Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Links

It’s time again for Friday links.

First off, we have the bone chapel in Evora, Portugal. Seems like the kind of place Voldemort might enjoy.

How It Should Have Ended has another video up on Youtube. This time it’s “How Prometheus Should Have Ended.” It’s not their best work, but it’s still fun.

Finally, I love magic, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed Harry Potter so much. Here’s a video showing a series of illusions by Dutch illusionist, Hans Klok. They’re done in rapid succession, so don’t blink or you’ll miss it. If you like magic shows, you’ll love this.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At Least My Garden Is Coming Along Nicely

Back in March, I showed you a picture of my garden in all its post-winter messiness glory and discussed how gardening is much like writing a book. Here’s what the garden looks like now.

Considering the heat and lack of rain, I’m relatively pleased with the garden, although there should be a good deal more yellow in the photograph. Unfortunately, we live next to a *&^$#@ woodchuck who insists on eating every marigold the instant it flowers.

I only wish my story could undergo such a dramatic metamorphosis in just four months.

I’m happy to say I just finished a rewrite of my third chapter and sent it out to my CP. I’m unhappy to say I spent three full weeks doing the rewrite. Arggg! Where did the time go? I suppose three weeks wouldn't have been so bad if the chapter had turned out nice and polished, but it didn’t. The only reason I stopped at three weeks was because I was so sick of staring at that chapter, I knew there would be no further improvements until I had spent a month or two away from it. So I just sent it off to my CP as is and let her deal with it. (Sorry, Sheryl)

Anyway, I’m moved on to the next chapter. But before I open the file, I plan on staring at the picture of my garden for a while and thinking happy thoughts.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Links

It's time for Friday links.

Ever wonder how the sun ages your skin? This article will show you.

Be careful where you sit.  You never know where some prankster will leave superglue. Read for yourself.

This next video has been around for a while, but I go back and watch it so often I thought I'd share it with those of you who haven't seen it yet.  A Rube Goldberg machine designed around and synced to the music of OK Go's song "This Too Shall Pass."  The video is here and a link to an article describing how everything was put together can be found here . If you haven't seen the video already, check it out. You will not be disappointed.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Know What My Scene Is About -- Do You?

First off, let me apologize for not posting Fridays Links last week. I was sick (along with my daughter) and didn’t feel like it. Sorry. Now on to the post.

Yesterday I came across a post entitled “What is the scene ABOUT?” over at Edittorrent, (a site I heartily recommend, BTW) and was reminded of the dramatic change I made in the way I approached my story.  A change that helped tighten up my chapters.

When I first started writing my story about further events at Hogwarts, I had little concept of how chapters or scenes should be constructed. My strategy was to just let things happen in chronological order until a natural break occurred and then start a new chapter. After doing it this way for a while, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea for organizing the book. Since lots of wild and crazy things happen at the school throughout the course of the story (most of them only tangentially related to the plot), I decided that each of these events would become the basis for a chapter. Then I would shoehorn the necessary plot points or dialogue (or whatever) into whichever chapter seemed most appropriate.

Surprisingly enough, this actually worked a few times (mostly by accident), but most of the time it failed miserably. The plot moved in fits and starts. And the book lacked cohesiveness. After an embarrassingly long period of time, I realized a book should be organized around the plot and so I rearranged everything appropriately. The book improved significantly, but many of the chapters still seemed bloated, with no sense of focus. It took me another year and a half, but I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. I had no clue what the scene (or chapter) was about. I was packing so many different events and unrelated plotlines into my chapters they were falling apart under their own weight.

So, similar to Theresa’s post above, I went through my manuscript and determined what the purpose of every scene and chapter should be. I would write a one sentence description for each scene and perhaps two or three sentences for each chapter. For example, “The MC learns about a clue and proceeds to investigate.” And then I ruthlessly went through each scene and tossed out everything that didn’t further that goal. I’ll admit it was a painful exercise. I have no assurance that the many paragraphs I removed will ever find a home somewhere else in the story, and I will shed a tear for them if they don’t, but the chapters are much tighter now. And that has made all the difference.

Do any of you have trouble keeping your chapters focused?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Kind of Reader Are You?

It was relatively quiet on the writing front this week. My family and I took a trip down to southwest Missouri to attend my niece’s wedding. The wedding was fine, but the heat was brutal. Mind you, this is coming from someone who think Michigan is too hot, but a few records were set during our stay.

With little reason to leave our air conditioned rooms during the daylight hours, you’d think it would have been a perfect time ti stay inside and write, but we managed to keep ourselves busy enough that my writing time was limited. What little time I had was spent doing a complete rewrite of my third chapter (thanks to my critique partner), so no new forward progress.

I came across a post over at Patricia Wrede’s blog a few weeks ago that I found very interesting.  Apparently, not everyone reads the same way. According to Patricia:

“Nevertheless, there seem to be at least two common types of readers: those who “see” the story as a movie in their heads, and those who “hear” the story in their heads as if someone were reading it. There are also the rare types who “feel” the story as they read it – who lean forward and tense up when the protagonist is running or jumping, and sometimes even fall off the chair if they’ve become too involved in the action.”

I’m not sure which type of reader I am. I usually enjoy stories the most when I feel as if someone is reading/telling it to me, which is probably why I enjoy omniscient POV, but which is also probably one of the reasons why I have such trouble with telling versus showing. At the same time, I know I read like I’m watching a movie too, which is why I enjoy third person POV much more than first person.

Check out the post and let me know what kind of reader (and writer) you think you are.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Links

I'm on vacation this week, so I only have two links for you.

First is a link to a video of "Starry Night" done in dominoes.  Looks nice, but I can't imagine spending that much time setting something like this up.

Next, for those of you who watched episode after episode of Dora the Explorer with your kids, then this is for you.  A  trailer for a Dora the Explorer movie.  It's a spoof, but it's funny if you remember the show at all.  If you're not familiar with the show, don't bother.

 I've saved the best for last.  My daughter clued me in to a Akinator, The Web Genius. You choose a famous person or fictional character (singer, actor, whatever), then answer twenty yes-or-no questions, and the website will attempt to guess the name of your character. Scarily accurate. It managed to figure out such unlikely characters as Steve Austin, Space Ghost, Annie Lennox, Gilligan (from Gilligan's island), Wimpy (from Popeye cartoon), Robby the Robot and many others.  The database must be huge!

What's really freaky, though, is the way it works.  Most of the questions are pretty general and when it tells you it thinks it knows who the name of your character, you often laugh and think the program can't possibly know yet -- that there must be at least a thousand people who fit the answers you gave.  So when a picture of the correct character appears on your screen, your first thought is that someone must have planted microphones next to the computer to spy on you.  Seriously freaky.  Just try it and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Insecure Writer and Being Slow at Writing

Today is July's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

In my ISWG post back in January , I fretted over my painstakingly slow progress and worried aloud that my book would never get finished. I set Christmas 2012 as my target completion date and promised to give you an update of my progress in June. Well, it’s July and it’s time for that update.

Since this an Insecure Writer’s post, you’ve probably guessed by now that the news is not good. Unless some sort of miracle occurs – an accident in the lab where I ingest a chemical mixture that turns my brain into a writing machine, I lose my job and spend my time sitting at home with nothing else to do but write, someone writes a piece of software that can take a rudimentary rough draft and convert it into publishable prose at the click of the mouse – I’m not going to reach my goal. Not by a long shot.

Out of a thirty chapter first draft, I’ve only managed to give my critique partner the first four chapters. That’s less than a chapter a month. You don’t need to be a math major to know that isn’t going to cut it. To be honest, the lion’s share of this time was spent rewriting the first two chapters repeatedly to fix a structural problem my CP was kind enough to point out, so I expect things to move along more quickly now.

But I’m still in trouble.

And this brings me to this month’s insecurity. Every time I load up a chapter to send to my CP – a chapter I thought was in good shape back when I wrote it last year - I’m shocked to discover just how much more work it needs before I can send it out. I’m not talking cosmetic changes here. I'm referring to missing paragraphs replaced with the words “mention XXX here” or “describe the character” marked in red. Entire pages that need to be rewritten to align with changes I’ve since made to the plot. Scenes that need reordering. It’s gotten to the point where I’m more comfortable spending hours tweaking a chapter I’ve already sent off to my CP than with moving on to the next chapter and having to discover just how much more work it needs.

To help give myself the illusion of accomplishing something, I’ve added a progress bar to the blog to track my manuscript. It’s rudimentary and I may jazz it up a bit later, but it’ll do for now. Its purpose is to shame inspire me to write more quickly. If any of you ever notice the bar hasn’t moved in a while, feel free to ding me for slacking off.

Have a happy 4th of July (for those of you in the states)!