Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has enjoyed this beautiful day of celebration and has been reminded to cherish the blessings in your lives because we will never know which day will be the last.

If you are in school and on break, take this opportunity to write a little bit between food, family and studying for finals!

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Organization

Oh yes, my desk is one of those cluttered monstrosities with stacks of books, a fish bowl for the beta, papers upon papers, post-its everywhere, and I am sure there has to be some buried treasure somewhere but Rytlock has yet to defeat Alduin.

20131127-211839.jpg [Alduin]

20131127-211849.jpg [Rytlock]

More to the point, I am not the only one with sub-par organization skills and most of the time I make the claim that “I know exactly where everything is.” The truth is, I used to know where everything is, but I have certainly slept since then. Not to mention my cleaning habits tend to follow a trend that begins with a solid plan and ends with a tired “I don’t know what to do with this… ill just stick it here” attitude. I have heard it said that a messy workspace is the sign of a brilliant mind, but I still find that it is hard to think clearly when you are surrounded by unorganized clutter. It’s a terrible feeling when you cannot recall where you left something when you need it most. In the process of moving a year and a half ago I had to store my boxes in a storage for several months and though they had labels I still managed to misplace my data card reader for my camera. I spent the better part of the last year digging through a jam-packed closet, over and over, to find the damn thing. By random happenstance, I was putting a new flashlight in the second drawer of my nightstand and lo and behold, my card reader found me. Moral of the story, you will waste a lot of time looking for things if you do not have some semblance of organization.

Organization is important for writing too, because this is how you setup histories, timelines and determine sequencing for the entire novel or series. My personal writing endeavors brought me from one scribbled page of notes to a whole desk drawer full of ideas, themes and maps for the world I have created. There is an overwhelming amount of information to account for in a well-developed story and detail matters. Over time, the world I envisioned has changed dramatically, but each alteration has brought me one step closer to my goal and I make sure to document each change. I tend to have sporadic moments of inspiration that cannot be ignored, so I will write and think and write some more until I am satisfied with the direction, and after that is done I go back and take a closer look at how it all fits in the grand scheme of things. New ideas have caused me to alter and sometimes completely rewrite details to better suit the story, and as a visual person, I keep maps and reference charts to easily compare previous ideas to new ones for consistency purposes. It might seem easy- sure the characters are near and dear to my heart- but seriously try remembering the eye and hair color of every character in your story, their place of birth, current residence, family history, personal history, significant memories, current occupations and all of the details that connect them to other characters as well as where they fit the plot. That is a lot to keep track of, and it is one reason why organization is very important.

Though I fall into the line of shortcomings as far as this topic goes, I still believe there is some value to the advice I have yet to act upon. Here are a few tips to keeping organized:

  1. When you take something from a neat workbench, make sure you return it exactly how you found it. You will be thankful for spending those extra few seconds to put it away, rather than wasting minutes or more in an attempt to sift through a mess.
  2. Filing cabinets are wonderful. Label thoroughly and remember to return file folders when you are finished using them.
  3. If you cannot find a place to put something, you probably do not need it. Consider that it might be time to trash it, or find a new home for it.
  4. Keep writing utensils in a pen/pencil cup or drawer and limit the space you have for these because, if you are anything like me, you have more than you could use in five years and the ink is likely already dried up in some of them.
  5. When you have the urge to toss miscellaneous into a drawer, ask yourself if the item could possibly go somewhere else. If not, do you need it at your desk?
  6. A perfect DYI idea for camera and phone cords is a compact container with dividers (a suggestion I’ve seen is empty toilet paper rolls, or if you know a crafter you can have one made via other means).

Though this creates the image of spic and span, shiny workplace, I realize some clutter is unavoidable and ultimately the choices you make have to suit your preferences. I personally enjoy cork boards with clusters of notes or photos because it gives my space an atmosphere of personality and use. Post it notes are also a favorite of mine, I do not consider that clutter. The creature growing under a stack of papers to my right is another story.

Vocabulary

As writers, we all know that words are powerful. Words facilitate expression of emotion and ideas but can just as easily hinder our ability to move forward. Oftentimes when writing, I have a perfect visualization of the scene and the series of events that are about to unfold as if I am watching a movie or even recalling details of a memory. However, I cannot always seem to get that perfect image into words. Imagery roadblocks are frustrating and can quickly end up ruining inspiration and the motivation to write. Just as a painter will use a mixture of colors to paint more elaborate displays, words are the colors of an authors mosaic masterpiece.

Let me start by saying how personal this issue is for me. There was a time when I loved to write because I was good at it, but books were not my best friend. I hated reading, because everything my grade-school teachers assigned was dull or lacking in some way. I spent six years dreading reading assignments, especially the ones with implied conceptual reasoning questions to follow. It took 6 years and the right teacher, but I finally figured out my problem. I did not like those books because I had no interest in them, but I did not hate reading- not truly. Honestly, I cannot imagine my life without books and I can agree that reading has definitely improved my vocabulary in more ways than one. Every author has something unique to share, and what I love best is the obvious difference in vocabulary between individuals. Words are the voice of your characters personalities, and every personality has a different voice. Try imagining your character speaking to you, how do they sound? Is there an accent? Tone in their voice? Perhaps you want to set the mood so that your readers will better understand the situation but you are not sure where to start. Should the wind be blowing or is it stagnant? Can you hear the rustle of autumn leaves across the lawn? Are there any other peculiar sounds to take note of, or is it silent? The best way to learn about transforming images into words, in my opinion, is to read, read, read. Read anything and everything, don’t be afraid to try new authors or genres because diversity is what is going to eliminate that which does not work for you. Now, suppose you did not get the chance to fall in love with books, and reading is still a dreadful thing to you. There are still ways to improve your vocabulary that do not require the opening of a book. My brother for instance used to love reading, but as he got older and his eyesight got worse, reading started causing headaches and not even prescription glasses helped. Perhaps your problem is that staring at words on a page puts you to sleep. Have you tried audio books or oral recordings? Hearing words can be just as effective as seeing them and serves as convenient entertainment on road trips or the trek to and from work. I, preferable to reading for long periods, also enjoy audio books for long drives. If everything I have previously suggested does not work for you, I have one more idea that might. Even if you loathe reading, even if you are not much of a writer but you are seeking to improve your vocabulary, then I suggest you consider the one tool to rule them all. A dictionary/thesaurus. In this advanced day in age, these tools are very easily accessible online. I am partial to dictionary.com because of the versatile interface between the dictionary and thesaurus specifically suits my needs. Whenever I come across a word I do not understand- in books, face-to-face conversation, or even on television- I resort to this. Likewise, when I need a better idea for a description- because I have already used a particular word a lot or the word isn’t quite fitting for the situation- I always make sure to evaluate the synonym options. You might not retain words as quickly in this way, but over time it can certainly help improve your vocabulary.

For those who do not want to sift through the paragraphs above, try these quick tips:

  1. Find a genre or author you can enjoy and read, read, read!
  2. Listen to audio books or other recordings and pay attention to words you don’t know.
  3. Use a dictionary or thesaurus as a resource for alternate word options.

Prologue

This is the beginning- the opportunity to steal something from the readers and hold on tight- and you only get one chance to get it right. I have rewritten my prologue more than a dozen times, and over the span of a few weeks to a few months, I eventually became dissatisfied with my original line of thought and chose to discard it to start anew. Whether it be a shift in perspective, a new idea conflicting with an existing timeline, or an issue with underdeveloped characters or plots, I always manage to find something wrong with my preceding draft. You might argue that further and more detailed development is a good thing and it means that not only do the characters have room to grow, but so do I. The nagging question is, where do you draw the line?  How do you know what is going to captivate the readers if the parameters in your mind are ever changing?

I believe the answer lies within what I have already assessed. Characters are designed to portray real beings with thoughts and personalities much like our own. Not every individual’s personality will be the same and some might contrast quite blatantly, but the key is change. Change is an ever-present aspect of the human life. It is the motivation that drives us to make new decisions, the explanation we give for our actions and the morphing identity we create for ourselves over time. A prologue introduces characters, settings, plot-teasers and more. While the truths of the story unfold page by page, the prologue’s purpose is to gather bits and pieces and string them into an elaborate web for the readers to admire and question. Therefore, the prologue could be a vague outline- a scattering of outcomes that require the connection of all pieces to view the whole picture- or just as well a historical background to lay the foundation for the road ahead. The options are endless. Why is it okay to write and rewrite and reconstruct your characters, timelines and events? Perhaps the answer is because they are ever changing, just as we are. You can start from the beginning, highlight the key outcomes or even start at the end, but never forget the progressive flow of development as an overarching theme.