Portrait Book and Walking Workshop

Exciting things are happening on the photography front, and I am happy to report some progress on my portraiture book in the making. The overall structure of it is complete, and I am well into writing the first draft.

The book aims to help you get more out of your portraits and to tell a story. Whether you’re new to photography or a seasoned professional, there will be things in there for you to enjoy, get inspired by and apply to your own pictures.

The content includes a mix of tips on everything from lighting to interacting with subjects, and it will have stories and examples from myself and others, all about what makes a portrait great.

Many have already helped the writing along by taking the survey associated with this book, sharing what they care about and struggle with in their own photos. I’m using this research to make sure I address the most frequently asked questions and major concerns.

On a related note, I am organizing a set of photography workshops!

If you’re in the Seattle area in mid August, September or October, you have a chance to join me on a small and exclusive photo walk, during which I will offer tips on how to shoot on the fly and on location. There will also be a Q&A after the walk, and a surprise or two thrown in along the way.

There are limited spots available for these walks, so sign up now if you want to be a part of the walking workshop.

Final Prophecy Update and Finishing Things

The second draft of my fantasy short is done. I’ve written about “The Final Prophecy” before, but I will add that finishing the second draft was tougher than expected. When I got to the last chapter and a half, I stalled. That’s usually a good sign, because the harder it is for me to finish something, the more I’ve loved working on it. So much so, I don’t want it to end. Luckily, I eventually got tired of procrastinating and went back to work.

The next step is more revision. Editing used to scare me, but now I see it as a chance to polish and tweak where needed – and in the worst case scenario spot a dud before I send it out into the world. Finishing the second draft is still a milestone worth mentioning, because this is the part of the process where I involve a few trusted readers. They are the Wise Ones who point out where the holes are, and the inconsistencies as well as the gems and the exciting stuff. Their feedback provide the setup for writing draft three.

There is also inspiration coming from the gaming campaign, I’m running parallel to the writing. We just finished running an adventure set a few years after the events described in “The Final Prophecy”, but in much the same location, and some of the questions posed by the players as part of our game, provided excellent fodder for the story. Details about the daily life, geography and mythology that had not crossed my mind before.

And it doesn’t end there. I recently read two excellent pieces that helped kick me back into writing mode. One is an interview with Stephen King by Neil Gaiman. The insight into King’s process and approach was highly motivating to me. Then I read Second Drafts are a Way of Life by Ryan Macklin, the timing of which could not have been better. Both are recommended reading to any writer.

Now I’m going to take a short break from the story, while I filter it out to the Wise Ones. And in the meantime, I hope to ride the wave of finishing things, and get my arcade iPhone game – Nebula Rescue – done and out the door.

English Scares Me (or Why I Need an Editor)

Yesterday, I tweeted that writing fiction in English is sometimes intimidating to me, because English is my second language (Danish being my first). I got a couple of responses, encouraging me to write about it, and to remember the wonderful writers that came before me, who also wrote in English though it was a second language to them. Joseph Conrad and Karen Blixen come to mind, not that I would otherwise compare myself to these masters.

When I write stuff like what you are reading now, I don’t think so much about my choice of words, sentence and paragraph structure and that sort of thing. When I write fiction, those are all very important elements of portraying characters, describing locations and setting the scene. That is when I am sometimes hit with the intimidation stick – it’s easy to feel like my vocabulary is too limited, or that my style is too heavily influenced by something else.

For writing my initial draft, I try not to let it hold me back too much. The important thing is getting the story down and try to make it hold up structurally. Second draft is where language starts taking a front seat.

Thinking about it, I realized that many native English speakers also struggle with writing, for very similar reasons. Maybe we all compare ourselves to those we admire, whether we want to or not. That might make anyone doubt their abilities. The only real answer I have come up with is this: use an editor!

Best case scenario, find a professional who knows what they are doing, and have them give you notes. You can point out what your exact doubts are, and they will keep an eye out for it. And they will point out stuff you haven’t even thought of. I have written books both with and without the help of an editor, and it just confirmed that having that extra set of eyes does make a huge difference.

I have met writers who say: I can’t afford an editor. I usually counter by asking how long it took them to finish the first draft. Often the answer is several years. My point is: if your story is important enough that you will spend years of your life writing it, it should also be worth a few bucks to have an editor help you polish off the details. Many freelance editors are surprisingly affordable and willing to negotiate (they know most writers aren’t exactly rolling in cash).

If you can’t find an editor you like, use your network – if you’re writing a science fiction novel and your buddy is a hardcore sci-fi nerd, by all means have him take a look – just remember that friends don’t always make the most honest critics, because nobody likes to potentially upset their friends. It helps if your friend is a writing pro of some sort, so they have an understanding of what goes into structuring and writing a story. Librarians, teachers and journalists can make for excellent editor replacements.