"I am the author of my life."

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2013 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Calendar

An essential calendar for your scary venture into NaNoWriMo 2013! Generously made by Melora Johnson, this sweet calendar has quotes, reminders and the good old daily word count. Who wouldn’t love to have this on their wall?

Melora Johnson's Muse

Here it is folks – a calendar of quotes and inspiration with your daily word count goals for NaNoWriMo.  We’ve still got a month and a half so start day dreaming about what you want to write now!

I’m going to attach the calendar full size but you will probably have to click on it to really see the image clearly.

2013NaNoWriMoCalendar

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✎ Give Your Book A Face

I hate to admit it but I really do judge a book by its cover. I’ll still read any book, but it’s always the good looking ones that catch my eye first. And quite often, I get jealous because I wish my books could have covers like these… so I get into a bit of fantasising. ‘Say I get published, I hope they find an awesome artist for the cover illustration… but man, that’s ages away! I wish I could have something right now!’

Then I thought: what’s stopping me?

I reckon a little premature fantasising can be healthy for you. It’s hard to keep motivated throughout a writing project, especially for something as big as a novel. We need all the motivation we can get! Sometimes having a cover for the books we’ve spent so much time and love on is all we need to see on a bad day. It doesn’t have to be the one or even a good one. It’s just something tangible, that’s all. Something you can print out and stick over your desk, waiting for you to put some pages in it. If you’re into self-publishing, you’re probably on the lookout for a cover anyway, so why not get started early? Plus, it can be fun!

So how do we go about putting a face to our beloved books?

Well, picking up a pencil (or tablet pen) could be a start! Especially if you’re an artist or have a vivid idea of what you want to see. The best part about designing the cover yourself is that you get to call all the shots. You don’t even need to be a particularly good artist to do this. It’s just a spot of fun that may or may not be seen by anyone other than yourself. Throw yourself into it! Get abstract and make a montage of magazine clippings; make a newspaper wrap-around; dig up your childhood drawings. Tap into that other spectrum of creativity.

If you’re not into DIY, maybe you can commission an artist you admire to design the cover for you, or draw an illustration you could then format into a cover. I for one am keen on commissioning an artist to draw some portraits of my characters for reference. I’m a regular browser on deviantART, a site where artists share their works. There are heaps of people doing commission work out there. It’s up to you to find an artist whose style you like, and whose price fits in your bracket – because trust me, the range is huge! Are you looking for landscape or portraits? Symbols? Realism or photography? How much are you willing to pay? How will you describe what you want? All the research will pay off when you have a shiny new cover on your wall!

Another option I recently discovered is purchasing pre-made book covers. This means that someone has made covers of their own choosing and are selling the design for a set price. Once you buy a cover, they will edit the title, author’s name and any additional text at your request. It takes only a few days (most of the time) and voila! Instant book cover! The downside is that you’re looking through covers that are already made rather than ones you tailored yourself. You might not find one that’s perfect for your book – I know I haven’t. I’d encourage you not to be disheartened though. Don’t settle for the cover that looks okay and goes pretty well with the story, but is just missing that tiny detail you can’t put your finger on. Wait for the artist to put more covers out, or pay a bit more for them to design one just for you if they offer that option. Browse around and find a couple of cover-makers you like. Pay more attention if you are looking for a cover you can put on your book and sell to the public; good artists will use paid-for stock images that are licensed for creative use. You don’t want to pay for a cover that infringes on copyright! Also, check if the cover is made for e-books or physical printing – different resolutions give different results. I personally love Go On Write by humblenations. I flick through it whenever I’m restless and dream about one day finding the one staring back at me.

I’m still on the hunt but you guys will be the first to know if I ever find that perfect book cover. I know it’s out there somewhere!

Do you already have a cover for your book? Or would you rather wait until publication to see what you get? What kind of ideas do you have for the ideal book cover?

Happy writing,
Christine

✎ Helping Writers Become Authors – A truly helpful blog

I’m so fortunate to regularly stumble on writers who share advice and encouragement – probably because there are so many generous people in our writing community! My latest find is K.M. Weiland’s site, Helping Writers Become Authors. I subscribed just last week and have already spent several mornings hopping from one awesome post to another. It doesn’t hurt that the site is lovely to look at!

K.M. Weiland is the author of Structuring Your Novel, a book I’d love to get my hands on one day. Her blog has posts about characterisation, story structure, dialogue and more. In fact, you get a free e-book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, just by signing up for her newsletter. The Asian in me loves free stuff, even better if it’s good free stuff!

Two of my favourite posts from her are 10 Writing Resolutions You Can Fulfill and 10 Ways to Strengthen Your Beginning. And here’s a guest post that really picks me up: 7 Ways to Build Your Writing Confidence. Check out Weiland’s site and it’s likely you’ll be bookmarking your own favourite posts in a matter of minutes.

Helping Writers Become Authors

✎ All Write – A good blog for writing tips

I had the pleasure of stumbling across this blog when I was looking into the average length of a novel. I’ve been on the mailing list for about a month and have really appreciated the regular updates, and the author’s effort in addressing all types of writing advice, from general tips to specific ones (like her latest one on scene breaks). I recommend checking it out and subscribing if you like what you see. I know I’m a big fan of any free writing advice!

Here we go! http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com.au/

 

✎ 15+ Wallpapers for Writers

This is my first time reblogging one of my own posts to update something, haha. Just wanted to let you guys know that, thanks to Erica at Rubber Ducky Copywriter, I’ve been able to add more motivational wallpapers for you guys! I added five more but there are still others at WinePressPublishing that I recommend checking out. Be sure to leave a word of thanks if you liked their stuff!

Plotting Bunnies

Many authors and writing guides say this: make writing a part of your life. Make it routine, make it a job, make it count. Sound advice. But sometimes you need a shortcut to help you take the first step…

Like seeing it every time you turn on your writing space, the mother of all procrastination: the computer.

Months ago, I made this simple wallpaper for myself:

I wouldn’t say it helped me achieve zen and spit out chapter after chapter. In fact, it didn’t make much impact on my lack of writing routine. But there was something about seeing this reminder when I turned on my laptop, whether it was to do schoolwork or go on youtube. It made me want to write something, or at the least spend some time with my characters and find out the latest gossip in their lives – lives that were waiting to be…

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✎ Word Count Spreadsheets by Svenja Liv

Word-Tracker-2013-HuntsmanWith Camp NaNoWriMo coming up, I’m starting to get hyped up about word count (as one does in NaNo-land). Finding writing resources motivates me like no other, so off I went to my trusty friend Google. A minute later, I struck gold.

A generous artist and writer, Svenja Liv, has been making and sharing yearly word count spreadsheets for free! Check them out here: CLICK ME!

I was already amazed that she had prepared different themes for us to choose from. The one I chose was the Huntsman theme (depicted above) but there are also others such as Steampunk, Pirate, Forest Fairy and more. A talented artist, Svenja Liv drew these illustrations herself and designed a massively comprehensive spreadsheet that I am in awe of.

How comprehensive? Let’s take a quick run through of the key features, shall we? I’m quite new to the sheets myself so I strongly suggest visiting Svenja Liv’s site to try them for yourself!

  • Not just a one off thing – the Excel spreadsheet file comes in a Workbook that spans all twelve months. Each month has its own spreadsheet.
  • But can be used for just one month – handy for NaNoWriMo! Also useful for setting short term goals for yourself rather than procrastinating on long term ones. The maker has kindly included instructions to help you with these settings.
  • Choose your unique target word count – anything goes!
  • Updated live – you get to see the fruits of your labour immediately. That, and you don’t have to do a single complex techie thing – simply enter in the numbers and voila!
  • Real time – the June spreadsheet really does begin in June, and the spreadsheet is so smart it knows this. Gives me a strange sense of companionship.
  • Tells you if you are on track to meet your target – a status bar at the top will let you know the average number of words you need to hit each day to meet your special number.
  • Shows percentage completeI love this feature for its holistic view of your project. It reminds you that all your words don’t just stand alone; they add up to something. Seeing that percentage inch higher is a wonderful incentive.
  • Graphs a pie chart and a column graph (or is a histogram? Blergh, maths) in the header visually inform you of your progress. NaNo-ers will recognise the column graph – it shows your daily word count against the predicted average. This way you easily tell if you are meeting the quota.
  • Flexible the creator has simplified our job by only requiring us to enter a few fields (marked in dark blue), but variety in those few fields can greatly customise your spreadsheet. For example, you may be aiming to finish your novel in less than a year. By October, for example. To make the stats reflect this more accurately, you can go to the November and December pages and pledge a 0 monthly word count. That’s my quick solution anyway!
  • Did I mention free and nice on the eyes?

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of this resource. I realise being halfway through the year will affect how useful this spreadsheet is to your work, but it’s still worth it. Especially if you’re doing Camp NaNo with me! To those who dislike the idea of word counts (I know you exist, and that’s perfectly okay!) you might want to skip this resource. Or try it out and be converted. Muhahahaha!

I encourage you to visit Svenja Liv’s site and take a look around. If you are an artist, she also has some nice tutorials for you. If you like her work, please drop her a word of thanks. I’m off to do that myself! If you really like what you see, consider leaving a small donation to help with website charges.

Here’s the link once again: http://svenjaliv.com/category/resources/spreadsheets/

As always, all the best with everyone’s writing!

Christine :)

I Write Like… WHO?!

Scrolling through the reader, I noticed that Kicking the Pants had posted about a website – I Write Like – that tells you which author your style is similar to. I’ve seen this years ago so I instantly knew what they were talking about. I forgot who I got back then (most likely someone uneducated me didn’t know), so I thought I’d do it again. Maybe I’m now more invested in writing and more well-read to appreciate those great author names – after all, I did recently buy Inferno (Dante, not the other Dan), Beowolf and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I just… haven’t read them yet. It’s a step outside my comfort zone, classics. I think it shows. Just leave me be.

Anyway, I put in part of my novel draft, not really caring that I was planning to edit it out anyway. Alas, I did get a name I recognised. I stared at it. And stared. And some more.

I write like
Bram Stoker

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

… That was unexpected. Horror? Vampires? Took me a few minutes to wrap my head around that bone. Then I told myself it wasn’t supposed to be about the content but the writing style. I haven’t read any of Stoker’s works (though I’d been on the verge of buying Dracula last week), so I’ll just take the comparison with the comfort that I at least know the author by name.

Needless to say, Stoker’s books are now on my reading list.

Since it was getting interesting, I figured I’d try chucking in another piece of my writing, this time from a chapter of fanfiction I’ve been working on.

… Actually, I haven’t done that yet. Hang on.

…………………….

Ahem.

Unveiling the red curtain, I’ve got here…

I write like
Jane Austen

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!


… Right. Same reaction again. Except this time I actually own Pride and Prejudice. It was a recent gift from my boyfriend. Yes, I haven’t opened that either.

Well. How very interesting. I’m sure it’d be much more enlightening if I actually read these timeless authors’ books, which I vow to do sometime between now and the next apocalypse. I’m pretty sure I’d get a handful of other names with other sample paragraphs. But even if you take these types of generators with a pinch of salt, I reckon they can still be fun. Have a go if you’re interested! Here’s the link again: I Write Like

Any F. Scott Fitzgeralds or J.D. Salingers out there? I wonder if Shakespeare is in the mix. Geoffrey Chaucer?

Yeah, I totally chose those authors because I was forced to study them in high school.

Have a good one!

✎ 15+ Wallpapers for Writers

Many authors and writing guides say this: make writing a part of your life. Make it routine, make it a job, make it count. Sound advice. But sometimes you need a shortcut to help you take the first step…

Like seeing it every time you turn on your writing space, the mother of all procrastination: the computer.

Months ago, I made this simple wallpaper for myself:

I am a writer

You’re welcome to use this if you want, though I can’t see why you would after seeing the amazing ones below!

I wouldn’t say it helped me achieve zen and spit out chapter after chapter. In fact, it didn’t make much impact on my lack of writing routine. But there was something about seeing this reminder when I turned on my laptop, whether it was to do schoolwork or go on youtube. It made me want to write something, or at the least spend some time with my characters and find out the latest gossip in their lives – lives that were waiting to be written.

So with that in mind, here are some wallpapers to get you started!

.

THE MOTIVATING KIND:

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THE TOUGH LOVE KIND:

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THE BE-INSPIRED-BY-BEAUTIFUL-THINGS KIND:

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THE REMEMBER-TO-HAVE-A-LIFE KIND


THE FRUSTRATING KIND

✎ Scrivener: Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write.

The age old debate: plotters vs. pantsers. For a long time, especially when I started off writing on fanfiction.net, I was a religious pantser. If a plot bunny landed in my lap, I’d just run with it. I’d have some scenes planned in my head, but getting from point A to point B was pure instinct and luck. It was thrilling. I loved it. Just maybe not so much when I realised ten chapters down the track, that I’d parked myself in with bad decisions I’d made in earlier chapters.

If only I’d thought ahead, I mentally berated myself. I do that now. I’ve gradually become more of a plotter, though I still leave room for my innate pantser to roam. There are pros and cons to the two styles – or both – but that’s not the discussion here.

People outline in different ways. Some swear by pen and paper. Others like it digital, like me. I used Microsoft OneNote when I first started outlining. It was simple and worked wonders. Then, as I developed more layers in my story, I found I needed something more advanced and flexible. I wanted to keep all my research, ideas and profiles in one place. Last year, I hopped on a popular bandwagon and it’s been a smooth ride since. That’s right. I had discovered…

Scrivener

Scrivener

What is it?

Scrivener is a word processing and outlining tool in one. You can plan your story with it, or use it to write your entire manuscript. A famous feature of Scrivener is the corkboard view (see above) which gives you a fresh look on your content. It’s great for storyboarding, to arrange and rearrange the sequence of events you’ve planned out, or even written. As you can see, I like to cast my characters using a variety of images I found online and it looks pretty good on corkboard.

Scrivener is quite user-friendly, which ultimately made me choose it over Liquid Story Binder XE. Start up a new page and type away. Jot down scenes and notes. Compile all related writing in one place. If you choose to write your story on Scrivener, you can actually file it scene by scene, or chapters, for easy access and editing. Label your pages with tags. Colour code. Mark something Finished, To Do, First Draft, etc. Create folders and subpages. Format. Brainstorm. Insert media. Deleted something and want it back afterwards? Look in the Trash; it’ll be there waiting for you. There’s even a name generator filtered by culture, gender and first and last names!

It’s hard to describe exactly what Scrivener can do. You simply have to try it out (30 day trial). Above all, Scrivener is flexible with a straightforward purpose: to help you write. I reckon it does a pretty good job!

How is this useful?

This one is a no-brainer, being a writing software and all. Instead of sounding redundant, I thought I’d use this section to briefly go over how I use Scrivener to help me plan my WIP series.

To me, the most useful Scrivener feature is the most simple: the pages. Planning is no doubt a messy process. You’ll think of something, scribble it down somewhere and promptly forget about it as you hurry on with your busy lives. I have many folders to keep my notes categorised. With a good filing system, I always know where to find what I’m looking for. These are the sections in my file:

  • Manuscript: Usually you would write your story here. I write my chapters on Word and copy them here for safekeeping. Some other random things go in here (I don’t really have an organised criteria for these things).
  • Brainstorm notes: Self explanatory. I pop notes related to general storyline in here. It’s a great place for character arcs.
  • Characters: This section is my baby. I love creating characters. They are the lifeline of my stories. Each character gets their own page, a reference picture if I can find a good one, and profile notes. I edit this section the most, and I swear more plotting goes on in here than in brainstorm notes.
  • Groups: This section is for profiling organisations, groups or civilisations. I created this to look at the ‘group’ as a whole rather than on an individual character level. To be honest, I don’t use it much, although it’s a good place for random notes.
  • World: Notes on the story universe. I don’t use it for planning, rather for keeping random facts. It’s a good reference, though collecting a little dust.
  • Scenes: I have a knack of imagining scenes very vividly even when I’m nowhere near writing them. I write a whole novel just so I can use these scenes, so they deserve a special place. Here, I record specific scenes that come to me. Rough drafts and reminders. Half the time I don’t know what the scene is really about, only that I absolutely adore it. Baby #2, right here.
  • Research: aka, everything else. Soundtrack lists, possible names, pages that don’t belong anywhere else. This is by far my messiest section.

I label most of my pages; the character ones are a must. Labels typically include character name, home country/state, status and affiliated organisations. It makes it easy for me to find everyone related to one thing. For example, I type in ‘Brink’ and I will have anyone related to my favourite anti-demon division at my fingertips.

When I open Scrivener, I can outline to the point of obsessive. On days where I can’t get any creative juices flowing, I compensate by working on the project in Scrivener. The result is ridiculously detailed characters that will probably be squashed back into 2D when I write them, because I couldn’t stop giving them onion skins of backstory. It’s actually really fun!

Tips when using Scrivener

  • Scrivener has sponsored NaNoWriMo many years in a row. Winners are usually able to redeem a winner’s code to get 50% off Scrivener. I took that path and thought it was a great bargain. It’s something to look out for.
  • There is an option to backup your work to a chosen location. Direct this to your Dropbox folder if you have one, and give yourself a little piece of mind.
  • You may notice the program slowing a little bit if you store a lot of media in your file. You’ll usually notice when it takes longer than usual to save. While it doesn’t affect its usage much, it’s not a bad idea to migrate to a fresh file if you feel the lag is becoming a significant problem.
  • There is no need to hoard your information because of the special Trash bin. If you’ve since edited something and no longer need the old info yet would like to have it on hand just in case, delete it to Scrivener’s Trash. It won’t usually be emptied without your approval. Of course, this only applies for items you actually moved to the bin. Backspaced content isn’t going to show up there. You could try copying sections you no longer need into a new page, and moving that page to trash. It helps keep your workplace uncluttered.
  • Take the time to go through the beginning tutorial. There are many features in Scrivener, some you may never use, but trust me: you’ll want to know your way around.

Everyone has their own favourites. There are many writing programs out there and I will probably post about them as I learn more. So far, Scrivener is the one for me. I hope everyone finds their special niche, no matter what your writing style. Write like you know nothing else!

Next Symbiotic Saturday, I’ll be recommending a writing reference book. Keep an eye out!

munchkinwrites, signing out.

✎ 750 Words: Write every day

Writers need many important skills. It’s not so much the quality of the writing, whether it’s ‘good’ or not – well, it’s actually a big factor, but never forget that anyone can write. A five year old child can write a story. When you begin to take writing seriously though, like aiming for the completed novel, it’s consistency that matters most. “Write hard, write fast,” James Scott Bell says in his guide The Art of War for Writers. In other words: just write and keep writing. Push yourself to write every day; make it a habit.

… It could just be me but I find that ridiculously hard.

I have many excuses: I have no time! I have uni, I have assignments, I have social life, I need to sleep, etc. They bog me down like swamp men. Some days it is impossible to get any writing done. But there are also days where I have just a few hours of beloved free time and, and… and I lose it to YouTube, to forums, to music, to that nap I didn’t really need. Deep down, I wanted to write, so  badly, but I didn’t have consistency.

Buster knows this. Who’s Buster? Good question! He’s the developer of…

750 Words

750 Words

What is it?

The idea behind 750 Words is simple: you aim to write 750 words every day. You can achieve badges by writing several days in a row and maintaining a streak, or by typing fast and staying on task. The longer you manage to keep a streak, the more points you accumulate. What do you do with these points? You feel accomplished, you brag, you compete with friends. The whole aim is simply to write 750 words of anything at all.

750 Words provides a simple, blank canvas for you to type. It keeps track of your words, autosaves, and lets you know when you hit that 750 mark. Your writing is available in your own archives, and you can also view some nifty stats about what you just wrote. There are basic numbers like how long you were writing for, how quickly, how many times you got distracted and left the keyboard idling – and then there are the cool stats. Here’s a quick list:

  • Rating (G, PG, R, etc)
  • What you (or the writing) feel like
  • What you (or the writing) are concerned about
  • Your mindset when writing this – e.g. extrovert, negative
  • The proportion of tense: past, present future
  • Primary sense – e.g. touch, smell, hearing
  • Proportions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – i.e. perspective
  • Frequently used words

I found these stats amazingly interesting! Of course, they are not always accurate; in fact, they never were for me because I was wrote my novel’s scenes and I wasn’t feeling quite as violent as my characters were. But they are nice to look at and to reflect on; I didn’t realise I wrote so much about sight – my characters are always gazing, glancing, averting their eyes – until 750 Words spelled it out for me. Best of all, you get pretty badges for doing what you love: writing!

Note: 750 Words was free for a long time and sponsored by donations from the community. From what I understand, some recent changes were made and new accounts will have a 1 month trial period before they decide if they would like to purchase the service. So there’s plenty of time to decide!

How is this useful?

It encourages you to write every day. Some people are motivated by maintaining their streak. Some don’t care much about streaks and prefer to work at their own pace, meeting the mark whenever they can. You can even sign up for monthly challenges and aim for 750 words every day for a month. There are no punishments aside from those you give yourself.

Just like The Thoughts Room, you can write about anything you like. Writing about your day or anything that’s on your mind can clear the clutter and get you into the right mood for story-crafting. Make it a journal if you like. It’s always great to look back and see what you’ve achieved.

Now, you probably noticed that I broke my streak pretty early… I’m the type that works like hell for the streak and deflates the instant I lose it.  For a long time after that I wrote without 750 words, but the site helped me taste consistency for the first time. I didn’t have to write the actual scenes of my novel (that took too much thinking); I could write a random short story using my characters, I could reflect on my writing, I could write a character voice journal (one of James Scott Bell’s tips in his book). I now hop on whenever is convenient, and aim for the mark. I don’t make it some days and I’m not as consistent as I’d like, but I’d gladly take it over nothing.

So go for it! See if consistency is what you’re lacking in your recipe, and even if 750 Words isn’t for you, try to take the lesson away with you. If you’ve already got a routine all figured out, kudos to you!

Tips for using 750 Words

  • Hit F11 (on Windows)/whatever the fullscreen key is on Macs, to eliminate distracting tabs in your browser. Switch off social media if you can. Don’t get distracted!
  • Just let the words flow. Don’t worry about editing. Think of it as your first draft; get it down first.
  • Keep your keyboard going even if you’re thinking, even if you’re just typing the same word and backspacing it. Keep the cogs in your mind turning.
  • Feel free to keep writing past 750 Words. First give yourself a pat on the back, then see if you can keep going.
  • Check out the stats afterwards. It’s fun.
feature image from bigamericannight

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