Personal Update: moving!

7 Sep

I’m moving!

No, not the blog. You will always be able to find me here. But I’m moving to a new place this week. No, I’m not using it as an excuse for not updating my little connection to the outside world; rather, I have a fun story attached to this move, and I’d like to share it.

We’ve lived in our current house for a little over two years now. Renting — it’s the only way to go in San Francisco, especially in my industry. Artists don’t usually stick around a company for too long, at least in my field. Now, the house we rent is one of those pretty-on-the-outside sort of places. So when it came time for our landlady to sell the poor thing, we shrugged it off and decided it was time to move on, anyway.

Unfortunately, the date we were given to be out of the place sent us into a mini-panic.

After a fruitless hunt for other houses, and a pointless search for affordable apartments, we settled on a complex we knew and liked.

Not loved, but liked.

It was never my intention to return to this community after we left it, but circumstances led us there.

The two and a half years spent at the complex in question bristled with a mix of memories, some horrible and some amusing. I’m a firm believer that emotions are charged with energy, and that one must be careful with what kind of energy they leak into the world; I was worried that the emotions from our previous experience would come back to plague us should we return.

So imagine my dread when I discovered the apartment they would be showing us was the very one we once resided in.

That’s right.

They showed us our own apartment.

Talk about surreal! We stepped into the place and, despite the new carpets, paint, and overall lack of our old roommates’ items, it was as if we hadn’t ever left. We gravitated toward our old rooms, the memories of our time there tangling through our insides and dragging us  into the empty places we once crammed our junk in. I worried I’d be met with the ghosts of my frustrations I left behind when I moved from the apartment years ago, but no attack came.

In fact, I felt a trickle of excitement go through me. This is my chance to right my experiences there, to make a nest of good feelings and to one day part with the apartment again on good terms. I discussed with my roommates–one having lived there with me before, the other having been a frequent guest at that time–and we decided it was best to move back in. (That, and the only other apartment available is usually bombarded with pigeons from what I can remember, and we weren’t too fond of the idea. Pigeon singing is worse than my own, and just as annoying.)

So, yeah. We’re moving in to the same exact apartment we lived in during college. My coworkers see this as moving backwards, but I see it as a step forward in my story. That, and it’s a funny story to tell people!

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Wroodles, Scrivener, and the Macbook Air.

2 Sep

Hey fellow Writers!

First off, another apology. My main machine is busted and I had to wait for my secondary machine to ship. On top of that, I had guests over, discovered we will have to move places some time this month, and I simply have not been keeping up with my wroodles.

Wroodles? What, you don’t know this awesome term that I just now came up with? Wroodles is to Writing as Doodles is to Drawing. Spread the word! Tell your friends!

So, an update on how Project Infinite is going.

It hasn’t.

Some of you know that I decided to rework the manuscript, because the direction I was going was wrong. Sometimes writing by the seat of your pants is like finding your way through a maze. When you hit a block, you need to backtrack to find where you went wrong, and I went back quite a ways.

Don’t start your novel over. Just finish it and figure out what you’d like to fix, then go back and rewrite what you must. Do as I say, not as I do!

That being said, I’ve broken other rules…

Like the Bubble rule. Only opposite. I found that I simply cannot write at my house.I just… can’t. I can write at work, I can write in a cafe, I can write anywhere but at home. One reason is my house is full of distractions, like Netflix and the internet; the other is that I’m just so darn popular with my roommates that they must talk to me whenever they feel the urge.

Aside from my failure to continue on the Writer’s Path this summer, I have taken the steps I feel are necessary to improve my writing. I’ve been wroodling with friends, restructuring ProjInfinite, and did I mention I bought a secondary machine? That’s right, I broke down and dropped dollars on the Macbook Air.

The Macbook Air has so far proven to be a faithful, hassle-free companion to this writer. I’m a PC user by default–my main machine is Windows 7, and is a beautiful piece of equipment. But I use a Mac at work, and when my PC broke, I relied on the Macbook Pro to get by. I enjoyed the distraction-free OS and decided a Macbook Air would be a lovely secondary machine. I’ve been saving for a secondary machine for a few months at this point, something ultraportable with a full size keyboard, and the Macbook Air fit in perfectly with my requirements.

I also purchased Scrivener. Scrivener is, quite possibly, the only word processor I will ever use again. It’s easy to use–it took me less than an hour to setup a novel, import my writing, and assign a few necessary shortcuts the program seemed to be lacking. You have the ability to outline your document before you write it, using either the outline view or the–get this–CORKBOARD view. That’s right, you can assemble your very own digital corkboard, complete with chapter headings and notes. You can store your research in a binder (a menu on the left-hand side of the screen) that won’t be part of your manuscript, keep old drafts in their own folder, break down the document into scenes, and when you’re finished… you can compile the document into an editor-friendly document with little to no flibbity-flam on your part.

Scrivener was made for me.

With Scrivener and my little Air, I’ll be unstoppable. Once I finally move. And… settle into my new place. Sometime this month. I hope.

 

Why Readers Make Better Writers

21 Jul

Hey guys,

First off, I wanted to apologize for being away. Another blog caught my fancy for awhile, but I’m back!

Today, we’ll be discussing why reading makes your writing better. I touched upon it briefly here but I wanted to do a thorough explanation on my home blog.

When did you first realize you wanted to write? I’ve always been a storyteller myself. The first story I remember constructing was when I moved to my first family home in the first grade. It was a two-hour drive, I think–it might not have been, but being 7 years old in the back of a car can make time stretch on for ages–and while fiddling with my Perfection game set, I built a story about a prince and princess who fell in love, but were split up because the princess was stolen away. A simple concept, but a story nonetheless… and from then on, I was in the storytelling biz. It wasn’t until I became a devoted reader that I realized what medium I wanted to tell my stories in: with words creating sentences that would weave throughout a tapestry of a tale.

But there is a lot more to writing than simply telling a story. We’ve all had the saying pounded into our brains since middle school: SHOW, not TELL. Not only that, but there are things we need to keep in mind: sentence structure, word usage, paragraphical pacing, foreshadowing, analogies. Every character is a story you must write, not just the story itself; the voice you choose to write with is also a character, invisible yet necessary. Stories aren’t just about getting it on paper, just like cooking isn’t just about putting food on a plate.

Yeah, I’m talking about VOICE. That’s what it shakes down to. I realized I wanted to go in depth about voice when I completed two vastly different novels last week. (reading-wise, not writing-wise. I’m certainly not that quick!) One was a steamy action called Dirty Kiss and the other was a YA tale of intrigue and deception known as Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye.

In the case of Eon, the book had a quiet flow to it. Imagine a river: the surface flows but it doesn’t seem that wild, but underneath the gentle pull is a monstrous current. The book plays a lot with flavors and smells to describe people and places. It’s written in the first person, but that fact is easy to forget; it feels more like a limited third-person POV when I think back on it. The book can seem slow at times, but the characters are intriguing and the subtle hints of romance flutter through the novel like specks of dust caught in a sunbeam. The second book is even better so far, but at the time of me writing this, I’m only a little over half finished with the work.

Steamehhhh

In Dirty Kiss, the book is packed with movement. There is always something happening on the surface, be it thoughts flying around our Main’s brain, bombs going off in cars, or Naughty being done in the bedroom. Mystery isn’t the only thing that drives you to turn the page, but the Main’s POV is dripping with personality, the sentences paced as if Cole’s sharing his story over a case of beer out on the beach at night; it feels intimate and almost trusting of the reader, but there is that boundary of clothes and skin and the outdoors keeping us from becoming who Cole is. There is no way time can muddle the fact that first person is the POV of the tale. The beat at which the story is told is fast, and it feels like a lot happens in that short amount of time. The book uses texture/touch a lot–it is a bit of a romance, after all–and color to paint scenes.

Have you thought about what themes you use when you write? For Project Infinite,  I rely on taste and texture, along with a a bit of metaphor. This is part of my voice–the style I write with. But where did I get it from?

I attribute my writing style to the hundred or so authors I’ve read since I was little. I’ve been writing a long time, you see–the first story I wrote was when I was 9, but I had a hefty collection of children books at the time, (A majority of them were Goosebumps,) and I read every single one. By 12, I was swimming in the grown-up stuff: Dean Koontz and VC Andrews (though I find her in the YA section more than anything nowadays) and Anne Rice. My writing benefited. I won an award for a short story I wrote at that age.

Anyway, enough about me! More about why reading is good for the writer’s brain!

I had a writing teacher once say that reading while writing isn’t a great idea because it can taint your work, but I think it’s the opposite for young writers such as us. Wasn’t it reading that inspired us to write in the first place? Writers are like sponges: they soak up all the juices of the world around them. That juice flows through our fingers. It’s the ink of our pens. (Even if we, uh, write on a computer. INK. OF OUR PENS.) What happens if a sponge isn’t soaking things up? When I don’t have a dose of the written word, my spongy self feels dry and rigid. When I try to write that way, sometimes I really stink.

I do agree that there are things we must be cautious about. I haven’t read one time-travel story since I started writing Project Infinite. (Watching, however, has been a major problem for me. I’m a major Doctor Who fan, and can’t risk missing a single episode as it runs. Doctor Who doesn’t influence me as much as it depresses me, but I won’t get into that.) I think it’s important to stay away from stories similar to your own, lest you become a knock-off rather than your own writer. However, reading introduces us to knew ways to flavor our writing. We find fun ways to build our sentences. I don’t attribute my knowledge of grammar to school, because I’m positive I learned the grammar rules I use today from novels I read as a child. That’s why I fudge my grammar so much for the sake of flowing sentences, as improper as it can be sometimes. Anyway, we learn to feel these things from reading. We learn how stories are supposed to taste in our mouths, how the words are supposed to feel as they tumble around in our heads. We learn when to let our readers breathe and when to give them time to catch up, and when to make them run and run and run like their lives depend on it. Just as we learn to talk because of the humans around us, we learn to write because of the books we have on hand.

I do a lot of WFF (Writing For Fun) with other people. (You know, collaborations, role play, etc.) Whenever I felt my writing was becoming repetitive or lazy, I’d dip my writer’s bucket into another writer’s well. Reading recharges my for writing, introduces me to new ways of showing scenes or characters.

Reading helps you find your voice. You can tell when a writer aspiring to be published doesn’t read often–there is something off about their work, something flat or out of place. I had a friend who liked writing, but she didn’t read the entire time I knew her; her stories had no rest stops, no flavor, no texture or smell. I write often with another extremely talented friend of mine and she reads a bunch, and you can see it in her writing. She can knit together simple prose and make her lines sing. Sometimes I have to actually get up and go to her room to tell her how amazing something she wrote was.

Am I saying that only good writers read? No. Bad writers read, and not all good writers do a lot of reading. But I am saying that reading has always helped me and the people I know. If your writing feels dry or stinky, than pick up a book.

PS:
I should note that I cannot read Anne Rice or Shakespeare while I am writing. Something about Anne Rice’s style seriously ruins mine, and something about Shakespeare’s structure messes with my flow. I don’t know, it’s pretty crazy.

The Case Against Ebook Prices – a Rant

23 Jun

I am one of the biggest fans of the Kindle you will ever meet.
I never understood the point to e-book readers, despite having bought several digital books since Dean Koontz released The Book of Counted Sorrows back when I was a kid. Why invest $200 in an e-book reader when the book you want is only $7.99? But, by the time I got this wonderful job I have now, I had been pinching pennies for months and needed to buy myself something nice. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I decided to invest in a Kindle as a treat to myself. My boss had one, our UI guy had one, and I saw them on Muni and Bart all the time; Borders was closing up shop in the city, and I was running out of space for dead-tree books in my room, and–well, I don’t know. I just wanted something different, so a Kindle came my way.

E-Bookery

It changed my life, the Kindle. Over my college years, I can count the number of books I read on two hands. I read nothing after graduating, save for a great book on how to get a job. But something about the Kindle–maybe it’s portability, or the font adjustment, or the fact I can read it while taking the bus without getting motion sickness–got me reading a lot more. I plow through four novels a month easily, sometimes hitting five if the books are Middle Grade or YA length. I’m not saying this applies to everyone who owns a Kindle, but I can say that, in my case, reading has become easier now that I use one.
But recently, I’ve discovered a major problem with the Kindle market, and that would be e-book pricing.

I don’t know how much work goes in to digital publishing. I know that publishing a printed book is about fifteen percent of the costs that go into giving us a Dead Tree novel, so it seems to me that printing DIGITALLY would be relatively cheaper. That is one of the benefits to owning a Kindle, right? We don’t have to pay for the added cost of print! Royalties, rights, marketing, editing, whatever Amazon shaves off the profits–alright, I’ll pay for that. But does it cost a publisher more to release a digital book than a paperback?

Maybe it does. But if I’m going to pay paperback price or higher for a digital novel, I want to know that care and love was put into it’s release. It shouldn’t be too hard, right?
Apparently, it’s very hard.

Story Time.

The Kindle introduced me to the writing of one of my now favorite writers, so I eagerly purchases his earlier work when I finished his “big” series. To my disappointment, the Kindle price was the same price as the paperbacks, but I bought them anyway.

It wasn’t worth it.

His writing was, as usual, fantastic. It was the PUBLISHER who made it not worth my time. On top of multiple errors in the digital edition, there were jumbled paragraphs–half a line would be missing, only to show up a few sentences later. Reading the book was like deciphering a code. The story was a mess of jibberish.

Naturally, I complained to the publisher. “I don’t want ____’s books to gain a bad reputation because you don’t check for these sorts of errors,” I wrote. “I don’t want a refund, because I want to continue to support this author’s work, but until you fix these gross errors, I’m not going to purchase anymore of your digital work.” Had the prices for the books been less than the paperbacks, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed–but they were selling poorly formatted digital books for the same price as their perfectly formatted printed books.

I thought I was done with unfair prices, and moved past my disappointment. With e-books outselling print books now nearly 3 to 1, (according to B&N) e-books and their platforms have been booming. Almost any new release in the wonderful world of reading sees a digital release nowadays, and it makes sense that so many prefer the digital copy. After all, when a new hardcover is $20, an e-book is  $10.
But when the paperback comes out at $8 and the e-book remains $10, there is a problem.

Outrageous!

The Crummy Costs of E-Bookery.

I can understand that there is a lot of money involved in bringing us a quality piece of literature, digital or not, but I don’t understand why a paperback would be cheaper than an e-book. There is no added cost for printing and e-books never run out of stock. When I see a novel in the Kindle Market that costs more than the paperback equivalent, I feel as if we readers are being taken advantage of. If a book has been out long enough to have a paperback, the price of the e-book should not be higher than a printed copy–and certainly no higher than 9.99. Because, when it comes down to it, we’re not buying a book: We’re buying a license to read that book. We can’t give the book away when we’re done with it. We can’t lend it to friends. (Theoretically we can, but that depends on the publishers… and of the fifty books I have on my Kindle right now, not one is capable of being borrowed by a friend with a similar device.) If we switch to a new e-book reader–like the Nook–we can’t bring our Amazon library with us. While reading e-books has its advantages, e-books do not possess the same privileges as a paperbacksor a hardcovers.  This is a fact that I, an avid e-book fan, can admit. So when the price of an e-book exceeds that of its printed equivalent, the part of my brain that runs on logic gets a bad case of the hiccups. (The same happens when I encounter plot holes in Doctor Who.)
To make matters worse, I’ve found Kindle books on Amazon that are priced $16.99 and over–a preposterous price to pay to read a book. The book looks great, and I’m not dogging on the writers or on the content of the novels. The Publishers, however, must be stopped.

Outrageous prices for e-books takes away from one of the most tantalizing aspects of the e-book reader. Within two months of purchasing my Kindle, the device had already paid for itself–books were cheap and classics were free. It was that aspect of the Kindle that convinced me it was worth a purchase. Now, with digital prices higher than printed prices, I fear that e-book readers may suffer a decline. Or even worse… that people will buy these books at their ridiculous prices, convincing those in charge of the market that it’s OK to overcharge us because that is what we’re willing to pay.
Well, I’m not willing to pay those prices.

Rowling’s Digital Wizardry

PotterMania.

Rowling will be releasing her Harry Potter series digitally in a few months, and while I am thoroughly excited to give Harry another go with my Kindle, I worry about the cost. If Rowling charges $9.99 or more for her digital books, the market is doomed to a logic deficit. Yes, I’m leaving the fate of the e-book market on Rowling’s shoulders. Why? Because her fans are insane and they will buy her series digitally, despite owning the hardcover editions, the paperbacks, the UK versions and the US versions. If it’s okay for Harry Potter to cost 13.99 as an e-book, it’s okay for other publishers to tack such prices on their books, as well.

 

To Summarize


The business of E-bookery is booming, which has had wonderful effects on the publishing industry and on us readers on go. Books have become more accessible and the Kindle has changed my life as a reader.

Dark forces are afoot, manipulating the prices of e-books based on demand, rather than giving us good quality and fairly priced digital novels.

E-books have a tendency to be plagued with errors, especially when scanned in via a printed page. If the book is cheap, well, you can live with the errors. If the book is priced the same as the paperback, or MORE, and still has these errors, something is WRONG.

In fact, if an e-book is priced more than the paperback, something is DEFINITELY WRONG.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity

7 Jun

This was a wonderful watch. I thought I’d share it with you all!

Backing Up That Novel-in-Progress: How Do You Do It?

7 Jun

Hey all,

I wanted to bring up the subject of backing up your WIP. We’ve all lost important data due to computer failures, thefts, and accidental deletions. So how do you ensure your work is safe?

Thumb Drives

Some of us back up our work on nifty thumb drives. These are relatively cheap: a 2 gigabyte thumb drive, which is more than enough to store your manuscript and notes, ran at less than $15 last I purchased one, and that was ages ago. They’re convenient to carry, as they can fit on your key ring, and are fairly reliable with proper care. The downside to thumb drives is it’s easy to mishandle them and you could potentially lose your data. They’re also easy to lose… I’ve lost more than my fair share by leaving them plugged in to public computers or simply dropping them while traveling.

Email

Google is amazing. You can do so much with it… saving your stuff in Google Docs, emailing yourself important files (within a reasonable size limit,) even view Powerpoint Slides if you wanted. Personally, I have not used google docs for anything but work related purposes, so I won’t talk about the wonders of that Google aspect. But I have used email to backup my work. It’s a fine way to keep several versions of your work available, and you can always view the work (using Docs) if you’d like to read what you’ve done on-the-go. However, you end up with several copies of the same darn thing you worked on, with only a few extra pages here and there; its also a bit of a hassle to email it to yourself. And what if you forget to do so?

The Cloud

My favorite method is storing my work in the cloud. I’ve mentioned that I use DROPBOX, a free-to-use file sharing program that stores up to 2 gigabytes between any computers you see fit to use, as well as on the website. The website stores backup versions, as well… so if you deleted something you shouldn’t have, you have a little time to retrieve it. Need more than 2 gigabytes? $10 a month gives you up to 50 gigabytes of storage space. The con to using Dropbox is also one of the pluses: sharing across multiple computers can leave your work vulnerable to snooping eyes. Make sure you only install it on machines you know you alone will be using.

 

Do you have a preferred method of backing up? I’d love to hear about it!

Personal Update: 80 Pages Strong

7 Jun

Hello, everyone!

I apologize for not posting anything for almost 2 weeks. Please forgive me! I had a friend visiting from LA, and barely had time to write my novel… let alone my blog. After this little break, however, I have tons of stuff to talk about… including the blogs I meant to post last week!

My personal update: It is with great pride that I say I have completed my May goal. My monthly goal, as you all might know, is 10k words. May saw 13k+ words! Go me!

Unfortunately, I wrote myself into a dead-end of sorts, and I’ve had to go back to do some rewriting. Act I will see some rewriting and additional scenes, and act II will be getting a complete rewrite. Such is the downfall of a discovery writer like myself, I suppose.

The good news is, this past week I’ve been itching to write again. I have the ending/epilogue running through my brain constantly, and while that is still 2 1/2 books away, it’s nice to know my destination.

I have no monthly wordcount goal this month, because I’ve been rewriting things in act I and I’ll be starting act II from scratch, but I do have a project goal: to have my edits done and the first chapter written for act II. I think I can do it! Woo!

I guess at this time I would also like to make public my summertime goal. “But Courtney,” you say, “that is so many goals! You’re goal crazy!” Well, that’s the way I run things, babe. My goal for this summer is to have act II roughly finished. Crazy? Maybe. Especially with my work hours growing long these coming weeks! But impossible? I don’t think so!

My other goal is to have at least 50 subscribers at the end of the summer. If I can manage that, I’ll post up the first chapter of draft 1.5 for Project Infinite! So spread the word!