Monthly Archives: July 2014

Camping Update: Finale, also known as “Can we get to 50k anyway?”

In the beginning of this whole thing, my friend and I decided, for the sake of his sanity more than mine, that we’d focus only on getting to 25k, and collectively, 50k. The plan was, don’t strain yourself. If you miss a day, no big deal, you have a lot more pressing engagements anyway.

We did miss a few days. We skipped days altogether where we couldn’t get up any inspiration or were just more interested in watching movies or running around Calaveras county and doing whatever we wanted. I had days where I’d write 4-5k easily, and he couldn’t get the chance to write more than the 800 or so daily wordcount. We allowed ourselves to relax and not fret about it at all.

And then he finished all of his pressing work and we had three days left with 10k past our goal and we were suddenly eyeing 50k.

“We could do it if we pushed,” he said.

“I’ve written 10k in a couple days before,” I agreed.

And then suddenly it’s July 31st and we’re pulling prompts and ideas to write about from every which direction we can just to pin down wordcount. It’s about 4:45-5:00 p.m. when I realize, he has 47k and I have 43k. He was behind me before he finished his work and now he was kicking my ass like he was teaching me the meaning of it. Not to mention he’s got two hours on me.

So now it’s 11:45, and I’m at 45.5k words, and I’m okay with that. I wonder how much of that was my personal thought of, “I can’t do this,” though, but to be fair, I had dragged myself in deep with being as wordy as possible about everything my MC was encountering and it was dragging me down something fierce.

I will say that I’m kinda glad for July to be over. I think we might finish the story out anyway, afterward, but it’s kinda hard to tell. I’m ready to jump back into other projects and lose myself in the other different ideas and sprawling storylines and the new ones too. Speaking of, he and I had just picked up another story and finally got running with it, so that bodes well.

That story is my first foray into being the “dungeonmaster” of a joined project, so it is providing to be an exciting challenge.

Anyway, all in all, winning Camp Nano with soaring colors this time around, and it feels good. Now the countdown for NaNoWriMo begins!!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Lazy Days

Today was a lot of laying around and sleeping, but when I finally got off my ass, it was productive.

To be honest, I usually hate when I wake up late, because the day’s halfway gone by the time I’m up and active. Sometimes, you just have those days where you need or want to do little to nothing. Curl up in the blankets and feel the supreme comfort of the bed, let yourself be taken away by how good it feels.

There will be days when I don’t care to write, either. I’ll be more interested in searching pictures and playing games or watching movies, or I’ll simply get distracted by one thing after another at work or if I’m volunteering.

Then there are the days I want to do nothing but write.

Days when I’m lazing around and just enjoying time passing are sometimes better, when that attitude is welcome. When I can close my eyes and relish in the fact that I don’t need to be somewhere right away. Cat days, I should call them.

Then there are times where I can’t stand to not be doing something.  Today has definitely not been one of those days. I have heavier topics on my mind that I want to write about, to get out into the world to you, but I haven’t felt the urge to let loose on that right now. So I’m just accepting that this day is all about letting things be and going with the rhythm of the world.

There’s a prompt in that, too. Which character of yours enjoys more lazy days than productive ones? How does your main character feel about them? Are they able to be productive at all? When was the last time they got to do much, or wanted to, or the other way around: who’s a workaholic, in your stable of characters, that doesn’t let themselves relax enough?

I can still think, at least, and I’ve been doing plenty of that today, even if it’s been at that very comfortable, slow pace. Mmmm…

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare: Get Out

This is inspired by something I saw on tumblr at 3:30 in the morning:

(Yes, by the way, I love being specific. It raises so many questions)

Your main character, or a secondary character, contemplates getting the hell out of dodge. Either they enjoy travel, or they don’t. Does it become more about taking that preferred route of travel, the charm of the road or being 30,000 feet above the giants that are called hills and mountains and seeing all of the workings of the land?

Where do they want to go, and when, and why? Is there someone else there? Does thinking about it inspire loneliness or a fiery attitude? And can they go, or are they held back by monetary means, or is there a different limitation?

Last of all, do they actually go, or are they stuck where they currently are, just fantasizing about leaving everything behind to get to where they want to go? Do they hesitate, second guess, or is it known that they can’t do it?

May the wanderlust be with your characters (or not)!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Morning Time, Writing Time

Instead of writing, I’m contemplating it, and instead really wanting to faceplant. After going to bed too late last night, and then tossing and turning for another half hour, I finally got to sleep, only to be woken by my dreaded alarm clock.

Part time work is not stressful or that big of a deal, but every other weekend, I work 12 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday, as a receptionist. So, I have a lot of time to kill where I’m waiting for stuff to happen or nothing is happening and I’m left to my own devices. Such in this case, writing, working on a blog this morning, and, when I have a particular amount of inspiration and enthusiasm, getting through prompts and stories and chapters of novels.

Yesterday, that was difficult, and that alone was hard for me to swallow. Having all that open space to write is usually enough of a motivator that I get my claws into something and don’t let go until it’s all finished.

Today that’s made more difficult by the lack of sleep I got. And the headache that’s dull and pounding at the side of my head. Though, I know that I don’t need to write every day, but it’s such a habit now that every day I don’t do it, it just feels odd. It feels wrong not to be working on something… But, just as well, forcing something isn’t going to make it happen any easier, smoother, or better.

Sometimes, it’s just better to leave it, if you’re not feeling it. And instead fantasize about beds and pillows and quilts.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Writing Software: Pick Your Poison

This comes as inspiration from a coupon in my goodie bag from winning Camp NaNoWriMo this month, which offers 50% off from Scrivener with a code that you’ll receive on August 1.

Of course, upon further inspection, I see that this offer is something you also received from winning NaNoWriMo proper, which makes sense. That’s a story for another day: all of the coupons and goodies and free stuff and offers you can get simply from finishing that’s actually rather neat. I’d only really looked at the front page of the goodies instead of getting into it before, but now I’m definitely excited for November, considering some offers expire quickly.

Scrivener isn’t the only one that you get discounts on. There’s Aeon Timeline as well, and Storyist (for Mac only).

I had started to look into Scrivener to check out just what it was about and got pretty excited. A lot of what it has to offer seems extremely helpful, the outliner, the text editing, snapshots, name generator, corkboard for notes, being able to pile a whole novel together but separate it by chapter.

Then, I started to wonder how much of those features I would actually use.

At the moment, I use Roughdraft. Google docs is a close second because it’s a cloud based system I can get into through my e-mail, and it counts wordcount, but nothing feels as light and as fluent with my style as Roughdraft does. Which, that alone is a little funny because I was so resistant to getting it and dragging all of my files over, but none of that was a pain.

Roughdraft is lightweight, runs on RTF format, it doesn’t take much to boot up, it’s very minimalistic, you have a notepad on the side you can type in (great for when I was doing NaNo and could tell myself what needed to be changed in revisions, or clips I needed for later inspiration), a tab for inserts, a tab for lists, and a whole lotta shortcuts. This was the first program other than what I saw in Google docs that counted words, and that was nifty as hell to me in the beginning.

I am very pleased with it now, but I can’t help but wonder if Scrivener’s extra tools and features might be nice or helpful to me.

There are, of course, others who could do without it all. People like George RR Martin who still write in DOS on WordStar 4.0, who don’t need anything but to type. Then there are people who need the extra help, or who appreciate it.

Three things I do need, absolutely, is something capable of telling me my wordcount, something I can tag notes on, and the ability to turn off live spellcheck so I can ignore the squigglies when I come up with names like Sonas Barrin or Vitenia Bruch. I can live on that. Though the auto-save function is also super.

For the longest time, Wordpad and Notepad were enough for me. I used them primarily until my friend introduced me to Roughdraft, and I’d call my life changed from then on. I can handle simple, basic, but when is bare-bones too bare?

I enjoy having extra to play with, too, but what cost does it come with other than monetary? Am I going to end up using what I have at my fingertips, or will it go mostly ignored?

It is good to get outside of your comfort zone a little, I’ll be the first to say, but everyone has their limits on how much they can handle or want to handle. What the bandwidth in their head is for fancy frills that they need to keep track of. It’s all about finding your groove and what program fits it best, whether it’s DOS or the latest writing software to date.

-The Novice Wordsmith

It Begins, but Where?

When I was younger, I had a bad habit of just writing up something that was in my head and claiming it was part of something bigger, but it never was. I had more or less skipped through the nonsense of traditional beginnings and just cut to the chase where my head was. It took me years to figure out that I didn’t need to try and build up to that point just to write what I wanted.

That was a big lesson for me: start where you feel like you should start.

If it’s a sex scene that enters when each partner has their hands all over naked bodies of the other, do it. If it’s an action scene that starts when an explosion happens, don’t hesitate. Or if it’s something like a garden scene that begins when the character is contemplating something, about to enter a maze or the walkway that leads to the house, show it happening. Do what feels right, is the best advice for this.

Though, with that comes that you should be mindful of how much context you give the reader. This is where the story starts for them, but where did it start for the characters, and what brought them to that place? Be vague, or be detailed, but try to remove confusion. Remember that the reader doesn’t know as much about this as you do, and try to think that the reader in question is someone who hasn’t picked up any of your work before, especially if that story belongs to a series.

There are exceptions to that, of course, with novels and the like, individual chapters, but that’s what pulls people in; when they flip to a random page and start reading. Who is Jack? What’s this panther he’s talking about? Or Anna, why is she so stubborn, is there an explanation?

Whatever it is, don’t let buildup intimidate you. Write where you feel comfortable, and write whatever’s in that chaotically creative brain of yours, no matter how small or how large (hehehe…).

-The Novice Wordsmith

Camping Update: Rolling up the Sleeping Bag

I got an extra day in California, and with it, we banged out the last of our goal wordcount for the month. We sacrificed finishing watching a movie, but we had finally found a really strong rhythm for writing that we were having a hard time with the entire week and didn’t want to let go. So we didn’t.

I may not have gotten much sleep because of it, but it was very worth it.

My 3pm flight on Friday got knocked because the plane was having mechanical issues, which I’m grateful for, really, and while I could have taken a flight out at the same time at a different airport, there was no way I was gonna make it. Honestly, I rather liked having the extra time with him and a couple other friends.

So, the 7:30 am flight out the next morning had to do, which was fine, and very productive, because I got a lot of writing done in the span of four hours. I think I knocked out about half of the chapter I was working on, which ended up being just over 4k words altogether, and got an idea or two out of my head and into RTF.

Unfortunately, my next chapter afterward has been stalling for a bit, and we’re being faced with the fact that we strung out the story long, so we may not finish this month. Which is funny, because before, we were having trouble not solving the mystery too quickly.

Technically now, we can hand in our wordcount and get winner’s validation in return, and the temptation to finish the month’s story out slowly is creeping up on us. We still have seven days left! And to be honest, I am quite enjoying it, even if it means I have a giant sized block on the rest of my other writing projects.

Either way, I can’t wait to see what the last week has in store for us!

-The Novice Wordsmith

“…Wasn’t a good idea because of the shell shock–­­” “PTSD,” she corrected, prodding him in the ribs.

My last post got me to think about something bigger, after a short conversation in the comments.

When I was younger, I played a lot of games, and if you can recall the fuss about video games, you know that there’s violence in them. This isn’t about how violence influences children, but how it influences your characters, when they’re thrust right into the middle of it, be it war, a gang related felony, a city riot, or an isolated incident.

Psychology is something that I didn’t think about when considering a character for a while. When you pull the character out of a violent game or you put them in a violent setting writing wise, there’s bound to be some kind of damage.  It also comes down to what you want for them; do you see them being the type to be in action, front and center, or are they shipped somewhere with very little? Do you want them to be ruled by the trauma, or would you like to see them conquer it?

If they aren’t fazed by it, why? Is there something else there that keeps them from being tortured by it, are they hardened to the difficulties, have they seen it frequently for very long, or do they have a disorder that keeps them from feeling emotion at all (and if so, in your world, is it independent or genetic?)

There are stories that revolve around the psychosis, as well. A short story I wrote over the winter included a young girl who watched the massacre of her family and developed Disassociative Identity Disorder (Multiple personality disorder), and was based on her journey through dealing with it.

Trauma is not always a hindrance to the character, as I once thought it was. It shapes them, it makes them more human, as Victoria (http://en.gravatar.com/vdavenportwrite)said. It gives them a more real dimension that fleshes them out, and you can use it as a strength or a weakness.

In the project that I’m currently working on, which the quote is from, a new recruit is shoved into combat with a hostile alien race for the first time. After that encounter ends, he finds himself feeling more guilty from getting his friend nearly killed instead of watching the invader die before him. The difference here is played on by a thought that the less human or relative it is to that person, the less guilt there is, because they don’t see it with the same sympathy as someone else. It is, as I think about it, likely to be associated with xenophobia, really: “it’s strange, different, and I hardly know what it is, but it was going to kill me.”

On the other hand, there are others yet who could barely justify killing insects, no matter how different, physically and otherwise (obviously) they are. Everyone has varying levels of comfort with violence, toward everything. What kind are your characters?

-The Novice Wordsmith

Character Development: All in the Family

Sometimes I get ahead of myself and consider big events and other things happening in a character’s life before I think about the family that they were born into. I forgot, after several months of working on her, that Kasia had eight aunts and uncles collectively, and countless more cousins. Grandparents, too.

It’s easy to lose sight of, to be honest, when your focus is on the character and what they involve their life with. Unless their parents are very involved in their life, too, it’s easy to forget they exist, too.

Stop and think about it. Which characters have you mapped out the family tree for, figuratively speaking?  Do they have a good relationship with aunts and uncles, how long has it been since they had lunch with or talked to their cousins? Are they an orphan, an only child, do they have an adoptive family or were they raised without much in the way of maternal and paternal influence?

Or were they raised in a family that’s closer than most best friends usually are? Was there turmoil that broke them apart later, does everyone hate each other for it?

These little prompts are fun for me. It helps me consider and round out some characters, to really think about what I’m doing and, usually, it brings out new things to write, new angles to let my mind run wild over. Don’t hesitate to let it do the same for you!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Writer: Write Anywhere, Write Everywhere

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing this past week with the Wordsmith is just exploring the world.   It’s one thing to sit at home, with Google search at your fingertips, and Wikipedia at your beck and call, it’s another to actually just _go_ places to see them with your own eyes.

Despite having a laptop computer that I do all of my writing on, I still carry a notebook with me anywhere I go, whenever I can’t bring the laptop; it is full of hastily scribbled ideas, notes on things I’ve found, and sketches of fanciful things, along with phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and outlines of novels and short stories yet to be.   I try not to miss a chance to write down an awesome idea, lest I forget it by the time I get home.

Anything and everything you see can be put into a novel somehow.   From the most ordinary objects to the breathtakingly beautiful (or incredibly tacky), to little bits of trivia and history tucked away in corners of the world that don’t always advertise themselves very well.

Then there are those chance events that you encounter in your journeys; live people doing the unexpected,  fellow storytellers able and willing to swap stories, and moments of serendipity — there is no other word for it sometimes.

None of these things will likely happen to you if you remain in your ‘writing space’, content to see the world only through someone else’s eyes.   Text and photos on a web page do not do some things justice.

But is it necessary, you may ask, to go travel anywhere where you plan on doing things on location?    Some of the greatest writers believed so.   While you don’t absolutely have to take a one month vacation to Borneo to write about it, you can’t go wrong with choosing to make your next vacation a writing excercise anyway, wherever it might be.

The world is about textures, smells, feelings, sounds, and local foods you can’t get at home.   It’s unusual happenstances that required the unique combination of ‘right time’, ‘right place’ or occasionally ‘wrong time, wrong place’.    Even unpleasant experiences can be rewarding in their own right — if you survive.

Moments of serendipity are the lifeblood of any adventure novel, no matter what the genre you might be writing in, you can adapt the reality to fit the unreality.

For example, Wordsmith and I visited a museum that had a lot of gold rush mining exhibits and other artifacts of the 1850’s.   A stained glass window of St. Patrick  rescued from a demolished church is destined to find a home somewhere; its sister window had a pair of ornate keys in its display that definitely will become part of a mystery novel.   Meanwhile, the high-pressure hydraulic mining nozzle outside will have a place in a science fiction novel for futuristic mining purposes, while the docent’s recounting of what water wagons (and also where the origin of the phrase ‘on the wagon’ came from)  will likely come in handy in our next steampunk novels, perhaps.

All of this came from a single day, a single ‘hey, what about this place’ and a journey that started by asking not just ‘what if…’  but also ‘when.’

Not all of us are so lucky to have a traveling partner, or a mentor, or a means to get away from it all to see things that are, in fact, ‘away’.   But the truth of the matter is that anyplace that is ‘out’ is some smaller or larger degree of ‘away’.

And every ‘away’ game makes you a visitor in places that are at least passing strange, near or far.

So take a journey, and have a listen.   Maybe stay awhile and make some new friends.   I ran out of business cards today, letting people know I appreciated their time that they shared with me, and offering up a bit more of mine if they ever found a need to share another story.

Don’t just cultivate memories in photos you rarely look at again.  Choose to experience people, places, and things, and tell their story, no matter how imperfectly reproduced or turned into a variation on the theme, and you’ll start understanding that everything you do is a story of its own.  To bastardize a quote from The Lion King:

“Everything your life touches is your realm — of personal experience, that is.   You just have to learn how to be king of it all.”