Writing Quote

"Don't write merely to be understood.
Write so that you can't possibly be misunderstood."
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tristi's Writing Challenge

Once a quarter, I participate in a writing challenge, hosted by novelist and editor edtraordinaire Tristi Pinkston. This is a great challenge because you set your own goals based on what you need to work on right now.

I need to do a lot of things, but my big focus right now is on The Slave Knight. Now that the holidays are over, I need to get some serious editing done. But where to find the time? In bits and pieces, I suppose. The goal I signed up with is to edit two pages a day and to get my manuscript formatted before the end of the month.

Two pages of unformatted, single spaced type is a lot different than two pages of manuscript formatting. But school starts halfway through the month. Maybe if I format right before school, that'll give me a little leeway to do my school stuff and still puck away at my latest novel.

If you need a little extra motivation to kick off the new year right, head on over to Tristi's Challeges and sign up!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Well whaddaya know?

A little follow up on the contests I entered. Not all of them are over yet, but a few of them have closed up shop. Susan over at Ink-Spells had a wonderful promotion going on for Heifer International- such a great charity, I love it! I've had some weird financial issues just in time for the holidays, so I didn't feel like I could donate this year. Instead, I asked my brother-in-law to donate on my behalf for his gift to me. Best gift ever! It really is the kind of gift that continues to give for years and years (plus, I don't have to find a place to house a llama since it was given to somebody else). And it also unexpectedly gave back a little bit, too. Susan e-mailed me a bit ago to tell me I won her t-shirt competition, held especially for donors (or is it donaters? I dunno.). I was happy enough without the t-shirt, but this has really made my day.

So thanks a bunch, Susan. And hooray for Heifer International and llamas changing people's lives!

Monday, December 13, 2010

blog giveaways

Don't get too excited. I'm not hosting a giveaway. Not yet. I'd love to, though. But I'm thinking it kind of loses its power when you only have a handful of followers. That's cool, though. We're a small but loving group, right? Right. When our numbers swell a bit, I'll get around to hosting a fabulous contest with widely coveted prizes. Until then, I'll content myself with entering a contest or two. Today, I entered this one. And there should be a couple more on that blog starting later on this week. Good times, gooood tiiiiimes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

So much for taking a break...

You know that pain in the neck you get while you sleep, from having a pillow too full or too soft? Yeah, it's kind of like that. It made sense to me that I would dream about my main character while I was writing my story. I spent so much time thinking about him during the day that it seemed inevitable. But now that November is over and my story is complete, I thought I'd take a little break from it so that when I come back to it, I can see it with fresh eyes.
Then, for the last three nights, though I haven't been giving The Slave Knight much thought during the day, Jhampo has been there in my dreams. Well, it's not so much my dreams as that in-between place. I roll over and my thoughts shift, too. Every time, he's there; just staring at me. He's saying, "Hey, I'm still here. Don't forget about me. We aren't finished yet." So I guess that means I'd better get back to work or I'll never get any sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Slave Knight and The End of NaNoWriMo

Wordle: The Slave Knight

This word cloud was brought to you by http://www.wordle.net/.

Alright, I know I should have blogged yesterday, but life demanded that I do a little catching up with it first. But I'm here today to tell you how great November was.

I dug through 101,316 words to find The End of my story. And to think I started out the month worried about hitting my required 1667 words a day.

I'm not really sure what made the difference for me this year. I think the most I've done for November before now was 61K or something like that. But I did find that my most productive days were always the ones when I left the house to write. Sometimes I'd take my laptop and go somewhere and sometimes I took my flash drive to the school library. But I always came home with thousands of extra words. And I always felt really good about whatever I wrote that day.

I also didn't write anything by hand, except for a little free writing to help generate some ideas. Contrast that with last year, when I did my entire novel by hand. It's a very different experience. What I learned from it is that while using my actual pen gets my creative juices flowing, I really need the linear thinking that comes to me through typing to do things right. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to have a lot of editing to do still. But I think my over all story is much better for having been created through a better combination of handwriting and typing.

Some other things I learned:

We put a big emphasis on word count. The word count is just a carrot; a goal to keep you tapping away at your story when you get bored or tired or distracted. Of course, I always knew this. But it's easy to get so caught up in chasing the carrot that you end up wandering aimlessly. This year, I chased the carrot while still plodding away towards my destination. There was a lot less aimless wandering that I'll have to go back and delete, and a lot more actual substance that just needs a little spit and polish.

I am not a creative genius. I'm just not, and I never will be. But I don't have to be to write a great story, or to create interesting characters. I'm not a right brained person or a left brained person. I'm stuck somewhere in the middle, which is actually a really good thing. My right brain gets to come up with all the crazy ideas it wants and my left brain knows how to make them work so that other people appreciate them, too.

A little preparation goes a long way. I didn't get around to doing the big, fancy, over-the-top outline that I wanted to in October. I don't think that's really my style anyway. But I did sit down and throw out some ideas. I took a moment to look at them and see which ones would fit together. And poof! I had the very rough workings of a story. I had some direction. I did this several more times throughout the month to fix problem areas, and it worked great. Every time I felt stuck and took a step back to just throw around some ideas, I came back to my work with a sense of purpose and direction. I could push through a big chunk of my story with speed and ease.

It actually is worth writing down the odd characters or scenarios that come to mind at random moments. My main character is one that came knocking at my consciousness months ago. I was at a computer somewhere not at home, so I just sent myself an email. It was maybe 200 words or less about my character and the story he wanted me to tell. I could have written about anything this month, but I chose to tell Jhampo's story. It surprised me frequently and I had no idea when I jotted down a few notes about him that he would turn out to be someone I could spend so much time with. And it's a good thing I like him. We're going to be spending a lot more time together in the coming months.

I'm sure I could go on, but I won't. I'll just end by saying that this year's NaNoWriMo was the best one ever. And my fat word count was only the smallest part. Now the challenge is to get myself on the editing track. I used to be so good at editing. I don't know what happened. Oh, right. I hate doing it, so I stopped doing it. You'd think that if a person is good at something, they'd enjoy doing it. This is not always so. I hate editing. But I also hate having every last one of my stories looking like the pile of goo my cat coughed up on the bathroom floor. Okay then, Robin, let's go prove to everyone that your stories are not just a pile of goo; they're pretty and do not require the use of rubber gloves to read.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reaching 50K, so bittersweet

I reached 50,000 words on the 17th. It was awesome! And then the momentum kind of just died. That's the problem with word count goals. When you reach the goal, it becomes that much harder to continue. I've never really experienced that before because I've never hit 50K this early in the game before. My story is still no where near done, and I should reach 60K today, if I'm only half as lazy with my writing as I feel.

Most nanoers will write to 50K, get their beautiful purple bar and then stop. But 50,000 words is only half of the nano goal, and not even the most important half. The real point of November is write a book from beginning to end.

Is it going to be a complete book? Probably not. There will be holes in it. Glaring imperfections will abound. Characters will be flat. But the essence will be there. The main players will be present. The places and events will all have their spots reserved, even if they aren't sitting down yet. You will even have developed a strong sense of style and tone. But there will a lot to do in the rewrite.

Something that surprises me every year is that when you're struggling and you're sure that everything you're spouting is refuse in its purest form, something happens in your brain. This breakthrough occurs that reassures you of your own genius. And then when you go back and read all those words you wrote and then staunchly ignored, you realize there was a lot less refuse there than you thought. Good to know. And maybe that rewrite won't be so bad after all.

The lessons I'm learning this year are so much different and in many ways so much bigger than any NaNoWriMo I've done before. And I think it has much to do with the fact that my productivity is so much greater than ever before. I'm struggling to stay motivated right now, but this is still shaping up to be my best Nanoing experience ever.

So now that I've got 50K under my belt, I need a new goal to keep me motivated. I'm hoping for 3000 words a day. Thirty days of that would give me 90K (this is really just to keep me pecking away at it). So to keep my average up, I have to do 4 or 5 thousand some days. But I'm finding ways to get it done. Go ME!! I am a champion writer! I can do this! I can reach The End in the next 10 days (gulp. I only have 10 days left?)! And so can you, my fellow Nanoers! We were all born to write. It is what we do. That's why we're writers. Now go WRITE!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNoWriMo, week 2 and the half-way point

Sounds like the title to a juvenile novel- Week Two and the Half-Way Point (you know Name-of-Main-Character and the Vague-Description-of-the-Plot).
Nevermind.
Week two has been great. In general, NaNoWriMo's week two is hell week. It's the point when you decide you have no talent at all. Your ideas stink, and your writing is mediocre at best. You're sick of your main character already and you just want to call it quits, or maybe scrap the whole thing and start over. If you can make it through week two, you've gone so much more than half-way.
For me, this year, week two has been a bit of a roller coaster. There were days when I felt the normal week two blues, but pushed through my word count and beyond to the next point in the story that I felt excited about. Other days, I was just on fire and everything I did was magical. I even discovered the title of my book in week two. So I have to say that in five years of WriMo-ing, this the best week two ever!!
Here what it looked like in a nutshell:
11/8- 3000 words
11/9- 3126 words
11/10-3370 words
11/11- 4509 words
11/12- 2951 words
11/13- 3071 words
11/14- 2039 words
11/15- 4277 words
8 day total- 26343
grand total word count at half-way point- 44391.
That's right, I have less than 6000 words until 50K.
Unfortunately, I'm not quite to my half-way point in the story. So I'll need to step it up a bit if I'm going to reach The End by 11/30. And with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I need to focus now more than ever. I've noticed my really BIG output days were the ones when I left my house to write. Maybe I'll have to do some more of that. Before I go, I've written out a synopsis of my story. Some of this is a projection of what I plan to write. It may change over the course of the next couple of weeks. But here you go:

The Slave Knight by Robin Ford

This Jhampo's story. He was banished from his home and sent across the sea to try and make a new life for himself. The first friend he makes betrays him and he soon finds himself in slave's chains. Though he is guarded day and night, he finds an unexpected friend that helps him fit into this hard life without losing his humanity. When the opportunity arises, he is able to escape and help another along the way as well.
When he loses what is most valuable to him to a slaver, he wages war against all slavers. The practice of slavery begins to decline when his destiny takes him in another direction. The King's daughter is being held for ransom and Jhampo has the chance to save her. This deed earns him a knighthood and widespread fame.
But none of this is as great a reward as the one the princess gives herself: her love. Is a title and popular admiration enough to allow a princess and a former slave a lifetime of love and happiness together? The two learn together that love really can overcome anything. But when his past comes back to haunt him, his happiness is stripped away again.
His fame has traveled across the sea to the land of his birth and his banishment is lifted. Now he must choose between the lost home he has been dreaming of for years and the place of his ruined hopes, where he desires only to rebuild again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

nanowrimo update

Week one is over now (plus one day) and I ended today with 21048 words! That's more than I wrote all last MONTH!! I went into Nano this year thinking I'll probably shoot for 2000 words a day, that way I can get a little ahead and if I have a rough day and need to slack off a bit, I can. But so far, my end-of-the-day totals are: 3219, 1906, 2300, 2594, 2683, 3018, 2373, 3000. Bam! With the exception of day two, I completely shattered 2000 words. Woo-hoo!

Some little things I think make a big difference:
1. Participating in NPI during October. It put me in the habit of writing everyday. The goal of 250 words a day was small, so it became evident that this was an easy thing to do. It's not scary or intimidating to commit to writing every single day. And though the goal was not too impressive in itself, I was able to push myself beyond my goal much of the time. The result at the end of the month was much better than when I've given myself goals like 'write 5000 words this month,' or 'write 50 pages this month.' I've always known that writing everyday is key to disciplined writing. But it has always been a huge struggle for me, to force myself to sit down and tap out those micro story tellers, words.
2. Tracking my progress. Last month, I used a little sticky note to keep track of each day's work; where I started, where I'd like to end and what I actually accomplished. I got some suggestions to use a spread sheet. But I think I love my silly little sticky note. It literally sits by my hand, always in sight. It is a constant reminder of what I'm shooting for and of the wonderful progress I've made so far. My little yellow post-it inspires my inner cheerleader. "Go, go, go! I can DO IT!"
Plus, nanowrimo has added a new feature to their stats tab this year. It tells things like how many words I've written today, how many words until 1667, average words written, total words written, how many words per day I need to reach 50K by 11/30, how many total words I need to write, what day I'll hit 50K if I stick to my average. Its fun to put in my word count every so often. My little meter gets a little fuller, my graph bar jumps up a little higher and all my stats change just a bit. I sit and study my numbers a little and dream of what it would be like if I could have a jet-pack day and work in 6000 words or more.
I don't know if I'll be able to manage a jet-pack day this year. I'm getting a lot done, but it's usually in snippets. My family remains pretty demanding. I was hoping to make Saturday a huge writing day, but then my husband got sick and I had kid duty a lot more than usual. I'd keep my fingers crossed for a heavy writing day this Saturday, but that makes it really hard to get any writing done.
(note: for the uninitiated- a jet-pack day is broken down into sections. start the day with a 2 hour writing session. then take 1 to 2 hours doing something non-writing related, preferably something you enjoy. Then another 2 hour writing session, then another nice break; 2 hour writing session, nice break, write, and that's a wrap. You get 6-8 hours of writing in without going completely nuts)
3. Change is good. I find that when I'm having trouble pushing past a certain part, it helps to change things up by skipping ahead to a part I'm more excited about. It also helps to change where/how I write. If I've been spending a lot of time on the laptop, kicked back in the Lazyboy, it can make a big difference to go into the office. The change of monitor, keyboard, setting, and even physical position stimulate my brain in new ways and make me think differently. If I'm really having a hard time I go back to my favorite way to write. Pen, paper, and cursive writing. Last year, I wrote my entire nano novel by hand. With my Adesso to take pictures of my handwriting and convert it into text, it was a lot easier than entering it by hand later. But there were so many errors to correct that I decided to get back on the computer this year. But I still have the handwriting option if I need it.

Some obstacles to look for:
1. Thanksgiving, as always. But this year, it's at MY house. I do the pies every year because pie is in my blood (don't worry, there's no blood in my pies). Last year I went completely overboard with 12 or 13 pies, a pumpkin roll and a trifle (vegetarian). The resulting sugar high caused some memory lapses. I cannot be held responsible for anything I did that weekend. Anyway, I'm not doing that again. I think I'll limit myself to four pies and one non-pie dessert. Also, since I have the double oven, I'll probably end up doing the bird as well. Though there's some talk going around about frying it this year.
2. Singing. Yeah, I write and I sing. It sounds more impressive than it really is. But I do have music to learn and rehearsals to attend. That definitely eats into my writing time. Luckily the actual performances will be in December. So no conflicts there.
3. School. I only have one class, but it's the first one in a decade. I've done everything I can to free myself up from school this month- acing 2 tests so I can skip (and drop) one this month; and writing a paper a month in advance. But try as I might, I can't get around the pesky up and coming final exam. It's not until December, but the studying must come much sooner than that. Hopefully I'll be able to work around these things to have a really successful nanowrimo.

If you're a wrimo, too, look me up. I'm radeliak over at nanowrimo.org

Monday, November 1, 2010

goodbye NPI, hello NaNoWriMo

I know it's after midnight, so maybe I should have reported for NPI earlier. But I was litterally writting up until midnight. I got 616 words today. Not too shabby.
At 12:00 I saved and closed my novel and opened a new Word file, saved it as NaNoWriMo2010 and began writing. I've got 284 words so far. And since I'm not actually insane, I am going to bed now. More writing to come. Much, much more.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

almost there

I got 610 words today. AND I got my silly hate poem written. It really isn't much and it's definitely not my best work. In fact, I'm not sure it's quite done. I'll probably tweak it a bit so I can get the meter to flow easier. But the beast is slain and that's the important part. I'll skin it later on.
I must admit, I'm a little nervous about next month now. This month has gone pretty well, but the required word count is pretty low. 1667 words is a lot more than 250. And to tell the truth, I'm feeling a little burned out on writing. I'm just not used to doing it every day, see? I'm hoping, HOPING, that starting a new project will perk me up again. And taking a few weeks off from my current WIP will get me excited about finishing it up, right? RIGHT??
So one more day of NPI and then on to NaNoWriMo!!

And now, without further ado, my ridiculous hate poem.

If I were a different sort of man,
The sort that lives by passion alone,
I’d find no greater pleasure than
In stripping your flesh from your bone.

A shadow, a shadow would dance above
The grass covered mound with your name.
Oh, don’t you know that the shadow ’d be mine.
Yes, I’d waltz on your grave with no shame.

Alas, I’m a God-fearer now
And I can’t just follow my heart.
So I’ll tip you my hat and I’ll bow
Until the day we forever part.

And a shadow, a shadow will dance above
The grass covered mound with your name.
For you know that shadow will be mine
As I waltz on your grave with no shame.

note: this is actually a song in the book, written for a man's voice

Thursday, October 28, 2010

do I gotta?

I was really not in the mood for writing today, but I did 504 words anyway. And I set myself up so that tomorrow I have to write a poem. And it's supposed to be a hate poem. I haven't done poetry in probably a decade or more. And it's probably been at least that long since I hated anybody. <groan> Why do I do this to myself?? I used to be pretty good at poetry, when I was depressed and all unhappy and teenage-hormonal and whatnot. But I'm happy now. Life is good. There are rainbows everywhere you look and butterflies enough to kiss every flower. That does not an interesting poem make. Where, oh where, am I going to find some inspiration for a halfway decent poem by tomorrow? I may be in trouble here. If I manage to pull off anything remotely readable, I'll post it here, I promise (oh, good, Robin. No pressure. That's just great.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

still sick, but wrote about 800 words on a different project today. that counts, right?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

today's work

What do say to 1529 words, plus finishing a chapter? Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Monday, October 25, 2010

don't say I'm not dedicated

Got 474 today.So a couple of days ago, I took a reprieve day because I just had a really long day plus computer issues plus some laziness. Technically, I've still got one reprieve day left (I think) but I'm saving it for a rainy day. I really should have called today the rainy day. I had to skip class because I was so sick. But I managed to drag my self, stomach bug and all, down the stairs to do my writing. Good girl. Hopefully I'm better tomorrow and the writing will be joyful again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

yesterday and today

So last night I sat down to do a little writing. I did a very little writing, about 50 words, and tried to save my work. Cue the computer problems. Goodbye, progress. Crud. My resident nerd was out of the house and nothing I tried would fix the issue. I could have wipped out a few hundred words by hand, no problem. But I gave myself a break and went to bed instead. It's okay. I earned another reprieve day.
Today, I got 1012 words. Not too shabby.

Friday, October 22, 2010

life getting in the way again!! arg!

I got 1718 words today- a record for the month. I'd like to continue with the scene I'm on, but I've got a crazy busy weekend ahead of me. Right now, I'm off to decorate some cakes, make some pies and clean my house. I'd rather be writing. Til tomorrow, then.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

another day down

342 words today. I was hoping to do some more this evening, but I'm coming up on a pretty crazy weekend and I need to get some prep work in (aka sleep). Happy writing, all!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A new day, a new chapter

I found 685 words of a new chapter today. I like starting new chapters. Even when you have a clear idea of what's going to happen, it's still always full of surprises. Sometimes, I just have no idea what's going to come out of my characters' mouths. It's always fascinating when they take over and write their own stories.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

at the end of a long day

AND at the end of a long chapter. Okay, so the chapter wasn't really that long. But it was a huge pain in the butt. In the end, it did what it needed to do. And with all it's faults, I'm done writing it. And I'm kind of dreading the rewrite. Let's just say the judge is going to have a field day with it.

So I got 296 words today and finished a pretty hellish chapter. Tomorrow I'll get to embark on something more worthwhile, I hope.

Also, I did a little more pre-writing this afternoon. I still have no idea what direction I'll be going in next month. I need to just take a few hours one day and go muse hunting. I'll track her down, trap her in my net and drag her home with me. I've been needing the exercise anyway.

Monday, October 18, 2010

oh, productivity!

I found 737 words today. I finished off the scene I was working on, blending together two parts that were written separately. And then I went back and worked on a scene I've been having trouble with. I don't know that I'm totally past the trouble spot. But I'm getting there. I just need to approach it differently, I think. The character in this scene is one I used to really love. He was my favorite, actually. But since he experienced a life changing event, I don't like him much at all anymore. I need to find the love again. We'll get there, though. We'll get there.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

another reprieve day

I'm tired. So tired. And I've earned a reprieve day. Need I say more?

On the up side, I worked on some pre-writing for NaNo. I'm thinking this particular idea would make a better short story. We'll see.

Friday, October 15, 2010

good things today

1359 words added to my total. AND I found the missing pages that I wrote a while back and got them inputted as well. That's especially awesome because there were some plot things in there that I had forgotten about. Usually I can rewrite stuff and still feel good about it even though it ends up different than the original. But sometimes, those initial ideas are irreplaceable. I think that was the case here. So I'm very happy. The story can go on now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

what an odd little motivator

Today I got 291 words. Plus, I had to rewrite about 40 words that didn't get saved the last time I hit save before closing word.Grr. Not a big deal, really. But still... grr.
This challenge of writing every day is a new one for me. But I like it. It's been really good for me. And having a reasonable word count goal gives me something to aim for everyday without having to sacrifice much of my everyday demands. But since my writing goals are for each new day and not just the month's total, I needed a way to quickly figure out where I am in my word count at any given moment.
It's a silly little thing, but I decided to put a sticky note next to my mouse and write down my starting word count in one column and the count I need to end at in the next column. My total words for the day get recorded here, too.
For instance, today's line looks like this:
10/14- 65834 --> 66084      291
Easy. As silly as it seems, it really motivates me to reach that number. And when I go past it, I feel kind of like a rock star.

What little tricks motivate you to keep on tapping the keyboard?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

and that's a wrap.

For today, at least. I got me 387 bright, shiny words today. And since I'm every kind of tired there is, I'm going to bed. 'Nite.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

write now...

Write now, I stand at 354 words on my fiction. I'm also in the middle of writing a term paper, which is at 791 words and counting. I'm hoping I can finish up my rough draft for the term paper and get some more real writing in tonight. No, I don't mean that. I know all kinds of writing ultimately help you become a better writer. I'd just rather be writing fiction write now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10/11 word count

I'm cutting it a little close, I know. But I did get my writing done today. 475 words. Now I'm about where I should be if I hadn't been a slacker yesterday. I had to abandon the chapter I was working on and move on to something I'm a little more excited about. The only thing is, the scene I'm working on now builds off a chapter I wrote a while back that I cannot find now. I'm going crazy!! Where is that chapter? What did I do with it? I really did write it, I swear. Ah, well. I'll have to search for it more later. I can always rewrite it if I have to, right?

Okay then... goodnight and happy writing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

note to self...

it's a really bad idea to watch DVR'ed Craig Ferguson when I should be writing. 36 words, and crappy words at that, before I gave up and just rolled around on the ground laughing. As much as I hate the idea of breaking my streak, I think I need a reprieve today.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the beauty of a challenge

I wrote 500 words today- twice as much as I meant to.
I seriously considered taking a reprieve today. I've been horribly busy, I'm bushed, and I still have a lot to do before I can turn in. But I convinced myself to just do a little writing- for the principle of getting into the habit of writing everyday. I wasn't sure I'd make myself do 250 words. But then before I knew it, I had 150  and 100 extra really isn't too hard. So I kept going. Then the next time I looked down at my counter, I had 492. An eight word sentence isn't so hard. And ta-da. 500 words.
It may not have happened today if it weren't for the challenge, not just to write 7250 words in a 31 day month, but to write every single day for a month. I like it. A lot.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ten/eight. today was great

I added 1066 words to my manuscript today.
I wrote around 500 words outlining a school paper.
But most importantly, I made some decisions during my walk around the neighborhood about the sequel that will make the scene I'm writing now go a lot more smoothly. Sometimes it's great to have no idea where you're going with the story. It's a magical journey of discovery with surprises around every corner. But when you hit a brick wall, it helps to have a map.
For me, it also helps to walk. My mind is completely unrestrained when I'm out walking. I can't concentrate on any one thing, even when I try. But that's usually the key to that breakthrough that's been eluding me.
Others have their best ideas on the porcelain throne, in the shower, or playing squash.

Where do you do your best thinking?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

today's word count

I got 614 today, which was actually really great because I started a new chapter today and I was not feeling it today. So I think my word count should actually reflect somewhere around 1852. Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow, I'll figure out where I left the magic. Maybe in the couch cushions or something.

the dead weight character

I've been thinking about this for a couple of days, and I'm still not sure what to do about it. I have a character who isn't pulling her weight. Her name is Sasha- which I will probably change because I don't like it and because it's too close to another character's name. She is the Queen. But more to the point, she's the wife of the King. She serves a couple of major purposes, but then doesn't do anything. Her personality is getting on my nerves, the sanctimonious ninny. And she's conveniently put herself in a situation where she may be executed or she may be pardoned.
Right now, the plan is to pardon her. That's in keeping with the king's character, and I'm afraid of what it would do to him if he executed his beloved wife. On the other hand, I'm not enjoying writing her and I don't see a future for her in the story. The way I see it, she either needs to go entirely or she needs to undergo some major changes. The question then becomes will she change for the better or for the worse? Between you and me, I think she's losing her mind. So it would probably have to be for the worse. Unless she can prove to me soon that she's capable of being interesting again, she's going to lose her mind and her head.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10/6 wordcount and shadow friends

I added 346 words to my work of fiction. I also did some prewriting for a school paper, which I should be working on now, but for some reason, I'm blogging instead. Then I wrote a hefty paragraph or two on a class discussion board. None of that gets my story written, but oh well.

Today, I've been feeling a little bit lonely in the world of words. I have lots of real life friends and a wonderful family. But I don't know many writers. Of the all people I know and love, I can count on one hand the number of writers I get to rub shoulders with. I haven't taken any writing classes yet. I've never been to a convention or conference where I could network with like minded crazies. I don't have a writing group. And I've only ever been to one NaNoWriMo write-in, where I sat in the corner and played shy. And since one blog always leads to another (much like books, oddly enough) I started at a writer-friend's blog and haunted a few other writer's blogs. I "followed" a couple that seemed to have some things in common with me. And here, I have to note that I did so publicly. I always, always follow blogs publicly. I think my e-friends have a right to know I'm there, attending to their thoughts, even if we don't know each other in the flesh. But it made me wonder if there are any other people in the world- besides my supportive husband and my too-good-to-be-true friend, Julie- who follow my little writing blog. If so, I invite you to come out and join us, shadow friends. You're welcome here, even if we've never met under the yellow sun.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/5 writing

343 words today. There was lots to do and I just wasn't in it very far. but I still beat my 250 words. Til tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

10/4- today's writing

I got in 1380 words today. I'm forcing myself to stop even though I've kind of been on a role. Life doesn't stop beause I'm writing. Alas.

Yesterday, I got some more writing in after my post. My total word count for yesterday was 1576. I really can't complain.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 3

I'm not sure of an exact count, but it was a little over 300 words today. I'm hoping to do some more tonight, so I'll have a solid word count from today tomorrow.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

10/1 update

417 words today. Piece of cake.

A couple writing challenges

My poor pen has been neglected lately. To get myself back on track, I've signed up for two different writing challenges this month. The first is to write 250 words everyday. If I'm good, that'll give me 7750 words by the end of the month. This challenge can be found at http://5-rings.com/blog/. I'll be updating my progress on that challenge here everyday.

The second challenge is one that I've done a few times. It takes place quarterly and you set your own goal each time, updating your progress on the sponsor's blog: http://tristischallenges.blogspot.com/. I'll probably post updates here as well, since I'll already be blogging my progress on the other challenge. My goal for Trisiti's challenge is to Madman and Architect a new project in preparation for NaNoWriMo next month.

Wish me luck! And wish my family lots of patience with me  this month.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spell Check: NOT a writer's best friend

Like many writers, I've been using the spell check button at every opportunity- in MS Word, in e-mail, blogging, even Facebook has a limited spell check feature now. And I've been loving it! But if you think spell check is your friend, think again. We all know what the advantages of spell check are. They are all the reasons we use it before hitting the print button, or sending our thoughts into the world wide web. But have you ever considered the disadvantages?

There are two general disadvantages that were obvious once I thought about it. The first is that a lot of words we misspell, are the correct spelling of a different word. How many times have you spelled 'of' when you meant to spell 'off,' or made some similar typo? Even if your spell checker includes a grammar function, this type of error doesn't always get caught by the computer. Which leads us to the second disadvantage: complacency. It's so convenient to click a few buttons, give our writing a last quick glance and call the end product our final draft. It promotes a laziness that ill-becomes any writer. If I want to improve my writing, I cannot fall into this trap.

For myself, spell check is bad because I am naturally a horrible speller. You'd think spell check would be great for me then, right? Wrong. If I rely on spell check, I will always be a horrible speller. Spell check doesn't teach me anything, it only enables me to continue being sub-par. Then what do I do when I don't have spell check available to me? My options are to go ahead and expose myself as a horrible speller or limit myself to using only the words I am confident I can spell correctly. Neither option is appealing to a writer.

Does this mean I'm planning to boycott spell check from now on? I may be mad, but I'm not stupid. My plan is to temper modern convenience with old fashion common sense. I run my spell check, which has a grammar checking feature as well. The words I've misspelled- and they're usually the same words over and over again- I'll practice writing correctly a few times before moving on to the next mistake. The grammatical errors sometimes come with an "explain" button in the options. Making the effort to learn why the grammar check program flagged a particular word or phrase can help prevent future mistakes. Of course, even computer programs aren't infallible, so having a reputable and current grammar book in your desk reference collection is wise- as long as you use it.

Improving my spelling and my understanding of grammar may not be a huge boost to my writing skills, but lacking these things can be a horrible hindrance to a writer. If nothing else, I can remove some obstacles from my path to good writing by putting forth just a little extra effort each time I hit the spell check button.

A Novel Idea

I recently read a book on legal writing- Garner on Language and Writing by Bryan A. Garner. Why I was reading it is a whole other story, which I won't get into here. What I learned is that even a topic as dry as legal writing can be made not only readable, but just plain fascinating if it's well written. I would recommend this book to anyone wishing to improve their writing skills. It's true, I skipped over probably half the book- the strictly legal half. But at least 500 pages of this huge book on legal writing, I was able to apply to noveling.

A concept Garner introduced me to that I particularly loved was the Flowers Paradigm. Betty S. Flowers came up with a way to describe the writing process that really got me excited about the writing process. Each step (pre-writing, outline, rough draft, edit) has a distinct personality. Each personality has a job. And no personality should interfere with any of the other personality's job. Just remember: madman (pre-writing)- architect (outline)- carpenter (rough draft)- judge (edit).

The madman's job is the most fun, but also the most difficult in my case. He comes up with a flurry of ideas. He just spits them out, not worrying about rhyme, reason, continuity, connectivity or flow. He is every errant thought you have throughout the day, written down so they don't get lost.

The architect, I can identify with a little more. He picks through the madman's ramblings. He identifies the ideas that can go together to create a piece of work that will stand strong. He tosses out anything that doesn't fit or will make the end product weak. Then he messes with the structure of everything until he gets the blueprints just right. Then he sends it out to the carpenter.

The carpenter is my strongest writing personality. Unfortunately, my carpenter has been trying for years to do the work of the madman and the architect as well. My poor carpenter has been overworked and under appreciated. His job- and his only job- is to take the architect's blueprints, and build. He fleshes out the outline into an actual story. Not a polished, beautiful, ready-for-the-grand-opening story, but fairly complete and ready for close scrutiny.

The judge is also a strong character for me. So strong that I've had to bind and gag him at times so the carpenter could get his work done. The judge reviews the work, finds the mistakes, the holes, the flaws, the weaknesses and figures out how to fix them. The judge would like to think he's the most important part of the process, but if he tries to get involved too soon, he could ruin the entire project.

So now you know the Flower's Paradigm. I'm going to make a conscious effort to distinctly separate my writing stages. Doing this with my blog posts will give me practice for the bigger projects- school papers, and bigger still- my novels. Wish me luck.