The Storyteller - the wit and wisdom of Frank Coughlin
 
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There is a part of the writing life which I do not like at all (okay maybe a just a little). It is called
Getting Noticed.
The Author assumes that the publishing house is going to do this for you because everyone knows a famous author can sell a book about sleeping in bed or their summer they spent in bed sleeping while a really great unknown author cannot sell the mysteries of the Universe or a book about printing money or a book about the fountain of youth. But alas publishing companies no longer do this.
What is the easiest way to get noticed ? Let's look at the experts. What do they do that makes you sit up and pay attention ?
Lady Gaga may not be your cup of tea so to speak, but most people know who she is. (She is the one wearing the crazy Bra on the outside of her clothes). You may not like or know who Ms. Steele or Mr. King are but try going to anyplace that sells books and not finding several of theirs there.
Many good authors find that they need to add scenes or chapters with Sex, nudity, and drugs because these things interest people and help get your book published and noticed. Who cares if you are writing the most sensational novel since Moby Dick (good title for attracting attention). The buying public just does not by things from places and people unknown (unless there is nudity involved). Even the Barbie doll literary collection (if there was one) would be a best seller because Barbie is a brand that everyone knows. Barbie started out as an adult sex doll (t
Right now I am typing this in the nude - or I would be if I thought I would get noticed and published. Does that mean that I am selling out - damn straight it does.
Look, I figure if a total idiot like Glen Beck could get noticed (and sell books) why can't I ? If a raving madman like Charlie whats-his-name can sell out tour dates just because he raves and spouts nonsense - Why can't I ?
I
can spout nonsense with the best of them. If I have to wear an underwire Bra outside of my shirt - then I will. I am not sure I want cameramen from DMZ following me around but I will flash them my private parts if for no other reason than to show why they are private -euw and ick.
I will even write this stoned if that is what it takes (some people think that I do this already but they are mistaken).
What I am hoping for is some attention and as they say in the Biz -
there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Keep writing - I will.

 
 
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I have decided to take my writing to a whole new level - active. Yes, that means that I have not been writing enough on the story front. I do that a lot - I write stories then I write poems but never at the same time. Now I will try to do that.
Starting today I will write 1000 words or more of a story. I will continue this story for at least ten days - I have set these small goals because I do not know how well this project will work so I do not want to commit here to do this if it does not work. (This is known as the Escape clause- always have one).
I will post my 1000 words on another blog - tomorrow I will post that blog name here. But for now I will be content with writing my 1000 words and editing them so that they make some sense. You know adding things like periods, commas, capital letters.
I will still write this blog and my two other blogs and my poem for the day.
Yes, I can do all this in coffee breaks so you can too. Write from the heart and everything is easy - and GOOD.
Of course if something goes wrong, I will blame the computer because it could not be my fault ever. So join if you dare - have fun and keep writing.
P.S. This is not how Stephen King got started.

 
 
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A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to change the name of my Writing class. I wanted to change it from the generic sounding "Creative Writing" to something I thought more appropriate "Writing From The Heart". At that time people told me that the name sounded too much like therapy. But that is my point, writing from the heart, about topics of the heart is therapy. Nothing could be better for your well being to write about things that you care about - to let your voice out - to say what you want to say. Sometimes it is good to write this way in a journal that no one will read - simply because you want to see what is inside you first before you let the world see it. (That is if you think your words might hurt someone living.)
That is the power of letting your voice out in words - you can edit those words for maximum impact. Beyond raw emotions lies the beauty and wonderful stuff of your heart. The world needs more heartfelt writing and that to me is where the true creative writing comes from - the heart - the emotional center of our being - the place where the genius child inside us lives.
Tap into your heart and I think you will be surprised at what you will find there. I know I am and I know many of my students were pleasantly astounded too.
Keep Writing,
Frank

 
 
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The other day I got a postcard in the mail - it was from myself. This comes as no surprise - I mailed it to myself ten years ago. The surprise comes as to how long it took to get to me. But that is fodder for another post.
The message I wrote myself was simple:
Dear Frank:
Keep writing.
Your dearest friend,
Frank

I must have written it in my terse period - the days in which I figured less words meant being clearer. Still the message rings true. Keep writing. I have been getting down on myself for not producing the next Ulysses and that being down that is makes me want to quit writing. But if I did quit, I would never get there and at the very least I would never get any better at writing.
So I decided that I would write myself some more postcards (actually letters because postcards are so impersonal and letters can be post dated on the internet. I will start with a letter for next week saying - Glad you are writing again - your work gets better and better. Keep writing.
For next month. I will say something like congrats on your publishing contract !! Can you pay me the money you owe me ? Keep writing.
The month after that will read like - wow, who would have thought you could make it so big ?
Thanks for paying me back but did it have to be in pennies ? Keep writing.
And the month after that - Keep writing, your dog will come back ! Not so sure about your wife, though. I guess moving to Hollywood can do that to a marriage. But congrats on the new house. Love the swimming pool. Keep Writing.

Well you get the idea. Writing to yourself can be a good way to help yourself remember the old you - the you that used to write for the love of writing. And who doesn't like getting positive mail ?
Well I have some letters to mail so bye and keep writing.

 
 
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Trying on new clothes. That is what I call thinking differently. If you feel that your writing is stale (does it bore even you ?), thenmaybe you need to try on new clothes in a writing sense.
 There are many ways to accomplish this but one of the easiest ways is to change the sex of your hero.
If you find yourself writing about predominately men characters as the hero, try writing with a woman as your heroine.
I find this allows you to create scenes that you could not have concieved of before. No, you probably won't be good at it if you have never written a lead character in anything other than your own gender but it will teach you a few things you might not know.
Take the stereotypical private investigator - this would be a tough guy who drinks a lot.
Now make that character a woman. Does this woman like to fight, hang out at seedy bars, and chase loose . . . men? Perhaps not, but maybe she does.
The reverse could also happen - is your drama about a woman who was cheated on - how about make that character a guy. Now he has to feel depressed and unloved - is it because he is losing his sex appeal ? Has he put on a few too many pounds and are the wrinkles showing up on his face ? Well, you get the idea.
Changing the sex of any character in your story just might make the difference between cliche & trite and bold & quirky (also known as entertaining). And isn't that what you want ? Of course it could also make your story ridiculous so act with good sense and moderation.
Right now my panties are in a bunch and my legs need a shave. Plus I feel bloated and don't get me started on my boyfriend. OMG, Look how late it is - and I have not even started supper - gotta go!

 
 
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Pick your attitude, then run with it as far as words will take you. This is the secret to writing. I don't care who you are - you cannot write about happiness if you are ready to kick the cat. Nor can you write about madness and anger if you are seeing nothing but rainbows and halos. If you think that I am saying - write what you feel, you are correct.
Writing can shift your attitude - I find that it is better therapy than sitting in a room talking with someone you pay to listen. Many times I sit down at the keyboard seeing red (being mad). If I try to write something nice at that moment I will fail. So I write something nasty, something in your face, and like magic, my mood changes into something else. If I sit at the typewriter and my mood is neutral then I am better able to write whatever style I wish.
However, If I write when I am tired - I will tend to write half-hearted. This makes my work wimpy and inane. Unless I write something I really really want to write - then I become energized. Then I want to write for hours.
So the moral of the story is be aware of your attitude when you sit down to write. The second moral is if you write something right before bed - don't make it something that will energixe you  (You will be up for hours).  

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No matter how easy technology makes writing - there will always be a premium on good writing, good story-telling, etc. And last but definitely not least - editing.
If there was a way for technology to duplicate good writing - we would have had it eons ago.
Good writers and good editors are worth their weight in gold (that is a cliche that says these people are worth a lot and should be treasured). I have seen a lot of word processing packages and creative packages
such as Adobe Photoshop and they are great and allow the creative person to really create but these software packages can not duplicate the creative drive of even one ordinary person.
So when you are writing remember this - you and your work is unique even if you are ripping some one else off. It took your creative drive to come up with the idea to rip someone else off. Don't underestimate creative drive - it is what separates you from a bunch of monkey typing away. Theoretically, the monkeys are supposed t0 by random chance be able to duplicate Shakesphere (given enough monkeys and enough time). This has however never been proven because monkeys do not have the creative drive to type even a rap lyric let alone Shakesphere.
The title of this blog entry reflects how stupid a spellchecker program can bee. None of the words were flagged wrong. It also reflects how stupid I can be because I thought up the phrase in the title.
The reason factories are not staffed by monkeys is that monkey are more expensive than humans. Remember that when your editor asks you if a monkey typed this (while waving your masterpiece of writing in your face). Dare him to get a monkey that can type as good as hew. Plus, monkeys can't even learn how to use the spellchecker (yet).
I have to go now - Banana Break Time

 
 
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Ages ago, a writer named Jonathon Swift wrote a small essay called "A Modest Proposal". Swift was a well known Satirist - which means he was known for writing ridiculous topics and making them sound real.
In his essay, he proposed that the children of the poor be sold to scientists for experimentation. Thus, he said,there will be less poor people and the poor will be richer because they will have the money from their children. Many people rushed to judge Mr. Swift's farce as real - some even praised its logic. In the end, Mr. Swift was able to get society to look at the plight of the poor. Mission accomplished. (Although many among the poor of the time thought this man was a monster.)
Today, in the age of such people as Donald Trump - who either is a master of satire (which I doubt) or is so in love with himself that he does not see how ridiculous he truly is, I am going to attempt to write some satire Right here before your eyes.
I call my piece - Vote For Me.
If I am elected for president - I am going to eliminate income taxes. On all people who voted for me. The rest, the losers, the ones who did not vote for me - I will double your taxes. Corporations who give me lots of money can have one law repealed. For instance, if you are from the tobacco industry, I will repeal the law that says you have to tell people what is in your cigarette, ie how much nicotine.
I will remove from the television sets of America, all offensive material - thats right - all channels will now be on cable - no more free TV. I will make cable companies charge you for what you watch - free market values here. If a show is popular then it will cost more to watch. Yes, every TV program will be pay per view.
No, it is not true that I am taking contributions from the Movie and cable companies ( I have already taken them).
I am sure I have a few more policies in the making - such as allowing casinos on campuses, making liquor free but taxing accidents, lawyers, and headache remedies. I also think that Nascar could be improved by making the winner the last one standing - a la demolition derby. And baseball players should give back money for every missed ball, error or strikeout.
And I would create peace by taxing heavily the use of nuclear arms.
I have spoken - vote for me - I am better and smarter than Donald somebody.

 
 

Let me make this Clear

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The question I ask to students of mine and also to anyone who wishes me to critique their work is this:
What did you mean to say?
(or What is your work supposed to say to me? ) For most writers, it helps to be crystal clear in your meanings. You do not have to worry about being predictable, simply because you cannot predict how your readers will interpret your words.
For instance  - the following words were in a poem -
"White hangs the sheets in the wind, crimson flowers droop nearby, and clouds float on by. "
I had thought I was making a mood apparent but what several of my reader thought I was saying was the weather was clear and dry. One reader asks me how I got the sheets white - no no no - look at the picture - let me make this clear
The white sheets rides the wind, nothing grows here, at least not for long, yet the sky is alive with movement.  Huh - what does that mean ?
Okay here it is perfectly clear - the man is flying a kite in the desert, the sun is going down and clouds are moving in the sky. Look at the picture.
Why is he in the desert ? to get away from people who ask too many questions ! Class dismissed.

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Pages Three or the Page's pages

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This is a cult classic amongst struggling creative types penned by Julia Cameron called "The Artist's Way". I have read it dozens of times and each time I find a new nugget of wisdom. If you are sensing a 'however' - I will not disappoint you.
However, he said, Julia took the time to write certain rules into the premise of the book - rules which should be called Suggestions but are not - thus devotees of the book have decided that they need to enforce these 'rules'. Actually, only one rule needs arbitration - the rule of three, pages that is. Julia's suggestion er I mean rule that creative people need to write three pages of notebook paper long hand is a bit too unexplained.
I know the idea is supposed to stimulate creativity by writing out all the stuff gets in your creative way. However, (my second one in this entry), my experience is that the three pages stimulus only happens in the first few weeks of doing this exercise - after that these pages start taking a life of their own - they become my therapist (lets talk about your childhood again) , my nagging wife (are you going to do me today), and my addiction (I have to do them, I have to do them). Eventually, I get sick of doing them but not before I go through a guilt trip about not doing them. And never has this exercise got me past my writing blocks.
So why do them I ask - Why did Julia ever come up with this exercise in the first place.
I believe the answer is the fact that she thought she was doing good - I believe that Julia thought if she could get enough writers to believe this was a good thing - they would never see her real reason - to get rid of the competition. If there is less writers, then her work will stand out.
So I have decided to write a self-help book for writers - I will tell them they need to write four, count 'em, four pages each day. Yes, I will go one better and I believe that I will eliminate just about all the writers that try my exercise.
And then I will get my novel, play and poetry books published