Monday, August 29, 2011

Idea Hunting II


Monday, August 29

In my last post, I wrote about my using news stories from various sources to spur my thinking process and get ideas. This post will speak of one of my projects.

Of the many ways I cruise around to find ideas for my stories, reading the local and regional newspapers provides me with the most inspiration for my story ideas. Even though my stories are basically science fiction, I take material from several articles to formulate a new story idea or even give life to an old idea that fell onto a rough patch.

So, during the last few months, I collected a certain section out of the regional newspaper that covers nation/world news. Then I pull the article titles off of the page(s) and place them in chronological order in my word processor. I sometimes add notes about the article as well.

My Goal: To collect six months of these titles and then start building my short story series involving a space station in a far away galaxy. I intend to weave the stories around a series of articles appropriate for the era. Using the titles of these articles, I plan to build fictitious articles that go along with the overall story arc. Whether it is one of the main characters or one of the secondary ones, a character would read several news headlines. I hope to use this as a method of foreshadowing the story.

To tell the truth, I do not know how this will turn out. I hope to spend the month going through all of my notes I have collected for the series and start building an outline for the whole thing.

Also, while going through those articles, I spotted items that I wouldn’t mind integrating into a short story in the series as well.

What about you? Are you working on anything particular?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hunting for Ideas

Thursday, August 25

I know I have written about his before, but I feel that I should encroach the subject again.

Have you ever read a news article, watched a news report or heard a news report that triggered an idea for a story idea? The news item(s) doesn’t(don’t) have to be a major news story but something in the back of the newspaper or near the last part of a television/radio newscast that starts you to thinking.

This happens to me all the time. If I don’t watch out, I will saturate my mind with an overflow of ideas. Then there are times that the news doesn’t capture my imagination. The funny thing is that what did not catch my attention one time may catch it the second time around.

Yet, I find myself collecting these bits and pieces of information from the news stories and placing them in my journal for future reference. Then I go through the material on occasion to pull material for my current work in progress.

In the past, I’ve used news stories to help break a block in my writing. It allows me to expand on my story when I feel stuck. Then my story goes off in another direction. Yes, I usually have to put a note in my work to go back and foreshadow if there is a need for it. We do not need a new character to just appear on page 100.

Sometimes when I listen to or read the news, I do feel depressed in that it is usually about something that went wrong somewhere. But, I do not limit myself to the bad news. I also like to note the good news as well.

So the next time you watch/listen to the news on television/radio or read the paper, listen for those juicy morsels of information that may add some dimension to your story.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Welcome from the Nation of Procrasti


Monday, August 22

Hello, today, I speak to you about my resent visit to the Procrasti Nation. I also refer to it as the ‘Land of Later.’ My habit of putting things off until later has gotten me in trouble again.

You see, I had several chances of building my blog posts but decided to do them later. The problem with doing them later is that I tend to forget to do what I planned to get done until the deadline had passed.

That’s why I missed the last two entries of my blog. Thinking I had plenty of time to work on it, I found that I put the task off until later; then, I promptly forgot to do it all together. Thus, my trip to the Nation of Procrasti has gotten me in trouble.

I intended to write these blog posts and really do not have any excuse for not writing them. They don’t take much time to write. Most of the time, the ideas flow easily onto the screen as my fingers fly across the keyboard.

Anyway, as for ideas, I stumbled across two pages containing doubled-column lists of blog ideas. So, I can’t use the excuse of not having a subject for my post.

So, I stumbled out of the ‘Land of Later’ to start work on this blog post and still managed to get to it almost too late. I’m tired of not getting things done, so earlier, I sat down and wrote a list of 12 items that I wish to complete this week. My plan is to dedicate time toward each of these items on that list until they get done.

The list has been prioritized. Writing my two blog posts for this week is at the top of that list. It is among the top five in the list that will get the most attention. (The top item on the list is editing a first draft of the first book I completed.)

Other items on my list (not in any order of priority) are building a newsletter, building an article, reading a book, backing up my data, and doing a few items toward my writers’ group duties.

Now, the question of the week: Do you ever visit the Nation of Procrasti? If so, when do you most likely find yourself wandering in the vast fields of Procrast Nation to put off doing important work or activities? How do you get yourself motivated enough to get out of the “Land of Later” and start working?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Family Events


Thursday, August 11

Today, I wish to discuss another source for story ideas - family events or stories. I attend a family reunion every year. As usual, I volunteered to build a reunion newsletter which will consist of family stories, recipes and photos.

This year, one of the stories pertained to a life-sized doll that a cousin talked my aunt into making years ago. Using an old book on doll making as a guide, they took left-over cloth, stocking material and rags to build the doll.

When they got finished with her, Ellie, the human-sized doll, had a face with nose, eyes, lips and a chin. My cousin even put lipstick, a wig, and a hat on her. My aunt placed a pair of shoes on her feet as well.

Believe me, at first glance, she looked real. I said hello to her twice because I saw the silhouette out of the corner of my eye as I closed the front door. It turned out to be this doll sitting in a chair. I was not the only one who had done so.

On one occasion, my aunt had the doll in the back seat of the car because she had to store it someplace. She decided to give the doll to her daughter after she went to the store one day. Upon returning to her car on that hot day, she found confronted by a group of people who seemed to be worried about the “mom” who sat in the back seat of the car. They wanted to know why she left her in that hot car. One person even mentioned breaking the window.

When my aunt opened the car to let them look at “mom,” most got a good laugh out of it though some seemed to be embarrassed. She offered “mom” to anyone in the crowd who wanted her but no one took her up on the offer.

Then there were all of the capers of my cousin and her daughters pulled in an attempt to get rid of the doll. On one occasion, my cousin and her youngest daughter placed Ellie on a park bench with full intentions of leaving it behind forever. They got a good laugh out of the event but then felt guilty for abandoning Ellie and went back and retrieved her.

Eventually, Ellie found her way back into my aunt’s hands. She said that she just could not murder her and place her in a trash can. She donated the doll to an organizational garage sale and has not seen her since. We just hope she found a good home.

I remembered the first time I saw Ellie, the human-sized doll, and my reaction to her. I built a short story around her. My plan it to get that story out and finish it up. But, this is something I believe I could build as a part of a story somewhere.

Do you have a family story or event that you can pull a story idea from? I have many more of them, so be prepared to read them from time to time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm Back


Monday, August 8

Hello, I am sorry for being silent on my blog lately. I look at it as me taking a three-month vacation which I should not have taken.

Again, let me iterate, I intend to write my two posts a week. They will come out on Mondays and Thursdays. I should be able to keep up with doing it twice a week. I plan on devoting most of my time working on my writing. I have many characters that are screaming at the present time wondering where in the heck I am hiding.

Over the next few weeks, I will be evaluating my goals and sorting through the material I need to work on and the material I want to work on. If I can trim some of my unnecessary items, then I would be happy.

My plan is to dedicate this blog to writing subjects. I hope I have something that I could contribute to those of you who may be stopping by for a visit. I encourage you to ask any questions that may come to mind. I hope I may be able to answer them. If not, I can see if I could find someone who could.

My question for this week will be, “If you were a dragon, would you prefer the hot weather or cold weather?” I ask this as the temperature outside tops 102 degrees Fahrenheit outside the window.

My answer to this question would be that my dragon would prefer the heat over the cold. My reason behind this is that chances are that it may be a cold-blooded creature and may need more of a warm climate in order to function.

Although in cold weather, it should be able to build a fire real easily with one puff of its breath.

What do you believe?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Judgment of Others


Monday, July 18

Recently, I attended a church potluck/religious discussion meeting. The subject: Being Judgmental. Being humans, we tend to judge others at the drop of a hat. It comes to us like second nature. Best example of our judgmental way is this phrase: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” That is because as humans, we tend to judge someone as soon as we see them.

I am no different in that I have judged whether I like someone or not upon the impression I got when I first met him or her. Now, I can’t count how many times I found myself wrong in these situations. Thus the saying, “Jumping to the wrong conclusion.”

Another reason we may judge someone wrongly is that we humans sometimes don’t wait to hear the whole story or get all the facts about a person, event or situation. How many times has one watched television while someone was tried for a heinous crime and thought the person was guilty? This is especially true when the reporters broadcast information against the person and later in information turns out to be wrong.

Now, using the statements about being judgmental from the above three paragraphs, let’s apply some of them to our characters. One character stumbles across a situation already in progress. Two men fighting over a gun. One of them wore a security guard uniform. The gun slipped out of both men’s hands and landed in a trash can. Character A, who had entered the scene, assumed that the one wearing the uniform was the good guy and may choose to assist the man.

But, what if the security guard took off out the front door as the other man tore into the trashcan to get the weapon. The story twist I am trying to portray is that the person in the security guard uniform came in to rob the donut shop. The one going for the weapon could be someone defending himself or could be a plains-clothes police officer.

Another twist on bring judgmental is that what if the character was one of those unfortunate people who found herself/himself accused of a crime and found innocent by a jury. S/he moved to a new town on the other side of the country but her/his past caught up with her/him. How does this affect the character and the story? To me, this could provide some of the conflict in the story.

There are many ways one can use the characteristic of ‘judging’ to add dimension to a character. Is the person too sensitive and jumps to a conclusion too fast? Or does s/he hold her/his tongue until they get the full story?

A synopsis of a CSI: Miami episode from several years ago: a popular secretary is found dead. The company rumor-mill had indicated that she had met several times with the head chemist of a cosmetic company. The insinuation of an ongoing affair made its way around the company. The person responsible for the murder turned out to be the company president because she loved the chemist. But, the chemist was not having an affair. He had asked the secretary to teach him how to dance because he knew the company president loved to dance and he did not know how. He wanted to surprise her.

How is that for a study of judging other people? The receptionist judged the secretary when she spread the rumor of the tryst the woman had with the chemist. The same person judged the chemist as being unfaithful for the same reason. The company president jumped to the same conclusion and killed the so-call rival for her man’s love. Look at the trouble ‘jumping to the wrong conclusion’ caused.

A quick judgment on the part of one person could affect the relationship between characters and groups. The rest of the story can be about how the character searches for the solution for the problems and straightening out the problems that caused the conflict in the first place.

Have fun!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Inspiration


Wednesday, May 11

Today, I decided to write on inspiration again. One of my favorite ways of being inspired is seeing something that is out of place. I start asking why is this thing out of place, and before I know it, I am trapped in a story idea.

Yesterday afternoon, I went into a store to get some things to eat on before I exercised. On the way in, I spotted what looked to be a silver camera with the screen torn off. I had planned to report it to the store’s manager but got distracted and didn’t think of it again.

At least, not until this morning. I remembered that camera sitting on a stack of area classified advertisement newspapers. One paper had been placed on top of the camera but it did not conceal the device too well.

What if I had my character find one just like it? What if s/he loved to play with broken gadgets and s/he managed to get the camera to come up? Would s/he find anything on the device’s internal memory?

All one has to do is to toss in a filmed murder of someone by a famous criminal and a mystery is born. The person who left it behind hoped that someone would pick it up and turn it over to the law.

Now, there are all kinds of questions that need to be answered:
Who left it behind?
Why did they leave it behind and where are they now?
Did the person who owned the camera put a message on the camera as well?
Who got killed?
What is your character going to do with this information?
Is the person who found the camera in danger?
If not, how does s/he find out that s/he is in danger?

I can keep this up and with each answer I come up with, I can probably build more questions that need answers.

So, does this give you any ideas for a story? I know I have ideas for one. Now, I just need to put my butt in a chair and hands on a keyboard.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Inspiration


Sunday, May 8

Inspiration can come from many sources. This past week, I found inspired by a situation that I did not anticipate. At times like this, I keep a voice recorder with me in order to capture the flow of ideas.

Yet, this time my voice recorder became source of my inspiration. Most of the time, I keep the device turned off and placed in my shirt pocket. But, a couple of days ago I heard a beep when I brushed my hand against my pocket. This beep is the one I get from the device when I stop recording. My curiosity piqued.

Sure enough, I found the on/off switch in the ‘on’ position and I had recorded a message. After inspecting the recording, I found that I had recorded the last 2.5 hours prior to discovering the device being active.

The content of the recording was series of crunching sounds where I walked over gravel, electronic noises of various devices, a radio in the background and various conversations. Nothing spectacular other than it did provide me with material that I could use to add suspense in my writing. Adding background noises that could heighten the intensity of a scene.

Now, the inspiration I got was an idea for a story. What if a character accidentally turned on the voice recorder s/he had in a pocket? What if said character had been attacked and the recorder picked up the sounds of the attack including the assailant’s voice? Now, I had not made up my mind if this character gets killed or ends up in a coma.

If s/he were killed, the main character would find this and use information on it to determine what went on. If s/he ended up in a coma and awakens not able to remember the events, s/he could use the information along with memory flashbacks to develop the story.

Currently, I do not know how I will use this information or the ideas that came from my inspiration. Have you found yourself inspired at the most inopportune time? How did you handle it?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Endangering Your Characters


Sunday, May 1

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a happy May Day. Let's all go out and have a field day. I plan on doing some grilling.

Currently, I’ve worked on a variety of writing projects. One group of projects falls under the title of “Endangering Your Characters.” In this series of articles, I plan to build samples of how writers can use safety tips to keep safe but also using them to either keep your characters safe or placing them in danger just to see how they get out of the trouble.

My first article of this series will be on using tips a person can use to make themselves a hard target. There are several sites on the Internet that offer tips which one can use in their personal life to keep safe and in their writing life to enhance a story. When I typed in the words “hard target” into my web browser, I get a list of sites with advice on how to make yourself a hard target.

Like me, you may have heard of some of these safety tips at various times in your life. One site I like to reference is a blog titled “Attacking The Page.” I advise you to visit the site and read through some of their safety tips. The first set of safety tips is the Safety Tip Of The Week of March 25, 2010: Be A Hard Target. And do not skip the comments because there are some good tips mixed in them as well.

What I did was to pick one to three of the tips and make my characters either follow or break the rules. What I use will depend on what is going on in that part of the book. If the character has no clue to what is going on, s/he may walk into a situation and find her/himself in danger. If the character has some training, the author can show the various steps s/he take to keep safe.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Observations - 2011-04-17


Sunday, April 17

Today, I wish to look at the subject of observations. As a writer, I try to observe what is going on about me. I look for something that when placed in my work helps make my writing seem a bit more real.

I’ve heard that the truth is more fascinating than fiction. So, we as writers tend to mix a truths in with our fiction. Writers tend to pull from experience to build stories and adding a little more detail, I believe, can make a scene seem more real.

To do this, I tend to observe things, events, and sounds. I make note of them and see if they would fit in any of my stories. Yet, I write Sci Fi and it usually involves creatures and peoples from different worlds. Still, I adapt what I observe to fit my world.

For instance, right now, some neighbors are shooting up and down a dirt road in front of our trailer. I know this because I hear the high-pitched sound of the four-wheel ATVs produce as they shoot past our property every minute or so.

What if my character, Marcus, had his ride taken? What if on this world, stealing one’s all-terrain vehicle is treated like horse theft was treated back in the old west? What if these vehicles were viewed as a lifeline for the person? What if his life would be endangered because of the ATV’s theft?

Now, how do my observations from the ATV above have to do with these questions? My argument would be that Marcus used the sounds the device made to track the location of his ATV.

As the ATV approaches, the whine its engine makes gets louder and has a higher pitch. As the ATV moves away, the whine decreases in volume and has a lower pitch. Marcus uses these sounds to track the location of his vehicle, so he can capture those who took it and retrieve his property.

For example:

Marcus pulled the limb down and looked over it. With the other arm wrapped around the tree trunk, he leaned out from the tree top and scanned toward the whining ATV. Trees blocked his view. He intended to give the teens he met earlier a thrashing for stealing his ATV.

Movement to his left caused him to look toward a meadow. One teen chased after a rormana driving the creature to the other teen. The second teen roped the hairy horse-like creature, which is not an easy feat to do on foot.
Returning his gaze northward, Marcus realized the whine of his vehicle no longer moved away. In fact, the whine sounded higher and got louder. Then the two men on the vehicle popped up over a distant hill as they hit an open section of the trail. One man kept glancing back.

Marcus released the limb which slapped him across the face. He jerked back his and as his feet slid off the branch. He grabbed a limb that stopped his fall. He lowered himself to the next limb. With each step he made down, the engine whine grew louder. Sitting on the lower limb, the two men and his ATV appeared around a corner.

Focusing on the men, he leaned forward in preparation to jump. A roar brought his attention to a creature that looked like a giant ape chasing after the two men.

Well, I would keep going but I think I got what I wanted to get across. I used the sounds from a vehicle I observed to add detail to my story. We all do it one way or the other. So, what have you observed lately that you would like to use in a story?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Opportunities Missed


Wednesday, April 13

Today’s topic covers missed opportunities. Have you ever skipped an event and then realized that you missed a great opportunity.

That happened to me this past weekend. My writer’s group decided to go to the mall to eat lunch. Not only did I miss out on networking with my fellow writers, I missed an opportunity to do some character study for some of my projects.

Back in February, two of our members held a book signing at the local Barnes and Nobles. I did not realize until I got in there that I forgot to bring my note pad with me. This was a mistake on my part. This was another opportunity because the characters were out in full force that day.

I did manage salvage part of that opportunity when I took a few photos that would help me because of the way the people dressed and looked. I got descriptions for two of my characters. In the wings are more characters who are tired of being formless. Plus, this is one of my assignments in my The Weekend Novelist book.

In Natchitoches, there aren’t that many venues one can go to observe a large number of people other than Wally World (Wal-Mart). Every once in a while they have an event on the riverfront. Actually, I think there is one this weekend but I am not sure.

My arsenal in this is a steno pad and a note card containing the questions that I want answered on the characters. I mentally record as much about a person and then attempt to write down as much as I could remember. I hope to do this before they leave my view. Can’t afford to follow interesting people for fear they may think I am stalking them. I know it would freak me out if someone I did not know followed me around with a notepad and pen in hand.

Thus, my characters end up being a montage of several people whom I observed. I take bits and pieces from person or another and assemble my character from those descriptions. Very seldom will I use one person as my character. But it does happen.

Well, gotta go. Need to look in on my characters to make sure they are behaving. Might observe something worth recording.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Kitty Kat

Sunday, April 03

Hi and good day to you. Earlier this week, I decided that I wished to dedicate my blog to the art of writing. Yet, today, I intend to discuss a new kitty that seemed to have adopted us.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, in the past I have used my cats as inspiration for some of my writing. Our last two cats until this one showed up had been black. To keep from stepping on them at night, I watched for black holes in the darkness to move about.

This inspired me to call some of the harbingers of evil in my books to be nicknamed ‘Black Holes,’ because they take on the appearance of dark objects moving through the shadows of night.

We still have one of the black cats which we call Fuzztail. The new cat is white with big brown spots in its coat. He remains skittish, yet, I was able to pet him yesterday. Feeding it some cat food has broken the ice-so to speak.

He walked up and down the porch getting closer and closer. I tried not to move suddenly because that would result in the cat shooting off of the porch. I placed my hand down low enough so that he could rub against it if he chose to do so.

He eventually made it to my hand and I scratched his head and back. Trust had been established. He remains skittish but he doesn’t run as far as he used to do when we approach.

Over the last 15 to 16 years, the only way we seemed to be able to keep a cat is if it starts off with a healthy case of skepticism. It’s not the neighborhood dogs but the area owls and other predator birds that seem to cause the problem.

Also, every cat we acquire seemed to show up on our doorstep. They selected us as their keepers instead of us picking them out.

My older brother has one that picked them. They went to an animal shelter to get a cat, and the one they walked out with began playing with them immediately as they approached her cage. The shelter personnel said the cat never did that before.

I intend to use these cats as inspiration for my writing and include some of their characteristics in the pets in my stories.

How about you; do you have pets that help you write? Mine sometimes realizes that I should take a break and force me to rub her head. I suspect the new kitty will soon do the same.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writer’s Wednesday - Finish First Draft


Wednesday, March 30

Today, I continue on the advice front. This bit of advice worked for me: Complete my book’s first draft without hesitation. This means that I wrote through to the end of my manuscript without stopping for edits. It also meant that I did not worry about getting it perfect. This goes along with the sitting down and writing every day.

Many authors I’ve talked to over the years stated that one first has to put words down on the paper. With me, this means that I rein in my internal editor and start writing. If I think of something that needs to be done to the previous pages, I make note of it in all-Caps, highlight it with the highlight tool, and keep writing. This turned out to be the only way I could finish my book.

With my first book, I ended up rewriting my first chapter 17 times, my second chapter 13 times and so forth by the time I got to my fifth or sixth chapter. I never did finish that book because I spent so much time editing that I got frustrated with the book.

In other words, if I did not rein in my internal editor and push to the end of my work, I wouldn’t get it done in the first place. My book would end up edited to death because I would lose interest in it.

In contrast, I have heard others say that they could not just sit and write for the sake of writing. On one of my listserves, a member stated that why participate in NaNoWriMo if all you do is going to write garbage. Not write at all for fear of writing garbage!!! That is why I thought it was called a first draft.

My answer to that would be to quote Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb: "I can fix a bad page, but I can't fix a blank one."

Amen to that. So, my readers, start writing. (Now, I need to put butt in chair and fix my first draft. Big Grin)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Thought’s

Sunday, March 27

Hello. I hope your day is being a bit more productive than mine. For some reason, I have gotten myself into one of my information overload modes. When I get in this mode, so much information courses through my mind that I tend play or waste time instead of write or work on my goals.

To break the effects of information overload, I focus on one item and push everything else out of my mind. That is what I am doing right now. By forcing myself to zero in on one project, I can accomplish one of my goals: to build a blog post twice a week.

In the first part of March, my blog contains a few empty spots where blog posts should reside. For the last few weeks though, I managed to get something up on my blog twice a week. Yes, sometimes the posts showed up a day late, but I am getting better at building them.

Yesterday was a beautiful day though warm. Though cold weather returned overnight. Of the two, I prefer warm over cold. Cold weather tends to bring on my gout. Plus, it seems that I can’t get warmed up enough when it is cold around here.

The thing is that if I do not write, Mr. Grumpy shows up. Wait a sec.; someone’s knocking at the door.

My goal for this next week will be to focus my thoughts on my writing and just put the words on the page. See ya on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writer’s Wednesday - Advice


Wednesday, March 23

Again, I will be discussing advice received from my fellow writers. This time I will cover writing time and writer’s block.

The first thing my fellow writers told me to do is to not wait for inspiration to write. If I do, I wouldn’t get anything done. That’s true for me. Inspiration arrives at the most inopportune time - like while driving, at a restaurant, or other locations where I find it hard to write and do not have the resources to record the idea.

Then, there are times that I do not feel like writing. Place that on top of the times I sit to write but my muse decides to take a vacation. My ideas flee as I sit to write.

Yet, to get over this writer’s block, my friends tell me to sit at my keyboard and start writing whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter what it is, just put “butt in chair; hands on keyboard.” One other thing I do is to start playing “What if…” games. Soon, I find that I am able to write. Yes, the beginning will probably be deleted but I would have something accomplished.

Another way that they tell me that helps is if I sit down and write at the same time every day. I know one author who would edit four pages and then write four pages before she left for work in the morning.

When I write at the same time everyday, I anticipate my writing and tend to start thinking about my story before I start.

Now, for my advice to my fellow writers, I suggest that one should not wait for inspiration before writing. One should pick a particular time during the day, select a writing goal of word count or of a specified period, and sit down and write. If one finds herself/himself with a blank mind, start playing ‘What if…’ games with what s/he had already written.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Visiting Blogs

Sunday, March 20

Today, I chose to go to the net and look at the various blogs that I have bookmarked. Out of the thirty that I keep an eye on, several caught my attention and may note the message for today. I left comments on two pages as well. I try to visit some of these blogs at least three times a week.

The main reason I cruise blogs is to look for material that I may be able to enhance my characters among other things. It is almost like a study in human behavior sometimes.

For instance, in Maeve Greyson’s March 5 post, she notes how she needed a break and how her husband provided it. Now, what about your characters? Could they need a break? Who will step up and assist them or will they decide to take a break on her/his own? You can read the post I refer to at http://maevegreyson.blogspot.com/2011/03/its-true-he-is-my-better-half.html.

Another blog site questions whether technology is good or bad. The Romance Bandits’ March 18 blog discusses the pros and cons of technology. This too can be fodder for enhancing one’s story. And, one shouldn’t forget the comments at the end of a post. Some can contain interesting information. You can find this post at http://romancebandits.blogspot.com/2011/03/technology-good-or-bad.html.

Another site that I visit quite often is the one called Attacking the Page. They provide both writing and martial art advice and information. You can visit them at http://attackingthepage.wordpress.com/.

Do you have any favorite web sites? Do they offer inspiration to your writing? If so, in what way?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writer’s Wednesday - 2011-03-16


Wednesday, March 16

Today, I continue my series on ‘advice given by other authors.’ Today’s topic will cover conferences and the reasons why one should attend them.

As Sunday’s (actually Monday’s) post indicated, I just returned from NOLA STARs’ Written in the Stars 2011 Conference. I enjoyed this conference and came home inspired to work on my writing projects.

To me, this is one reason I enjoy going to conferences. One can return reinvigorated with the energy to push himself/herself to continue writing on those projects that one started. The reason I come home reinvigorated is that I get to network with my friends and meet new friends to converse with in the future.

Networking with those who also write and understand where I come from when I begin talking about my writing. Like minded people tend to encourage and to boost each other in their writing craft.

Then there are the workshops. One can learn new techniques that may help him/her build on skills that add dimension to one’s work.

Finally, there are the agent/editor workshops and appointments. The workshops offer information about those particular agents or editors. They can answer questions about what type of material they currently seek.

The one-on-one appointments allow one to pitch one or more story ideas with the agent and editor. An author has a better chance of getting his/her work seen by these agents or editors after these appointments.

Also, one may get a chance to socialize these agents/editors as well. These contacts an increase one’s chances of getting published.

Several members of the writer’s group in which I belong (NOLA STARs’) attribute their publication directly to attending conferences. A few mentioned that they met his/her agent or editor at the conference and struck up conversations with them. When it came time to pitch his/her work, he/she already had a rapport with the agent or editor. This previous contact made the process much easier to approach them for publication.

So, conferences do have a place in one’s career. Attending them allows one to increase his/her contact base and increases the chance one has of getting published. At least, that is my take on conference.

So, have you attended a conference lately?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday Observations - One Day Late

Sunday, March 13

Hello everyone. It keeps happening. The days I want to post to my blog keep flying by before I have a chance to build my twice-a-week chat. Even today’s post is one day late. Yet, I am determined to get it written and uploaded.

Today, the subject of my ranting will cover the NOLA STARs’ Written in the Stars 2011 Conference. It officially ended for me Sunday morning when I checked out of the hotel.

It seems that the conference gets better every year. This year I enjoyed the networking and the workshops. I forced myself to get off my butt and network with other attendees.

I took a record number of photos this time. When I checked my camera, I found over 270 photos on the memory stick. Thus, I made a total pest of myself. (Big Grin)

Now, I do not know how well the photos will come out nor how many of them will appear in the Nola Stars Scrapbook. It will take me a couple of weeks to a month and a half to get them all edited. That will be one of my chores to complete before the end of April.

This time, I attended four workshops and had one agent appointment. In the agent appointment, I must have been excited because I found my mind racing a mile-a-minute. When that happens, I tend to sound like an idiot. But the agent asked me to send her the first 50 pages of my manuscript when I get it finished. This will be the incentive I needed to get my backside back in the chair and start working on the edits to my book.

The first workshop I attended covered what was needed to create a critique group. Kassy Paris
did a great job explaining the do’s and don’t’s of putting together a critique group.

Then came the workshop on strategic career planning for romance writers by Alexis Walker. She gave an excellent workshop on planning out one’s goals. I will be implementing the ones I remember into my goals planning.

Now, the one I really needed was the workshop on “sprucing up your humor with funny stuff.” I know I have a good sense of humor but integrating it into my writing has turned out to be a chore. Darynda Jones explained ways that an author can integrate humor in his/her writing. The handout she gave us shows over 14 methods of adding humor.

The final workshop of my day covered plotting a series. Delilah Devlin and Elle James gave the basics of putting together a series. This caught my attention in that I have several series in the works. It also showed me that I have more work to do when it comes to my series

All-in-all, I came away a bit more knowledgeable and inspired. I am ready to work on my writing. I plan to work on my series ‘bibles’ to flesh out the information for my books.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Writer’s Wednesday (plus one)

Thursday, February 24

Sorry for the late posting but again I forgot. Determined not to let this one get by, I chose to post this entry a day late thus the title.

Years ago, the first bit of advice I got came from a beautiful woman named Suzannah Davis. She wrote romances and I met her when she needed to get her printer repaired.

Her advice was for me to join a writer’s group. She gave me the name of two groups that met in Shreveport. Because of her advice, this year will be my 20th year as member of both RWA and Nola Stars (formally known as Nola).

At first, I learned to hone by craft by attending the monthly programs over the years. I still learn something new when I go to a meeting. Though, I do admit that sometimes one can get information overload over the years. But, if you have a problem in your writing, a member usually can help you out.

Then, I found out that after the meeting I would come away charged and ready to write. The networking, camaraderie, and enthusiasm of the group can rub off on you during the visit.

I figure this is because I am around like minded people who understand the need to write. Start talking about writing to someone who does not write, their eyes seem to glaze over, they start looking at their watch or looking around for the door. They can’t share nor don’t understand my enthusiasm for writing.

Writing groups tend to encourage the member to write. I find that the members of Nola Stars tend to be very interested in what you are working on. Some groups offer mentors who are willing to help new members. They have been known to place members together and form critique groups.

So, I wish to offer the same advice to those writers who are now starting out to look for a local group. If you can’t find one, you may be able to find one online. Also, if you know some writers (or even just one writer), see if they are willing to meet once a month at the local library or coffee shop to discuss writing. The networking alone could help build your career as an author.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Restart

Sunday, February 20

Hello. Sorry for the long absence. I have no excuse for this absence other than flat out forgetfulness. It in itself is not a good excuse but I did get some writing done.

Ideas seemed to be leaping from my fingers onto table. Over the last couple weeks, I found that I have come up with ideas for a short series of novellas. So far, five story ideas have their start in a composition notebook.

I am hyped up on these stories but still need to complete editing my first book. My problem is that once I complete the book in my mind, I lose interest in it. Going back through the manuscript does not appeal to me. Yet, I am determined to get it done.

Then there is this spring-like weather we are experiencing. Who wants to stay inside when there is moderate temperatures and sunshine outside? I sure don’t.

So, to restate my goal on this: I plan to post twice a week to my blog. I should not have any problem doing it. I started this blog last night but finished it today.

On Sundays, the subjects may very to personal experiences to what is going on in my area of the country and everything in-between. On Wednesdays, the subject will be information about writing or material that writers can use in their writing journey.

It looks as if we are going to have another nice Spring-like day. I wish I could say that I was dedicated and could not be distracted but I just can’t… oooh, a butterfly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Thoughts - 2011-01-30


Sunday, January 30

Well, there went one of my resolutions for this year. I did not think I would break it that quick but I did. What am I talking about? The resolution that I made to post something to my blog twice a week. I missed two Wednesdays and a Sunday. I hope I do not miss any more.

Needless to say, I have been working on my goals for this year. One of these was to search through my 2010 journals to lookup story and article ideas. So far, I’ve made it through to October of last year. That leaves November and December journals to go through.

So far, I got 62 pages of information pertaining to article ideas and 59 pages of information covering my story ideas. I placed each in its own file so that I can go through them at a later date.

As I write this, I have spent the at least 4 hours going through the file containing the article ideas. I eliminated 12 pages from that file and come up with at least 17 articles. My goal was to come up with 12 article ideas before the end of the month. I surpassed that goal. One reason is that I came up with a few additional ideas for articles while I worked on the file. That leaves another 40 pages of ideas to go through and build.

Another goal I am trying to complete is to complete an article before the end of the month. I am close on that one. I worked several hours on one this past Friday. Will be working on it some this afternoon as well as tomorrow.

This one I plan to put in as a tip sheet to my chapter’s conference booklet. On March 11 & 12, NOLA STARs will sponsor their annual Written in the Stars Conference. As part of the conference, Nola Stars members submit tip sheets that offer writing tips in the form of an article. Mine will be just one of many articles that the booklet will contain.

I hope to tell a little more about my article on Wednesday. How are your resolutions holding up?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Re-evaluation

Sunday, January 16

Today started off with pen and pad in hand. I started re-evaluating my weekly goals in order to get my year off to a good start. This week also had me looking through my notes to find article ideas that I wrote down.

Today, I start off with ten things I want to complete this week. Starting off with the most important and working my way down to the least. When I get them done, I will select another ten to work on. My ‘to do’ list is starting to look quite long. If I don’t watch out, I can find myself overwhelmed. At that point, I usually shut down and not get anything done.

That is why I pick the ten most important one first. That way, I will not find myself in a rush to get it done when the deadline for that item approaches. I want to get to where I can complete my projects with several days or maybe a couple weeks to spare.

The main thing is that I want to get to the point where I don’t feel like I am spinning my wheels. As for my list of articles, I have three so far. Two of the articles are on backups and one is on grammar. I will be looking into a couple more grammar articles and some on martial arts as well.

Now, time for me to get back to work.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Resolutions - Finis


Wednesday, January 12

Along with my fifteen writing related resolutions this year, I have a variety of other resolutions which I plan to keep up with. They include resolutions pertaining to my blog, to my health, to my web page and to my computer.

The main resolution to my blog is to write it one to two days before I post it. The purpose for this is so that I would not be rushed in writing the post. The other two resolutions are to write and post to my blog twice a week and to accept calls for being a guest on other blogs.

As to the resolutions for my health, they all are pretty much the same as before. The main health related resolution is to work on losing a pound a week. This way I should lose about 8 to 10 pounds by the time my first conference comes up in March. Another resolution is to rebuild my martial arts skills and using these skills as part of my exercise routine.

On my web page, I will need to re-evaluate both my personal and professional web sites. Both sites need to be rebuilt. The program I chose to use is something called Joomla. After perusing several pages built by the program, I decided I would give it a try.

This brings up my computer resolutions. In order for me to use Joomla, I need to learn how to use the program. To do this, I decided that I need to clean up my hard drive by removing some of the unneeded software. Over the last couple of years, I have installed programs and removed them. This process trashed up my registry, and I feel they are causing problems. I’ve tried to install Service Pack 3 for Windows XP and can’t.

Due to the amount of information on my hard drive, I chose to purchase another hard drive for the fresh install of my operating system. I then plan to load key programs that I know I will use.

Once I get my computer set up the way I want it, then I will start the next set of resolutions which include learning how to build a database in OpenOffice and to build a web page using Joomla.

So, for the next year, I plan on enjoying myself a bit more and looking toward life with a little more wonder. Then make sure I note the thinks I find while I let my mind wander. I am looking forward to my adventures this coming up year. How about you?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Resolutions - Part Deaux


Sunday, January 9

Today, more of my resolutions and some fine tuning of a couple that I have made. It’s my understanding that the more detailed and precise I make my goals, the better chance I have of accomplishing them.

With that being said, Resolution Seven needs to be fine-tuned. My deadline to come up with six ideas for articles will be January 15. I hope to come up with all 12 ideas of articles before the end of January. Coming up with ideas is not the hardest part. The hardest part is placing butt in chair and fingers on keyboard.

Now, here are a few more of my writer’s goals that I did not include in my last post. To that end, Resolution Nine: to participate fully in “The Weekend Novelist” project. I belong to a loop on the Internet where the members will spend 2011 writing a book on weekends.

Resolution 10: To participate in Script Frenzy in April. This will be my first foray into writing script. My goal for this is to prepare three 30-minute audio plays as well as building a movie script. One of the first things I need to do is study the format of scripts. I know the format for audio plays are different from movie scripts.

Along that line, I plan to participate in JulNoWriMo (Resolution 11) and NaNoWriMo (Resolution 12). This will be my first year participating in JulNoWriMo. As for NaNoWriMo, this will be my ninth year.

Resolution 13: To organize and begin writing on my short story series. I have this short story series that has been calling for me to work on. This is a project for the latter part of the year. I want to finish my first book before I dedicate time to this one.

Resolution 14: To go through my 2003 and 2004 NaNoWriMo projects. These two projects are almost written. What I need to do is build an outline using what I have written and arrange the scenes. I plan to separate and label each scene in order to build an outline. Out of both projects, I believe I have three novels or two novels and a novella.

My final writing resolution, Resolution 15: To keep up with my duties to North Louisiana StoryTellers and Authors of Romance. My main goals as secretary are to make sure I complete the minutes the Sunday after the meeting and to rework the groups Policies and Procedures. As newsletter editor, I shall send the newsletter out at least one week prior to the monthly meeting. And, as loop moderator, come up with rules for the Nola Stars social loop.

Now, I have other resolutions that I plan to carry out this year. I may opine on them in a later post. Now, it is time to go through my resolutions and see if I can build more specifics and deadlines.

To do this, I have gotten a wall calendar where I note my deadlines. Since it shows a month at a time, I can see what is coming up at a glance. This sounds like a good subject for me to blog about as well.

I hope your year is starting of to a good start. Mine is.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year’s - My Resolutions


Wednesday, January 05

Today, I plan to cover the goals I want for the following year. On Monday, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote down 13 writing goals. Since then, I added a few more. Now, I know I have much on my plate. So, in this post, I plan to go over the most important ones.

The most important resolution: To go through and assess my story ideas. I found that over the years that I have come up with over a hundred ideas if not more. I need to assess these ideas on story size (short story, novella, novel, articles, audio and/or movie script), story type (Sci Fi, mystery, suspense, etc.), and importance (what level of work I intend to do on the story).

To do this particular resolution, I need to work on another resolution. Resolution Numero Two: To catalog all of my stories in a notebook or database program as to story sizes, series, story type, when started, when finished, when and who sent to, progress on the project.

Like I said, I have a bunch of ideas in my computer. Some of which I have not thought about for years. I want to get my act together and build something physical that I could look at that tells me what I have. This will include a short description of the story.

My Third Resolution: To update my series bibles. I have two or three series in which I have multiple ideas for books. The current series I am working on has at least 12 books or ideas of books and two short story series partially planned out. I need to build a timeline and standardize some things between the books and short stories of that series.

Numero Four Resolution: To finish editing my first book and submit it. I finished the first draft of my first book this past summer. In doing this, my goal to complete my second edit will be March 1. June 1 will be my goal for completion of that book. That includes a third edit.

My Fifth Resolution: After finishing the third edit, I will break down and allow my work to go out to some associates for critiquing. Since I will be too close to my work, I may miss some critical aspects pertaining to my book. This too will be done before June 1. I hope to place it in the hands of an editor or agent in June.

My Sixth Resolution of the year: To write a minimum of 7,000 words toward my writing projects a week. I will shoot for 14,000 words a week but will remain a realist. I know I can get 1,000 words a day without any problems. If I get more, then great. At that rate, I can get 300,000 words in about 300 days. That is my goal for this year.

Resolution Numero Seven: To write an article a month that writer’s can use. Whether the subject deals with writing, plotting or even computer issues, I hope to enlighten my fellow writers by providing an article that I hope they can use.

My Eighth and Final Resolution I plan to cover today: To read at least 50 books this year and write reviews of them. This may include some re-reading of some books. I need to read more books because I know it helps me on building my books: Not the story idea but the sentence, paragraph, scene structures. When I read well written books, the writing structures in my stories improve as well.

I hope to keep you informed on how I do on the above resolutions. I have more resolutions that I will post on Sunday, but I do not like to write long posts and this one is getting quite long. Let me know what you have planned for your New Year.