Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing Software Anyone?

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

I've been playing around with some writing software recently, Scrivener.. and I'm not entirely sure I like it.  I'm used to writing in MSWord, and while Scrivener has some of the same functions, it just feels different.  I'm sure that I can get used to it if I were to use it more.. (I still remember when Word was so alien because it was so different than Word Perfect), but at this point I'm not sure that it's worth the effort.

So I throw it to the winds of the internet.. have any of you who stumble across this blog ever used it, or heard of anyone using it?  Have they had success with it.. or has it been the latest 'have to have' Christmas Toy that sits unused after a day or two of frustrated attempts?

If you've never heard of it.. check it out. You get a free trial that last 30 sessions.. not too bad imho.  The functions if offers sound appealing, to me at least. (Corkboard, outliner, editor, storing pictures of characters, etc...)  I think I might like a lot of what it offers, but I'm just not entirely convinced that I would use it in that way.. besides that, I've been doing it my way for a while and I'm comfortable with my old broken in shoes. I'm not sure I want to try the newfangled ultra-modern version.  

So I'm looking for any personal experiences folks might have had.  Thanks.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

So, how big of a writing geek are you?

So you've got the writing bug.. you've even recently, (or not so recently), started a writing blog. You've spent oodles of time obsessing on your idea(s), you've written an outline, maybe you've started, and stopped, a few times at writing the Great American (Fill in the Genre) Novel.

Possibly you've moved past that and actually finished a draft, or two, or eight. Maybe you've attended some writing conferences, maybe you religiously read blogs of your favorite authors. Maybe you have a podcast that you use as your own secret repository of knowledge, (such as http://www.writingexcuses.com/). Maybe you have a 'favorites' folder on your browser specifically for writing that contains no fewer than 50 links.

But have you dissected a novel you've enjoyed?  Have you broken it down beyond chapter by chapter and character by character? Have you looked at the writing patterns of your favorite authors? Have you developed  a check list of character introductions based off of the pattern of no fewer than 5 of your favorite, successful, authors? Have you watched writing lectures on Youtube?  Have you favorited them for easier viewing? Have you outlined a book or series of books, not to copy, or even borrow, but lean on the styles of other authors that have come before you?

Now, to the truly geeky, have you highlighted and marked up your favorite writing books, (Such as Stephen King's 'On Writing') and lifted quotes from those books, and from interviews from your favorite authors, and created a wall of encouragement that you use to motivate and inspire you when you sit down at your computer to write?  Is the homepage of your browser somehow connected to writing?

I can claim some of the above, not all thank goodness.. but I have seen all of the above in one form or another over the past couple of years since my nice writing desire went from a hobby to an obsession.  Most notably for me, I do have an 'inspiration' wall with quotes from a number of different authors that I find personally motivating.  
Not all of the quotes are from well known authors, a couple aren't even in the genre that I normally read.. but they all speak to me personally. Not that the quotes are addressed to me, but they might as well be. 

They tell me that while yes, I am a writing geek, that I am not alone.  :)

So, if you actually made it through all of that to this final sentence, just how big of a writing geek are you?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blog Hop Flash Fiction: The Angled Forest





The Angled Forest



Scott leaned his gun against a nearby tree and gazed at the light bulb dangling freely in the forest, wondering to himself, what the hell is that doing here?   


It wasn’t only the light that caught his attention, it was the glow the light emitted. Everything it illuminated seemed to radiate light back, making everything vibrant and captivating. The effect was intoxicating.


Scott cautiously extended a finger toward the light. The bulb was softer than he expected and indented slightly where his finger made contact. He pulled his hand back slowly and was surprised to discover that the light moved with it. Scott turned his hand to see why the bulb was stuck to his finger, causing it to brush his knuckles where it stuck to the skin it contacted.


Scott glanced around questioningly and shook his hand slightly to dislodge the bulb, but that merely served to stick more of his hand to it. Fully alarmed, Scott seized the bulb with his other hand to try to rip it loose, but now found himself ensnared by both hands. 


A sudden yank from above lifted him about three feet off the ground and roughly dropped him back to the forest floor. Terrified, Scott began running back toward the campsite,  but within a couple of steps he was jerked off his feet and catapulted towards the forest canopy at a horrific speed. Scott gasped, his eyes wide with fear.


Above the foliage, in the silent dark mass that hovered unseen from below, a satisfied grunt escaped the larger of the two beings seated within. With a slight grin it addressed the smaller and warbled in an alien tongue, “See, now it’s like I said, it’s all about knowing where to cast your line, and having the right bait.”

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Written by Kevin Hiatt for the Flash Fiction Blog Hop, hosted by Angela GoffLillie McFerrinAngie Richmond, and Daniel Swensen.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clueless Writer Question 1: Critique Groups?

So, I've been surfing blogs of authors I like, those who have had success, even if moderate or on a regional level, and one thing that is a constant theme through all is the benefit received from their critique group, their 'Alpha readers'.

Which begs the question, exactly how/where does one find a critique group?  I've of course got some close friends/family members who I plan to bounce things off of when I'm done, a combination of siblings, in laws, and my wife of course.. but outside of that, where does one find others who are similarly committed to writing to the level it takes to write a few thousand words or so?

I know that writing conferences offer that opportunity, or at least I've read on other blogs how they do.. but I've been to a couple and have never really seen anything that screamed out to me, "LOOKING FOR CRITIQUE BUDDIES".. although it's probably not that obvious.

I'm currently signed up for the 2012 Life, the Universe, and Everything in Provo in early February, and I'd like to use that opportunity to find some alpha readers, if such is possible.. but I'm completely in the dark as to how to bring that about.

Are there any learned souls out there with experience and/or suggestions for a clueless wannabe writer?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Like My First Kid.. But My Second Child.. WOW!!

I have had 2 story's percolating in my brain for a number of years. The first I actually first wrote a version of back in like 1998 or so.. the second came to me in around that same time, but was never actually written out.  I love both, but for some reason I'm more devoted to the first story, chronologically speaking, (hence the title of the blog.. not that I don't love my firstborn, she's my only daughter and had my heart from day 1.)

So here is my dilemma.. I believe the second story is more writing ready.  The plot came easy, the storyline, complete with sequel story lines is just natural.. I think I can really write this story without much more tinkering.. but I actually feel torn.. because I've spent more time agonizing over the first.  It has as much potential imho.. and I personally find the details of this one more personally interesting.  I'm sort of a history buff, and I really enjoy ancient history, like the Mayans and Aztecs and the people here in America before even the Indian tribes that we know of today.

I served my LDS Mission in Honduras, (until knee surgery anyway), and being down there just filled me with an unquenchable thirst to know more about the culture of the Mayans and Aztecs.. and the Anasazi and .. you get the point.

Well my first idea encompasses much of this, and I've really enjoyed researching and thinking about how to make all the pieces fit together.

But now that I find myself in the moment of writing, it's clear that my second idea is much further developed.. and I find that I'm at odds with my inclination to write the chronologically first.. first.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's raining outside? Must be time for introspection.

So.. was thinking about some of my past writing ideas this morning and remembered a sort of funny incident that happened in my first year of Law School.  When you do your first year of law school, your classes are already assigned, you don't have a choice on what to take, you are with your group, (usually a group of around 50 or so students to a group) for both semesters with no option on classes, that's pretty much universal.

So my group had the normal classes, contracts, torts, criminal law, and a legal writing course.  Our very first written assignment was supposed to be really easy.  An 18 year old boy was injured by a neighbor's negligent actions, and his promising football career was likely over because of the injury.  We were, supposedly, retained by the neighbor to write our opinion of his liability to the neighbor, both for the damage done to their property, and the injury to the child.. and to attempt to determine if our client was liable for future earnings damage since the boy was a highly recruited QB who had a very promising career in front of him.  However, there was treatments that the boy could have done, but that were painful and were not foolproof, and the boy decided not to pursue his dream of playing football by taking the treatments, much to the disappointment of his father very vocally encouraging father.

My classmates all dove in and, I'm sure, wrote wonderful treatises on the legal aspects of the situation.  I, on the other hand, sat down and wrote out my legal opinion, and then wrote out my 'other theory'.. which consisted of a premise that the young man had really intentionally burned his hands to be able to stop playing because it was his overbearing father who had pushed him to play a game that he willingly gave up without much of a fight.  My contention was that, at trial, I could argue the above and as there would be no hard evidence to disprove my theory, that I could in all likelihood win a verdict for my client.

In hindsight.. my 'theory' might have played on Law and Order, but in a real courtroom it wasn't nearly as brilliant as it seemed 2 months into my legal education.

It was in sitting down with my legal writing Professor that I learned some things about myself.  I'd always liked the creative process of writing.. I can remember all the way back to elementary school, I was more inventive than the other students.. my papers were usually always read in class.  I still remember, with pride, my story in 6th grade where my hero, "Shelton Thirdkill" was caught by the bad guy with no weapons and no escape. In desperation Shelton rips off a ring from his finger and throws it on the ground between himself and the villain.. but rather than do anything of value, it merely grows to the size of a hula hoop.  The villain laughs at the last failed attempt to save himself and approaches to strike the killing blow to our hero.. without stopping he steps over the ring and.. is microwaved alive.  (Tip of the hat to Raiders)
My story was the hit of the year.. people would pretend to throw down rings during recess, PE.. as the author it was glorious.

Even in college, my first year at Boise State after my mission I took English 101 & 102 because my credits didn't transfer from Ricks for some reason.. my first paper was a comparison of a football game and a date, where they both ended well and showed some promise for the future.  My professor encouraged me to submit the paper to the Boise Weekly, the 'alternative' paper in Boise. I was shocked and proud that he thought so much of my writing.. but I couldn't imagine my stupid little paper being that good, so I just went on my way.  I wrote other papers for the class, some good.. some witty.. some just lip service, but I felt no small amount of pride in having my own belief in my writing ability reinforced by someone who had a Masters in Creative Writing.

However.. I was still under the belief that there was no way anyone could make a living as a writer.. I mean.. who does that, right?  So I studied Spanish to boost my GPA, (since I spoke it thanks to my Mission), and Political Science as I thought it would give me a leg up at Law School.  (Big Mistake. Looking back, oddly enough, English and writing would have served me much, much more.)  As a Junior at Boise State I was recommended by my Political Science Professors to work in the English Department as a writing tutor.. so my final 2 years of my Undergrad I worked in the Boise State writing center as a writing tutor. Helped pay for groceries and gas, and really let me enjoy my time. I really had fun being around people who were so focused on writing, but again I thought they were delusional.

Now, looking back, if I could go back and redo my undergrad, I'd have focused on English.. even going to Law School, it would have served me better than Poli-Sci, and besides, becoming a better writer is never a bad decision.  So instead, now I'm learning by reading books on writing and going to writing conferences.  Not that I don't enjoy this learning process, in truth I'm probably more focused now than I would have been in college, but I constantly kick myself for suppressing my desire to write for so long.

**Random thought for the day**    ..... Is there another word for synonym?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Small Sweating Devils and other Inconsistencies

If the devil is in the details.. why are we constantly told not to sweat the small stuff?  I've noticed something about myself.. most of the books that I really enjoy reading are very detailed, including things that seem on the fringe.. but when I try to think in that sense for what I want to write I don't know where and/or what to be detailed on.

For example, a book series I just reread, the Hunger Games, there is a cat that belongs to the younger sister, and the cat plays only a very ancillary part in the story.. it shows the character's personalities and helps illustrate the emotional aspect of both the main character and her younger sister.. but the cat itself has no real part in the stories, only in passing is it mentioned.  Yet the cat is described, in multiple parts of all the books, to some detail.  I get that it's an important part of the younger sister's life.. and that at the conclusion of the series it takes on more meaning.. but it still seems like, in comparison to other things in the series, there is a lot of focus placed on the cat.  I know it serves as multiple roles in the story, both as what it seems and as a measuring stick of the emotional depth of the main character, and a tie to the normalcy of our time..but there are many things that can be used in that regard.  Why the cat?  What makes it special?  That is what kills me.. I can see why it was chosen.. but why was it used in this regard instead of something else?  Why not her father's bow?  Why not the mother's dresses that were worn on Reaping Day?  

I'm afraid that for me, the Devil isn't in the details.. but rather in why those details matter over other details.  I think I'm getting too deep into it and need to step back.. but again, to what level do you step back?  

At what point does this become natural?  Or does it?  Can you learn to identify the proper level of focus, or is that part of the writing process that you're born with, and.. as Stephen King puts it.. "You've either got it or you don't."  

These are the things that cause me to seize up after 10 pages and push the delete button.



**Random Thought of the day**:  "The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt" -- Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So a guy walks into a bar...

You know how it's never easy to start writing something? So I figure the easiest way to write something is to pretend that it's not a starting at all but instead the middle of a very comfortable, familiar conversation.. soo.....

Guy walks into a bar and says.. "Ouch."

There, obviously we're already comfortable because there's no way I'd tell such an incredibly lame joke without being comfortable enough to endure the inescapable eye rolls that would naturally accompany it.

I'll get a little more detailed at a later date, but for now, suffice to say that this is my blog, it's somewhat personal, somewhat professional, somewhat an escape from the daily and somewhat an experiment in social conversation with adults.. something that I don't seem to get much of a chance to practice.

Now, I must leave as my 4 year old son just informed me that he is making me a birthday cake out of lego's.. so I must go fetch the play dough frosting so we can cut the cake into enough portions for all to enjoy.

**Random Thought of the Day**
When a hot pocket cools.. does it just become a pocket?.