Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration from Myths & Legends

Grab Some Inspiration from Myths and Legends

Myths and legends are perhaps the oldest stories we humans tell each other. They go back to before human beings were literate. They may go back to before agriculture, which would make them some six to ten thousand years old. Yeah, legends are that old.

Myths

We might, at least here in the west, think of Greek and Roman mythologies before we consider others. Or maybe we do not know any others. But there are plenty! However, rather than getting into specific culture’s mythologies, I would instead suggest considering certain ancient tropes.

Flood Myths

Floods make for great storytelling. This is because they are a kind of ancient people’s disaster movie. The effects are legitimately frightening and off the scale. Furthermore, most of us have experienced some species of flooding in our lives, even if it was just water rising in a creek and pooling around our ankles.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from myths and legends
Getting inspiration from myths and legends

For a religious group, a flood is also a great way to separate out the righteous (using whatever criteria the group so desires) from the wicked. The best people can be quite literally be saved and the evil people can be swept away.

It is also far less messy than a fire or earthquake would be (although being swallowed up by the earth is another option when it comes to the fate of the wicked). There is nothing to clean up.

Legendary Battles

The fall of Troy makes for a great story. Can it inspire? Of course. Between the death scenes, Helen’s love affair and then her fall from grace, and the Trojan Horse itself, the story is fascinating reading.

Another (probably) mythological battle is Joshua’s invasion of Jericho. The story includes the image of a wanton woman (Rahab, who was most likely intended to be a prostitute) offering aid and comfort to the enemy’s spies, to the walls falling from trumpet blasts and not traditional attacks.

Takeaways for Myths and Legends and Writing Inspiration

Without getting into faith or religion (which will be handled in a different post), it is perfectly legitimate to use myths for writing. They are, after all, within the public domain.

Categories
Inspiration Writing

Getting Inspiration from the Military

Let’s Look at the Military for Writing Inspiration

Inspiration is all around. And so it should come as no great shock that the military can be another source from which to draw.

So let’s look at military service in depth.

Basic Training on the Military

Probably the first thing to keep in mind is that it’s not all a monolith. And it’s not all about war and wartime.

In the United States, the main branches are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. The newest addition is the Space Force.

In addition, consider that there are very big differences between people who are drafted versus volunteers. There are folks who only stay for their single tour. And there are others who reup and become career soldiers.

Yet another type is people who attend military training schools.

It’s a Job

Yep, it’s a job. It has hours, duty rosters, supervisors, and training. The TV show M*A*S*H shows the bureaucracy of the military. Watch the characters Radar O’Reilly and then Max Klinger and see all the forms they fill out.

Another good example of military bureaucracy is in the book Catch-22. In both instances, soldiers are drowning in paperwork.

And don’t forget that the military has courts, judges, and lawyers. The Judge Advocate General’s Corps can bring a legal twist to any stories about the military.

Starting with the Military

Volunteers may want to serve their country. Or they may want to go kill the enemy if we’re at war or are about to be. Or they may just want the benefits. These days, joining the military comes with major perks. It can be the ticket out of poverty for many.

But draftees, on the other hand, may resent being forced to serve. They might feel their lives have been interrupted, or they don’t want to risk themselves. In particular, if to them it feels like an unjust conflict, they could end up becoming downright dangerous.

For both types of soldier, basic training is a must. It can be very indoctrinating, turning reluctant law-abiding folks into killing machines.

Military Colleges, Academies, and Schools

There are dozens of schools for soldiers and sailors. They go from Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont to the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. Military prep schools offer something of the experience to high schools. Plus many universities and colleges—otherwise unaffiliated with the military—have a chapter of the ROTC on campus or nearby.

Recruiting

Recruiters promise civilians a lot. And sometimes they deliver. But during the war in Afghanistan in particular, there were a number of soldiers who hadn’t quite expected to have to fight when the only thing they were in the military for was the free education.

In addition, there’s been some spoofing of the recruitment process, in films such as Stripes.

The Front… and the Back

So the front, of course, is where the real action is. However, in this, the age of nuclear bombs, the front might just be everywhere. In addition, with the advent of drone warfare, there may not be an actual front. At least, not one that any human beings actually go to.

Contrast this with the fighting in the Somme during the first world war. Or Pickett’s Charge. But while both of those were happening, there were still soldiers who were nowhere near the fighting.

Casualties

Without getting into medical care, of course members of the military can be hurt or even killed. And sometimes the wounds are psychological, where a veteran suffers from PTSD. For a good portrayal of a veteran with PTSD, check out Downton Abbey episode two of the second season, where new valet Lang has what at the time they called ‘shell shock’.

There’s also the matter of self-inflicted injuries so as to escape the front. Again, Downton Abbey delivers; this time it’s Thomas the butler raising his hand in a trench to have it shattered so he can come home. This is episode one of the second season.

Military Deserters

Every war has soldiers who get sick of the fighting and just plain go AWOL. Changing sides and betraying your country can be great fodder for drama, as can the reaction of the folks back home.

Conduct Unbecoming and Court Martials

The court martial is a particularly good source of drama. A Few Good Men makes it the centerpiece of the film. So there’s even a court martial in the original Star Trek series.

Discharge

Getting out can mean an honorable discharge. But discharges can also be dishonorable. Soldiers get out because the war ends, or their enlistment period does. They may get out because of injuries making it impossible for them to fight. Older career soldiers and sailors can retire.

Or you can be kicked out essentially. A dishonorable discharge may be rendered only by conviction at a general court-martial for very serious offenses (e.g., treason, espionage, desertion, sexual assault, or murder) that call for dishonorable discharge as part of the sentence.

There are also general discharges and bad conduct discharges.

Military Veterans

One role for veterans in real life can be attempt to correct a less than honorable discharge. Veterans might also march in parades or speak at schools—and not necessarily for recruitment purposes. Plus there are veterans with permanent injuries. The VA administration exists to help with their transition to civilian life, but the VA is chronically underfunded.

As a result, there are homeless veterans, and vets who need medical care but aren’t getting it.

Military Inspiration: Takeaways

This barely scratches the surface when it comes to all the ways you can turn to the military for writing inspiration.

Dismissed!

Do you like this page? Tweet it!


Categories
Writing

Snowflake Novel Outlining Method Revisited

Snowflake Novel Outlining Method Revisited

Snowflake is but one method for outlining a novel. It’s not the only kind, and your methodology is probably best for you. But this is what I do.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | SnowflakeI do a variation on snowflake. Do this on paper. I’ve never been able to do it on a screen and I think paper gives some semi-permanent feelings. But if you can do it on a screen, then have at it.

The First Snowflake Falls: Getting Started

1) Start with a concept. Let’s say the concept is that the world has run out of pumpkin spice.

2) Name a main-ish character (this can always be changed). So let’s go with a sapient chipmunk.

3) Write the main character’s name in the center of a page and circle it.

4) Write the concept down as well, maybe at the top of the page and circle it.

The Next Snowflake Will Fall: Making Connections

5) Draw 3 lines between them, but fewer if it’s a short story, more if it’s meant to be a series.

6) Along those lines, write possible connections. But don’t worry about them sounding stupid. Your sapient chipmunk might be hoarding it (and thereby is the villain). Another option is they might be searching for it as some sort of chipmunk holy quest. Or they might stumble upon it by accident. It could be that they might have to pay it as ransom to the mean squirrel which kidnapped their baby chipmunks, whatever.

7) So now you’ve got more characters and more scene concepts.

Look, Another Snowflake: Supporting Characters

8) New page of paper. Same name in the center, circled. Now surround it with the names or at least descriptions of the other characters you came up with. In this case, the mean squirrel, whoever sent the chipmunk on the quest, whoever hid the pumpkin spice treasure our heroine stumbles over, the kidnapper, etc.

9) Draw connecting lines to the main character and, as before, write along those lines what the connections are. And do this even if you already have them written elsewhere. Otherwise, you’re going back and forth between pages, which is a pain.

Flurries: Supporting Scenes

10) Third sheet of paper: do the same with the concept and possible scenes. So these are scenes like the dramatic kidnapping, receiving the ransom note, a news story about the spice theft, the stumbling, etc.

More Flurries: Create Order (for the Scenes)

11) Fourth sheet of paper: take your scenes and put them in as coherent an order as you can and number them accordingly. Plus this can be changed. You’re just getting a rough idea here. So #1 kidnapper makes plans. And #2 spice is stolen; #3 meet the chipmunks, etc. Maybe you need to go back earlier to when the kidnapper first thought of the idea of kidnapping – that’s scene #0. Hence maybe you want the news story between #2 and #3 – then rename it #2a and move on.

Snow Showers: Moving Onto Your Computer

12) Transcribe the scenes into a word processing document. I use Word; some people like Scrivener or Google docs, etc. In addition, continue to reorder the scenes and see where the filler and the exposition go.

13) Transcribe the character types and any names you’ve got. First of all, you’ve got to get across that the chipmunk heroine is sapient. So does she have an amazing backstory? Sketch it out. Because it may or may not end up in the book. Sometimes a backstory doesn’t need to be explicitly stated, but if you know your chipmunk was an escapee from a science lab, that might inform how you write her.

Just because you researched or thought of something, does not mean it absolutely must end up on the page.

The Blizzard: Assign Tasks

14) Time to figure out who does what. Hence maybe the crow delivers the ransom note, or the wolf acts as the squirrel’s henchman and does the actual dirty work of kidnapping.

15) Keep refining and go back to the paper if you need to.

** Note: a lot of people who don’t like outlines feel they have to show every single little thing planned out. But this does not have to be true. Because all you really need is a general idea for a scene, like chipmunk babies are kidnapped, pumpkin spice shortage reported in the news, etc. Just know what your scenes’ purposes are.

Post-Storm Clean-Up: Do You Really Need That Scene or Character?

A scene should have one of two purposes (it can have both):

1) Develop characters (particularly the main character) or

2) Advance the plot.

So any scenes which do neither get scuttled or altered.

Lather, rinse, repeat. This is my version of the snowflake method. But it’s not the only way to write a snowflake novel.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration from Education

Getting Inspiration from Education

A Vital Component of Life is Education

Education is of course something anyone in a wealthier country, who is over than the age of five, has in common with everyone else.

But what does it have to do with writing?

The Process

Consider the process you go through, and even the rituals which accompany schooling. You get up in the morning. Then you often eat something and you usually leave the premises, although not always. You read a lot, and answer questions. Plus you might perform mathematical operations. Some of these tasks may be simple. Others may be grindingly difficult.

Then at some point you knock off for the day. You might have assigned homework. And then you go to sleep so that you can do it all over again. It’s a little different if you’re homeschooled. But a lot of the activities are the same.

The Subjects

After primary classes, you start to see variations. French instead of Spanish. Physics instead of advanced Biology. College-bound students tend to track one way. Those who are going to stop with a High School diploma or GED tend to track another.

Interactions

There are some interactions with homeschooling, but not as many as when you leave your domicile and go to a school. There may be bullying. Students may self-divide into cliques. Some join clubs or teams. Or even go to work.

There may be divisions made due to athletic ability. Or academic ability. Another group might be artists, or musicians. Some students know what they want to study. E. g. they know what they want to be when they ‘grow up’. Others take longer to find themselves.

And, of course, don’t forget students who get pregnant, or marry, or drop out—perhaps all three.

Education, Inspiration, and Takeaways

If your characters are in school, what is it like? Both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Flies allude to scholastic pursuits. Are your characters failing? Teacher’s pets? In trouble? Coasting? Ready to drop out because they think it’s pointless?

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Bechdel Test in Writing

A Look at the Bechdel Test

You may have heard the term—Bechdel test—but what the heck is it?

What is the Bechdel test?

The Bechdel test is best defined by the Bechdel site:

… sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. The test was popularized by Alison Bechdel‘s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. For a nice video introduction to the subject please check out The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies on feministfrequency.com.

Okay, But What Does it Really Mean?

Films have shortchanged women for decades. How so? It’s less in the area of leads versus supporting and bit players.

If a female main character is hurt, and the female doctor character treating her has a nametag, and they discuss the main characters injuries, voila! The film passes the Bechdel test. Make that throwaway character male, and the opportunity is lost.

The test is not necessary for cinema, and it is certainly not necessary for prose. However, it’s still a helpful gauge.

Walking the Walk

Consider the following. These are bits of my prose. These are the points where my first three NaNoWriMo novels passed. First off is a sentence from Untrustworthy, and it is the first dialogue spoken. It is in the first chapter, page 1.

“Good morning, Ixalla,” Tathrelle said…

And the second one is from The Obolonk Murders. It is in the first chapter, page 3. Selkhet (who is a female robot) is speaking to the main character, Peri Martin.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Selkhet…

Finally, the third is from The Enigman Cave. It is in the first chapter, page 3. The speaker is the main character, Mariana Shapiro.

“Yeah, Astrid? Can you patch me through to Jazzie and Trixie?”

The Point of the Bechdel Test

I don’t pretend to always write stellar prose. Yet all three of these works pass the test. And all they do so within chapter one. Rather than making the reader dig, I lay it all out quickly.

For other writers, though, it may be more difficult. Lewis Carroll takes longer to bring Alice together with someone named. And even then, the name is ‘The Red Queen’. But does that count? Beyond the name question, does it count because Alice is a child and therefore probably would not be talking about men?

And what happens if the piece is about lesbians? If they discuss the objects of their affections, does it count?

The Bar is Set Low

Talk about setting a low bar! The two women don’t need to be strong. They do not need to be intelligent. A film or book can pass the test if two named women discuss crocheting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

However, my point is, passing the test doesn’t automatically turn anyone smart. Or kick ass. Or anything else. Instead, it just means two named female characters spoke, however briefly. And their subject, however briefly, was not a man.

But hey, it’s something. And it’s necessary. Good lord, is it ever. Because the last thing we need in the indy writing community is people writing about “Girl 4”.

Return to Prose

Let’s go back to my three examples. The speakers in Untrustworthy are married to each other. The ones in The Obolonk Murders and The Enigman Cave are colleagues. While Selkhet is subordinate to Peri, and Astrid is to Mariana, they are still addressed respectfully. Especially relevant, the interactions are professional ones. However, Mariana is more informal than Selkhet.

Do the interactions have to be meaningful? Not really. Ixalla and Tathrelle could be beating each other for all the reader knows. At least, given the one sentence, above. Maybe Peri smashes Selkhet to bits right after the above statement. Maybe Mariana fires Astrid.

So the test doesn’t ‘fix’ any of that. It doesn’t guarantee heroic characters. It just guarantees names and the power of speech. And they, at least one time, don’t talk about a man.

More Issues with the Bechdel Test

The test is imperfect. It’s very hard to pass it when writing historical fiction. Of course female characters in the past could have names. They could speak of something other than men. But the time and place dictate something else.

In the 1880s (for example), men drive most of the action outside the home. That’s not sexism; it’s reality. Still, since Scarlett O’Hara and Prissy discuss Melanie Hamilton Wilkes’s baby, then yes, Gone With the Wind passes. So it’s not impossible. It’s just tougher.

Takeaways

Creating well-realized female characters means naming them. It means having them speak. And it also means giving them more than one subject.

After all, when was the last time you thought a male character should only be discussing relationships? When was the last time you thought he shouldn’t have a name (unless the character is truly minor, seen for a paragraph or two and no more)? And when was the last time you thought it was okay—barring any specific all-distaff settings like sororities or women’s colleges—to not see more than one of them in a piece?

If any of those are a problem for you, then you know what the Bechdel test is really about. And you know your work should easily pass it without having to tie itself in knots.

Categories
Publishing Writing

NaNoWriMo—Word Count, Love, and Please Don’t Panic

NaNoWrimo is Fun! But it’s  Misunderstood, Too

You may have heard, somewhere in your travels, about a little thing called NaNoWriMo. And while I don’t get paid by them or anything, I am still here to help you along in your quest.

Your quest, should you choose to accept it, should be to:

  • Learn what NaNoWrimo is
  • Figure out if you want to do it
  • And to succeed at NaNoWriMo

Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast, my writing pals.

What is This Stuff, Anyway?

So, the first thing you need to know is that NaNoWriMo is not a competition. Rather, it’s a personal challenge.

What do I mean by this?

The 1999 original idea behind it was to see if an amateur writer could crank out 50,000 words toward a new novel during a set amount of time. November was chosen, and I suspect that was because it starts with the letter ‘N’. It’s also because it’s 30 days long.

And while neither 31 nor 30 (nor 28 or 29, for that matter) divides evenly into 50,000, that’s not really an issue.

The Rules of NaNoWriMo

Write at least 50,000 words. During the calendar month of November.

And… that’s it.

Want to write a memoir rather than a novel? Have fun. Want to write more than 50,000 words? Go for it. Want to add 50,000 words to a preexisting project? Enjoy. Want to set a NaNoWriMo word count goal that’s less than 50,000? No one’s stopping you, although you won’t get a ‘traditional’ NaNo accomplishment.

There are no other rules to remember.

 

There are no NaNo police.

Math

If you divide 50,000 words by 30 days, you get 1,666.67, or 5,000 words every three days. Of course this is the minimum you need to succeed. Write 5,000 words every three days and, at 11:59 PM on November 30th, you can meet goal.

But life rarely works out that way. And God knows art does not.

There is nothing wrong with this.

Art

What happens if you write only 4,000 words in three days?

Then you’d better write 6,000 in some three-day period, not necessarily the one right after the period where, oops, you missed goal. Just do so before December 1st.

What happens if you write 6,000 words in three days, without having been behind? That is, what happens if you get ahead?

Give yourself a cookie or buy a flower or whatever you do for yourself to celebrate your small victories in life. Because, shhh—come closer now, for this is apparently a secret—getting ahead is the secret to winning NaNoWriMo.

Winning NaNoWriMo—Yes, You Can Do It!

Let’s get back to life.

Look Ma, No Plot!

So let’s say that you’re up early on November 12th, all set to write. You’ve got your lucky mouse pad. You’ve got your coffee (or tea, or juice, or cola, or whatever). And you’ve got time.

And…

… nothing.

No thoughts. No plot. And no words. The blank page or screen mocks you. You stare at it, then chug your beverage and surf the internet. All the while telling yourself that you’ll never succeed at this NaNo business.

Don’t fret, friends. Not every day will be perfect for creating. Our minds don’t really work that way. This isn’t a factory.

What Do You Do?

Give yourself a break. One big part of writer’s block is stress. So get up and stretch! Or take a walk around the block. Another thing you can do is brainstorm what should happen next. That’s even if the only thing you think of to happen next is someone gets a pedicure.

You need to write almost 1,700 words, right? Then that pedicure had better be spectacular. Describe the salon to every last detail. Have your heroine (or hero; not judging here) hem and haw over the color(s). Or even have them unable to pay. Another idea could be them skipping out on paying.

Imagine your character running down the road, Coral Sunset polish still drying on their bare toes, as they try to avoid paying the manicurist.

Silly? You betcha.

But it’s words. And words always beget more words. Your silly idea, by the way, just might lead to a better idea. But even if you scratch out the entire day when you start editing the piece, that’s fine. Right now, your goal is to write. Turn the key in the engine so you can drive to wherever you want to go—and don’t dwell on the fact that you had to drive through a rundown neighborhood in order to get there.

NaNoWriMo S-S-S-Sabotage!

The Facebook NaNo groups, when November (or December) rolls around, are filled with people who’ve got unsupportive families (by families, I am also referring to friends). What if someone you live with turns on the stereo or the TV—LOUD—when you’re trying to write? Headphones to the rescue. Either yours or theirs.

What happens if your kids get into the argument to end all arguments just when you’re trying to write the most amazing sex scene in the history of literature? Separate them, like you always do, and find something for them to do. It could be homework or chores, or contacting the parents of their friends and asking if they could have your little angels over for the afternoon. And volunteer to do the same after November 30th.

There are more ways you can be sabotaged; I’ll get to one of them when I get to the part about saving your work.

The Thrill is Gone

This isn’t writer’s block, per se. Rather, something is just plain keeping you from being creative. Major life events, even happy ones, can do that.

And that’s okay.

If you need to mourn the end of a life or a relationship, or you need to plan your wedding, then put NaNo on pause in your life. There’s Camp NaNo in April and June. Or you can write on your own. On the site, you can use their resources pretty much any time. It doesn’t have to be November.

Preventing Common Problems with NaNoWriMo

I’ve often heard that, to succeed, you need to visualize success. But I don’t do that. Rather, I visualize failure. And then I do everything in my power to avert and avoid catastrophe.

So hear (er, read) me out, okay?

No Brain, No Words, No Ideas

Let’s look back at the three things I said could happen when you try to write (there are more, but these are big ones).

The first is not having ideas.

So get ideas!

But how, I hear you ask.

As Sonny Curtis (and Joan Jett!) sang, love is all around. And so are ideas.

Ideas don’t just exist from November 1–30. They’re everywhere. And they don’t follow a calendar or set schedule. At the time of this posting, NaNo is still over a week away.

So get out and cultivate ideas. Write down whatever strikes your fancy. Whatever will work—or at least gets you words.

If you love to outline, then do so. If you just want a bunch of sticky notes with random phrases on them, go for it. And if you’re like me, and you’re in the middle, write a bare bones outline with some listed ideas and a ton of wiggle room.

You do you.

And no, dear friends, this is NOT cheating.

Because—as I said above—it’s not a competition.

NaNoWriMo Counterspy vs Sabotage

Okay, so maybe you’re not a spy, per se. But if you have the strong feeling that the fam is going to give you grief, prepare for that NOW.

How do you do this?

Have a special day in October. Eat out, go to a film, go leaf peeping, shop, whatever works. That one should be somewhat spur of the moment. And then schedule one, with a bit of planning, for December. With the exception of very small children (think preschool and younger), most people will be happy if they don’t feel you’re neglecting them. And most have enough patience to be able to wait 30 days.

For those who are older and should know better—and just can’t wait? Promise them something special, and of course you’ll need to deliver. A weekend away. Surprise bouquet. Cleaning the gutters without complaining or being nagged into doing it. Whatever works.

Will this perfectly eliminate every bit of sabotage? Perhaps not. But you have counterexamples to show off which can effectively combat any complaints that you’re not being attentive.

Get the Thrill Back

As I said above, you might have to put things off if life is dire or just plain too busy and hectic. Your best friend got Covid. Or your Mom is in hospice. Or the roof collapsed. You’ve got to make 200 favors for your best friend’s wedding in a month. You get the picture.

Your best bet is to keep plucking those ideas out of thin air, and writing them down. And then, when you’re ready, you’ll have a bank you can withdraw from.

And no, it’s not cheating!

Say it with me, people: NaNoWriMo is not a competition.

Practical Planning for NaNoWriMo

By the time this post goes live, you’ll have a little over a week before NaNo starts.

Clear the Decks

So—when does your family next go to the dentist? Make it for October or December. Same with haircuts and nights out. November doesn’t have to be 100% cleared of obligations. After all, Thanksgiving is right in there. But if you can change a few things here or there, do so. Oh, and if you can get ahead at work, at least make the effort. Less external pressure is a good thing.

Plan in Advance

Do you ever cook in advance? No? Then it’s high time you started. Make a few simple things which only need to be heated up. Pasta is your friend! Freeze whatever you can and you’re basically ready to rock. Take it out the night before to let it defrost (inside the fridge is better for food safety than your countertop) and then nuke it or toss in the oven to warm it and finish it off.

Boom, dinner is served.

You don’t have to do this every time, and you most likely won’t want to. But if you can get, say, four or five meals teed up this way, you’ll be a lot happier once you hit crunch time. And no one will have to wait for you to finish writing your epic battle scene so they can be fed.

Need to buy birthday presents, or go holiday shopping? Carve out time in October and December to git ‘er done.

Gather Your Tools

If you’re going to print anything, make sure you’ve got paper and ink, and your printer works. If you’re going to handwrite anything, make sure you’ve got pens/pencils and paper.

And make sure your computer has all the latest updates and patches. 

Practical Tidbits

Go to the NaNoWriMo site and, if you don’t already have an account, create one. Make sure you can get into your account! And check on how to save your NaNoWriMo word count.

Why am I not specifying how to do that here? Because it’s changed over the years. So go to the NaNo site.

Make sure you know how to save your word count.

Save, Save, and then Save Again

While saving your work is technically a part of planning ahead and being practical, it’s so vital that it gets its own section.

But keep in mind: you do NOT save your work on the NaNoWriMo website. Don’t even try; there’s no place for it, anyway.

That’s not the purpose of the site. So, you will need to save some other way(s).

The gold standard (it’s the standard because it’s what I do, ha!) is to save in three different types of places.

Here’s how.

#1 Save to Your Hard Drive

Saving your work to your hard drive usually means you can open it more quickly. You can probably find it faster. And it may save more quickly. All are good.

But if you’re using a public computer, or traveling and using someone else’s machine, then that’s out.

Also, this is the fourth laptop I have owned, and I’m on my second tablet. Before that, I went through I think three or four desktop units. And I’m on my third phone. In short, stuff breaks.

So don’t stop with your hard drive.

#2 Save to Portable Media Storage

Er, what’s that?

It’s flash drives, thumb drives, separate hard drives, and the like. Back in the day, it was floppy discs. It can be CDs or DVDs, too.

Whatever it is, it’s something you can hold in your hand.

But beware. Flash drives, CDs, etc. can break or die. And I will never forget when a young parent came into a NaNo Facebook group and said their toddler had stamped on their flash drive and destroyed it.

Plus, if you need to work with a public computer, then this may or may not be allowed. You may find that the library doesn’t allow anyone to use a flash drive. That’s okay. There’s another way to save your work.

#3 Save to the Cloud

There are a number of services by which you can store work in what is essentially a virtual form. You’ve probably heard of OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drives. Amazon also offers storage, and so does Apple (iCloud). You can use every single one of these for free, and they will most likely offer enough space for your needs without having to upgrade to a paid plan.

If you’re on a shared or public computer, this may also not be in the cards. But there’s one more way you can, in essence, save to a cloud.

Email your story to yourself.

While it’s a somewhat less elegant solution, it will still get the job done.

Let’s Get Psyched for NaNoWriMo!

You can write at any time. And you can write more, or less. You never have to sign up for NaNo, if you decide it’s not for you.

No biggie.

The main thing about NaNoWriMo is that it takes writing, an exceptionally solitary pursuit, and it turns it social. It’s also a convenient way to drum up interest in your work. On Facebook and Twitter, I use the hashtags #CountDownToNaNoWriMo and #CountDownToNaNoWriMo2021 (or whatever the year is).

I post little bits, and I write the blurb. Over time, I’ve found that writing the blurb early can help to crystallize my thoughts. And getting out a blurb and some basic info creates accountability for me. People cheer me on, and I don’t want to disappoint them.

It must be working, because I’ve made it to 50,000 words every time. 

Some Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

It took me about 3 hours to write this blog post. Its word count is almost 900 words above the minimum you need to write in one day to hit 50,000 words by the end of NaNoWriMo. Some days, it takes me more time than this. Other times, it takes less.

But in the end, it’s fun and rewarding. And no matter what, even if all you write is one word, that counts. If it’s a word you wouldn’t have written before, then NaNoWriMo has done its job, and you have succeeded.

Want to friend me on the NaNo site? Then go here. Go get ’em, tiger.

Do you like this page? Tweet it!


Categories
Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Badge of Humanity

Review – The Badge of Humanity

The Badge of Humanity is the upshot conclusion story in the Obolonks trilogy. It moves the action into more of the Peri-Dave romance. But it also follows to showing how she, Dave, and Tommy finally solve the murders.
The Badge of Humanity
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens. And the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sapient and more than semi-sapient robots. Hence the third is all about humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles. They both play off the police props of badges and walking a beat.

Background for The Badge of Humanity

When I first started to write The Obolonk Murders, I had no plan and no idea it would turn into three books. At this point, I knew I really needed to finish up already. One thing Untrustworthy has proven, over and over again, is the value of an outline.

I knew the end had to happen, so the two biggest parts were solving the murders and, in some way, dealing with the Peri-Dave romance. I needed to tie up two very loose ends and do so in as satisfying a manner as possible.

Plot

Peri has to solve the last of the puzzle as more Obolonks are threatened. She senses they are the key to humanity’s future as the human population has swollen so much that it will soon overrun every inhabitable orb in the solar system.

As Tommy continues to seek what is essentially humanness—the badge of humanity—Peri and Dave’s relationship heats up. There are too many distractions and the president of the solar system also seems to have something to hide.

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Secondary characters of note are Tommy 2000 (with a Tommy McFarland alias so as to cover up his robot identity), Dave Shepherd, Greg Shapiro, Akanksha Kondapalli, and the glamorous president of the solar system, Ms. Fankald Williams.

The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis on Earth, to Venus, Callisto, and Eris, and back, even to the Hague on Earth (the capital).

Memorable Quotes

“What’s that?” Peri asked a woman sitting nearby, who was an octogenarian like her parents were. The woman had on a knit suit in mint green. Mrs. Franklin? Fredericks? Francis?

“I asked you where you live.”

“Oh, I’m in the Boston Meg, right downtown in a high rise.”

“Back on Earth? That seems so old-fashioned. Don’t you want to grow eggplants with your parents?”

“Uh, no, that’s okay,” Peri tried to be polite about things, but she could scarcely conceive of anything more boring than supervising a far less sophisticated robot than Tommy – the kind known as a Jack or Lumberjackbot – as it tended to the care and feeding of umpteen eggplants for sale to markets as far away as Venus or the Neptunian System. “Someone’s got to haul in the undesirables, Mrs. – er, Ma’am.” Nice save, she congratulated herself wryly.

“Oh, yes, Earth has so much more crime than we have out here,” the woman observed.

“No, thank you, Mrs. Martin,” Tommy remained polite but was getting a little bit insistent, adding just a touch of emphasis to his surprisingly lifelike tenor voice.

“Well, there’s crime everywhere, Mrs., er, Ma’am,” Peri countered, adding, “Ma, he’s not interested in the food, okay? Don’t push.”

“Perdy, honestly! Now, Thomas,” Peri’s mother addressed Tommy, “I can’t understand why you’d be fasting on a day like today. Is it for a religious reason? Do you need to keep kosher, or halal, or vegan? Because I don’t think you need to lose any weight.”

“I need to,” the sophisticated robot’s bluish-greenish-grayish eyes moved rapidly, horizontally, a few times. Peri knew that he was checking his long-term memory for a suitable response, “watch.”

Rating

The book has a T rating. It’s not quite enough for MA, but there are sex scenes and they can be a touch explicit at times. Peri and Dave have a very active relationship.  As for violence, it’s more threatened than anything else.

The Badge of Humanity: Upshot

The quoted portion comes from the first scene in the first chapter. I think the series ends pretty well. In particular, as I become a more sophisticated writer, I can see the holes in it. But I can still see a ton of potential.

And that’s why this trilogy is the first of three trilogies. The Obolonk universe is far too well-developed to let go to waste.

But this book really needs beta readers! Because the last thing that I want is for the story to end on a less than perfect note. Any volunteers for the beta reader badge?

In addition, do you like this page? Tweet it!


Categories
Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Polymer Beat

Review – The Polymer Beat

The Polymer Beat moves the Obolonk action toward not just the robots which have an overall story line—it also explores main character Peri Martin’s romance with spy Dave Shepherd.
The Polymer Beat
Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three novels. So the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is all about the aliens.

And this, the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to semi-sapient and more than semi-sapient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and is called The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. The reference to polymer is because of robots. These books all have themes. This one is robots although I will admit it’s subtle.

Background

After I picked The Obolonk Murders back up again in 2014, I realized I had the makings of a trilogy on my hands. Hence The Polymer Beat became my 2014 NaNoWriMo project.

I also had a few dangling bits from the first book, including solving the murder and Peri’s disastrous first date with Dave.

Plot

As Peri and Tommy work on the Obolonk cases, Peri and Dave Shepherd get closer. Peri knows this is a bad idea, but she goes along with it anyway. And, as she and Tommy continue to try to find the killers, she notices Tommy’s simplistic robotic feelings are taking a turn. Could Tommy become jealous?

Characters

The main character (as before) is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. The scenes shift from the Boston Megalopolis to various places in the Solar System, including Ganymede.

Other characters include Tommy, Dave, They Say This is the One, Sally Bowles AKA They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately, and lawyer Akanksha Kondapalli.

Memorable Quotes

“Were you programmed to be an optimist?”

He considered the question briefly. “I cannot tell.”

“That’s okay. You know I’m gonna have dinner with Shepherd tonight, right?”

“Yes,” he mumbled as she hoisted her bag onto the room’s sole bed.

Peri stopped what she was doing and came close to the robot. “What is it?”

“It is nothing.”

She looked at him closely. “If I didn’t know any better, Tom, I’d swear you were upset.” He stood there stoically, although she did see him scan once, briefly.

Peri returned to her bag and began unpacking it, stuffing most of her clothing into the top drawer of the room’s sole bureau. “I’m not even so sure why I’m going out with him, truth be told.”

“I do not understand.”

“Heh, I would explain it if I could. It’s not like my mini-phone’s been chiming all day with offers since Charlie died.”

“Is this,” the robot paused, maybe to select the proper words, “your first such offer since that event?”

“Event,” she echoed, taking a shimmering silver dress out of her bag, “that makes it sound as if there were engraved invitations, or something.”

“I did not intend that definition.”

“I know you didn’t. But you gotta understand, Tom, or at least just, just try to. I saw Charlie mortally wounded by a scrubbed hot gun. It happened right in front of me.”

“That is what your psychiatric evaluation said.”

Trembling, she looked daggers at him. “What else do you know about me that’s private?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no really violent scenes but there is an explicit sex scene. Occasional bad language, but not much.

The Polymer Beat: Upshot

Middle books in trilogies tend to drag, and this one is no exception. I need to improve it! In addition, beta readers would be helpful—hello!

It would be great to get some developmental editing help with the dragging parts in the middle to last third.

But I like the idea of it, and I think Tommy in particular gets developed much better. Dave remains an enigma, but that’s the idea. He is a spy, after all.

In addition, do you like this page? Tweet it!


Categories
Book Reviews Writing

Self-Review – The Obolonk Murders

Review – The Obolonk Murders

The Obolonk Murders was started several years ago (2002, to be exact) and I pulled it. But I loved the concept behind it. So I dusted it off and it became a trilogy.

… and then it became the first trilogy of three planned trilogies.

Just like that universe’s society is tripartite, so are the three initial novels. So this, the first one, The Obolonk Murders, is devoted to the aliens, and the second work, The Polymer Beat, is dedicated to the semi-sentient and more than semi-sentient robots. Hence the third is all about humans and its title is The Badge of Humanity.

The second and third novels also have somewhat punny titles, with both playing off the police props of badges and walking a beat. But the first title is just really straightforward.

Background

The Obolonk Murders started off life as a completely seat of my pants story which I put online as postings. I had no plot, no plans, nothing. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters. And I then got stuck. I didn’t pick it up again until 12 years had gone by. No lie!

Plot

Society breaks into three parts: humans, robots, and Obolonks. An Obolonk is an intersex alien (a little similar to the Untrustworthy aliens, the Cabossians), orange in color. They are of about equal intelligence to us, but with interstellar space travel.

The robots are of varying levels of sophistication. However, the most sophisticated are the creations of Dr. J. Carter Tinerrian. One of these robots is now the new partner to a human, Detective Sergeant Peri Martin, who needs to start solving the mystery of who is killing Obolonks.

Characters

The main character is Detective Sergeant Peri Martin. Her main motivations are to find the perpetrators and to work with her new partner, Tommy McFarland.

The scenes shift from the New York Megalopolis to the Boston Megalopolis to Callisto and back. Other characters include Tommy (as a robot, he goes by the identity Tommy 2000), Dr. Tinerrian, and the head of the Obolonks, whose only name is They Say This is the One.

Other Obolonks have their own reputationally-based names, such as They Say This One Tiles Bathrooms Adequately. That disaffected Obolonk…

Memorable Quotes

“Through that door,” motioned the robot.

“Thanks,” Peri smiled the half-smile she usually used when addressing robots.

“Your gratitude is unnecessary. I am merely performing my function,” replied the robot before turning and gliding away.

The door slid open after Peri underwent the same security protocols as at the front door. “Ah, come in, come in! I’m J. Carter Tinerrian. This lovely woman is Selkhet and this is your new partner.” Dr. Tinerrian was a nerdy sort of a fellow. He indicated a man in a suit sitting at a desk. The seated man was maybe 40, 45, seemingly younger than 50-year-old Peri, with a bit of salt to his brown peppery hair, and hazel eyes that varied in shade. He was well-built, too, although his nose looked like it might have been broken some time in his youth.

“Hi, there,” said Peri, shaking hands with the doctor and Selkhet and making her way to the man at the desk. He failed to respond. “Is he deaf? The department’s relaxed almost all physical rules but I don’t think total deafness is one of them.”

“Oh, he’s not deaf. He just needs to be activated,” explained Selkhet. Then, addressing the robot, she commanded sharply, “Tommy 2000, it is time.”

“A robot?” Peri asked. The doctor nodded but said nothing. “What the —?”

Rating

The book has a T rating. There are no sex scenes and maybe one or two stray swear words. The real issue is one act of terrorism. It’s violent but the violence is mainly offscreen although the characters talk about it. Plus there’s the aftermath.

The Obolonk Murders: Upshot

The plot is … okay. I like the idea of cops and robbers in space, and in November 2019 for NaNoWriMo, I started writing a successor trilogy. There are parts where this book could be better. But I have to admit it. I have come a long, long way since I first started writing it. It could use more beta readers!

In the meantime, the best thing about the Obolonks is the world building. It is potentially the best-built world I have ever created. Hence the sequels. There’s plenty of room in this universe.

In addition, do you like this page? Tweet it!


Categories
Inspiration Writing

Writing Progress Report – Third Quarter 2021

Progress Report—Third Quarter 2021

How was third quarter 2021 for writing? So I spent third quarter 2021 writing short stories and working on planning NaNoWriMo. Work continued to be mega-busy, but I learned voice recognition on Word. It’s helped me tremendously with speed. So there was that…

Third Quarter 2021 Posted Works

Third Quarter 2021
First of all, I worked on a number of new short stories. A lot of these had been drafted on paper and so I spent some time fixing and polishing them. Some of these short stories work well together, so they have chapters and the like.

Then on Wattpad I posted on the WattNaNo profile and the Star Trek Fans profile and nowhere else.

Milestones

Also, I have written over two and a half million words (fan fiction and wholly original fiction combined). So right now my stats on Wattpad for wholly original works are as follows:

  • Dinosaurs – 38+ reads, 9+ comments
  • How to NaNoWriMo – 23,785+ reads, 323+ comments
  • My Favorite Things (like kibble) – 974 reads, 133 comments
  • Revved Up – 59,368+ reads, 530+ comments
  • Side By Side – 17 reads, 1 comments
  • Social Media Guide for Wattpad – 14,856+ reads, 591+ comments
  • The Canadian Caper – 496 reads, 37 comments
  • The Dish – 250 reads, 24 comments
  • There is a Road – 189 reads, 28 comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2018 – 1,913+ reads, 45+ comments
  • WattNaNo’s Top Picks 2019 – 1,700+ reads, 10+ comments
  • What Now? – 2,553+ reads, 104+ comments

More Published Works

Also, I am amassing quite the collection of published works!

Untrustworthy, which is my first published novel. So yay!

A True Believer in Skepticism, to be published in Mythic Magazine.

Almost Shipwrecked, a story in the January 2019 edition of Empyreome.

Canaries, a short story in the March 29, 2019, edition of Theme of Absence.

Complications, a story in the Queer Sci Fi Discovery anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds went to supporting the QSF website.

Cynthia and Wilder Bloom, stories in the Longest Night Watch II anthology.

Props, a story in the Longest Night Watch I anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research.

Surprises, a story in Book One of the 42 and Beyond Anthology set.

The Boy in the Band, a story in the Pride Park anthology. So this is an anthology where the proceeds go to the Trevor Project.

The Interview, the featured story in the December 14, 2018 edition of Theme of Absence. So they even interviewed me!

The Last Patient, a story in the Stardust, Always anthology. This was an anthology where the proceeds go to cancer research.

The Resurrection of Ditte, a story in the Unrealpolitik anthology.

This is My Child, a short story published in the April 8, 2019 edition of Asymmetry Fiction.

Three Minutes Back in Time, a short story published in Mythic Magazine.

Killing Us Softly, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

Darkness into Light, a short story published in Corner Bar Magazine.

WIP Corner

So my current WIPs are as follows:

The Obolonk Murders Trilogy – so this one is all about a tripartite society. But who’s killing the aliens?

The Enigman Cave – can we find life on another planet and not screw it up? You know, like we do everything else?

The Real Hub of the Universe Trilogy – so the aliens who live among us in the 1870s and 1880s are at war. But why is that?

Mettle – society goes to hell in a hand basket when the metals of the periodic table start to disappear. Can a ragtag group in Boston figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?

Time Addicts – No One is Safe – so this one is all about what happens in the future when time travel becomes possible via narcotic.

Time Addicts – Nothing is Permanent – this is the second in this trilogy. What happens when time is tampered with and manipulated in all sorts of ways? It’s the ultimate in gaslighting, for one thing.

Time Addicts – Everything is Up For Grabs – coming in November 2021!

Prep Work

So currently, my intention, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, is that I am writing the third novel in the Time Addicts/Obolonks universe. But I need to iron out the plot! So a lot of this year has been spent on that. I am calling this one Time Addicts – Everything is Up for Grabs.

Third Quarter 2021 Queries and Submissions

So here’s how that’s been going during third quarter 2021.

In Progress

As of third quarter 2021, the following are still in the running for publishing:

Publisher Title
A Thousand One Stories Soul Rentals ‘R’ Us
Adbusters Justice
Gemini Magazine I Used to Be Happy
RAB Mettle
Sonder Review Who Do We Blame for This?

But I am doubtful about all of these. I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to regular querying, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

All Other Statuses

So be sure to see the Stats section for some details on any query statuses for third quarter 2021 which were not in progress.

Stats

So in 2018, my querying stats were:

  • 68 submissions of 19 stories
  • Acceptances: 4, 5.88%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 3, 4.41% (so these don’t seem to have panned out)
  • In Progress: 10, 14.71%
  • Rejected-Personal: 14, 20.59%
  • Rejected-Form: 24, 35.29%
  • Ghosted: 13 (so these were submissions where I never found out what happened), 19.12%

So in 2019 my querying stats were:

  • 23 submissions of 11 stories (so 6 submissions carry over from 2018)
  • Acceptances: 4, 17.39%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 11 (so this includes 2 holdovers from 2018), 47.83%
  • Rejected-Personal: 4, 17.39%
  • Rejected-Form: 3, 13.04%
  • Ghosted: 1 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 4.35%

2020 Stats

So in 2020 my querying stats were:

  • 37 submissions of 12 stories (so 9 submissions carry over from 2019)
  • Acceptances: 3, 8.11%
  • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
  • In Progress: 7, 18.92%
  • Rejected-Personal: 12, 32.43%
  • Rejected-Form: 4, 10.81%
  • Ghosted: 11 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 29.73%

2021 Stats

So in 2021 my querying stats are:

    • 5+ submissions of 5+ stories (so 5 submissions carry over from 2020)
    • Acceptances: 0, 0%
    • In Progress-Under Consideration: 0, 0%
    • In Progress: 5, 100%
    • Rejected-Personal: 0, 0%
    • Rejected-Form: 0, 0%
  • Ghosted: 0 (so these are submissions where I never found out what happened), 0%

It can be pretty discouraging and hard to go on when nothing new comes up which is positive.

This Quarter’s Productivity Killers

So my productivity killers are work, what else? See, I got a raise and more responsibility. And I’m supposed to be getting another person under me soon. As may be expected, that made it harder to get fiction writing accomplished.

I am working on a ton of things. Since that is also writing, it can sometimes burn me out. There’s been a ton of stress but I am making an effort to at least write something every night. Because third quarter 2021 will not be the end of that!

How's my writing going? #amediting Click To Tweet