Okay, so much for that "blog reboot" that I posted about OVER A YEAR AGO. Holy smokes. Seriously, where did the last year go. It's like lost time in blog land. Oh well. I do have some stuff to post now. So I should have some things coming your way on a more regular basis.
First off, check out this great online e-zine called "Quail Bell Magazine". I have a story published over there is you need more incentive to visit.
Ability to easily organize writing into logical bits, such as chapters
Ability to quickly re-arrange text
Pre-built templates for various types of writing, such as a screenplay or novel
Great full screen mode that removes all desktop images and application chrome (buttons, toolbars, menus, etc.)
Here's a screenshot of my "Three Days" novel draft.
I've arranged the folders on the left to include "Manuscript" and "Research". The Manuscript folder includes all the text I've written related to the novel. The Research folder contains links, images, and text that I've collected from various sources that I may use for inspiration and backup to the story.
In the Manuscript folder I have the working chapters. The chapters from Prologue to 14 are in pretty good shape and represent about 1/2 the novel. I've put a title in parenthesis behind the Chapter number. I've added the chapter numbers and working titles myself. That's not something Scrivener adds, but it's super easy to move chapters around and rename them. This would be difficult with many other tools.
The WIP item contains text that I've written that I like but I may or may not use it in the novel. It's a parking lot for interesting sentences and paragraphs.
Scrivener provides a fairly easy and friction free writing environment.
I'm a big believer that writing is best when it can be read aloud. I can usually tell right away if a sentence is awkward or a paragraph is incomplete if I read it aloud. Sometimes it's not always convenient to read aloud to myself, say if I'm at a coffee shop or sitting in a room with my family. So I also like to use a tool in Mac OS X called Speech. This feature received a pretty major overhaul with OS X Lion. There are quite a few new and very good voices. The original OS X voice "Alex" is still a good choice, but I like the South African female voice "Tessa".
Here's how to navigate to this feature in OS X Lion:
From the Apple menu choose, System Preferences…
Then click on Speech
Choose the voice from the list and click Play to hear a sample
Click Customize… to choose a different voice. You may need to download the new voice and these files are big. One voice can be a 500MB file, so beware if you have a slow internet connection.
Close Speech system preferences.
Once you've chosen a voice, you can highlight a passage of text and right-click to have that text spoken to you. If you have headphones on, then all the better because no one else need know that you're having your work read aloud to you.
Here's a sample of the Tessa voice reading a paragraph from Chapter 01 of "Three Days".
She desperately needed the suffering to end. The torment wrought upon her by the voices and visions. The visions tormented her even now. The doctors called it, “an episode”. No surprise really. She’d been off her medication for the better part of a week. The pills cradled in her hands proved it. The pills kept the demons at bay, at least temporarily. And that was the ultimate truth of her life. The visions and the voices could never truly be silenced. They always returned. Lately they were dark. Very dark.
When I hear this out loud I can easily pick up that the word "torment" is used in two adjacent sentences. Funny how I didn't see that while reading it in my head. How about deleting that sentence all together. The first sentence leads nicely into the third.
She desperately needed the suffering to end. The visions tormented her even now. The doctors called it, “an episode”. No surprise really. She’d been off her medication for the better part of a week. The pills cradled in her hands proved it. The pills kept the demons at bay, at least temporarily. And that was the ultimate truth of her life. The visions and the voices could never truly be silenced. They always returned. Lately they were dark. Very dark.
That's a little peek at my current work environment. I'll post again soon and detail my use of the iPad as a writing tool.
I'm rebooting this blog to include my interests in not only photography, but writing and general art and design topics.
Let's get this reboot warmed up with a discussion of NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words, and the hope of being published.
I completed the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge in 2009. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It was one of the best experiences I've had writing. I set a goal of 1,667 words a day. Some days I hit 5,000+ words, other days I barely scraped out 500 words. In the end, at a few minutes before the midnight deadline on November 30th, I uploaded the results of my effort and received a congratulatory e-mail. And that was enough of a reward. The true beauty of the challenge is an internal one. The feeling of having accomplished something difficult.
What I ended up with is 50,000 words of something vaguely like a novel. Only it was no where near complete and it had plot holes and rambled in places and missed details in other places. Overall it was a mess. And that's why almost no one actually gets published from their NaNoWriMo efforts without a serious dedicated effort at revision, rewrite and edit. Which is exactly where I am at the moment. Neck deep in plot details, character development and grammatical editing.
I'm not a "professional" writer. Whatever that means. I run two successful businesses, have a wonderful wife and four amazing kids (and a dog), and very little spare time. Why focus any energy at all on writing? What's the point?
The main point is passion. My passion for writing rivals my passion for photography. I can tell you that I spent three years immersed in Flickr communities, moderating groups, participating in contests, and honing my skills. Where did that lead? I completed several professional photographic assignments, my work has been recognized locally, and most importantly I had a blast over that three year period of time.
The secondary point is obsession. I can get myself obsessing on a topic. I read everything there is on the topic, I seek out the most relevant bloggers and read all their posts, I dive head first into the practice until I feel satisfied.
Sometimes that takes years.
Do I expect to be a published writer one day? No. Not really. Would it be nice? Yes, you bet. Does that detract from the enjoyment? No. Not at all.
What does it mean to be published? Is it about the recognition that comes with having others invest their time and money into a work of art that you created? That's definitely a part of it. Would I be a better person because a novel I wrote is available on Amazon? No. A better father? No. A better husband? No. Would it be "cool"? Yes, of course.
Not to mention that there's no one route to being a published author. There's no published author that can say "do these 10 things and you'll be published." That's not how it works.
The answer that most authors give is that having a novel published is a crap ton load of work sprinkled with a decent amount of good timing and a twist of luck.
But you know what? There were over 288,000 new published works in the United States in 2010. That's a lot of new published materials for one year. Roughly 790 new works every day. So it's not impossible that I could be published. Feel free to substitute "you" in that last sentence.
I've read so many different techniques for writing, looked at many different applications(1) to assist in the writing process, and listened to a slew of podcasts on the subject of writing and being published.
What I've concluded is that you just have to start. You have to start and keep starting every day. You have to write everyday. If you have writers block, then write about writer's block. You have to keep the fingers moving on the keyboard. If it's 200 words or 2000 words, it doesn't matter. You just have to put in the time and the effort and keep an open mind when it comes time to editing your newly created masterpiece.
I feel like I've just leapt from the high dive falling toward the deep water of writing. I have no idea where I'm headed really. Only a vague notion that maybe, beyond the intrinsic enjoyment, that I could be good at story telling. Perhaps, a novel will result from all this writing.
(1) Or try a search in the Apple App Store or the iPhone/iPad App Store for "Writing"
Congratulations to my Mom for being recognized in the local newspaper for her donation to the "Save The Barns" cause in Lewistown, Montana. She is donating a beautiful watercolor to the auction. Great job Mom!