The Dreaded About Page

You want poetry? I got poetry, how much do you want?

You want shorts? I have those too. Let let me brush the dust off and give them a bit of a polish and they are yours.

Novels? Full length.? Challenge accepted.

You want me to finish my About Me page? *runs away screaming*

Why you may ask? Well, it is because About Me pages are about the only bit of writing that I have never successfully completed. Oh, I do know that they are essential for connecting with my readers, however, they just seem trite. I am a writer and I can write on a whole host of topics and genres, however, when it comes to writing about myself, my first instinct is to run and hid. This is why the About Me pages on this blog, on my Facebook Page and on Twitter are pretty much empty.

The thing is, when it comes to talking about my self, I really don’t know what to say. I am a ordinary being of the human variety and there really isn’t anything interesting in my everyday life. Which, when I think about it, is the probable reason why I have an over active imagination. It is much more fun to mull over the best way to escape the zombies if I happen to be at work when the apocalypse happens than staring at the clock, and waiting for it to tell me it’s time to go home.

Once I am home, I usually write most of my daily musing down somewhere because sometimes, there will be something in there that will be too good to let go but not to weird to be story worthy. I am well aware that popcorn really isn’t dried and roasted smurf brains, but the thought did creep me out a little. The industrial farming of smurfs for human consumption  isn’t a thing, but maybe it should be.

The short of it is, my writing is the most interesting thing about me and the average About Me page demands more than, “Hi My name is PD Sampson and I am a writer.”

Eventually I will find that magic formula for talking about myself, but until then I will hid in my wardrobe, drink tea and eat chocolate, and prey that no one notices the blank page.

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A Broken World

I was going through a bunch of papers the other day and I came across an old manuscript that I had abandoned a long time ago. I got to reading it in order to get a feel for what it was and I couldn’t imagine why I never got around to finishing it. It had the potential to be a great work of art. The plot was thrilling, the characters were complex and easy to relate to, and there was enough action to keep you reading.

There was also large gaps in the narrative. And by large I mean, gaps large enough to drive a mac truck through. These gaps in the narrative, I came to realize didn’t come from holes in a pretty sound plot line, they came from the fact that the world in which my characters exist is broken.

You heard me right. I broke the world and it is going to take some doing to put it back together again. When non-fiction writers are doing their research, us fictioneers are breaking… er,,, building worlds.

World building, as it turns out, is just as important to literary works as everything else. It is way too easy to forget that the environment, both natural and otherwise, is something that characters interact with every moment of their lives, just as we do. How the world around them works, often dictates the circumstances that our hero’s find themselves in and sometimes influences the actions of our hero in the most subtle and profound ways.

As a reader, we see this in all of our great works of fiction. What purpose would Anne McCaffrey’s dragons serve if life devouring thread wasn’t falling from the sky? Would Harry Potter still be “The Boy Who lived,” if there wasn’t magic in his world? We just never really think about it.

However, as a writer, it is essential that we do think about these things and have an idea of what is going on in the worlds we create. It does have an effect on the stories we capture. When there is a hole in the over all environment that our heros inhabit, it can and in my case, did lead to massive holes within the narrative.

I will eventually go back and finish that particular manuscript. It is a story that is too epic to leave in the bottom of my sock drawer. I just have to take the time to reimagine the world where it takes place because that will determine a lot of the factors that my trusty group of heros will have to contend with.

The Most Important Thing.

Today I was asked a rather serious question and it took me quite by surprise. I was asked, “What is the most important thing that a writer should know?”

I was stunned to say the least. I simply don’t see myself as a bastion of writer’s wisdom, not do I see myself as a professional writer, as I still grind out most of my days in the usual dead end job. However, is was a serious question and I believe that it deserves a serious answer.

So, I put my feet up, sipped on some coffee and gave the question some serious thought.

The first things that came to the forefront of my mind were the usual suspects; grammar, spelling, vocabulary and proper usage.

I am a bit of a grammar Nazi, so it isn’t all that surprising that grammar was the first thing to come to my mind. It is after all the key to clear communication and that is what writing really is all about, connecting to your audience and communicating your ideas and stories.  Sharing one’s vision with the world is next to impossible if one’s audience cannot understand what is being said. So, yes, grammar is an important thing, it is not THE most important thing. Excellent books on grammar are a dime a dozen, and it only takes a little bit of practice to master it. The same goes for proper usage.

It is almost the same with spelling and vocabulary. As a writer type person with mild dyslexia, I can firmly testify as to the usefulness of the modern spellchecker. While the spellchecker may be your friend, it is my lifesaver. On a good day, I might be able to spell my own name, just maybe. On a bad day, I count myself lucky if I don’t misspell every single word. This of course doesn’t stop me from writing. I still have tales to tell and I am not going to let a little thing like bad spelling stop me. Though I do hate my vocabulary to be limited to what I can spell. Along side my trusty spellchecker, my dictionary  is my best buddy. I have even been known to sleep with one, cuddling it like a teddy bear.

So, if the usual suspects are not the most important things, because they can be worked on and around, what is?

All of the more advanced skills, character development, finding good solid plot lines, dialog ect. can all be learned and mastered with a bit of determination and a whole lot of hard work. They can also be worked on and around.

I sipped some more coffee and stretched my legs out and look up at the painting hanging off my wall. I found it.

A long time ago, when man still lived in caves, I used to be an artist. I could paint the most wonderful and beautiful images. The only difference between now and then, is that now I paint those pictures using words instead of colour. As a painter, the one thing that is more important than everything else, is for the artist to finish the work, to be sure that each and every painting is utterly complete. It doesn’t matter if there is flaws in the picture. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can always do better next time and if you paint enough, you will get better. You will improve. Being perfect, isn’t the most important thing, finishing what you start is.

In this respect, writing, is exactly like drawing, painting and all of the other arts. It doesn’t matter if ones story isn’t perfect, or if there are a few awkward spots. Even a few run on sentences could be overlooked as long and the work is complete and fully finished. In all things, the artist, in this case the writer, with get better over time.

The most important thing for a writer to know, is how to finish the work, and make it complete.