The Online Amenities

The Online Amenities
Image provided by Michael D Beckwith
https://www.flickr.com/photos/118118485@N05/

On August 29th, Today’s Author posted a piece asking what are the online resources their readers use in their writing. This is one of the most glorious aspects of the technical age, in my opinion. Money and time are cost to the bone for a writer because of the availability of resources now.

We have talked in the past about important tools for writers such as software or specific kinds of notebooks and pens. Today we’d like to hear what kinds of online resources and tools you find helpful to your writing. Are there specific websites you use for research? Online tools to inspire you to write? What do you find invaluable on the internet when you look at your writing life? [Today’s Author]

As little as twenty years ago, many writers had shelves upon shelves of books in their wring space just for resources and references they’d need at a moment’s notice during their writing sessions. I think this was one of the things that stopped me from taking up writing as a serious venture. I didn’t know where the book fairs were so I could put up the needed knowledge at a lower cost. I’d need to win the lotto to afford what I need for my own private library.

Nowadays, all I have to do is click on my little Firefox, and I zoom to the Internet for the information I need.

Dictionary: Remember that big bulky book you could usually find on a  pedestal at the library? Now I just go to one of the dictionary sites to find out if I’ve spelled a word right or if it’s even the word I thought it was. Sure, many of the word process programs have this built in, but the definitions are often lacking–a lot.

Thesaurus: I could not even attempt to write without this resource. The short-term memory loss I have would do me in before I even got started. Without the thesaurus, I write like the fifth grader–maybe. The paperback of this resource is adequate and affordable. However, because of my right arm and hand not working, trying to keep that small book open and type or write the possible words to use is futile. Again, most word processing programs have this feature too, but the list of synonyms is rather short–puny actually.

Encyclopedia: When I was a kid, some parents bought the Encyclopaedia Britannica for their children’s education. It was a hefty price to pay but it usually included updates to the volumes as information was obtained or changed. Being a fireman’s daughter, this wasn’t an option for me. The closest branch library to my house was eight city blocks away. I’d hoof the hill to it when I had to and when weather would permit. It was either that or wait until I could get to the library at school. Now I just have to decide which encyclopedia I want to use and click to the site.

Editing: I haven’t used this tool yet but I know I will eventually. This, of course, is just for grammar and in-depth spelling. I’m a member at Grammerly.

Writing Groups: I live in a small town in the Tennessee mountains. The closest local writing group I’ve found is in Nashville, two hours away. Someone suggested I start my own here in Crossville. I have yet to find any writers here. I wonder sometime about who is writing the articles in the Crossville Chronicle. Are they writers who don’t feel a need for comradery? And I can’t find them in the white pages. Where do they live? Anyway, because of this dilemma, I belong to two online writing groups. It isn’t as helpful as I was hoping for, but a little is better than none, right?

Blogs: The blogs of writers is one of my main sources of inspiration, motivation, and lessons in the skills of the craft. I probably would have given up long ago on any serious writing without these sites.

Email: I have a couple of close writing friends I email every once in a while. I know I should write letters to them more often, but time slips away from me so quickly sometimes I even forget what day it is. They’re a little farther along on their writing journey than I am. I rely heavily on them for support and hope I’m giving enough to them.

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According to the post at Today’s Author, I should specify certain sites. I only named one. Preference can differ too much and I’m sure the sites I frequent are so diverse from other writers even though they’re within the same categories. Each to their own. 😛

Do you have other types sites that are useful? Please share in the comment section.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ― Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain

 

Character Sketch: Joanna Rice

Character Sketch: Joanna Rice
Image provided by JustCallMe
https://www.flickr.com/photos/babs4180/

Joanna Rice was one of those teenagers who had everything going for her. Her figure, face, and hair are the envy of almost every other girl in her school, even the ones who were one and two years older. Her intelligence was way above average, making most of her classes so easy she rarely had to study. She soaks up the knowledge during class time like a sponge.

The rest of Rice family consists of her parents and one younger sister. There didn’t seem to be any strife between the siblings. If you asked her parents why this was, they’d shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s probably because they’re so different. There isn’t any competition between them.” The parents are loving, even to each other, which Joanna found embarrassing at times.

All looked good from the outside, but if you could see the conflict going on inside Joanna, you’d probably doubt her abilities to overcome it unless she found help. The problem was she doesn’t know how dire her circumstances were. Her assessment of her situation was completely off base.

It started a little over a year ago, the summer before her first year in high school. She was walking home from the neighborhood park when she felt someone behind her. She casually flipped her long dark brown hair to one side to look behind her, hopefully appearing nonchalant. No one was there. She told herself to forget it even though the feeling didn’t go away until she got inside the house. To be sure, she peeked out the front window. The street was deserted.

Five weeks after school started that fall, Joanna felt the presence while hurrying to classes. She tried to catch the culprit in the act but somehow the stalker was completely elusive. When she mentioned it to her best friend, Beth, she was told that she was crazy. No one was following her.

“Look, you’re just nervous. That’s all.”

“Yah, maybe you’re right.” Still, Joanna had serious doubts and the anxiety was building in her.

Her first report card looked exceptional to her parents and friends, A minuses and Bs. She was not happy with the grades though. She told her parents that her grades should be higher but the teachers were all against her.

“Mom, you should see the way they look at me. And they stand over my desk while I’m trying to work.”

The parents tried to reason with her, even thought they had gotten through to their firstborn. They hadn’t. She put on a brave face, keeping her suspicions to herself from then on.

A week later, she walked into her history class, heading for the second row, first seat, when someone whispered in her ear. “Don’t sit there. Take a seat at the back.”

“Why?” she asked, reeling around to see who it was. No one was there.

The boy sitting first row, second seat, peered up at her. “What? Who are you talking to, Jo?”

She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. “No one. Mind your own business, Mike.” She hurried to the last seat in the row.

Her second year of high school has commenced. She’s held her own academically, but she’s slowly turned inward and doesn’t do much socializing, not even with her own family. She hides in her bedroom except for meals. Her sister has heard her talking to herself as if someone else is in the room with her. Yet, when Joanna answers her sister’s knock, it’s clear to see there’s no one there.

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I studied Sociology/Social Work in college. I was thoroughly enthralled with the class I took exploring mental illness. I’m not an expert on this subject by any means though. Still, I do want to try writing a fictional story using this angle some time in the future. Of course, I’ll be doing more research.

“Am I a mindless fool? My life is a fragment, a disconnected dream that has no continuity. I am so tired of senselessness. I am tired of the music that my feelings sing, the dream music.”  ― Ross David Burke, When the Music’s Over: My Journey into Schizophrenia

 

Systems, Order, and Clarity

Systems, Order, and Clarity
Image provided by
Seth Sawyer @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/sidewalk_flying/

I subscribe to a bi-weekly newsletter written and distributed by Jill Jepson. In her last news publication, she wrote about the perceptions concerning the writing process.

Like Jill, I’ve been questioning the belief that writing should be done in a certain way. Not quite two months ago I wrote a post somewhat on the same lines as what I’m discussing here. Since then, my ponders have taken me to the atypical suggestions of what writing could be to an individual, more precisely, to me.

Although writing enters into all facets of life in today’s world, in its intrinsic nature, it is a form of art. As such, what kind of boundaries can it realistically have? Whose to judge how I should approach the process of writing?

Systems

All the formulas for the process that I’ve come across thus far are requiring a specific start point and usually follow a certain path. Why? Because having that outset and course allegedly works flawlessly for someone–most assuredly the person who advocates that particular formula at least.

I propose that a formula is not necessarily the right strategy, depending on the person, of course. When I took vision art classes, I was told to do a sketch before doing anything else. I never imagined that the advice was written in stone. Sometimes an artist must begin in the middle to achieve was s/he want to express. A writer shouldn’t be any different.

Systems or strategies are good, but only if they’re needed and serve the right purpose. Otherwise, I find them useless.

Order

I’m an orderly person by nature. So much so that I wake up automatically by 6:15 no matter which day it is. I run my life by schedules. I don’t think I could ever really be spontaneous with my time. I know where the scissors are in the kitchen–if husband hasn’t used them recently. I know exactly where my pharmaceutical receipts are. Before I sit at the computer to do serious writing for the first session of a day, my bed is made.

Yes, I do begin my writing projects with the beginning of the story.

Yet, this doesn’t mean this is the one and only way writing should be done. Some authors start at the end. I see nothing wrong with this. Some writers don’t do preliminary work like development sheets, arcs, or general outlines until they’re done with the first draft. It sound reasonable to me. There are those who haven’t got a need for any of those sheets. More power to them.

I do my preliminary sheets as I write my first draft. The entirety of each character doesn’t start to emerge for me until I start putting him/her into situations. Scenes may start one way, but there’s a possibility that the environment changes because of what I see happening next.

I may be a true creator of habit and schedules, but when it come to writing, I need as much freedom as I can muster up.

Clarity

Although what I write should be clearly understood, should how I arrived at the written work be all that apparent? Being a glutton for established rules, order, and schedules, I thought preciseness and directness were requirements in all things I do. Yet, the writing process is far from being an exact science so I finally discovered that how I get to the clear understanding doesn’t have to go along the straight the narrow.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.” ( Edward Franklin Albee III)

The first time I heard this quote was in the movie Grumpy Old Men. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far to find the author of it. Reading it, I think of how a story is much more interesting if it shows what’s going on instead of telling. Telling can be a more lucid way to get the point across, but the enthusiasm and passion aren’t there. What a shame.

So how am I approaching the process of writing?

As some of you know, I lost the draft I was working on. I can’t bring myself to start that story all over again, at least not yet. So I created a new writing project. I’m still using yWriter, but I’m not bothering with chapters. I’m using scenes only during this rough draft. I’ve come to find out there are authors who have one scene per chapter anyway. With my story though, there will be a few chapters with two or three scenes. Still, until I get to the second time around with the draft, I’m sticking to this approach.

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What is your approach to the writing process? Do you view writing in the same way an athletic prepares for the chosen sport? Are you spontaneous?

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers. ~Logan Pearsall Smith, “All Trivia,” Afterthoughts, 1931

Scene Sketch: Dolan’s Pub

I’ve titled a few of my posts as Character Sketches, but I haven’t classified any as Scene Sketches. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any in this conglomeration I call my blog though. It just means I need to better tag my posts. If you go to the category, Writing Exercises, you can find more while I clean up the navigation here.

I hope you enjoy this sketch. Please give feedback.

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Scene Sketch: Dolan's Pub
Image provided by Eye – the world through my I’s
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ccpixel/

On the outskirts of Melrose, not far from the River Tweed, is the establishment of Dolan’s Pub. The third generation of the Boyd family owns and operated the premises. Michael’s great grandfather, Dolan, acquired the business in a shady deal that’s been buried along with the man.

It isn’t as big and luxurious as the pubs north in Edinburgh, or even as large as some found south in Newcastle. Still, it brings in a crowd from many of the towns along that part of one of the dominant rivers of northern England.

Walking in, a person has to accustom his or her eyes to the dimness and haze. Solid wood tables and chairs are set neatly aligned forming rows and columns. Each station has a tiny lamp on it that actually works, giving a small unobtrusive glow. The floor is a polished walnut with inlays of tiles depicting colorful geometrical designs every few feet. The only windows in the place are the five at the front, and all are decorated with stained glass.

The bar countertop sits a high waist level for the average man, curving on either side its twelve-foot length. There’s a leather railing on the edge facing into the gallery so patrons have a place to lean their elbows. The wooden stools are generously spaces along the edge, assuming to give ladies room to step up to the seats.

The aroma of fish cooking and cigarette smoke mingle in the air where the pool table is set up. The odor near the bar is pungent with stale brew and both woman’s and man’s cologne. No one seems to notice or care.

The bartender is a lively fellow, yelling out greeting towards the door of the business every time it opens. He’s quick at the spigots, filling the glasses with ale as full as he dare. During the lulls, he can be found at either end of the bar quietly chit-chatting with whoever happens to be sitting or standing near. It only takes the wave of a hand for him to rush to the customer’s whims.

The cook slams the door to the kitchen open while she carries three plates of grilled fish, chips, and a medley of vegetables out to one of the tables in the room. She doesn’t bother asking if anything else is needed. If the customers want something, they ask the man at the bar.

A woman, neither young or old, sits at a table under one of the veiled windows sipping a drink that was served in a fluted glass. Her hair is loosely bundled at the back of her head. Tendrils of dark hair wave softly around her neck. There’s a notebook and pen laying on the table unattended. She’s staring straight ahead at empty sitting stations across from the front door.

Michael strolls up to her from his place at the bar. “Melisa, do you want another?” He gestures to the glass in her hand. He gets a faint whiff of her perfume and smiles.

She snaps her head up towards him being taken out of her funk. “Thanks Michael, but I should be getting home.” She gathers her items on the table and grabs the purse laying at her feet. “See you tomorrow.” She stands and walks to the exit.

She simpers sweetly, opens the door, and walks out onto the street.

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The more feedback, the better. Bring it on. Please!

Ninety percent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves. – Sydney J. Harris

 

The Blank Page

The Blank Page
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https://www.flickr.com/photos/the-wanderers-eye/

I’ve been doing some type of writing for years. Blogging has been the most consistent though. Despite this being so, the sort of writing I like the best is the kind when I’m penning a story. (The other forms of writing? Well, there’s journalism, letters, and the never-ending lists — and, indeed, fictional stories. I’m sure some would say there’s more, but I think most forms of writing can fall into these categories.) Whatever type of writing is being done, there’s the perpetual blank page to deal with at the start.

Going by what I’ve read and heard, most of us, as writers, dread this page, whether it be on a computer, word processor, typewriter, or the piece of paper. Somehow it terrifies us. Nothing is there for the writer to use as a launching point, which brings up images of disaster.

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Super Short Story

When I was a kid, my parents insisted that I learn how to swim. I loved swimming from the first class and tried to master the different strokes. But there was that day when the teacher wanted me to dive off the low diving board. All of a sudden that water looked  menacing. She wants me to jump head first from here? I’ll drowned! Of course, I didn’t even come close to drowning. According to the teacher, my launch was almost perfect.

Does that blank page feel like you’re looking at that treacherous water from the diving board?

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Some writers will still have that sensational idea stirring in their heads. Yet, once sitting before that blank page, the words have escaped and no matter what is put on that page, it isn’t right, at least not right enough for the writer.

Other writers aren’t so fortunate and find the superb idea has vanished or it suddenly sounds ludicrous. The person often ends up staring at all that whiteness before him/her, hoping and praying the idea will reappear somehow or a better idea will pop into his/her mind.

I’ve had these times myself, although not often. In fact, the times of this horror are rare. For unexplainable reasons, the blank page for me usually means a fresh start. Any mistakes from prior works are erased. My inspiration is renewed. My motivation is energized. I might not even have any ideas to start writing with, yet still feel the empowerment of having a new beginning laying before me.

In this era of technology, I have the luxury of getting online to find my writing ideas. They’re all over the place out here in cyber space. If you’re having difficulty finding a worthy idea, try a search. One of my favorite sites for writing ideas is Creative Writing Prompts that’s part of The Writer’s Digest.

The right words have always been a huge problem for me. It scarcely has stopped me from writing though. Long ago I always had the Thesaurus book sitting with me while I wrote. But then I found Thesaurus.Com. I could start with the most simplest of words and find so many other words that better described what I wanted to convey in my writing piece. The lack of my vocabulary skills was resolved.

This doesn’t mean I don’t agonize during my hours of writing. My trouble appears farther down the page after I’ve writing a couple or a few paragraphs. It’s at this point when doubt sets in and I’m reluctant to go any farther. Do I know what I’m doing here? Should I rework that second paragraph? Maybe I should just toss that paragraph. Is any of this making sense? Yes, misgivings about the entire project come flooding into my mind.

I have found something that works to alleviate this rush of dark apprehension. It doesn’t work every time, but often enough to spur me to try it. I put that page half done to the side and start where I left off on a clean blank page. I can normally continue the story I’m writing.

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Have you found some strategies that get you past your writing difficulties? Could you share them?

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov