Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pants Wisely

Yes, it's almost time for Nano (National Novel Writing Month) and as mentioned my novel this year isn't planned at all. That got me thinking that it might be fun to post about tips and tricks to keep a story moving forward without an outline/previous planning. Of course Nano is about sitting down and writing 50k words on a first draft, not creating a masterpiece. Some of this is advice I've picked up over the years, I'm not claiming to have come up with everything here.

Lists: Lists are your friends, and it's something quick to generate ideas. You can have lists ahead of time for fall back when stuck with the draft or use them to get ideas flowing while writing. These don't have to be to detailed or to long. I've read that around 10 is a good number. You can list character traits, pet peeves, best friends, worst enemies, favorite places, favorite foods, etc. Whatever will help to get the writing moving works.

Relationships: This is something I decided to try this year, probably in a flow chart. For each of my major characters I want to identify another character or two they get along well with and character(s) they don't. If I have time I may also make a quick note about why they do or don't like the other characters. When the plot is lagging I can always have a character bump into someone they don't like then let the words flow while they deal with each other. Because ya, writing scenes with lots of conflict go faster for me than happy ones.

Cast of Characters: This one is handy no matter what level of planning is done before writing the draft. Having a list of the characters with names, gender, "role", and anything else important at a top level is useful to refer back to while writing. I'm sticking with a line or two for each character, I don't want to much on the characters list.

List of Locations: A quick list of the locations where there will be action taking place in the story. Like the cast of characters this doesn't have to be in-depth. The key facts about the places should suffice. Any further level of detail can be worked out in notes. It's actually not a bad idea to write a paragraph or two about places featured frequently in the story. Or sketch out a map/diagram.

What ifs: Related to lists, only a bit more specific. Writing down a handful of "what if" types of scenarios to have on hand for when stuck can help keep the story moving. One could look this list over and choose one based on how the story has progressed already, or one could be picked at random.

So what might I have missed? What works for you when you are stuck?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Haunting

I signed up to participate in the Halloween Haunting blog event this weekend. I was going to post about the event yesterday but didn't get a chance. Here I thought the netbook would be handy to get online more. It is useful and typing on it is pretty good. Though when my cat Trixie demands lap time I have to move the netbook out of her way then type one handed.

I'm also still getting ready for NaNoWriMo, well picking out character names. While I may jot down some notes this is still going to be a writing by the seat of my pants nano. I had fun with the random name generator earlier today.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I feel bad for not updating my blog recently, especially with the monthly blog challenge going on. Though my last update is still this month so it's not to bad. This is the first night this week I haven't been involved in painting after dinner. So tonight I'm relaxing while watching an old episode of Doctor Who (Mind Robber). My new netbook just arrived today and it's great being able to be online and watching tv.

I am planning on doing a traditional Nano this year for national novel writing month. I had been planing on working on revisions then decided it would be fun to write a random first draft. I haven't done any planning at all, this year will be a "pants" nano. I need to install Office yet on the netbook, I figure it will help with writing. It'll be nice and easy to find a quiet place to write.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CassaStar - Alex J. Cavanaugh

I volunteered to blog about Alex's book, CassaStar today for it's release. Here is the relevant information about the book as provided by Alex. I've already added it to my to-read list on Goodreads and am planning to purchase it sometime soon.

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Youtube Trailer

Purchase from:

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Muse Prompting Monday

FairyTree The fairy tree waiting for a fairy to make a home within it. Or perhaps a character with a more fanciful imagination might dream about little fairies in a place like this. Or maybe a tree like this is on someone's property and they are annoyed with cleaning up after it. (Yes, the crab apple trees in my front yard already lost their leaves. Fall cleanup is on my mind.)

I can't believe I let a week go by without updating my blog. Aside from some e-mail I haven't been online much this past week. I did see the comments on my previous posts, which are much appreciated. I'm hoping this week will be better for blogging, at least I'm not as tired out as last week.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Muse Prompting Monday: 3D

I made this scene awhile back and it reminds me of part of the landscape in my fantasy work in progress. Of course it doesn't have to inspire fantasy scenarios to others as there is nothing in the image that says "oh look I'm in a fantasy world". Then again this image is more flexible and allows for more creativity.

I used Bryce to create this image. The program is fairly easy to use and not to expensive. Once I've created a scene it usually only takes a few minutes for the program to process the rendering (the final image).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Favorites: Books on Writing

Something fun and short for today's post. Favorite books on writing.

For me there is one book that is my absolute favorite; Bird by Bird, some instructions on writing and life by Anne Lamott. In addition to touching on topics like plot and characterization she also speaks to the writing frame of mind in various ways. There is something about this book that resonates with me, plus her humor is enjoyable. I like to re-read various chapters as a pick me up when I'm having a tough time with writing. Actually I can't find my copy at the moment, which is distressing enough that I may by another one soon.

My favorite part of that book is the chapter on "Shitty First Drafts". I really agree with her how the first draft is there to get the story down, and the next drafts fine tune it. And while there are nice bits of humor peppered throughout the book I think this chapter is the funniest.

Now for something more text book like, I find Writing Fiction A guide to narrative craft by Janet Burroway useful. I actually own this book because it was the text for my fiction writing class in college. When I was finished with the course I decided not to sell it back. As opposed to reading this through like I do Lamott's book this I mostly use for reference. Whichever area I need a bit of help in I read through the relevant chapter(s) to find the helpful information I need. Right now the chapter on revision has quite a few note cards inserted.

What I also like about Burroway's book is the selection of example pieces of fiction. There are follow up questions after the stories, which while probably aimed more at a class can still be helpful to answer on one's own.

So what are your favorite books on writing? What makes them special/useful? I know there are plenty of other great books out there, some I'm thinking of reading at some point to.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

Because alliteration is fun. Yes, I almost did TV Tuesday yesterday, though that would work for Thursday.

My current work in progress is a fantasy novel first draft heading into revision. I started the draft for National Novel Writing month. I had planned to complete at least one revision pass before this November so I could work on the sequel, but that didn't happen.

Where I am now I need to flesh out more details for the world and the characters, and then the plot. I'm pondering over what are the most important things to my characters, along with what risks would they take to obtain what they want. The characters feel flat in the draft.

As I define my character's core values a little more I'll use that background to make decision flow charts for them. I'll start with the first choice my main character (MC) has (stay home or leave), and figure out the positives and negatives associated with each options. Then those options would lead to other choices, which the character would have to navigate through. Then I could use that information to make an outline to guide the revision.

I am also thinking a bit more about the actual story. As I ponder the characters and the world set up I keep thinking that the novel has a young adult (YA) feel to it. The story theme is very coming of age and my MC is on the younger side. She's pretty much leaving home to figure out what she wants to get out of life/what sort of career she would want. And of course she's curious about other places she's never been before.

Here's to hoping I stick to getting some writing time in and have some progress to report sometime next week.

So what are your current WIPs?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing Time

Alright, I've procrastinated this post long enough. I didn't post first thing after work today and the evening seamed to slip by. Of course it doesn't help that I could have dozed on the sofa before 8 tonight. I didn't sleep to well for whatever reason last night.

Thinking about time gave me an idea for today's post. Scheduling writing time. This is something I need to be better with. Right now I'm trying to find a routine that works for me. Once I have that it is so much easier to write regularly.

A few years back I was working part time after college. On the days I was home I would get a fair amount of writing in. I would get up around 9am, check various websites until about 10, then I would write until noon. Sometimes when I would be working on a more exciting part of a draft I wouldn't realize it was lunch time until the younger cat would paw my leg and meow at me. My lunch hour was split with me eating under her watchful eye, then a rousing game of fetch the puffy. Once she would settle down I could get some more writing in over the afternoon. Sure sometimes it would be rough to stay focused but in general that schedule had worked for me. And I enjoyed the writing time.

Now with my full time job I need to figure out a new routine. I've tried getting up early, I've tried writing on campus in my extra hour, I've even tried writing in the evenings. Each has it's positives and negatives. The quiet time first thing in the morning is wonderful, but for me I need to go to sleep earlier so I can make it out of bed in time the next morning. When I've managed it, writing right after work is alright. Though after a tough day fighting with databases or whatever else I need to unwind before trying to focus on something else. Evening writing works out so long as I start right after dinner. Any TV time and I'm ready to veg out.

I think though that I am going to make another effort at morning writing. Maybe I'll ease into it by getting up ten minutes earlier this week, then another ten the next. Short free writing exercises would be good for the stage I'm at with my revision preparation anyways.

So how do you fit time in for writing? Are certain times of day more preferable? Are specific places helpful? Are times grabbed whenever they can be fit in? Do you want more writing time? Happy with the time already?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Muse Prompting Monday

PathFloor A walk down a pine needle peppered path. I thought this would be a fun photograph to use for my Muse Prompting series. I like some of the other photographs from this area better, but the roots in this shot look like they are waiting to trip an unsuspecting character. And without the sky seen the time of day is a little more ambiguous, leaving more to the imagination.

Imagine character(s) on this path. Is someone walking alone? Running away from someone else? Or perhaps a romantic stroll?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shopping Sunday

Ya, it's alliterative. And technically I was shopping yesterday, but today I wanted to post about shopping. At least the writing/reading related parts. Well, maybe I'll mention that I found mix berry Pocky in the candy store. I was glad to see they had some Japanese snacks and I've never had the mix berry flavor before. I love stopping in the candy store. In addition to the sweets, the owner also has her cat in the store. How great is it that the candy store has a cat named Caramel. One of my fictional towns needs a bookstore with a store cat.

I missed posting yesterday with all the shopping with being out and about for 5 hours. In addition to the candy store we went to a local hardware store, Home Depot, J C Penny's, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and the grocery store. The writing/reading part I wanted to blog about is the laptop/netbook search and the ebook reader.

Laptop wise I want something for the internet and writing. I'm not looking to replace my desktop machine. I know various models of ebook readers have the internet, but I would like to be able to blog, tweet, and post to other web communities. I need something to handle a fair amount of typing. It would be nice to write outside on good weather days, or simply have a laptop for writing on vacation or in other areas of the house.

I've also been considering netbooks for awhile as a laptop alternative. A few months back I had decided that I wouldn't like typing on them. Then with some of the models I was looking at yesterday I found a few that have keyboards set up just right so that my fingers won't feel squished together while typing. One model in particular has island-style keys, which help differentiate one key from the next for touch typing. (Some laptops have them to).

With the ebook readers my husband and I have been looking at various models for a little while now. Yesterday we checked them out at Best Buy then we went to Barnes and Noble for a closer look at the nook. The display on the nook is nice, and it also can browse the web. The store model also had a few PDF files already on it so we could see how the nook displayed them. I was pretty impressed with that part of the nook. With wanting a laptop or a netbook I probably won't buy an ebook reader for awhile. I don't want to spend to much money on electronics.

So what tech gadgets do you have? Or want? And any likes/dislikes in a gadget? There are some sweet devices out there that do have a heavier price tag attached.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy October

It's October, which means two things to me currently:

NaBlogWriMo. I'm participating in this event for the first time the object being to write a post a day for the month of October. It looked like fun so I figured I would give it a try. I could use the motivation to update my blog more.

NaNoWriMo.  Short for National Novel Writing Month. It's a writing challenge to write 50,000 words for a novel (the novel draft doesn't have to be finished, only the actual 50k word count) first draft. Now I'm going to do something different this year and be a "rebel". Instead of writing something new I'm going to revise a completed novel draft. I'll be doing prep work this month and come November I'll set a goal for myself based on how October goes. If the NaNo site was online right now I'd link to my profile there.

Also a note, I enjoyed the Great Blogging Experiment. I'm still planning on responding to comments on my blog along with continuing to check out other posts.

So what plans do you all have for this month? Rest of the year? Writing or otherwise. :)