Let’s talk about: Tools of writing

 

Writing is a really personal process.

The internet is filled with advice, must haves, must dos, should dos and checklists on what to do to write a novel, short story or even blog posts. Hundreds or even thousands of blog posts and articles about how to plan, how to outline, how to write, even how to edit your writing. The truth is: there is no ONE way. For every author, you ask what they use you might get just as many different answers. Something that works for me, might not work for you and the other way around. As sucky as that is, everyone needs to find what works for them and then stick to it, or adjust it until it feels natural, perfect for YOU.

You do You!

I’ve been listening to several podcasts recently (including The Journeyman Writer and Self Publishing Podcast) and I did find that a few things worked for me while others didn’t but worked just fine for others. In one of the Journeyman Writer episodes, Alastair Stephens and Lani Diane Rich talked about the tools they use for their writing and that made me think about what I use. So I thought I’d share a little of that with you!

 

Research 
Google.com
Yep easy as that. No matter what I am looking for that is where I start. Be it images, articles about certain subjects and more.

Pocket
Pocket is a nifty little add-on that I use way too often. When I find a site that I believe to be helpful I pocket it. That means it lands in the app waiting for me to read later. Kinda like bookmarks but to me, it goes faster, and once I don’t need it anymore I just click the little “read” button next to it and it gets removed from the list. And the search function makes it much easier for me to find the article again. I use it on Firefox, but I saw that Android, iPad/Phone and Kobo apps are available as well.

 

Outlining and Writing
Scrivener

I started writing when I was really young and the only way I could write was on paper. Throughout the years I moved that to Microsoft works, then Word and Libre Office. I’m a huge huge fan of local copies, so I never made the jump to Google Drive for my writing (I use it just not for that ;)).
But last year a dear friend of mine told me about Scrivener and I thought it was awesome. I grabbed the trial and tested it, and fell in love. Then for my birthday, I received it as a gift and I’ve been outlining and writing in it ever since. I know some folks have trouble with it because it gives you a lot of options and frills, but I enjoy to be able to mark scenes by Point of view, keywords, move them around, make these little cards with summaries of the scenes, move them around if I have to and so on.
The whole folder for Character bios, Location sourcing and what not is fantastic and helps me personally to keep an overview. Before starting to use Scrivener I had a whole folder with subfolders for everything on my hard drive, but now I have them all in one program and it is way easier for me to look things up.

Evernote
I have told you about Evernote in another blog post and I still use it on my kindle, since I can’t put Scrivener on it when I want to write while being out of the house (haha as if I left the house) or in bed. The ability to sync the Kindle app with the desktop app to get my writing from one to the other makes it really easy.

 

Background Noise
This is one of those things that seem to be different for everyone else. Some need quiet, some want music that pulls them into the scene or character. Me? I need my TV running.
I can’t deal with quiet, then I start to think, and stop writing and start to look around… and I stop to write.
And music has the effect that I want to sing along, or in the case of instrumentals hum along, then I start to google about the artist, the lyrics, the sheet music… you get the drift.
But TV, I can have that running all day (actually I do) and write without being distracted. I know what I wrote and still know what has happened in the show I ran in the background. I might have to say that both is on the same screen. I have no physical TV, I have Netflix and I only have one monitor. So Netflix is in a small window in the upper left corner, while Scrivener is open across 3/4 of the screen. I also have learned to write blind with the typewriter so I can write and at the same time watch the show. Though I don’t do that often. Mostly I listen and when it sounds like something’s happening I look up to the small window and that’s it.
For many, it would be confusing or pull them out of the mood, but I need it to get really into it.

 

Graphics
I love working on graphics myself. Be it locations, characters or my covers, I try to do as much as possible myself. Not only because I’m broke af, but also because I have loved doing that for many years. I use graphics not only for covers but also for visualisation. Not that helps me to get into the mood and character.

Poser & Photoshop, Illustrator
Poser is a program in which I can put scenes, and characters in a 3D environment and render them. In Photoshop I do the rest.
My last project of making a map for Ashwood Falls was started in a program called RPG Citymap Generator, but after the initial 5 minutes with that program, I spent several days in Photoshop to make it mine.
Illustrator is another graphic program, basically the Photoshop of Vector images. I don’t use that as often as Photoshop but for example, the “Enemy of my Enemy” cover was made in there.

Stock sites
And sometimes I use stock sites. These are sites that provide stock images to use in your own pictures. Some need to be paid, others are free. There are way too many to list here, but when you google for Stock images you will have a lot of results including websites that list 10, 20 or more of the best ones.

 

My friends and partner
At the moment I don’t have beta-readers (hope to get them, though), but I have friends I bounce ideas off. When I get stuck or need another set of eyes to know if a plot works they are the ones to get bugged by me. I feel lucky to have friends who don’t sugarcoat things and tell me if something I wrote sucks, otherwise that wouldn’t be any help. My partner even reads through my whole draft in that little time he has to find plotholes, inconsistencies or anything else that jumps at him.
I’m forever grateful for their support.

 

That is pretty much my writing tool cabinet. Does it look anything like yours? If not what would I find in your cabinet? Let’s chat and let me know in the comments!

How Star Trek and Doctor Who improved my story telling

I’m a huge geek.

I grew up with Star Trek – The next Generation. As it was aired for the very first time in Germany I was 8 years old and was hooked from the first episode, despite the strange Cheerleader attire of Deanna Troi. I remember running home from school to not miss the episode that would start at 2:30 pm, only minutes after my last class. I made it every time. After that, the story just went on with Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and even Enterprise. The only show I didn’t really get into was TOS, but I loved the movies – so that’s something.

Of course, it didn’t stay with Star Trek. Series like Lexx, Firefly, Stargate and many more followed but for the most time of my life, Star Trek was my bae. And then came Doctor Who. I had never seen the original series at the point or even heard of it – yeah Germany is lacking great geek stuff. I was hooked from the first episode – again. While we were waiting for new seasons we had to get our Who fix and watched the movie, borrowed Jon Pertwee episodes from a friend and enjoyed them thoroughly. I have loved every Doctor I have seen so far, even the “unpopular” ones.

Assimilation² Cover crop
Part of the Assimilation² Cover. The copyright of this image’s publication belongs to IDW Publishing, under license from CBS Paramount Television and/or Paramount Pictures.

While I watch a lot of TV and movies, these two shows have shaped my life. They were teachers, friends, lifelines and more to me, the characters became a second and then third family. And I still am fully immersed through my cooperative writing Star Trek Role-playing Group Starbase 118. When thinking about how I started my writing to where I am now I can honestly say, that these two shows helped me with my writing. But why?

Those of you who know the shows might know already. Both Star Trek and Doctor who have strong characters with their own plot-arcs, developments, and goals. And then there are characters without these elements so you can see the difference right away. For example, Worf had much more story than for example Geordie. Or Doctor Who’s Mickey has more of an arc than Donna’s mother. And I am a huge fan of character development and stories. So observing the series’ ways to develop their characters has been a huge help to find ways to do that.

These shows also have relatable and likeable characters, just as much as characters that we can really hate on. I believe that Star Trek and Doctor Who both have fantastic plots that develop and evolve characters throughout single episodes, seasons and the whole show. The writers even managed to bring in Villains that we can relate to, that make us understand how they tick, why they became who they are. Who wouldn’t understand the intentions of Gul Dukat when it comes to his daughter, while at the same time hating on him for it. One of the favourites among my friends was Garak the Tailor, who was dubious and loveable at the same time. Who did not shed a tear when realizing the true driving force behind The Master, while being shocked by his maniac attempts to take over Earth? Or when Rose finds out what is in those Dalek tanks, I admit I cried and felt sorry for them. That is some great villain writing right there.

Every episode has its own timeline. The introductions, getting to the meat of the story, continuing with a plot twist (something happens that causes them trouble) and the way to get out of it, and then the fading out/resolution. But as every fan of almost every show knows, there is not only the timeline of each episode. But a timeline of the season, or series of episodes that belong together. Writers do the same, nobody wants to give away everything too early, or drag things out too long. If you are writing a series, you want to make sure that the first book doesn’t resolve the problem already. Star Trek TNG did not have it that much, other than multi-episode plots, but where you can see that really well is in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, especially in the last season. And Doctor Who has a lot of that as well, even more so.

Another element that I really enjoy is returning elements, be it bad boys or allies. In Star Trek, we have the Borg, Klingons, Romulans, the Dominion, Cardassians, Breen and many more of these returning baddies. In Doctor who we see the Daleks, Cybermen even the Autons return a few times, and not to forget other characters like Bonny, Mickey, The Master. To me, it is the element of “Oh hey I know them!” that connects different stories together making it all obviously the same universe. It brings together the whole history of the show.

And last but not least, movies, as well as TV-Shows can teach us a great deal about pacing and structure of a story, for single episodes, multi-episodes and seasons. We learn about stages in the story (introduction, twist, climax, fade out), for short-term plots and long-term plots. We learn how to foreshadow, how to bring in surprises and how to come to a satisfying conclusion (at least most of the time).

When you start writing, one of the advice pieces you’ll get over and over is to read a lot. Who wants to write, needs to read. And while I agree with that, don’t underestimate the teaching power of some great Television.

Doctor Who - David Tennant

Do you have favourite shows that do this for you? Maybe some other shows or movies taught you a lot about writing or helped you to put your story to life? Tell us in the comments, maybe you’ll bring a gem into the lives of other writers like my friend brought Doctor Who into mine.

Let’s talk about – Write what you know

Letstalkabout

 

No matter if you write fiction or non-fiction, blog posts, do-it-yourself articles, advice columns, short stories or novels, you might have heard that one piece of advice all through your weeks, months or years of writing: “Write what you know.”

When I heard that for the first time I had immediate thoughts on what I know!

I know how to cook frozen Pizza.
I know how to not starve because I ordered a huge pack of ramen noodles in all kinds of flavours.
I know how to sleep for a long time.
I know how to take a shower without breaking my neck – 37 years of study in that subject proof that.
I know how to binge watch TV-Shows and movies.
I know how to avoid doctor visits when I really “don’t wanna”.

I know many many things more, but let’s be honest: Nobody wants to read a book about that. Well actually I’d die to read a book about it, but I might not be a big market all on my own.

After eliminating all these useful, elaborate skillsets the question remained: What do I write about?

Writing fiction might be a tad easier on that because you don’t have to go into the depths of a subject too much, but you still need to know what you are talking about. Maybe the whole ‘Write what you know’ does not only mean the experiences or your degree you have in a field.

Instead, make sure that you research the hell out of something you want to write about. Writing paranormal stories with demons and vampires? Study the lore. Writing a story that plays in the Tudor era? Read about it, the life, language, customs, important events and what have you. (Coincidentally that is what I’m doing at the moment.) Want to write for a woman but you’re a bloke and have no idea about that? Study women, read magazines, talk to them and ask what they’d do. If your character goes through a life-changing event and you have no experience with that said event, chat with folks who’ve gone through it.

There are many ways to research and accumulate knowledge about what you are writing about. So go ahead, dig in and then “write what you know”.

What is it you are writing about? How did you get to know about it and got more insight? Was it easy? Exciting? Boring (if so why the heck did you want to write about boring stuff?) Share your experiences and tell me more right down in the comments.

Let’s talk about – Short stories

Letstalkabout

 

Did you ever do something many many times and it is deep in your bones and blood and you could do it in your sleep? Then you try something else and it works really well but you go back to do that old thing and you fail over and over? That is me with short stories. I used to write them a lot. But ever since I wrote my first novel I have real trouble with them.

That wouldn’t be too bad if I wouldn’t want to write them. I have several ideas for stories that are not meant to be as long as a novel or even a novella. So short story it is. Well said. Tell that to my 50 attempts to write one. I tried it with outlining, making keynotes, pre-planning … nothing. I keep running into a wall and believe what I wrote sucks big hairy sweaty donkey balls. Eeew, I know.

I am usually a big fan of research and reading articles to help me going, but in this case, it just makes me nutters. It feels like everyone knows how to write a short story but I don’t. And I don’t know you but I become obsessive about this. Trying even harder and falling with my nose flat on the concrete floor.

So next I’ll try to throw out the outline and plans and write that short story by feeling and using my gut instinct. Let’s see how that goes!

How are you with writing short stories? Are they hard? How do you deal with the struggle? Or are they smooth sailing? How did you get there? Share your experiences with us in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe 🙂

 

Mockups are fun

Just recently I found myself in the wonderful workd of mockups. I found so many that I want to use for the future that I filled half my hard-drive with them. These are PSD files (at least in the cases that I have here), that help you display your own works in realistic pictures. It is surprisingly hard to explain. But I’ll show you an example below.

That mockup has a ready made picture and the card standing in front of the box allowed to add my own text and card design so it looks like it belongs into the setting. There are mockups for all kinds of things like book covers, computer screens, phone screens, booklets, posters and so on and so forth. They are really fun and come in quite handy. Not only for graphic designers but also for authors who want to display their work in new ways.

I used this one to make it look it belongs into the world of “Sra’kalor”, the card being a part of the story without giving anything away you won’t know after the first two chapters. 😉 The mockup I used can be found here on forgraphictm.com. Hope you enjoy!

Zantor Card Mockup

 

 

 

Self publishing #1 – The start is not what you think it is

I have been asked a couple of times how I went about my self publishing journey and I have tried to answer to the best of my ability. Despite having read hours and hours about self publishing, what to do and how it works, I have made many mistakes. So I decided to share my way, and not only tell you what I did, but also what I did wrong. Maybe the one or other will find this helpful. Because self publishing is such a long journey, I thought it might be more useful to split this in several parts and make it a series. So here is where we start.

If you are anything like me, you might think that the start is to write and finish the story. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong. After reading more and more after I have published my book, I have learned that the actual start of the process is to begin building your base, a community of people, followers, future readers etc.

But why should I do that when I don’t even have the book yet to show them? Well that was my question. But actually it makes a lot of sense. You need to get people interested in you. I have not done that when I started, so I am telling you about the things I should have done.

The start could be anything like this:

  • Start a blog (I personally love wordpress, but there are other platforms, depending if you want to host it on your website or not. Even if you have a static website, a blog is a fantastic addition, to allow people to subscribe and follow your new posts more easily.)
  • Create a twitter (unless you have one that you want to use for it already.)
  • Create a facebook page for your musings and book promotions
  • Syndicate your blog with twitter, facebook, google+ and other social media websites for maximum exposure of your blog. It helped me because it saved me the time to manually post every article over the net.
  • Check out online communities/forums about writing and get active (If you google for writing communities you will find a lot of sites with lists and such to help you find the right one for you. These are just 3 of the top results here, here and here.)
  • Read author’s websites and blogs, comment and connect. (Contrary to the whole rumour (and sometimes fact) about authors being solitary creatures, many of us actually love to interact with other writers and readers.)

You might not have a book to show yet, but you have your mind. Share your way, your ideas, interesting articles about writing, writing prompts, inspirations that make you write, quotes that you feel are worth sharing and so on and so forth. I am the first to admit that it takes getting used to. I keep thinking that I have nothing to say, nothing to share, but that is not true. I just keep telling myself that for some reason. So I’m still trying to get into the groove.

On twitter you can share these blogposts, interact with readers and writers or just anyone really. You might think that your stories are the most interesting part of you, but actually readers want to know you. They want to be part of your life so share something about you, don’t hide behind a wall of books. I know that many writers out there are more comfortable focussing on their writing, I am one of those. I really have a hard time to be active on social media, but I have my moments here and there. But mostly I think that my stories are more interesting than me. But I’m trying to get over that. 😉

But the more connected people feel with you, the more interested they become in you and what you are doing. That also means they might be more interested in hearing about your story, your book, your novel series, whatever you are writing, once you have something to share. It does makes sense. I mean would you be more interested in a book a friend publishes or in that of a stranger? Yes, the stranger can deliver a fantastic book that you want to buy – we do that all the time, right? – but if a friend tells me about their new book I’m all over that like I’d be over a meat only buffet.

So Step 1 is to start building your base, interact (even if it is hard for you it’s worth it), and show yourself.

 

SelfPublishing#1

 

Stay tuned for the next part soon. Until then feel free to share your beginnings. Did you start with building a base? Or did you write all the way through and started after? What are your experiences and what would you do different if you’d have to start again? The comment section below is hungry for your input!

How To Write A Great Story – Pixar rules

Source: How To Write A Great Story – The Meta Picture

“Enemy of my Enemy” Reveal

A few times I have been asked what I am working on at the moment.  One of the projects is getting into stages at which I can tell you more about it! I have mentioned my dear friend Jonathan Snyder before and he is working on a Sci-Fi Roleplaying System called “Blood in Space”.

It is an honor for me, that he has asked me to write a novella based on that universe. I’m excited to tell you that the first draft of that novella is done now! The part of the universe I chose to write about is a member of a species Jonathan invented called the “Atelak”. The Atelak are a proud species of hunters and warriors. One of the steps in the life of an Atelak is to go on their own personal hunt to either hunt or battle enemies for prestige and honor. My story is about one of these proud people and their own personal hunt.

Larenssa had always dreamed of her life as a strong warrior and worked all her young life to be ready to bring glory and honor to her tribe. Passing her initiation rites was a challenge, but it would pale compared to what she would endure on the traditional hunt.

Leaving her tribe behind, Larenssa began one of the most important journeys of her life. She will find herself at the mercy of her prey and be forced to make a decision. What will happen when the tables are turned and she becomes the hunted?

I will continue working on its edits and hope that we will be able to bring the exciting story about Larenssa’s hunt to you very soon!

Digital Cross-stitching fun

Usually I try to stick to writing, but I had a little too much fun for the last two days with this little App on Facebook, I want to tell you about. It’s called “Cross-Stitch World”.

Some might ask why anyone would want to cross stitch online, and I can totally understand that. I had the same question, at least until I tried it. After playing around for a while I found it oddly calming, almost like coloring books, or painting by colours, which is basically the same thing just with cross-stitching, that you do with your mouse (which is a good thing because I can’t cross-stitch in Real Life). You choose a picture and you get a color palette of yarn and when you zoom into the picture you can see where which color belongs. You put each color into the respective boxes and the picture takes form.

But the really cool think about it is, that you can turn your own images into cross-stitch patterns. And that was what I did last night. I cross-stitched the cover of my book “Sra’kalor” and the female lead Alana. And I possibly had a bit too much fun. I’m still playing around with other pictures but need a break, because my hand started to hurt. 😉

06108-83b9652b-8d9f-4463-b4da-eda5c59d580e 06109-5aa1b124-7f00-465a-ae2d-265cfed5225b

Why don’t you head on over and take a peek, play around. And share your cross-stitches with me? I’d love to see what everyone does with it. 🙂