Thursday, November 29, 2012

Story maps

A while back, I started a Pinterest page on Writers Tools and Tips (that I've hardly added anything to lately...). To feed that page (and to have a permanent place to park this information), I'm uploading  the Story Map I've started using when writing short stories. (You don't have to use it before you start the story, but it can help you at any time during the writing to clarify who is saying what, and how else a character might be described). I have created it and honed its elements based on fiction writing classes I've taken and books I've read over the years.

The image above is there for mostly for graphic purposes (and so I can link to it on that Pinterest page). Here it is as text, below, if you'd like to import it into word processing, and adapt for your own uses.

[Note: If you copy and paste this into Microsoft Word, and want to retain the table, choose the "Keep Source Formatting" option. You can still type into it. If you are bothered by the pinkish background that imports from this blog, though, you can paste the text and table separately—choose "Keep Source Formatting" for the table only, then under "Table Properties" choose "Shading"--no fill.]



·      Year(s):         
·      Season(s):
·      Place(s):


Approx. Age
Physical description








Sunday, November 25, 2012

Writing a novel, piece by piece

This is a Scrivener Corkboard being used to its full power—mine has few elements on it.

Apparently I am a NaNoWriMo Rebel—one of the hundreds who don't follow the typical rules set forth by NaNoWriMo. I am a Rebel simply by not aspiring to write 50,000 words during the month of November. But I'm also a Rebel since I'm not really writing a novel but a set of inter-related stories, many of which are no more than a few vignettes and descriptions right now, which I am collecting in separate electronic folders.

It has been liberating to write like this. I am not trying to create a long, linear narrative and can choose to write a little bit in each story without having to connect any new writing directly to what has already been written—I can write about a past occurrence without bothering to present it as a flashback, or can write about a future event without worrying about having first to describe what has happened between times.

I have only been able to write this way because I am using Scrivener, a software package that promises to help writers "create order out of chaos" (though, right now, I'm embracing the chaos more than the order). Scrivener describes itself as "a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents." So far I've only been using it  in an elementary way, to move text  around on its "Corkboard"and keep track of the word count for the entire manuscript, which is composed of seven half-finished stories. You can download it for free and give it a try (and then pay later if you decide it works for you).

I have yet to tap Scrivener's full power since I am too impatient to sit through all of its tutorials—but I intend to after NaNoWriMo 2012 is over (and I have reached my personal, 25,000-word count goal).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo again

I am attempting NaNoWriMo again this year and, like last year, I am hopelessly behind. As of the beginning of Day 13, I stand at 7,659 words—when my expected total should be 21,671.

I attribute my slowness, in part, to the hurricane at the beginning of the month, which took out the power for a couple of days and flooded our basement. Since then I have been busy, some days, until late evenings, with paid work and other responsibilities (like cleaning up the basement). Rather than be agitated about not meeting the daily deadlines, I have made my peace with it. I'm still aiming to write a book (a series of related short stories), but I'm probably not going to have it all done by Nov. 30th.

I compare this to an older person who runs a marathon, knowing that they are not going to finish in under three hours, or even under 4.5, per the average time. I am walk-running a six-hour marathon instead, happy to keep trucking along at a 15-minute mile. At my current rate, according to my helpful NaNoWriMo Stats page, I am not expected to finish until January 23rd.

I just wish there was a slower NaNoWriMo—a two-month (or even three-month) book marathon for busy people (and parents) who still want to reach the goal but just can't get there as fast as those who are freer and unfettered.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Women Who Rock (their clothes)

Speaking of rock music, I went to see the Women Who Rock exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. last week. It was a fun exhibit and I loved the costumes, but that was the problem. Most of the female musicians were represented by what they had worn—that's fine for someone like Madonna (above) or Lady Gaga or Cher, for whom costume drama and sets are as much of their art as their music. But  it was puzzling to see a singer like Marianne Faithful represented by a glam outfit that she wore God knows when (also in her glass box were two prominently displayed faxes Keith Richards had sent her; apparently he scribbles in the same decipherable way that he speaks). I would have liked to have seen pictures of the dewy-eyed Marianne Faithful alongside pics of her more haggard, cigarette-throated elder self, or even better, a looping video showing her transformation over the years, which would surely be a better representation of her life.

Would a "Men Who Rock" exhibit have any kind of focus on items of clothing they had worn? Here is the pair of jeans that Bruce Springsteen wore on the cover of "Born in the U.S.A."; here the chambray shirt Dylan wore on "The Times They Are A-Changing." Not very distinctive, or for that matter, very important in terms of the art produced.

I'm not sure what else one could use to visually represent rock music. Some walls played videos of performances, and there was an entire wall of album covers. Each room had its own soundtrack, according to time period. We walked through in less than an hour and then had lunch. Still, I have to admit, I was thrilled to see the outfit that Cindy Lauper had worn on the cover of "True Colors" and the short (and tiny) red dress Tina Turner had worn in her "What's Love Got to Do With It" video.