Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Evernote: Note Taking Made Easy!

Okay, I don’t typically endorse things unless I’ve tried them and they have some how made my hectic life easier. The other day, thanks to the one and only Shennandoah Diaz—social media extraordinaire and steadfast contributor to All Things Writing—I tried out a phone app called Evernote. Talk about my life suddenly opening up to a whole new world…

Evernote is software you can access on iPhone, Android, or whatever phone floats your boat, and of course, it’s easy to use from your home computer. It allows one to enter a quick note via text on an idea you might be having or photograph something that catches your eye. Evernote saves your info so that it will be available for later use. The voice recorder is probably my favorite thing since I have enormously fat fingers that have trouble with basic texting. With that little application, I can simply speak whatever brainstorm of inspiration I’m having into my phone and play it back when I’m ready.

Imagine the possibilities as a writer on the go! No more waiting till you get home to jot down that idea or stumbling around in the dark for your notebook in the middle of the night when the muse comes. Evernote keeps it safe for you!

I’ve been using it to organize thoughts on my new manuscript, but there are lots of other things this handy app can do. Check it out and let me know how it works for you!

Happy Writing!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Build Your e-Book Online

A friend of mine sent me a link recently to a web page about how to self e-publish books through Borders. The page is called “Borders Get Published™” and it can be found here: http://borders.bookbrewer.com/home?cmpid=SA_20101114.

The concept seems relatively easy and straight forward. They give you the tools to format, assemble, and test your eBook, all for free. You can “copy and paste content into the manuscript in Word or PDF, or import content from your blog.” They say there’s no obligation to purchase anything and registering is free, as is building your book.

The catch is that once your book is ready, you have to purchase one of their “self-publishing packages” for $89.99. They will assign an ISBN and distribute your book to online booksellers. They said it works with Borders, Kobo Books, Amazon.com, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

I haven’t tried this out yet, and I’m not endorsing it, but I wanted to get it out in front of like-minded individuals. I think it might be worth a little more research, especially with the eBook formats becoming more and more popular.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Post NaNo Edits and a Story Contest

After you have a first draft, you'll have to rewrite and edit to get to your second draft. And your third, and your fourth. Do you have an organized way of doing edits?

I incorporate all the comments from my critiquers that I think appropriate (that means the ones I agree with), then set about going through my stuff. Here are some of the tools I use.

Scene by scene, I make sure each scene has some sort of purpose. Either the standard goal and obstacle with either resolution or further complications resulting, or explanation of a character or his/her actions, raising the stakes, changing the tempo, or something. A good reason for being in the story, in other words. Chris Roerden has a good list of what scenes should do in her book, DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.

At the beginning of each scene, I ground the reader. That is, let her know where we are, when it is, and who's there. This is especially important at the beginning of each chapter, in case the reader put the book down and went to sleep! Which, of course, we don't want him to be able to do.

I set hooks where I think they need to be, based on Chris's book and a course I took from Mary Buckham on pacing.

Mary offers interactive classes as well as lecture packets.

I also like to try to put each of the five senses in each scene. Taste is always the hardest for me, but it's surprising how often I can work it in if I try.

Eventually I go over my manuscript with colored markers and a summary from Margie Lawson's class called "Empowering Characters' Emotions". This shows me the balance I've achieved between dialogue, exposition, and description, among other things.

Also based on that course, I see what little tricks I can incorporate to wring the most out of my words. Backloading is one of these that is also recommended by many teachers. That is, rearranging a sentence so you're putting the most powerful word in the sentence last. There are several others that I learned from her that I like to make sure I'm using.

When the scene is shaping up well, I put it through some paces. I use wordcounter.com to see which words I've overused. My critique partners usually catch these, but not always. I seem to LOVE the word *little*.

The last thing I do is take each chapter through the free downloaded program, ReadPlease. After I paste in the chapter, I start ReadPlease, quickly switch over to the open Word document, and follow along. I'm watching for awkward rhythms, repeated words I haven't caught yet, typos of course, and anything else that just doesn't sound right. When I detect something I want to change, I pause the reading program, make the change in my document, then start it up again. This gives me a very clean final copy for submission. I'm sure some typos still get through, but I catch tons of them this way--words and phrases that my eyes and the eyes of my readers have skipped over, making them right in our brains, but leaving them wrong on the page.

I can't recommend classes by Margie Lawson and Mary Buckham too much. Nor Chris Roerden's books. The one she wrote for non-mystery writers is called DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION.

LASTLY, here's a fun short story contest using fairy tales for a basis.

Good luck if you submit here!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Editing Mayhem!

You’ve done it! You’ve completed a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo and hopefully are taking a break from the manuscript. Once you’ve recovered from the craziness of writing as if your fingers were on fire, it’s time to think about editing.

Ugh! Editing. It’s so…uncreative. Or is it? I used think editing was just about fixin’ your grammar. In reality, your rough draft is like an unseasoned steak—not exactly the tastiest thing on the menu. But, add a little seasoning, a nice side of potatoes, a yummy vegetable and—presto! You have a meal fit for a king. Editing is sort of the same way. Add some character development, a side of plot, a really interesting world, and before you know it, you’ve got a tale fit for a reader.

Try these simple tips to get you started on the editing journey:

Write the dreaded synopsis before diving into the first draft. Keep it short and simple for the time being. Once the manuscript is fleshed out, then you can go back and re-work the synopsis. While not always the easiest thing to create, this tool can be an invaluable guide which keeps you on track as you tackle the editing process.

Here’s another little time saver: cut the words “that” and “was” where you can. “That” is a filler word. We use it all the time in every day conversation without really hearing it. Yet, in a novel, “that” really clutters up your word count and is often unnecessary. Many writers have a heavy “was” addiction, too. “Was” tends to lead to passive voice (though not always!) and is good word to try and distance yourself from.

Editing is a lengthy process, and as writers, we all use different tools to guide us. What do you find are your most common writing mistakes?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The NaNo's Over

I'm sort of waiting to hear from some NaNoWriMo writers about their experiences this year. I didn't do it, but only because of what I learned the first year I participated. I learned that I don't have wrists or fingers that can do 1666 words a day every day for a month. I succeeded in putting out the words for about a week and a half my first time, then had to resort to ice and NSAIDs.

But I got a cool spreadsheet out of it. NaNo no longer uses it, but I do. The writers that year were encouraged to borrow the spreadsheet, adapt it, and use it however they wanted to. I still use variations of it for my projects.

So my main takeaways were the knowledge of just how much I CAN write per day and survive--and the spreadsheet.

I'd like to know if anyone else gained insights, self-knowledge, practical tips, or a full novel from the experience this year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Difference Between Bloggers

I follow a lot of famous and not-so-famous authors on the various social media sites. I notice that most of these authors frequently blog to drive traffic to their websites and ultimately, their books. And blogging is becoming more and more popular as a means to drive traffic to your website.

I’m also starting to notice is that there is a big difference between bloggers. Some bloggers are rising to the top of the blogging heap, not because of their writing, their words, or the way they say it. It’s in how their blogs look.

I know that sounds strange, but the blogs I like to visit most are the ones that are visually pleasing, as well as good to read. Take a look at the blogs you visit and see if it isn’t so.

So if you’re blogging to drive traffic back to you, take the time to see what you can do to improve the appearance of your blog. There are tons of themes and ideas available to you all over the Internet. And you don’t need to be a graphics designer to make it work. Just see what looks good to you and go with. Just don’t settle for what you have. Take a look at it from time to time and see what you can do to improve it. It just might make a difference.