Wonder Wednesday: Conflict

Image created using Bit Strips.

Image created using Bit Strips.

It’s funny how in real life I can’t stand conflict. That’s not to say I don’t stand up for myself. It was something I had to learn, though. In the beginning, I would overdo it. I’d be too aggressive because I was overcompensating for all the times I didn’t.

In writing, I love conflict! Whenever a scene feels a little flat I throw a wrench in the works and have my character limp or crawl along. They have to fight against tough odds. The only time I let things calm down is before something worse happens. The calm before the storm. The trick there is keeping enough tension, so the reader doesn’t think the story has ended. I’m still learning to do that.

Conflicting priorities are part of life and it’s no different for writers. To be a good writer I often hear it’s important to have a full life, but then you have to manage your time well. As a writer with a full-time day job, a martial artist, and a hobbyist musician (among other things), I know the struggle well. Add to that the need to read, learn, have a social life, and maybe watch some TV or movies sometimes… (Like Star Wars on May the 4th, perhaps?). Life would be empty without conflict, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Conflict lets me appreciate achievements and downtime more.

At some point, conflict needs to resolve. I managed to get that parking ticket canceled. Happily, I didn’t have to use the phone or drive back to that mall.

I managed to get that parking ticket canceled. Happily, I didn’t have to use the phone or drive back to that mall. I’ve come to hate speaking on the phone. That’s not unusual today, but I think it’s more pronounced because of my introverted nature. We once celebrated spontaneous phone calls or unplanned company. These days it’s a weird thing to do. I’m not sure if it’s a good change. Maybe it has contributed to people having less social skills. I think we’re socializing as though we’re TV characters and that’s bringing about miscommunication and creating unnecessary conflicts.

In writing, conflict doesn’t have to be an axe-wielding wedding interloper. It can be more subtle like the character’s only pants getting soaked. Then we are taken through the steps the character tries to get their pants dry. Once they achieve that, a new conflict that is bigger will be thrust upon them until the theme of the story comes full circle and the character is altered in some fundamental way that changes their existence from that point onward giving them a new “normal”. See how fun conflict is?

Well, if I continue, I’m afraid it will turn into meaningless rambling, so I’ll sign off here.

Ciao,
R

A bad workman…

Today’s proverb is, “A bad workman blames his tools.”

I don’t fully agree with this. There is merit to it as some people just look for excuses to avoid doing something. There are valid reasons to having the right tool though.

Take process mapping, for example. Yes, one can process map by hand or use paper-based methods involving sticky notes (I’ve seen it), but at some point it becomes rather cumbersome to maintain and a realization that the paper could become damaged and a lot of work could be lost, occurs. Sticky notes fall off. Plus, it’s hard to share a very large paper copy with others without them having to come to a specific site to see it. Putting it into a computer-based tool like Visio becomes a necessity. Not all versions of Visio are created equal. Some versions one may spend inordinate amounts of time trying to get something to work, where a newer version lets you document the process in seconds because they constantly improve the tool.

Yes, you can write a novel on paper, in notepad, in Word, or in something like Scrivener. There are benefits to each method. I often start my first scribblings in paper as I have with a recent piece that may or may not become a romance novel. With paper, I often feel like I don’t want too much of it on paper as I’m scared it will be spilled upon or have some other catastrophe occur and I will have to rewrite. Rewriting isn’t terrible as I usually write it better the second time, but there is the odd time I’ve felt that I lost an amazing piece of work (perhaps only amazing in my own mind haha). Notepad is as simple as it gets with a few font options and word wrap being it’s features. I often used to do random notes in Notepad as little pieces of my series that I wasn’t sure where to use. I used Notepad in conjunction with Word because those little notes in Notepad took up less space than they would as Word documents. I was writing in Word for a long time using the outline view option to allow me to navigate through my story without having to scroll through pieces of it. Now I’m finishing it in Scrivener because it’s amazing. I get the benefits of Word’s outline view, combined with the benefits of separate little notes, and a whole host of new features like the ability to take a snapshot of a webpage for citing and referencing. This means that I don’t have to be online to work with my novel if I’ve grabbed the research material beforehand. This also means that I don’t have to take up so much room on my hard drive with pictures of things. I can split the view so I can be writing while having the webpage open in the application. That all being said, I could have finished writing it in Word likely, but it was getting cumbersome to work with and Word is rather prone to crashing.

My point is that there always comes a time where it is necessary to upgrade if getting the job done efficiently is a concern.

The only reasons to stick with old tools are artistic ones or short-term monetary ones. The Woodwright’s Shop on PBS is an example of an artistic or artisan use of old tools. It’s neat watching the way things were made years ago and it’s probably rather enjoyable to be able to take such time and care with each piece he produces. Were he in high demand, he likely wouldn’t be able to keep up using his current toolset. He would need power tools. Still, there is this enchanting element to putting so much care into each piece. He’s not in a rush. He’s truly enjoying his work. How many can say that today? How many times are workers today rushed to complete something and unhappy with their own finished product? Software gets released with bugs and products with extra holes or missing pieces. The world of today is a hurried one. I refuse to take that approach with my novel. Sure, I’ve been at it for a few years, but I’m doing it to my own level of quality. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the first Harry Potter book took 5 years to write, in part because she was planning parts of the rest of the series. Life was likely crazy raising children alone and working whenever she could. I’ve had my own challenges along the way and I’m not worried about it because the time it takes to write it doesn’t diminish the words on the page.

Anyway, I may be getting off topic. I think everyone has tools they prefer for certain jobs. I find it uncomfortable to rollerskate if I don’t have the right socks. Some derby girls can’t imagine playing the sport while wearing underwear. Labeling someone as a bad worker simply because they have a preference for one tool over the other doesn’t make sense to me. They may be exemplary in actuality and know something you don’t about the different tools. Drummers often prefer specific makes of drumsticks and drums. Yes, they can jam with different ones if they had to, but why would you make them? Artists may be at the extreme level of pickiness with their water preferences, brands of paint, guitars, etc, but that doesn’t make them bad at what they do. I don’t believe this proverb is anything more than a blanket statement issued after observing only a small sample. Yes, I can manage to perform my martial art with a longer bokuto than I am used to, but the quality isn’t the same until I’ve had time to get used to the change. I also don’t believe that only rockstars, famous authors, Gotham all stars, or CEOs should be allowed to be choosy with what tools work best for them.

Yes, it may be true that a bad worker will blame their tools, but they’ll also blame everyone else around them and anything they can remotely associate with their poor performance. They’re easy to root out and the rest of us shouldn’t be lumped with them.

I guess this proverb got to me. Sorry if I ranted too much 😉

Ciao,
R~

Converting to Scrivener!

Well, roller derby practice was cancelled tonight, so I finished the conversion of my novel into Scrivener. I had originally started doing this in an overly manual, as in cut-and-paste each chapter, way. I decided that was silly and I have too much computer background to be mucking about with that nonsense. I started using the import feature.

The first attempt with the import just put it in one big file. At first glance, I thought this wasn’t what I wanted, so I tried another one.

The second import attempt, I tried the split feature using the # symbol. It didn’t work. It went through the motions but didn’t populate any information into my project.

I started screwing around a bit and found an option that lets you select text and have it and everything that follows it split out into a new scene. This, I decided, would do the trick if combined with the first import attempt.

I did a first pass of separating them out into the chapters. Next I created chapter folders and dragged-and-dropped each chapter scene into its folder.

I have some more work to do such as:

– Rename all the chapter folders
– Further split the scenes as some chapters have multiple scenes in them
– Figure out what to do with the comments I had in my MS Word version. They copied over, but they are in with my text now instead of being somewhat hidden
– Enter character information into Scrivener instead of having it all over the damn place

Once the comment thang is handled, I think I can compile my current work and have people review it. I don’t think they need to read all of the insanity that is my notes.

Some of my chapters have been earmarked for book 2 or book 3, so my word count has gone down to around 27,500, but this is a good thing, I think. One of my writer’s group friends had mentioned that each novel of a series should stand alone and be its own story and that wouldn’t have happened leaving those parts in this novel. That’s not to say there can’t be a plotline that runs through the whole series, but if you think of a series like Harry Potter, while the major plotline runs throughout the series, each book is its own individual piece.

At any rate, word count is no indication of quality. I just use it as a basic progress marker. Sometimes taking a step back launches you into something greater!!!!!!!!!!

Ciao,
R~

Writers Group!

I went to my first meeting with a writing group and it was neat.

I think I was too nice? I didn’t rip people’s stories apart as much as others did. In truth, I only got everything yesterday and it being my first time, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.

Some styles of writing are harder to wade through, also, so I occasionally had difficulty following what other writers had written. One story was thick with military acronyms. Other stories had such interesting styles that I was hooked on the first chapter. At some point over the summer, I will send them some of mine to read and see what they have to say. It will be great to have people that aren’t afraid to read it, tear it apart, and tell me where they see holes.

I may have also felt a little intimidated critiquing the work of published authors!

It was fun talking about other’s stories and helping each other generate ideas.

I liked that I wasn’t the only unpublished author in the group who is working through a first novel. An interesting tip I got for writer’s block on TTAJ is to start another novel. I do have some ideas for other stories rattling around in my head, so I may do that at some point. Currently, I often deal with writer’s block by editing TTAJ and it usually leads me into getting an idea. I will also go back and work on the parts I have marked that I know I need to expand on, but didn’t feel like doing the research for at the time.

We talked about Scrivener too. I think I’ll use it instead of MS Word for other novels, but I don’t see the point of changing what TTAJ is in now as it’s working fine for me at this time.

Something ultra exciting in the Ottawa writing world might be happening this summer in late August. It’s in the early planning stages and I can’t say anything more about it right now, but if it gets off of the ground, I’ll surely be spreading the word!

Ciao,
R~

Baby I’m back!

So my writing on this blog has been extremely sporadic. In the beginning I didn’t like to blog, so it seemed like a chore. In fact, with this blog in particular, I felt like I should be writing my novel instead of writing a silly blog about writing my novel. I think occasionally writing this blog helped me stay on track with my novel though, so it isn’t silly, but a tool to help me finish it. Since I’ve copied all of the old posts from an old location, I’m glad I didn’t write too much previously. Recently, I’ve come to enjoy blogging.

LIFE

Life has been pretty crazy. In November 2011, I suffered a loss that was very difficult to bounce back from. It was something that only another woman could truly understand. There are few things in this world that I would say that about.

After the divorce, I continued to live in the same house with my ex for about a month and that had it’s own unique stresses. Despite how everything turned out, I don’t hate him and I don’t think he hates me either. We grew up together and part of that growth included discovering that we couldn’t be what each other needed in a partner and staying together any longer would have destroyed any chance of a future friendship. I’m not meaning to speak on his behalf, but just stating how I see things.

I moved out of the house eventually into a condo in my home town, which was hard to fit half of a house into. I downsized my belongings. During that time, my workplace was being divested, and I was reacting to nearly everything I ate. Food had become the scariest thing to me. I was starving often because it got so difficult to find anything to eat. Because I was reacting to so much and I’m a fairly logical and analytical type, I was looking at the things they had in common. I wrongly supposed that I was reacting to one thing rather than a combination of several. The one thing that just about everything has in common is corn. So I avoided corn for quite some time. I’d still have wicked reactions involving me writhing in full body pain wanting to scream from simply having something like a soda. There were days where I would go to the grocery store and leave empty-handed because I was terrified.

The thing that helped me get through those times was watching hockey. I became a Montreal Canadiens fan in 2013. I chose the Canadians for many reasons. My dad grew up watching Jacques Plante, so I could talk to him about hockey a little. We didn’t talk hockey too much because my dad grew to hate it since it was the only thing that was on TV when he was a kid because of the limited channels. Yeah, my dad is getting old. I also like the Canadiens because they’re not the tallest players in the league and they love to scrap. Scrappy underdogs. I also had a crush on someone who’s favourite team is the Canadiens. I’m human, sorry if that fact shocks anyone.

One of my friends asked me what I was sticking around my home town for? I was single, my job was being divested, and a bigger city would have more help for my food issues. The girl I was in high school would have already have thought of that on her own, but I was a broken shell of myself. I started considering leaving, but where would I go? I didn’t like the idea of Toronto at all. Every time I visit that city I nearly get attacked. I’m also not big on sky scrapers as I like looking at the sky. I contemplated Waterloo, but I felt like there wasn’t enough lifestyle there for me. I wanted a place that was small yet big and that led me to Ottawa.

I managed to find a job in my field that didn’t require the ability to speak French. My first out of town move was hard. I still had too much stuff and early on I had to move in stages. I moved close to work into a place with roommates. I lived at home during college, so it was my first roommate experience. It wasn’t horrible until the land lady started going crazy. Part of me feels like I could have done without this experience as I was still reeling from the divorce, food issues, and I was pretty sick in May. It was an interesting learning experience that I am thankful is done with.

I started looking for a place I could afford to buy with the assets I had, which wasn’t much for the Ottawa real estate market. I briefly contemplated moving to Rockland, ON as the houses are quite affordable, but it felt too far away to be working in Ottawa. I briefly thought about Gatineau, QC as it’s also affordable, but I felt it was far and strange. It’s also confusing to work in one province and live in another come tax time and with the divorce I wasn’t sure how taxes would be.

I made one last temporary move to get away from crazy lady and thankfully those roomies were cool people. Prior to leaving the house of crazy, I joined roller derby because though most of May was crappy, attending Comiccon lead to me braving the bar alone and I met AxxiDent’s sister. It was an interesting experience as I had never been to a burlesque show before. Browncoat’s is a fun troupe. I dig how they make the ultra nerdy sexy. At any rate, my new friend told me that she thought I should join roller derby as it would help me meet more people in Ottawa and she thought I may make a good jammer someday. My response was, “There’s roller derby in Ottawa?!”

So, I went to a bout at Barbara Ann Scott arena. Slaughter Daughters were playing. I found the info for fresh meat on the wall and I’ve been doing derby ever since.

NOVEL:

On the book front, I was stuck for quite some time. I had two versions of the start of my second half and had trouble deciding where to go from here. I’m still working through that. 

The thing with writing a novel is that each decision you make creates new challenges and closes doors potentially. Extra complications come in when you intend to write a series as is my intention because there are many more things to be mindful of. Consistency is a big thing with a series. Some might say, “just write”, but there’s more to it than that. Today’s publishing world is big on having work pre-edited, especially by new authors. If I don’t want to spend a fortune on an editor, I need to get it as polished as can be before getting an agent and having them get me a publisher.

I say all that, but there is some value to, “just write”. Recently, this part of my book has been difficult because I had been trying to get too detailed in an area that doesn’t matter. A hurricane or tropical storm hits on the open water and makes things bad for my characters, but I was trying to pick which storm and it really doesn’t matter because so many were in that area over several months that I can leave that bit to Hollywood if it ever gets there. The readers won’t care whether it’s Hurricane Florence or Hurricane Sandy. What’s important is what the characters do, how they feel and experience the storm, and what happens after it. I’m still working on what happens after it, but hopefully it’ll be something awesome.

Given all of the life stuff and moves, I haven’t gotten a whole lot farther if you go by number count, but I’ve had a lot of experiences that can only improve my writing.

So what’s my novel about? It’s a soft sci-fi tale about a boy who’s alien and yet not. He has to leave his home in order to stay alive because he’s a pretty big deal.

Sorry for the essay. I had a lot to say. Geez, if I could write this much on my book every day, I’d be done by the end of February. It’d be nice, but highly unlikely. I’ll update soon with a word count and the like.

Ciao
R~

Progress!

I have made great strides in the last while. Today alone has been full of progress. I realized a large issue was that I was writing from no point of view. It was difficult because the story is about a particular character, but currently he is a baby and unlikely to know or understand what is happening around him. So I decided to pass the puck and whoever has the puck gets the point of view.

It’s National Novel Writing Month, so I hope to get as much written as possible.

In order for it to be considered a novel, it must have at least 50,000 words. I am at 9,242/50,000, so only about 18 percent complete to hit the minimum. I know I shouldn’t focus on that, but it can be helpful to have a target.

I stumbled onto a blog post by author Justine Larbelestier about how to write a novel and well much of it I am going my own way for, the spreadsheet tip and discussion around balance between action and inaction, was very helpful. If not for this I probably would have continued not knowing what exactly was giving me issues.

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2006/09/06/how-to-write-a-novel/

Since I am a project manager in my day job, my spreadsheet looks a little different, but it was a value-add for sure. Yes I could use something crazy like MS Project, but that’s a little extreme when Excel does the trick and I already have the license…

I haven’t read one of her novels, but I will try to squeeze it in 😉

Lots of excitement lately with buying a new car, assisting in teaching karate, and working. Still have to get that certification to keep the money coming in while I dream about and work on getting this novel out.

Ciao
R~