Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing in code

As a web developer, I tend to think in code logic when writing. It's a lot simpler than you might think:
If this happens, do A. But if this does not happen, do B. 
Writing involves a lot of this type of thinking in order to produce a story without plot holes or inconsistencies. From a reader's perspective, plot holes, inconsistent characters, and poorly executed plot escalation can leave you feeling disappointed, annoyed. or even make you ditch the story completely.
Thinking and planning a story out using this logic-based exercise will help you:
  • think through all the possible scenarios that are within the realm of your story's world,
  • keep your characters from making uncharacteristic decisions, and
  • plan escalating plot points on a large and small scale.
For example, I am currently thinking through how my antagonist, Xander, should proceed. Xander needs a promotion in order to gain access to top-secret information. He is eligible for promotion and a position is about to open up that will give him the access he needs, but the protagonist, Lana, is also being considered for the position.
With that scenario in mind, now I have to think through Xander's options and what is within his character's realm of reasonable actions. Xander is desperate to prove himself and knows the promotion is vital to gaining the top-secret information he desperately needs. Would he kill for it? Definitely.
So what are Xander's options?
  • Plan A: Xander gets the promotion. Xander gets the top-secret information.
  • Plan B: Lana gets the promotion. As runner-up, Xander can try to kill her to get the promotion. Xander gets the top-secret information.
  • Plan C: Lana gets the promotion. Xander's plan to kill Lana fails. Xander can try to coerce her or trick her into giving him the top secret information. Xander gets the top-secret information.
Believe it or not, this could be turned into a logical code sequence, like the one featured below.

How do you plan a story?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ode to the Lobster (I ate for dinner)

Just for fun, enjoy this poem I to this weekend's dinner. This one goes out to all the seafood lovers out there! #dinnertime
The lobster spoke and told me
No, it came on slow and so
Quiet, then he came out boom-
Ing, clopping his fingers and
Snapping, his thumbs were too slow
Though, and my fingers were swift
Still, he spilt my butter and
Stained my shirt, juiced the lemon
And then pummeled my fork.
Red devil spits his juices piping
Hot, fists grab his pincers twist-
Ing, and wind till his briars pinch
My thumb, his bloody armored joint
Falls, and the lobster wails, my
Arm you pig! I’m less a shell.
He wobbles a bit then falls
Flat, I win, says I with a
Crunch, his shell yields his meat for
Consumption, the butter swells
The crustacean’s muscle lumps
Swell with the juicy perfection.
This ode is to you, my sum-
Mertime ocean grouch and red
Love, though I bless his heart for,

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writing Tip Wednesday: Editing with narration

The hardest aspect of editing for me is reading what is actually on the page, not what I think I wrote on the page.

We all do this; when reading back over a draft we miss those small words like "the", miss the duplicated words like "with with", and don't notice the misspellings that our document spellcheck does not explicitly underline in red. We are just reading what we want it to say because we are intimately familiar with the story, and unable to see it with a fresh eye at times, no matter how hard we try or how long we put it on the shelf.

The best solution I have found so far for this is the text to speech tool built into most computers.
The text to speech tool, or any other type of screen reading tool will read the text back to you.

  • An outside perspective on your own prose: Hearing your story read aloud, from someone other than that little voice inside your head, gives you "helicopter perspective"; you can see the bigger picture.
  • Nixing minor mistakes: Using this tool early on will eliminate minor mistakes, that way when you revise the entire manuscript you can focus solely on improving the story, not getting sidetracked with typos.
  • Living your story: I think it is safe to say most writers are readers, and for a reader, the thrill of losing yourself in a story is exhilarating! Having your own story narrated to you will give you the experience a reader might have, and putting yourself in your audience's shoes is always a good strategy for success no matter what genre you write.
How I use this tip: On my computer, after I finish writing a chapter, I go paragraph by paragraph with the text to speech tool and listen to the voice read my prose back to me. After the first draft of the manuscript is complete, I go page by page to make sure the story flows and catch any plot holes or lingering typos from my revisions. And just when I think I have the final, ready to send to agents and publishers, version I go chapter by chapter to ensure the story is solid. Below are instructions for using the text-to-speech tools on OSX and Windows computers. Macs:
  1. Open your Systems Preferences.
  2. Click Dictation & Speech.
  3. At the top of the window, make sure you are on the Text to Speech settings.
  4. From here you can set or see the keyboard shortcut for initiating the voice. My keyboard shortcut is Command+Shift+T. You can also make settings to:
    • The System Voice: Choose from male or female voices, and voices with different accents--whatever sets the mood for your story or speaks the clearest. You can also find other voices to install online.
    • The Speaking Rate: Choose how rapidly you want the voice to read.
  5. To use Text to Speech online or in a document, highlight the portion of text you would like read aloud and use your keyboard shortcut.
    1. NOTE: The more text you highlight the longer it might take for the Text to Speech tool to initialize (i.e., do not highlight your 100K+ novel unless you're planning on growing your beard out--I've been there, and I didn't like having a beard). I find it best to do a couple of paragraphs at a time that way I can stop in between and edit them.
Windows: I'm sorry the Windows instructions are a little sparse, but I'm a Mac owner so I'm just going off of instructions I found online:
  1. Open your Settings.
  2. Click Change PC Settings.
  3. Click Ease of Access.
  4. Click Narrator.
  5. Turn on Narrator by using the slider.
    • I am not familiar with how to use Narrator on windows once it is activated, but this at least gives you a starting place.

Cake & Connections

I am involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a nonprofit devoted to providing children facing adversity with a strong, supportive relationships. Through BBBS, I have a little sister and we get together to do fun things like go to the aquarium, kayak, watch scary movies, study, and other fun things. On Sunday, after attending a BBBS event, we decided to bake a MASSIVE cake.

My little found this great ombre cake design on Pinterest so we decided to something similar. We hoped to cover it in icing roses, but our icing wasn't firm enough to hold the shape so we are freezing the whole thing until we can figure out what else to add to it to make it AWESOME.

Needless to say it was a great day. Haha, but we need to figure out how to put the finishing touches on this thing. Does anyone have recommendations?

In writing news, I have been working most of this weekend to establish a Twitter account and start meeting new bloggers on Wordpress. I'd love to start getting to know other writers so please feel free to reach out and tell me about yourself or make some book recommendations.
Looking forward to meeting new people and living new stories!

Starting over

Hello to all aspiring and accomplished writer and authors out there. I am S. Meadows, and I am here to write, read, share, and learn with you.

My favorite genre to write is dystopian fiction. Authors and their works that inspire me include: Chaos Walking (Patrick Ness), the Red Rising trilogy (Pierce Brown), Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card), The Giver (Lois Lowry), and Wool (Hugh Howey).

What books and authors inspire you to write?

I started attempting to write as an undergraduate in college, during a very snowy, very boring, winter break and ended up writing a 100K + word novel in two months. Needless to see it was awful, but I solicited agents anyway and was beyond excited to get 1 full manuscript request after handfuls of rejections. The full request also ended in a rejection, but the agent called me personally to give me the news and encourage me to continue writing.

For me, failure is motivation. If you fall down, always get back up, otherwise accepting failure and trying again becomes habit. I kept all of my rejection snail mail, emails, and even the old query letters and that first manuscript. Sometimes I read them, because it gives me that spark I felt when I first pursued writing to be published. That spark of excitement and dream of what could be.

So today I am starting over. I used to network with other writes on Blogger, under the pseudonym T.J. Carson: and now I am starting a new writing blog on WordPress I will post in both places to rekindle old connections, and make new ones in the writing community.

And while this is a big starting over to undertake (i.e., rebuilding connections and making new ones), it is not the only starting over I am referring to...

Getting down to writing business, for a week now I have been starting a new WIP over and over again. Balancing your eagerness to begin something new with creating something of quality is definitely a challenge. I cannot wait for characters and story to whisk me away, but I also need to be aware of my strategy with each word I type.

Where is this going? How will this story line fit in with the other characters? Do I need to create illusions that will set up future plot twists?

It is easy to get lost in the fantasy world and forget about the actual words you are writing, which is why I have started over several times. And I do not want to jinx it, but I think I am starting to find that balance.

What are some struggles you have experienced with starting a new WIP?