Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breaking news: Scrapper draft done

Today I completed my draft of "Scrapper."  This is one of the key stories in my anthology Gardens in the Cracks.  Now I have to decide which of the others I should redraft.  I am leaning towards the title story, but may go after one of the shorter pieces as I am getting close to the end of the school year, and that is always a busy time for me and my students.  But the point here is:  Scrapper is drafted and in pretty good shape. 
I approached it in a different manner than I usually do. I wrote the beginning 18,000 words, then wrote the end because I just had it all laid out before me ready to churn out.  I normally write from start to the finish, so this was awkward. But I feel it actually came out better because I was writing when I was passionate about the events happening.  It was just that bridging between the two that was the tough part.  However, I had set a level of writing and that forced me to continue at that level.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Nondescript Little Program: NoScript

Occasionally, I blog about software programs I have recently found that I think are useful for writers.  Well, this next program is by no means limited to writers. Anyone who spends time on the net researching, shopping, or just wandering about the internet, will find NoScript a useful program.  Like the other programs I have talked about, this is another freeware program, which, of course, won't turn away any donations.  I actually have been using it for many years, and it's one of those things that you only know you need it when you don't have it, kind of like parents or breathing or an opposing thumb.  That's what NoScript is.  It's an add-on for Firefox.  (I have only used it with Firefox and cannot say if it will work with Opera, Linux or Explorer.) 

This nondescript (no pun intended, well maybe it was intended) program hides behind your activities and only becomes apparent when you go to a new website.  Then it stops all the script activity from loading until you give permission.  When this happens, I just click on which permissions I want to give the site I am visiting. So I don't get those annoying advertising boxes popping up over the page I am visiting. And no other little activities are going on that I am unaware of.  I can even give a site temporary permission and exit out immediately if I need to, knowing if I go back again, NoScript is keeping everything under control.

Sure, I occasionally find myself wondering why something isn't working on a site I have gone to numerous times, but I come to my senses, click on the NoScript icon right next to the web address at the top of my screen and add whatever permissions are needed to get it all back to normal. It is not NoScript fouling up.  The site must have changed a process and added another script.  For example, there is an online vitamin site I go to every three or so months to get new supplies. One day I found I could no longer arrange payment. They had changed their payment process.  It was the first time I had been going to a site on a routine basis and couldn't do what I was used to doing. It took me a few days to figure it out. I went back, checked NoScript and sure enough had to add a permission.

Sometimes, I have had to experiment a little giving permission for this and not for that until the right things are active and only what I want is active at the site.  Having the option to temporarily allow something comes especially in use then though you can disallow any script at any time. Sometimes I am uncertain what the item is used for, but over the years of using this program, I have learned a lot and usually recognize what needs permission and what I would rather not have active.  The program updates regularly without issue.  Overall, it is pretty simple and just like breathing, something I only think about when I need it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #17

Stormy times coming.
It is time your character went through some tough times.  What is the worst that can go wrong?  What is second worst?  Now write about your character and have that second worst thing happen. Get your character almost through it, then the worst thing happens. How will the character cope?  Who comes to his aide?  Will he accept the help or work it out alone? 

What would be a small ray of sunshine in all this, nothing big or miraculous, just something to give a stress break?  Give him that little bit of brightness, then head him back into the storm with that brief break to supply a little faith and determination.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When the writer inside them says, "I am here."

As a teacher of creative writing, I at this time of the year always enjoy the moment when my students suddenly look to each other and say, "Your writing has changed."  They mention detailed images, strong word choice, developed characters, etc.

This is what they have been working towards all year and most of them didn't realize it.  They thought they were just getting to write all the time about any idea that came into their heads.  They have grumbled about the redrafts, scrambled for reasons to miss deadlines, gotten excited about a prompt or a day they could just dedicate to writing whatever fell into their heads.  They reminisce about the walks around campus we have taken looking for interesting images skulking about the place in unexpected corners, inside the book room or under the mats by the doors.

wild about writing
At the start of the year, they did not expect they needed to improve or that anyone would notice if they did.  But here it is. That moment when someone finishes reading what he or she wrote in response to the prompt, and then epiphany:  "Your writing has changed -- and mine too."  When this happens, I do not say, "Ah, here is a teaching moment."  I remain silent and listen to the writers inside them say, "I am here."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #16

Start off your character dancing: fast or slow, rap or rock. Just have them dancing and slowly add environment. Is anybody watching?  How would the character feel if someone was?  Who? What if the character thought it was one person, but it was another?
Okay, take it for there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Comfortable on either end of the reading see-saw

I have become quite technology heavy.  I use quite a bit of technology in the classroom just in the process of my teaching (i.e., two computers, one projector, one Mimeo, one iPad, scanner, digital cameras [still and video], and loads of advanced software. Don't even ask what I have my students working on).  At home, well, minus the projector and add one e-reader, and a couple of more computers, and that will be close to how technology bound I am.  Of course, some of it is not new tech (I take real good care of my stuff), but it's in active use.  Oops, forgot the phones.

My point is this. I have owned an e-reader for more than a year now and my mother-in-law wished to get one. We talked about mine and the ones she was considering (I took more than a year to make my decision, she took about the same).  Now we both have e-readers, different brands, and find we quite like reading e-books.  It doesn't really matter which one you get as long as you can read the way you want to.  I have checked out quite a number of blogs on e-readers, and really if you want it to reduce the amount of books you have in your house (this was the main selling point that got my husband onto pushing me to buy an e-reader) than any crisp-screened reader will meet your needs.  The rest is just bells and whistles with attendant price tags.

This week my mother-in-law gave me her copy of The Help in paperback. She enjoyed it and thought I might like it. She bought it before she purchased her e-reader.  I felt much at home leaning back on the daybed in our computer room holding that book in my hands.  It felt good, so maybe holding a hardback or paperback has some pull yet with me, and it is an entertaining book, but she has never given away a book to me before. The Help is a big book, and it is going to take up space, which may be what prompted her to share.  I know she won't be handing me her Kindle anytime soon, and I am not lending out my Sony either.  But I think I can shift back and forth between my pencil, pen, keyboard, tablet, paperbacks, e-books, transparencies, and projectors with comfort for some time to come, and there is probably a little space yet left on my bookcase in the hallway.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #15

Take another path

Someone just gave your character a do-over. 
  • Describe the original experience. 
  • Now write the do-over.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jasper Fford, Shades of Grey, What a world! What a world!

I am reading Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey and after the opening pages, which were a bit slow, I found myself striding along with the Russetts, up-and-coming red-hue percepted individuals.  Now about 100 pages in, I am amazed how this world is created and wrapped about the perception of color, both true colors and artificial.  The art of world building is one I am still learning, but reading Shades of Grey as a resource alone is fun, though I am drawn by the story as well.
shades of red on grey

Fforde has built these characters who demonstrate the perception of color in every aspect of their behavior, desires, relationships, social status and careers.  Imagining the scope of his plan before he even began writing is daunting.  This is the first time I have read this book, and I doubt it will be the last. Usually as a reader, I just dive into the story head first, don't even worry about finding nearby exit routes, confirming there are handrails, checking for a lifeguard or preparing snacks or making a quick visit to the restroom.  I won't come up for air until my eyes won't stay open, my stomach won't stop growling even when I growl back at it or I am having to cross my legs.  I am a full on reader.  But Shades of Grey makes me, the writer, keep sitting back and wondering how he pulled this all together with just one brain.  That is not to say I am pulled out of the story, for I am not.  But this other side of me is pulled just as inextricably.

I started Shades of Grey a couple of months ago and found those first pages so sloggy that I turned to two other books and read them before returning to this one just a few days ago.  What is funny is that only a few pages later I was hooked.  It's like when a person goes to the doctor for a pain she has been suffering through for weeks and finally just as she has has enough and is sitting in the doctor's office, she starts feeling better.  That is how I feel: if I had only read five more pages, I would have been enthralled.

Now I don't want to look at another book until I have finished this one and then I may just read it again to let my writer self get a more focused view of what Fforde did with this story.  It makes me want to quote the witch of the west: What a world, what a world!  But with approbation rather than frustration.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #14

beating heart
On page 440 of my copy of A Tale of Two Cities is a wonderful last line of a chapter.  Though it means one thing in the context of the book it is in, think and write about what else it could mean.

The wind is rushing after us, and the clouds are flying after us, and the moon is plunging after us, and the whole wild night is in pursuit of us; but, so far, we are pursued by nothing else.