Tuesday, 22 June 2010

AlphaThoughts - The Internal Editor

The 'internal editor' is a force every writer should be aware of and prepared to face, whether they are a blogger, a creative writer, or anyone who works with text in your professional or personal life.  Your internal editor might manifest him/herself in any number of ways, including the following:

  • As the force that drives your hand towards the backspace button, or that makes you scribble out what you have just written.
  • As the little voice in your head that reads what you've just written and says 'That sounds pompous'; 'That's a clunky sentence'; 'Who would be interested in this?'.
  • As the need to have your story, poem, blog post, or any other text carefully planned out before you put pen to paper or fingers to keys.
  • As the ever-dreaded writer's block - not the 'having nothing to write about' kind, but the 'not knowing how to start, how to be eye-catching, how to be a pleasure to read etc' kind.
The internal editor's influence can be crippling - believe me, I know.  I have spent so long obsessing about my novel and various writing or plotting 'rules'.  My novel doesn't have a villain as such, does that matter?  I've got three possible endings, how do I know which one would be best?  My characters seem boring, what if no-one cares about them enough to keep reading?  Is my plot original enough?  'Obviously,' my internal editor assures me, 'you must have the answer to all of these set in stone before you can even CONSIDER starting Chapter 1.'

The internal editor is often described as the left side of your brain.  The right side is for being creative, intuitive, random even, and the left side for grounding you in reality.  A Google search on 'left right brain test' brings up many tests of which side is dominant for you.  The Art Institute of Vancouver test told me I was 57% dominated by the right, creative side, with the following sub-results:

Your Left Brain Percentages
  34%Verbal (Your most dominant characteristic)
  17%Symbolic (Your least dominant characteristic)

Your Right Brain Percentages
  52%Fantasy-oriented (Your most dominant characteristic)
  0%Concrete (Your least dominant characteristic)

While no test is perfect, this seems a pretty fair assessment of me.  While I think of myself as creative (and 'fantasy-oriented' is also fair!), my internal editor is most picky about the verbal elements and being precise in my use of language.

A test you may have come across is this dancer.  Apparently if you see her turning anti-clockwise, you are more dominated by your left brain, and clockwise by the right.  She can change direction while you're looking - I find she does when I focus on her bottom foot.  And she changes for me on different days!

The left, logical side of your brain likes to bang on about facts, grammar, likely outcomes and other boring but necessary things.  It does this to make sure that the right, creative side of the brain knows who's in charge.  In fairness to the left, we do need its general sensibleness to hold this tight rein on our sensibility.  Otherwise we would never make reasoned decisions, make appointments, or even make it to work in the morning.

But there are times when the left brain should just shut up...like when you are trying to create a startling poem or an inspirational post.  You are not silencing the editor forever, just deferring it - unfettered inspiration first, boring grammar and presentation later.  Acknowledging your internal editor is halfway to controlling it, but there are various tips and techniques out there to help you put that damned left brain back in its box for a while.  I will be testing out any of these that I can find in the coming months (my left brain is particularly snide and intrusive), and will post my findings here for you to try!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

AlphaBook Project - my first novel

My first novel (known here as the AlphaBook) has been percolating for over three years.  During 2009, I managed a concerted period of character work, plotting, developing themes, and generally building the fictional world.  Then I hit a wall, and never actually started writing the damn thing.

I have an abiding dread of rejection, which I am blaming for my author-flakiness.  My fear that I will turn out to be a rubbish writer makes procrastinating seem like the best way forward.  It is fantastically easy to put my notebooks to one side and bleat about how busy I am, so many interests, so little time, baa baa baa.

One thing I do know is this: that if I never get my story down on paper, it will always gnaw away at me.  When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer.  I entered competitions as a teenager (and even won a few), and wrote all the time.  In unashamed Sarah Ferguson self-help speak - I feel sorry for little AlphaChick and her unfulfilled dreams....

OK yes, that was cheesy.  Apologies.  Back to the project.

My pledges:
  • Write a minimum of 5,000 words a week, starting 1st August 2010
  • Do no re-working, editing, or general fannying-about during this time
  • Work to a first draft AlphaBook deadline of 30th November 2010 - 4 months of full-tilt writing
  • Record my progress here - word counts and thoughts on the process, interspersed with other blog stuff

My start date gives me just over a month to have my summer holiday, get my blog how I want it, and get my head back into the AlphaBook background work I've done.

I'll be frank - this is going to be really tough for me.  These are ambitious pledges, particularly for a born procrastinator.  I have a job, a commute, a relationship, and all manner of fun interests that could help me say 'Shame, can't manage 5,000 words this week...'

Hence this post.  I am exposing my audacious goals - I invite the worldwide webloggers to keep tabs on me. 

Off to dig out my writing pens...

Friday, 18 June 2010

My First Blog

For a webaholic, budding writer and general lover of life, it seems crazy to me that this is my first blog.  While I have been active in the web ether and on various forums for some time, the culture of blogging has passed me by.

Until now!  Introducing AlphaChick's very first blog...

Blog reasons

So why am I blogging?

One of the key reasons is that I have been trying to write my novel for TOO long.  I have good periods of regular writing, but I keep getting scared or lazy and the writing grinds to a halt.  I figured that if I put this blog out there, it could help me in three ways:

a)  Get me practising writing more, to hone my writing muscles.

b)  Make me more confident about my writing, helping to silence those niggly doubts telling me 'It's no good, what's the point' etc.

c)  Make me stick to my goal of finishing the novel by the time I'm 30 (Dec 2011).  After all, the web is watching!

Other than writing practice and to galvanise my novel efforts, I'm blogging to share opinions with others.  I have many hobbies and do quite a lot with my spare time.  This all leads to a fairly busy life (and a cluttered head), so maybe this blog will help me reflect and make sense of it all!

Blog writer

So who is AlphaChick?

I have started this section about four times and it always ends up sounding like a dating profile.  'I'm fun-loving, late 20s, GSOH' etc etc etc.  Maybe bullet points will put paid to that:
  • I am, indeed, in my late 20s, and happy at this age.  I have found four grey hairs in the past six months which was alarming.  But they have been pulled out and, to all intents and purposes, never existed.
  • I like: writing, reading, cooking, eating, picnics, pubs, long walks, cheesy musicals, sunshine, snow, Dr Who, murder mysteries, and playing computer games.  I am aware that this last is controversial for a grown woman.  I am attempting to break down the assumption that an intelligent, sociable woman with a full calendar wouldn't (or shouldn't) like killing a few bad guys from time to time.
  • I live with my boyfriend, henceforward known as AlphaBloke.  We've been together since 2006 and going strong.  He likes: Planet Rock, fast cars, wartime stuff, outdoorsy stuff, and staying in with me watching Two and a Half Men and eating ice lollies.  It is nigh on impossible to define someone in a bullet point, so he will go easy on me (please).
  • I'm too whimsical for my own good.  While brushing up my French for a one-week holiday, I will suddenly decide I LOVE French.  I will buy five French books from Amazon, and start investigating distance-learning French A-Level courses.  A few weeks later, I will be obsessed by something else and wonder what to do with all these flipping French books...
  • I'm pretty silly by all accounts.  AlphaBloke and I spend a not inconsiderable amount of time wrestling, tickling, and sneaking up on each other.  Life is not, generally, a serious affair.
  • I live in Kent and work in London.  My job is ok but not particularly creative, so enough said about that.

The rest, I'm sure, will become clear.

Blog content

Alphabet Soup will include:

AlphaReviews - Giving my verdict on a variety of things.  I read a lot of books, watch a lot of TV/films/plays, and visit a lot of restaurants/pubs/fun places.  I will share experiences and opinions here.

AlphaLife - Reflections on (and pictures of) stuff I've been up to.

AlphaThoughts - Musings on the issues of the day.

AlphaBook Project - My first novel progress.  More on this to follow!

And finally

Before I begin blogging in earnest, I want to give a quick shout out to blogger friends Emm and CiBi for their encouragement and support.  I'm lucky to have come across two such positive (and startlingly beautiful) women to help me on these first steps.  Thanks girls! :-)

And to my AlphaBloke, who suggested I start a blog years ago...

AlphaChick is born!