Monday, January 30, 2012

Counting Words

page from 1200 year old Book of Kells, not what I'm writing

How do you keep track of what you're writing? Do you count words? Pages? And how do you do it?

I've belonged to a couple of online goal-setting groups. It's helpful when I have to report my progress. I can see when I'm slacking and not producing! Those weeks, it's embarrassing to report and I usually do better as soon as I can.

Sure, you have the word count in Word. But that's the total for the document. If you don't keep track somehow, you don't know how much you're producing at each writing session.

Here are some handy tools I found on the web.

This page has a simple meter that requires a word goal at the beginning. From the comments, there might be some glitches, but it looks pretty simple.

You can download some fancy spreadsheets from thislink

I am a spreadsheet nut, so I will probably try some of these.

The 2011 NaNoWriMo spreadsheet is here. This one has a sheet for each month.

I used to use one that Erik Benson designed for NaNo. It had cute motivational messages. Here's a link to a version of that one.

A version for when you're working on several projects at once was adapted by Karen Duxbury of the Guppies for our Chocolate Challenge a few years ago.

Nowadays, though, I use a spreadsheet with separate worksheets for my projects and put bar graphs on them.

I'd love to know if you like any of these. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Comment Etiquette for Blogs

One of my favorite things as a blogger is when I get a comment about my blog post. I love connecting with readers and responding to their feedback. It's a wonderful way to grow as a blogger! Recently, I read a blog post by another writer regarding comments posted on her blog that were mean or unnecessarily rude.

Tsk, tsk. That is not a good thing. And judging from what I read, this author was not being overly sensitive or anything like that. The people commenting were being total you-know-whats!

As writers who want to attract a following, you've probably read all about the how important it is to allow people to comment on your blogs or Facebook post. That's how you create interaction and have those great "ah ha!" moments. Sure, some folks may voice their opinion in a tone you don't like, but that's the nature of the cyber beast.

How can you prevent those bad comments from getting too much air time though?

1. For one thing, follow up on your blog posts. You should be doing this anyway in order to greet new followers or reply to comments. But as a moderator of your own blog, you can delete comments. Do so if something is not appropriate.

2.  Unfriend "friends" on Facebook who can't control their mouths. They don't even have to know. That's the beauty of it!

3. On your blog, use the option that allows you to review comments before they get posted. That's probably the best thing to do if you are worried about inappropriate behavior. This option gives you complete control!

Of course, on a positive note, bad comments can sometimes help create a talking point. When enough people are offended or outraged by something, they all start chattering! This can drive blog traffic stats through the roof. OR it can drive people away until your fan base dwindles down to nothing.

Food for thought, friends. Feel free to leave a comment--but watch your mouth!

Monday, January 23, 2012

What happens when you can't write?

three pens, six nibs, public domain

We've had a situation in my house for the last couple of weeks. My husband had knee replacement surgery and the knee part is doing great. Not so for the patient, though. He first had a rare drug reaction, then another one, then another one. He doesn't remember much of the last two weeks and, for most of that time, didn't know where or who he was. Needless to say, I haven't gotten much writing done!

The drug problems seem to be mostly (ALL, I hope!) over and I need to get back to writing! But I've gotten out of the habit. Now, how did I used to approach my day?

The internet contacts and messages have gotten out of hand while I've been mostly absent, so I'm madly skimming, deleting, and archiving most of it. I'll probably miss something vitally important, like the top agent that has fallen in love with my writing and wants to give me a full-page NYTimes ad when my next novel comes out. Maybe he/she will write again after I delete that email.

Logic tells me, when I look around, that I should clean up the office first, but I'm VERY anxious to get back to the WIP I left hanging in December. And there are tax files from 2011 to organize before 2012 info starts piling up. Maybe a little of each task every day? I'm not like that. I like to finish things.

I have been jotting down notes in case I want to do to a character what was done to my poor husband. The things he was saying under the influence were so funny that I was laughing and crying at the same time. That kind of thing needs to be used.

Well, time to help hubby with some physical therapy. After that, ONWARD!

(I hope some of our followers found our anthology entertaining. We'd love to hear from you if you liked it!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thoughts of Death and Taxes

What do they have in common? The old saw says they are both certain to occur. I think they have a lot more in common, especially for a mystery writer.

My thoughts turn to taxes, of course, because it's time to pay the quarterly estimated taxes for 2011. These are the payments that, if I've guessed right, will enable us to float through April 15th without owing any extra. That usually doesn't happen, but only for good reasons. Mostly, that we've made more money that we thought we would. So taxes can be handled in such a way that they don't hurt so much.

How about death? We can't handle our own death. It will be what it is. We may think we can control it, but we can't. Well, maybe to a certain extent. If I don't walk across a busy street without looking, I lessen the chances I'll be hit fatally by a car. If I don't dive off a high bridge, I'll lessen the changes I'll plunge to a watery death. But if I eat right and exercise and never drink or smoke, I could still keel over suddenly, never to revive. My aorta could rip apart. An aneurysm could burst in my brain. I could even choke to death on some delicious morsel that sticks in my windpipe with no one around to shove it out.

I don't like the thought of things I can't control. I particularly don't like thoughts about my own death! But I can obviously contemplate other people's deaths at length and on a regular basis. Hey, they're just fictional people dying, they're my characters. And I'm not really killing them, the villains I created are doing my dirty work. I suppose I have a certain degree of control over my characters, but that's sometimes an illusion.

Why do people want to write about killing anyway? I can only speak for myself. I regard it as the ultimate sin, the highest violation of human ethics. And yet people do it every day. What makes a person kill another one? I can't help but wonder. Some killers are psychotic and have no regard for anyone. That evil person can kill someone who is in his way with no remorse (unless he gets caught).

But the ones I like to write about think it's something they have to do. They think there is no other way out of the alley they've been backed into, no other way out of the tangled mess they've made of their lives. Or maybe that other people have woven and caught them in.

To make this timely, I also wonder why someone thought it would be a good thing to kill Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Or John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Or any other public figure.
So I wonder, what DOES make a person think that the best solution to the problem is murder? That's what I try to explore. That's why I write mystery. I still haven't found out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing Prompt Fun: One Sentence Starter

I love looking at pictures and trying to create a story based on what I see. It's such a great way to develop the creative mind and think outside the box. I thought we'd try one here on All Things. I'll show you a picture, you write one sentence in the comment section that you think goes with it or starts a story. I was playing around with this idea when I came across a goofy picture of my daughter that I'd turned into a Demotivator poster. See if you can come come up with a great opening line for this particular picture.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Good writers are also readers. I firmly believe this. I think that it's just as important to make time for reading every week as it is to make time for writing. The more you read, the better of a writer you become. You start to notice the little quirks and nuances about other writers that either drive you crazy or make you fall in love with their style. If you've read Stephen King's book, On Writing, you'll remember that reading is an important thing to the Master of Horror. Because I enjoy Mr. King's work, I decided to follow his good example and read his latest novel, 11/22/63.

It's 900 pages. 900! I'm one of the fastest readers I know, but it took me three days to get my Kindle to show that I was even 50% done. 900 freakin' pages...Again, referring to On Writing by Mr. King, I seem to recall one of his mantras to be "Cut unnecessary words."


Well, despite the 900 pages, I have to say that this might be one of my favorite King novels to date. Yes, he could have cut a few words here and there, trimmed up the fat, but I didn't really feel that the pace of the novel was too slow. As always, Mr. King is a master storyteller, weaving magic with his characters and taking on the JFK assassination.

For those expecting a horror tale, you're out of luck (although there are some psycho creepy moments). This is a historical fiction with science fiction elements in the form of time travel. The basic premise is this: Jake is an English teacher who teaches adult education classes in the evenings. After school, he occasionally stops by the diner across the street, which is run by a guy named Al. Al has a big secret he wants to share with Jake. Turns out he has a time loop in his diner's pantry. If you enter it, you end up in 1958. Apparently, Al has been making quite a few trips to the past, but whenever he returns to 2011, only two minutes have gone by. Every time he goes through the time slip, it's always the same day, same time, same starting location in 1958. Al has become obsessed with the idea of living in the past with the hopes of making it to 1963 so that he can stop the assassination of JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald. Unfortunately, he has cancer and is too ill to accomplish the goal. He wants Jake to continue the mission

Jake is hesitant to take on the task. After all, what about the butterfly effect? What will happen if history is altered? Can it be altered? Does he have the guts to kill Oswald? Al assures Jake that the great thing about changing history is that if it doesn't work out or things go wrong, one can always go back through the time slip in the pantry and effectively restart the whole loop. After a few test runs where Jake attempts to save the family of one of his adult students whose life was drastically altered in 1958, he agrees to live in the past long enough to stop Oswald from killing Kennedy in Dallas.

Of course, he hasn't counted on a few complications. Like falling in love. Or becoming part of a community. Or the fact that something in the past doesn't want the future to be changed and will fight tooth and nail to keep that from happening--even if it means killing those near and dear to Jake.

Cue the dramatic music please!

I love the idea of time travel, and this book does a great job exploring the concept with all its pros and cons. So many people wonder about JFK and what would have happened if he'd lived. That being said, anyone with a basic understanding of the "rules" of time travel will have a pretty good idea of how this whole business will go down.

One of the interesting things about this story is that it revisits the fictional town of Derry, Maine. If you are a fan of the novel It, part of this tale occurs right after the end of the child murders in that book. And of course, if you are a believer that Oswald acted alone, then you'll be intrigued by the second half of the book which takes place in Dallas, Fort Worth, and a little town named Jody.

We know a great deal already about the events that occurred in Dallas that day in 1963, but King explores the subculture of the area and paints a gritty, racist picture of the city in the 1960s. I suspect he wasn't too far off the mark. He includes a lot of things that native Texans would appreciate and find familiar. Of course, that can have its drawbacks, too. One flaw I found which really bugged me was his reference of the slogan "Don't Mess with Texas." That didn't become a part of Texas culture until the 1980's. Still, it's a small thing in the overall scheme of things!

All in all, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. Make sure you have ample time to sit down and absorb the story.

900 pages...geez....

Monday, January 2, 2012

My turn for resolutions

political ad at Delphi, Greece

With all due respect to my fellow blogger, Mary Ann, I'd rather call them Goals. Resolutions sound so...resolute! So final, so etched in stone. Never mind that lots of them become unetched somehow.

Beckham's 70 yd. goal 2008
A goal, to me, is more like something to shoot for. I'll aim to keep these, but I'll keep in mind that I may miss. There are goal tenders and powerful lines of defense to keep me from making my goals, but I'll go down kicking!

I have a much more detailed list than this, but this is the nutshell version:

Publish at least 2 books and 6 short stories.
Write 2 hours a day M-F, or 5 days a week.

There will be lots of baby steps and trial shots before I get close to any of the ones on the first lines. Like writing and submitting.

(Why am I doing sports metaphors today? Not usually my thing. Maybe because I hear football in the next room and it's oozing into my brain, through my fingers, and onto the computer screen.)

It would be good to recognize my opposition defense and goalies. Yours may differ, but mine are (1) procrastination--just not writing, even when I have the time (playing spider, I'll admit it); (2) obligations--like hubby's knee surgery tomorrow, eating, bathing, sleeping, etc. (3) interference by the internet--how do I resist that?

Now I have to plan my offense. The second line of my goals, I hope, will help.