the dominant form of expression. For this reason we shun poetry and poetic licence in all its forms.
  3. While acknowledging the value of genre fiction, whether classical or modern, we will always move towards new openings, rupturing existing genre expectations.
  4. We believe in textual simplicity and vow to avoid all devices of voice: rhetoric, authorial asides.
  5. In the name of clarity, we recognise the importance of temporal linearity and eschew flashbacks, dual temporal narratives and foreshadowing.
  6. We believe in grammatical purity and avoid any elaborate punctuation.
  7. We recognise that published works are also historical documents. As fragments of our time, all our texts are dated and set in the present day. All products, The Introduction to The New Puritan Generation 15 places, artists and objects named are real.
  8. As faithful representations of the present, our texts will avoid all improbable or unknowable speculation about the past or the future.
  9. We are moralists, so all texts feature a recognisable ethical reality.
  10. Nevertheless, our aim is integrity of expression, above and beyond any commitment to form.

A Writer’s Manifesto

I guess my most important aim is to entertain.

First commandment of popular fiction of any kind is (as the lovely Claudia Carroll once said): Thou shalt not bore. Quite right too.

Second aim – to say something.

I know this sounds a little vague but sometimes I read books that don’t actually say anything. They just potter along, telling a nice story, but not really going anywhere. I think books should have something solid rooted at the heart of them – a theme if you like. Sometimes that theme doesn’t make itself fully known until you finish the 1st or 2nd or even the 3rd draft, but it’s often bubbling away under the surface of your words, slowly rising to the surface. For example in the first Amy Green book I wanted to tell readers it’s OK to be yourself. In fact it’s pretty darn cool to be yourself. It’s a theme that runs through all the Amy Green books.

My third aim is to write with passion and with confidence.

I’ve been writing for many years now and I’ve started to understand what both these things really mean and how important they are. Write without passion and you’re doomed. The confidence bit – that can be learned over time. But if you write with both passion and confidence – then you might just have a pretty good book on your hands.

Tips for Producing a Manifesto

  • What are your aims when you write?
  • What symbols reoccur in writing?
  • Prose vs poetry?
  • What do you want to glorify?
  • What do you want to eschew?
  • What do you believe in?
  • What do you declare?

The manifesto is a mechanism for recognising why author’s write.

A manifesto is a declaration of intent – a public declaration of policy and aims. It will help your focus as you need to know why it is that you are writing.

A manifesto states what is important to you in your writing. The best place for your manifesto is on the wall somewhere you can see it to remind you why you are writing. In the first place the manifesto is for you.

At the time the manifesto I came up with was this:

Phil’s Manifesto

I write to enjoy the process

I write to enjoy the output for myself

I write so that other people will read my writing and will get enjoyment from reading it

I want to make a living from writing

I am keen to write novels

I will write of things in psychology that interest me

I will write of people in conflict with themselves or with others

I will write of people who escape “real life”

I will write attacks on the mundane, the boring, the routine

I will write prose rather than poetry

I will glorify freedom and escape

I will write of people with complex thought patterns

I will write of people who are small and boring

I will write about anyone who is protesting

I will eschew tediousness and boredom

I will eschew too much sanity or saneness

I will eschew routine

I will eschew “real life”

I wish to be published – a real book with paper not an e-book or a blog

I believe in rebellion as a method for change

I believe in not sticking to the status quo

However all these years later I think I would make a few changes to this manifesto now. Perhaps if there is sufficient interest I will write a new one.

 

If you liked this article why not follow this blog

Follow The Procrastination Pen on WordPress.com

Happy Seed – Worry Seed

I’ve used this technique myself with clients. It is a good creative technique to use with people who worry excessively or are anxious. Sometimes it is good to use techniques other than talking (and listening) in the room. Visual techniques are helpful in that they display to the client where their current thinking style/behaviour is taking them. It also can help them to clearly see changes that they need to make.

Everyone in the world has two seeds. There is a happy seed and a worry seed. You can do what you like with either seed – there is no instruction book. However the way you behave towards these two seeds is not without consequences.

This exercise is to show what happens when you pay attention to one or other seed.

Draw a happy seed and a worry seed at the bottom of a large piece of paper.

Happy Seed 1

The client can pay attention to either seed. They must first nominate one as the happy seed and one as the worry seed. (Draw a label clearly at the base of the paper so that there is no doubt which one is which).

They can pay attention to either seed. Each seed needs feeding and watering so that it can grow.

If the client is prone to worry it is usually easier for them to pay attention to the worry seed. If a worry comes to mind have them draw a shoot from the worry seed. Have them attach a leaf to this shoot labelled with that worry.

Happy Seed 2

At this stage the worry seed is developing into a plant. The happy seed is still just a seed. The client has free rein to add shoots to either seed. Have them add more shoots with whatever comes to mind.

Their predominant thinking style will rise to the surface. Someone who worries draws more worries.

Happy Seed 3

Dependent upon how much the client has to bring up it might be that you will need a very large piece of paper for this. (Plain wallpaper for example is good).

As you watch what the client is doing you can see that they have a tendency to water and feed one particular plant dependent upon their thinking style.

Happy Seed 4

This can continue for as long as you have time designated to this. However a definite pattern will have emerged.

Happy Seed 5

Eventually the client will run out of things to add – or will have added as much as they can within the time you allotted for this activity. There will usually be an asymmetry between the two plants:

Happy Seed 6

At which point you can point out to them that in life there is only one pot of time. They can pay attention to anything that they like but only one thing at a time. If they pay attention to the worry seed – they care for it, water it and it will start to grow.

A first worry leaf develops. With further attention to the worry seed another leaf pops up. If they keep caring for the worry seed in time a tree of worries will fill the page.

Their life will be full of worries and there will be no space left for happy.

They can’t care for the worry seed and at the same time pay attention to the happy seed. With no attention to the happy seed they concentrate all their energy on worry.

The worry tree becomes so huge that it is overwhelming. By comparison the stunted happy tree is undeveloped. In fact the happy tree is completely overshadowed by the worry tree and is not going to grow properly.

Get them then to consider how life would be different if they spent at least some time on the happy seed.

Better still if they watered and cared for the happy seed at the expense of the worry seed. How much different would life be then.

The intention is for them to seek out the parts of their lives that are happy and to minimise the time they spend worrying.

Thanks to my counsellor Rachel http://www.elyhypnotherapy.com/ for suggesting this technique.

If you liked this article why not follow this blog

Follow The Procrastination Pen on WordPress.com

Photo by Gemma Underwood from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-a-brown-petaled-flower-92685/

Seven Basic Plots

From another writing course the idea that there are just seven basic writing plots.

(Originally Christopher Booker – 2004 Bookfinder seven plots)

I am not clear how valuable it is knowing that there are seven basic plots. I imagine that you are trying to write something unique and new.

If you see “Award Winning Writer” in your future I cannot imagine you getting there by following a pre-prescribed route.

However it might be useful to see what has gone before – here are the seven basic plots.

Overcoming the Monster (e.g. The Hobbit, Cloverfield, Dracula, Harry Potter)

    1. Anticipation and call
    2. Dream stage – thinks overcoming will be easy
    3. Frustration – face to face with monster
    4. Nightmare stage – final ordeal
    5. The thrilling escape from death and death on monster

Rags to Riches (e.g. Jane Eyre, Great Expectations)

    1. Initial wretchedness at home and call
    2. get out into world – initial success
    3. The central crisis
    4. Independence and the final ordeal
    5. Final union, completion and fulfilment

The Quest (e.g. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit)

    1. The call
    2. The journey (archetypal figures)
    3. Arrival and frustration
    4. Final ordeal and last battle
    5. The goal, treasure, prince/ess

Voyage and return (e.g. Sinbad, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, James and the Giant Peach)

    1. The fall into another world (ie. Alice in Wonderland)
    2. Initial fascination – dream stage
    3. Frustration stage – dark shadow figure
    4. Nightmare stage – its dominating looks like dark force will win
    5. Thrilling escape and return to normal world

Comedy (e.g. Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, Witches Abroad)

    1. Shadow of uncertainty and confusion
    2. Confusion get worse – disguise men/women
    3. Confusion gets resolved and lives happily ever after

Tragedy (e.g. The Martian Chronicles)

    1. Anticipation stage
    2. Dream stage
    3. Frustration
    4. Nightmare
    5. Destruction

Rebirth (e.g. Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

    1. Hero is cursed by dark power
    2. Dream stage – talk of a curse
    3. Curse takes hold and imprisons the hero
    4. Nightmare stage – no way out, no hope until hero turns up and relies someone else to save the day
    5. Miraculous redemption

 

Free Writing

A technique which appears to come up rather often. Variously termed free writing, timed exercises, stream of consciousness writing and so on.

Some people practice this as a distinct form of writing, which I had not considered as an option for example:

https://ashortconversation.com/about/

Both writing and counselling use this technique. (It is likely it is used elsewhere as it is so useful).

When used as part of counselling automatic writing is about whatever comes to mind. The idea being that this may access thoughts which are otherwise hidden.

It may also be used as part of a mindfulness practice.  Writing tends to slow the thoughts and enable a person to observe their own thinking. This practice may make it easier to manage that thinking going forwards.

Expressive writing involves an allotment of time (say 20 minutes). In this time a person writes down their thoughts about a challenging aspect of their life. The writing should fully explore how they have been affected by it. The idea being that it helps the person to deal with the situation.

Evidence suggests it is effective for example in conditions like anxiety.

It is also used for assisting clients to deal with difficult situations from their past.

From the perspective of the author this is a time set aside for writing practice without preconceptions or plan. It is designed to assist in bringing out ideas. It can be used to try to help a writer become unstuck.

The very act of getting words on paper can bring out solutions to problems that you have been wrestling with.

There may be as many ways of attempting this as there articles about it.

I have this approach from one of the writing courses that I attended. It is as effective as any other method:

Decide in advance how long you would like to give the exercise and set a timer (smartphones do this very well).

Ten minutes, twenty minutes up to an hour are usual amounts of time. This is dependent upon how long you believe you can sustain the activity. (It might be easier to start with shorter amounts of time and build up as you get familiar with the process).

Once you have allocated the time, you have to write for the whole time. The main rule is that you do not stop, get up or in any other way interrupt the practice once you have started.

Observe certain rules to get the most out of the exercise.

  1. There is no pausing once you begin. No reading what is already written. No stalling or gazing out of the window.
  2. There is no editing during the process. No crossing out, punctuating, substituting words or similar.
  3. Even if something is obviously wrong do not remove it. This includes things you did not expect/intend to write, poor spelling, punctuation or grammar. The writing can be as scrappy as you like including failing to respect ruled lines or margins.
  4. Pretend you have no control over what you are writing – this may help you be more creative.
  5. There should be no time for thinking – disengage brain and write.
  6. If the writing turns out to be scary too self-exposing (or in any other way taking risks you’re unhappy with) go with it anyway. The idea is to use this energy.

The aim is to get to your truest writing self. This is where you no longer censor yourself but write what you are truly feeling and thinking.

Here are some of the exercises I completed on my course. I never worked out the characters any further than this so I doubt they will appear anywhere else:

Exercise

And I have found that the majority of people that I meet have skills which I have no experience of. I have no idea how they learned or why I didn’t.

I do not see that things that a person wears. I do not remember the look in their eyes, detect the tone in their voice. I do not remember that yesterday their hair was grey and today it is boot black.

The truth is that I do not detect the importance of these things. I am not clear that the investment of effort and of time yields the results that others, gleaming eyes, inform me of.

I believe that it causes a great darkness of gossip and inward looking. I am not clear that the knitting psychological effects do not offset this. I cannot be clear unless I develop the skill.

But this part of the brain is missing. I think now only of events of changes and of developments. Identifying things, items and moments has always been far easier more diverting. I have to relate that I find it impossible now to invest any energy in the skills that I do not have.

I am a parody of a person. Now an actor in which the outer shell is a charming soul who listens, perceives, comments and applauds. Internally I am mechanical. A whirring set of gears designated to achieve only the outcomes which I have selected important. A manipulator content for others to smile whilst I manoeuvre into a position that takes me where I wish to go.

And yet oiled and tuned as the machine has become I remain thwarted unsuccessful limited. I reflect upon those skills and wonder if the outer signs are not subtly detected. The dark inner facets of my soul displayed to those I seek to charm.

Exercise 2

Awareness, working and silence. Dark with the dull red gleam of the alarm clock humming oldly beside the bed. Then again a twitch and the bed shudders like the dying spasms of a large fat animal.

Damn 2:15am again. Pain across the eyes. The struggle upright and look at the ground. Vacant greyness as the cogs start to whirr. Carpet focusing and defocusing until finally he accepts – awake again.

Shuffling silent descending and mumbling through the early rituals 2 ½ hours early

No steadiness, no rest, no silence. At last angry at accumulated sleeplessness. He sits TV sound off and allows a vacancy to permeate his brain. Waiting for the drum drum announcement of heating water which informs him at last that day can officially begin. The routine scramble for leaving can finally take over.

The greyness now seems inside as well as out. Each action harder, each thought more tenuous. Minor accidents now creating great depths of anger disproportionate to their effect.

The heavy needles of warm water serve only to remind of sleep opportunity lost and long day to come.

Regret no less than annoyance – why no sleep again.

The journey is too difficult too trying. Each vehicle a personal slight on him. Too slow; too fast; too hesitant. An excuse for overheated annoyance to swelling bombasity.

Watch that. Quell it. Have control. Slip quietly back. Slow. Watch yourself. Quietly does it

The heavy mist lays down around the park. Silent trudging marks the finals stages of the journey. Miserable damp sticky. A wait for the self-important guard to release the security door. At last he reaches the place of all his concerns. Wheezing the final steps till he makes an arrival.

Exercise 3

Your careers teacher tells appalling lies. “There is nothing that you cannot do”; “Aim High”; “The World is your oyster”.

Pretty soon you determine that you can’t depend on your careers teacher unless you already know what to do.

You turn up and stare blankly at one another. Until, in desperation, you come up with a random idea. Which he/she sets to with relish as if it were part of some life plan for you.

Of course you may follow this through in the absence of any better idea. But beware if you hadn’t an idea beforehand. Following someone else’s idea is even worse.

Your parents will become amateur careers advisors the moment that they recognise the fix that you are in.

Be wary.

This is lies too.

Formed from good intentions no doubt. But of absolutely no use to you. “You need a trade” “it doesn’t matter what you do just do it well” “we’re proud of you whatever”.

This is not helpful.

Lastly do not pay attention to any of your friends. “Working in this job is easy”. “Why don’t you try what I do I hardly ever put in a full day’s work”. “I started in April and already they’ve given me a pay rise”.

Utter tosh.

You will find the truth yourself. Many aspects of that truth will cause you to resent those lies. It will cause you to doubt advice from that point onwards.

You are correct to question that advice. Indeed any advice. For what other person has any idea of how you think, believe, react.

http://skepdic.com/autowrite.html

https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/expressive_writing

https://www.mindful.org/a-writing-practice-for-those-who-like-to-keep-doing/

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/writing-as-therapy-a-silence-that-speaks-louder-than-words

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-power-of-writing-3-types-of-therapeutic-writing/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201308/writing-therapy

The Scene

Yet more advice from a writing course this time on the scene.

The scene is a self-contained unit of story. You can write the scene by:

  • Setting
  • Character
  • Action

You can consider the book as if it were a film.

Short scenes keep people’s attention. This enables the quick switching of narrative between characters.

There is a single viewpoint for each scene – that character’s point of view. It is filtered through the thoughts and emotions of that character.

Do not switch between viewpoints in a scene – it is always through one character’s eyes.

Classically a scene has only one setting. However it can contain several settings or even a moving setting (in a plane, on-board ship and so on)

The beginning of a scene is a critical moment which you should use to capture the reader’s interest.

One technique is to begin the scene as if in the middle of something (in media res).
This could be the middle of some action (a fight?), some dialogue (an argument?) or anything which can hook the reader.

Chunks of description are a riskier way of starting a scene as it can risk boring the reader unless done well.

Description should be broken up for a more successful beginning. This could for example make use of dialogue between short pieces of description.

The aim is to grab the reader’s attention as soon as you can.

Where the scene is dark add moments of light relief.

The ending of every scene is as important as the beginning. Ideally the scene should end in such a way that the reader wants to read more.

There are different techniques to achieve this. The main character of that scene can fail attempting a goal. There could be a reversal for that character. The character may have to end one course of action and consider another.

However you choose to end the scene the reader needs to be left wondering what happens next and wanting to read on.

One method of achieving this is to hint at what is to come for example plans to achieve an outstanding goal.

The book then becomes like a series of short stories each of them linked together.

Setting the Header Image

Images are widely available on the Internet. But most of them will be copyright which precludes the use of them by a cheapskate blogger.

When I started with my blog I found a range of cartoons that I liked and enquired about the use of them. I found that the use of a cartoon on the page would cost $25.

In itself this was not a huge fee. However I had at the time huge aspirations involving creating a great deal of content. Every one of those pages I would have liked to decorate with cartoon imagery. Had this vision come to pass by now the bill would extend into many hundreds of $.

This leaves choices ranging from royalty free images to photographs supplied by friends and family.

Of course if you are artistic (I am not) you could draw your own images. That’s assuming drawing does not detract from the blogging activity of course.

When I first selected 2016 as my blog theme I noticed that across the top of the main page was a header image. To me this was the picture that every visitor would see.

This means the image has to be appealing.

I spent rather too long browsing through old photographs to find an image that I liked.

(Mostly because I am to photography what a mouse is to weight training).

After some false starts I decided to use this image:

img_7990

If it wasn’t on a Procrastination pen related theme I reasoned that it appeared studious.

It is an image from inside the Porto bookstore https://www.livrarialello.pt/en/. This is reputedly the most beautiful bookstore in the world. (Worth a visit if you can stand the crowds).

As it has been more than a year I thought that I would now take a look at changing this image for something else.

I contacted a lady called Elaine Ku from a site called http://owl-ink.com/. She had some great pen-related images, notably this one:

Photo-Aug-28-5-09-22-PM

She helpfully said I could use the image as long as I credited her for doing so. Oh and her site is worth a visit by the way.

How you change the header:

To change the header you need to be in the “My Site” part of the blog in WordPress:

1

Under “Personalize” click the button “Customize” next to “Themes”.

This gives the following options:

2

Select “Header Image”

I decided that the header for Procrastination would look better rotated. So that the pens appeared horizontal not vertical:

Photo-Aug-28-5-09-22-PM-rotated
Image courtesy of Elaine Ku at http://owl-ink.com/

Under “Current Header” select “Add New Image”:

Choose something from the Media Library or choose “Upload Files”.

Elaine’s image is on my computer so I uploaded it from there:

3

Add relevant caption information (thanking Elaine in this case). Then click on “Select and Crop”.

Select the area of the image you want to use and you will then have a preview of what the new image will look like:

4

Now that I have more than one header I have the option to select “Randomize uploaded Headers”.
This means that visitors will see one of the 2 headers I have uploaded so far. I have plans to try this with more images when I can find any suitable.

Photo by kinkate from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-makeup-brushes-211342/

Beginnings pt2

Further to the earlier blog post on beginnings:

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/02/beginnings/

From different courses I have some practice exercises for beginnings.

The beginning is important to any writing so I thought this was useful to share.

This time a more popular beginning than the last.

Bear in mind that these beginnings have received healthy criticism in their time.

There are different styles of beginning the previous one was “Third Person Objective.” this one is the “First Person Main Character” beginning.

In this the main character narrates the story and will be the “I” in the text.

The first person main character is one of the most commonly used points of view.

It allows the reader to have empathy with the character as they see the world through their eyes.

Because you control the point of view you can lead the reader in a direction that you choose.

You can make them feel that they are participating or even mislead (and surprise them).

It is also easier on the author who can work with one point of view only.

Unfortunately it brings the same restrictions as a single point of view in any walk of life. You can only see through one character’s eyes. You limit yourself to their perspective (which might be biased or unreliable).

Elements that occur outside of that character’s awareness are more difficult to introduce into the story.

These beginnings will all involve my favourite character at the time of writing “Dave the Effective Detective”.

I’ve never thought of a story in which he belongs. Condemning him to appear only in these beginnings.

The First Person Main Character Beginning

“I shouldn’t have done it, oh no I shouldn’t have done. Oh, they will lock me up me up now and I’ll lose everything.

The house will go and the car and I’ll be alone and I can’t deal with being alone and where will I be then.

Oh no I shouldn’t have done it” “Yes I should, I should have done it. I shouldn’t have failed, stupid Dave, can’t even work out how to kill himself. Dave the fool, Dave the idiot. Stupid, stupid, how hard can it be Dave?

A car, a hose, a running engine, Dave, eh?”

“You’re just worthless; you knew you were, worthless oh you should never have tried it.”

In my mind, amongst the voices declaring my worthlessness, a calm and quiet voice was whispering “get a hold of yourself Dave; hold it together Dave; come on Dave you can do it.” A voice now drowned by the babble of self-accusatory tones. I can’t face Belinda; she got me here of course.

I can’t move – I can’t face the space outside that door.

Outside that door now seems so threatening it feels like a doorway to a world I no longer know, I don’t belong there.

I know that I soiled myself in the night, but I feel nothing, I do nothing. I can’t feel anything; I just listen to the voices in my head again.

“Useless Dave, hopeless Dave”

Photo Credit: robert_oosthuizen Flickr via Compfight cc