Cutting the stone into a diamond

A scattering of "brilliant" cut diam...
Image via Wikipedia

I have just finished reading the full first draft of my critique partner’s MS. The story had me riveted and I finished it in an afternoon’s setting. I realised how much work and energy goes into a first draft and how close a writer can be to that first draft. It takes great courage to release that first draft from your safe hand to the hands of a critique partner or beta reader. I think it must feel something like dropping off your child at nursery school or hiring a baby sitter to look after your child for the first time. We writers have the same attachment to our stories as a mother to a child. There is that same protective streak and a sense of pride and love when we think of our WIP. This is even more the case with the first draft.

Why?

I think the first draft is the closest to the writer’s heart because it is written not only with ink but with emotional angst, blood, sweat and tears. It is written alone and maybe even in secret. It is actually just like a secret. The writer may have spent months with it, maybe even years, and then the point comes that someone else has to read it. At this point I am sure there are writers out there that fail to show it to someone else, instead they keep this first draft a secret. But for those who do need someone to read it to tell them if it is any good, it takes the courage of a warrior to take that first step and let someone else read it and then judge both them as a writer and the work on its own merit.

So if you are a writer who has just finished their first draft or perhaps you have buried it for a while; take it out and air it. Remember why you wrote this first draft in the first place. What drove you? Was this story begging to be told? Now you could bury it right back again but then you would not know whether your first draft was the bones of a great story that needed to be told or whether it is indeed just a story.

For me writing a story in first draft is like deciding to mine some soil. You don’t know whether there is anything under that soil. You could just dig deep down and find nothing but sand. But you could dig and find a vein of gold or silver. You could dig deep and find oil or water. You could dig deep down and find precious stones. You could dig deep down and find that most precious of gems: a diamond in the rough. The point is that you do not know what you are going to find, you know only that you have to dig. So you spend every precious moment you can spare to dig and dig, all the while writing down the bones of something that is becoming bigger than just a faint idea. Everyone around you at this point may be cheering for you or you may be doing it furtively. You could be that miner who is going out in the dark of night digging up the land behind your house and then covering your tracks. You might be that miner who is digging in plain sight of all your neighbours and friends and people are tut-tutting at the suspicion that you may be mentally unstable at the worst or fanciful with your head in the clouds at best. Either way, you keep on digging. Slowly you start striking a few things, you decide you have to write further and dig deeper to find out if there is a treasure at the end of all your digging. You get to the end of your first draft and you have struck something. You peer at it intently and wonder if this is it, you dug and dug for a dirty stone?

Now you are faced with a choice: You can either decide this was pointless and re-bury the stone, fill up the mine again and walk away. Or you can decide to see if there is something more to this stone, maybe it just needs to be washed clean of its crust of dirt?

If you take the second option, you take your stone and go to wash it. It still looks like a stone. You look at it under a magnifying glass. You cannot see anything but then again you are not an expert miner. What would you know? This is when you need to have some advice or another set of eyes. So you take it to someone you trust. It has to be someone you trust because in your heart of hearts you are hoping that they will tell you, “Job well done. Wow You have found a true diamond.” and all your work will not be in vain.

You find your person you trust. This may be a partner, a friend, a writing partner or a beta reader. You ask them politely and with your heart in your hand that they read this and give you their honest opinion. Is this just a stone or could it be a diamond in the rough? You ask for them to be gentle with it as you have spent months maybe even years mining at it.

You wait anxiously as they read your precious first draft. You know that they will try to be gentle but that they will be honest. It is this honesty that you fear the most. Will everyone be right, are you mentally unstable and just fooling yourself? Or even worse what if it is a diamond, what do you do then, the pressure would increase exponentially?

Finally they come back to you with the read story in hand. They look at you and give you their opinion. They tell you that they enjoyed the story but that there are some issues. They don’t understand certain things and some parts you put too much detail in and lost their interest. With each of these words, you feel like something is piercing you. You now know you were hoping they would say it was perfect. It is a diamond already cut, shaped and gleaming. Instead they are telling you it needs more work. Then you realise that this may not be a bad thing. They are saying this is a diamond but it has to be cut into a shape. The cuts may shave quite a lot from the stone, it may even cut it to half its shape. Then it needs to be polished. After all a diamond in the rough looks just like a dirty misshapen stone. You listen and then thank them because you realise they are trying to help you. They have taken time to critique your find, your work. You need to take the time to listen.

Now the hard work begins. You need to cut at the stone to get its true shape. There are a few external flaws that even you can see and then there are finer flaws that your expert pointed out. So you begin the process of the second draft and this is the cutting, the shaping. You know this will also not be the end. You will need to polish once you have the stone cut. Then you will have your true reward: a diamond. Sparkling, precious, flawless and a stone to be admired and coveted.

Remember the choice you had after finding the stone: if you are still at that crossroads, I urge you to not re-bury the stone. You may just have a stone in the end but you may also have a diamond. If your courage fails you and you don’t show it to someone else and don’t do a second draft, you will never know. Many writers have tried and tried many times and failed many times before their first success. But think if these writers had not made the choice to take the stone from the ground. Their diamonds, the books and stories we now love and learn from, would be lost forever. That would be a tragedy. So take courage. Remember why you wanted or needed to write this story or start digging in the first place. Let’s see if you have found a stone or a diamond mine?

– Kim

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.


 

Perfectionism is the great Oppressor

Train tracks HDR edit
Image by Zach Bonnell via Flickr

I am the daughter of a german mother. This means that I cook and bake well. But it also means that I have the roots of perfectionism planted into my foundations. Now usually most people who are not perfectionists would think that being a perfectionist is something that will push you higher and higher along the ladder of success.

Perfectionism is a gift and a curse. It is also unattainable. But for a perfectionist this very unattainability makes it the apple in the Garden of Eden. You just want to bite into it.

As a perfectionist my competition and my critic and judge is myself. This perfectionism also has another word in my world: procrastination by perfectionism.

For me there is always the hunt for the perfect story then building the perfect character then writing the perfect first line then writing the perfect ending. I can sit for hours breaking apart every word, throwing it out, twisting it into origami and then putting it back in. I will not even go into the area of Grammar. That would take up 10 blog posts. I am sure you get the picture.

However there is one form of my writing where I do not have the gloom of perfectionism hanging over my shoulder. That is my poetry. When I write my poetry, it is visceral and primal. My mind and thoughts do not come into any of my poems. It is the seat of my soul, my heart and my emotions. It is the base instincts that make me, me which is at the heart of my poetry.

This has led me to an epiphany today: a true A-Ha moment.

If my poetry and my thoughts are two parallel tracks at a train station, then I need to switch tracks when working on my prose or fiction. I need to switch tracks because the conductor of my poetry train is not a perfectionist. This conductor is the inner workings of me before cynicism and realism took hold. This conductor is my 6-year-old self who is wide-eyed and curious at everything new and always full of questions. She has two black pig tails slightly skew because she is learning to put her own hair  up in the mornings. She has wide green eyes that seem to swallow in the world and everything she looks at. She is dressed in jeans and a red t-shirt. She has slight smudges on her hands from climbing her favourite tree and reading her favourite book, her dog waiting faithfully at the foot of the tree. Her favourite word is Hoppergrass. This is her name for grasshoppers because sometimes when she squints her eyes just right a hopping grasshopper looks like a piece of hopping grass. This child is not concerned with finding what is wrong. She is just concerned with “finding”.

The conductor of my fiction train has had too much control over my writing. He is a grumpy old man dressed in a pin stripe suit and starched white shirt. His hair is flattened and smoothed to an inch within its life. There are no laugh lines around his mouth but his temple has become a road map of discontent and disapproval. He goes only by the title of professor. He has rimless round spectacles that are always perched on the bridge of his nose. He talks in a clipped german accent and all that he says is that he expects more, I could have done better, it is not good enough and worst crime of all it is not yet perfect therefore not yet ready.

So today I have decided that I am switching trains and taking a different track with my WIP. I have been letting Professor Perfect be the conductor of my words. I need to let the 6-year-old child, Kimmi, be the new conductor. I need to write without stopping to think. When I stop to think during writing, I do not get very far beyond going over and over trying to make things perfect for the Professor. I need to allow the peals of  6-year-old Kimmi’s laughter to drown out the words and thoughts of Professor Perfect. I will need him at the end of this draft when I need to edit. But for now, he needs to go and bother someone else and take the train on the parallel track from me.

So from today, Professor Perfect gets to clip someone else’s ticket stub. I am boarding the train conducted by my 6-year-old self and I am taking the track of emotion. This WIP is a difficult one for me to write but I realise now in the light of today’s epiphany that it has only been difficult because I was over-thinking Professor Perfect’s thoughts. Instead I need to let the child of emotion run riot. She needs to play cowboys and indians and hide and seek. She needs to ask questions all the time. She needs to remind me that the purest part of me, the most elemental core is what will make this writing fluid. This is a WIP where I need to feel, experience, question, go off kilter, climb trees, laugh out loud and weep crocodile tears.

Eureka!

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost


© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Smiles & Shout-Outs to my Cyberspace Sisterhood

Cover of
Cover via Amazon

Well my day was a dreary one indeed. I will not bore you nor depress you with the details but suffice to say that this was a day I could have done without. On coming home my head ached and my annoyance levels were seething in me. I was not feeling creative other than imagining scenes of destruction on my unsuspecting villains of my day.

I came home and powered up my MacBook. I started scrolling through my inbox until I came across a few comments on yesterday’s post that I needed to approve. It was not long before my deadly frown and grimace of the day turned into a smoothed brow and a wide smile.

A kind word is like a Spring Day. – Russian Proverb

I started this blog as a way to build an online presence and to network with other writers. I started blogging about a few things that I would be working on and found that many writers were in the same boat as me. But this blog has done so much more for me than just build an online presence. This blog has introduced me to a network of writers that have become my good friends….and this week I have needed the encouragement from my writing pals.

So this is a Shout-out to some amazing gals and guys I have gotten to know. I cannot attempt to name every single one of you as this post would then go on for pages. But I would like to the opportunity to give a few shout-outs and send out my grateful smiles to the following lovely people.

 

Melissa Pearl

Rachna Chhabria

Roz Morris

Dee White

Lia Keyes

Sheryl Gwyther

Leigh K Hunt

Engrid Epel

Denise Maclennan Bruce

Judith van Praag

The Running Garlic

ElizOF

I hereby award each of you lovely friends and followers, motivators and encouragers, pick-me-uppers and fix-me-uppers, frowns-into-smiles the double awards of The Sisterhood Award

The Sisterhood Award

and

The Sunshine Award

The Sunshine Award

Thank you to every single one of you Amazing ladies who I have mentioned here. Allow me to take this moment to Shout Out to you. Paste and copy these twin awards onto your website. These are not meant to be paid forward, they are simply to show my appreciation for your constant support, encouragement, motivation and above all your friendship. Keep them and display them proudly. I am proud and honoured to count you as my friends and part of my sisterhood.

I bow in gratitude, admiration and friendship to each of you.

Thank you. I hope I can be as good a support for each of you as you have been for me this last year.

Yours in Sisterhood & Sunshine

Kim @ Dragonflyscrolls

Sisters are doing it for themselves

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

Telling your story in your Character’s voice

His Masters Voice
Image via Wikipedia

I have been reading a lot lately on “Voice“. What do I mean by this? Do I mean the sound that comes out when I use my vocal chords? No, I mean “Voice” in a literal sense. I have also been doing a lot of thinking about my favourite characters in literature. More importantly why are they my favourite characters? What makes a character memorable?

There are many great literary characters out there in the world of words. Why then do a few stand out for each of us? I think the common element of a great memorable character is one that has its own distinctive voice. Yes characters are created in the imagination of a writer but the great character steps out from their creator’s imagination and becomes a living, breathing entity as real as a friend you like to spend time with. So how are these characters able to step out from the imagination and become people. This is due in part to the way the character is written. These are some of the ways that a character gains their own voice.

LISTEN

A writer has to learn to listen to the voice of their character. There will be a voice. It may not be very loud and it may even be a shy voice that takes a while to come through. Sometimes you have to learn to separate a character’s voice from the white noise of the story. Even though as a writer you may have imagined the story, the story will be happening to your character. Don’t they have a say in what happens and how they handle it?

Don’t play Puppet-Master, Cut the Strings

As the creator of the characters in your story it is very tempting to play Puppet-master with your  characters. Don’t let your writing become a mirror for your own life. If you are writing Fiction, remember that you need to stay true to the “fiction” element of your story. As tempting as it may be to stand above the scene and move your character to your own wants and desires resist the temptation. This will only result in a puppet show not a story that learns to live and breathe on its own. So cut the strings. If you find you are controlling your character’s reactions, even dictating their personality, then just STOP. Your story will be better off for it.

Don’t Parent your Characters

Unless you are writing a book about parenting skills, leave the parenting to parents. You are not a parent in your story. What do I mean by this? Don’t tell your character what to do. Sometimes you have to let them figure out things for themselves. Let your character argue with you. This will add another dimension to the character in your mind and if you pay heed to your character, your reader will also play heed to your character.

Let your characters make mistakes

This is a really important point in creating characters that resonate with your readers. Do not make your characters perfect. Make them imperfect and I will go even one step further and ask you to accentuate their flaws and imperfections. Perfection in a character is distancing and boring. We all know those characters that are so perfect and so well-adjusted to anything life throws at them that you just want to slap them. If you accentuate your character’s flaws this can be a growth point in your character’s personality. Your characters are only going to learn how things work if you let them fail.

Give your character a 3D character

Human beings are not all good or all bad. There is a little of everything in a human adult and sometimes even more extremes of emotion in a human child. Give your character a hint of arrogance and entitlement. But give them a fierce loyalty to under-pine the negative aspects. Allow them to have a temper. This is one of the most human of all emotions. Very few people can say they have no temper. If your character comes across as greedy, don’t try to change that.

Don’t protect your character

Throw something difficult their way. Put them in the way of hardship. Put them through trials and tribulations. As attached as you may be to your character, your reader has to believe that they can sympathize with them. Your reader will not sympathize with a character that you protect in a glass bubble from all the bad things in life. Life is not fair and most of the times life is not pretty. Give your character a real world to live in. Make them feel sorrow, feel anger, feel regret, feel vulnerable. It is through the bad that the strength or weakness of your character will shine through. You will make your reader believe that this character is a person, maybe even based on someone they know.

Get your reader into your character’s head

Your reader must be able to walk in your character’s foot-steps to understand your character. But how can your reader do this if you are not doing this. Ask yourself this question: Are you in your character’s head or is your character in your head? If you answered yes to the latter part of the question, then you need to backtrack. You need to get into your character’s head. How do you do this? How do you separate yourself (the writer) from the character? There are a number of ways of doing this. This brings me to the MUSCLES of today’s post and your exercise for the week…

MUSCLES

  • Do a week-long journalling exercise: For 1 week, start a journal in your character’s voice. Do not write what you want to write but write what your character is thinking and feeling.
  • Write a 1 page scene from your story. Now read over this scene. Whose writing the scene? Are you in this scene? Or is this scene one that is happening to your reader? Now go back and re-write this scene but get into the head of your character for the re-write. Now write this scene as it is happening to your character, not to you.
  • Observe your life from your character’s viewpoint. Make your character the narrator for your life this week. Put this into your journal entries.
  • Interview your character. Ask them to tell you where they see their story going. Ask them for their back story. Put your character in the driving seat of their story. Give your character their own voice in your story.
  • Read your favourite book, particularly focusing on the voice of the character that resonates with you. Do you hear the voice or do you hear the author’s voice. Analyse what tools the author uses to make you hear the character’s voice.

Now I leave you with some quotations that relate to finding the Voice of your character:

Listening is very inexpensive; not listening could be very costly!
Tom Brewer

Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
Stephen R. Covey

“Before I can walk in another person’s shoes, I must first remove my own.”
Brian Tracy

Live out of your imagination instead of out of your memory.”
Les Brown

The more you listen to the voice within you, the better
you will hear what is sounding outside.
Dag Hammarskjold

“You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written.  And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.”  Madeleine L’Engle

“You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”  Jack London

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”  E. L. Doctorow

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” Ray Bradbury

Show don’t tell.”  Henry James

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”  Robert Frost

“Plot springs from character…  I’ve always sort of believed that these people inside me- these characters- know who they are and what they’re about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don’t type.”  Anne Lamott

“Don’t say the old lady screamed- bring her on and let her scream.”  Mark Twain

“A writer should create living people; people, not characters.  A character is a caricature.”
Ernest Hemingway

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  Roald Dahl

 

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.


A Dozen Ways to have a Win with NaNoWriMo

A Trophy With An A++ On It.
Image via Wikipedia

These were my goals for NaNoWriMo 2010:

  1. To register and sign up for my first InterNational Novel Writing Month
  2. To aim for a minimum of 3000 words per day.
  3. To switch my internal editor to Mute (tried to send her on vacation, she did not take the hint – told me all the flights were booked already with internal editors)
  4. To write consistently every day.
  5. To plot a novel before writing it.
  6. To create at least 3 strong characters.
  7. To finally finish a complete novel.
  8. To get to 50,000 words by end of day 15.
  9. To stretch my writing challenge and write in a genre/style I had not tried before.
  10. To gain a larger network of writer friends.
  11. To have fun.
  12. To do what I most love to do in the world.


I can happily say that I have fulfilled 11 of these goals. I am still working on goal # 7. At the end of Day 12, I reached a word count of 50,029. Considering that I took two breather days after reaching the 30,000 mark, I am very pleased with my first NaNoWriMo attempt and now success. Prior to NaNoWriMo I was writing about 2000 words a day. Since starting the adventure that is NaNoWriMo, I am writing on average 5000 words a day.

My initial thoughts with this challenge were whether I would find enough to write consistently each day. On top of that, I had to turn off my internal editor. As stated above, I did try to book an island getaway for her but either the islands were sealed off for the purposes of NaNoWriMo or the flights were overbooked and there were no seats left. So I have let her hang around but have remote-controlled her: I muted her. She may not be happy but I am getting the words down on the paper every day with or without her help.

Another way to have a win with NaNoWriMo is to give yourself a breather day. This is a day when you try (I know you don’t always) to not think about the novel you are writing and delve into complete non-writerly pursuits. The outdoors are perfect for such a day. There is nothing quite like taking a walk. It does not have to be a long walk either. Just get yourself out of the house and stretch those legs out. If you live near a large expanse of water; Ocean, River, Waterfall, lake, even better. Flowing water works like magic on tired mental muscles. The movement of water seems to be a synergy that magically unlocks stray imagination strands.

We are almost at the end of week 2, which means if you have not got there yet you are almost at the half-way point of the month and the challenge. You will notice that I am using the word “Challenge” instead of “Competition”. I am using this word very deliberately because in a competition you can only have two groups, winners and losers. Anyone who has signed up for NaNoWriMo this month is a winner. It took courage to sign up and register. But this month is a challenge. It is not just the word count but actually making the time every day to write. The added challenge of NaNoWriMo is that there is no “prize” as such. You do it for yourself. You do it to see if you can.

I have been reading a lot of posts lately on various sites as well as on the NaNo forums themselves of people beginning with a shout and bang and now hitting fizzle stage in week 2. Now I am going to throw two words at you. Are you ready?

  • Fizzle
  • Sizzle

Phonetically the words are virtually identical except for a very important difference: the first letter. What a difference one letter makes to one word. I want you to turn around your Fizzle into a Sizzle. Remember that you are already a winner. If you have been writing almost every day for 12 days, that is a Sizzling Win in my book. If you have never finished any of your writing but signed up for NaNoWriMo anyway, that is a Sizzling Win. If you signed up for NaNoWriMo in order to chase the dream of becoming a novelist, that is a Sizzling Win. Now look at yourself. Do you feel the fizzle becoming a Sizzle? It is only Day 13, 12 in some parts of the world. You still have more than 2 weeks left to turn this around. You are already almost at the half way point. Prove those nay-sayers in your life wrong. You can do this. You just have to believe in yourself. Also, do not compare yourself to other writers. This is not a competition against others. This is a challenge for You against You.

Another way to turn what feels like a Fizzle into a Sizzle: take this novel one word at a time. Take this month one day at a time. Break your day up into small word sprints, setting yourself a slightly higher goal each word sprint. Have word wars with friends or writer groups. One fellow writer and friend wrote that she believes there is some sort of magical synergy that is created when a group do something simultaneously. I believe there is definitely something there. I have been doing daily word wars with the Facebook group – NaNoWriMo Warriors – and this has spurred my daily writing onto even higher goals and larger word count totals.

I have also been reading many posts that say the story is not going in the direction you, the writer, wants it to go. Perhaps there is a reason why it seems to be taking another path. Sometimes the most interesting routes are the routes that you have not planned for. NaNoWriMo is supposed to promote free-stream writing. It is the one time when you are expected to turn off the internal editor and just write for the love of the story. If your characters are taking you down different pathways, go down the pathway with them. What you may find may not only surprise you but it may also delight you. After all, didn’t you create the characters, their bright ideas come from another part of You…so go with the flow. Sometimes it takes greater sensibility to just swim with the current instead of fighting it and tiring yourself out or giving you writer’s cramp.

Go easy on yourself. You are a writer. You are already partaking in this challenge. Enjoy this challenge. Reward yourself every time you reach a particular goal post or better a particular word war count. Rewards are very important. Remember also you write because you love writing. So turn down the temperature on your pressure cooker and let your stories sizzle with flavour. Most of all, the most important way to have a Win with NaNoWriMo:

 

HAVE FUN!

Happy Writing….listen to that sizzle, forget the fizzle!


© 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)

NaNoWriMo Boot-Camp Training

Boot Camp (TV series)
Image via Wikipedia

First off my apologies for missing the Monday Mental Muscles Challenge…I blame the madness and creative chaos that is NaNoWriMo falling on a Monday! Not to be concerned…the muscles will get a workout this week. So here is my plan for all you Fitness Fanatics of the creative variety:

This month I will be holding NaNoWriMo Boot Camp on Mondays, except for today of course that happens to be a Tuesday. In Blogging Boot Camp, I will be giving you weekly exercises to do all with NaNoWriMo in mind. However I realise that not all my followers are taking part in this global madness so for you, you can still do the exercises but slant it towards your own WIPs and writing projects that you may have on the go.

So in honour of “Boot Camp” Tradition, here is your first exercise for the week:

(You guessed it right if you thought it might be Push Ups. What is Boot Camp without Push Ups.)

Exercise no.1:

Pull out a pen/pencil and paper. (You heard me. We are doing this the old-fashioned way. No laptop/pc allowed.)

Have you got it. Right. I want you to do exactly 10 minutes of free word association. This warm up exercise will be your stretching for the day.

Your prompt word for the free word play is:

Boot-Camp

Exercise no. 2:

Trying to use all the above words you used in the free word play association, write a 1 page short, tying back to your NaNoWriMo novel or your current WIP. It does not matter at this point if it ends up being a chaotic nonsense piece…that’s the fun of it.

Exercise no.3:

You guessed it, I am going to make you do a sprint, a word sprint. Again, a traditional Boot Camp exercise…

You have exactly 30 minutes to write (long hand with writing implement and paper) a dramatic scene in your NaNoWriMo novel, or your current WIP. Throw something dramatic and life changing at your Main Character and see how they will handle it. Use your imagination and don’t be afraid to be mean to your character. Test their mettle and find out if they have what it takes to deal with a really hairy situation.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

NaNoWriMo has begun!

The Starting Line
Image by Susan Sharpless Smith via Flickr

Day 1

Day 1 has come and is almost done in New Zealand. We were the first, along with Fiji to see the start of November 2010 and NaNoWriMo 2010. Before midnight struck, I was at home in a chat room with my fellow NaNoWriMo Warriors. You may have heard of this group before or this may be the first mention you know of. NaNoWriMo Warriors was created this week by the developer of the Scribblerati ning that I am a member of. In 5 days it has grown to 217 members. At first the members were all fellow scribblers belonging to Scribblerati but before long tweets got tweeted, Facebook group shares were placed on individual walls and now we have 217 members as of 9:26pm, NZ time. There are more being added every hour.

This is the first NaNoWriMo is which I am participating. At first there was a small part of me that thought it was sheer madness to contemplate doing a novel in 30 days. But before long I was hooked on the idea and had found myself signed up and registered on 1st October.

People often think that writing is a particularly lonely pursuit. This year I have found my writing life filled with support, encouragement and cheers. It was not just my family and friends as you would expect but two spectacular writing communities that I belong to: Scribblerati (as mentioned before) and She Writes.

When I signed up for NaNoWriMo the support just about blew me away. There was a sense of camaraderie and solidarity from all of my online writing friends. As October progressed, I got more and more excited. I felt like a kid before Christmas except I knew that the perfect gift that I had wished for would be under the tree.

The last week before the today was a mixture of intense anticipation and a jingle jangle of bouncing nerves. I was also trying to get some sleep to prepare for the madness that is NaNoWriMo. It is very difficult trying to sleep when your characters do not have the same courtesy and are wide awake with verbal diarrhea. Trying to explain to my MC that she has to wait just a few more days was like trying to reason with a 4year old child who knows where the Christmas prezzies are hiding. In a word: Impossible. Even for a writerly type who is usually never short of words.

On Sunday afternoon I signed into the NaNoWriMo Warriors page and was immediately infected with the creative enthusiasm of writers all excited for this challenge. I was asked to be a moderator for my time zone when our tireless creator would have to sleep for a short time. I accepted immediately. There is something palpably electric about being a cheerleader for something like NaNoWriMo. On top of that I knew that I would be up for most of the night so being on hand to welcome NZ and OZ WriMos to the wonderful madness that is NaNoWriMo.

The clock ticked and the moon rose higher in the sky. The night air seemed suspended in waiting for something special. As it got closer and closer, I spent the time chatting to my online fellow WriMo Warriors. Simultaneously I started getting ready to type the first word into my full screen MS screen on Storyist. The clock ticked and it got nearer and nearer.

The clock struck midnight. I called the Battle Cry for the NZ WriMos and I was off into the start of my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote down my first word and then I gave control to my MC. I felt it only fair that she be given free rein this first night after being so patient all week long. Before long I had a 1000 words and the next time I looked up I was sitting at 4094 words on my NaNoWriMo Novel. Looking at the clock, I realised time literally opened up a secret time hole that I fell into well writing everything my MC was telling me: it was 3:30am. The first 3 1/2 hours of NaNoWriMo had begun and I had surpassed my own personal goal for the day. I felt a rush of adrenalin hit me and I knew that this story would flow for me this day, this week and this month. All I had to do was believe in the unwritten words that were in a treasure trove locked in my mind.

I stayed online for the sheer pleasure of that writerly solidarity. I kept on popping in and out of the tweetchat #NaNoWriMo and was excited to read the word count updates on there.

Yes NaNoWriMo is a challenge. It may even still sound crazy and impossible to some people. But to me NaNoWriMo is not just about the challenge of the novel or finding the mind-space to let the words flow. NaNoWriMo is also about thousands of writers joined together in a global pursuit. NaNoWriMo is about making friends with true artists all across the 4 corners of the globe. NaNoWriMo is about being a NaNoWriMo Warrior and knowing that I have an army of support, understanding, encouragement and cheerleading to lean on. NaNoWriMo is a creative boost to what is usually a lonely pursuit.

NaNoWriMo Warriors are anyone who has signed up for NaNoWriMo. You are already a Warrior and a Conqueror. It takes real “Chutzpah” to sign up for this challenge.

NaNoWriMo Warriors I salute you.

Bring on Day 2. I am waiting, willing and ready. Are you?


© All rights reserved Kim Koning.


My NaNoWriMo Pencil-Case of Tricks, Tools & Software

What's in your pencil case?
Image by congalaconga via Flickr

It is just under 12 hours until the Mad,Wonderful Craziness of NaNoWriMo 2010. Based in NZ has its advantages and disadvantages. We are the first to open Christmas prezzies. We are the first to celebrate New Year. But we are also the first to start NaNoWriMo. I will be starting at midnight in under 12 hours time. Does this fill me with trepidation, excitement, terror, anticipation, jingling-jangling nerves, raw adrenalin? Yes to all of those. NaNoWriMo is almost like a relay race on an athletics field. Although it started as an US competition/challenge, it is now a global phenomenon with well over 100 000 writers taking part. With its nature of being global and the world being broken up into time zones, this makes NaNoWriMo a relay race. People in NZ and Fiji start the race first, then we hand the batons to our fellow scribblers in Australia, then Asia, then Europe, then Africa, then US & Canada and South America and finally Hawaii. Like every successful relay race, the runners (us WriMo scribblers) are partners and team mates in a race to the finish posts: minimum 50 000 words of a Novel. But every runner and athlete knows that there are certain elements we need to make our race more successful. This is what this post is about. My athlete’s uniform or My NaNoWriMo Pencil-Case.

From the beginning of the month I blogged about trialing out certain software in an effort to find the perfect software for NaNoWriMo. I have been using different trials for a month now and some a little longer. Here is what I have found works for me:

Scrivener (software)” rel=”homepage” href=”http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html”>Scrivener

I started using Scrivener about 3/4 months ago.  I had been searching for just the right software for my writing needs and requirements. I happened across Scrivener. At first I was incredibly confused and overwhelmed. I had never come across anything like this type of software before. I thought I had just wanted a good word processor. (Aside: I have only been a MAC user for 2 years. Before I was a prolific Word user/fan.)

Instead I found myself in the world of Digital Cork-Boards and Index Cards. I tinkered away until I had it relatively figured out. Slowly I started falling in love with this new software. I realised that for the first time I did not need a separate program for research materials. I could do everything in preparation for a Novel within one program.

My favourite tool of Scrivener is the amazing Cork-board with mobile index cards. On this cork board you can place index cards that you can move around and rearrange to your heart’s content. On these index cards you can write scenes from your novel or plot points. You can even break up each paragraph/section of your novel into individual index cards. If you need to rearrange the sequence of events or timelines, you just need to move the index cards around and it automatically translates to moving your text in your novel around without copying, pasting and cutting.

My other favourite tool in this clever software is: the research possibilities. You can directly paste all your research into a file within Scrivener. You can also directly access Wikipaedia articles from Scrivener’s platform without first having to open your browser.

So out of a score of 10, I am marking Scrivener as 9/10. There were some elements that were missing when I first trialled Scrivener which did affect my rating of it. Some of these elements have now been added in the 2.0 version. As a former Window user, I am also pleased to let all Windows users know that Literature & Latte have now released a Windows version of Scrivener. Both the Windows version and the new 2.0 Mac release have been put up for a free trial period on the Literature & Latte site. Literature & Latte are one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. Looking for a software program aimed at writers of all types with a little extra yumminess and spice? Try Literature & Latte’s Scrivener. It might just be the software for you.

Storyist” rel=”homepage” href=”http://www.storyist.com/”>Storyist

When I signed up and registered for NaNoWriMo on the NaNoWriMo site, I noticed that there was another software developer who is sponsoring NaNoWriMo this year. This software is called Storyist. Being a software junkie, you know that I had to investigate further. I linked through to the main website of Storyist and saw that they were also offering a free NaNoWriMo trial version of this software. I immediately downloaded the trial version to my Macbook. It would have been rude not to try since it was a free trial and they are sponsors of NaNoWriMo.

When I opened it up for the first time, I was slightly confused. This looked very similar to Scrivener. There must be some differences. So I investigated further. Now a month from first downloading the trial version of Storyist and I am HOOKED. Of course as any writer knows, there has to be a HOOK for a story to be a success. I tend to view Writing Software the same way. I always look for an enticing HOOK to bite onto. So what are the HOOKS of Storyist?

For me the hook was that it has Character formats/Plot formats and Setting formats. On top of that even though it has the Cork-Board like Scrivener, it also has a fully formatted Manuscript view in which you can type in your entire novel and not have to worry about formatting. Another handy tool is that you can export it into epub form and/or print a WYSIWYG hard copy of your novel. It has a word count and spellcheck that I have found more than meets my requirements.

I LOVE Storyist and am sold on this software. My rating for it is also: 9/10.

Scrivener vs Storyist

I am an avid fan of both software programs. Reading through the forums I have found that people are in a sharp divide of opinion when it comes to sizing up and comparing these two programs. However, in my humble and personal opinion, I give both software programs a HUGE DOUBLE THUMBS-UP.

Though it could be argued that the two programs are very similar, there are subtle differences. Scrivener allows you a more open hand way of formatting. It has the better Cork Board and Index Card system. Scrivener is fantastic for any writing that is intensive in research. It is also a software that has all the bells and whistles that any writer; novelists, scriptwriters, journalists, academics, may need.

Storyist however is the Be All-End All software for Novelists & Scriptwriters. Storyist understands the importance of character arcs, plot arcs and settings to the story. As a writer who starts from a Character to get a story, Storyist just WORKS for me. The already formatted Manuscript view is perfect for a Writer who really does not want to have to figure out industry standard formatting. Basically with Storyist, I can do all my prepping and outlining beforehand and then split my screen into a double view screen, with my corkboard / outline on one screen and my manuscript ready to be typed and entered into the other screen. Then I switch to full-screen view and all distractions are shut off and I can just write.

So my diagnosis on both is that try them both out for yourself. I guarantee that you will find what you need in at least one of them. You might even be like me and find you are in love with both of them. I now use both of these programs. Scrivener is fantastic for my research heavy WIPs but Storyist is fantastic for those WIPs that just need me to shut off from the world and from the voice of my characters build my story.

So those, in my personal opinion, are the two top software programs designed for writers. But sometimes you don’t want a program with all the bells & whistles. You might even be intimidated by a program with “so much”. Do not despair. There are fantastic and simple “purist” word processor programs out there. The best thing about these following programmes is that they are free to use and download.

Bean

Now this is my FAVOURITE word processor tool for Mac users. I use this program all the time. I do any and all writing on here. I find this is especially useful for my writing that does not need formatting or bells & whistles. Bean is also a fantastic software for those of you with sensitive eyes and looking for an easier and more comfortable writing environment. The view of the screen is white text on a deep blue background. Bean has all the simple word processor tools you would find in a program. It has spellcheck, full-screen, formatting for fonts and margins, word count and it has a brilliant Text-to-Speech tool built into it as well.

My rating for Bean as a simple word processor is: 10/10.

Try it for yourself. You may like it.

FocusWriter

I have used Focus Writer. Again it was purely my penchant for being a software junkie that inspired this. I found Focus Writer adequate and easy to use. A couple of things it has that bean does not is: themes and timers. In light of this, this may be the perfect tool for NaNoWriMo. It also has not just a Word count but a Paragraph count, a Character count and a Page count. So far I have only been using it for about 2 weeks so I am still learning the various tools and tricks in this program.

So far though, I am impressed. I score it a rating of: 9/10.

Another tool that I absolutely love and advocate is: mind mapping. I confess to being a perfectionist and a grammar-nit-picker. I am a planner. I love planning things but I do not like lists. Then how do I plan if I don’t out line, you may ask? I work best on a visual basis. I used to do all my studying using mind mapping. For me the mind map is something visually appealing and it suits my perfectionist nature. Although I have always done mind mapping by hand and been quite happy with that, I needed to see if there was an online software program that allowed me to mind map. Much to my delight and surprise I found quite the plethora of software that do digital mind mapping.I am going to tell you about my favourite one. (It is also free to use).

(Storyist and Bean are Mac OS X Software Platforms)

(Scrivener and Focus Writer are multiple platforms – both for Windows and Mac)

 

FreeMind

Now this is software that just gets the creative, organised part of me EXCITED. FreeMind is everything and more that you can want out of a visual and creative outlining/planning/plotting tool. It is exceptionally easy to use. It is visually appealing as you can colour code different roots/nodes in your particular mind map. I use FreeMind with all my writing projects. I have even used it for non-writerly pursuits, like planning staff meetings or preparing marketing plans.

If you are a visual person who is inspired by freeform colour and construction of ideas in a mapped format then FreeMind is simply the perfect software program for you.

My rating is a resounding 10/10.

Another tool that I have used for NaNoWriMo is a graphics manipulation/photo editing software called Compositor. Many of my fellow scribblers and WriMo buddies have asked me how I “made” my cover for my NaNoWriMo novel. Compositor is the answer to this question.

Freemind can be used on the Windows platform and the Mac platform. It can also be used on the linus platform.

Compositor

Compositor is a very simple to use WYSIWYG software photo editing and graphics manipulation tool. I have been using it for about 2 weeks and love it. It is geared towards people who want to make up posters or covers or even videographers and scriptwriters for movies. There are many “video” view tools as well as “Photograph” tools. Being an avid photographer, I just “get” this software. In this software you can alter the “filters” on a photograph just as if you were using a manual SLR with all its bell and whistles. You can completely transform a photograph with a few clicks. It s however not a storage facility. You would have to use it along side a storage facility like iPhoto.

My rating is a definitive 10/10.

Download the trial and see what you think of it. I do warn you to put aside a few hours though as you get lost in the wonderful world of graphic design and photo manipulation that Compositor gives you a passport into.

Compositor is a MAC only platform software.

Another great and popular NaNoWriMo tool is the NaNoWriMo calendar with attached word count. Through the links of fellow scribblers and friends I have fund my perfect online calendar and the one I am going to use for NaNoWriMo.

David S. Gale’s NaNoWriMo Tracker

This is the only tracker that I am aware of that calculates your word count goals and accumulations accurately. In this program you can format your own word count calendar/tracker. You can then put in percent (%) form how much of the word count you will do. It allows you to write fewer words on weekends for instance and automatically adjusts all the other days of November.

My rating and recommendation for this tool is: 100% or 10/10.

Use it. You will love it. It will be invaluable to your success in NaNoWriMo. It is also perfect for those writers who are over achievers and want to write more than just 50 000 words for NaNoWriMo. Try it out. It is free and it is online. You won’t regret it.


So those are the “pencils” in my Pencil Case or the “tools” in my digital Tool-Case. All of these ratings and reviews are from my personal opinion. These are my favourite software programs on the digital page. Try some or all of them out, you may just find a new favourite amongst them.

Preparing for any race is all about the reliable tools and equipment that allow you to run effectively, competitively and successfully. I hope that you are getting ready to crouch down at the NaNoWriMo starting block for the global and creative relay race of November.

So pull on your running shoes, fill up your water bottle, amp up your carbs with Pasta and get ready to run the race of the year.

Good Luck to all the WriMos out there . Good Luck for your race.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Pack your suitcases. You are moving into your NaNoWriMo story!

 

I am a writer.
Image by DavidTurnbull via Flickr

 

Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be…Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”                – Erich Fromm

NaNoWriMo is just a day and a few hours away or two days away, depending where on the globe you happen to be.

So tell me, how are you feeling? Are you panicking with nerves? Are you wondering if your plot idea stacks up? Do you know enough about your MCs (main characters)? Have you set up a writing schedule? You only have a couple of days to sort out any plot holes you may have. Hopefully you have been using the month of October to prepare to succeed in NaNoWriMo.

This weekend is not the time to panic! If you start a race thinking you are going to fail or that you are unfit, you will not succeed. You will instead be setting yourself up to fail.

Instead, take a step back from all your preparation. Give yourself a breather. This is the weekend that you need to relax and get yourself in the right frame of mind. You want to enter Monday filled with enthusiasm and the power of positive thinking. Take a book and a pen and do this for yourself. Turn to a blank page in your book and in the boldest letters you can form, write:

I AM A WRITER.

Now tear that page out of your book, place it in a frame or a mount and put it in a place where you will see it every time you sit down in November to write your story. You ARE a Writer. You ARE a Storyteller. You already have the story you want to write within you, whether you have prepared for it or not. It is time to face this fact. You are going to start writing on the 1st of November and the writing will just flow. You will tap into your most creative part of your soul and mind and the story will take you on a magic carpet ride. Feel the story. These last few days before Monday, don’t do any more preparation. Instead immerse yourself into your story. Look out at the world through the eyes of your protagonist. For the next couple of days immigrate to the world of your story. Talk to your characters. Tell your characters you believe in their story and more importantly you will tell their story to the best of your ability.

Spend the next couple of days spending time with your family and your friends. Make it quality time. Tell them your story. Make them believe in your story. Introduce them to your characters. Let them fall in love with your characters just like you have. Do something you truly love to do that fills you with joy. Have a picnic. Treat yourself to a movie. Buy something luxurious for yourself. Buy something totally frivolous and beautiful. Have a wonderful meal. Have ice-cream for breakfast. Laugh. Play with your animals. Play with your children. Do only positive and happy things this weekend! Believe me, it will pay off for you. Give yourself the weekend off plotting. Don’t put your story aside. Live it, breathe it, play in your world. You will be surprised how valuable this sort of world-immersion into your story will be.

It is time to pack your suitcases. Pack in your positive thoughts. Pack in your inspirations. Pack in your “Writer”. Pack in your “Muse”. Pack in your passport of creativity. Pack in your visas of Character and Plot arcs. Pack in your ideas. You are now ready. Your flight leaves in a couple of days. You are booked into a window seat. Your window looks out onto your imagined world. Your muse is your pilot. Your characters are your flight attendants. They will look after every one of your needs for this month-long journey. They will also be your tour-guides. Listen to them. You will be travelling first class with the exclusive opportunity to go into the flight deck and to see where your Muse, the pilot, is flying you.

Now sit back. Say goodbye to your loved ones. Tell them you will see them again in a month’s time. Promise them you will take pictures of your journey. You are set to fly Midnight, 1st November, 2010. You have been waiting for this journey for a long time. At the end of this journey you will have a novel that you have written in your hands. That is the prize. That is the golden egg. Now fly and go get it Writer!

“Never ask whether you can do something. Say instead that you are going to do it, then fasten your
seat belt.” – Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way)

My NaNoWriMo user name is: last_lines

If you are on Facebook, join this great group: NaNoWriMo Warriors

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Today’s lesson ~ Flexing those mental muscles & getting fit for NaNoWriMo

Me Running
Image via Wikipedia

I am centering today’s mental muscles in honour of this being the last week before the gun goes off and the writers are sprinting away in the mad creative marathon of NaNoWriMo.

So is your story clear in your head? Is your story as tangible as a photograph or is it a scarf, flung carelessly, constantly been blown out of your reach? Could you describe it in a page, in a paragraph or in a sentence? Are character/s knocking on your mental doors or have they been breaking & entering in through the windows? Are the character/s nagging you yet? Have they been revealing themselves to you or are they a little reticent?

Well for today’s muscle flexing, I am going to give you some tools that may help you catch that scarf of a plot or maybe your niggling runner’s cramp is a reticent character. Either way, you have one week left to flesh out your character/s and colour your story. Maybe nerves are striking and you keep on wondering why you have signed yourself up for NaNoWriMo in the first place. I mean it’s crazy to think that you can fit more time into your day solely devoted to writing. What about the animals, or the kids or the spouse – who is going to feed them? What about that pesky Day Job that steals at least 8 hours of your time every day? Before you resign from the Day Job and move into a secluded, but handy hermit’s cottage, just like the spooky one you used to skirt past as a kid….Stop….Breathe…that was 3 deep breaths please…Now refocus…Feeling better? If you are still in the freak-out, hair turning white from stress, stage….maybe it’s time to test yourself a little without breaking the NaNoWriMo rules either. I can help you with that. Of course if you are cool, calm and collected and as ready as you ever will be, well you can do these for fun then.

As this may be the first time you are entering this creative gym, I will go over the etiquette. You need to do at least 1 of the exercises listed here. If you do, let us all know which one you chose and how it went. You can do this by commenting on this post. If you put it up on your blog, please link back through to my blog. As with everything else, feel free to pay it forward and give these exercises to anyone you may feel needs to do them. Now onto the workout floor…Hope you brought your stretching mats, work out towels and water…Ready? Let’s begin.

  1. Plotting ~ Write up your novel’s plot into a 1 sentence synopsis. Now flesh that out into a paragraph length synopsis. Next flesh that out into a single page length synopsis.
  2. Plotting ~ Music is a vital tool to anyone. Firstly our sense of hearing is the first sense we develop and the last we lose. So with this is mind…Close your eyes and think of the story you have so far. Now listen carefully. In the background you will start hearing a melody that will turn into a song, maybe even a compilation. This is your story’s theme song. Everything needs a theme song. Now you have your NaNoWriMo theme song. Use it for inspiration or even to vaccinate yourself against procrastinitis.
  3. Plotting ~ Without telling them it is your story, get a trusted friend (non-writer) to read the synopsis from exercise (1) and tell them to give you an honest opinion on whether they would want to read this story. Also ask them what the plot’s strengths and weaknesses may be. Does the story hook them? If it does not, what is missing? (Aside: Remember every story needs to be read as well as told. Readers give invaluable insight.)
  1. Character ~ (This first exercise is for the writer with the reticent and secretive character/s.) Find a spot where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Grab a few snacks and treats. Then make a date to rendezvous with your writing muses. Ask your character/s to introduce themselves to you. You may be surprised. Maybe your character/s are polite and were just waiting for you to make some time for them to introduce themselves to you. (This exercise needs a minimum of at least 2 hours. Make sure you have no interruptions in this time.)
  2. Character ~ Close your eyes and picture your character/s in your mental vision. Once you have them in your mind, start a sketch of your character. (You don’t have to be an artist to do this exercise. Remember this is just for you.) You can keep this sketch in your NaNoWriMo notebook or pin it up on your corkboard / wall to keep you focused throughout November. Sometimes you have to see to believe it.
  3. Character ~ Close your eyes again. Now ask your character/s what their 6 favourite meals are. Now for the next 6 days make these meals for yourself and for your loved ones. Taste is a vital key to personality. Is your character a gourmet or fussy eater? Is your character a simple home-cooked pasta type of person? Use these meal times to further get to know your character and to flesh out their personality/s.

Now choose at least 1 each of the above exercises, 1 for plotting and 1 for character, and let yourself have fun with it. Now how are you feeling about NaNoWriMo? Remember this should be a FUN Adventure and not a chore. You have a story locked inside of you. Use NaNoWriMo to unlock this. Use these exercise to help draw your map for your NaNoWriMo story.

Good luck and happy stretching!

(For any of you NaNoWriMo participants: if you would like to add me as a NaNo buddy, my user name is last_lines)

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.