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!

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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 🙂

 

Let’s talk about … rewriting

Letstalkabout

Today I want to talk about rewriting. Now that is some scary stuff right there. You have a story in your mind, a poem, a speech – anything really – and somehow it doesn’t work out. I don’t know about you, but that completely blocks my mojo and it can happen that I stop writing for a while, breaking my brain on how to make it work.

Well, just recently, while writing on my first draft of the second part of my book series, I stumbled over that problem. I kept reading the last chapter I had written, but I was still blocked. So I did something that proved to be the first step in the right direction: I questioned what I had written. The reaction of Alana getting some news just seemed wrong, despite me feeling it was alright when I initially wrote it.

So what do you do in that situation? I don’t know what you would do, though I’d love to know, but I asked some friends. I explained the situation and asked them how they would react. The answers were eye opening. Only one of them told me what I have written, the others all had the an answer similar to another, but it was the opposite of mine. So I decided to rewrite the whole chapter.

It might sound strange to some, but that is an extremely hard thing to do. A story is like a baby to me as writer, so changing or even deleting it is tough. To be honest, while it is difficult I do know that it is for the best. It will make the whole situation more believable and I am excited for that and the added development it will provide. Of course I cannot tell you what situation that was, because that would give away an important part of the second book. It is important though, which I keep realizing and learning over and over again, to not be afraid to change things up, to delete scenes if needed, or to adjust them. I want it to be more realistic, so I’m getting on that. Cross your fingers!

What is your experience with this? I believe every writer had to go through that at least once, if not even more often. I’m curious to hear your stories, so share them in the comments. 🙂

Let’s talk about …

Letstalkabout

Some of you might or might not know, that English is not my first language. If you hadn’t noticed until now: Surprise! So yes, while my grasp of the English language is better than many other Germans can pride themselves with, I do not know everything. Obviously. There might be the one or other grammar mistake even in my blog posts, but I try my best. Either way today it is not about grammar or spelling.

Today we are talking about windows.

Windows? Yes! Windows. Well more about the fun to find out about more of them. So me being a non native speaker I had a moment of “OMG I do not know how to call this” while writing a new chapter of my book. And there are usually three or four ways I try to find out which word I am looking for.

  1. I ask the all knowing man of my dreams, who is usually sitting two meters behind me, just waiting to be able to shine with his knowledge.
  2. Checking the dictionary – I know for some that is the first step but oh well I like hearing his voice more than checking myself.
  3. Type a description of what I am looking for into google and hope that there is something even relating to it.
  4. Ask my native English speaking friends online.

To my utter surprise the first three items on that list failed me, when I tried to find a certain word relating to windows. In German we have a certain word for when the window is opened this way:

Tilted Window

In German that would be “gekippt” or “auf kipp”. Now I could have thought it would be cracking a window, but to write ‘She looked at the cracked window’ could have given a completely wrong impression of the condition of said window and we cannot have that. The direct translation of ‘gekippt’ would be ’tilted’, but as always in situations like that, there is no guarantee that a direct translation is the correct word.

So I went to my online community and asked them. And boy, did I learn things about windows. I was surprised how much we could even talk about that subject. And surprisingly there are way more window types that I knew existed. Now look at this:

Window Types

A few of those I have seen before, others were completely new to me, and not all types of windows are in that graphic either. Either way, according to this the type of window I mean is a Hopper. Now imagine I would write “She looked at the Hopper window.” Maybe for those knowing the name of that specific type that would be good, for me though, not so much. I’d imagine a window with bunny ears hopping around in my house. Yes, not so good, but highly amusing.

So among all the fantastic information about types of windows, in different languages and from all walks of life, the consent was with either “opened” or “tilted”. Oh look my old friend is back. Opened to me looks more like this:

Open window
Open window – Source http://www.shuttersandsunflowers.com

So after everything I went back to where I started and chose tilted. But who would have thought that talking about windows could be not only a long discussion, but also interesting? I have not, but I was wrong.

Anyone out there been going to search for window types for their stories before? What have you found interesting about it? Or have you had other interesting searches for the right word to share with me? I certainly would love to hear about it.