Tag Archives: Julie Campbell writer

A Code id by Dose!

Hi Everyone!

Julie Campbell writer - the common coldI’m sorry for the silence.  I haven’t forgotten about you and Amanda hasn’t killed me for requesting assistance with editing 😉

I’ve got a cold at the moment and am not thinking all that clearly.  I figured it would be better to take a bit of a break than to write something even more nonsensical than my usual posts.

I hope to be back again for the usual schedule next week.

Until then, Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

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A Work in Progress

Although I have been posting every weekday and I am still greatly enjoying it, I don’t always have a story to tell about my progress.

Julie Campbell writer - work in progressWith that in mind, and with the help of the feedback that I received through the polls that I ran last Friday (Thank you for your help!  You can still participate. Just click here to find the right post), I have decided that it’s not entirely necessarily to post every weekday just for the sake of posting (because it’s fun).

I’m going to slow things down a little bit and try to post three days per week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That will help me to make sure that I’m always writing something of value, that I always have something interesting to say, and that I’m not driving you crazy with my wordy babble!

I think that this blog, like the Book, is a work in progress. I’m starting to get to know when you, Reader, are most likely to want to read, and I’m beginning to figure out what topics are most appealing to you.

Of course, writing a blog post, like writing a book, isn’t something that has a certain specific structure for success. That’s why there are some great books out there, and there are some books that never should have been – there is no single format for making them great. But still, blogging, like book writing, isn’t just a matter of what the writer wants.

When I write, I write for me. It’s a very selfish thing for me to do and I love it. But at the same time, if I ever want people to read what I have to say, then there will need to be a little bit of give. When it comes to the Book, Amanda and I plan to write our story the way we love it and the way it makes sense to us. There really won’t be a way to know what the reader thinks until it’s already completed and published.

But when it comes to this blog, we’re working together. Reader, through your comments, private messages, and posts on social media (as well as your participation in the polls last week. Thanks again!), we’re getting to know one another and we’re working together to make this a great experience.

Yes, I’m still writing this for me, but it’s great to write it for you, too, and I’m slowly (but surely) figuring this out.

Thank you for your patience over the next little while as I discover what else you’d prefer me to write about and at what hour you’d like to see the posts appear. Please feel free to disagree with the choices that I make and drop me a line in the comments below the posts to let me know what you’d like to see from the posts or what you’d prefer not to see anymore.

Off I go for now. See you on Friday!

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A Big Step Forward from a Small Victory

I was able to reach my own goal, last week. Just barely. I have no idea why it was so terrifying and daunting to open up the draft file for the Book and start reviewing, editing, and thinking. I felt as though I was facing the writing of an essay that was due the next day for a class I didn’t want to fail.

Julie campbell writer victoryOnce I actually got started, though, I realized that this wasn’t a report on the latest medical implications of nanotechnology. It’s the book I’m writing with Amanda, dang it!

Out of sheer stubbornness, I edited a full page – and a bit. Strangely, the stubbornness wasn’t my own determination to complete the editing of the first draft. In truth, it was the result of knowing that I had already told you, Reader, that I would have that first page edited by last Friday, and I didn’t want to have to admit that I hadn’t done it.

And so, despite the fact that I went out shopping with Amanda (don’t get me started on the low quality of Nexxtech phone headsets or the high value of the replacement program at The Source), that I wrote 16 articles for my customers, and that I spent some time in the evening writing “new stuff” for the book with Amanda, I still completed that page (and a bit) of editing.

It feels great to have that one page (and a bit) behind me. It may be the tiniest victory, but it is an achievement. It’s a step forward with visible results. It’s not just a matter of having read the draft. I have now, officially, made changes that have improved it.

I also feel that, from now on, going back to it will be far less daunting. In fact, it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it!

Why is it that we torture ourselves about doing certain things?  We build them up to be such an enormous drama, when the tasks are entirely achievable? It’s not as though I’ve never edited anything before. It’s a part of my daily work!

Sometimes I feel the same way about other activities, too. Cleaning and exercising are a good example of my brain’s continual effort to stop me from getting anything done. I actually like both of those things (okay, I admit that I’m not a fan of vacuuming, but other forms of cleaning aren’t too bad). I enjoy the challenge and I like the instant gratification from completing them. Still, the thought of doing either of those things is about as appealing as a root canal.

Not anymore! Well, at least not when it comes to the Book. I’ve had my first small victory and I liked it! I’m ready to keep going and I’m absolutely certain that this first book – and the series that will follow – will be something great. That said, I’m not making any promises about the exercising and cleaning.

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The Problem with Then and Now

The last time I looked at the rough draft of the Book (not including the last week) was April 2010, but as I have resumed reading it over, some of the mistakes that I made in the past have come rushing back to me.  Frustrating mistakes.  Some of them are tucked neatly in among the words and are harder to spot. There is one, however, that continues to leap off the page and that feels like a slap in the face, despite my previous efforts to bury it away forever.

Julie Campbell writer mistakesThis mistake was as follows: the book was originally written in the past tense. Then came about the stroke of “genius” that caused the tense to be changed. I’m not laying blame on either Amanda or myself because, frankly, I don’t remember where the idea originated. One day, as we were editing the rough draft (possibly for the grant application of which we will never speak again), we decided to go back over the entire thing and rewrite it in the present tense.

The point was that the present tense would, as the name suggests, give the feeling that the story is happening right now. We hoped that this would help to build more of an emotional connection between the reader and the characters. In theory, the story’s events would have a greater sense of urgency because they were being told as they were happening, instead of being expressed as an event that had previously occurred.

It made sense, at the time.  After all, if I write a scene with a character that you’ve been following for 150 pages and that you’ve come to love, if that character suddenly finds herself in a dead end, facing a giant, terrifying monster that looks like Alien and Bella Swan had a love-child, it seems more spine chilling to say “It’s right in front of me! There’s nowhere for me to go!”, than to say “It was right in front of me! There was nowhere for me to go!”. At least, that was my belief at the time.

Turns out, I can be wrong. No, really!

I can’t stand writing in the present tense when it comes to creative fiction writing. I didn’t realize how strongly I felt that way until I tried to recreate all of my carefully constructed descriptions (which, by the way, were written with far greater skill than the above example). The task took forever to complete.  It took years off my life!  It was careful, meticulous, mind-numbing work and, when the work was complete, (drum roll please) I liked the past tense better. More years off my life.

I have read wonderful books that have been written in the present tense. When done well, this technique can, indeed, build that sense of urgency and emotional connection with the characters. However, that was not the case with the Book. Emotional connection and urgency aren’t exclusively a matter of the verb tense, they are developed through the quality of writing and storytelling! And so began the long and arduous process of rewriting the draft of the Book in the past tense, once more. I now have a life insurance policy.

As I have retaken the task of editing – even after many, many revisions that followed the tense blunder – I am still discovering the occasional word that is written inappropriately in the present tense. Perhaps my subconscious left them in because they knew I’d return to the Book’s editing, one day,  and felt that I needed something to remind me never to make that kind of mistake again. Gee, thanks, subconscious! I was hoping to relive all of that!

From now, until the end of my days (which are much closer, thanks to that tense-switching task), I will follow my creative writing instincts and produce my work in the tense that I know to be right. If I feel that there is a lack of emotional connection or urgency in any part of the story, then I will describe the scenes more effectively. Lesson learned. Did you hear that, subconscious?!

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I Have a Back-To-School Monster in My Head!

For the first twenty-something years of my life, I loathed the Labour Day weekend. It meant that I’d be back in class and have to return to studying after taking a comfortable, mushy-brain break for the previous couple of months.

Julie Campbell writer Scooter the back to school monsterI detested school. That isn’t to say that I hated learning. I’ve always enjoyed that – still do. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the school experience is actually about learning. A great deal of it has to do with finding out what teachers you have – invariably a mix of great, good, terrible, and terrifying individuals – discovering which people whose last names started with B or C would be forced to sit next to me, and measuring how long the days would feel for the next 10 months (not to mention having had to subject myself, yet again, to boredom, bullying, and the never-ending torture that was public transit).

I don’t think that my school experience was tremendously different from that of anyone else growing up in a similar part of Canada. However, since my graduation, my experience has changed.  I wonder if others out there are going through the same thing, but don’t admit it as openly as I do.

Every year, to an ever-increasing degree, a feeling builds within me at the start of September. It isn’t just mean. It’s a monster inside my head. The year after I graduated, it was an odd sensation – a baby monster – in which I felt as though something dramatic should be “happening” in my life, but nothing did. Instead, I just kept working at the same job that I’d had throughout the summer. With each following September, that feeling has evolved, warped, and darkened. The monster (I’ve been toying with the name “Scooter” for him) has matured. Every year, I glory in the fact that I don’t have to go back to school, but other people still do! As much as I hated going to school, back in the day, I now adore the knowledge that I don’t have to, but other people do! But it’s not my fault! It’s the monster!

What do I have against these students? I have no idea! I’ve never met the vast majority of them. It’s not as though I have children of my own.  I’m not one of those parents who pops the cork on a bottle of bubbly when the school bus pulls away for the first time. I just have a nasty monster inside me that loves the fact that school’s back in, and I’m not going.

Typically, I also feel a demented sense of pride in the despicable back-to-school monster that lives inside me. I usually tell people about it with a wicked grin on my face.

This year, I’ve decided to take a new tack. Instead of embracing the monster, I am arming myself against him and am heading in to battle. As students start hitting the books, I am, too; at least, one specific Book. Now that school is back in again, I am channelling my energy toward more practical purposes. By the end of this week, at least one new page of manuscript will be created from the rough draft. Not a huge goal, but it feels that way at the moment (isn’t that always how it feels at the start of a school year?).

From then on, I’ll be assigning myself weekly homework and I will make progress toward a completed book. This may not be a school year for me, but it is certainly going to be a time of learning, dedication, and hard work, and I’m going to love it. Scooter, you’re going down!

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Writing is Work, But I Still Love it!

If there is one thing that I have learned from the infinite wisdom of cartoons and sitcoms (the primary educators of the children who grew up in the 80’s), it is that being prepared is key to any successful venture. How often did we see our favourite characters losing out because they didn’t bother to make the extra effort?

Julie Campbell writer working hardWhat those episodes, in all their wisdom, didn’t teach was that there is such thing as trying too hard. We’re all told to try hard in life. “Try hard and you’ll succeed”, they say. “Anything worth having is worth fighting for,” is another good one, although that one belonged to Thomas Jefferson and not just “they”. For that matter, Jefferson also said that “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

Although I wouldn’t say that I always trust what “they” say, and I’m not exactly an expert on Thomas Jefferson, either*, it is exactly those attitudes that have been central to any of my efforts to be successful. When I think about any of the people who have made any kind of notable achievement – be it the founding of a company that is now worth a billion dollars or the creation of a successful fundraiser, raising a healthy child or training an aggressive dog – I know that an exceptional amount of blood, sweat, and tears were shed along the way.

I rarely hear about people who have become successful in a project or in their lives (I’m not going to take the time to debate the meaning of “success” at the moment, so just go with this, please) who would say that it wasn’t any effort at all or that it didn’t take any work. Isn’t why the majority of us steer clear of get-rich-quick schemes, as tempting as some may seem?  Because it isn’t possible to achieve great things without work. It just isn’t possible to plant some money trees in the yard (or, in my case, on the balcony next to my obscenely tall tomato plant) and expect to be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest of cash.

And so, with this wisdom planted firmly in my mind, I have tried to attack the rewriting of the manuscript for the Book with a massive level of zeal and fervour; only to feel completely overwhelmed! My mind has been spinning since I started. I am normally a writer who dives forward into a piece, pounding loudly on the keyboard keys, until it is complete, à-la William Forrester from “Finding Forrester”** I don’t think. I don’t obsess. I don’t plan. I just do it. I write.

That makes the editing of the Book a very unique undertaking for me. It’s huge and daunting, and it needs to work with the style, story, and design of my co-author’s contributions (the exceptionally talented and strikingly stunning Amanda Giasson, of course). I can’t just dive in, head first, and type. I need to work hard.

I am certainly trying, but I’m starting to see that my problem appears to be that I have misunderstood the concept of “working hard” as it applies to the Book.  The word “work” has a lot of negative association surrounding it, so when I tell myself to work hard at a task, it usually means that I’m forcing myself to do something unpleasant, but to do it with a maximum amount of thought and effort. In this case, I need to realize that this Book is one of the passions in my life that is the most important to me.  Work doesn’t have to be a pain.  It shouldn’t be!  This is what I love.  I need to get it through my thick skull that work is fun.

Here, working hard means that I need to sit down and read what has been written, love it, digest it, and criticise it. Then, I need to go back over it and change it, then read it again, love it more, and digest some more (is it just me or does it sound like this editing work is going to cause weight gain?). Then, I need to do it again. Then, one day, it will be done. To get there, all I need to do is do it. It’s not just about the goal, it’s about actually taking the steps toward it.

I was just about to leave that last paragraph as the closer, when I glanced up at the wall in front of me. What was looking back? A poster – a gift from Amanda from a few years back – that says “There is no way to happiness – Happiness is the way.” A quote from the Buddha. It looks like my co-author had the answer to my struggle, all along. Waddaya know.

* Thomas Jefferson – I can admit that I have now reached the point that grade 10 history class was so long ago that I remember Jefferson nearly exclusively as “the Louisiana Purchase guy”.

** Finding Forrester – A relatively entertaining movie that I adore, not necessarily because the film was exceptionally clever or unique, but because I feel a strong connection with the Forrester character.  I’m going to be a grouchy shut-in when I “grow up”. I’ve already got the social anxiety and the love of writing. Now all I need to do is start obsessing about the birds I can see through my window, and to wear my socks inside out. What can I say, I aim high.

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What’s in a Name?

When it comes to naming children, parents have a huge decision on their hands.  Honestly, I’m not sure how they deal with the pressure.  I don’t have any kids, but I have named dozens of people in the Book (I’ve decided to just call it “Book” for the purposes of this blog, since the real title is still top secret!).

Naming fictional charactersI must say, coming up with the character names for individuals who are supposed to be from another world is a very challenging labour!  Not only have I tried extremely hard to make sure that the names of the characters seem to suit them in some way – by the way they sound, for example – but I also want them to be appealing and pronounceable.  If you think that’s not very difficult, then don’t forget the fact that I’m talking about a story taking place in another world.  This means that I can’t just call someone “Roberta” or “Peter”.

If anyone has ever told you that there is nothing left on Earth that is original, they were right!  If I string together any combination of sounds that seems to me is a highly unique but attractive name, the odds are that a simple Google search will pull up dozens of results from people (or their companies) who are halfway around the world, using that very same “unique” spelling.  It takes forever to come up with just the right sounds that won’t already be found on this planet!

When all is said and done, I’ve had to accept the fact that there will be times when – despite having taken great care to come up with the most original name and spelling that I can – there will be someone far away who has already had that name for many years (their whole lives, in fact), and that there’s nothing I can do about it.  I just hope that if they have the chance to read what I’ve written, they enjoy the way that their own special name has been used.

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