Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Article | Sorry I haven't written more & The anticipation for NaNoWriMo

Dear Blog:

So sorry about the radio silence. It is not that I haven’t been reading. It’s that I have been reading at a much slower pace. I hit a wall, kind of.

You see what happened is that I had an overly ambitious spurt at the library and consequently ordered a lot of books I wanted to read, but did not have all the time for. I have a rather large late fee waiting for me when I do finally show my face at the library, that might have to wait till January to be cleared up. So I am back to reading off of my shelf. Almost. I have one book to finish (hopefully tonight) with late fees on it, but that still needs finishing. See they started pilling up and rather than read what I felt like reading, I read what was due first and I hit a wall of “I don’t really feel motivated to read you.”

On top of that I haven’t had much reading time at work. I am have been super extra busy and working while eating my lunch and because I don’t want to lose my forward momentum by stopping and reading while at work (I find it hard to hit the work grove again when I wish I was reading), I have not been reading while at work. I have also been driving to work. With Cowboy laid off I now have access to the car every day, so I my bus reading time has stopped. I have however been listening to audio books when my iPod doesn’t inexplicably launch itself to another section of the book while in the middle of a scene.

Also, there is NaNo coming up in a few short days. So soon. And I have really been using my energy to focus on my story rather than get swept away in someone else’s. I want my characters to be in my head, rather than mimic someone else’s books. Not that their books aren’t good. They are. They are terrific. But my characters need the chance to be terrific on their own too, and not shadows of another masters.

That being said, I am incredibly excited for NaNo. I have cancelled on a few Halloween parties in favor of staying home and handing out candy and at midnight starting my book. I have given the reasoning of “I am broke”. Which I am. That is not a lie. But I also have counter motivation for my hermit like attitude. It’s just less understandable for those who don’t get NaNo, but do get financial issues.

Seriously dudes. Sunday. It is almost here. I will be writing 50 000 words in a month. Hopefully more. I have some phenomenal characters with several different POV’s and a death scene within the first couple of chapters. It doesn’t even bother me that I am going to kill of a character than I must make my audience love first. Not one bit. It is central to shaping an MC.

However, if I don’t keep myself suitably distracted, I might just vibrate (with enthusiasm) into a state of shock. So here are some things I am doing to pass the time and get ready for NaNo:

1) I am cleaning my house on Thursday or Friday (Saturday at the latest). I will most definitely slack on this throughout NaNo. I need to find the time somewhere. A clean house though makes me feel good. I can think better in a clean house. For some reason the dust and the dog hair gets to me. Plus all that random stuff lying around gets organized away.

2) Saturday (hopefully) I am going to start a jean quilt for a Christmas present. Now I am pretty sure the recipient doesn’t check out my blog so I really don’t have much to lose by mentioning it here, but all the same I won’t say who it is for. This will give me time to think about my characters while I work but also keep me from going batty.

3) I will be checking the mail religiously between now and Friday. I have two parcels I am eagerly anticipating. No Plot No Problem By: Chris Batty; and The Gathering Storm by: Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson. Really the second book might throw me through a loop. It may throw the cleaning/quilting off course. It will not however get in the way of NaNo. I am stronger willed that that (I hope). Plus The Wheel of Time is one of those series that really shaped me as both a reader and an aspiring author. Someday I will post a proper love affair to the Wheel of Time. Today is not one of those days.

4) I need to compile all of my instrumental music into one playlist. I will weed out the stuff that doesn’t work for me as I go. But for know – that is all I want/need of music. No lyrics to be distracted by jus the rise and fall of my muse.

5) Going to the gym. I have a weight loss/fitness goal I would love to fulfill before Christmas hits. Since going to the gym I have noticed a considerably increase in my stamina. Before a half hour cardio on an elliptical was rather hard to push through. The first couple of times I took group exercise classes I was dead after the first couple of songs. Now a half an hour cardio session is a walk in the park. Now in my work out classes I don’t start really feeling the strain till about half way through. I still feel the strain. That is the point. But it takes longer. I am rather proud of myself. Consequently I also sleep much better and don’t feel so exhausted after the gym. The first few weeks of classes all I wanted to do afterwards was go home and go to bed. Now I don’t feel dead. I wouldn’t say I am bursting with energy, but I know with NaNo I could still crank out my word count afterwards instead of just shrugging it off and going to sleep. I know I can manage both NaNo and fitness in November.

6) If I start getting on a regular schedule (like I had hoped) with blogging, I will also be able to up my practice for word count. Now I know admittedly at this point it is kind of hard to hit a regular schedule. I am eternally the one coming up with great ideas but never being able to fully pull through with them. I want to do a twice weekly posting. I was thinking a Sunday, Wednesday schedule. Sundays I can post my word count for the week. Wednesdays I can blather about hump day and how my stride is going. As I would like to be able to hopefully polish off what I have written and submit it in hopes of publishing I will most likely not be posting my story on my blog. I am however interested in it being critiqued and read, so if you are interested in helping in that aspect please feel free to e-mail me at jemuldoon(at)gmail(dot)com Replace what is in the brackets with the appropriate glyphs.

My question is to you: “How are you passing your time till NaNo?” or if not participating in Nano “How are you passing your November?

I have not told my employer about NaNo. I think he would be relatively cool/intrigued by it, as long as it doesn’t interfere with work. It has taken some time, but I have grown to like (and perhaps respect a little) the new boss. Traditionally I kind of resist authority figures. Has to do with how I was raised, but that is an issue for a very expensive therapist, in the mean time I take my therapy through books. But some people crack through my resistance. This new manager is one of them.

So this brings me to another few questions: “Who have you told about NaNo?” “Who have you not told?” and “Why?”


P.S. This post comes in at approximately: 1 396 words. I am short by 271 words to meet a daily word count (1 667) for NaNo. Kind of gives you some perspective on what I am getting myself into eh?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Under Construction

Under construction. Am distracted by the posibility of making this a much much prettier site. Hold tight

EDIT: After a Weekend of total frustration, a steep learning curve, me not having the proper software, and a variety of other things, I have turned to a standard template with a few very minor tweaks to it. This doesn't completely satisfy me, but until I make ass loads of money and can afford someone else to do this for me, this will be it for me. I don't want to mess with it any more. Well I do. But I don't know how and don't have the proper tools. So go suck monkey balls for all I care blog. Off to go tweak my other blog now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Article | Jers Vs. Scrivener Vs. MS Word and a little bit of Mac Love on the side

The more I get to know about my Mac the more I love it. I grew up a PC user with Windows. I was used to that so was a bit confused by the simplicity of Mac. Turns out I am a huge fan of simplicity. I don’t need a lot from my computer. I am an aspiring author, and I keep a blog. So I need writing utensils, some photo utensils and access to the Internet. The rest of my life may be complicated but my relationship with my computer is not.

The newest coolest thing I have discovered about Mac today is that to uninstall something all I have to do is send it to the Trash folder. I had suspected this but being a long time PC user it just seamed like to simple of a solution. Long live simple.

Another cool feature I love about my Mac - it spell checks in every application I am writing text. On the Internet writing an e-mail – no problem. Spell check is there to back you up. At first I had found this quit annoying but after using it a few times it became second nature. No longer would I have to pre-write in MS Word and then cut and paste it into what I wanted to say. I still do this because I find I edit better in MS Word, but now I know I don’t have to, it’s simply a choice.

As mentioned I am an aspiring author. I have recently (well lets just say sometime this summer when I stumbled upon it) registered for NaNo. I have been waiting with bated breath for November to roll around. The site went live updated (it was running before but it wasn’t ready for the 2009 NaNo year yet) on October 1. The forums are all cleaned up shinny and new and as a Newbie I felt really welcomed and not lost to an already developed community. I am able to subscribe to threads I want to stay involved with, which really keeps me on top of things and not constantly digging through a forum to find a thread I was following.

With the forums going live and new I have been really delving into this trying to find out how other people approach their NaNo’s. I was mostly interested in how they kept themselves organized. As a previous PC and Windows user this naturally makes me and MS Word user. And I was really starting to find MS Word limiting in what I wanted to do. I was a mess of folders and separate files. One for notes I would have to dig through. One for characters. One for deleted stuff I wanted to keep. And no way of flipping from chapter to chapter easily. I was curious how others manipulated MS Word to work how they wanted it to. Through the NaNo forums I have discovered that they don’t. What I have discovered is that in most cases MS Word is relegated to being an editor and a polisher of the final manuscript but not the main means for compiling it. This made me question my financial investment in the MS Suite for Macs. However I remembered my adoration for Excel. If I have a need to manipulate data (don’t ever tell my high school math teacher this) Excel is the place to plug in and do it. If I want to keep myself organized in a table format – Excel is my bitch. She is pure organization, and I love her for that. And so I won’t complain about the MS Suite too badly because it does have its redeeming qualities.

I spent some time this week checking out two programs for writers, Jers and Scrivener, and then since I am broke I spent some time trying to figure out how I might manipulate MS Word into doing similar tasks for me.

I started my research with Jers. I was led to believe that it was free and it is after a fashion. Except every time you go to use it is asks you if you would like to buy a key and that was going to be a bit annoying for my tastes. And I actually read the policy. It irked me that if you lost your shit it was too bad – that they were taking no responsibly for corrupt files. That if something went wrong with the program they would take no responsible liability for it. I totally understand the legal shit they must cover but the way it was presented was a bit surly (well funny but not professional) for my tastes. There were also hints that indicated that the future of this product was not thriving. And if I were going to invest in a key I would want my program to have a future. Which is a bit of a conundrum because the more people who invest the brighter the future of the program is. Sigh… anyways moving onto the actually review of the product.

Jers – the program. I didn’t know what to think of the drawer at first. However, after going through the tutorial it was kind of second nature to have it available. The program is very simple. There are three options to the drawer. You have the Outline, the Database, and Notes. The outline is like a table of contents that can be divided into as many sub-sections as desired (I think anyways). I really really loved this as I felt it sorely lacking in MS Word and I desired it very much. The database was wonderful too because it answered my question of how to keep track of characters and notes in regards to them. I was thrilled with it. The Notes section – I can see its uses but this wasn’t as thrilling a feature for me as the rest of it was. I also really loved the column notes. I loved that you could color co-ordinate them. I loved that if you had a thought about a scene or a sentence that wasn’t quiet working instead of having to remember it or get hung up on it, you could jot down the problem and move on. What I didn’t like so much and didn’t realize till later was the organization of the text. It was still one huge ass long document like MS Word. It did give you the option of flipping through it but not the option of seeing it separately (it may and I may not have given it enough time to show me this – so please do not hesitate to defend your program of choice).

Scrivener. I was immediately impressed and perhaps a bit intimidated by the professional layout of their website because Jers wasn’t that pretty. I don’t understand website code much but I know when something gives off a professional vibe and Scrivener had that edge. I flipped through their different screen shots of the program and read what it could do. I was impressed but since Jers was my first, I kept thinking can it do what I love about Jers. I downloaded the 30 day trial (well get back to the trial thing later) to check it out and do a compare and contrast.

Immediate difference. My table of contents was on my left. Now this kind of flows well for me rather than the drawer on my right so I gave it a nod. I went through the entire tutorial and lets just say it is way way more involved and has way more shinnies to play with than Jers. And Scrivener is esthetically more pleasing to me. I really liked the table of contents. And I loved that the Outline was a completely separate cup of tea with notes for the scenes. And these notes (I think anyways) hook up to this really neat feature called the corkboard. You can write notes on little index cards and post them on the cork board and group them and color co-ordinate them and they orientate themselves with scenes and characters and at first I thought this is not the database of Jers. I can use it as such but it is not quite the same. But the more I it gave it to percolate I realized that along with the other various cool shnazies, it might be possible for Scrivener to be better or at the very least more suited to my needs. A main thing I noticed that Scrivener didn’t have was columns notes like Jers. I was a wee bit disappointed about this because that was a big winning feature for me. However, at the end of the tutorial it kind of addressed that with the comments/footnotes feature that exports to MS Word nicely. Also its ability to keep research files in a section and easily view them while you are writing give me tinglies. Yup. I have become a Scrivener fan. Now Scrivener is not meant to polish the formatting of your document. It doesn’t do that, but it will export it to a program to let you do that elsewhere. It knows what it is capable of and it doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. I respect that and appreciate that I can bring it back to old faithful (MS Word) and make my document pretty there.

Now if I had never found Scrivener and Jers was all I came across I would probably be a hard core Jers fan. It had everything I wanted from MS Word but better. It was organized for me and it was simple. I could jive on that. But Scrivener has more and it is prettier and it has a script feature which kind of pushed it over the top for me.

Now I am broke and the trial version of Scrivener is only 30 days (not consecutive but still a measly 30 days). It does have a 20% discount for NaNo-ers or Wrimos as they are referred to. But it also mentions that if you make your 50 000 word goal that come December 2 there will be a code to receive 50% off. And something about my broke ass self decided that I would have to way and win NaNo before I was allowed to buy the new shinny. It broke my heart a little because I was already in love with Scrivener. I didn’t even want to use the rest of my trial days for fear I would go over the 30 days somewhere in the middle of NaNo and then be forced back into MS Word to finish and get my discount. If I started in a program I wanted to finish in a program. And then I hooked onto a tweet from Scrivener that has an extended trial period version for those participating in NaNo and I was absolutely ecstatic. Because I know myself and I would have cracked and bought the program and made myself further broke or I would have bemoaned my waiting and annoyed the crap out of everyone around me. I will be buying that program come the beginning of December.

As per MS Word, I did spend some time going through it to see if I could manipulate it how I wanted to use Scrivener or even Jers. I came up with a table of contents and a hyperlink system to use. It didn’t thrill me but it would have to do. I could even use comments as a column note feature. I was a bit excited to whip MS Word into shape, but it was a defeated kind of excited – reluctant.

Ladies and gents this is by no way a tutorial or even a walk through on these products. You really need to check them out for yourself to get a feel for what all they do. You will have different likes and dislikes based on what you want to do and what fits into your budget. This is merely a review of what I like and why. If you are Nano-ing this year – good luck. Let me know what works for you in the tech department.

P.S. I would have loved to have been able to also do a compare on Liquid Story Binder because that looks really neat to except it is PC only. I have a Mac laptop and that is my primary computer. I use a PC at work but work time is more for work and plus I can’t install programs on it – it’s protected. I do have a desktop PC but I am not found of it any longer. It is clunky and I don’t like its chair – it is not the same as lounging on my couch. The PC has been mostly relegated to a Internet browser. Which means if you are a Liquid Story Binder person by all means post a comment on why you love it, I may not get around to checking it out but I would like to here why it rocks your socks.