The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

The Building Blocks of Writing

Scrabble tiles

Can you be a writer if you aren’t a good speller?

One upon a time, I would have said no. You can’t be a builder if you don’t know how to use a hammer and nails. Words are the building blocks of writing, so if you don’t know how to spell words, you can’t be a writer.

In my previous job, I worked in retail. When the store was quiet, we were allowed to talk to other stores (as long as our own stores were clean etc). I became good friends with the manager of another store, and we would email during our shifts. He was the worst speller I have come across; he spelled phonetically so I would have to say the word aloud in order to understand what he was writing.

As a self-proclaimed spelling Nazi, other people not knowing how to spell really irks me. I consider spelling a simple thing to learn… and here’s where hypocrisy creeps in. I am terrible at numbers. It’s a struggle for me to do simple addition or subtraction in my head. I am one of those cashiers whom you’ve glared at when you’ve given them coins and a note and they stare blankly at it, trying to work out how much change to give. In the course of my job, I became quite good at my 12 times tables, because I was constantly counting in dozens. I knew what change to give out of habit. Whenever we had a price change, it stumped me until I learned the change thanks to what the register was telling me.

It has taken me a lot of years to realise that some people can’t process spelling in their head the way I can’t process addition. And while I can’t see the difficulty in knowing which there/their/they’re to use, a lot of people do. My inability to mentally process numbers happens to others when it comes to words.

However, a writer isn’t just someone who writes. A writer needs to be a storyteller. This is true for all forms of writing: obviously creative writing but also academic writing, technical writing, copywriting. All the “technical” writing forms have to lead the reader to a conclusion, just the same as creative writing.

The uni degree I undertook was Bachelor of Communications. It now encompasses majors like PR and Business Communications, however it is best known for being a degree for journalists. In the very beginning of the Comms degree, budding journos are quickly disillusioned when they realise there’s more essay writing than news writing. Essays are difficult to wrap one’s head around: there is a certain style which needs to be adhered to. With creative writing, you can be, well, creative with style, however academic writing is quite a different beast.

But back to words. A storyteller is the soul of a writer. We desire to tell a story, and tell it well. A writer uses words to express meaning, convey a message, elicit a response from their reader. A writer will search synonyms of words, looking for just the right one to engage their reader into feeling something deep in their own soul.

But it does not matter how you spell that word. As long as you’re a storyteller, you can be a writer. There are people you can pay to fix the technical stuff for you. There are options available for people who want their stories available to the masses, other than traditional publishers. Yes, a writer needs words, but they do not need to know how to spell those words.

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February 11, 2019 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections, Writing Journey | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fin

Yes boys and girls, I completed the epic task of 50,000 words in a NaNoWriMo month! (Plus the other essays and assorted writings I was doing during November…) My best day was Saturday, 24 November when I wrote a whopping 11,000 words in a day. It was all because I had taken the weekend off to attend a writer’s retreat on the beautiful Stradbroke Island in Queensland. I’m so glad I did! I met a bunch of awesome people, got very little sleep (thanks to some all-night singing) and absorbed much inspiration via osmosis from the lovely people around me. I will definitely do it again should the opportunity present itself.

I have withdrawn from uni for this semester though. I felt that my being away for 3 weeks in January 2013 (a quarter of the semester) would be of detriment and I wouldn’t be able to dedicate my best effort. So far, it’s been two weeks and I’m a bit lost. I have nothing to do… so I thought it would be a great time to start a new blog about watching an episode of The Simpsons every day until I have seen every episode. Follow the insanity here.

As for my NaNo novel, I really like the work I have done on it and plan to continue with that journey. Firstly, I need to finish it. Then comes the process of editing and eventually, I think I would like to self-publish on a platform such as iTunes and/or Google books etc. Just to be part of the process, ya know?

Thanks to everyone for putting up with me, especially to my boyfriend who basically didn’t see me at all for the last two weeks of November as I spent every waking minute writing or at work. A special thankyou to Bryce Courtenay, who passed away recently. Thankyou for the stories, for your dedication in getting a novel written every year and for sharing so much with us. You’re sadly missed already.

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Imagination Takes Over

First, allow me to apologise for my recent lack of posts. I notice that my last post was in June! How time flies whether you’re having fun or not…

Secondly, here’s one of the reasons I have been busy this month. Image

Thirdly, I am also currently writing two essays due this Friday. I’m starting to think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew for this month, this week at least.

For the past week, I have spent every waking moment writing. Obviously, I am writing this blog post, but I’ve also been writing 50,000 words for the NaNoWriMo challenge as well as these two essays. (Apologies to my boyfriend, I will be back in reality sometime next week…) I’ve written before about the magic of NaNoWriMo, which never fails to astonish me. When I was a kid, I remember writing a letter to a favourite author asking why she had killed off my favourite character. She actually replied, saying it was something that needed to happen. This has always puzzled me. You’re the author, you get to decide what happens, how could you let this character be killed? As I ventured deeper into the world of writing, I find that sometimes, amazingly, your characters absolutely have a life of their own. In my current NaNoWriMo project, two of my characters did something I wasn’t expecting. Michelle, the wife, kicked her husband James out of the house after surprising him with some midday shenanigans in his office. Four chapters later, he retaliates by picking up a woman in a bar and taking her home. Where did that come from? Based on the successful word count of that chapter (almost 3000 words), I decided that another male character, Ben, also needed to get laid. I’m sure Ben was grateful for the experience.

After an hour or two of letting my brain wander all over the page with NaNo, it’s time to focus on either essay. I don’t mind writing essays but I do find them tedious. For every hour of writing, there’s three hours of research behind it. For the record, one essay is 2000 words about television’s reaction to youth culture by comparing The Monkees with The Simpsons. The other essay is about how radio advanced the discipline of journalism. No, it’s not very exciting but luckily is only a thousand words. Hence my dedication to writing this month, and indeed, taking up almost every available minute of this week in particular. By the end of the month I will have over 53,000 words to show for my effort (not included incidental writings such as emails, this blog post and my shopping list).

A few years ago, I saw an interview with Bryce Courtenay, who said writing is a full time job for him. He sits down to write at 7am and doesn’t finish til at least 5pm, often later. I admire someone who can keep going for that amount of time every day. I usually run out of ideas within an hour or two (but then again I’m a terrible planner, nothing I write started off with a well thought-out plan. Perhaps this is where I’m going wrong?) My 2010 effort at NaNoWriMo went pretty well. As soon as I realised 1667 words a day wasn’t too hard, I managed to scrape together enough to “win” the challenge. Truthfully, the only reason I decided to do it again this year was because I was invited to a writer’s retreat on the beautiful Stradbroke Island and thought I should make an effort to write a novel…

My point for this blog is this: Writing can be as easy or as difficult as you like. What I have learned over the past two weeks is that I can easily clear my mind by pouring out 1667 words which will hopefully come together as a coherent novel (as an aside, I like this effort much better than my 2010 effort, which is probably only suitable for Mills & Boon readers). After clearing the mind, it is free to focus on interesting tidbits in which to base an essay upon. I’ve also learned that if you are falling behind and need more hours in the day to write, the internet will fail you at work and you will end up spending seven hours texting your friend from another store to pass the time.

See you again sometime next week… Assuming I survive this War of Words.

November 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First 10,000 Words

This post is a Q&A about my project for NaNoWriMo.

Q: Who are the characters?

A: There are three main characters; Amy, Mart and Campbell. Amy is a travel writer in her late 20’s. Mart is her openly gay flatmate. Campbell is the guy Amy has an affair with.

Q: Are the characters based on anyone from real life?

A: Well, yes and no. Amy has experiences similar to my own but right now she’s nothing like anyone I personally know. Campbell has similarities to people I know, and some aspects of his life (mainly career) are things I had to ask people I know in order to research. The idea of Campbell has basis in reality, although the character doesn’t. Mart is an amalgamation of all my gay male friends- they’ll definitely see parts of themselves in Mart (only the good bits though!) Mart is the comic relief, the epitome of the lighter side of life. He’s my favourite character to write.

Q: Where did the idea come from?

A: My friend Katariina told me about NaNoWriMo last year… on Halloween. I promised myself I’d do it this year so I registered early and got things together. I had no idea what I was going to write until about a week before it started. I had a vivid dream involving the basic plot and some scenes. I wrote it all down when I woke up, then formed the synopsis around it. Once November 1 came around, I started writing and it just flowed. The story has elements of my life; for example, I went to Bali last year over Christmas/New Year for a friend’s wedding, but the actual affair bit is pure imagination.

Q: Where do you write?

A: At work during quiet moments or on my laptop at home. I’m constantly emailing copies of the draft to myself so I always have the latest copy nearby. Plus I have a notebook in case anything pops into my head at other times, like when I’m out walking.

Q: What will you do with it once NaNoWriMo is over?

A: No idea! Lots of novels started during NaNoWriMo have been published and have been successful. Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen is just one; they’ve filmed it and the movie will be released next year. While that’s obviously a lovely dream, to be honest I’d just like to finish writing the novel before I decide what I can do with it.

Q: How have you found the process?

A: Easier than I expected, actually. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s 1667 words a day, or about four A4 pages. I write longer emails than that, so I knew I could do it! So far I’ve missed only two days, but I’d like to get at least some writing done every day. I told everyone I know that I’m doing this, and everyone has been really supportive.

 

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , | Leave a comment