#amwriting: Scene Sketch

Obscure Changes
image by Josh McGinn @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenstorm/

Obscure Changes

The day had just started. The sun was shining so bright in the east much of the sky was a pure dazzling white. Birds, mostly robins and finches, were pecking into the new grass of the lawns looking for seeds. Yet, the air was silent, as if waiting for something monumental to happen.

What really threw me off guard was I was seeing neighbors out and about in all this noiselessness. They did not seem the least disturb by the eerie calmness. Getting into their cars and starting up the engines, the sound was almost deafening in the once common surroundings that had become so illusorily strange overnight. However, none of them noticed the changes.

I ducked back inside and grabbed my bag. On the front porch again, I studied my street again before turning and locking the door. The birds were gone, probably to their respective nests. That part was definitely normal but the air still hit me as being dead somehow. It was down right creepy.

All along the way to the first major intersection at the edge of my neighborhood, I did not see a single soul. The neighbors who had driven away from my street must have already reached the main thoroughfare and were long gone. The lawns reminded me of the plastic grass used in exhibits. The paint on the houses looked more as if they had been drawn on paper.

On most days, I enjoyed my walk to the bus stop. It was good exercise, of course, but it, also, cleaned out the cobwebs in my head. Today was not one of those days, though. The entire world seemed out of whack. It felt as if I was in another dimension, an altered reality.

Peering up the street towards the intersection, I noticed it was empty, not one car whizzing by. I stood at the bus stop pulling out my monthly card for the driver to push. Still, there was not a car or truck to be seen.

Should I even be out here? My curiosity insisted I stay put even though my common sense was telling me to get out of there and go back home inside where everything was normal.

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I am not too sure about this work. Any advice is welcomed.

“When one finds oneself in the kind of strange, unsettling circumstances as I presently find myself, it is only natural, after all, to have a few, unusual, vivid dreams.” ― M.D. Elster, Four Kings

 

#weekendcoffeeshare: Being a Writer is More?

#weekendcoffeeshare: I have Lost my Impulse
Image provided by Dave White
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdestructicity/

The Daily Post sponsors the #weekendcoffeeshare. If this is something you’d like to do, whether it be weekly like it’s supposed to be or the way I do it, once a month. You can get the lowdown about it at the link above.

In the past, I have written this post dialogue style as if I was speaking to you face to face. Be that as it may, I began to dispute the intelligence of this format. After all, who am I to presume what you will say or, for that matter, what you think when, in actuality, we have not had the conversation at all.

My ruling is I will write the #weekendcoffeeshare more like most other bloggers write theirs, my thoughts alone and leaving your response for you to fill in down below in the comment section.

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If we were to have coffee together…

…I would tell you how I feel about the less -spoken-about aspects of being a writer, those tasks I would rather ignore.

Most of the writer’s blogs I read have touched on the many facets of being a writer. I cannot say I have read them all, thinking I do not need to know everything right this minute seeing that I have not published for years. I have defended the belief I need to hone in on the writing itself until I have a final draft to send to an editor for the last time.

A short while ago, maybe five or six weeks, I began to ponder on the thought of me never getting anything published again other than the dribblings in this personal blog. The speculation was disquieting, to say the least. I am pretty sure I can do better, so I proceeded to do just that. That was when I wrote an article for an editor’s blog, Word Bank
Writing & Editing
, owned by Jeri Walker.

Sure, it is just writing still, but it was published on a blog that gets way more traffic than mine does. Additional, it had to meet the approved of an editor I admire.

After that small but significant milestone, I started visiting the social media sites more that I signed up with a long time ago. I cannot say I am enjoying these jaunts but I am trying anyway. This is the more I was hoping to put off for as long as possible. I do not do well with “small talk”. Oftentimes, I find it exceedingly trite and drudging. Yet, according to all those writer’s blogs, I must try to participate to get my name and work known. I know I will have to do launches if I ever get a book published. I know I should be available for book signings. However, this will only happen when a book is published. It is not an ongoing activity.

Another prospect or more I should consider, according to all I have read, is my own domain site. I cringe with detestation and panic at the notion of having to try that again. I had a good host site that even had 24/7 help by phone at no extra cost, yet I ended up with a site that, eventually, would not show up for anyone. I went through so many hours, both day and night, trying to fix it, endlessly speaking to representatives at the host site trying to get it to work. Can I go through that again? I have serious doubts.

An aspect [another more] I have not read about yet but probably will come across it eventually, is public speaking. I have been on stage but it was always with a musical instrument in my hands. It just sounds way too preposterous to me. I cannot imagine anyone wanting me, of all people on this planet, as a speaker for any kind of event. Yet, there have been a couple of writers who advocate this for their readers of their books about writing, exclaiming all writers should be able to speak well in front of an audience. Who are they kidding? Themselves maybe? I know some writers are extroverts. Still, I have a sneaky feeling most of us are introverts, at least to some degree.

When I took that mail course from Writers Digest at the turn of this century, it never entered my head that I would have to do anything out of the realm of writing other than book signings in order to make any progress.

Now it is your turn. What is your response to this? Let me know in the comment section below.

“You need three things to become a successful novelist: talent, luck and discipline. Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.” ― Michael Chabon

 

#thepersonalside: The Weathering Consequence

#thepersonalside: The Weathering Consequence

It is said, when a person writes, it will affect what he or she writes and how well that writing session will be. I am somewhat limited in this capacity but I do not have to be stuck at my desk nonetheless no matter what hour my session is.

I have tried writing on my laptop while sitting on my bed. I can assure you this is not a good way to write. It is unduly hard on the back.

I have thought about writing in the living room–of course, with the laptop–but I am pretty certain I would have the same problem as I did in the bedroom. I have, also, on occasion, thought about writing at the kitchen table. I seem to be stowing away the reasons for this in some dark murky corner of my mind. I have not taken the leap to sit where I have a sliding door to gaze out of, which I expect is highly unusual for me seeing how I want all drapes and curtains open until the moment I head to bed for sleep at night.

Bear with me now, because this does have something to do with the point in question of this post.

When I was a kid, I hated the rainy and snowy days. I would whine and beg to go outside despite the horrid conditions that awaited me. Did I have claustrophobia? Surprising, no. Sometimes, on glorious sunny days, I could be found in my bedroom coloring or writing some story. You might have even found me in the basement doing some craft project. Sometimes my mother would give in, letting me running and skip with the rain drops or snow flakes. Usually, though, she would tell me to find something to do inside. I felt like a prisoner. I would gaze out the window wanting to splash through puddles or make angels in the snow. My bedroom walls would seem to be closing in on me. My only escape was within my mind while reading a book.

April began almost two weeks ago. On schedule, that Monday, April 3rd, I woke up to the sound of rain pitter-pattering outside in the predawn. My thought immediately jumped to the dismay of not being able to go outside. As to be expected, I wanted out. In spite of this discernment, I, also, felt an urgency to write.

In my mind’s eye, I visioned myself sitting at a desk in front of a humongous bay window with the rain pouring down and falling into puddles wherever they landed. I could see myself pounding on the keys, every once in a while, gazing out that window caught up in the oblivion of my story.

Although I did not write anymore that day than I would have any other day, reading it back after the session, I was happier with what I had accomplished. What I was trying to convey was clearer; the flow of words and paragraphs was improved; my choice of words read with more of the understanding I was trying to invoke.

Sometimes a drippy, drizzly, sodden day is what is needed to get the job moving.

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Do stormy days do this for you? Do you fantasize your surroundings to get yourself motivated?

“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” ― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

 

#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

I started out as a pure pantser with my only guide being yWriter. That rough draft still sits in a folder of one of my clouds waiting patiently for me to return to it.

The poor thing needs so much revision, when and if I get back to it, it will be a total rewrite. One of the major problems is I did not to any preparatory work on the project except for a short worksheet on the main character. Even with that, I changed so many things about my protagonist, the worksheet became worthless.

At a snail’s pace, I have been learning to accept the fact I need to be a plotter–of sorts anyway. My short-term memory loss issue is getting in the way of me ever having a book published, that and those rare days when my motivation cannot be thrust into motion no matter what I try. If I am ever going to get any manuscript finished, I need outlines and summaries already done. The incidental days are not of great concern to me; that is as long as they are not frequent. As they are so far, I will call them mental health days meant to be used to take care of myself instead of the project I am working on.

Trying to find the right approach to this preliminary work has been vexing. Googling for worksheets generated page upon page of sites offering guides of all kinds promising to make the task of writing easier. I find myself being reluctant to use the templates that have more than three pages worth of questions for me to answer about the characters, plot, and/or scenes. Bits and pieces of the plot are already in my head so that all that is needed is a brief summary. The fine details will come to light as I need them. The same goes for the characters and scenes, although, with the former, I like having “complete” worksheets on the main characters so if I forget the color of the hair, how tall or short they are, or any of those pesky details, I can just click on the worksheet to get the prompt.

In the end, I went with the worksheets from Creative Writing Now. The site also offers courses but, as you have probably guessed, I cannot afford them. One thing I noticed right away about one of the guides was there was not the word, plot, or any form of it on the page. They call it a novel outline. Even at that, it is more of a summary with prompts. It should not make any difference but, psychologically, I felt as if the authors of the site, Nancy Strauss and Linda Leopold Strauss knew what type of writer I am and had addressed their offers in such a way that I was sure to accept them.

My worksheets include:

  • Novel Outline Summary
  • Character Outline
  • Scene Outline

I do not need a world building outline because my project is in the historical genre. Still, as I write each scene, I am doing research on the era of my story, hoping I am putting the reader into the thick of the tale I am writing.

Some authors use what is called beat sheets. They kind of combine the three outlines using a spreadsheet mode. Jami Gold has several templates of this kind at her blog. If I feel I am getting stuck on this journey, I will pop over to her domain and pick one of the forms to download and use.

Have you found the worksheets that do the job for you? I am interested in knowing which ones and why you picked them.

“I’ve always said, ‘I have nothing to say, only to add.’ And it’s with each addition that the writing gets done. The first draft of anything is really just a track.” ― Gore Vidal

 

Maintenance of My Writing Tool

This month, March has five Thursdays in it so I had to come up with another post. Because my blog is more or less centered around writing, I wanted this one to keep in sync with the motif but not require a follow-up.

Maintenance of My Writing Tool

Several years ago I did a post about free software programs that would help keep a PC running smooth. I decided I would do one again to help out my fellow writers and bloggers.

I am, pretty much, paperless in my writing endeavor these days. Even when reading what I have written, I transfer my work over to Kindle. Most of this is due to the fact my printer is on the fritz and I cannot afford a new one or have my current one repaired. So, I make do.

Being paperless means regular maintenance of the devices I use for my projects. Kindle requires little, just remembering to plug it in for recharging. My laptop and PC depend on regular updates of software and security and performance checks.

Jacqui Murray has discussed this subject on her blog as well, including software programs for this support that do have a price tag on them. My budget is way too tight for me to even consider most of those that have a cost attached to them. Would I spend the money on maintenance software if I was published? Probably not. There are programs that are free. More often than not, the only stipulation is they must be run manually–not scheduling. It is a small inconvenience to stay within my budget.

Advanced System Care

IObit offers this software free as well as being able to buy it with bells and whistles.

The free version will speed up, optimize, protect, and clean your machine. However, all but the defragmenter have to be started manually. It has what they call a Toolbox, which lists other software you can get either at a price or for free. Additionally, it has an Action Center that will tell you what programs in your system need to be updated in some way.


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[You can view a larger photo by clicking on the images individually.]

CCleaner

This program has been around since 2004. If I remember correctly, I came across it in 2007 and have used it ever since then. Because I use the free version, I have to remember to bring it up and manually get it working on all the unwanted waste in my system. With the paid version, I could schedule it to start on its own.

It removes files Advanced System Care will not touch but will not optimize or help with problems like Advance System Care does. It will also clean my registry. It has other tools too that come in handy when the PC runs slow.

Malwarebytes

I use the anti-virus program installed in my computer, Windows Defender. I can almost hear the chatter out there with readers telling me I should be using something better. If I start having too many viruses entering my system I will probably buy the paid version of Malwarebytes. For now, I use the free version of this anti-virus software twice per month. So far [knock on wood], I have not had any viruses, just unwanted programs called PUP.

If you like what you are using to keep your PC in good running order, I suggest you keep with it. Sure, these contraptions are made on an assembly line but each one of us uses our babies differently so the maintenance package is going to be slightly difference. However, if you are not satisfied with what you have, you might want to check these three programs out. 🙂

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“there’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.” ― Stephen King, Different Seasons