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The year that was


It’s been a year.

Alright, it’s two days short of a year, but still.  I don’t think I’ll be posting original material on either of my blogs (except maybe for a reblog or fifty), so this is a look back at the year that was for me personally.

I actually finished the first draft of my sci fi book.  Sadly, it stayed in the first draft stage because I decided to take a break, which lead to life just being life.  I still have the entire thing all written, and maybe at some point I’ll go back and begin the second draft edits, adding scenes, taking scenes away and putting it out for a second read through.

I’d also like to go back and revisit my other book, Black Mask & Pale Rider, at some point as well.  Here’s hoping that 2014 will be the year I get back to it.

2013 was going to be the year I was finally going to settle down and buy a house.  In the most comfortable of places, for me at least.  The familiar area of where I grew up.  For a couple of years, I had been looking at house prices, and this year was going to be the year when I’d buy my house.  And then get a cat, because I’d like a companion to come home to (and clean up their poop and vomit because I know that would happen).  Sadly, just like my writing, life decided to kick that idea right in the knackers.

A lot of the things I’d planned this year got derailed massively by the real life changing event.  That was my move to Humboldt from Outlook.  New job, new apartment, new city.

While I’ve been feeling better, this was not the best second half of the year, considering the entire relocation process began in July.  On the one hand, it was great that I was given the opportunity to find a new job because my position was being phased out.  But on the other hand, this year has been an extreme low point for me, almost as bad as the mid 90s when I had very suicidal thoughts.

Yes, I got that low.  And I haven’t gotten much better, to be honest.  But I’m hoping that 2014 will get better for me.

This year has been a year of poetry to fight off depression, which I consider awful poetry (my opinion, I wrote it, but if someone liked it, that’s fine, you have to remember I wrote that during some of my darkest feelings and it’s not something I wish to visit upon again).  Maybe in 2014 things will get better.  At the very least, I’m hoping that I’ll get my writing caught up and get back into that.  I guess I’ll be putting the dream of buying a house to the side for the time being.

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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Life, randomness

 

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On writing and winter and darkness


It’s been several days since I posted anything here.  I haven’t really taken a break, I just haven’t felt I’ve had anything meaningful to talk about.

It’s November 19th, and I can say that with 11 days remaining in November, this NaNoWriMo has been terrible.  Even the other years when I didn’t make the 50K mark, I had at least hit well over half.  But this year, I wrote my first two thousand words and then nothing.   There was no motivation to write, no ideas that made sense, and even when I had ideas I couldn’t be bothered to put them down on paper or into a word processor.  This year, I felt nothing regarding my writing.

Usually, this can be attributed to a few things.  The simplest is that I was just lazy and couldn’t be bothered.  Partially true, but even with that there have been other times when I’d at least write something.  Maybe I was just burned out after a near 31 days straight of writing for October.  I do know that the winter season, even though it hasn’t officially arrived, has had a greater affect on my this year than past years.

Normally, I’d be able to combat my seasonal affective disorder without much trouble.  But this year has been hard.  It was often a struggle to just sit under a light at times.  I hit one of my lowest points this year.  And there was a huge amount of anxiety that still hung on from the move I made in August.  I’m still trying to figure out if this was a wise move or not.  There comes a point when you have to decide if the move you made is less important than your mental and physical well being.

I also don’t like that there’s this all consuming darkness around me.  Not some metaphorical thing, I mean actual darkness.  I get up in the morning, go to work, it’s dark.  I get off work at 5, it’s dark again.  This is the problem with winter, it gets dark too early and it stays dark too late.

The days, at least, keep me busy, so I’m thankful for that.  This week has actually found myself a little more up than usual this past season.  That comes from the most unusual of places; football.  This past weekend the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the western final to advance to the Grey Cup.  I’m focusing a little bit of attention there.  Still, I’m going one day at a time, and hopefully I’ll get better.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Life, randomness

 

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How To Write Great Dialogue


I found this on my tumblr dashboard and thought I’d share it here as well.

howtowritegreatdialog

amandaonwriting:

Modern novels are filled with dialogue. More than 50% of your book should be filled with characters talking to each other. Beginner novelists are often afraid of dialogue and they should be.

Writing dialogue is complicated. An author has to give the impression that characters are speaking as if they existed in a real world. However, ‘real world’ dialogue is the kiss of death in a novel. Real life has no plot. Most everyday conversations have no point. They exist for the sake of appearances. They are made up of exchanging greetings and pleasantries. Small talk is just that and has no place in your novel.

Writing Tip: An interesting way to test this for yourself is to tape a series of conversations and write them down exactly as the words are spoken. You will find people ramble on. They repeat what they have said, they struggle to find words, their grammar is terrible, and they talk ‘at’ each other.

How do authors only include dialogue that is necessary?

One way is to read a variety of novels published in the last 10 years. Examine the dialogue. Good authors only include what is necessary for the story. Sometimes this means dialogue has been pared down to the minimum but this is necessary. Never include unnecessary conversations. Readers expect every conversation to be significant. Unnecessary conversations are the red herrings of the dialogue universe.

The Three Reasons

Authors should remember that there are three reasons for including dialogue in a novel.

  1. Dialogue should move a plot forward. ‘Let’s go.’ is better than ‘Peter said that they should go.’
  2. Dialogue should reveal character. Every word your character uses shows the sort of person he or she is.
  3. Dialogue should provide information. Treat this one with care. There is a fine line between revealing important facts and boring the reader with details. Do not allow your characters to ‘tell’ in dialogue. Rather use a short summary.

The Supporting Act

Remember that people don’t just utter words when they interact. They act, they move, and they use body language – intentionally or unintentionally. Friends may walk or drink coffee as they speak. A young mother may jump up to prevent her child from crawling away. A woman may cross her arms as she listens to her husband.

Writing Tip: Introduce a habit with dialogue. Your villain might flip a coin when he speaks. Your love interest might smoke when he or she speaks.

Said

Novelists should ignore the many posts suggesting 50 words to use instead of ‘said’. Said is perfect. It shows the reader who is speaking. It keeps the reader focused on the dialogue. When characters mutter, proffer, utter, cry, growl, and grin words, the author just looks silly.

Writing tip: Read your dialogue out loud. Your tongue will trip over all the nonsense words. Remove them.

Accents and Dialect

Follow speech patterns rather than misspelling words. It takes a dedicated reader to muddle through idiosyncratic vernacular. Add the odd foreign word to show the speaker is not English.

Like everything else in writing, perfecting dialogue takes practise. Write every day, and include dialogue in that writing if you can.

Image created by Writers Write at Someecards

medium_Amanda_Patterson

by Amanda PattersonSource: Writers Write

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Fun, randomness

 

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These writing lists


Businessman brainstorming and writing notes

There’s lots of writing lists I see (on tumblr, wordpress, lots of places) and I’ve divided them into two categories.

  • Really useful
  • Really degrading

Really useful:  These lists are the really good lists.  The lists that describe how to go about creating a world and the things you need in the story and the things you don’t need in the story (like background information that might be needed at some point, but it’s not important to know right away).  How to write people, which is the best group of lists.  Even descriptions of people’s race, like avoiding describing someone using food.  Like chocolate.  Chocolate reminds me of food, not a person.  Writing accents is also really useful to know, or if someone has a speech impediment (pro tip: don’t write out a full lisp, it’s a pain in the ass to the reader, it’s a mistake I made, and I try not to do that now, just write “so and so has a lisp” readers are smart enough to fill in the blanks).

Really degrading:  Degrading is a misleading term.  I think a better one might be that these kinds of lists treat people like a four year old.  Writers aren’t stupid either, and telling them something that involves common sense, such as checking spelling and then have someone else check it over.  I read one list that said “you have to pay to get things spell checked”.  No you don’t.  First, you use your spell checker, scrutinizing each word.  There may be words that are a city or a town, but make sure they are all spelled the same.  And yeah, you could pay someone who’s professional to do the spell checking and editing, but ya know what?  The people who are going to read books are the ones who don’t work as editors.  If you’re a first time author, you probably have a friend or two that can read over your stuff (get two, because one person will pick up on something the other didn’t).  Readers know what they like and they know what makes sense.  As I said before, readers are not stupid.

It’s also very insulting to tell a writer “delete your first three chapters, always, because that’s just filler crap anyway”.  Really?  It is.  That depends on who’s doing the reading.  Some people enjoy that “background filler crap”.  What a first time writer needs to do is prepare to delete a lot, but also write more.  There will be certain areas of a book where the less is more concept, so pairing down your description is a good idea.  You may reread a scene later and find it just a bit clunky.  Don’t stress over the fact that it may need a rewrite.  There may also be scenes that you need to expand upon, to convey emotion, to explain a feeling, or describe a room that’s important.

This concept of always making your characters charming also rubs me the wrong way.  What I see as charming and someone else sees as charming are two completely different things.  Someone may find a character charming while I find them to be a complete douchebag.

First person: I though you said this book was good.

Second person:  It is.  The main character is so charming.

First person:  Really?  I found him to be an overbearing, useless douchecanoe.

In the end, the only one who’s going to tell your story is you.  You have to write it, so go write it.  And when you’re done, read it.  And read it again.  And edit stuff you feel doesn’t make sense or feels clunky.  Because here’s the really neat thing.  You’re writing, but you also happen to be a reader.  And readers are smart.  Get a close friend to read it, because there are people out there that you know that are willing to read it (just make sure that if and when you finish the edits and publish the book you get that friend a copy of your book, preferably signed ’cause people tend to like that).

Ah, I just thought of a better term.  Instead of degrading, it would probably be better to say condescending.  But in the long run the only one who is going to be able to get your story written and into the hands of readers is you.  The way you write is completely different from the way I write, which is completely different from the way a best selling author writes.  Push aside all of this stuff that holds dreams of being a best selling author and just write.  Write something new and different, because people always want something new and different.  No matter what bullshit market research tries to spin.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Fun, randomness, Writing

 

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Seven editing questions to make work sparkle


penandpaper

While scrolling through tumblr’s dashboard, in the writing tag (this is a thing I do early in the morning with a cup of coffee) I discovered this interesting set of rules when writing.

thepalaceofawesomestories:

Writers rarely like to revise, but revision is a reality of the writing process—and more important than the initial draft. Without revision, you can’t realize the true potential of the story you envisioned, and it will likely never be published. Here are seven self-editing questions to ask as you begin revising your short story or novel:

1. Where does the story really begin? Reread the first two to three pages of your story carefully. Where does the action start? A major fault with many first drafts (mine included!) is too much background material at the beginning, before the conflict is introduced and the characters finally take over the story.

In my case, I can almost bet that my story doesn’t really begin until about halfway down page 3, so out go the first two pages. If the material I have cut is essential for the reader to know, I find ways, through dialogue or my characters’ thoughts, to get the information to the reader later. The late additions are never as long as the original two and a half pages, and the story gains needed speed.

2. Is this adverb necessary? Chances are, if you are using a lot of adverbs, you are telling and not showing. Think about the character that has just won the lottery. Rather than have her yell “joyfully,” why not have her jump up and down screaming so loudly that her cat runs under the bed in terror, and it takes her 20 minutes to get it out? Maybe she runs to her closet and throws all of her old clothes in the garbage while blasting “If I Had a Million Dollars” on her CD player. Both of those pictures show how the character reacts instead of telling, and they are certainly livelier than the word “joyfully.”

3. Is this adjective doing its job? Look for empty adjectives and replace them. Instead of relying on “amazing,” “interesting,” “exciting,” “awful,” “ugly,” “beautiful,” “nice,” “scary” and other similar adjectives, use sensory details that bring to life what you are describing. Find places to get the readers’ senses working; it means you are making the story real for them.

4. Whose problem is it? Your main character has the primary problem at the center of your story, and your main character needs to solve it. Make sure that your protagonist remains the chief actor in the story and doesn’t become solely the reactor to another character’s influence. Sometimes, in longer pieces, characters other than your lead can nab your attention and your imagination; this can be especially true of villains and comic sidekicks. Be careful that these characters don’t become so charming that they threaten to steal the book from your hero or heroine.

5. Are the grammar and spelling perfect? Yes, I mean perfect. Your story will compete with a host of other stories, so don’t blow your chance with poor spelling and grammar. Of course, publishers have editors who will help polish your copy, but you need to show your best work up front.

6. Have I read my story aloud? One of your best proofreading tools is the sound of your own voice. Reading your story aloud is a great way to find awkward or incomplete sentences, clumsy phrasing, and inconsistencies in verb tenses and pronoun agreement. If you hesitate when you are reading, or if you have to reread a sentence or phrase, then you may need to rewrite that part of your story.

7. Have I applied the Stephen King rule? In Stephen King’s On Writing, he shows a before-and-after example of how editing can improve a story. His revision rule is:

2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%

We have a tendency, as writers, to believe that every word we write is precious, and we are reluctant to cut our material—after all, we remember how hard it was to get it down on paper. However, editing is about making our prose lean and exciting, and compelling the reader to turn the page. See what you can do with 10 percent fewer words.

Finally, consider revision a reward. Remember that if you are revising, you have finished a project—how neat is that? Try these seven questions to kick-start your editing and begin your pursuit of a great final product.

I’m most likely going to add a bunch in the second draft, and then subtract even more in the third draft, mostly because after rereading what I’ve done there’s some elements and characters that need a bit of explaining.  So in second draft, I’ll put that in, rearrange the chapters a bit, flesh out some characters a bit more, and fix a few things (such as Felanus has changed to Felanar and the RVAF Tritan has changed to the RVAF Osprey).  Once third draft hits, I’ll be subtracting a lot of stuff, useless words, long convoluted sentences, cleaning up grammar.  I already think it was a better idea to just write “Senia speaks with a lisp” instead of displaying that lisp every time she talks.

I want the work of Rocket Fox to come about better than Black Mask & Pale Rider (even though I still love that book).  So the amount of work I have ahead of me is a lot, but it’s something that has to be done.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in Fun, randomness, Writing

 

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Motivation


screenshot_2013-04-03-07-43-09

A new look for Senia Felix as the uniform of the ship is taking shape. Costume editors in games really helps.

The ideas are there, which is better than what it was before, during the bleak days of winter when I’d truly had enough of this season.  I had, for the past several months, wanted to write but just felt really tired all the time.  It’s getting better now as the signs of spring are showing.  Or at least, the snow is starting to melt.  At least, I hope it doesn’t melt fast otherwise we’ll have flooding problems to contend with.

Flooding aside, over the winter months the motivation has been very difficult to get myself writing.  I sometimes wonder how someone like Louis L’Amour wrote so prolifically, and why they make it look so easy.  Even J. K. Rowling’s sweeping epic of Harry Potter seemed to come out with no problem.  Naturally, I know it wasn’t easy.  Writing isn’t easy at all.  The only easy thing about writing is the sitting down part.  Even tapping away at keys isn’t hard.  It’s the development of the story and of the world.  For some, the world is already there, it’s familiar.  We all know what to expect in a western.  We are fairly certain of the course of events in a medieval story.  But when you create your own world and give it its own rules, then it becomes harder.  Add to that the narrative, the characters, the events.  All of it becomes more difficult.  But, when it’s all done, it become really rewarding.  It’s something you can look at and go “I did it, I finished it”.

I’m not far from completing this first book in the Rocket Fox series.  I’m looking forward to it.  I just hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew with this series I’ve decided to undertake.

I’m really looking forward to that moment when I can look at it all and say to myself “it’s done, I’m finished”.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2013 in Life, randomness, Writing

 

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Much needed encouragement


One of my … well, not so much a New Year’s resolution, is to actually finish two works I’ve had on the go. One of which happens to be the first in the Rocket Fox series.

vulpinaia002

That includes writing, illustrating some of the characters and gathering together an appendix for the last section of the book. And maps, can’t forget maps.

The other is the rewriting of Black Mask & Pale Rider, which has sort of expanded in a way. Not at all difficult, as I’ve already got the original work to go by.

So, tonight, part of my home time regimen will be to sit down and write and work on some illustrations for Rocket Fox.

Anyone is free to needle and prod me to get me going.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Life, randomness

 

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