clhollandwriter: (Default)
I haven't made new year's resolutions, as such - since we're a low fat, low alcohol household for reasons of health, giving up things seems both redundant and likely to be miserable. But I try to start the year by having a clear out, and making plans for the months ahead.

Last year I posted about my motivational stickers, which worked up to a point, but this year I need something else to help keep me organised. Since I tend to carry a notebook around anyway, I've decided to give bullet journal a try. It's a sort of combination of all-purpose notebook and diary, so will hopefully allow me to keep track of things.

I particularly like the idea of indexing, to keep track of several projects at once. I've written up the suggested format, including the diary logs, although I already have a diary so may use that instead rather than scheduling things into the journal. I bought Mslexia's writers' diary, and want to get the use out of it. Plus every week has a handy blank page, in which I write all the interesting submission deadlines for that week (whether or not I've decided to write for them). I think that might clog up a bullet journal, since so many of the deadlines whoosh by Douglas Adams style - even with the best of intentions I can't write for all of them!

So I'll probably keep the diary for deadlines and appointments, and use the journal to keep track of writing projects, noodling, and those things I plan to do but haven't scheduled yet. I'm halfway to using that format anyway.

Amanda Hackwith has this interesting blog post about how she customised the format to fit with her writing life. I'll probably do something similar, although the colour coding seems like a bit much effort. I can always put my stickers in, instead.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Today, a final podcast (or two) - I Should be Writing, which is aimed at beginners, and  I Should be Writing: Ditch Diggers, about the business of writing.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Probably more useful to literary writers and poets than spec fic writers, the Poets and Writers Submission Calendar has handy links to competitions and awards.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Today, we have an article for plotters, 21 Plot shapes and the Pros and Cons of Each over at InterGalactic Medicine Show.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Here's another audio site, Tabletop Audio, ostensibly for role plays but would also be good background for writing to. This one has less Hogwarts, but does have locations such as a 1920s speakeasy, a royal salon, and a city under siege.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Like a lot of writers, I'm a pantser not a plotter. I'd really like to learn how to plot though (I might get more finished that way). Writer Julie Frost pointed out this series of blog posts on exactly that - The Secrets of Story Structure. I haven't read them yet, but I've heard good things.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Today's advent entry is another useful tool, for writers who want to design their own e-book covers. Because let's face it, while being able to hire someone to make art for you is great, sometimes it's not possible or affordable. Canva lets you do all the work yourself, and comes with handy tutorials. Mostly it's free, although some of the pre-designed layouts and custom bits have a (small) price tag. Obviously pay for any pictures you bring in from stock sites or the like.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
For today, we have http://www.ambient-mixer.com, a white noise generating website for writers who like their noise with a bit more of a specific atmosphere than rain or oceans (although these are probably available). It has offerings like Gryffindor Common Room, and In Rivendell, and a number of "ambient categories" to choose from. It also allows you to create your own sound mix. Perfect for those who are tired of pretending they're in a coffee shop.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Today's is a useful tool for putting up links to Amazon. ASIN.info allows you to enter the ASIN or Amazon link to your eBook and it will take the user to their local Amazon site. There's a bunch of stuff on the website about commission and Partner-IDs, but honestly I just use it so I don't have to put up multiple links every time, or risk clickers ending up on the wrong Amazon site.
clhollandwriter: (poppy)
It must be a couple of years ago now I bought The Writer's Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan.
Like my ever-growing pile of books about writing, it got looked at a couple of times, and I had the best of intentions to use it, but then it got put to one side and forgotten about it.

I pulled it out again recently when I was stuck on a prompt-based challenge, to add a couple of elements and a first line to get me going. It worked, although the resulting story is possibly too strange to actually do anything with.

The toolkit itself is a fun idea. It has some spinners with things like characters and obstacles on, sicks with first lines and lot twists, and cards with sensory details and objects. The different idea generators are designed to be used with those of the same sort (although I mix and match), and the idea is to write from one until the egg timer runs out of sand then use the next one to turn the story in another direction.

I liked the idea so much I decided to make my own, except based around speculative fiction. I got as far as buying a pack of craft lolly sticks in different colours, but realised I was going to have trouble writing on their rough surfaces and also couldn't decide what to do with my sticks. Have some for fantasy and some for science fiction? Include characters/settings/fantasy races and aliens/settings? Then I got distracted, and moved house, and haven't done anything more with it than find a tin to keep the sticks in.

The problem with the toolkit is there's a risk of getting bored with the content. Sure you'll end up with different combinations, but there are limited options for each different element. There's only so many times you want to write about "Joy from the rock band" or someone who solves their problems by learning to drive. The sensory details and plot turn prompts have probably got a it more life in them, and you can always combine them with other, weirder prompts. See you at Seventh Sanctum?
clhollandwriter: (poppy)
It's an ongoing source of amusement and/bemusement for many, writers included, that writers seem to be drawn to coffee shops like moths to a flame. Coffee shops are a break from the writing desk, a retreat from the demands of family, or somewhere to hang out during NaNoWriMo write-ins. While coffee shops seem to be quite a modern phenomenon they're really not, as David Brandon's Life in a 17th Century Coffee Shop will attest (as will anyone who remembers what coffee was like in the UK not so long ago).

There are a number of suggested reasons for this obsession. This article suggests being shamed by the public gaze out of loitering and into working has an effect, and also that the short bursts of time writers stay (typically a couple of hours) has an effect similar to the Pomodoro technique.

Research has shown that coffee shops can also be stimulating to creativity. It's not the caffeine, but the noise levels. Too much noise can be really distracting - like my downstairs neighbour who's currently blasting the TV loud enough I can hear it through my floor. Too little noise and suddenly the ticking clock in the next room is the herald of your writing time slipping away. Quiet can be intimidating. Just enough - like coffee shop chatter - can function as white noise, happily placing the writer in the Goldilocks zone between distraction and fear.

Unfortunately there are no decent coffee shops in my town. Not one. Because I need a certain level of background noise to get anything done, I've started using a website called Coffitivity. As the name suggests, it plays a coffee shop soundtrack (there's a choice of three). The chatter is just quiet enough that you can't hear what anyone is saying, which is a pitfall of real coffee shops (I got no writing done the day I ended up a table over from three women discussing their friends who work in the internet sex industry).

To be fair, any white noise would probably have the same effect. I quite like the idea of swapping my imitation coffee shop for an imitation beach, or rainstorm, so I'll probably seek some out. In the meantime I'll keep listening to Coffitivity's "Morning Murmer" track and hoping that someone finally opens a proper coffee shop in this town.
clhollandwriter: (block)
A little late posting, since it's not 5th May, but I signed up for the May story a day challenge over at storyaday.org.

It's bringing home to me how out of practice I am. One of the first posts suggested starting small - no more than 1200 words a story at the beginning of the month. My immediate reaction was I'd struggle to manage even that in a day. I used to be able to do it in an hour and a half. These days I find it really difficult to go from a standing start.

Not engaging with the prompts is a problem. Show me a picture of a baby elephant trying to rescue a kitten from a river and I'm more likely to think it's twee, and that I hate anthropomorphic animal stories, than wonder how an elephant and cat become best buddies, if they're in league with each other, or what that cat is doing in the river in the first place.

However, even when I was writing from prompts before I was usually supplementing with other prompts. It's when the random connections happen in the brain that the magic starts.

So, for anyone else in need of prompting, here are some of my favourite prompt sites:
Seventh Sanctum, which has prompts for pretty much everything (random creatures, equipment, names) on top of a dedicated writing section that comes up with plots, symbolism, themes etc.
Mangle posts the last 25 images uploaded to Livejournal. Sometimes what you'll get is awful (yes, sometimes that's porn - the site is very NSFW), but sometimes you'll get a gem.
Also for images there's deviantART, which posts up it's most recently popular images on the front page.
The Random Proverb Generator which smooshes up proverbs and serves them back in a new form. Loading it up to get the link just netted me "Absence makes the heart grow words". There might be a story in that.
clhollandwriter: (poppy)
Here are some useful links, courtesy of the Write 1 Sub 1 website:

List of writer resources
List of writing podcasts
clhollandwriter: (poppy)
Posted to my website a few days ago, but not LJ as it was broken. Again.

In the spirit of starting the year as you mean to go on, I saw the New Year in reading a writing magazine. Then the first thing I did on New Year's Day, after breakfast, was sit down and do some of my proofreading course. I've done my Sub 1 for Write 1 Sub 1 already, and I spent an hour and a half this morning in a coffee shop alternately noodling notes for poetry and writing the first draft of a story.

Of course, all this subject to change once the day job starts crushing my soul again, but so far it's a good start.

I've decided that the Write 1 part of W1S1 needs some parameters. For my purposes, only completed first drafts that are typed up on the computer in full count towards it. Drafts in notebooks are no good to anybody because they so often stay that way. No one wants a submission in turquoise ink and my scrawly handwriting.

My writer gifts to myself are proving to be worth the investment. The Mslexia diary is a great space-saver, since it has so many blank pages in it (a page for each week and a bunch of extra pages at the back) I don't need to carry a notebook around with me as well "just in case". And my first foray into the Writer's Toolbox garnered me a rough draft, and the idea for another story.

After (not much) deliberation, I've also bought a jar of overpriced flavoured coffee (hazelnut, if you're interested). It's expensive, but only in that a 50g jar was slightly more expensive than a large latte - which is still cheaper than drinking the same amount of coffee in a cafe somewhere. The intent is to try and replicate some of the coffee shop vibe at home, with a "treat" drink that I'm only allowed when writing, and the radio on for background noise. Whether this works against distractions remains to be seen, since that's the main point of going out in the first place.

The aim this year is to be more productive, so: whatever works!
clhollandwriter: (marchin)
I seem to be slightly short of links this week, so I thought I'd post some for those planning on taking part in NaNoWriMo next month. I'm giving it a miss this year, too much other stuff going on, but no doubt I'll be wanting to take part by the end of the first week.

For those who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, here's the website. They have a very helpful Reference Desk where you can research pretty much anything. The danger is spending more time there than actually writing.

If getting words on the page is a problem, Write or Die has a nifty online app that punishes you if you stop writing for too long before you reach your wordcount or the timer runs out. The consequences vary from a gentle reminder to your word unwriting itself. If you're more for the carrot than the stick, Written? Kitten! offers pictures of fluffy cats for wordcount. Just don't set your count too low as the number of available kittens isn't that big.

Of course, you'll be wanting to keep track of your wordcount, and post status updates all over your social networking. Writertopia have a couple of nifty wordcounters you can add to blog posts.

Finally, if you're struggling for ideas, Seventh Sanctum has a random story generator, along with generators for settings, characters, and other random things. Just don't spend all your time playing with it.

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