Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Expressing the Inexpressible

I love the beach...

Here is a confession: I am not a life long poetry lover.  Funny thing, my mother is a poet and has written poetry her whole life, having a some published and even having an internationally known composer use some of her poems for art songs.  But me?  No, I’ve never been much of a poetry lover.

“But Trent,” you say, “you post a new poem every week on your blog!  You read other people’s poems and make nice comments.  Are you hypocrite, just writing and saying things for some evil purpose?”

Of course not. Continue reading

A Bit of Truth Behind the Fiction

Baby Eagle

Baby Eagle

I had lived in New Hampshire for a little over a year.  I was having job issues and wasn’t sure what was happening in the near term.  I took walks and they became longer and longer every day.

One day as I was walking through the woods I heard an awful, pitiful cry.  A large white pine was straight in front of my, the trail turn as it reached it.  High above the trail there was a large bird on a branch with another large bird a bit above it on another branch.  I couldn’t tell what they were, but my thought was immature bald eagles.  They were huge.  Between the two birds was a squirrel.  The squirrel was screaming at the birds.  He obviously wasn’t ready to be bird food quite yet.  As i approached one of the birds flew off.  Not wanting to upset the balance of nature I quickly walked on.  For the next few months I looked for that bird every time I walked by that tree.  After two or three months I moved and have never been back to that trail (moved to a different part of the same town). Continue reading

A Question of Names

woman portrait

When you write fiction, how do you come up with the names of your characters?  As I’ve been reading through my short stories once again I’ve been looking at names.  As I look at the names, that question about naming occasionally comes up.  Why did I choose that particular name and what would happen if I changed it?

First a few little details.  Between the short stories I’ve posted here, including the flash fiction and 100 word “Friday Fictioneers” stories, and the stories I have not posted, there are well over 200 stories that combined to more than 250,000 words.  Of course, if I toss in the two books I’ve written, at about 80,000 words each, we are talking about a lot of names, a huge number of names, perhaps thousands of named characters.  Sometimes it bothers me when I find a repeat, but over all I think I did a pretty good job keeping unique names. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday Linkup – Backstory

Walk

Once again I’m joining the Throwback Thursday Link Party hosted by Part-Time Monster, Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy  and  The Qwiet Muse   again.  The idea is to put up a link to a post that is at least 30 days old.  Again I decided to go back to the early days of my blog, December 27, 2013 to be exact.

As I mentioned last week, most of my early posts were along the lines of writer’s resources and cultivating creativity with the view of writing in mind.  This post was the first of a series about how walking helps spur my creativity.  Well, it went much farther than that.  For many of the stories I write, what is on page is just a small shadow of the whole story.  If the story is very involved there may be volumes of things I think about before I write it.  That’s what my throwback post is about, The Unwritten Backstory.  Enjoy!

Besides just my little blast from the past you should also go look at some others.  Go to the link-up linky and ready more or even participate.

A Word on Words! And a Question….

Fiction

This is a bit of nothing, just a quick homage to words, words in an attempt to portray the wonder of words. As readers and writers we have a love affair with words. We dance to their music in our ear and savor their delicious flavor in our mouths as we speak them. We delight in a new word or a clever combination of them.

One of the things that I’m often curious about is vocabulary. More specifically, how many different words have I used in a story? Are there any tools out there that people use? I write in MS Word. It gives a total count but it doesn’t tell me how many unique words I’ve used. I’ve played with a few different online tools. I’ll admit that I only did a few quick searches and tested just a small sampling, a handful or so, of different online tools. Of these, this was my favorite:  http://wordcounttools.com/   Yeah, the name says it all. Continue reading

The Unwritten Backstory (Again)

First step on a long winter's walk - Photo by Trent P. McDonald

(Originally posted December 27, 2013 – One of my first posts it received only one “like”…)

The stereotypical author is often pictured hunched over a beat-up old typewriter creating his or her magic on the spot, pounding ideas furiously onto the keys.  Of course today the “typewriter” has a softly glowing flat screen.  Well, this picture isn’t me.  I do most of my writing during my frequent walks.  Time banging on the computer is needed mostly to transfer the already written story from my brain onto the page.  Sure, I do a lot editing on the PC, but for a major revision I once again put on a comfortable pair of shoes and head out the door.  Storyline, major plot points and even the nitty-gritty of word choice are worked out on foot.

During my strolls I tend to think beyond the finished product, particularly when it comes to short fiction.  I often create a much larger, more detailed story and then whittle it down.  A lot of what gets cut might be called “backstory”.  Although deleted, it’s always kept in mind, influencing the final work. Continue reading

It Started With a Dream

The Hamlet Symphny - Alt Image

It started with a dream. And a very strange dream it was (*read the dream at the end of the post). It jumped around and didn’t make any sense and yet seemed real. I thought about it as I went through my morning routine. On my drive to work I wrote a little story in my mind based on the dream. By the time I pulled into the parking lot I had it pretty much down. I also realized it was more of a single scene than a standalone story.  i was thinking four, perhaps five, parts.  I took a break from work midway through the morning and cranked it out as fast as I could type. The scene was in my brain, I just had to type it out. I took less than 30 minutes to type and post the more than 1800 words of “The Halley Branch (Part 1)”.

For a few days it continued like this. I would think of the next chapter as I drove to work. Half way through the morning I’d take a half an hour break to write up what I had planned on my drive and post it. After the forth part I realized the story was going to be a lot bigger than originally planned, perhaps book length.

After about the fourth or fifth part I started doing a lot of the writing at home in the evening. Continue reading

Finished? I Don’t Think So… (Again)

Half a Trent - Self Portrait in oils, manipulated digitally

(Note – This was first publish in January of 2014.  Something reminded me of it so I decided to bring it back)

“OK, I’m finished.”

The painting instructor came over to look at my work.  He studied it intently, his brow furrowing.  After a few minutes he asked, “You’re done?  Is this a study?  I think this looks pretty good so you should continue working with it.”  He left to check someone else’s work. Continue reading

Stories Untold and Books Unwritten

My Book

While watching the news a few weeks ago I was reminded of an old book idea I had decades ago. The basic idea of the book was thought out in 1988 during a period of prolific writing. Well, I wrote a half dozen short stories, bought a typewriter, and typed a few out, so while not prolific, it was a time that I actually did more than just dream about writing. I totally rewrote the book in my mind over the years 1993 – 1994, but I’m pretty sure the plot point that involved the trial of a racist police officer who had shot some unarmed black citizens was there since 1988.

Have you ever remembered an old plot line or unwritten story and asked yourself why you never carried through with it? I’ll admit it happens way too often with me. The reason I say “way too often” is the fact that until recently I’ve written far more stories in my head than I have actually written out. Continue reading

Making a Practice of Practicing

Trent's studio

An ancient bad joke: “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Sure: Practice, practice, practice.” And then there is the even older saying, “Practice makes Perfect,” which is clearly untrue since there is no such thing as perfection in the arts. But the point has to be taken – no matter how much natural talent you have, you need to practice to gain skill. And not just have to practice, you need to practice a lot. For instance, a professional musician often puts in far more than the normal work week of 40 hours in practice alone. That is not including rehearsals, performances and recording sessions.

I put a lot of emphasis on my blog about my new studio setup. I’m finding I had reason to make a big deal about it as I’m now beginning to reap the benefits of the new setup. I have been practicing more and better. I have continued to do my scales, finger exercises and classical songs, but now I often just rock out. I’ve been learning new material and creating new music.

New Studio

Of course practice goes far beyond music. I have written over 70 new short stories for this blog in the last year and a half. To me this is fantastic practice for when I want to write longer forms. I’m also about to reach my 500th post on the blog, again great writing practice. I sometimes cringe when I reread some of my earliest short stories, but I’m sure I’d cringe just as much if I listened in to some of my early music practice sessions.  My work is getting better.

I’ve been skimping on my visual arts practice lately, but in the past I’ve spent hours drawing studies of mundane objects. Before I make a painting I might do a dozen drawings and studies. I’m now out of practice so it would take me a while to get back into it, but if and when I return to the visual arts you can be sure I’ll put a huge amount of practice in before I post anything.

I am far from perfect in any art and will never come close even if I quit my job and practice full time. Still, I can see the benefits; the results are tangible. I really notice the results when I stop practicing. My writing becomes sloppy and my playing is no longer crisp and clear.

How seriously do you take your practice?