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The Plot Whisperer

ImageAs you (probably) already know, I’m a writer. No, I haven’t published anything yet, but that will change pretty soon. But I am, nonetheless, a writer. And in my pursuit of more knowledge on the subject, I read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, by Martha Alderson. Now, you have to understand I’m not the kind of writer who sits down and plots her whole story. I usually have an idea I want to write about and I just sit down and write. After I’m done, then I’ll structure it for the editing process. I found that to be helpful. It helps me see the story as a whole, without limiting me to follow a structure before even starting. That’s because I don’t really know all that’s going to happen in my stories. I see plotting as creating expectations for a story, and not following the plot would seem disappointing to me. That’s why I only plot after finishing my first draft.

But what does the book has to do with it? Well, I read the book in the hopes it would help me understand plot a little more and maybe help me improve as a writer. I was, however, a bit skeptic over the whole idea, since I don’t plot before writing the story, but I found out The Plot Whisperer was a great help. It’s not a book only for those who plot beforehand, and it has helpful tips for all kinds of writers. It talks about “the universal story,” the plot planner, the scene tracker, the barriers we find along the way, and much more. It also has exercises here and there that can help you with your writing.

Anyway, I found the book very helpful, and if you’re a writer (beginner or not) I certainly think you should take a look at this book. Then come back and tell me what you think.

 

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Learning the craft

2756494307_4018808b1b_oI’ve been taking creative writing classes and enrolling in creative writing workshops for the past two years and I can say they have changed me. One professor in particular has been a huge part of it. Before taking his workshop I could read all kinds of books and I was fine. Now I feel like my way of looking into things has changed. Every book I open, every story I read, is different. I see things I had never noticed before. I see little flaws in technique that I wouldn’t be able to identify before. I see what could be done to improve the flow of a story and what is stalling it. And although I might not always agree with his point of view, I am thankful for all he has taught me.

I’ve recently read 1Q84 and my reaction to it was not what I expected. Thank you to my professor I paid attention to details in this book I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ll talk more about it later, in a separate post, but all I say is that my opinion is influenced by all I’ve learned in the past few years.

Learning about writing has changed me. It has made me aware of how to approach it and what I need to do to improve my own writing. It has made me a better writer. And I can’t wait to learn even more.

Photo credit: Nic McPhee

 

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Got Writer’s Block?

I love to write. I do. Create stories and different characters. But at times I find myself stuck. Sometimes it’s because it’s a complicated scene I’m having a hard time describing in a way I find satisfying. At other times it’s because I feel like my knowledge is not enough and I need to stop to do some research on the subject before I can continue with it.

However, from time to time, as I proceed with a story, I’ll find myself stuck for no reason at all. Or so it seems. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s wrong or how to continue, and that’s why I found this map by NY Book Editors very helpful.

Book Editor Map

And of course, sometimes I’m just procrastinating. Sometimes I’m just finding excuses not to write because I think there’s something else I need to do or because I see something shiny. Sometimes I walk to the table to get some paper and a pencil (yes, I write with a mechanical pencil and I have lots of them all over the house, just in case) and then I look out the window and “Look! A squirrel!” And the squirrel is eating and that makes me hungry so I have to find something to eat. But should I eat something sweet or not? Maybe a yogurt. Or cottage cheese. I’ve been eating a lot of cottage cheese later, that thing is addicting. Now I’m thirsty, let me get something to drink. And that’s how my ADD mind works. And now you’re probably both hungry and a little dizzy. You’re welcome.

 

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Don’t we all feel smarter now?

Teddy bears and other toys kill more people than REAL bears.

Ants stretch and yawn when they wake up.

It is believed that Shakespeare was 46 around the time that the King James Version of the Bible was written. In Psalms 46, the 46th word is shake and the 46th word from the last word is spear.

Q is the only letter that never appears in the name of an US State.

A 12-year-old’s science project showed that Fast food ice was in fact dirtier than toilet water.

“Eleven plus Two” and “Twelve plus One” both equal 13 and both have 13 letters. In fact they both have THE SAME 13 letters.

“Silent” and “listen” are spelled with the same letters.

“W” is the only letter in the English alphabet that is more than one syllable.

A way you can tell if you’re whispering or not is to put your hand at your throat. If you feel vibrations, you’re talking. If you don’t, you’re whispering.

The voice of Mickey Mouse for 32 years, and the current voice of Minnie Mouse were actually married in real life.

In 1898, 14 years before the Titanic sank, Morgan Robertson wrote a book about a ship called the “Titan” that crashed into an iceberg and sank.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits, not vegetables.

A penny is worth 1 cent but it costs 1.7 cents to make it.

LOL isn’t just laugh out loud. LOL is also “fun” in Dutch.

No matter how hard you squeeze the two ends of an egg, it will NEVER break.

If you put two straws in your mouth: one inside a drink and one outside it, you won’t be able to drink through either straw.

A piece of paper can’t be folded in half more than 7 times .

No word in the English language rhymes with purple, orange, month or silver.

Chewing gum can keep you from crying when cutting onions.

Months that begin on a Sunday will always have a “Friday the 13th”.

A mosquito is more likely to bite a blonde than a brunette.

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

In New York, the penalty for jumping off a building more than 50 ft without a permit is death.

Elephants are the only land mammals that cannot jump.

A strawberry is not an actual berry, but a banana is.

You can’t hum while holding your nose closed.

The sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog” uses every letter of the alphabet.

Eating celery is technically exercise. When you eat celery, you burn more calories than you consume.

A female platypus sweats milk.

‘Racecar’ is spelled the same forwards and backwards.

‘Uncopyrightable’ is the longest word in the English language that doesn’t repeat a letter once.

Penguins cannot walk backwards.

In 1963, baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry remarked, ‘They’ll put a man on the moon before I hit a home run.’ On July 20, 1969, just minutes after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Gaylord Perry hit his first home run.

Vending machines kill four times more people each year than sharks do.

When you put a seashell next to your ear, it’s the sound of your blood surging in your veins, not the ocean.

totally_useless_facts_001

Wow, don’t you feel smarter now? Yeah, me neither. But, hey, at least it’s entertaining, right? I mean, I’m still thinking about the tiny ants stretching and yawing early in the morning. So cute. Now, tell the truth, did you also try to hum holding your nose closed? It’s like the licking your own elbow thing. Try it. Then tell me how it goes.

Your turn now. Tell me a useless fact that is not on this list. I dare you. Come on, it’s easy, I have almost nothing here.

 

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Why do we write a blog?

Why are blogs so appealing? Why is it so great to write about personal things when we know strangers will read? Why is it so important for us to share private, sometimes even embarrassing thoughts with people we’ve never met before? Do we do it so we won’t feel so alone in the world? Do we do it for the satisfaction of knowing someone else out there can relate to it and that can make us feel less abnormal?

A year ago I started writing in this blog and I honestly hoped I wouldn’t quit. It wasn’t my first blog and I was afraid it would end up forgotten just as the other ones did. So far so good, but it isn’t over yet. It never will be, right? To avoid wanting to quit I did take some precautions. I decided it wouldn’t be too personal, that I wouldn’t reveal too much, and that I would keep it separate from my real life. But what does that all mean? To be honest, that’s up for interpretation.

If you pay attention to what a person writes (or rather to what that person decides to write or not to write) you end up knowing more about that person than you can even imagine. You, all of you, have access to more about my life than people who’ve known me in person for years! You may not realize that but you do. You can imagine how I’d react in a situation or try to imagine what I would or would not say about a certain subject. The fact that you may not know my age or my last name or what I look like does not mean a thing. Or perhaps you’re one of the few ones who do know me in person, in which case, hi! It’s great to see you here!

But I think that more than anything I wanted this space to be a place where I could say (or write) what I wanted without having to worry about who is reading it or whether or not they’d judge me for what I’m writing here. We end up meeting a lot of people we have to deal with in real life and sometimes we don’t have a choice whether or not to let them be a part of it. But in here, online, we have the privilege of not having to do that. If you come here and read my blog is because you want to, not because you have to do it. I probably won’t even know you were here anyway. Well, unless you like a post or leave a comment, of course. And by the way, comments and likes are always welcomed. 😉

Anyway, I just wanted to say it’s been a great journey and I appreciate every single one of your likes and comments. You all make me feel like I belong, like I’m not the only one, and like I’m actually part of a group I truly enjoy being part of. Thank you.

Thank You

 

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Do you believe everything happens for a reason?

I’ve been trying to write a certain story that’s in my head. I know what I want from it (kind of) but I’m still having a hard time doing it. Sometimes I just feel like I have to go back and fix the little things I know I have to fix in the first few chapters. Other times I feel like if I do that I’ll never get to the end of it. As a consequence, I end up stuck in between those two options.

In the meantime, I try to find inspiration here and there to help me write the story. And I love when I watch something that has nothing to do with my story but then I see this one thing that just seems to fit, that just makes a lot of sense. Do you know what I mean?

JJ tells Penelope someone’s watching her. Penelope looks at him sitting at his computer desk. She turns back to JJ and asks, “Do you believe everything happens for a reason?”

Penelope walks toward him. He stands up.

“You,” she says, acknowledging him.

“You,” he replies; a sigh of relief escapes his lips. The coolest girl he has ever met now has a face.

“You’re good,” she states.

“You’re better,” he replies.

They look deep into each other’s eyes. The universe comes to a stop. Everything around starts to disappear. They are the only ones standing there.

“Kevin Lynch,” he says, offering her his hand.

“Penelope,” she says, accepting his hand in hers.

His lips mouth her name. No sound comes out, for his lips have no intention of being heard. They are merely repeating what the mind has already memorized. Kevin smiles.

Falling. Unexpectedly.

I guess everything does happen for a reason.

Criminal Minds – S03E09

P.S.: Bonus points if you have seen this scene before. If not, you can see it here. And yes, you can still get the bonus points if you watch it now.

 

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Have you heard of Sartalics?

Not too long ago I was complaining about the difficulties of conveying sarcasm in writing. Now I find out three interns are attempting to solve this problem with Sartalics! Sartalics is a reverse italics font, which is just like italics but leaning left instead of right.

To make their campaign known, the interns are gathering a Twitter mob of 10,000 people to simultaneously tweet at tech giants Yahoo, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Tumblr, YouTube and Apple. The tweet “@(company name and person in charge of decisions at said company) needs a sarcasm font style option way more than another layout update! #nosarcasm.” will be sent automatically when the campaign hits 10,000 participants. Last I saw, the Sartalics twitter account had 2,304 followers already.

Let’s all join the twitterblitz for Sartalics!

 

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New Year Wish

I love new years. They are brand new notebooks full of blank pages just waiting for us. And we fill their pages with new stories, new dreams, and new mistakes. Yes, mistakes, lots of them. Because life is not life without some good mistakes along the way.

I remember once looking for quotes on the internet and stumbling into some really great ones written by Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman’s new year wish for 2005 (written in 2001):

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

For 2008 he added:

…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be,  be wise, and that you will always be kind.

And for 2012 his wish was:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

I guess my New Year Wish for 2013 is very similar to the ones Gaiman made, only with my own twist:

May 2013 be full of magic, dreams, and lots of good madness – because nothing is complete without a touch of good madness in it. May we read great books full of wonderful stories to inspire us. May we make mistakes, lots of them, and may we also make art – any kind of it. May we write, draw, dance, sing, act, paint, create. May we never stop doing something we’re afraid of doing. May we live brand new adventuresMay we learn the magic of dancing in the middle of a supermarket. May we embarrass ourselves and live life to the fullest. And may we never forget to be furiously happy!!

happy_new_year_color
 

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Where to find inspiration

Sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration to write. I’ve been working on a few stories and I have to say, it’s taking me longer than I expected. Okay, I don’t really have that much time to work on them to begin with, but still, it’s going pretty slow.

One of the things I like to do to try to find inspiration is to surf the internet. I look for pictures and quotes that can have a connection to the story I’m writing, something that relates to one of my characters, and I save them all in a folder on my laptop. The problem is that now I have so many things in said folder I get lost.

writers-block

Any tips? How do you find inspiration?

 

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Just Around (The Riverbend)

Carol and I promise that we haven’t forgotten about the blog. Life has just been high maintenance recently, complete with moving, visits from friends, and working extra shifts as retail nears fourth quarter. But what I’ve been planning to write about has been lurking in the back of my mind all the while. Between another book review, writing about the correlation between writing and music, or the steadily approaching Nanowrimo, I’ve been pretty indecisive. I want to keep things fresh, so I wanted to veer away from another review for at least another post and my thoughts on music/writing are still forming into something organized. Due to my last post being about not overworking yourself into writing, I wanted to steer clear of Nanowrimo, which is sort of the exact opposite of my last post. But in the end, I feel that Nanowrimo might prove to be a fun challenge to some. So, my apologies for jumping from one end of the spectrum to the other.

If you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably wondering what Nanowrimo is.

It stands for National Novel Writing Month. It has a few events spaced across the year – Script Frenzy in April, Camp Nanowrimo twice in June and August, and Nanowrimo in November. Each event challenges writers everywhere to write a piece of fiction 50,000 words in one month.

No, my finger didn’t get stuck on the zero key. 50,000 words.

Thus the reason why I was hesitant to mention it. That’s a lot of words, especially to produce in thirty or so days. I went in with only two weeks of preparation, and while I was happy that I beat it, I never cashed in on the prize I wanted so badly because the story still wasn’t close to being ready. I want to tell people about it while they still have a little bit of time to prepare something if they’re interested, especially because the November prizes are pretty sweet.

I can’t say much for Script Frenzy because I honestly haven’t looked much into it. But Nanowrimo in November is so far the only event to reward you with a paperback version of your book if you’re able to get 50,000 words down before the month is up.

For the few years that I’ve known about it, Nanowrimo and CreateSpace have been awesome enough to award the winners of Nano a free paperback copy of their finished product. After you complete the challenge and verify with Nano, they give you until June to take your first draft and tweak and polish it to perfection and find a cover. Once you’re ready, put the code Nano gives you in the CreateSpace website and you’re all set to go.

In the past you weren’t supposed to sell that copy (and if it’s the only one why would you want to?), but I’ve been glancing through the articles and it seems like they’ve decided to be even more giving. Last year they gave five free copies and advice on self publishing. So far, I’ve been unable to confirm what this year will be like, but I’m sure posts will appear on their website the closer to the date we get.

For anyone who has a novel or a super long fiction piece they’ve mapped out but haven’t actually started on, this might be the time for that story to shine. If this year won’t work for you or you’re simply not interested, I would suggest swinging by the site around that time of year just because it’s so much fun to talk to a bunch of writers all gathered and active at once. People can exchange information like tools that help them write. It was in the forums there that I found out about Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die site; I’m a person who is all about trying to beat timed goals and so it’s perfect for breaking me out of writer’s block and getting first drafts done.

For more solid, official information: nanowrimo.org will be where you want to go.

For “putting the ‘prod’ in productivity,” check out writeordie.com for a little tough love.

November is about three months away. It’s a nice chunk of time to get the mental ball rolling, if nothing else. Whether you participate or not, keep calm and keep writing!

[Image Credit: Geograph (by NZ5048)]

 

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