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Update on The Whitehaired Shooter…

whs

The White haired Shooter

Been working steadily on the first revision of The Whitehaired Shooter.  The first draft was all narrative and bits of dialogue. Pretty much pure “telling.”  I just got the story out, and like it. I think it’s pretty solid. But it really stinks as a piece of fiction.

Early on in my studies of fiction writing, I remember laughing at a writing tip. Basically it said just get your story out for your first draft. Then read through it. Then start at the beginning and write it from scratch.  Sounded bogus to me.

I find that’s exactly the process The Whitehaired Shooter is undergoing.  And it’s awesome.  Instead of trying to edit and “fix” the story I pounded out, I’m rewriting from page one. And this time around, I know what I want to say.

I believe it’s coming out as something that — well — like something I’d like to read. Imagine that! And this method was not the waste of time I thought it would have been.

It’s been more like this first draft was a first rehearsal- reading from the script and getting to know the parts.  The first revision is paying attention to the props, use of the stage, checking lighting and sound, and getting ready for a dress rehearsal.

It’s real work, but I’m having a ball. I can’t wait for “Opening Night.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Writing the Book

 

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Fiction – Writing Software

The decision to invest in a fiction writing program was an easy one for me. I needed a way to organize information. Tired of wasting energy, time and effort jumping between spreadsheets and documents, searching for things — as small as spelling a character’s name, location, or relationship to becoming frustrated when I wanted to make changes to multiple chapters that I had stored on separate documents.

The choice of which one to use was the difficulty. I read reviews and investigated multiple writing programs, and narrowed my choice to Scrivener, Write It Now,  WriteWay, or the free version of  yWriter. Scrivener seems to be the choice of many writers, but the learning curve was more than I wanted at this time. I was looking for a more intuitive based program. WriteWay and yWriter didn’t seem to fit me as much as the one I ultimately chose, Write It Now. WIN4 Write It Now provided the most flexibility. I like to “co-opt” databases– that doesn’t mean tampering with any of the program itself — I simply like to use fields for what I want, not necessarily what the original intent of the program design intended. I played with my new program for a few weeks, and fine tuned a system that works well for me.

I appreciate the organization and functions of the program, and using it allows me concentrate on my writing. I also works well in checking overall structure, and I can make changes to my outline as I revise.

Chapters and Scenes, Characters, Locations, Notes and Ideas, are made available in a collapsible menu on the left side of the screen, and provide instant navigation to any point in the story. Having the ability to color code scenes and chapters, and colors correspond within the story board function, is indispensable. I use it to track POV (Point of View). Moving, adding or deleting a scene or chapter is smooth, and there are nifty tools built into it – the ones I use most often are:

storyboard,

thesaurus and spell check,

global word find and replace (when I decide to rename a character or change a location),

word count to track my progress (or identify overly long/short scenes that might need attention),

reading level for each scene (useful because this novel is geared to young adults),

word usage (number of times words are used),

graphs to track everything from conflict and action to meeting writing goals

The character builders, with thought provoking built in questions and prompts is interesting and helps flesh out characters, and the program has relationships and friends tracking and visual charts. I had already built my characters before I installed the program, and only played with it a little so far. There is a lot more this program can do. I think all of the programs I looked at supplied most of these functions.

Bottom line: choose a program that fits you and your style. They are meant to help you organize and ease some of the more mundane, and sometimes  overwhelming issues that come with organizing and writing a long piece of fiction.

I’ve only used this program for a couple of months now, but I think first draft and early revisions will be the programs strongest point. I’m guessing I’ll transition to WORD for final manuscript fine-tuning, but won’t know until I get there!

Do you use a software program for writing?  What have you found to be the most helpful product or function?

 Lesson #11:   Using a fiction writing software program helps me concentrate more on my writing, keep track of characters and their relationships, locations, and provides me with an easy way to insure my novel’s structure is on target. Along with other helpful writing tools, it speeds along a first draft, with places to store and retrieve thoughts and ideas, and make changes to the text easily as I go.

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Writing the Book

 

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Storytelling Basics

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a blog entry. It’s not because I’ve lost interest or just got lazy, it’s because I’ve been involved in an intensive learning and writing cycle. I couldn’t fit one more thing in. Until now.

Three months ago,  I had written twenty thousand-plus words, and found myself straying mostly into dead end chapters.  This happened even though I knew what I wanted to accomplish and thought I had built a pretty thorough outline. I even had three distinct “acts,” and had worked diligently to develop believable, likable – even lovable – characters.  And yet I floundered.

My precious book had become “confusing, ambling, and not at all compelling.” It was flat and non- engaging. Even knowing that first drafts suck didn’t help. I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

Determined to get to the bottom of my writing problems, I used problem solving skills honed over many years. Applying critical thinking basics, I searched for what I was missing.  With that I realized how poor my storytelling skills are. I tend to ramble and digress, and even telling jokes, never get the punch lines right.

So began my quest for basic material on storytelling. I didn’t find much in the fiction writing category, so I cast my net further out. When I saw this one, I was  hooked.

HollywoodStorytelling

I love this book! I’d recommend it if anyone needs help with basic storytelling skills.

The authors have compiled material they use in workshops given mostly to scientists, bureaucrats and business people. It is a basic, practical guide for communicating ideas through story. The three person team consists of scientist-turned screen writer Randy Olson, actress-screen writer Dorie Barton, and improv comedian Brian Palermo.

It focuses on the elements and structure of story, how to connect and make your audience care about and become engaged in your story. And it is fascinating reading. The information and tools are practical and instantly usable. This was my Rosetta stone, the missing link in my understanding of fiction writing .

I scrapped my first effort, all nine chapters.  And it hurt less than I thought it would.

Armed with an understanding of what makes a story, I put more work into building the main ideas I wanted to get across in each chapter, before I started any writing. I used the same basic ideas, but reorganized them into a story. The first draft is now approaching thirty-five thousand words, and my writing is now more specific.

It’s still a suck-y first draft, but I am confident I can polish it into something worthwhile, and I am no longer lost. My story is unfolding, and daily writing has become a joy instead of a scary burden.

During my blog absence, I have read another half dozen writing books, and three novels. With a basic plan and structure, I’m able to jump back into any part of my story and make adjustments as I continue learning about story structure, character development, dialogue, pinch points, and more — all without having everything come crumbling down. That shows me the foundational work I did was worth the effort and time invested.

I’ll be sharing some lessons I’ve learned from my recent studies, and here is the first post-break lesson learned:

10. Make sure you’re telling a story, not just knitting words and scenes together.  Storytelling is what makes a connection with your readers. Imagination, a clever turn of phrase and thought provoking ideas can make for interesting prose, but don’t skip over checking to see if you have actually told a story. Doing this will help, particularly if critiques have mentioned (in similar remarks) your work is “confusing, ambling, and not at all compelling.”

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….

 

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Is it a good idea to put aside my main work, while learning new lessons?

takebreak

I’ve heard — and read — that the only way to learn to write a novel, is to write a novel. Appears this, my first attempt at writing a novel, is going to arrive in a series of fits and starts. I’m fine with that.

While studying newly learned concepts, and to help me resist the temptation of reworking the beginning chapters of my first draft to apply new lessons, I’ve resurrected a flash fiction piece I wrote last year.

Flash fiction uses all elements of fiction, but in a very brief form, and I’m finding it to be a valuable writing tool.  Working within the well defined word limits of this genre forces me to be economical in word usage and to examine each scene to bring out its strengths. I find it is intensive training!

I’ve been writing fiction now for less than a year, but when I put this particular piece aside a few months back, I thought it was pretty darn good.  I had put it through the critique process twice, and got a lot of valuable suggestions that I gave my best to incorporate. But… it is still rough and has the obvious marks of novice writer all through it. Even I can see that.

I’m now in my fourth revision of it, in as many days. I have restructured, cut words, worked with my characters on developing their own voice, incorporated physical senses into scenes, and still have a long way to go. I’m finding the real treasure of applying lessons I’ve learned since putting this piece aside, is discovering some of my most recent epiphanies are only half baked. Putting words on paper (or on screen) helps me understand the theories better, and I keep playing with them as I apply specific lessons. Working with this piece is like kneading bread dough or beating cake batter. That’s where the magic happens.

When I get to the point I think it’s pretty good (hahaha), I’ll put it through critique again. I know the value of having other people read my story —  and not close family and friends who think my writing is really, really, really great.  That’s when I will know if it works, and how well I’ve done —  this time.  I just might make this a frequent practice to resurrect early work!

I am itching to get back to my novel, but I know I have profited greatly by putting it aside. I’ve written a lot of notes on characters, scenes, and redesigned the plot outline for it during this past week. Taking a break re-energized me and helped me sharpen tools.

All of my learning has been “independent study,” and I’ve no idea if my approach is typical or common. But as with most things in life, undoubtedly I’ll be sensitized to seeing approaches others use from now on, and see more clearly what I had previously not understood or only glossed over. There are so many wonderful layers to this process, it is work but also a joy learning to write.

 

Here’s the summary of this lesson learned, and I am adding it to my page: Lessons I’m Learning… on my journey to becoming an author.

 

#7  It’s not only okay, it’s a good idea to put aside my novel while I’m learning a new concept. But only if I keep writing during that time. Lessons must be applied as I learn about them. Writing flash fiction, short stories, or just writing ideas and notes for my main project, not only helps me absorb and better understand ideas I am learning, but also builds excitement for getting back to my novel.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Writing the Book

 

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Back to Basics – Punctuation

Way past time I take punctuation seriously.  These two tomes have moved up on my study list:

Strunk

chicago

 

Reluctantly –  with worry lines furrowing my brow – I am studying basic punctuation.  It has been brought to my attention that I overuse, misuse, and frivolously use my nemesis:

   THE COMMA

I admit, I never paid attention to the correct use of that punctuation mark in school or since.  Years ago I studied medical transcription, and I nailed 97% of the course. My downfall: that dang comma. I was torn apart by the teacher for being oblivious to this basic form of punctuation. She was baffled.  More recently, I lost points in a writing contest for comma transgressions. The judge gave me 100% on everything else, but on punctuation: 50%. Once again, comma mucking ruined my chances.

I had hoped to slip out the back door on this issue during my lifetime, but it is becoming obvious I am going to have to work through this.   I have overcome other areas, and this too will come (I hope).

I just need to find the proper motivation. With the Lord’s grace.

I have subscribed to the “put ’em wherever they feel right” method, and I am now becoming “comma-phobic.” My eyes glaze over, and I can only manage to skim read through the examples. Makes me feel downright silly, it does!  (also over use exclamation points, and just avoid semi-colons).

There, confession is good for the soul.  My new year’s resolution is to the master the COMMA.

So far, I have been pleasantly surprised as I re-read (or more truthfully, first time I didn’t skim read)  “The Elements of Style.”  I found it easy to read and even interesting. Amazing.

The Chicago Manual of Style, however, is still a blur!

 

— Peggy

THE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Writing the Book

 

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