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I once thought they were the ones whose lives went from A to Z without any hitches. That was the way it was supposed to be, wasn't it, for good people? That was the bargain with your gods or maybe Life. You did what you were supposed to do, you were nice and, in return, life rolled along merrily.

Until it didn't.

I've thought about this a lot as I've seen lives crash into terrible rocks and come apart no matter what the person does. Some people see disaster coming and flail around trying to change course. All they seem to do is delay the inevitable. There is no more desperate feeling than seeing the life you are living (and loving) sweeping toward disaster. Through no fault of your own, too. It is forced on you, as often as not.

This happened to me.

I waited for someone or something to swoop in to save me. It didn't happen. Nothing I did to save my old life worked. The old life was swept away. For a while I flipped flopped around in desperation - survival instincts are strong - trying anything offered until I found the right path for me. It wasn't easy, in fact it was really, truly hard especially since I had dependents of the human and animal kind. But somehow out of that came a new direction, a new life that suited me well enough.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the old life now and again even with a life that is good if different from what I expected. I don't miss the naive person I was and that growth, well, maybe that makes me one of the Lucky Ones after all.
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 I'm getting ready to head out to DragonCon and the three day Writer's Series. I've noticed that I call it something different each time I name it. Probably I should find out what it is really called. Maybe before I try to find it.

Dog Prison Warden has said to stuff doggies in their cages when I get to the Dog Prison, she may be out. Sort of casual, that.

I don't expect to actually write during my time away. I do have a few books to read though. Plus I am taking my iPad and a keyboard just in case it isn't as insane a weekend as I think it will be.

I broke down and bought Pages. I had a copy but it was the 2006 version and wasn't supported. This way I can shoot whatever I am working on from computer to iPad and strange computer too, then back to Scrivener. It is the easiest solution. 
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I've discovered a new one! Rather than actually write, I am going through my old stories, printing them out, updating the format they are in. Oh, and by the way? That is something I highly recommend. It seems that several stories were written in writing programs I was trying out and the programs are now out of date. It would be sad to lose them simply because I neglected to put them in a format that I could read in 5 years.

I'm taking it to a new level because I've decided to print them out (not really a bad idea) and file them in a notebook. It took a special trip to the store to find the post-it dividers I wanted. And then nothing would do but to get a smaller notebook for ideas tied to each section, color coded naturally! I can't remember why having the second notebook was so important.

All this takes so much time and I'm thinking it counts as writing, which it doesn't. But it is fun!
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Girding my loins, so to speak, to re-read some old stories this weekend that I began then abandoned. I want to discover if there is *something* there and I can salvage it or if one or more should disappear into the aether. Lately, I've wondered if Scapplilizing can be of aid and if I would do even better if I had more than one story to work on.

I've talked to a friend who dedicates a notebook per novel to fill with ideas, characters, short scenes and lets it perk. That sounds like a good idea. I'd like a row of notebooks. I'm not certain that a computer file would be half as satisfying.
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In hindsight, not writing was a source of frustration and sadness because now that I am plotting, I'm happy. Maybe there are some of us who need to write like we need air? Maybe I was right when I thought that I needed to find the right tool, the right approach or maybe a lucky rabbit's foot would do as well.

I hit the first roadblock, a major problem with my world, and this is where I usually give up in frustration. Instead I worked through it using Scapple. Problem solved! The world is fleshing out, opening up like a flower.

The place that I thought was the beginning is probably not the beginning at all. Do I start there anyway and trim if off later? Do I start at where I think the real starting place might be? I have a feeling that I need to write the part I think of as the beginning for myself, if nothing else.

Scapple

6/8/13 08:31
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Scapple, it turns out, is even better than paper and pen, for how I use it. That is saying something because I try out a lot of apps for the computer, iPhone and iPad and few are easier or better than good old paper and pencil.

This app is making the cut because I can (and do) throw up every idea that crosses my mind and put in lines to link them, move them around and highlight in various ways things that show promise or the reverse. Also I can wipe them away like they've never been, but I use that sparingly. With my memory-like-a-sieve I'd rather have them stick around just in case.

I am having a problem with goals as usual. I create a great world, a good premise and then I can't think of why they should be doing what I want them to do. What I think I need to do is take it back to the "let's tell a story" level, as if I was telling this story to my children. When I did that, I never bothered with explaining why or how, I just told a good story. I described what was and went from there. Like J.K. Rowling never explained who built Hogwarts or how, it just was. She probably knows the background herself but it isn't necessary for the story she wanted to tell.

I'm trying to get caught up in the back story which it isn't necessary for the story I am telling. Good lesson

Outlining

4/8/13 13:05
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So, yes, I am reading yet another book about writing! Quelle surprise! as my old French teacher would say. But, but this is a good one! LOL

It is called Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland

Actually I have gotten something out of it and I am only to chapter four. It describes exactly what I do, which is to get a good idea write furiously and then... I get lost. I don't know where I'm going with it and I give up in frustration.

It was suggested that I need to brainstorm a lot more than I do in the book. Aha! I started doing that, writing what if this or what if that on scraps of paper and notebooks, highlighting the ones I liked, and this is where it got good - I transferred them all to a program called Scapple by Literature and Latte, the same folk who make Scrivener.

I like mind mapping and do that for the programs I put on at work but it hasn't worked for me with novel writing. Scapple does. I can throw up on a page anything I like, color code them, move them around draw arrows or put up pictures or whatever. It is kind of like a giant poster board plus sticky notes for the Mac.

After doing that (and I am continuing to do it) I was able to solve some early problems that would have stopped me. I'm getting a hazy idea of my characters, too. And most importantly, for the first time in whenever, I know what the ending will be. That is REALLY BIG for me. Generally, I haven't a clue.

So here I am outlining, a first. :)
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Going to ALA was a bit of an epiphany about writing and me. I haven't been writing (much) because of all the stress at work (something I vow to deal with) and stress about not writing. I have a friend at work who is determined to be published and he puts a lot of pressure on me to do the same. I should add that he not only writes, he goes to workshops and classes. He is goal oriented and, as one does, he wants me to be just like him.

I'm not. I'm process oriented. I like the process of writing and I don't really care if there is an end product. I don't care if I finish a story. At ALA, there were lots of authors and they had their butts planted in chairs smiling at everyone, signing books, giving speeches. I do that enough at work, minus the signing books, so I don't want to do more of it.

I'm a hobby writer and that's okay. DragonCon is coming up and Trav has put a lot of pressure on me to go to the three day workshops. He says for me, but mostly it is for him, on the other hand, there are some workshops that I think would do me good. Hanging with a bunch of writers might get the excitement going again, plus I really would like to get better at my hobby, even if it is never more than a hobby. So maybe I should go to the workshops about writing and skip the ones about publishing?
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Good luck to all the people who are doing NaNoWriMo this year! I hope you are off to a great start.
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My daughters family in Brooklyn didn't lose power although they were prepared for it. They live in a high part of town. The wind took scaffolding down across the street from them and the pedestrian lights so the road is a mess but otherwise no worries. #1 Daughter had about 8" of snow last I heard and so much wind! Friends of hers were without power, she was lucky.

I'm glad all is well. I'm doing a cemetery tour today if there is anyone brave enough to come out with it cold and windy. It is nothing next to what other people have but we are kind of spoiled and mostly the tour is for the older patrons.
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It's been a long time since I've used this one - it was supposed to be about writing. Well, I am still writing and today a package came for me from one of my daughters. She said to go ahead and open it, so I did. It was a cup with "writer" on it, so cheesy but I love it.

I discovered an interesting thing about myself during this last month or so while I was doing NaNoWriMo. I think I began the month wanting to be a writer and ended the month wanting to write. You know, I no longer care whether this story ever has another pair of eyes on it (it won't because it is BAD!). It is something that I want to write. My internal editor has been shut in a closet and not allowed out.

Is that Internal Editor abuse?
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Index cards, both paper and computer, gave me a different way to look at the story. First, I wrote a thought - a possible scene or not - on each card. Very quickly they became unmanagable so I transferred that into index cards in Scrivener (and Index Card for iPad) where I could move them around easily. I didn't worry about chapters (something I spend too much time trying to determine too early). Next I put a little something into the body of the index card about what I wanted to convey in that scene. That helped determine where other scenes needed. I found that the story was unfolding on story boards.

I also realize that instead of writing in a linear fashion, I can write scenes that are leaping out at me first and piece them together later.

Um, and I think my characters are getting much younger. This could be a children's story. *insert shocked face!*
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I am reading a handful of books but the one I wanted to talk about was Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level by Donald Maass. This is a good one. I'm only halfway through it and I have learned a lot. Not only has it helped with the outline of the story I am writing by making me more aware of what works and what doesn't, but it helps me as a selector at the library. There are good reasons why one book is popular and another, even if it is well reviewed, no one will read. Instinctively, I knew that. After reading this book, I know why that is.

It includes lots of pitfalls for new writers. I look at the books I've liked or disliked with an eye to why that is now, what problems the book has, what works. I've hated to give feedback or beta for writers because I am unable to articulate where the problems are or even what does work. After reading this, I see what to look for.

I'll probably write about the book again when I finish it. It is on my "must read" list now.
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I am reading Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and attempting to do the exercises at the end of each chapter before I rush ahead to the next one. (That's not working very well since I tell my self I'll just take a little peek.) Much to my surprise, it has been a help. I'm also rereading part of On Writing by Stephen King. I never got into his books but I do like his advice and the way he writes.

But back to Bell. For the first time, the 3 act structure makes sense and will work for the book I'm writing. See how far I've come? I would have said "working on" and as a matter of fact I did, and then erased it. Actual writing is something other people do: I work on something. Or did. Time to admit that I'm writing. Anyway, I was plotting the book, and writing down ideas that appeal to me, when it struck me that the story fit together a lot better as a YA book. Pop! I felt like a couple of the puzzle pieces linked up without me doing a thing. I'm going to try it.

My old laptop will soon be un-updatable, when Lion comes out. I think. Maybe a bedroom writing computer?
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To continue with my last post about mind maps... The mind maps have illuminated a basic problem I have with writing: world building. In this last, I started a story that included magic but, after creating the mind map, it became clear that I had no very good idea about how magic worked in the world I was building nor the purpose of it to the story. To top it off, probably the story would work just as well without it. When that happens, why have magic at all?

What comes first, the character or the world or the story? Right now I feel all three are flawed.
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Another writing post...

This week I've been busy world building through mind maps. I have a lovely spiral bound Rhodia notebook of graph paper that is ink friendly and a handful of highlighters and pens. Basically, I sit down and brainstorm around a central idea. There is a developing mind map for the main character, another for the world, the shop and magic. There will probably be more before I am done.

I want to include magic but right now I don't have a clue how it works and I'm using a mind map to explore different ideas. The good thing about a mind map is that I can drop it and return later, see the ideas in a new way perhaps, find different connections and discover patterns, see what is working and what is not, and come up with new notions.

And a mind map is art. It isn't just my imagination putting words on paper in neat rows. The mind map adds color and shape to the mix and is very satisfying to create with my hands.

There are some mind mapping tools for the computer. MindNode is one and it is free. They are fun to use but I haven't found one as satisfying as messing around with ink and color and paper yet.

Research

12/6/11 08:34
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Cleaning up some things at the library I stumbled upon an old manila folder that held a long dead author's historical research notes for a young adult book. That's the short version. The long version is that it took me a lot of reading to figure out what the research was for.

Amazing! Fascinating! Some notes were typed pages, some were handwritten and it included sketches of clothes and maps. She wrote about events, both small and large (and some anecdotal), and added notes about how to weave characters into them. The attention to details was impressive.

And the point is? Her research was so extensive that I could practically see the historical novel emerging. And the detail! Not here's an idea, let's go with it, like I do. She was fleshing out her world before she wrote one word. She did enough research to get that time and place clear in her mind then she inserted her characters and told the story.

Very impressive. I am now wondered how research could aid me.
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This week I've experimented with a new way for me to write and it has to do with outlining. That is something that I have not been able to do. Usually I have a good idea, write about it and then abandon the story somewhere in the middle. That happens for a variety of reasons but one of the main ones is that I don't know where the story is going. Some writers suggest that the end of the story should be written first but I have never had a neat story idea with a beginning, middle and end.

This week, with online index cards and a notebook, I attempted to plot/outline just one chapter and it worked well. That's a surprise! First it became clear that my original idea wasn't going to work followed by the realization that I had not begun the story in the right place.

The physical act of drawing out story board blocks on graft paper and using arrows and color was much more satisfying and productive for me than just using computer generated index cards - to a point. Once blocks were crossed out and others added with convoluted arrows, that's when I needed paper or computer index cards that I could manipulate or toss at will.

Does anyone else use outlines or index cards?
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Index Card Is a handy iPad app by DenVog that costs $4.99. I have found it to be terrifically useful and as a bonus, it syncs to Scrivener. Create index cards on a cork board background, type notes on them, rearrange them to your heart's content, save them, email them or sync them. It's a simple program to learn, too.

I use it for brainstorming and outlining on the iPad. I jot down quick scenes or ideas and then move them around until I am satisfied. It is very handy for organizing the genealogy classes I teach as well. The best part is that I can use it in a comfy chair or at Starbucks when I have a few minutes to play around with ideas.