Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing is all about the pancakes

In my hometown there is a delicious pancake/steak restaurant called Smitty's. It looks something like this:
Yes, it's cute and quaint and strangely Scandinavian-looking.
To paint the scene: Smitty's is the kind of establishment that has doilies everywhere and antique plates lined across the walls. There's a large grandfather clock by the entrance and, in general, the people who eat there are three times my age.

Now, Boyfriend and I went for a late breakfast because, frankly, for me breakfast is a food group and Boyfriend claims that Smitty's has the best eggs benedict he's ever tasted. At the time, there were a grand total of two people on shift and six people in the restaurant. These six people were Boyfriend, myself, and a family of four.

So there we were. Food was ordered, juice was delivered, and everything was awesome. Then I heard thumping.

Thunk thunk thunk. It was the father at the table next to ours. Thunk thunk thunk. He was hammering on the base of a powdered sugar shaker with the palm of his hand. Thunk thunk thunk. I ignored him and went back to the conversation at hand. Thunk thunk thunk. A minute later and he was still pounding out sugar onto what must have a been a german pancake underneath that pile of snow.

Now, I've never eaten a german pancake. But I'm under the impression that you're actually supposed to be able to taste the pancake when eating it. Or, at least, see the pancake. There were two large powered sugar shakers on that table and both were over half empty. These people were not eating pancake--they were eating sugar.

Unfortunately, people do this with writing too.

No, we don't dump sugar all over our manuscripts. I'm talking about overwriting.

You've probably done it. I certainly have. I'm talking about those paragraphs where all you do is babble on about something for much longer than anyone would care to read. Or when you're trying to sound witty, so you add awkward flourishes to your dialogue. Run-on sentences fit in here too.
Make sure your writing is delicious and nutritious!
Overwriting is a product of trying to make something vivid and overdoing it. When you're making something pretty it's easy to go off on a tangent. Sometimes it's because we don't realize we're doing it. Other times it's because we're struggling for the words. Maybe sugar can spice up your manuscript, but you don't want to drown it!

So next time your trying to make something sound lovely, stop. Take a breather. Look at the sentence you just wrote and see if it needs to be pared down a bit. Like a german pancake, writing needs some sweetness--just make sure that your writing is more about the pancake than the powdered sugar!

Also, before I go, I need your help! Blogger's lack of nested comments is driving me insane. Thus, I'm experimenting with the DISQUS commenting system. I'd love it if you guys could tell me whether it's obnoxious or not. Nested comments equals more replies from me, but at the same time I don't want to scare anyone away with something annoying. Tell me what you think!

Friday, January 28, 2011

5 video games writers should play

Now, I'm a video game geek. Unfortunately, video games are one of the things that get the most flak in entertainment media because a lot of people think they're vapid and childish. I won't deny it. This assumption is, at times, correct. However, like most stereotypes, it is not always correct.

In fact, I think we as writers can learn a lot from video games. Writers spend so much time absorbing elements of books and movies, but we rarely look at video games because of the aforementioned reasons. But video games can have all of the good things: dialogue, atmosphere, world-building, etc. Video games have just as much potential as books and movies.

As a writer, there are video games you should play. Lots of them. Far more than I'm listing here today. But if you're curious, here are five to get you started:

Beautiful, beautiful box art, yes?
Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves (PS3)
The story of Nathan Drake is basically the story of Indiana Jones with a modern twist and less of a religious focus. So even though it's well-executed, it's not particularly original. But that's not the reason you should play this game. You wanna play this game for the characters and the dialogue. The banter is witty, yet natural, and all of the characters stand on their own two feet. The original, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, is also pretty sweet.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3/XBOX 360)
Enslaved is loosely based on the Chinese legend Journey to the West and the characters in this game are awesome. But world-building baby, this one's about world building. Post-apocalyptic society in the ruins of New York City? Sign me up. Here we have foliage amongst skyscrapers, remnants of technology, crazy mechanical creatures that want to kill you, and the ever-looming threat of the "slavers." It's pretty, it's lush, and I wish there was a sequel.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS/Wii)
This game is basically Law & Order on crack. It's also awesome enough to have two sequels and two spin-offs, with a third on the way. Why play this game? To remember the simple things again. Phoenix Wright is surprisingly heartfelt and genuine. Your story doesn't have to be the Next Great Novel--it's okay to talk about siblings, murder, and long lost friends. The game is also hilarious and makes you use your brain to solve mysteries and such.

Bioshock (PS3/XBOX 360/PC)
Okay, I'll admit, I haven't actually played Bioshock, but I watched someone else play the entire game while doing homework. If you want to study up on setting a mood, then this Bioshock is for you. For one thing, the game takes place in a egoist, underwater, utopian city-gone-wrong named Rapture. It's also populated with insane people that want to kill you. And that sums up everything, because the entire atmosphere of the is gorgeous and horrifying at the same time.

The World Ends With You (DS)
One of the best things about The World Ends With You is the fact that you don't know what's going on half of the time. In a good way. Play this game for the story because it will not let you go. That and there's crazy plot twists. As writers we need to focus on what makes a story grab people and what makes an awesome climax. Another perk? The gameplay is the best I've ever seen in a Nintendo DS game.

So, what do you think? Video games: a waste of time, or a good investment? Have you ever played any of these games? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Books and e-books can coexist!

You've all heard about the great war of Pixels vs. Paper. There are numerous battles were people argue about the merits of e-books and physical books. There are lots of claims that e-books are going to ruin publishing and that the hardcover is going to die a horrid death. As someone with a Kindle and two six-foot-tall bookshelves, I dare to make the claim that books and e-books can live together happily.
Which is better?! Hardback? E-book?
If you ignore all of the drama around the publishing industry itself, the main issue with e-books is aesthetics. Sure, they're cheap and portable, but they're not pretty, they don't smell like paper, and they don't look impressive on your bookshelf.

Surprisingly, the same things can be said about paperbacks. They're cheap and portable. But they're not really pretty, they don't have the crisp paper thing that hardbacks have, and they don't look nearly as sexy on the shelf. Yet, no one is really convinced that paperbacks are a sign of the book apocalypse.

In fact, paperbacks and e-books are so similar that I agree with Eric over at Pimp My Novel. E-books aren't going to kill hardcovers. Instead they're going to replace the mass market paperback.

And is that really a problem?

Many of you are screaming, "Yes! Yes! of course it is! Yes!"

For me, not so much actually. I find that the things I buy in paperback are usually the things I'm less attached to, and it's been the same for e-books. I demand that my epic, multi-part sci-fi fantasies to be in hardcover, but that's about it. For example, I bought hardbacks of The Hunger Games Trilogy even after reading them on my Kindle.

I guess I just want everyone to realize that owning an e-reader isn't going to suddenly convince you to buy everything in e-book format. Maybe you want physical books, and that's perfectly fine. People just seem to forget that there are options and you can have all of them. Hardcovers and e-books live together in my household and it's working well.

If you're curious about e-books, go check out the e-reader displays at Best Buy or Staples. Or maybe look into the free Kindle Reading App, since it's not like you need an actual e-reader to read e-books.

What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Understand what I'm trying to say, or still think e-books are devil spawn? Tell me in the comments. I want to know.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A particularly stylish post (UPDATED!)

According to the lovely Brenna over at Writing and Reading, I'm apparently awesome. Or well, stylish at least. Thanks so much! Anyway, check it:
Pretty nifty, yeah?
As per being nominated, now I have to do stuff. Sigh.
  1. Thank and link to the peep that nominated me.
  2. Share seven things about myself.
  3. Award some other cool bloggerly people.
  4. Contact said bloggerly people and tell them that they're awesome.
So. Seven things about me.
  1. I am a cat person. They're smart, they're fluffy, and they can take care of themselves.
  2. Breakfast is my favorite meal and eggs are my favorite food. I love them in all forms except scrambled.
  3. I'm a video game geek. I own a Playstation 3, Nintendo DSi, Playstation 2, Nintendo 64, Gameboy Color, and a Super Nintendo. On top of that, I have semi-regular access to an XBox 360 and a Wii.
  4. I am one half of a Pictionary god.
  5. The thing that really got me writing was Sailor Moon. There will probably be a post on this. I'm not sure why there isn't already.
  6. At one point in my life I was going to study astrophysics. Now my science of choice is marine biology.
  7. I tell people to "suck it up" a lot. Understandably I do not have the best bedside manner. Good thing I'm not a doctor . . . oh you just got out of surgery? Suck it up.
Phew, now that's enough about me. Now for a pair of cool bloggerly ladies that deserve to be called stylish:
  1. Kirstin over at SqueezeBoxPharm because she tells entertaining life stories, but doesn't update nearly enough. Maybe being called stylish will be encouraging.
  2. Kate, or rather, The Queen of Creativity. It's an art journaling blog, but the focus is on creativity in general. Kate is also my mother, and families should shamelessly promote each other.
Normal writerly post back up on Wednesday! Look forward to a titillating post on the joys and wonders of hardbacks, paperbacks, and e-books. And because today's post was lacking in the entertainment, a video for all of you:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Grammar will make everything better

I'm a bit of a grammar freak. I'm not to the point of grammar nazism, however. I understand how things work, but I could never sit down and starting listing off the comma rules. Yet, one of my biggest writerly pet peeves is when people start arguing that grammar isn't important in a first draft.

I've heard all of the excuses: Grammar is the reason we have editors. I'm focusing on the story, not the writing. First drafts are supposed to be bad.

These are some of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. There is no good reason for your grammar to suck. In fact, the pros of good grammar far outweigh the cons.

For one thing, good grammar allows your readers to actually understand what you're trying to say. That's because grammar exists to clarify things. Quotes mark dialogue, commas mark breaks in the sentences, and question marks are for questions. If your manuscript is lacking punctuation, your poor beta readers are going to end up crying themselves to sleep because nothing will make sense.

Your beta readers will also be crying over the fact that you've left them so much more work. Getting grammar right in the first draft of your manuscript will save countless hours of time. I know, skipping a few quotation marks seems like a minor thing, but if you're failing to punctuate any sentence correctly, then that starts to add up. Your line edits will give readers nightmares.

Not only will your manuscript be cleaner with good grammar, but you're writing will be better. This is because if you don't understand grammar, you can't abuse it. Know the rules to break them, right? Professional writers use sentence fragments for dramatic punch and consciously drop grammar rules in order to keep a voice. It's impossible to do this well if you don't understand how and why you're breaking the rules.

Knowing and using grammar will also make you look better. I've worked as a copyeditor and we're never impressed with people that don't know how to work their words. If your profession is writing, then grammar is one of your tools and you should know how to use it. Otherwise you don't look serious and you definitely don't look professional.

Proper grammar can do so much for you. Your beta readers will be happier, your time will be saved, your writing will improve, and you'll actually look like you know what you're doing. The only con to understanding grammar is that doing so takes time and effort.

But really, don't worry! Grammar isn't scary, and once you get the hand of things, it gets easier. No one is expecting you to be perfect, we just want you to try. Take a visit to the Grammar Girl or pick up a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Both are good resources

What about you? Are you a grammar nazi, or are you trying to pretend it doesn't exist? Tell me in the comments! I promise I won't hate you either way!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Research and the doom flowers

One of the things I love about writing is research and how ridiculous it can be. I'm a spur-of-the-moment researcher. One minute I'll be writing an interrogation scene and the next minute I'm googling burrowing frogs because my character needs a good insult! Yes, burrowing frogs = good insult.

Anyway, for my current WIP I've been looking up flowers. Flower symbolism has always kind of fascinated me and thus, it's a big deal in the world of my WIP. Subsequently I have a folder in my Scrivener document that looks like this:
Flowers, flowers everywhere! Flowers, flowers in your hair!
Darling, isn't it?  Unfortunately flower research has a dark side. Yes, you heard me right. A dark side. How is this possible, you ask. Flowers are pretty and fresh and lovely and grow in meadows! Well, let me tell you a story.

Last December a dear friend of mine got married. Now, there are thousands of different flowers and my story mentions seventeen of them, so the chance of me knowing anything about wedding flower was slim. Especially since I can't recall most of the meanings on command.

Then the wedding flowers turned out to be orange lilies, I couldn't help but giggle to myself. They're gorgeous, but didn't anyone know? Orange lilies mean hatred!

The wedding went off without a hitch. The bride was gorgeous and the groom couldn't stop grinning like a lunatic. The munchies were delicious and the cake was a thing of dreams. The happy couple is still doing well, despite parading around with orange lilies during their wedding. I have no doubts that they'll keep doing fine.

So, has your research ever taken a turn for the ridiculous? What strange things have you learned from your research and have those things ever come to haunt you? And what about orange lilies--gorgeous or portent of doom?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writerly Tools: Goodreads

So this week we're talking about a website instead of a computer program, and the website in question is Goodreads.

I know a lot of you are groaning now. Goodreads is for readers and this is supposed to be a section about writerly tools. Not readerly tools.

Yet, one of the easiest ways to improve upon your craft is to read. When you pick up a book all you need to do is pay attention to what the author does. How does he form a sentence? What hints of foreshadowing does he lay early in the story? How does he show instead of tell. There's so much to learn from published authors that you can't get unless you're reading.

Besides, I understand. In fact, I resisted signing up for Goodreads for month, and when I finally did, nothing seemed very special. Just another website. But after a few weeks of tentative messing around, I'm slowly getting a little obsessed. So let me give you five reasons why Goodreads isn't as terrible as you might imagine:
  1. Goodreads organizes books
    If you're neurotic like me, the idea that you can digitally make book lists is amazing. I particularly love the "to-read" shelf because everything I've been meaning to read is there and organized beautifully. Not only that, but inputting information allows you to see how many books or pages you've read in the past year!
  2. Goodreads is a good time waster
    Because sometimes we need to waste time. At least wasting time looking at books is better than surfing articles on Wikipedia or StumbleUpon, right? It is. There are dozens of lists on Goodreads cultivating books, and there's no way you can spend some time on that sight and not find something that looks interesting.
  3. Goodreads' reviews are written by people that care
    Yes, there are those people that give five stars to every book they read to be nice. There also those people who give five stars to everything by a certain author, whether the book has even been written or not. But you will not see Amazon reviews on Goodreads. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones that complain about customer service or slow shipping and have nothing to do with the book. These reviewers actually care to some extent, and that's awesome.
  4. Goodreads makes it easy to find books
    There are times that I read a short story and then want to read something by that author. Fortunately, Goodreads links everything together in an easy-to-use interface that makes finding books about a thousand easier than combing Amazon.
  5. Goodreads is a social network
    I know, I know. You already knew that. But Goodreads' status as a social network is one of the things that makes it fun. Because it's more specified than Facebook will ever be, you will always be able to find a fellow reader that likes the same things as you do. There are lists of recommendations, there are quizzes to do, and there are famous people to stalk--all of which are fun, social networking things.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Keep the spoilers underwraps

A book I've been anticipating recently came out. Unfortunately I was exposed to a giant spoiler about the ending, which irritates me beyond belief.

Now when I say "spoiler," I'm not talking about something obvious. I mean, everyone knows that in a romantic comedy the couple is going to get together by the end. No. I'm talking about the big spoilers. The "Luke, I am your father" spoilers. The spoilers that convince you to re-read the book so you can see all of the hints that you missed the first time.

I hate spoilers. The thing is, I'm kind of a plot whore--I lose the will to go on if I know how things end. I really don't understand why you would want to read the last page of a book before even starting it. Sad thing is, I'm sure that I'm not the only one.

I'm telling you guys this because I want you to realize that spoilers can ruin a book. Or a movie, or a video game, or anything else. Spoilers ruin things.

There are a bunch of authors out there that are so gracious about this. Even if their book came out months or years ago, they still censor their thoughts and words. Sure, this might have to do with the fact that they want you to buy their book and read it, but everyone else should be responsible too.

Just because you're not the author doesn't mean you shouldn't treat their works with respect. Reviews without spoiler warnings and obnoxious comments on Twitter aren't helping anyone. In fact, they're probably hurting your chances at connecting with people.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, be careful. Be considerate. Remember that not everyone has read the book or seen the movie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pay attention to the dead llama

I have a confession: when horrible things are happening to me, I consciously tell myself to pay attention to every detail so I can write about it later. This habit is not so awesome. It usually happens during really awkward moments: like in the middle of an argument with my boyfriend or when I'm bleeding into the dishwater after slicing my hand open with a Slap Chop.

An example, you demand? Okay. But I'm warning you now squeamish people.

For context, this story takes place a few years ago when I was home for the summer and my parents had ditched me for Yellowstone National Park. They're animal-watching people, so they do that. Anyway, we used to have a llama. His name was Astro and he looked like a cuter, fluffier version of the llama from Napoleon Dynamite.

While my parents were gone, Astro the llama decided to lay down and die. I didn't notice this because when I went to feed and water our sheep, Astro looked like he was busy taking a nap instead of being dead. Two days later my parents returned, and as you can imagine, it is unacceptable to leave dead llamas decomposing in the pasture. Something had to be done.

Now instead of asking a neighbor to scoop Astro up with a tractor, my father decided that we were fine with rope and the flatbed trailer. Important fact: an average llama weighs somewhere between 250-450 pounds. And Astro had been decomposing for two days.

Let's sum this up simply: I have never experienced anything that horrifying since. But, if I ever write a zombie story, moving Astro the llama onto the flatbed trailer will be the best research I can ever do. Why? Because I know things about maggots and rotting flesh and the slime that oozes from dead bodies. I could go into great detail about this. But I'm not going to, because it's gross.

Paying attention to details like this is important to being a writer though. I mean, how can you properly describe something even as simple as wood if you've never really paid attention to it? So next time something horrible is happening to you, focus. Things like dead llamas don't come by everyday, and you can never have too much experience on the matter.

So does anyone else do this? Or are your thoughts a little more removed from the event? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Writerly Tools: Evernote

Out of all the programs I've recommended to people, the Evernote Corporation's gorgeous notebook application, Evernote, is probably the winner.

Why? Because those recommendees have all loved it. Evernote is not limited to one use. Anyone that wants to organize information on their computer, for free none-the-less, can get into Evernote. I personally use it for organizing recipes, craft patterns, and inspirational images for writing.

Of course, it took me a little while to warm up to Evernote. There are, after all, many alternatives. And, frankly, for anyone who's never used a note-taking program on their computer, Evernote sounds a bit boring. But trust me, awesome sauce lurks here. If you need a program to organize your ideas, to make outlines in, and just to keep your writing brain in check, Evernote is for you. So here we go, five reasons why Evernote is my note-taking program of choice:
  1. Evernote is like a virtual binder
    Before the days of note-taking programs, I kept tidbits of information in txt files stored away in nested folders. It was messy, it was convoluted, and there was really no easy way to look at everything. In Evernote information is organized into "notebooks" that are as easy to navigate as real life notebooks. What's really great is you can customize them to your preferences by nesting notebooks or adding tags to different notes.
  2. Evernote is accessible everywhere
    If a file is saved in a synced notebook, then you can get ahold of it anywhere as long as internet is involved. Notes are available in a web browser, on the software clients for Mac and PC, or in the apps designed for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android. It's awesome if you need to look something up, but don't have your computer around. The syncing also means that as long as your notebook is synced to the web, you never have to worry about backups.
  3. Evernote makes saving notes easy
    Putting data into Evernote is s simple as dragging and dropping a file from your desktop into the notebook you want. However, if you're like me and want to save clips off the web, there's options for you too. Most browsers have an Evernote extension that makes copying information to your notebook as easy as highlighting something and pressing a button.
  4. Evernote is unlimited
    There are two versions of Evernote: free and paid. In the free version you're limited to 60MB of data (amongst a few other things) for every 30 day period, but for most people that should be enough. What's really cool, however, is that there is no limit to how much data you use in your lifetime of using the program.
  5. Evernote has loads of hidden goodiesIf you want more than the Evernote basics, you can explore the Evernote Trunk to spice things up. From the ability to email yourself notes to finding restaurants in Japan, The Trunk has everything you could possibly want to enhance your experience. Not only that, but the trunk is home to dozens of programs and computer equipment that are specifically designed for compatibility with Evernote.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Power Rangers can save your plot

Let me start by saying that I've had a long time affair with the Power Rangers. You know, the original ones. The Mighty Morphin' ones. These ones:
These guys are the epitome of cool and you all know it's true
If there is one way to gauge the love a young child has for something like a tv show, it's how early that child will get up to watch said tv show. I'm talking six in the morning--hours before school starts. But that's not all. I have a hearty collection of Power Ranger paraphernalia including action figures, the video game on Super Nintendo, and the remnants of my first grade Yellow Ranger Halloween costume. Simply put, I loved the Power Rangers.

In the last week I've re-watched the first five episodes of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. And holy crap are they terrible. Hilarious. But terrible. Yet, I could probably sit down and watch the rest of the episodes despite how bad they are.

Which begs the question: What makes bad things so good?

You could argue that, in this case, it's nostalgia. But at the same time, I really love watching the Sci-Fi Original Movies on Saturday. There was one called Mansquito, which should explain everything. Another example are the hoards of people who binge on Lifetime and Hallmark Original Movies. There are less mutant insects attacking people, but those movies are just as bad as the Sci-Fi ones. It's not a stretch to argue that people love bad movies.

Being a writer, I can only come to one conclusion: the plots are well-rounded. You're all moving your cursors to close the window, but hold on, hear me out!

As long as a story plays out to the fullest, people put up with a surprising amount of crap. Bad movies consistently do things that books sometimes fail at. Loose ends are always tied up, the villain is defeated, morals are reaffirmed, and the hero always gets the girl. Trust me, if these movies had unsatisfactory endings, no one would watch them.

When we write, it's easy to forget a plot sometimes. The only thing these bad movies have is a plot. So next time you're puttering around with your manuscript and you realize that nothing's really happening, go watch a bad movie. Take note of the story arc. It won't hurt! If nothing else, you'll get a good laugh in. Besides, I have faith in your ability to keep the quality of your manuscript, but to draw inspiration from the truly bad.

What bad movies do you love? Is there anything you can't stay away from, despite painful dialogue and questionable acting?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Your manuscript is a dragon scarf

Knitting is hard. Just throwing that out there. It's deceiving too.

You see that pattern and it just looks cool and who doesn't want a dragon scarf?! Maybe you don't know how to knit, but according to your sources, this is actually a good pattern to start with. Lots of basic stitches. Screw potholders! You will have a dragon around you neck. This scarf will be EPIC.

The first rows go good, you're in the zone. This seems easier than expected! You're a prodigy--a god of knitting. This doesn't last long. Suddenly you're dropping stitches and you don't know why. For some reason, your brain went away and you purled that entire row when you were supposed to knit halfway through! The potholder is starting to look better. You actually do need potholders. Maybe if you just worked on a potholder for a while . . .


Let's imagine for a minute that the dragon scarf is my manuscript and that the potholder is my shiny new idea.

Writers like to jump around between story ideas. We can't help it. Writing can suck, and unlike a dragon scarf, there's no picture of the finished project to push us forward. We have to stitch words together with the hope that maybe, like the scarf, our story will be EPIC in the end.

But so many people stop halfway through. I'm guilty of it, are you? When things get hard, it's easy to back down. But trust me, you shouldn't. A finished scarf, even with dropped stitches and an inconsistent gauge, is always better than a project stowed away for "later." So plug away, suffer and force yourself to work, because it will always be worth it in the end.

Have you ever knit anything other than words? Are there unfinished manuscripts hiding in notebooks under your bed?

In case you're wondering, here's my dragon scarf so far:

Can you see it? There's a dragon hiding in there!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Writerly Tools: Scrivener

If you've been to a writing blog, you've probably heard about Literature and Latte's Scrivener. Probably because it's awesome. Also probably because you can write anything in it: novels, essays, screenplays, etc. It's an extremely versatile program. But if you haven't, then I pray this post convinces you to check it out.

Anyway, a week ago my Scrivener 2 trial ran out. Being poor, I was limited in my capability to just go buy it. Being an irrational person, I panicked.

How could I write without Scrivener?! Scrivener was my lifeblood! All of my projects were perfect in Scrivener! I'd been using it for over and year, and the recent upgrade to version 2 was like candy raining from the sky! RAINING FROM THE SKY. How could I ever go back to a simple word processor?

Now, I've raved about Scrivener to people before. So have a bunch of other people. We're probably boring after a while. But I don't think I realized how much Scrivener's changed my writing process, for the better, until that panic set it. When it comes to how I think, to how I organize things, Scrivener really does make a difference.

Twenty-four hours later the world took pity on me. I now have my shiny program back. But that memory of panic lives on. So, let me tell you guys five of the reasons why I couldn't live without Scrivener:
  1. Scrivener can break up text
    I've spent most of my writing life working with Microsoft Word and that means I've dealt with long documents. The only way to get away from all that text is to create multiple documents for different chapters. With Scrivener, you can split the text and have it all together and accessible at one time. This is great if you don't want to be distracted by other parts of your manuscript
  2. Scrivener has a scratch pad
    The scratch pad is a notepad function embedded in Scrivener. It's also the perfect place to store the kind of things that don't have a home yet (ideas, loose scenes, etc). The best part is that, as long as Scrivener is open, you can open the scratch pad at any time with the systemwide shortcut: Shift+Command+Enter
  3. Scrivener links things together
    Outlines are best when they're flexible, but that can be difficult when your outline is in one document and your story in another. The idea of Scrivener is to work in pieces, and the program helpfully attaches information to those pieces. Thus, outlines, notecards, and chapters are always up-to-date. If you're like me, this will definitely cut back on sessions of neurotic data-updating.
  4. Scrivener holds research
    If you need to save anything, be it a picture or an audio file, or even an entire webpage, you can put it in Scrivener. Everything can be at your fingertips, which is great when the internet is down or you need that jolt of inspiration. Personally,  I like to store reference images for things like flowers.
  5. Scrivener lets you do whatever you want
    There are a lot of writing programs out there, and many of them involve entering text into boxes. Entering text into boxes is stifling and formulaic. Scrivener, on the other hand, doesn't care if you want to skips steps or use it for bouncing ideas around. Everything is customizable for your unique needs. If you want, you can even change the look of the icons.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A (pathetic) beginning

I kind of hate blogging.

Now hold on. Before you all run away, let's go into story mode for a moment.

Once, a long time ago I had a blog. A successful one on livejournal when blogging first became a big thing. I was in junior high at the time and talked about pithy things like my horrible parents, writing projects, and whatever I was obsessing about at the time. As a geek, this was often video games and sci-fi shows.

This went on for a long time, but then I went to college, and the blogging switch turned off. My interests were changing, I was meeting new people, and forging relationships on the internet seemed to take so much effort. Being on the computer felt a little like performing.

I missed it though. I tried to start blogging again. Five separate times to varying levels of success. And when I say "varying levels of success," what I really mean is that I fail at life.

And so this blog is a New Year Resolution.

I never make resolutions, so maybe this actually means something. I'm going to keep pretending that for a while. As a young writer, everyone suggests that I start a blog, so it seems like I have a decent reason now. Yeah. Right. The enthusiasm is dripping from your screens, isn't it? Hopefully you'll stick around for the next post.

. . . wish me luck?