FocusWriter – The program that gives your writing sessions moods.

So as I type the draft of this post for you today, I am not on the clean, white, streamlined pages of WordPress. Nor am I writing to you from the blank pages of a word processor. I’m actually word deep in a lush red and green forest. Spindly tree branches brush up against the text and light filters through the tree tops in jets and streaks.

 

How?

 

This super duper program I stumbled upon while wasting time at a fellow writer’s blog instead of working on my own novels. FocusWriter, aptly named, is a distraction free word processor to change all word processors. It’s not feature filled for your average project use though, so it isn’t going to replace your normal word processor, however, it is perfect (imho) for creative writers.

 

FocusWriter is a program which allows you to take pictures of anything and place them behind your word documents, so that you can really feel the environments of your story. Say that your latest novel is set at sea? Oceans, ships, and lighthouses ahoy! In a castle? Well I’m sure you can find some suitable creepy image of that crumbling mansion threatening to fall into the sea on the edge of a cliff somewhere on google for your writing purposes.

 

Not working on a easily picturesque novel? Well, why not pull up any of the thousands of motivating images such as d0474885d006cf65a7aa8d1aeb57a7f8

 

or how about this one?

 

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Also worth noting, the scroll and tool bars are not visible until you run your mouse over them. My favorite feature (aside from being able to add practically any picture you want behind your documents)? The bottom bar which will let you know your word count, pages and the percentage of your goal complete. By the way, you can set goals in this program of either time, or word count. So say you have to write 1,000 words for the day? No problem. Only have fifteen minutes before you have to leave for work? Set the clock and the program will let you know when you have to go.

 

Seriously, how cool is this.

screen shot focus writer

I’m thoroughly enjoying it so I figured I’d clue the rest of you in to it’s existence. The best part? It’s free.

 

Go try it out and let me know what pictures motivate you to write in the comments below!

 

Happy scribbling.

 

All pictures belong to whomever posted them on tumblr originally???? If you want me to take your pics down let me know, thanks.

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Things I hate about Nanowrimo…

I actually would like to preface this post by saying that I actually love Nanowrimo. This post is not meant to be a list of reasons why not to participate in Nanowrimo, because I think that most writers (would be writers) can benefit from Nano. That being said, I have been a participant for nearly 3 years now and I have taken that initial challenge of writing a book in a month, to writing nearly every day and writing books with or without it being November.

Now for those of you who know about and write during Nano, you probably are aware that this year marks the third year of CampNanowrimo.

While the months are a little different each year, this year the first month of camp is April and the second month if July. The silliness of having a camp in April aside, this means that writers everywhere are preparing to start another adventure in writing fast and furiously.

I myself have also been preparing (which is code for I’ve been in the nanoforums every day, since I write every day anyway). So this post really comes to you because of some of the really stupid/obnoxious/infuriating advice that I see on the forums each year before Nanowrimo and now before Camp. Bear in mind that I think there are far more reasons to do Nano, than to not do it, but still. This advice is just ridiculous all the time.

Also this post is a rant with detail and swearing. Just so you know.

Prompts

OK. Writing prompts can be really useful for both starting and un-mucking a plot midway through.

However, using a prompt that has nothing to do with your overall story just for the sake of words is stupid. So stupid in fact that it makes me want to smack people. Seriously.

A newbie to nano asked for advice in the forums and some moron told them to go to the prompts section of the forums and take prompts midway through their novel when they get stuck such as “Your characters have to run to the store in the middle of a rainstorm…” Or “Your characters find an abandoned kitten and have to decide whether or not to keep it.”  This poster also had the added advice of “if you do it right, you can drag those out to like 1000 words each.”

Are you kidding me?

This is why so many writers don’t take Nanowrimo seriously.

If your characters don’t need anything and just mysteriously decide that they need milk more than they are worried about being hit by lightening, then you have just wasted your own time. Time  that you could have spent writing something that would move your story forward and you have wasted your readers time if you ever get the damn thing published. Same goes for the kitten. Going to the store or finding a kitten will get you words, but unless your character really does get hit by lightening or the kitten turns out to be an alien or something, you aren’t moving your story forward.

… And now I want to write about a mutant kitten. Damnit.

So this issue with writing things just for the sake of writing something leads into this other huge problem that I have with Nanowrimo which is,

Quantity over Quality

This has, since nano’s inception, been an issue with nonbelievers of the process. Because the idiots who decided to send their characters out into the storm, only to return 2 pages later with the milk, aren’t writing. They are bullshitting. In real life and on the page. You are there to tell a story and your problems will still be there when your character returns from the store with a gallon of milk they didn’t need. So really you just put off the story telling for 2 pages. You did not solve any problems with your plot or characters.

Yes, you want to write 50k during Nanowrimo, and yes this is the magic (not realistic) number that signifies a book being completed. But the truth of the matter is, if you write 50k of strung together pointless word prompts or games, you won’t have a story at the end of Nano. You’ll have drivel. Plain and simple.

If you want to write a story in 30 days, then you have to be working toward some foreseeable end. Your characters have to have a goal, and your story has to have conflict and by conflict, I do not mean whether or not it’s a good idea to keep the fucking kitten.

It is totally possible to write a first draft of a story in one month (50-100k) and while it won’t be immediately publishable, you will at least have a story that you can work on in the months to come that can be polished and worked on. But you won’t have a story if you aren’t exploring something or reaching toward some goal. So leave the kittens and milk at home where they belong please.

Now one of my next biggest pet peeves of Nanowrimo participants is something that unfortunately happens every year and that I see all the time.

People who work on the same project year after year without fail

OK. Maybe your book would be better in the first person. Maybe it would benefit from being set in space instead of Alabama. But it you work on the same project year after year after year and you never finish it, you’re  selling yourself short. And you’re pretty much failing at life. Every project will have flaws no matter how long you’ve been writing, and no matter how many months you spend working on it. You will never be completely satisfied with your books. Fact.

Other fact. If you make it as good as it can be, then you can move on and start  a new fucking book. Stop being a pussy and just finish the damn book. Being afraid that it’s not good enough or that you could have done better isn’t going to get you anything but a stomach ulcer, so just accept that it’s not your finest work, and move on. You’ll do better on the next project. And the one after that.   You need to practice in order to advance at any skill, and for a writer, that means starting a new book.  Cut your losses and move on.

Which pretty much brings us back to my all time pet peeve of writers everywhere and I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who don’t agree  or whatever but I don’t really care.

People who write one month year and call themselves writers.

I’m sorry. If you take ballet classes one month a year does that make you a ballerina? NOPE.

If you read physics books one month a year does that make you a scientist? No.

If you dress up like Fantine for one month a year to put on Les Miserables  at school or where ever does that make you a whore in the streets of France? No, it fucking doesn’t.

Nanowrimo is a great incentive for people who think they might want to write a book to try out writing on a set schedule and writing for fun and writing for profit. You do it for a month and you can walk away from it and discover that writing isn’t for you. Or you can say, “Guess what I love writing, writing is amazing. I have all these cute little plot bunnies running around and I’m gonna be a writer.”

Grand.

But if you don’t write again until November when you have hundreds of thousands of people cheering you on, then you hopeful idiot, are not a writer. You’re playing a game.

Being a writer means that you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is What are my characters going to get themselves into today? Or How am I going to get my villian to give up the one thing my FMC needs more than anything? You go to work and you day dream about getting back to your laptop or your notebook and squirreling away ten minutes after dinner to work on your book. Being a writer means that you write on good days and on bad days. On holidays and on snow days and on days when you work a double shift. It means that even if you have a lull in your productivity, even when you can’t force the words to appear on the page, you are still thinking about writing. And if you were a writer, and had those impulses, you wouldn’t wait 11 months to fulfill them again. Asshole.

Sigh.

So there’s my laundry list of things that piss me off come Nano season. Enjoy.

Please feel free to flame me if you are one of these people, by the way. Go right ahead, I could use the extra  humor. Otherwise, please let me know in the comments why it is that you love Nanowrimo. Or why you hate it.

Happy Scribbling folks.

Midnight Musings – Taking inspiration from dreams and nightmares

This morning I woke up shaking. My heart raced in my chest and a cold sweat seeped through my blankets. I lay beneath the covers, only my eyes visible to the room, terrified, both of what I’d just seen and the strange noises that occur in ones home that are never a problem until you’re alone in the dark.

Minutes passed and still I couldn’t shake the fear that lodged itself in my stomach. I wanted to sleep again, my eyes heavy, but with just the barest of blinks I could see the terrors, and the hear the screaming.

There was no way I could go back to sleep.

So I did the next best, most logical thing. I pulled my laptop onto my bed and wrote about it.

No matter who  you are or where you come from, everyone dreams and whether good or bad, dreams can provide some great inspiration for creative individuals everywhere. Certainly artists and writers tend to benefit the most from dreams and nightmares, though I would wager that while artists can capture one individual scene particularly well, it’s harder for them to capture a story through one image. Writers on the other hand can transcribe large chunks of a dream and then use our super powers of deduction to come up with a reasonable plot and some wayward characters to follow.

This method of taking stories based on dreams and nightmares is certainly not a new one, what with some of the great writers having done just that. Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Stephenie Meyer (just kidding, I’m pretty sure, when she said Twilight was a dream that she had, she meant a wet one). In any case it’s clear that this resource can spawn some really interesting creations.

I’ve currently got a handful of terrifying pages whose plot is quickly solidifying in my mind, but it led me to wonder about the rest of you.

How often do you find inspiration in your sleep?

Any full books come out of those midnight ramblings?

Please leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Scribbles.

Dealing with rejections – Projected failure in the quest to be published

At some point in every writer’s career, rejection rears it’s ugly head. It’s nearly impossible to sell or publish something without sending it out more than a handful of times. That’s just how it goes. But realizing the reality of modern publishing and being able to cope with having someone dismiss your work and the time you spend perfecting it, can be hard.

I recently had a rejection of sorts put in my path. I had entered one of my novels in the Amazon-Break through novel of the Year contest and unfortunately my novel didn’t make it to the second round. A few other writers that I chat with are  also in a similar boat, either with the Amazon contest, or a number of other smaller contests. So the other night we had a chat about rejection and how we handle it. Of course everyone had different responses as is to be expected. But it led me to wonder what you, my followers, do in the face of rejection.

Do you cry? Mope around? Get back to work? Burn your manuscript?

I hope no one seriously contemplates the last one…

In any case I’m curious, so please feel free to leave a comment below about how you deal with being turned down. I’d love to hear from you.

I try to look at rejection like a test of sorts. My favorite author J.K. Rowling, was rejected 12 times for the first book in the Harry Potter series. Now, being fully aware that I am not J.K. Rowling, nor are any of my books at that level of awesome which the Harry Potter books achieved, it would be silly of me to feel like I failed as a writer just because my book got rejected. I’ve got to send that thing out and fail at least 12 times before it gets anywhere. More over, as I said, my book isn’t as great as HP1, so maybe I have to have 24 rejections before someone will decide to pick it up? Who knows.

While I may reevalute this line of reasoning when I’ve had 30+ rejections, for now, in the beginning of sending my work out, this method does me some good. It sets a standard by which I can fail. Eventually if I just keep sending it places, it’ll get published one way or another.

Now, I used J.K. Rowling as my example because the Harry Potter series is my favorite set of books of all time, however the same could be true for any author you idolize. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 20 times. (So my standard, if I were a writer of horror would be 20-40). The Diary of Anne Frank was rejected 16 times. (16-32)

What this system of projected rejection really allows me to do is to put aside those feelings of failure and slog my way through that first batch or two of rejections. Just like when you write your first book, it’s incredibly difficult yet your second or third or fourth are each easier than the last to complete. I expect the same idea holds for sending out queries. Each time you draft one of those letters, each time you have to give a synopsis for your book, you become more precise, more apt at explaining yourself and thereby you improve. As you improve, at some point, someone is bound to notice you.

Basically what I’m telling you to do is to A) tell me how you accept rejection below and B) if you like my method of reasoning with failure, pick your favorite author, find out how may times they had to query their first book before it was accepted somewhere.

As with all things, if you persist, you will improve, and if you persistently send out your improving work, you’ll make it one day or another.

Happy Scribbling.

Finishing books and finding new stories.

For the past several months I’ve been working hard at completing the first book in a series I’m currently writing and I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times that I wanted to just take a break and working on something else.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know where the stories was going, or that it wasn’t any good, I was simply drained from having done so much work on it for so long. I’d been working within the series and specifically on that book for seven straight months without a break and it’s been back and forth across my desk for a year and a half now.Though I didn’t work on it consistently throughout that time of course. I wrote 1 complete novel and got about half way through 5 others in that time. But with my college schedule and life at hand, it took nearly 2 years for that book to reach it’s completion. Just in time for me to submit it to the Break though novel of the year Award hosted by Amazon, actually. 

Now, everyone varies I suppose, on how long it takes them to get an idea, to the point where they are ready to submit it to agents, or contests or publishing houses, so I don’t feel bad about this novel’s shelf life, however, I’d like to address something that will probably bother each of us writers and some point in our careers. 

Knowing when your book is done. Not just written, but edited and revised and pieced together as well as you could manage. I say this because, while I submitted my book to the Amazon contest, and while I think it will stand up fairly well on it’s own, I can still think of things I’d like to improve. I could spent another seven months, taking things out, adding them back in again, and still wind up with the same story I have right now. 

It’s hard to let your stories stand on their own two feet when you’ve held them in your hand for months, even years at a time. But if you don’t let go, your first book might be your last. You might forgo all the great novel ideas you’ve ever had, just because this one, could be a little bit better. 

Well fuck that. 

That’s what I’m here to say today. Don’t let your book consume you. If you find yourself changing the verbs of the same sentence ten times in a week, let go of it. Get out something new and just write. Yes, you want your books to be successful and for others to enjoy reading them, but there comes a point when editing and revising just become counter productive. So let your work out into the world and start on something new. 

It took me exactly 20 months to get from start to finish with this novel but, to put that in perspective, I spent 3 months writing the first draft, 5 months ignoring it, 1 month rereading revising,3 months ignoring, 1 month revising, and then 7 months fixing flaws in the series as a whole (9 planned books) editing, rewriting the entire book once, and editing twice more over. Over all the book saw 12 months of work, and 7 revision of both parts or the document as a whole. The first draft was 124k, the final was 54k. (This was the first book I ever wrote.)

To put that in an even better perspective. The book I’m currently working on was one of those that I got about half way through in the past year and a half. It has seen two weeks of work. One writing (where I wrote 32k, 12 of which was in the first day), and one week of plotting out the second half of the novel. I’ve got about 50k left to go according to my outline and I think It will be completely written before the month is up and edited before March is over. (This is the fifth I’ve started.)

This should serve as proof to those of you who are your first book that no, not all books are created equal. And now that I’ve gone through the whole process with one book, I’ve got a much better idea of my voice, and my own abilities. Make it through your first book ladies and gents and your well on your way to getting the hang of it. 

 

Happy Scribbling to you all and a lovely 1am too.