Prior to the ‘off’, which for me is in just over six hours, and because I’m getting antsy – as I really have no idea what I’m going to write – I thought I’d post about the various things that help make the next month passably passable. I’m writing on a PC.
No matter how you’re going to novel (a terrific verb) – be in pen and paper, typewriter, computer, or dictating (for those with a copy typist) – you need a space to do it. The above is mine, which is a wide corridor on the top floor. Occasionally I get interrupted by holler from below, or a cat demanding stroking, or someone wanting a bath. But mostly I’m on my own, which is good for thought. However, there is a downside: it’s easy to fritter. By that I mean the lure of the internet, or catching a quick snooze which ends up being anything but quick. Still, It’s better than retiring to the car – which I’ve done in past years – and certainly better than trying to write in a recording studio.
The next problem is software. There’s a lot of it out there, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles. What you really want during NaNo is wordage, and that’s most easily achieved with a simple word processor. You don’t need a gazzillion fonts, or a corkboard, or a complicated file structure. You need to write. However, once NaNo is over and you come to re-write and edit, then it is good to have a corkboard you can re-arrange scenes on, and a file structure that’s easily tweaked without a major kerfuffle. Scrivener offers all this. It’s not expensive, and, if you get to 50,000 words and ‘win’, you get 50% off.
The wizards at Literature and Latte (the makers of Scrivener) have recently come up with another tool so useful I’m surprised it hasn’t caused a revolution. Scapple is … Oh, I’ll let them tell you:
Scapple is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does.
At $14.99 Scapple is ridiculously cheap and I’d use it NaNo or not.
If you fancy a more traditional mind-mapping program the open-source Freeplane is very good.
And then there is timeline. Every tale has a timeline and story arcs. Aeon Timeline lets you create a complete timeline (BC-AD or fantasy) for your story including multiple arcs, multiple characters, multiple locations, etc. It then allows you to zoom in and see what’s happening at every moment during your story. It sounds complicated and, to be honest, I haven’t entirely got my head around it. However, I think that once I have grasped it fully it will be invaluable … probably. It’s $40, and there’s 40% off if you’re a NaNo winner.
YWriter 5 was created by novelist Simon Haynes to help him write. Besides being a published author – the Hal Spacejock series – Simon is a a programmer. YWriter is a very good solution to a lot of the problems you come across writing a novel. But, as with Scrivener, there is a learning curve. It’s entirely free.
Page Four. I’ve been using it for ages. It’s like a paired down scrivener though it’s as expensive.
Writer’s Cafe is a suite of programs designed to help you write. I’m not entirely convinced. $40
Liquid Story Binder is another product that some love. I’ve never got on with it. During NaNo it’s 50% off and costs $22.98.
Q10 is a beautifully simple word processor that is both forever free and perfect for NaNo. It’s small, fast and makes concentrating on writing a breeze. You can also run it from a USB stick, so it’s perfectly portable.
Personally, I’m going to use Scrivener (without its bells and whistles), and Scapple (utterly brilliant). I’m also going to carry a copy of my novel along with Q10 on a USB stick as a ‘just in case.’
All of the paid software has a demo version available that lasts past the end of November and into December. What you use is obviously a personal choice, but take it from one who knows. Write during November; put the result away for at least a few weeks without reading it and then examine, tweak and organise, re-write and edit it later.
All the very best to those of you embarking on the NaNoWriMo express. Have a great time and enjoy it!
I wasn’t. I really wasn’t going to do it. Yet when push comes to shove NaNoWriMo is not only a huge amount of fun, but it’s quite cathartic too. And cathartic I could do with.
‘Yeah, thirty days of bubbling hysteria. How can that be cathartic?’ I hear you ask. Well, I can’t claim to have a definitive answer. But to me, coming out of it on December 1st with 50,000 plus words in hand … is as peachy as winning the lottery. Almost. 😉
If you’ve always thought there was a book in you that ‘one day’ you’d get around to writing, then DO IT! It’s not too late to sign up.
I’ve been doing NaNO since 2006, and whilst it’s true that some years have been better than others, I’ve managed to ‘win’ it more times than I’ve failed. And even when I’ve failed I’ve still come away with a worthwhile experience. I only wish I lived in San Francisco, where they have a core of lunes who get together on a regular basis throughout the month. Then there’s the ‘Night of Writing Dangerously‘, a write-a-thon I’d give my eye tooth to attend. Ah well, a garret in St Leonards will just have to do.
What I think I’ll do is post what I write, warts and all. HERE
Although I’ve been blogging for a while I don’t seem to have got the point, yet.
To date this hasn’t really been a blog; it’s more a collection of musings and bits and pieces I’ve come across. It’s higgledy-piggledy in the extreme, and though that’s not a bad thing for a personal – slip it under the mattress – journal, it’s pointless as far as a public blog goes. People want surety from a blog: that what is said will amuse, or instruct, or have gravitas, or, at the very least, have a point. Congenerous (belonging to the same genus – as all of us do) doesn’t yet have a point. Why? Because it’s too higgledy-piggledy: like my mind, apparently.
So, rule number one should be: have a point. Don’t be seduced by everything that’s shiny – unless of course that is your point. Confused? Yep. me too.
Rule number two: Categories are not tags! This is something I’ve been aware of for a while, now, but to begin with I really wasn’t sure. I have far, far too many categories and at this stage it’s going to be a royal pain to remove them. But remove them I must. Use as many tags as you like, but the fewer categories the better. At present I have thirty, and a bunch of sub categories. I should have used tags but I didn’t know I should have used tags – daft. It’s no wonder I’m so confused!
Rule three should really be rule one, and is obvious: don’t plagiarize: EVER! You wouldn’t like it if your writing appeared under someone else’s name in their blog, would you? No, you jolly well wouldn’t. Quoting attributed snippets within quotation marks is fine, but never claim it’s yours.
Rule four: take photos of every interesting thing you see as you never know when one will inspire an idea for a blog. Most of us have phones with cameras and you can get great free software for tweaking your snaps (I use Paint.net and Gimp).
I’m sure – as eggs are eggs – that there are a lot more rules of thumb to bear in mind, though at present I can’t think of any. Finally, you really should read Lynne Truss’ book on punctuation: ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves.’
It’s available in all good bookshops and on Amazon and Kindle, though I think it’s best to get the paperback as mine came with a punctuation repair kit. 🙂
Oh, and Croit says hello. He’s a very happy chappy as his cousin is in, and on the cover of, the book.
I was on my way back from the shops last week when I stumbled across a box on the pavement outside a closed charity shop. It said: ‘Free – Help Yourself.’ I had to wait my turn as a woman with a shopping trolley had her head in there. Still, she left a few trinkets of which my panda was one. I say ‘my panda’, but he’s really a very self aware, shy, stoic beast. We have yet to become firm friends. Let me introduce you to Croit.
Now, it might seem daft to you to have a panda as a talisman, and I’m sure most would rather have a 24 carat gold thingummyjig. But each to his own, eh? I too am lost at the bottom of a writerly cardboard box, and I’ve come to the conclusion that having Croit as a talisman is a good thing – at least, it can’t hurt. That he’s a panda is neither here nor there, though I won’t tell Croit that.
Remarkably, on the very same day I found Croit in the charity shop ‘free’ box I made the determination that I wouldn’t write a jot unless I was going to submit it for publication. Of course, this blog doesn’t count. This blog is my mind’s way of venting stuff. Some occasional good stuff, I hope, but stuff nonetheless. Stories, short or otherwise, are now for submission. That said, seeing as I’ve already got more than thirty shorts under my belt some of those will be appearing here. Pleiades is one.
As I write it’s numbers three and four that are most on my mind, which is a good thing as I have the attention span of a… oh! Look! Shiny thing!
There comes a time when one needs a bit of help to clarify thought, and hone in on what’s important. The course: How To Think Sideways (HTTS), might just be the key that sets my aberrant writer’s brain back on the tracks… so to speak. Sheesh. Of course Croit’s going to help, though he hasn’t actually agreed yet.
Wish me luck! I know Croit does… don’t you mate? Hmm?
I was trudging to the shop a couple of days ago when I espied this street sign – which was odd, as I’ve walked the same way to the shop many times and the sign isn’t new. Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to live in Maudlin Court. A small pied-à-terre in Goldmine Alley would be super, but a gaff in Maudlin Court, no.
Then I thought about other places I wouldn’t desperately like to live. Depression Way in Grayling, Michigan, didn’t sound like a barrel of laughs – even though it’s just down the road from Gaylord. Depression Hollow in Smethport, Pasadena, didn’t float my boat, either….
It was lucky I had other things to do at this point in the inquiry, otherwise I’d need a good few hours with the rather apt blue light.
I shan’t batter myself, stand in the corner, sit on the naughty step, or curse my ineptitude and bone idleness. I shall just sniff and say “Meh. Next year, then.” After all, it’s not as if I haven’t ‘made it’ before. I have: several times. I’ve been taking part since 2006 when half of you weren’t even born … so there! 😉
In other news … I joined a writer’s site called Scribophile.com which, though seemingly useful in that it offers peer critique, has a very odd – and expensive – paid version that doesn’t really offer enough to warrant the $9 a month cost. That’s my view, though maybe I’m missing something.
Duotrope.com are going to start charging for their service (for writers searching for publishers) as of the 1st January 2013. I’m miffed, because I’ve only just started using it. However, if it’s as good as I think it is then $5 a month is well worth paying.
There is so much available for free on-line that it is a shock when you have to pay for something – especially when you’re brassic. I gave a little to Wikipedia last week and felt really good about it. That fact that I use the Wikipedia site everyday, and that it is my favoured go-to for info site on the net, didn’t cross my mind. Google is the same: I uses their services shamelessly, yet they’re still ‘apparently’ free. Lucky old us!
Percy, our wonderful black cat, isn’t very well. He seems to have lost his sight and is drinking a lot of water. So it’s off to the Vet tomorrow morning which won’t make him happy – poor chap. It’s odd when you consider how much we love him, and yet in some parts of the world they’d happily have him for dinner. Humans are peculiar creatures.
Where was I? Oh yes, heat and water. Writing the great novel was slid onto a back burner while there was suffering. Suffering, I tell you!
Sunday came and went with those visiting going home to their nice warm gaffs and their turn the tap hot water whilst we … well, I’ve mentioned suffering, haven’t I. To add salt and irony to the wounds of pong and shivers on Sunday night there was an advert on TV – the first time I’d ever seen it – for Worcester Boilers. An advert that … oh, watch it yourselves, do 🙂
Thank Worcester for that? I pondered the question, weeping into my soup, and decided to hold off on the cheery affirmation and thank you presents.
And then (yes, I know I shouldn’t start a sentence – and especially a paragraph – with ‘and’) came Monday morning. The same repair chap arrived along with the head honcho. There was a lot of muttering and finally the big dude called the manufacturers. More muttering and reading of serial numbers, then a request for my phone number. Odd, I thought.
“Why do you want my phone number?”
“So the repair man can call before he arrives tomorrow,” Head Honcho said, his expression indicating I must be daft.
“Umm, not today? You said it was only a fan.”
“It is, but they don’t have them in stock and they won’t arrive until tomorrow anyway. Besides, it’s under warranty.”
“Ah,” I said, “so when will he arrive?”
“Sometime between eight and five.”
“What great service!” I said. He smiled.
Today The Worcester Man arrived! A pleasantly pleasant chap who was genuinely amazed the fan had broken. So all’s well that ends well, as William S once said. I’m clean, washing up is a pleasure (that maybe a little fib), and all is roses in the hot water and radiator department. I pray it won’t ever, EVER, break down again.
I’m back writing, too! It’s so much easier when you don’t have to keep blowing on your fingers to keep them warm.
The caveat, that crept up on me during this debacle, is that I feel a tad guilty. Guilty that with the number of people on the planet who don’t have clean water to drink I have the temerity to complain about mine being cold. Guilty that I have a warm house to live in when there are people freezing on the streets. Guilt isn’t a good emotion, but pragmatically what can I do? Giving to charity assuages the guilt to a certain extent, but … but? Maybe the subject is best dealt with post NaNoWriMo and once I’ve finished my fantasy novel.
Sincere thanks to all those who have ‘liked’ my posts. I’ve visited some of your sites, but I’ll be dropping in on all of you, sooner or later. 🙂
Onwards and upwards! NaNo day 13 is far from over (almost four hours left), so I must buckle down and catch up.
Yesterday, the 9th, we had a brand new boiler fitted. It was truly wonderful to be warm and wallow in a hot bath!
Today, the 10th, the boiler broke down: it’s blue and steady ‘hi, I’m ready to keep you warm and clean, you wonderful, deserving human, you‘ light started flashing in panic and … nothing. I read the manual whose suggestion – after pages of intimate boiler speak and complex flow charts – was ‘call repair man soonest.’ Remarkably, seeing as it was Saturday, the repair man came. Overjoyed? I’ll say I was!
I moved the microwave and all the other bits from the counter top so he could remove the boiler’s cover.
Ten minutes, and lots of prodding with his multimeter, later:
“The fan’s broken,” he said.
“But it’s brand new!”
The repair man shrugged.
“I assume you don’t have a fan on your van?” I said.
“No. Monday’s the soonest,” he said, as he packed up and quietly left, leaving me sobbing in the kitchen.
As to NaNo: it progresses as I slowly get older … and now, inevitably, smellier. If I had a old tin bathtub I could put it in the kitchen and fill it from a kettle on the range. I could scrub my back with Lye soap, drink moonshine, dry myself in front of the fire and … nope. I’m too soft. Besides, there isn’t a range or a fireplace, and I’d end up in A&E.
Roll on day 12, a new fan and a working boiler, and breaking the 20,000 words barrier. 🙂