J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."


February 2014

What I’ve learned so far…….

I’ve been writing pretty much for my whole life. My first story, the one I remember writing, was about a horse who gave birth to a foal on Christmas Day. I think I was about seven or eight. It was one page long, only because I repeated a section and then switched from one month of the year to another. Obviously, I had not learned about continuity. And clearly, I was re-writing the alleged birth of Christ to suit my favorite animals.

What I’ve learned over the years, thanks to reading, creative writing classes and theater, is to find the story’s arc, or, in theater terms, where to break the acts and to use what was earlier established by the story’s end. The structure of a story will never change, but how the author uses it will be unique to them and will be influenced by their life experiences.

Which is only one side to the whole process of being a writer. Writers are essentially solitary creatures – they need to be, in order to set down on paper the worlds and characters that are constantly demanding to be heard. Socializing is fun and releases us from our imagination, but for me, it can also be draining and sometimes, I prefer my fictional worlds to the real one, wanting nothing more than to immerse myself in the lives of the characters I’ve created and the challenges they have been given to overcome. Yes, I know I created them and the twists and turns of their lives, but any writer will tell you that it almost never goes according to plan. Sometimes, the process takes over and you’re just there to enjoy it.

Writing isn’t something one just decides to do overnight. It is not an easy profession to break into. I would say that it is comparable to breaking into the film industry to become famous – except that writers are often far more disrespected than the key grip. Or the costume designer. Or the intern. Which has always struck me as odd, because even the worst films have scripts – someone wrote them, which gave the director an excuse to make a movie and fulfill his/her own vision.

Writing is a full-time job, whether you publish or not, whether you make any sales or not, or even if it’s just for you. A writer never stops writing, or creating, or thinking, or observing or wondering, “What if…..?” There are no right ways to write, but a writer must always, always, adhere to the rules they’ve established in their own worlds. This may seem silly, since stories are almost always fiction, but as Mark Twain once said, “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”

What have I learned since I published my first book? That each book is a different process, that the story I want to work on isn’t always the one that demands my attention and that, while I do what I can for the promotional side, I know that there is a lot I am not able to do, more because I am not well-versed in marketing than the lack of interest.

But that’s the fun and the challenge. I have definite ideas on how I want to approach the business side of being an independent author. I have a plan, which is a little more concise and to the point than any of my story outlines (which are ever-changing). I plan to utilize my theater know-how and my love of film-making to showcase my written words.

And notice how it comes back to that – the written word. Words can exist without pictures or performance – how we view the written word comes down to what we bring to them.

“Do not seek th…

“Do not seek the ‘because’ – in love, there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

Anais Nin, author
Feb. 21, 1903-Jan. 14, 1977

Read to Write

I’ve been telling myself stories since I was a kid. I’ve been putting them to paper for almost as long.

But before that, I was reading. Dr. Seuss, Alan Ginsberg, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Walter Farley, Carolyn Keene, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, and many others too numerous to mention.

This is what I’ve learned from those writers – if you want to write, edit or have anything to do with words, you must read. Read everything and anything. Read the classics and the pulps, because the best writing will teach you style and the worst writing will teach you how not to apply it. Read non-fiction not just for the history or the biography, but for the ideas that will burble up to the surface and wait for you to catch them. Read articles for brevity. Read poetry for imagery. Reading will help you find your voice as you practice with the voices of others.

Above all, practice, practice, practice. Writing is about reading. Most importantly, writing is about re-writing. Re-write until you feel you can’t do it anymore. Then re-write again. And again. And just one more time. Find someone who knows how to read critically and be objective, someone whose opinion you trust and can rely on to give you constructive feedback, not just what they think you want to hear.

But in order to understand the dynamics of dialogue, character, plot and narrative, one must first read it by others before writing.

As Stephen King once pointed out in ‘On Writing’, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or tools to write.”

So I started a blog…..

So here I am, starting a blog and I am somewhat at a loss for words, which is more than slightly ironic, considering I am a writer, an author, a playwright, a screenwriter and a word-slinger in general.

Crafting images and worlds out of twenty-six (26!) letters that are arranged so as to be understood, to be words that convey meaning and have impact is something of a mind-boggler when one sits down to really think about it. And it’s not just for the English language – this is true for whatever language one speaks (though the number of letters in the alphabet may differ). I mean, when taken apart, words themselves are a bit odd. I remember, as a child, thinking that the word ‘cup’ was really weird – why did it have the meaning to the shape it was assigned?

I’m not exactly sure how old I was when I decided to arrange letters and words into something that resembled a story, one that had the semblance of a beginning, a middle and an end. But I was very young, if the pages I’d found in an old file recently are any indication, and my reach certainly exceeded my grasp.

Words have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, whether I was the one writing them or if I was reading them as written by others.

And I guess I wasn’t at a loss for words, after all.

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