Back to the drawing board

30 10 2011

You cannot imagine how much I love my Kindle! I’ve downloaded so many wonderful books on writing that I hardly know where to begin.

First, I read Kristen Lamb‘s two wonderful books: We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. I love Kristen’s upbeat and humorous writing style which is very easy to read. She goes out of her way to hold your hand as she shows you how to set up a WordPress blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook and a MySpace page.  I did much of that last Monday, and just about a week later I’m following a double handful of blogs, three times that in twitter feeds, and am writing my fourth blog post. Highly recommended!

The book that has sent me back to the drawing board is David Baboulene‘s The Story Book – a writers’ guide to story development, principles, problem resolution and marketing, which is an unbelievable bargain in Kindle format ($2.99! Less than my usual Starbucks double/tall/half-caf latte!) and is chock full of hints, tips, dos and don’ts for writing both screenplays and novels. He uses “Back To The Future” in example after example, which renders his points extremely clear.

So… last night I was reading about the Story Development Process, feeling more and more dismayed. I’ve written over 90,000 words in my novel since I first started writing in February 2011, and my heart sank as I read Baboulene’s comments on structuring a story. I’ve done none of that in planning my story. It has been very stream-of-consciousness… well, not exactly. I’ve been bouncing back and forth in the chronology of my protagonist’s life, skipping here and there as my whim lead me.

In fact, for some time I have been wondering about exactly how I should structure this tome (feeling that I’m not halfway through with it as it is), and wondering if I was doomed to toss a good percentage of what I’ve already written. I don’t even know the story’s ending at this point! Then today I spent more time with Baboulene’s book, and I realized that I needed to just STOP. Stop writing, and start planning. Now. Before I write another word.

I have a very good idea as to the story, as well as the key question. And when I look at many of the scenes that I’ve written, I can tell that they are quite good, from a structure and character development perspective (though the definitely can use some good editing and proofing!) I’m happy with much of my work thus far, and I think that I’m going to be able to use at least half of what I’ve written already. I’ve known that it needs direction, and I feel that if I follow his suggestions (using index cards with each scene aim on the front, the sequence objective in a sentence or two on the back, etc) I will be able to deliver a much tighter, focused, and interesting story in the end.

But… I can’t find my index cards tonight, and I feel like hell anyway. My weekend was fraught, and tomorrow is my day off. Between laundry and getting new tires for the car (yikes!) I hope that I can spend some quality time with some index cards, as well continuing to read my new friend Samantha Warren‘s Vampire Assassin (Jane Book 1) which I’m going to cue up in my Kindle right now. (Hi, Samantha!!)



Look what I just learned!

27 10 2011

Angela Quarles’ post on ripping out ‘to be’ verbs just ate my lunch. I choose ‘to be’ verbs all the time in my writing, to the point that my almost 100,000 word tome will probably lose 10,000 of them when I finally get to the editing stage. Thank you Angela! Eventually I’ll get to #amediting, which will be fun with your advice!

Then there’s edittorrent’s series of posts on ‘Dressing and Dining’, which I will be chewing on for a while. I’ve been wondering what to do about my my characters’ daily routines, and  it seems that if it doesn’t move the plot forward, cut it. These three posts shed light on something that I didn’t realize I needed to know.

Then there’s Chuck Wendig‘s blog, which I would follow if I could just figure out how to follow blogs. I love his sense of humor (note: it’s not for the faint of heart – if the ‘f-word’ offends you, don’t read his stuff!), and his’25 suggestions for torturing your characters’ post was both enlightening and entertaining. I laughed. I snorted. I scared the dog.

Edited to add: Jocelyn K. Glei’s compilation of 25 tips from famous writers. Seriously, I need to print this one out and paste it all over my walls.

My Writer’s Tools

25 10 2011

In the several months since I’ve been taking writing seriously, I’ve come up with a small handful of tools that are essential to me.

While I’ve been known to haul around a wee moleskine journal, in truth I need a keyboard to write efficiently. My handwriting is awful (the only “D” that I received in elementary school was in handwriting!), slow, and doesn’t flow. Luckily for me, I touch type, and unluckily for me, I have overused my hands for years (see: the risks one takes as a professional musician – repetitive motion injury/arthritis). I can’t manage the keyboard on my iMac for hours at a time, even though I found the IceKey keyboard from recommendations on the MacRumors forums. (Fora! I know! But that just looks weird!). I much prefer the keyboards on laptops, and have coveted a MacBook Air ever since they came out. However, that’s not possible right now (see: Wall Street Meltdown). After more googling, I learned that the Dell Mini 10v can be hacked into running Mac OSX, so, with the help of the good gents at MyDellMini, I hackintoshed my $250 Mini 10v, and it runs OSX like a charm. I find that typing in my lap is much less of a strain on my hands than with the keyboard on a desk.

I never bought Pages. the official Mac word processing app (see Wall Street, above), but there is a cool, free Mac app called “Bean”, which I am in LOVE with. You can use it in a regular window, or set it to ‘full screen’, and type away with white type on a dark blue background – easy on the eyes, especially at night. If you use a Mac and want to try Bean, be sure to save your docs as an .rtf file, not a Word .doc. I had my manuscript corrupted several times before I learned that Bean and .doc files aren’t a perfect match – either on the iMac or the hackintosh. I’m not sure what the issue is there, but I haven’t had any trouble since I went with .rtf files, which are readable on whatever word processing app one cares to use. Rescuing the corrupted file involved opening it as a .txt, then editing the hell out of it for missing punctuation and annoying extra spaces. Not recommended, especially if you’re a Red-Pencil Virgo like me. And yes, my hair has come back in. Mostly. Almost. You get the picture.

File: Save As: Dropbox/xxx.rtf.

I am an absolute NUT about backing up my work. I save it in a couple places on the hackintosh, a couple places on the iMac, on a USB thumb drive… but if there was a fire and all three were at home I’d lose it all anyway. However, the free service ‘Dropbox’ is just a couple of seconds away on the internet. Two GB worth of storage is free, after that it’s a nominal fee per year. I have yet to come close to that 2GB limit, though, and I have all my documents from over fifteen years on the internet up there. Now that Apple is coming out with iCloud I’ll be looking into that, but as they say around here, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So Dropbox it is… for now.

I have on occasion been so pressed for time and so overwhelmed with ideas, that I’ve used my iPhone with the Dragon Dictation app to dictate my work. The app is free, but the iPhone surely isn’t. If you already have one, or have decided to get one, then be sure to download the Dragon. It works fairly well, and likely works better if you use it all the time, but I haven’t used it regularly enough to make that determination.  After I finished my dictation I’d copy and paste it into an email to myself. It is absolutely faster than dictating into a dictaphone and then trying to type it out. As a bonus, sometimes the speech-to-text doesn’t work so well, and you end up with something amusing and/or unintelligible. I particularly enjoyed how it kept writing “Elize” as “the lease”.

Of course, there are various voice recognition apps to use with any computer, but for now I prefer the tactile sensation of clicking the keys. If my arthritis gets worse I’ll probably need to go with that, but I prefer the flow of typing. Ibuprofen, anyone?

Oh! I almost forgot: my Kindle. I would not be connected here, on Facebook (JuliaIndigo), on twitter (@juliaindigo) and on MySpace (soon to come) if it wasn’t for Kristen Lamb and her amazing book “We Are Not Alone”, available on the Kindle.

What tools are essential to your writers’ life? Do you have a fav computer/app/pen/pencil/brand of notepad/dictaphone? Do you covet some device as I do the new MacBook Air? Let me know in the comments, if you’d like.

For all I’ve written above, it brings a huge smile to my face when I consider that all I truly need to practice this craft is a yellow legal pad and a number two pencil.

What? Me… Writer?

24 10 2011

Hi, my name is Julia Indigo, and I’m a writer. Sort of… I mean, I am a writer, but that isn’t really my name; it’s close to it.

If you’d told me this time last year that I’d be 100,000 words in to the first draft of a novel today, I would have said that you were nuts. I never wanted to be a writer. I’d never even considered writing at all. I’ve been a professional classical musician my entire adult life, and I started playing music in the fourth grade. That profession has been my bread and butter ever since, though through increasingly leaner and leaner years. Thank you, Wall Street, for this collapsing economy. But I digress.

For whatever reason, long about February 2011 a character leapt into my consciousness, full-blown. Where he came from, I don’t know, but Steven is almost as real to me as my ex-husband is. My very best friend and sister-by-choice, Jennifer, is a writer and a marvelous poet; she sent me a handful of pages of her (unfortunately, stalled) novel back in late January. I was gobsmacked, but then a wee small voice spoke up “I wonder if I could do this, too?” In an instant I’d fired up my laptop, and BOOM, this man’s life poured onto the page, in a torrent.

Yep. It was a deluge. 40,000 words in just under a month, before I cried “UNCLE” and quit for a bit. I was hauling the Dell Mini everywhere with me, words pouring out of my fingers. I woke up in the morning and grabbed the iPhone and fired up the dictation app as I headed to the bathroom, because ideas were flying out of my head so fast that I would’ve never made it to rehearsal if I’d tried to type it all up. Steven went on walks with me, re-living his life story, episode by episode; I had to run back home and fire up the computer to brain dump that bit, in order to make more head room for subsequent ideas.

I read scene after scene to Jennifer, who encouraged me again and again to keep on writing. “What? Me? A writer?” “Yes,” she would say, “You are a natural! Keep going!” … so I did. Actually, it wasn’t as though I had much of a choice in the matter; I had to write. And the scenes were often out of sequence, one instant he’s twenty-two and in love, then next he’s thirty-nine and in the middle of an awful divorce, as I page to and fro through the manuscript to find the proper place in the chronology for the scene I just wrote.

And it is so much FUN! I absolutely adore writing – there is nothing more satisfying than putting fingers to keyboard to see what happens next.

By now the story of this man’s life covers almost 50 years, and I’m not done yet. I know that I’ll have to ditch much of what I’ve written, but that seems inconsequential to me right now. He’s having his way with me – his story WILL be told, one way or the other.

It’s fascinating to me that when I’m deep into writing, I can practically feel his presence. I’m a visual and tactile person – no, that’s not exactly right. I’m visual and kinesthetic, if that is an actual word. I can sense his energy.

Is his story worth telling? I think so. The bigger question is, will I be able to tell it in a compelling enough manner for his story to be published and sent out to the wider world? Perhaps. But until I pull up that file and start in again (it’s been over six weeks since I’ve written – life got in the way), we’ll never find out.

How have your stories come to you? Do you start with a premise, a scene, or a character like me? Do you write chronologically, or not? Do you outline first, then write scene by scene, or do you let the story take you where it will? Let me know in the comments, if you like.

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