Saturday, November 28, 2015

Writing Tools - That Anyone Can Use

Writing Tools - That Anyone Can Use

Scrivener - $40
Scapple - $15
Aeon Timeline - $40

If you do a lot of writing, whether creatively, for a blog, for work, or for school, may I recommend purchasing the three programs listed above, all of which have free trial periods. I get no benefit from my recommendation. I do get the satisfaction that I may save you hundreds, no thousands, of hours in your life. They are that good. And totally worth the money.

Scrivener is produced by a company called Literature and Latte. The reason I say that anyone can use this is it has different modes for different types of writing - even academic. You have to use Chicago Style for your paper? It's in there. MLA? Yes. Novel format, Non-fiction, Blogging? All in there.

It takes a little while to learn all that the program can do, but there are You Tube videos that help with the learning curve.

I discovered just this morning another program that Literature and Latte produces. I was searching for a mind mapping program to help with my complex plot. Scapple is the name and mapping is it's game. It allows you to put all kinds of notes, color coded if you want, onto one big page that you can then move and draw lines between and otherwise have your way with them. It's very helpful for making sure your story lines intersect correctly and you don't have great big holes in the plot.

I can see this being useful for students who are trying to come up with ideas for a paper, writers mapping out plot and time lines, and event planners who need to have certain components come together at the right times.

As an example, here is this morning's play time with it so far:

There are notes and colors and moving them around is as simple as dragging them to where they are supposed to be. This was about 15 minutes worth of work and as you can see, quite easy to figure out. If I can do it, YOU can do it.

The third program is Aeon Timeline, a nifty way to put anything on a timeline - such as letters written from 1921 to 1951, so that you can track when they were written, by whom, and what other world events or personal events were going on at the time. This one is probably most helpful for writers who have time boundaries that their story follows. I would have loved using it for my school work many years ago. 

I get excited when I find something that makes life easier, like the robot who sweeps my floors so I don't have to. Indirect help, but nonetheless useful. I also get excited when others share a tool, a technique, or a product that helps me in my word production. The above list is meant as that, an attempt to share something useful for those of us who write, or for anyone who puts words on a page for any reason. Check 'em out.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Write Every Day

So I think I've figured out something about being a writer. You have to write. Every day. It's a job. OK, it's also pretty fun for me too, but it is entirely dependent on actually producing words. Lots of them.

November is National Novel Writing Month and I have been steadily producing words for 27 days in a row. They say (not really sure who "they" are) that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Since you probably should write every day if you are a writer (with a few days off here and there for good behavior) by my calculations, I should be habit - hardened.

If only it really worked that way. This morning I sat and stared at my current project, a historical fiction, a love story set during WWII (NOT a romance, I am not a romance novelist - it's a love story - there is a difference). No words could be added. Not that it's perfect, not by a long shot. It still has to be revised about 50 times before I even think about trying to shop it out. I just had nothing to say on the topic. Sometimes you get a little burned out.

I know a lot about getting burned out. I was an ER nurse for a long time and I felt it. I was pretty good at hiding it, but I used to get mad at those who didn't, or couldn't, and one day I actually listened to myself say, "If you don't want to be here, go somewhere else." I didn't want to be there any more. I had nothing left to give anyone else. So, I left.

Burn out for writing is nothing like burn out for nursing and I'm not really comparing the two. But both of them are a whole lot of staring and waiting for something to change. Sometimes water falls out of your eyes. But with writing, I've found that if I just work on a different project, the words come more easily and I still feel like I'm working towards a completed project, even if it's not the one I'm supposed to be working on.

For NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) the challenge is to write a complete novel of 50,000 words (this equates to about 150 to 200 paperback pages) in one month. Just because you wrote 50,000 words does not mean you are done, it means you wrote 50,000 words. Still an accomplishment. I've done it 4 times now and have 4 novels, none of which I've finished.

But this year is different. This year, I decided that if I was going to write, it would be a full time job and I would write, every day. I failed. But - I have so far succeeded in November. That's why some of these crazy participation events are worth while, even if others don't see the value in it. I made progress on a goal. And I will finish this novel in the coming year, then start all over again in November.