Thursday, January 28, 2010

Best Made Plans


Thursday, January 28

Hello everyone. Sorry for the silence over the last few days. You know that the best made plans can get sidetracked when you least expect it.

My goals for the week managed to get pushed aside. With visitors coming, the folks in my household has gone into full cleaning mode. I made the mistake of looking into some file boxes that I had stored some old newspaper into.

The plan was for me to look at these papers and cut out any article that may inspire a story or a scene within a story. The problem came when I found more paper than I had anticipated.

Now, here I am making a mess when I should be cleaning up. I made headway on clearing out much of that newspaper. Most of it has already been converted into paper logs for our wood-burning stove. Yet, I was unable to get through all of that paper and still manage to clean up afterward.

My solution: to put the paper in a book bag. While I ride my exercycle (what I like to call my exercise bike), I would look through the papers for those elusive articles. I kill time by keeping my mind busy and I get rid of more paper.

Oh, did I tell you that I also collect the page that contains the comics. I have ten years worth in various places in my house. I managed to put many of the comics I had not stored into one of those file boxes. Now, I need to go through and organize them by date.

In the process, I found a couple of books that I no longer use. Actually, I never did use them very much. One is a New York Times book on crossword puzzle words and the other was a paperback dictionary that I had gotten for my nephew. I plan to give them to my writer’s group so that they can put them in conference baskets for the NOLA STARs Written in the Stars Conference.

Several items found their way to the local Dumpsters. I have this bad habit of keeping certain electronic items. Well, I may need them again someday. Then I remembered that one of them no longer worked and I could not keep the other on my head.

Next, I found myself going through newspapers and articles I had in a box under my table. You see, I work with my computer at the kitchen table. I use this box as a temporary storage to hold stuff temporarily. When I finish with something, I file it away or store it somewhere else.

I had too much material in there that I needed to store somewhere else. Thus, this added to my chaos. Before I knew it, I had newspapers on the floor next to me, on the chairs to the right and left of me, on the table in four places and across my right knee.

For anyone who comes into the kitchen, they surely thought they may have stumbled into a war zone. I managed to get the papers separated into their prospective sections: news articles with other news articles, sports sections with sports section, comics with comics, etc.

By the time I finished up with that, I found myself able to put some of the material away. Yet, I have a four-inch stack of newspaper pages that I need to go through. These, I placed in the file box under my table so I can easily get to it. Again, I will do a few pages a day until I get them all done.

The sports pages ended up being placed in another storage spot out of the way. I plan to use them for another project.

As you can see, I got sidetracked from my original goals. I can see a lesson in this distraction that can be used in my writing. Characters can be distracted from their original goals as well. Now, I hope to keep up as best I can from now on.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What To Do


Sunday, January 24

Well, a new week begins today. This means it is time for me to list out things that I would like to get done this week. My so-called to-do list.

I start off by looking over a larger list. This list contains what I would like to accomplish during the month. Then on Sunday, I pluck out items I need to work on as well as stuff I wish to accomplish for the week. Still, this list can get quite long. It can grow from 20 to 30 items or more. This just means that I have so much to do and so little time to do it in.

Once I get the list completed, I go through and underline three or four items that are most important. Then, I will work on these items first. When I complete these items, I pick another three or four items to work on next.

But it does not stop there. From this weekly to-do list, I build a daily to-do list. I keep this list with me throughout the day. I find that I tend to get more accomplish if I keep the list in front of me. It keeps me focused on what I need to do.

I know there will be items on this list that will not get done. But, that does not keep me from trying. Currently, I have 27 items on my list of things to do. I will let you know how I did next week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

About Writing a Backup Article


Saturday, January 23

I am a proud member of NOLA STARs (North Louisiana StoryTellers and Authors of Romance). We meet the second Saturday of the month except in March and December at the Bossier Central Library History Center, 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City, LA. In December, we have a Christmas party. In March we have a conference.

Each year for the last five or six years, those attending the conference (Visit here for information on Written in the Stars 2010) are invited to submit copies of what is called a tip sheet. On one side, one can put tips or ideas that could help others writers. The person submitting the idea chooses the subject of his/her tips or ideas. On the backside, one can advertise his/her latest set of books that have come out. Or tell those who get the booklet who you are and what you are working on.

This is a great opportunity to get one’s name out and get free publicity. The tip sheets are gathered and made into a booklet. At the conference, all attendees get a copy of this booklet. As for my tip sheet, I usually write an article of some type. The thing is that I have less than a month to write the piece.

Yesterday, I began collecting ideas about the article I wanted to write. I already selected a subject for my article: Data Backups. This will be a rehashing of an older article which I used several years ago. With new technologies and services, I felt that now was the time for an updated article on the subject.

Several events had help spur me on with this project. A couple of days ago, someone sent an email to one of the email loops I belong to mentioning that they lost a good chunk of their work that day. The computer began acting up and the keyboard and mouse locked up. Then someone else suggested something about turning on the auto-save feature in the word processor. Both emails gave me one idea that I can use for my article.

Thoughts about those online backup services came to mind as well. It is hard not to remember them when their advertisement pops up on television every time I turn the boob tube on.

In all, I wrote down a half dozen ideas some of which I have not covered before. I began to wonder if I needed to cover anything else.

This is when disaster hit. For some reason, I needed to leave my computer for about 30 minutes. When I do this, I usually put it into sleep mode. For some reason, I wanted to minimize the word processing screen. But I kept hitting the ‘X’ in the corner for closing instead of the ‘-‘ for minimizing. The first too times I did this I hit “cancel” to stop the process. Yet, I hit the ‘X’ a third time and thought to myself, “No, I do not want to close this program.” So, instead of hitting ‘cancel’ one more time, I hit ‘no.’

As I retyped all of the ideas that I could remember, I added one more to it. This idea is very important to carry out as well. Yet, I tend to forget it from time to time.

“If one needs to get up from his/her computer for any reason, make sure one saves all documents before leaving the computer.”

In this day and age of being able to open multiple documents, one needs to make sure they save them all. Also, a good idea may be that one should save the file before leaving it to work on another. Most word processors allow the use of “Ctrl S” to save the document.

So, don’t get caught leaving your work unattended and unsaved. One might find that the cat laying across your keyboard has rewritten part of it and accidentally erased other parts. (Then again, one can’t be sure that it was an accident. They are crafty critters. The other day, I found my browser opened to a site that sells catnip. That’ll be a subject for a different post.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hesitation


Thursday, January 21

I do not know why I hesitate when I need to get something done (especially my writing). It almost as if the task will overwhelm me if I get too close to it. Thus, I hesitate in committing myself to doing certain tasks.

That is what I do with my writing. I know my story can get quite complicated. This sometimes drives me nuts, and again, I will hesitate to work on it.

In curing this malady, I use several techniques. The first technique is to break down the difficult and confusing tasks into smaller bites. This makes the task less daunting and easier to manage. To me, this technique makes the task less confusing.

The second technique is to force myself to work on it. I find that if I force myself to work on the project, the task at hand becomes easier to work on.

A third technique I use is to take notes about questions the project may bring up. Once I get the note written, I can continue working on the project with very little interruption.

I use all three techniques along with a few more when I work on my writing projects. Usually, when I start a book, I have a beginning, an end, character profiles, and details about the book.

In one of my projects that I titled Book 20011101, I began writing on it several times over the years, but still, I would eventually let it drop to one side. This is because I let it overwhelm me. I saw it as being too complicated.

With the information I had built about the book over the years, I decided to build an outline of the story. I sat down and interviewed the characters to expand on the story line and to find out how they fit in the story.

Using all of this information, I managed to get the first half of the book outlined. Then I started writing the story. Still, this turned out to be a little too complicated to think about. So, I chose to build an outline for each scene instead of each chapter. Apparently, chapters were too big of a chunk for me to chew on.

I found that the hesitation disappeared. Words flowed and soon I found myself at scene 15. Then I passed scene 20. Then for some reason, at scene 25, I found myself hesitating again. The previous 25 scenes carried quite a bit of information.

The story got complicated again. I found myself trying to keep up with the intimate details of my characters, book events and story locations. After I got to scene 25 or 26, I found myself with many questions and details to keep up with. Yet, I have my outlines that can give me details I need about the story.

In technique two, forcing myself to write the story. One of my writer associates called this “bichok.” This stands for Butt In Chair - Hands On Keyboard. I find that if I force myself to write, the hesitation ends and my fingers flow over the keyboard.

Yet, the fact that I find the story has gotten complicated again does interfere sometime while I am writing. To get over this, I bring in the third technique: notes. If I run into a question or can’t remember a secondary character’s name or a location, I hit the “Caps Lock” key and type the work “NOTE:” Then I type the question that I need answered. If it is a character’s name or a location, I type in a series of numbers.

An example of this would be “Don’t worry about 7777. He comes from 9898 and they are known to be a bunch of blowhards.” Then I highlight the question or number using the word processor’s highlight feature. This will allow me to keep working on the scene without getting bogged down. I can come back later and answer the questions or replace the numbers.

To summarize, I break down my tasks into smaller components, push myself to work the task, and take notes along the way. There may be other steps I use but these are my main plan.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Progress - Part 1


Tuesday, January 19

Well, I finally forced myself to restart work on my last project. It is a Sci-Fi novel I started back in 2001. In my mind, I have to complete this book before I can work on any of the other seven book ideas and two short story series. The last time I worked on it was back in November.

The problem with setting down a book for so long is that one needs to relearn some of the specifics pertaining to the book. I have no problems remembering the major characters or some of the events. It is remembering the names of the minor characters, of the villages or locations, or of the items appearing in my book.

Now, I will have to go through and relearn the intricacies of my story. In the process of looking over my book files, I found several files that are no longer useful. Yet, I also found several files that carried book information I could use. In the past, I created a file that I call my Master Series Encyclopedia or MSE. My goal is to pull the book information from these files, organize it, and place it in my MSE.

This brings up a new problem. If I start to organize this material, I can find myself spending too much time world building and not enough time writing. The only solution I have for this is to work 30 minutes to an hour every day on my Master Series Encyclopedia. Then I can spend the remainder of my writing time on my book.

Now, I have gotten a good start. I just need to keep putting my butt in the chair and running my fingers over the keyboard. I am excited to get back to my current book project. Though, I do have a few other projects I wish to work on as well. This one has a deadline of March 4. At that time, I may be able to present a description of the book to an editor or agent at a conference I will be attending.

I wrote about 1500 words yesterday. My goal today is to double that. This is a doable goal because I have accomplished it before.

What do you wish to accomplish during your day? Write it down and have fun doing it. I plan on doing so.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cold Weather - Brrrr

Sunday, January 17

Today, I wish to discuss weather. Let me start off in saying that I usually consider anything below 50 degrees as being too cold for me. That being said, I can handle the temperatures of the 30- to 40-degree range. We in Louisiana can say that most of the time that I do not have to worry about super low temperatures. Though there are times we do get nighttime temperatures in the upper 20s.

The last couple of weeks, we found ourselves in a deep freeze. Most of the time, our night time temperature dropped into the mid- to upper-teens to low twenties. With the high temperatures during the day reaching the mid-30s to low-40s, I began to wonder about this global warming crap. If they call this warm, I do not want to visit their deep freeze.

The last time I remember the temperature staying at freezing or below for more than 36 to 42 hours was around 1983. We also experienced over a week of nighttime lows of 15- to 22-degree weather.

For instance, the temperature yesterday morning was unusual in that the temperature did not get nowhere near freezing for a low. It got down to 44 degrees. Now, it was wet when I got up. I remember waking to rain hitting the tin roof over our trailer. We got rain for most of the day. Clouds covered the sky and made it seem gloomy, but it felt so much warmer.

Even though we have had sleet and freezing rain in the past, so far we have been lucky this year in that we have missed the freezing precipitations . Yet, we still have a month or so of winter yet so we still have a chance to see it. Yes, we did see some snow but it did not stick.

Currently, my area of Louisiana is expecting moderate temperature. The daytime is going to warmer that the mid-40s during this next week.

My sensitivity to cold weather is a bit high. Until this cold snap, I had thought about changing my mantra to anything below 60 degrees would be too cold. But I think I will keep it at 50 degrees for now.

I know some people like cold weather and others who prefer warm weather. How do you feel about cold weather?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Writer's Life


Saturday, January 16

Today I wish to comment on another aspect of a writer’s life: his life’s experiences. I have always heard that we as writers write what we know. In some ways, I know quite a bit. The question here would be ‘do I know enough material to build a book that would capture a reader’s attention?’

Granted, most of my life does not revolve around an action packed adventure one may see in a movie or read in a good novel. But there are times when we may experience events that could inspire our imagination to build a good story.

Usually, days or weeks or even months pass without anything exciting happening. Then there are those few days that everything cuts loose. Events of the last couple of days should provide a segment or two for an interesting soap opera.

Disclaimer: Names of characters and locations as well as specifics of the situations have been changed to protect the author from being chased down and beaten to death by those who participated in said events.

Event one: Martha is tired of her friend Barbara taking advantage of her. She helped her friend finance a vehicle as well as provided services to help Barbara’s business venture. Martha is struggling to keep her head above water financially.

Barbara’s business is very dependent on her customers needed her cleaning services. Yet, every time she gets into a position where she can build her business, something steps in and disrupts her ability to keep steady work. Last year, the economic downturn caused many of her customers to drop her services.

Now, that Barbara had finally got her business built back up, Martha gave her an ultimatum – give up the vehicle or pay off the note on the truck. Martha will not budge on her resolve. Barbara does not have the funds but needs to have a vehicle to complete the job.

In steps a third party who has interest in both women. She is asked to step in to help pay off the note so that Martha could get some financial relief and Barbara could still have a vehicle.

What follows is a game of telephone tag between all parties. The situation has yet to be resolved to either person’s satisfaction. The third party got a different but compelling stories. Each person have her/his problems that they do not see nor do they want to hear the reasoning behind the other’s explanation.

Event two: A friend called to tell you that she just found out that her daughter has been picked up by the local sheriff’s department with two of her friends. The deputy in the case claims that the girls tested positive for drugs and he smelt marijuana on them.

Yet, when he takes the girl home to her mother, the girl explained that she just met up with her friends. They walked toward one friend’s house to get a basketball to play a game. The sheriff deputies were hunting for someone else when they stumbled across them.

The authorities claimed that they found a small baggie of marijuana alongside the road that one of the girls threw down. The deputy claimed he smelt marijuana on all three girls’ fingertips and decided to take them in.

Again, the third party heard two different but compelling stories that could make since. There are times that the author believes that both the girl and the authorities do stretch the truth. The girl placed a spin on her story to make herself look innocent, and the authorities attempted to get a confession from one of the girls by telling them that they failed a drug test.

In both events, the author heard both sides of the story. This showed me, the author, an excellent example of point of view. All arguments sounded plausible but came from each individual’s point of view. In a novel, I believe I could build a story using the contrasting elements that these examples showed to build a better and more interesting story for the reader.

In the above cases, I recorded facial expressions, a person’s reaction, the location description, the sound, the smell, the voice tone, and other unrelated events that occur. All will provide additional depth for a future writing project.

Have you come across an event in your life that helped you in your writing life? Let me know.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Character Perceptions


Thursday, January 14

What I like to do is write and as an aspiring author, I think about my characters all the time. A situation occurred yesterday with my nephew. He had asked the manager of a local McDonald’s for a job and she said they had a position open. Then the ‘but’ came into play. He had to fill out the application on the McDonald’s web site.

I had forgotten memories about how I felt when I filled out my first application. The feeling of uncertainty when I came across a blank they expected me to fill out. How can one answer a question that s/he did not know the answer to.

This application had this but then they threw in a 36-question test of sorts. The questions pertained to the applicant’s schooling or previous work experience. Then there were the questions that asked one about how s/he thinks how others perceive her/him in various situations. It also asked questions that have the applicant perceives herself/himself.

On these questions, I noticed that my nephew answered conservatively on them. I have no doubt that he believes his answers matched him.

This is when it hit me that I can do this with my characters to add more depth to them. In the past, I have used character profile sheets that had some of those very questions but have gotten away from them.

I can see how a character could believe one thing and how others around him could believe another. For instance, the character does not believe he is combative but he does not realize how many times he takes offense when his views are challenged.

Another example could be when one character believes he is honest and straightforward. But his actions show that some of the stuff he does is not so honest and straightforward. Making promises but not following through with them. Saying one thing but then doing another. When confronted with the behavior, he does not see what he has done even after being shown proof.

Then the character herself/himself could play a role reversal where s/he seems to be one thing and turns out to be something else. In this scenario, how the character is perceived could be a ruse to catch the reader or other characters off guard.

For instance is a television show years ago called
Spenser, For Hire had a shady character on the sidewalks of New York City selling watches and jewelry from within his trench coat. Everyone that runs into him consider him a seedy character that sells stolen items. Yet, people buy his watches because they believe he is selling expensive items at cheap prices. They also get a thrill out of engaging in an illicit act.

Here we have a man who sells stolen property to people who think they are getting way with something. In reality, the viewers are shown later in the show that he is a businessman. The watches and jewelry he sales come from a wholesaler and he has a city business license. He uses this persona as a man of questionable character to make a living.

These are the types of characters that I like to work with. I want to give the reader the surprise that the character is not whom they believe s/he is. In a way, I like those types of surprises.

When one reads a short story or book, one can rest assured that the lead character will turn out good. Yet, a secondary character that one may think is a bad guy could actually be the good guy.

So, my point is two-fold. One can use how the character sees herself/himself and contrast it with the way others see her/him. Then you can have the character act in one way even though it is contrary to his personality. Both will spice up the author’s writing.

Well, I hope I have not confused anyone too much.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Procrasti Nation - Part 2


Sunday, January 10

Hello everyone,

It looks as if I have gotten stuck in that Nation of Procrasti again. The time just seems to fly by before I realize it and then I go to bed without posting what I wanted to say for the day.

This Nation of Procrasti has gotten me in a bit of trouble. I had put so many things off over the last week that I had to rush to get things done. This usually means I do not catch the errors that pop in my work. That is not good.

Friday, I had to write up the minutes to a meeting that I had to attend on Saturday morning. The problem is that the members of my writers’ group are supposed to be able to download, print, and peruse these minutes a couple of days prior to the meeting date. I managed to get them completed merely 13 hours prior to the meeting.

Then on Saturday morning, I planned to leave to go to the meeting early enough so that I would not have to rush to get out of the house. Needless to say, that did not happen. The problem: I had not anticipated the frost we had during the night. Though, I should have known we would have it since I knew that the temperature dropped down to 17 degrees Friday night/Saturday morning.

I discovered the thick ice on my windshield, driver-side and passenger-side doors and back windshield. So, I cranked the car up and went back inside the house to get my spray bottle and filled it with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and a little water. That worked wonders on melting that ice.

The windshield wipers cleared the melting ice off of the windshield. When I rolled the driver-side window down, that cleared the water off of that window. I forgot the passenger-side window. When the alcohol evaporated in that strong wind, the water on that window froze again into a beautiful pattern but I was able to see the window.

Needless to say, if I had planned a little better and had certain items already printed and packed into my book bag, I would have gotten off late on Saturday morning. If I had not put off chores that I knew I had to get done to the last minute, I would not had to rush to get those items completed.

Now, as for my blog, it seems that I am unable to build and upload my post for my blog at night on a regular basis. So, I will build my post in the morning and attempt to post it by noon every day. I guess this will be another one of my New Year’s resolutions.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nation of Procrasti


Wednesday, January 6

Today’s topic is near and dear to me. It has to be because I tend to spend quite a bit of time there. For some reason, I can’t seem to move out of the Nation of Procrasti. Putting things off tends to get one in trouble. With me, I intend to do it, yet I find myself entering into this familiar nation in order to do it a little later. Then, something comes along that distracts me and I fail to return to that particular project.

For instance, I intended to write an entry to my blog and post it for the last three days. I usually think about it in the morning but I want to post it at night. Thus, logic tells me to finish working on it at night. I work on the idea for the post in the morning but want to allow some time to pass. This allows me to come back to it with some fresh ideas and build on what I have already written.

Then life steps in and I forget about it. The problem is that I allow distractions to step in that pull me away from my intended goal. These distractions do not have to be big. A simple request for information by someone that catches my interest. The next thing I know, I am looking the subject up on the Internet. My train of thought has been sidetracked. Thus, I forgot about my posts. When I remember, it would be midnight and I would be snug in my bed not interested in coming out from under those warm covers.

Another area were I seemed to be trapped in this nation of ‘putting things off’ pertains to my writing. This week’s writing goals have not been worked on yet. I had planned to complete one short story, write 10,000 words toward my novel, and build a newsletter. Yet, I just can’t get my fingers to type out what I want to do. If I am meet these goals, I will have to type at least 2500 words a day toward my novel; compete the first draft of the short story by tomorrow; build, print, and mail the newsletter by this afternoon.

I wrote the above this morning. The only thing I ended up working on turned out to be the newsletter. I got 5 of the 6 pages completed. I have half of the sixth page done but can’t think on it any more. I can complete the sixth page tomorrow morning, print it out and mail it tomorrow afternoon. That leaves the short story and the novel. The short story is doable but the 10,000 word on the novel will be pushing it.

I hate living in the Nation of Procrasti but I wonder sometime because I find myself visiting it many times over the last year. Even though living there makes me rush to complete simple things, I can’t seem to help myself. So, here is to the Nation of Procrasti.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Resolutions


Saturday, January 2

It is this time of the year that everyone makes resolutions that they end up breaking. Some of these I have made last year and even the year before. This year I have things in place that I hope will force me to complete these particular goals.

1. The first on my list has already been started. Whether or not I complete it I do not know. My first goal is to start and maintain this blog. I hope to post on it at least five times a week if not the full seven days a week.

2. The second on my list will be that I will lose 50 pounds this year. I plan to lose 15 pounds by March or April of this year. For this, I plan to increase my workout in my martial arts.

3. The third on my list is connected to my second one. I plan to ride my exercise bicycle for a total of 1800 miles over the next year. I know this activity makes my legs feel so much better. The 1800 miles is 300 days at 6 miles a day.

4. The fourth item on my list is my web page. I have a few pages left that I need to complete. I also need to make sure I am diligent in keeping it updated.

5. The fifth item on my list pertains to my martial arts. I plan to be able to perform to music the Kata in my karate system named Warriors. The last time I performed this Kata was back in 1987. I wish to honor the masters of my system of martial arts.

6. The sixth item pertains to my Usscan’s Observations project. Part one of this resolution will be to write 26 shorts stories for this project over the next year and post it on my web site. Part two of this resolution is to write at least three post entries a week for my Narval’s Folly blog. I hope to restart this project by the middle of January.

7. The seventh item pertains to my writing projects besides the above resolution. I currently have three projects on the table. I hope to complete my first novel by March 1. I wish to complete my second novel by September and my science fiction short story series - 60 stories - by December.

These are my resolutions this year. I hope to be able to tell you in the future that I succeeded in my accomplishments.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello Everyone


Friday, January 1

Hello, and Happy New Year. I chose to open this blog with an explanation of my intentions. The idea for this blog popped into my mind about five days ago so it was not something that I put too much time in planning.

What do I plan to cover? A little of everything. My goal is to record my thoughts and opinions, events of the day, and some about my hobbies and interests.

In my next blog, I will post a list of my New Year's Resolutions. I hope to posts something every day. Yet, there may be days that I may miss. I hope to be able to warn you of those dates.

For now, this is all I have to say at the present time.

Thank you for your interest - Clark Stone