A smell of wine and cheap perfume

We all know of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” and I do have to admit, the lyric “a smell of wine and cheap perfume is a pretty descriptive line.

Using a descriptive line like this to evoke the sense smell is something that’s important for writers.  Also, for people who have tasted wine, this lyric might also think of their favorite wine.

So with the sense of smell, the options of smells that you can write about are limitless.  I have a friend who would tell me when we hugged that I smelt like fresh laundry.  Tide WIth FebrezeI know, that’s a weird complement.  But the reason why she would say that to me is that I washed my laundry with Febreze scented Tide since I’ve used Tide for as long as I can recall and I like the scent of Febreze.

But being told that I smell like fresh laundry describes a couple of different things: that I have an interesting signature scent and I kept my clothes clean.

Now that I’ve moved back home, I have to deal with my mother’s constantly smoking when ever I am around.  I constantly tell her not to smoke around cause I don’t want my clothes to smell like cigarette smoke, as well as we all know how unhealthy it is to smoke, since I’m a none smoker.

And our favorite lyric about wine and cheap perfume is also a great way to describe someone’s scent.  But beyond that, scents also can easily describe any place.

I once worked at an Inn that had a group of rooms, before they remodeled, that a had a mixture of fish, beer and cigarettes.  And last semester when I was at Bemidji State, I work in the kitchen of a different establishment in which any given night I work, I smell anything from cheeseburgers to pastas to nachos to other foods that make me want to spend a whole pay check on food.

As writers, we have a certain responsibility to ensure that we engulf our readers’ senses, if we’re writing pieces that demand the senses.

Writing About What You Don’t Know

I’m sure that we’ve all experienced that hardship of trying to write about stuff we know and the stuff we don’t know.  What seems to be the trick, then, is finding the middle ground of writing about what we know that has an element of what we don’t know.

If you think about it, you had to write papers on topics that you where familiar with, but had to do outside research on.  This is the same concept with writing creative nonfiction books or fiction books.  Writer Mary Roach has written several books – Bonk, Stiff, and Gulp – that probably had some basic knowledge for each of her books, but had to do some research to round out the information.

Author Dan Brown‘s Robert Langdon series – Angels & DemonsThe De Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, and Inferno - all have information that Brown probably had some basic knowledge of.  After all, I’m sure any American knows something about Washington DC or people are familiar with the Pope; but Brown had to dig to find information for his plot lines.

So make a list of things that you may have you know and go from there; whether it is just writing about the topic or doing research or a bit of both.  After all, it’s easy to come up with a list:

A list of topics on social "issues"
A list of topics on social “issues”

The Pen is Mightier Then the Sword

I love handwriting, mostly letters, when ever I am writing.  But there are times when I’m feeling stuck with writer’s block while using my laptop, or any computer, to try to write.  So I switch to writing in notebooks or pads of paper.

I do this impart for the change of where I’m writing; but I mainly do this to write with a pen.  I don’t know if I have some kind of romantic notice about writing with a pen or something; but there’s just something magical about seeing the ink coming out of the pen, drying on the paper.

It could also be that I find that writing with a pen takes away some of the distraction of misspelled words, sentence fragments and other errors that delay me from focusing on writing.  Although this works for me, I dare all of you to give handwriting a story, even if it’s a part of, a try.

Formatting A Piece

Sentence Formatting

With formatting sentences, it’s pretty straight forward: it comes down to the punctuation marks that you use.  The punctuation marks that a sentence signals to a reader how they should read any thing.

punctuation-marks

Paragraph Formatting

In terms of formatting a paragraph, it depends on one factor: where is your piece going to be published.  For example, all of my posts and pages on this site don’t have indented paragraphs.  The reason?  Wordpress, the web hosting site I use, inserts a space between paragraphs.

With stuff that’s printed – magazines, newspapers, books, etc. – they are indented, for the most part.  This is due to how reading online versus reading print have different layouts.  With online printing for websites, there tends to be more room.  Whereas with print publications, they’re more limited to how much they can publish due to cost.

Another formatting thing to think about in regards of paragraphs is the length of the paragraph.  Once again, this depends on where your piece will be published.  In newspapers, it seems that three to four sentences is the norm.  On blogs and websites, I’d say that you shouldn’t go past ten sentences; and that might be pushing it.

And in regards of books and what not, I’d say it’d depends on how it looks: if your eyes get tired reading a long paragraph, then your reader’s eyes probably will to.

Structure of the Piece: Headers, Footnotes and other goodies

In regards of how else to format a piece, it comes down to how you want it to look or what you think will be useful.  With this post, I felt that having headers for the different sections would be helpful.

When I had taken a creative writing course a few years back, I had written a piece where I had included footnotes that had some useful information for the story.  The main reason why I had used footnotes was because giving background information in the story would have broken the momentum of the story I was writing.

Everything else that you can use in a piece – bullet points, images, links, etc. – really depends on what you want out of the piece.

Brainstorming for Topics

Over the weekend, I found myself brainstorming topics for blog posts.  Since I know that as summer approaches, if it ever reaches Ely, I will become busier and I don’t want to lose my focus and drive to blog.

Now, the lists I came up with (which you can see below and feel free to steal any of the ideas) are just jumping off points.  Ask any writer and I believe that they’ll tell you that there times when finding something to write about is hard.

So of course, brainstorming is a nice way to get the creative juices going.  I don’t think there’s really a right way to do a brainstorming session.  There are suggestions to do it in 5 or 10 freestyle formats, the spiderweb method, and dozens of others.

What works for me is just having a pad and pen – or just something that I can write on, near me – when ever I’m watching TV or eating lunch or what ever I am doing.  I find that ideas will come to me when ever I am not thinking about it.

It’s possible, I believe, for you to do a freestyle brainstorming with a specific topic in mind.  With both of the lists that I included as photos were made while watching Doctor Who.  Both of them were made for specific blog post – either ones on social issues or personal branding – and the social issues one has a combination of more narrow topics and wide topics.  Yet, the personal branding one has specific topic ideas.

There are topics from both lists that will probably won’t work out for me and then there are ones that will work for me.  So I hope that y’all  will give it a try.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.