Monday, November 15, 2010

And Other Cool Tricks...

Photography by Lucy Boynton
I love to do useless things on my computer...I usually subconsciously couch it under the whole, "Research" title to make myself feel less guilty about messing around when I should be writing.

One of the fun things I discovered today was Wordle.  Its a word cloud generator where you paste in text and it creates an artistic representation of the most common words in that excerpt.  I put in what I've written so far in my novel, Bayou Blue and this is what I got...Jake and Riley.

Cool Beans, huh?

Well, it's not only fun, but it gives me a visual picture of words I use a lot of. If I have mostly, "saids" and "shrugged", I need to take another look at my dialogue.

A really great site for getting into that writing groove is 8tracks. Free hand-crafted internet radio mixes designed around your task at hand. From jazz to techno, users pick and organize tracks to share. One of the offerings, I See You Are Writing a Paper, is a great blend to get your fingers flying over those keys.

Finally, Writing Fix is a website that creates custom prompts to help you launch your writing. From right-brained to left-brained, there's a story starter made just for you.

I know most of you are in the throes of NaNo and my hat is off to you who rose to the challenge.  Hope to catch your work in future blogfests!

Until next time...Go Write!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Duck...No, Weave!

So, I do a lot of research on things that I will (hopefully) never encounter or need in my real (housewife) life. To do this I have tons of books on strange subjects. I wrote about them in a past post called, Trickery, Deception, and Other Essentials.

Today we are learning how to dodge bullets! Yay for survival books!

The Worst-Case Scenario, a survival handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, is one of my  "Go To" texts for situations that I know nothing about.  There is a chapter about surviving if you are in the line of gunfire where they have diagrams and everything.

In our scenario, our hero, let's call him Survival Stan, fresh from stealing a secret government vial of uber-doom, is confronted with evil henchmen-guards and fired upon. In the movies we would see him running across the courtyard a trail of bullets churning up dirt at his heels as he bee-lines it for the door...WRONG!!

See, according to my trusty handbook, running in a straight line across a clear open area is a sure fire way to get gone!  You are instead supposed to run in a zig-zag pattern while putting as many obstacles between yourself and the henchmen's bullets as possible.

Zig-Zag, people.  It doesn't look cool, kind of like an ostrich at a ballet, but most people do not have the training to properly track a moving target, much less a wavering one, to hit it.

Also, if there is a corner, use it.  Hide behind cabinets or doorways. Untrained shooters usually cannot hit a target more than sixty-feet away, so start  Don't

Also don't bother pulling a Dirty Harry  and counting the bullets. There is no way of knowing if the shooter has more ammunition and we all saw The Matrix...there's ALWAYS more ammo hidden in those trench coats.

If you are outside and there are cars around, get to a car on the opposite side of the street and get behind a tire. They will stop small caliber bullets, but armor piercing rounds will punch holes in the car like it was made of keep that in mind.

Finally, I want to remind all of you that this is purely a hypothetical situation for your characters...I'm in no way an expert. The point is to get you thinking about research and how the details of a scene can really pull the reader into the experience and make it believable.

I'd love to hear of any great books or research techniques you've used to create a vivid and riveting universe for your story.  Until next time...Go Write!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

One Brain Is Good, Two Brains Are Better!

Photograph by Dierk Schaefer

I started the book I'm working on a bit ago, so I discovered I didn't qualify for NaNoWriMo.  Apparently you have to start a new project and I'm not willing to deviate from my WIP at this point.  I love hearing all of your updates though and its so encouraging to see all of your word counts climb....Whew! You guys are churning out the words!

For those of you who know are familiar with the extent to which I prepare to write a book. I am a planner, an outliner, a flow-chart creating, research addict. I write character threads, and subplots, and scenes in sequential order...the whole nine yards of "Type A" behavior.  

Mind you, I also do this type of thing when planning a camping trip.

Yet sometimes in the thick of a novel, when you're in the throes of the story just flowing out of your head onto the page, you hit a hiccup...and it throws you off kilter.  Maybe its a plot hole you didn't see until you were laying it all out. Maybe the character's motivation is too thin or the setting is wrong.  Perhaps you realize the story is more interesting through another POV.   

Whatever the case, you're stopped cold in your tracks.  

This happened to me recently on my current WIP. I hit a snag and didn't understand why I couldn't go forward. In the midst of complaining to my hubby, he made some remarks about my story that were bothering him.

Little tid bits that ticked at his brain and made him arch and eyebrow at my plot.  Why would the antagonist go to such lengths? How come you don't just have them do this?  That sort of thing.  It was both infuriating and enlightening. 

I realized that despite the Alpha-Readers and Beta-Readers, the critique groups, and online chat rooms...that sometimes just explaining your premise OUT LOUD to someone not in the industry is extremely helpful.

My husband wasn't reading anything. He wasn't checking for flow or choppiness. He didn't have red pen poised to strike out punctuation.  

We were just chatting in the living room over coffee. I just started telling him about my story.  He made great suggestions, raised a lot of questions I didn't realize were coming down the pike, and helped me brainstorm some great alternative scenes to try.   

So in the flurry of it all, take some time to think out loud to someone not afraid to point out where you need help.  It might make the difference between 50,000 words worth of a mess...or a great start.

Until next time...Keep Writing!