Tag Archives: twitter

Write Together

I’ve been even more quiet than usual when it comes to my blog and twitter but I have an excellent excuse. I had a brainstorm of an idea – one that helps to make Pan Historia an even better destination for writers as well as one that is helping motivate me to write my own novel. I started a writing group at Pan for those of us who want to move from just writing ongoing collaborative fiction to finally finishing and publishing a novel of our own. This concept does not exclude collaborative projects (I hope to include a version of my zombie novel in this mix one day) but does focus on story structure, discipline, craft, and actually sitting down regularly and making time to write.

For those of you who know me or know me through my blog you’ll be aware of my intention to write a novel and how I have been working on one based on the life of Wyatt Earp for just about forever. Mostly it’s been in the endless research phase with a sort of Mobius strip of trying to work out my new ‘fresh’ angle on this particular subject. When I started the new writing group Write Together at Pan I fully intended to finally write and complete this work. Our group is really fortunate to have a published author of a sort of mentor consultant and the first thing she asked me is “why am I writing this particular story” and I could no longer answer the question. I got some good feedback from my fellow writers and had worked out some possible interesting twists on the Wyatt Earp story and how to tell it in an engaging way, but there was no real purpose for me. I ended up answering that question with “I’ve been researching it? I have a book case full of books on the topic?”

Beep. Not good enough.

So I decided to shelve the project and immediately begun work on another novel idea that had been flitting around my mind for a while. This time I jumped into a genre that I have come to love writing in: horror. I’ve started work on a sort of supernatural thriller set in the 1920’s full of glamorous characters, many of whom are historical, and dark sinister magic. I’m very excited about the story and using all the resources of my novel writing group as well as the many great resources I have found since using twitter and blogging, I have already got a good working synopsis, a stable of interesting rich characters, and the beginning of an outline using a classic story structure. The basic storyline and characters has been something I have been working on for quite a long time on Pan as a collaborative novel, but my focus will be on my own ideas and characters and developing a plot that has not been told in the collaborative forum so it’s all original.

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Why I Love What I Do

Several times I have hit on the topic of the isolation of the writer. After all it’s pretty much just you and your word processor (or for the Luddites amongst us: typewriters or yellow lined pads and a Number 2 pencil). Of course the cliché of the lonely writer pounding on his keyboard is a myth created around the lives of previous writers. Reading an article in the recent New Yorker issue about the teaching of Creative Writing in America breaks through that stereotype to how many writers have learned as part of a group. Self-taught writers might go to local community college workshops or join a writing group on or off line. On Sundays writers join in #writechat on Twitter. The internet has, for many writers, stripped away the isolation and allows for writers to enjoy relationships with their peers and their readers directly.

While I regret the need for writers to be their own publicist these days I don’t regret the moves towards uniting writers with other like-minded people or allowing writers to bridge the gap from written word to the person that is reading that word.

Last night I was logged into my community site Pan Historia and I got a wonderful example of one of the myriad reasons that I love to be involved in a collaborative writing community. One of the members came to me to ask me about whether or not I thought that women during the 19th Century in the Old West would bathe naked or whether they would wear their undergarments. I don’t believe this is a question that could be answered definitively because of the nature of the record from the Victorian Era, but the interaction was fun as we tried to determine what would make a believable historical scene. The person that instant messaged me got immediate feedback and help on what they were writing right in that moment.

When I write a fiction post for one of my collaborative role-play novels there I can get instant feedback – which I hugely enjoy. It’s not always critical feedback, but that’s ok. As writers we need to expand and grow, hone our skills, but more often than not we just want to know that other people are enjoying the tales we spin. By writing and publishing at an online community with like-minded people, both readers and writers of tales, I can interact with my readers and with my fellow writers in one fell swoop. I can get advice, I can find research sources (more on that in a later blog), and I just plain jump up and down to announce my latest effort.

Besides the feedback I get my other pleasure on the site is giving feedback to others. The excitement of logging onto Pan Historia to find a post by one of my writing partners in one of my favorite collaborative novels is akin to seeing the latest book by your favorite author showing up at the local bookstore. With some people it’s just about the pleasure of reading their stuff, but I might enjoy a more critique based relationship with other trusted writers so that we might comment on each other’s work. Another added benefit is that I might get a fresh eye to catch those typos and other errors that slipped by me even though I edit all my work before posting it online.

I know a lot of this sounds like an ad for my own site (and yes, there is an element of shameless plug here) but it’s also probably true for other writing sites that you might have heard of or be involved in. I really think that the potential that resides in the internet is all about social media, interaction, and networking, and not about static information. I actually believe that all this interaction has allowed me to be a writer in a way that I don’t think I could have managed before it. I am far too social an animal to write alone. Having my peers and readers right here at my fingertips, whether on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, or at Pan Historia, actually liberates and inspires me to write, and to write better.


#WriteChat on Twitter

Right now I’m participating in #writechat – which is a rather cool Twitter phenomena. Every Sunday writers form a free-wheeling chat group in the Twitter stream that weaves in and out of other conversations. Topics are about writing: inspiration, mood, tips, techniques, publishing, etc. For those new or unfamiliar with Twitter, the chat/microblogging platform, hashtags are used to separate out topics and make them easily searchable. If you have software like the Tweetdeck on your computer you can actually create a ‘group’ for any topic you want to follow and it separates them out for you, regardless of whether you follow that person or not.

One of the recurring topics on #writechat is often how such conversations help inspire writing or writers. I don’t really find that to be true. Actually I tend to think of such activities as a bit of procrastination from the act of writing itself. After all if you’re reading a bunch of ‘tweets’ about writing and then jumping in yourself you can hardly be busy at work.

That said I still think it’s a very valuable tool. One of the reasons I’m a big fan of collaborative writing is that I’m a social animal. Traditionally writing has tended to be a lonely business with its fair share of misanthropes in its austere and often dusty ranks. Activities like #writechat connect up different writers to each other and shake out the cobwebs. So even though it doesn’t always lead me to more or better writing, I would be the last one to deny the benefits of just hanging out and getting to know other writers.

And for those that argue that they can see no point in Twitter it’s definitely one of the better uses of the application. It is an excellent Petri dish for meeting and breeding new writers and just one of the examples of how Twitter can be used in a good way to increase connections between people, rather than magnify the modern malaise of alienation, as many detractors of social media claim.


The Great American Novel Stowed Under the Bed

(originally posted on November 3rd, 2008 at http://www.panhistoria.blogspot.com)

I was tidying up this morning (shocking but true) and I came across my copy of the Gary Robert’s biography of Doc Holliday – which I had been reading last month, the month before? Anyway it reminded me that not too long ago I had been back in deep with my idea of writing the Great American Novel (i.e. the unfinished manuscript). I try not to talk about writing the book too often for the very reason that I keep putting it off, getting distracted, and just generally pissing about and not doing it. As an artist, as a writer, I know those people that are always talking about wanting to be something, but they never just DO IT.

Really the doing is the key. Back in art school I remember one of my professors disparaging ‘talent’. Now I’m a firm believer in talent, but what he said really sank in that day. In his years of teaching he’d seen lots of talented students that never made the grade as artists; they’d just piss it all away in ego and laziness. It was determination and discipline that made the artist. It was the one that worked at it – no matter the starting point – that achieved success. I’ve been judging myself by that standard, and frankly I flop as a novel writer. I piss about and I don’t actually write the damned thing.

Yet I’m different from other wannabe writers. Why? Because I actually write at least a page a day, and often much more than that. Every day I log into Pan Historia and participate in the writing there – perhaps it’s not a fictional piece that I write, maybe it’s this blog, or maybe it’s instructions on how to participate in some contest, or it’s my email correspondence, or even it’s just the conversations I have with people online via our instant messaging system. As an aside on my counting online chat as writing I have to elucidate: I never use emoticons, I always spell the entire word out, and I endeavor, always, to use correct grammar and punctuation. When I describe something I’m aware of the words I choose, always.

I do value the writing I do at Pan Historia – like the re-enactment I talked about in my recent blogging – but deep down I feel like all this practice should be going towards the ‘real deal’. What is holding me back? Is it fear of failure? Ultimately I do hesitate to claim ‘writer’ status for myself. I happen to know some incredible writers personally and I cringe to suggest I can do what they can do, no matter how I strive to learn the art of word craft, but I don’t think that’s really what stops me. After all I keep painting even though I know I’m no Picasso.

It’s more like I’m a glutton and I need to be more single-minded. I grab hold of so many things, pulling them towards me, my mind always searching for the new and interesting. I have to read The New Yorker on the john because I have two novels on the go (and that biography of Doc Holliday), and then when I’m the computer I’m working on Pan Historia or learning my Adobe Suite programs, or talking fiction, art, history, or god knows what. Even when I paint I have sitters and we talk and I can only manage a couple hours at most and there are numerous other projects too numerous to mention.

I have no point of stillness.

To truly write is to hear the story in my head and just follow it, hour upon hour. Even if that is an hour set apart in a day it needs to be one still hour. I’m not even doing that now. While I type this blog post I’m holding a conversation with three people at Pan via instant messaging and I have my Twitter going. In fact I was just ‘gone’ for ten minutes as I posted at Pan regarding our Halloween Home Contest, left a message for someone about their prize, and generally futzed around – and did I tell you that my feet are cold and I need to get some socks on?

Good thing I don’t believe in Attention Deficit Disorder. I would be on drugs now. Wait… I am on drugs, but just painkillers folks, no need to call the cops.