Stories: Passports without borders

Stories are passports without borders. Stories are passports without visas. Stories are passports to adventure. Stories are passports into the exotic and the extraordinary. Stories are portal doors into worlds unknown. Stories are magic carpets.

One of the first reasons that made me fall in love with stories is the ability to travel to exotic places, experience exotic cultures all without leaving my chair. I love traveling and often call myself a Gypsy at heart. New places usually mean new people to meet and new adventures to experience. In an unknown place the average and ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary. Having a coffee in my local cafe is very been there, done that. But having a coffee in some little plaza in an Italian village on the Amalfi coast would immediately be extraordinary for me. In the same way, that Italian local may find having coffee in my local cafe an extraordinary event.

For this reason I have always read books that are based in foreign countries and even foreign cultures. I come from South Africa, now live in New Zealand – to me neither of these two places is exotic. They are what I know. They are familiar. But when I have told American friends that I come from South Africa and now live in New Zealand – they are always fascinated. They want to know if I have seen lions in the wild. When I tell them that we had a family of leopard living on one of the farms my father managed, they go: “WOW!”. They want to know all about New Zealand especially since the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that really put NZ on the map. But for me exotic places are in Europe or in Central Africa/Northern Africa or the Amazon in South America. But I doubt those same locals who live in these areas think that they live in an exotic locale.

That is the joy of reading stories and in my case going one step further and creating your own stories. I love writing about places I have not been because I find often what may be fairly ordinary to the locals there becomes extraordinary and special in my fresh eyes. One of my favourite pastimes is searching for fresh inspiration for not just story ideas but setting ideas. Pinterest (new addiction) comes in as a very useful tool in these moments. I also love reading/studying/researching the history of each setting and often finds it seeds an idea in my imagination that I let lie and germinate to see what it could potentially blossom into. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and software like Google Earth/Google Maps your research into a place can become acutely accurate down to the street names and the name of that cafe on the corner in that Italian village on the Italian Amalfi Coast.

But at the end of the day the best research you can do when checking out a setting in an exotic locale (if traveling there is absolutely ruled out) is to talk to the locals on the internet. In this day and age there is an internet group for just about everything and there are blogs for just about every type of subject. So I trawl the blogosphere and see if there are any local-specialised blogs devoted to the locale I want to set my story in. Setting is so much more than just a geographic location or street names. Setting is also about the quirks that make that place unique. Is there a particular smell? Smell is a big one. For instance when I smell oranges and lemons I immediately think of Athens, Greece. One of the strongest memories of my time spent there 12 years ago was the tree-lined streets with trees heavy with oranges and lemons. So the smell of oranges and lemons now sums up Athens for me. Location bloggers will give away a lot of these type of tidbits in their blog posts. And most people are always flattered when you tell them you want to learn more about their home because you find it fascinating.

So while I have begun writing on my next project I have been trawling the internet for setting ideas. So I will leave you with some images from my Pinterest board. Some of them are definite settings in my story and some of just teasing seeds of inspiration right now…Mum’s the word (for now) on which settings I am actually going to be using in both the current WIP and upcoming ones. Perhaps you can guess which settings I have chosen.

Perhaps you have been to these places or live there. I would love to know at least 2 quirks that I could not find out from the internet that is unique to each place. Leave me a comment in the comments.

Tell me>> What exotic places would you like a story to be set in? What places grab your imagination?

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Abandoned mountain town in Sardinia, Italy)

Source: worldtopjourneys.com via Kim on Pinterest (Manarolo, Cinque Terre, Italy)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (The City of the Caesars, Patagonia, South America)

Source: underthesunexperience.blogspot.co.nz via Kim on Pinterest (Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon, France)

Source: earmchairtraveler.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Meteora, Greece)

Source: accommodation-bol.com via Kim on Pinterest (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Source: une-deuxsenses.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Swallow’s Nest, Crimea)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (Angkor-Wat, Cambodia)

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Gunkanjima, Japan – “Ghost Island”)

Source: roman-empire.net via Kim on Pinterest (Herculaneum, Italy)

All imaged embedded via My Pinterest boards – Feel free to follow me there…

Tuesday Blog Hop | Writer’s Flashback

 

This month the task was to flash back to something you have written in the past, it could be months or years ago, and share how your writing has evolved since then.

Funnily enough, I have just moved house and bought a new desk. I love moving because often you find treasures you thought you had lost. In this move I found a folder hidden away in an archive box with all my writing. This included all my early assignments when I was studying Creative Writing and Freelance Journalism. So when this task came up, I was quite excited to take part. The only problem was what to include. So I have included an excerpt from a story I began when I was 16.

***

The night was cold and eerie! Winter had arrived and summer was a thing of the past…

Spring is a time of new beginnings and new outlooks. That spring was a time of closing, the end of youth! Maturity came and with it a sense of lost innocence…

Maxine West was twenty-one, officially a woman, and embarking on an adventure, the adventure of real life. Maxine could not be described as pretty or beautiful but her mystery was alluring, even seductive. Her hair was not quite black nor brown but something in between. She had the eyes of a cat: big, round and yellow, while her profile was like that of an alien bird. Maxine’s facial features were totally asymmetrical and out of proportion. This story is a story of lost innocence. This is her story.

A young woman stepped out of the building and into the sunlight. Nobody would have glanced twice except for her aura. This was a young woman with an insurmountable wall in front of her eyes. Eyes betraying no emotion are dead but her eyes were covered with enormous emotion. She was extraordinary to behold. What exact emotions covered those eyes and what could be done to lift their veil?

Her mind worked like a robot, seeing everything and yet observing nothing. This was her day of freedom and she was going to celebrate to the fullest – by herself. She did not want anyone around her because this was her escape at last!

Youth is something to be treasured and remembered, but Maxine wanted to rid herself of her past youth, the sooner the better… 

As she walked down the steps, she knew that she was leaving her past behind and that maybe, with a little luck, the hurt too.

Her first memory was the best, one of the few good moments that she could remember. The sun had just risen and all was quiet. Maxine was hungry for a maternal hug so she called, “Mama, Mama! I want hug!”.

In the adjacent room, Caroline West – successful psychologist and single mother – struggled awake to the demanding voice of her baby girl, Maxine. A breeze was stirring the leaves of the oak outside her window. Today was going to be wonderful. Clambering out of bed in her sleep-wake state, Caroline walked towards her daughter’s room. Stepping into the bedroom, Maxine gazing peacefully at her, Caroline realised that even though her life had not followed an ideal plan, she was utterly content where she was.

Caroline West; the much-loved daughter of a middle class family, was now a mother – albeit single – of a strange but cute, little girl. Margaret and Tom West had, had many plans for their youngest and only child. Plans that included a husband. Caroline had never set out to be a single parent but as plans do, her plans went awry.

Jeffery Dean had fallen in love with Caroline the moment he first set eyes on her. An up and coming architect, his life was destined for a great future. One including Caroline West. The only snag being that he wanted the woman but without the pitter-patter of tiny feet. When Caroline first realised that Jeff did not want any children, ever; she was hesitant but not wary. She thought that once the relationship had developed Jeff would finally propose and eventually after a marvellous honeymoon a child or two would enter their lives and bond them eternally.

Looking back now at the naive Caroline, the present Caroline saw the futility of her young hopes and dreams. her relationship with Jeff had gotten more serious and therein entered intimacy. She had taken all the necessary precautions, or thought she had. But the pill does not always work according to one’s plans. When the pregnancy came out positive Caroline was elated but not ready to face the reluctant and contentious Jeff. The final inevitability was that she ended up as Maxine’s only parent.

“Mama, Mama! Listen to me. Give me hug, please…”, shaking herself out of her reverie, Caroline walked over to the bed to give her daughter a hug.

***

Reading through this story, I see how much my writing has changed. Which is a good thing. Life is all about change and change is all about growth. In this story I “tell” more than “show”. The story is also written in 3rd Person POV and narration. There is an overuse of punctuation points. There is too much back story too early on in the story.

My writing style has definitely evolved from this early attempt. Now I tend to write in 1st Person POV. I definitely think I “show” more than I “tell”. My grammar has improved as has my sentence structure. I also tend to write more character-based stories now.

I can see how there are some good kernels of ideas here in this story. I was trying to bring across the MC’s emotional flaws marring her physical features. I also remember that the story got a little better as it continued. But here I was writing from a 16 year old’s life experience. So I will try not to be too harsh with my 16 year old self and rather applaud the fact that I attempted my first full novel at 16.

Now I am twice that age and life has changed both my writing and I. I feel that with every story I write and every new character I develop my writing continues to evolve and change. I think that when it stops evolving and changing, I will stop writing. For if I ever get to the point where I think I cannot learn anything new than I may as well try my hand at something else. Thankfully I have not reached this point yet. I am still writing, still changing, still evolving and still growing. I am an unfinished manuscript still in the editing stages.

Kim

Subconscious Hauntings…

A Haunting
Image via Wikipedia

“You write out of your subconscious hauntings.” ~ Susan Cooper (Born 1935) British Author


This quote came up on my Tweetdeck this morning and it struck a chord with me. This perfectly sums up how I have been feeling about my writing lately.

I have been editing my November WIP for a full request I received. Being busy with the other WIPs and my short story, I had not re-read the entire draft for at least 6 weeks. This month while I have been editing it, it struck me that I wrote this MS almost as someone else. Does this  feeling have something to do with the fact that it is a Supernatural Horror/Suspense? Does it have something to do with writing the story in 1st POV through the eyes of the antagonist? It could be none of these reasons, it could be both of these reasons.

I do have the feeling that my subconscious was haunted for a while when I wrote this story. I believe that any good story can take over the direction of your writing from your conscious self.  I know that I physically wrote this story but in re-reading it I find that I am in as much suspense as a reader might be. The Story’s twists take me by surprise. I forget what is coming round the corner even though I know that I wrote all the scenes. 

Susan Cooper writes fantasy novels. She is most well-known for “The Dark is Rising“. Stephen King also mentions something similar in his book “On Writing“. In it he says that his mind is often filled with different people all clamouring for his attention. 

So it begs to be asked of your characters….

Do you create your characters?

Or

Do you characters already exist and introduce themselves to you?

This is a difficult question and throws me into a quandary. I would like to think that I, as the writer, have created my characters but with some characters it is not so cut and dried. Some characters, like my antagonist in this November WIP, arrive with fully fledged personalities and backstories and I seem to take dictation.

Who is to know whether that character was in the Ether just waiting for a willing ear and an obedient pen? Can you safely answer no?

For me I feel that when the character arrives in my thoughts that is when the writing just flows. There seems no effort. Indeed it is all I can do to stem the tide. 

For this specific character, I viewed the story through her eyes as she took me through it. I was a participant in the story rather than just the Story Teller. The Story is so real in my mind that it invades my dreams while I sleep. Dreams being the seat of the subconscious, you could safely say she has haunted my subconscious.

Have you ever had that experience with any of your characters?

Do they direct your story or they purely directed by you?

Have your writings haunted your subconscious?


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Musing on writing ~ Mina Witteman

Today’s writer is an eloquent lady with a lovely turn of phrase hailing from the Netherlands. I met her through the Warriors Facebook group that I belong to and have enjoyed all her wise posts. She may not post as often on the group as I know she is busy on her latest story, but when she does post or post a link through to her blog, I always take note of what she says. She is a writer that not only knows about her craft and has succeeded at having a career in writing but also has a vast resume of writing related paths from being an intern at a top publishing house to editing to ghost-writing. If you think that you find it impossible to just find enough time to write for a hour every day, Mina adds one more item to her resume by being a teacher of creative writing at schools. She started off wanting to be an architect but in the end decided to follow the path of destiny and followed the way of the words to become a writer. They say everything happens for a reason and I am glad that destiny changed her pathway from architecture to writing. Otherwise we would have missed out on enjoying her talent and her wisdom.

Now without further ado, I will let Mina tell you and I a little more about herself as she lets us into the world of:

Mina Witteman – Writer

Welcome Mina…I know it is a long way from home but I hope you enjoy your short visit with me on Dragonfly Scrolls…Take a seat in the comfy couch. The kettle is on and the readers are waiting…

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about you.

Mina: I was born and grew up in a small village in the south of the Netherlands. My dad was an architect and for a long time I thought I was destined to be one as well, as I inherited his math genes. But I hadn’t counted on my mom’s genes. She had a great imagination and she was a storyteller pur sang. She planted the storytelling seed in me. It took its time to grow, even after I found out that my favorite subject in school was… detention. Detention meant writing essays and I loved writing essays even more than I loved math, physics and chemistry.

I did study architecture, but never finished it. After dropping out of polytechnic, I wandered around for quite some years until I couldn’t ignore the need to get all the stories out anymore. I followed some courses creative writing and the four-year course Writing Prose For Children. I also did the editor’s minor at the University of Amsterdam and an internship at one of the major publishing houses in the Netherlands. By now I’m not only a writer, but also a seasoned freelance copy-editor. In addition to writing and editing, I write reviews for Booktunes, the site that brings your favorite books and music together and I occasionally teach creative writing to high school students.

girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?

Mina: After my son was born and I, again, got hold of all those exciting books I used to read when I was young, books taking you with them on adventures you couldn’t even dream of. I realized I had to do more than read. I signed up for some creative writing classes (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and at one of the classes, Writing for Children, everything suddenly fitted, like finding your true vocation.

girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?

Mina: Every day inspires me to write. Even the tiniest event can light the fire, because behind every event, every single step you take in life there is a whole world of stories. What if you didn’t take that step? What if you went into the other direction? What you see is what you get, people often say, but what if it’s not?

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

Mina: Home is where I write. I have an office on the second floor where I’m surrounded by paintings and books. From my window I look at one of Amsterdam’s main canals, lined with trees and beautiful 18th century houses. A great view if you have to sit and think, which is what writers do a lot.

girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?

Mina: I think most of the stories are already in me. They just need to find their way out. Others come to me when I travel, like THE SUN SPIRIT. That one hit me when I was traveling through Arizona and the Navajo Nation: the thunderstorms, the flash floods, the intriguingly mysterious red monoliths. You could feel the adventure in every breath of air, in every grain of sand, in every sudden shadow that darkened the world for a moment.

Most of my stories are a mix of character- and story-driven. The story, the adventure is the main pillar on which a telling is built, but every story needs strong characters, too.

girl with a quill: Once you have your story, take us through your preparation stage. Tell us a little about your writing process.

Mina: The preparation stage is usually a long one, as the story first needs to form in my head. As soon as the basic shape is there, as soon as I’m well acquainted with my protagonist, I can start writing. First a draw a blueprint on the whiteboard next to my desk, next I start writing the manuscript. I am a linear writer, and I usually write a book from the beginning to the end in one go (don’t worry, I do go to sleep at night J). Only my debut, DEEDEE’S REVENGE, was written differently. Circumstances forced me to write some of the individual scenes first and “weld” them together in a later stage. I can still see those seams. They might be invisible for the reader, but they are there. When writing THE SUN SPIRIT I found my preferred modus operandi, so… linear it is.

When I’m done writing I put the manuscript away for a week or so to let it all sink in. Then I read it and start revising the first time. After the first revision I give it to my proofreader. She is a friend of my son’s (16 by now). She wants to be a writer herself and she is a very strict and uncompromising editor, and she’s able to single out most of the flaws. I find it invaluable to have a target reader as my proofreader. With her reader’s report at hand I revise the manuscript for the second time. After that, and only when I am truly satisfied with the end result, I hand the manuscript in.

girl with a quill: You write YA. What led you into this form of writing?

Mina: I know YA is the name, but I see my stories more as coming-of-age stories. Sometimes my protagonist is 10 or 12, sometimes he is a little older, like the one in the new book I’m working on. He’s 16. What they all have in common is that they go through an adventure that will change their lives forever.

YA is the major part of what I write, but I also write thrillers for adults and short read-aloud stories for the very young. The thrillers are a logic continuation of writing YA – or at least it feels that way. The short stories work as etudes. Writing them hones my craft and keeps me on my toes if it comes to keeping the “fanning out” in check. Short stories force you to be brief and to the point, but at the same time every sentence, every word needs to be in flow with the next sentence and the next word.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite out of your stories or your books? Can you tell us why?

Mina: That is a hard question. I love DEEDEE’S REVENGE (DE WRAAK VAN DEEDEE), not only because it was my debut, but it also because it is a bit about me. DEEDEE’S REVENGE is about Deedee and her pesky brother Matthias. One day Matthias crosses the line with one of his pranks and Deedee swears she will get back at him. It’s a bit about me getting back at my brother, at last, for one of the pranks he pulled on me when I was young. It’s also the only book I’ve written that has a female protagonist.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite character from your books?

Can you tell us who/what and why?

Mina: I think Tom, my protagonist in the Warriors Of The Sun series, is my favorite character. He’s been with me for three books now (of which two have been published so far). I love him and the way he carefully treads through life, getting bolder and more confident with every book.

girl with a quill: Do you find that all of your stories are smoothly written once started or have some of them been challenging?

Mina: So far it has been easy “writes”, if there is anything like an easy “write”. In a way every manuscript is a challenge, as you never know beforehand if it will work out, but most of the time the writing is smooth. It’s the editing and revising part that bothers me more. That part compels a lot of self-discipline as you have to be able to be ruthless in killing your darlings.

girl with a quill: Have you ever written in any other genre? If you haven’t, would you want to and what genre would you choose?

Mina: Up till now I have written short read-aloud stories for the very young, adventure (low) fantasy for MG/YA and I just finished the revision of my first thriller for adults. You might think that is different genres, but it’s not. All my stories are spine-chilling adventures, even the short stories (although those aren’t as scary as the stories for my older audience). I don’t think I will ever divert from this adventure genre. It fits me like glove.

girl with a quill: You have published your books in Dutch. Have you had your books translated into English?

Mina: Three of my books and about 30 short stories have been published in Dutch, none of them have been translated. Yet!

girl with a quill: What is your opinion on books being translated?

Do you find that it is a positive or a negative to the story?

Does anything get “lost in translation?

Mina: In the Netherlands we grow up with translated literature. Our publishers have a long tradition of bringing translated books to the public. Partly because there are a lot of good books out there that should be read, but also because of our traders’ mentality: why shouldn’t you publish a book that is successful abroad here as well and make some money in the process?

For the story it’s not always a blessing. As an editor I have copy-edited quite some translations, and yes, things can definitely get lost in translation. It takes an outstanding translator to capture not only the story, but also the voice of the author and even then it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation because of the mere fact that one language isn’t the other.

Dutch books are less often translated into other languages. I suspect that it being such a small language area and the corresponding lack of translators from Dutch might be responsible for that, as it makes the translation process a rather costly matter.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the process of publication in the Netherlands? Do you have to have an agent or do you work directly with a publisher?

Mina: The agent system is slowly gaining ground here, but only for adult literature. Writers usually deal directly with the publishers. That might also be due to the smaller market. The sales figures for midlist writers a not spectacular and if you have to split the already proceeds with an agent… But I’m very much for an agent system. Most writers are not sales people, agents are. It pays to have someone dedicated to your books deal for you. I have an agent (Paul Sebes of Sebes & Van Gelderen Literary Agency) for my thriller.

girl with a quill: Have you / Would you submit to any US publishers or UK publishers?

Mina: I have not submitted to US publishers or UK publishers. Again: yet! I have signed a contract with literary agent Erzsi Deàk of the Hen & Ink. She will handle all rights for my children’s books, not only the ones that have been published in the Netherlands, but the future ones, too. I am very, very happy with Erzsi. She gives me the opportunity to spread my wings and to become true member of our ever-globalizing world.

girl with a quill: Considering the boom of the e-book industry,

Would you consider publishing in E-book format?

Mina: I am totally addicted to my e-reader. I love the concept and the possibilities it offers to both reader and writer. Thankfully, the Netherlands is slowly but surely picking up the advantages of the e-reader.

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now?

Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Mina: Yes, I am working on a new story. This time it’s a YA-thriller that keeps me glued to my desk. It’s about 16-year old Dorian who desperately wants to be independent. He has two important features that keep him from being independent: he’s 16 and he has a growing disorder, burdening him with the body of a 10-year old. While skipping school Dorian meets a group of hackers who live in a former squat house. As hacking doesn’t make you a living, they rent out a floor to a group of criminals who turned the floor into a pot growing plant. It sparks off some ideas in Dorian. Lucrative but dangerous ideas, as it turns out…

girl with a quill: You have a website, a blog and a twitter id.

Do you find social network platforms important to a writer’s platform? If so, why and how?

Mina: I have mixed feelings about social network platforms. Yes, they are important as they give you a more direct way of interacting with your audience and with your peer group. It keeps you informed. One of the earlier Warriors you interviewed aptly named Facebook ‘her water cooler’. That is exactly how I feel about it. Writing can be a very lonely business. It’s good to meet your peers and your audience at the ‘water cooler’ every now and again.

The downside, of course, is that it takes away time from your core business: writing. You have to exercise quite some discipline to keep the every now and again really every now and again and not all the time.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 5 famous creative people to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Mina: I would love to have dinner with Jennifer Donnelly, Frank Lloyd Wright, Panamarenko, Yukio Mishima and Harper Lee. Jennifer wrote this intense YA-novel REVOLUTION and I would love to talk about to her our craft and the agony it causes us sometimes and how to overcome that. Frank Lloyd Wright is on the list, because designed the most beautiful houses in the world, houses that – to me – are like stories. I wish he could tell me about the lines he sees and how he was able to put those lines down on paper and shape them into houses. Panamarenko is a Belgian artist. Every single piece of art he makes is a novel in itself. During dinner I would have him tell me everything about how math can marry art. John Irving is one of my favorite writers. I wish he would tell me all about the construction of a story. Finally Harper Lee, the writer of my all-time favorite novel. She only wrote one and I wish she could tell me why.

girl with a quill: If you could have a dinner party with 5 of your favourite fictional characters? Who would they be and why would you invite them?

Mina: Mizoguchi, the deeply troubled acolyte from Yukio Mishima’s THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, Scout (Jean Louise Finch) from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Bod Pa, the old shaman in the Dutch coming-of-age novel HET BOEK VAN BOD PA (Bod Pa’s Book) by Anton Quintana, Pepto Bismo, Panamarenko’s statue of a modern day Icarus, and Begochiddy, messengers of the Navajo spirits. I would love to meet them, because they all are out of the ordinary, the stand out in loneliness, in strength, in being different. Somehow they all feel as kindred spirits (I’m not going to burn a temple, though J).

girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

Mina: That would be Anton Quintana, a Dutch writer of children’s books and thrillers. His children’s books are the ones I admire most. They all have that extra in them, that thing that tells you that there is more to this world than meets the eye.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite classic book? And why?

Mina: My favorite classic is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I know I’m not alone here, but the book is so intense. It reached right into my soul, it questioned my values and it left me with the rather desolate feeling that in the end we’re all alone.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite contemporary book? And why?

Mina: That is another hard question. There are so many good books coming out. For now, I’ll go with Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION. It is just as intense as Harper Lee’s book, but on a different level. Donnelly has accomplished, that if you read it, you almost literally can feel the pain of the protagonist, Andi Alpers, whose life was shattered after the death of her younger brother.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?

Mina: Have faith!

girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?

Mina: Keep honing your craft.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?

Mina: I hope people will read my books.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find on the Web?

Mina:

my reviews: booktunes.net

Thank you Mina for that look into your life as a writer. Now it looks like you are just about ready for another cuppa. Tell me more about the adventures that Dorian gets up to in your latest thriller…Readers if you want to know more you will just have to wait for the book.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for

 

 

The Quill is swifter than the Rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than Blood…

~ girl with a quill
© All rights reserved Kim Koning

 

 

NaNoWriMo, Goal Posts, Happiness Projects, Mountain Climbing, Bucket Lists

Happiness Motivational Poster
Image by NinJA999 via Flickr


For the last 6 days I have been participating in a “small” creative event. You might have heard of it bandied about the web this last week. It is called NaNoWriMo. In it the goal is to write 50,000 words in a novel format within the 30 days of November. There are all sorts of reasons to not sign up for something like this.

  • You have no time.
  • You are overloaded already.
  • You’re on holiday, rather go away somewhere.
  • Your social life is more important.
  • You are a procrastinator
  • …you get the gist, I am sure you could fill in 100 more reasons at the least.

But I am going to tell you why I did sign up for NaNoWriMo…

  • I love a challenge, never seem to be able to resist one.
  • I love deadlines (I know, I hear you guffaw in utter disbelief, but it is true)
  • I love clearly set goal posts
  • I like being autonomous, but want the availability of some sort of community
  • I LOVE Writing
  • It was on my Bucket List
  • It was part of my Happiness Project
  • It was also a mountain peak I wanted to scale this year

Now some of those reasons are self-explanatory but I want to open up some of them for closer examination. One of the first reasons I am sure you did not believe was the : I love deadlines. Now, I know for most people deadlines are horrific things to be avoided at all costs. I mean we all have them at some point in our life. I love deadlines because you have a set date of completion. Something needs to be completed by said date or else. So to be fair I think it is not the deadlines that get the bad press but rather the “or else” part if you don’t meet deadlines. Deadlines force you to do something and put procrastinitis to bed. Deadlines are especially useful if other people know about them. For this reason, the people in my life who mean something to me have all been told that I am otherwise occupied and unavailable in November because I am writing a novel.  So I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Another reason is clearly set goal posts. Now if course there is the obvious one of reaching 50,000 words on the 30th of November. But I have made things interesting for myself and set myself some new goalposts backing up the ultimate goalpost of writing a novel in 30 days. One of the goal posts I set for myself was getting to 25,000 words by Sunday, the 7th.

I am thrilled to have pushed myself this week and say that I have attained this goal post. I have actually reached 30,323 words at day’s end on the 6th of November. I reached my goal a whole day early and exceeded it by 5,323 words.

The other important goal post requirement is the actual prize/reward. There has to be a pay off of some sort to keep you motivated. So I am rewarding myself with a day of rest from writing on Sunday. I am going to be doing lovely non-NaNoWriMo related things and take time to spend time with family and friends.

There was another important reason I signed up for NaNoWriMo and that is Mountain Climbing. Mountain Climbing? I hear you ask. Yes, Mountain Climbing. To a mountain climber, climbing Everest would be the ultimate goal. It would not mean that every mountain climber would actually do that. But it is one of those lofty dreams and aspirations that they all want to attain. While NaNoWriMo is Mt NaNoWriMo to many writers. Some writers would think it crazy to write a novel in 30 days. But there are those who always wonder, even if it is in some dark corner at the back of their minds, whether they could do this if they really put their mind to it. Well I am a writer. I am a published poet but as yet unpublished in prose. Publishing does not make me any more or any less a writer. I wanted to see whether it was possible to do this feat: write a novel in 30 days. So I pulled on my backpack filled with my Macbook, Storyist, Scrivener, Plot Arcs, Character Arcs and Imagination and started climbing this mountain. I plan on reaching that peak of completing a novel on the 30th of November.

Then onto Bucket List and Happiness Project. The Bucket List is based on a movie where two older gentlemen are in their last days. They decide to write up a Bucket List…ie A list of things they want to accomplish before they “kick the bucket”. Both men are complete opposites but they decide that a shortened life span unites them and they go off on their adventure. I truly loved this movie for the optimism it promotes. Life is never to short to begin Living in the Moment. There is so much in life that gets put off or shelved until there is more time, money or whatever other excuse you choose to use.  Writing a novel, being a published writer is on my Bucket List. It is one of those goals I plan on succeeding at. I don’t want to be a published writer for the “published” sake. I will write irregardless of whether I am published or not. But this is the plan that I have for my life. So I signed on for NaNoWriMo.

The Happiness Project is a book written by Gretchen Rubin. It is a book that I started reading last year. I read it over and over. I read it the second and third times with a pencil and sticky notes pad. It was just one of those books. You know which books I am talking about. Those books that just hit you with a STOP sign, make you look both ways and then you hit GO with a refreshed and energised mind-set. The Happiness Project definitely made me stop and think. Basically the gist of the book is that Gretchen Rubin decided to study happiness for a year and she penned everything she learned in that year in a book. You might think that studying happiness is such an inane effort. But the one thing everyone in every walk of life in every era of this world always chases: The Elusive butterfly of life called “Happiness”. In the end she came up with a happiness project for herself and found out what makes her really happy. Well writing makes me really happy. Words make me happy. They always have from when my parents read Disney stories to me until I started writing in my journal progressing to writing stories, essays and poems. So in following my Happiness Project, I signed up to NaNoWriMo. It might not be everyone’s happiness project and that is ok. But it was right up there.

So for all these reasons, what am I getting from NaNoWriMo. I am climbing my mountain. I have hit the first peak. There are a couple more ahead of me, but I am feeling fit and healthy. The climb is going well and is making me feel good.

I have one more item ticked off my Bucket List…I can say that I signed up for something challenging and creative and that I am making every effort to succeed.

The last thing that I am getting out of NaNoWriMo: Happiness. I am excited to get up in the morning and to get going on my NaNoWriMo project. I am excited to watch the pages increase and the word count get closer and closer to a win. I am excited to talk to other writers doing this wonderful challenge and hearing about their wins. Most of all I am happy because I am writing  a minimum of 5,000 words a day. The MYSKY (NZ version of TIVO) is recording any series I may watch. My friends and family are proud of me for attempting this and constantly encourage and support me. I am happy because there is nothing more exciting for me than a blank page and being able to create a story from my imagination. Not just any story but a story that I have created. A story that might be read some day by someone and inspire them to write.

So for all these reasons, surely I don’t need to tell you why I signed up for NaNoWriMo. What makes you happy? What is on your Bucket List? What are your deadlines,challenges, goal posts? What mountain peaks do you want to scale? Never let anyone take away your dreams. If you don’t dream, you don’t live. You survive. Life is not meant to be survived. It is meant to be lived. What are you waiting for? It’s your life. They are your dreams. You don’t need permission to live it or to chase those dreams.

“Do not be awestruck by other people and try to copy them.
Nobody can be you as efficiently as you can.”

— Norman Vincent Peale


© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Adding some Zen to my writing world

Zen Garden
Image by quinet via Flickr

This morning I was pleased to open my inbox and find an email from Collin and the team @ OMM Writer. On the weekend I had entered an online competition on their Face Book page. The requirements were to post your name and your NaNoWriMo Novel Synopsis on their Face Book page. The prize was a link to download their brand new version of OMM Writer Dana II along with a registrated licence key.

Being the self-confessed software junkie that I am, I had heard mention of the original version of OMM Writer. After investigating on my own, I really liked what I saw. My one major problem with writing on a laptop / desktop is the eye strain I get after a while from the glare of the screen. I have tried many ways to lessen this. I have changed my full-screen backgrounds to a deep blue and typed the text in light grey. That at the moment seems the least stressful on my eyes. But it still did not counteract it. Another love of mine when writing is having background music playing. So with a Genius mix loaded onto my Mac’s iTunes, I am usually as set as I can be to begin a writing session. I also tend to do most of my writing at night. So a comfortable writing environment is always top of my wish list. I got quite close to what I wanted but still not have quite the right combination.

Until this morning. Until OmmWriter Dana II. Let me summarise this amazing software with one word: ZEN .

This is a quick description of the software by the software developers themselves:

Dāna is the new version of OmmWriter. If you are already an OmmWriter user, you will realize that very little has changed. Fortunately.

A wise man once said “We are all at the mercy of our wild monkey minds. Incessantly swinging from branch to branch.” With multiple windows and applications all vying for our attention, we have sadly adapted our working habits to that of the computer and not the other way around.

OmmWriter Dana is a humble attempt to recapture what technology has snatched away from us today: our capacity to concentrate.

OmmWriter is a simple text processor that firmly believes in making writing a pleasure once again, vindicating the close relationship between writer and paper. The more intimate the relation, the smoother the flow of inspiration.

If you are a scriptwriter, blogger, journalist, copywriter, poet or just someone who enjoys writing, welcome back to concentrating.

Firstly let me preface that a quick run-through of this software this morning has me convinced that this software developer has nailed their aim in making writing, using a keyboard and a screen, a pleasure. Let me tell you how they have attempted and succeeded in this aim.

When you first download Dana II, your screen fills up with a softened off white full screen with some wintry trees in the background. There is a box in front of you and your cursor is ready. There are 6 options on the right hand side of the text box. There is also faint music playing in the background. (My iTunes was turned off at this point.)

The third option in the 6 is a white circle. When your mouse hovers over this circle, 8 other circles appear horizontally next to the original circle. These are the background options. Each option is exceptionally restful and more importantly each is easy on the eyes – MARK # 1 on Less Eye Strain = More Comfort.

The fourth option in the 6 is a music symbol. When your mouse hovers over this, 8 other music options pop up horizontally. All of these are background ambient music options that really put you in a creative and restful zone. I really find music a necessary tool for my writing. This is especially vital when I am writing for NaNoWriMo. the music tends to zone out my internal editor who as much as I have tried to send away on vacation still seems to be hovering around. Although my iTunes usually work well, it can also break my “no distraction needed for concentration” especially when I have to escape out of the full-screen environment to replay the mix. With Dana II, there is no need to exit out of the software to make music adjustments as the music plays constantly in the background of the software. However if you need complete silence to concentrate, there is a mute option in the 8 music options. Mark # 2 on a Comfortable and Relaxing writing environment.

There is also a lovely little option, option no 6 of the 8, that allows to change the sound of the text as you type. A lot of people quite enjoy listening to a “typewriter key” sound which is one of the options on there. At the same time, for those of you who prefer no sound, there is also a mute option that you can choose.

There are also text options. There are 4 different types of font you can choose and there are 4  different sizes you can pick for each font type. So there is Mark # 3 & 4 for this software.

There is the very necessary “Spelling & Grammar” Wizard on Dana. So Mark # 5 & 6 for this software.

There is also a Text-to-Speech option on this software. Typing in one sentence and testing this worked well. The voice is a pleasant computerised male american voice that is easy to understand. Mark # 7 for this option.

Another fantastic feature of this software is the ability to save the document as either (.pdf) or (.rtf). This is a very useful feature that I will be using, especially the .pdf save option.  You can also save to the original (.omm) or (.txt) documents. Mark # 8 for this option.

I am going to go back to the audio and visual features of this software:

The OmmWriter developers/creators have collaborated with a Colour Therapist for 2 of the visual background options: visual #7 + visual #8. These 2 backgrounds utilise chromotherapy backgrounds. This technique employs background colours that change dynamically. This stimulates tranquility and a restful environment which in term promotes your creativity. The visual background #5 is the most innovative of all the visual backgrounds. This background uses subliminal inspirational text messages that are unique with each session. A definite Mark # 9 for this visual innovation.

In looking closer at the audio/music options on this software, I am immediately drawn to Track #7. Choose this audio option and you will enter a literal womb of creativity. This track simulates the sounds an unborn child hears in its mother’s womb. For those of you library writers who just cannot make it to the library there is Track #6. This track reproduces sounds heard in a library. So you can figuratively enter a library of quiet and write your great novel. This is a definite Mark # 10 for this incredible feature.

My overall review of this software is a resounding 10/10.

So if you want a word processor program that has simplified your options, stimulates your creativity through incredible innovations and add to your comfort level by erasing all distraction and focusing purely on a restful screen filling with your words: my personal recommendation is OmmWriter Dana II.

At the moment OmmWriter Dana II is only available for Mac users. The good news is that the developers are at their own confession at work on a Windows version. There will also be a basic version available for iPad users in the near future.

Download OmmWriter Dana II and …

Add some Zen to your writing world.


On a personal note:

Thank you to the developers of this software for the lovely surprise in my inbox. I am going to be getting a lot of enjoyment from your wonderful and fresh new software.


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

(The opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and from personal experience of the product. – Kim Koning)