Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I can hear you breathing...

magnifying the audience
So here I am writing to an empty theater.  Not certain what I will do when people are actually reading this blog.  Hopefully, this will not be the first post they see.  In any case, I sit here writing and thinking about the ghost audience sitting out there.  I see one lady out front, arms akimbo across her chest, her mind clicking away at my various attributes as a writer, and she is considering if she got up and walked out if anybody would notice. There is another lady further up the aisle and off to the left who is listening impartially and gradually giving me some credit for good spelling and punctuation.  I look further and see the place is fairly full, but most of the members seated are rather blurry. I am tempted to tip my glasses off my nose and see if they come in clearer.  This is only a temptation. If they were clearer, this would mean they are way too close and much too tiny as I wear glasses for distance not reading.  A frightening thought to have an audience that tiny.  Makes not having one at all not such a disappointing thing.

So how does one build up an audience?  I am reading suggestions on this very issue and considering some of them. Some I have already done.  This blog is one example, my Goodreads account another.  I read other blogs, but so far have not participated in any. Well, that is not quite true.  I read one blog on which I felt good about posting a comment of my own.  So I wrote my little comment, checked its spelling and other qualities wanting to be properly dressed for my debut post and then sent it on its way.  I glanced up to the top of the blog wondering if anyone would comment on my comment. That's when I realized the post I had read and found so intriguing was two years old.  Would the blog owner even notice?  And if he did, would he laugh.  "Silly poster, that conversation is way out of date."

Well, I just heard someone chuckle way in the back.  Not sure they thought my story was humorous, but at least they felt relaxed enough to enjoy themselves. So my phantom audience, adieu for now.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Developing a foil character in yWriter5

One of the bonuses that came out of finding yWriter5 (link in the Favorite Sites column to the top right) and then using it to develop my book, In Times Passed, was that as I entered some information into the program about the various characters present in my book, I got to know them better and developed them further. One character I had given little thought to but was using as one of the main reasons that my protagonist, Brent Garrett, was so unable to find direction and thus was the type to leap without looking began to take shape.  Much of what I learned about her, Vivian (maiden name still undecided) his mother, would not be used in the book, but I realized she was not a character to look over at all.  A new scene developed that showed at least a portion of the relationship she has with her son and how she has effected him directly and indirectly whether intentionally or not.

The second book in the series, No-time Like the Present, when roughed out had no mention of her at all. But after a stint in yWriter5, and my understanding of Vivian's motivations, possible intentions (she has yet to reveal to me how much of what she does is intentional, good fortunate busybodying and the effects of someone else's possible instigation) growing with the first book's finish, she now plays a role in the second book and her underlying machinations become more interesting.  As I work through the series, I suspect that Vivian will call for a book of her own, perhaps to defend herself and all that seems to get laid at her door.   

So my point is, yWriter5 or anything that makes you have to supply detail or defend traits and motivations, can lead to a foil character getting unexpected dimension and even the opportunity to rise as a main character in a later work.

Now that I think about it, it was in having to write down the motivations, obvious and underlying, that caused Brent to make the choices he did, that forced me to look into Vivian's involvement more and then develop her further.

Sorry about this not going in on Wednesday, my weekly blog day.  I promised myself and my nonexistent readers I would blog weekly and apparently failed in my third week.  I love teaching, but it is time consuming.  But I plan to work this habit into my life, come what may.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Exercise and inspiration

Usually when I am working on a story, I find a quiet place to relax and see what comes to mind.  But lately, since I started jogging on a treadmill, I have found that running along thinking about the story currently at hand will lead to inspiration.  Just yesterday I was running along, and a story I am working on, titled "Scrapper," came to mind. And though I knew what was happening next, it was the ending that caught my interest. As I worked it out in my mind, watching the scene play out, motives for different character actions developed and other scenes not yet written filled out with details.  By the time I was off the treadmill, a mere twenty-three minutes later, I had three key scenes bubbling over.  I sat and wrote more than 3000 words.  So my story has a well advanced beginning and a near complete ending.  I am looking forward to tomorrow's run and the middle taking shape, while I am taking shape, too.

So for me, exercise and inspiration seemed to be a well-linked pair.  Writing could be the healthiest thing I do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

For users of WordPerfect who want to publish on Smashwords

Since this is my first time having a blog, I have decided that Wednesday will be my scheduled blog day.  I still may enter other posts, but once a week I will definitely post.  Since writing is my focus for this blog, my posts on Wednesday will always relate to publishing and improving writing. is where I published my book, In Times Passed, and one thing that was very much emphasized in the formatting of a book to ready it for the meatgrinder (the program that turns the uploaded manuscript into several varieties of ebook format) is that it must be in Word, preferably 2003 or 2007 versions.  I have a preference for WordPerfect (WP), though I use Word at work.  All my writing is in wpd format.  So for those writers with the same preference as I, I wanted to share how easy it was to make the final preparation on the document that would be uploaded, while still using WP for the original document.  The writer does have to have Word for the final step, though. 

I completed my book in WP as well as put it through a final content edit.  Then following the Smashwords' guide for publication formatting, I used the recommended "nuclear method." The name sounds terrible, but the process truly is the easiest way to strip out WP formatting.  I used the select all menu choice in Edit, copied, and then pasted it into Notepad.  I saved the text in Notepad format.  Since I have the programs on separate computers, I used a flashdrive to transfer the new Notepad document to my laptop which has Word on it.  I then opened Notepad on the laptop, selected, copied and pasted it into a new Word document.  From there on, I followed the Smashwords' guide on preparing the program to avoid it inserting formatting, and then I followed remaining instructions for fonts, chapter headings, scene breaks, styles, etc.

I put my book through one more final edit using a strategy I always tell my students.  I worked from the end of the document, sentence by sentence back to the beginning. This keeps me from falling into the story and losing track of the fact that I am looking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.  Other things catch my attention that way, too.  If I ask myself, "Who said that?"  I recheck the dialogue and make sure it is clear who is speaking as I don't always use tags.  Ultimately, I did go through the document with a close eye for formatting codes that were not allowed.  The guide is very clear about how to do this and what to look for, so I leave any writers reading this to read it.  My main point here is feel free to use WordPerfect when creating your work, as a quick trip through Notepad clears away any formatting which could have turned the whole endeavor into a nightmare.  As it was, I had no format errors to correct after the upload and made it into the Premium Catalog without issue the first time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

yWriter software is a tool worth downloading

When I decided in the spring of this year to go through my books gathering digital mothballs, I knew I was going to have to find a way to visualize the plot better than I had in the past.  I tried to think of ways to use my word processing software but could not think of anything that wouldn't be more trouble than it was worth. I searched my iphone for an app already existing but found nothing.  I searched for writing software and found a few, but they were spendy.  I decided to look and see what writers were saying about such software.  And that's is when I learned about yWriter by Spacejock Software.

I don't want this to sound like a paid ad, so let me just say, breaking my story into scenes and taking the time to enter the goals, conflict and outcome (for plot) helped me ensure there was purpose for each scene and know how each scene drove the story forward.  There is much more to the software, and most of what it offers has greatly improved my redrafting for content as well as time invested.  The writer can decide what she wants to use and to what extent she wants to use.  And it's free but well worth showing gratitude by voluntarily sending in a monetary pat on the back to the developer.