I’ve found another reason to like my Kindle.
Revision is something I do a lot of. In fact, my life is pretty much in a constant state of revision. The majority of it goes on within the confines of my laptop as I write and re-write and chop and change. This is one reason I really like Scrivener. As I explained before, it definitely helps with the on-screen revision process by making it more visual and making it easier to move stuff around and see what I’m doing.
However, there comes a point in every manuscript where I need to stop seeing it as a work in progress and see it as a nearly, sort-of, could-one-day-be book. In the past the only way to do this was by printing the entire thing off. My manuscripts range in length from 220 to over 300 pages so you can imagine the paper and ink going into that effort. Even printing on the back of used paper and reducing the ink to 50 per cent grey, printing off a manuscript just for myself to read seems like a huge waste. It’s good for one-time only. As I read it I’ll mark it up then, as I make changes, I’ll highlight the marked-up bits and it will never be any good for anyone ever again.
Being at the point where I now want to give one of my manuscripts a “proper” read before submitting it, I was contemplating this dilemma when my beady eye alighted on my Kindle. Surely I could do something with that…
And, yes, I can and did and it was easy and free. One quick e-mail of my Word doc to the good folks in the Kindleverse and my document came back to me in a Kindle-ready format. My manuscript is now loaded on my Kindle and the most amazing thing about it is it looks like a real book (well, a real e-book anyway). It’s beautiful! It’s also easy to read and is sufficiently booky that I’m able to give it a good read-through with flow, unlike the choppy reading experience I get on my laptop.
When I see something I want to change I make a note. Granted, this doesn’t change it in the file – I still need to go back into the document and do the edits – but in some ways I think that may be a good thing. Constant revision is one of the things that gets in the way of a good read-through on the laptop. The Kindle takes away the temptation to fiddle and makes me simply read. The ability to make notes is a happy compromise.
So, to sum up, doing my read-throughs on my Kindle saves the earth, saves me money (I figure each manuscript print-off uses about half a cartridge of ink which comes out to $20 easy), is more portable and actually looks more like a book than the old reams of paper held together with an elastic band.
Don’t get me wrong – my long-term goal is still to have a physical, paper, bound and printed version of my published story one day – but as part of the journey to getting there, the Kindle is a valued player (and, at $20 a read-through, it’ll pay for itself before long…)Filed under From Tudor, Organizing our Writing Lives, Tips and Tricks | Comment (1)
I’ve had some turmoil lately about getting paid by one of the companies I contract for. It’s annoying not to get paid when you’re owed money, full stop. However, there are some things that can really amp up the annoyance factor, for example:
The companies I contract for require clients to pay up front before any service is rendered. Therefore, the company gets paid in full (approximately three times what I will eventually be able to invoice) and then the client gets assigned to me, and then I go back and forth with the client for what could sometimes be weeks and then, say this process ends mid-month, I won’t even invoice for two more weeks and then I give them 30 days to pay. So, even when I get paid on time, I am still getting paid a couple of months after the company has been paid. When I don’t get paid on time…well, you can imagine my bitterness.
To add insult to injury, there have been times when I’ve been told I’ll have to wait a couple of days to be paid until a new client pays a large invoice which leaves me thinking “what did you do with the money my clients already paid to use my services?” and also, that if I managed our household finances that way we’d be teetering on the edge of financial ruin.
So, that’s annoying to start with.
Then there’s just the general annoyance of being always forced to provide excellent customer service and be nicey-nicey and super-accommodating and do what the client wants and do it fast but then I have to go out and beg for my money? Hmm…
There are some ways I’ve found of dealing with the whole collecting-your-money thing as a freelancer and I’m sharing them with you today in case you can use them too.
1) Keep track of your work! Keep track of your invoices! If you don’t nobody will. Make sure you invoice for every single client and make sure you get paid for every single invoice. No company (or, ok, no company I’m personally aware of) is going to voluntarily tell you you missed invoicing for such-and-such a piece of work so you’ve got to do it.
2) Set limits you can live with. This is especially important if you think the company finances are wobbly. For example, I used to invoice a certain company every month but a combination of my invoices getting larger and their payments getting sporadic made me switch to invoicing every time I hit $500.00. This way I get an alert when my first $500.00 invoice goes overdue instead of having a much larger, monthly invoice be the one that potentially goes unpaid.
3) Be persistent. You do have to follow up. Also be clear. At first you can do a “just checking in” thing and reattach the invoice “in case you’ve lost it!” - all polite and cheery. Then you should set a date. “I need to receive payment by this date, please advise on your plans to do so.” My final move and one I’ve just had to pull out of my back pocket is “I’ll be unable to accept new clients, or to continue work with existing clients until my outstanding invoice(s) is / are paid.”
This one is powerful as it threatens the company’s reputation. How will a client react if I politely tell them I have to wait to continue assisting them until my invoice is paid? It’s a tough thing to do but it’s perfectly fair – I have to wait until you get paid? OK, you need to wait until I get paid too. Now the company has a real interest in paying you. I really don’t recommend – however tempting it might be – to keep doing more and more work in the hopes of keeping the company happy or making them like you. My personal opinion is that’s not what’s going to get you paid. You have to make sure you leave yourself some leverage and you have to know when to use it.
I am writing this on the Thursday before Easter weekend (yes, sometimes I get organized and schedule well in advance) and I’ve been promised I’ll be paid tomorrow (really? Good Friday?). However, wait and see.
The thing that I don’t get though, is that having pulled the “no more work until I get paid” card, the company is pretty much acting like nothing’s happened. To be honest, I don’t use that tactic until I’m at a point where I figure I’m ready to sever ties with the company; to me it seems like a hard place to step back from. But they’re all “OK, we’ll pay you and then we’ll start sending you clients again.”
Really? You want to? Even with the threats and all? My problem now is to figure out whether I want that as well…having come to the brink with them do I feel like continuing on?
Oh well, it’s not Friday yet. I may not get paid tomorrow and, if I don’t, my decision is made for me. I’m into the world of registered letters and small claims court and I won’t really have time to take on any of their new clients!Filed under From Tudor, Organizing our Writing Lives, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized, Writing as Career | Comments (2)
I’m on the road today, heading to Banff where I am looking forward to the annual conference of the Creative Nonfiction Collective of Canada. I’ll be glad to meet some of the people whose musings and comments I’ve been introduced to via the CNFC’s robust email forum, and to take some solo time before and after the conference to polish up some drafts of my own.
I was hoping to travel light – as light as one can when one is an avid reader who hasn’t hopped on the ebook bandwagon just yet – and wondering if I could take my iPad in lieu of my laptop.
I’m able to do that more and more these days as I figure out the various possibilities offered by apps and portable keyboards (by the way, did you know the Apple iPad keyboard dock also works with an iPhone? VERY handy way to keep up with emails on the run.)
I have the Pages app on my iPad, which allows for the creation of documents that can be saved to my iDisk in the ‘cloud,’ or transferred to my computer via iTunes. But as I prefer to keep my computers synced and files backed up by saving all my work on my free Dropbox account, it was a nuisance to save docs to my iDisk, then have to fetch them later from my computer and shift them over to Dropbox.
Because the world is a magical place, I was sure someone had provided a work-around. And sure enough, someone has. The good folks at Dropdav have a free service that allows you to integrate your Pages and other iWork documents on your iPad with your Dropbox account. (For those of you who don’t know about Dropbox, I’ll explore it’s many virtues in another post.)
So now whether I am writing on my desktop, laptop or iPad, I can access and edit my centralized Dropbox files, or create new ones to save to Dropbox.
So my laptop remains at home, and I am coming to you today courtesy of my ever-more multi-purpose iPad. That being said, I missed a posting or two a few weeks ago as blogging via iPad from a Colorado library internet service wasn’t as straightforward as I was expecting. I guess there are still a few hiccups to be sorted!
A long time ago Peggy and I talked about the technology we find useful as writers.
I was all waffly and not very revolutionary and kind of lukewarm on the subject and, I think my essential message was a technology needs to prove something to me before I’ll want to use it.
I found out about Scrivener from one of the many other blogs I read. Here’s a list of other blogs I follow, except it’s actually incomplete and doesn’t include the one I found out about Scrivener from which was either Nathan Bransford or Rachelle Gardner, but, as usual, I digress…I think the point is, it’s good to read quality blogs about stuff you do, because you never know what you’ll find out.
At any rate, a published author mentioned she used Scrivener and my pointy little ears perked up because, lo these many years ago, when I first sat down in front of an early-generation laptop and thought I might write something novelish in length I thought there must be something better than Word to use. Right? I mean Word is powerful in many ways and can do many things (you’d probably be surprised what Word can do) but it certainly wasn’t designed for easy management and organization of so much text in one document.
I explored a bit and looked into it a bit and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t actually much else out there more useful than Word and so, for years and years and years I’ve written in Word and it’s been OK.
Then I read about Scrivener and it sounded right. I mean, after all, scrivener is a pretty literary-geek type of word (it means “scribe” by the way). I figure anyone who could think of a name like that must be at least a bit into writing in ways other than the businessy / professionally / reporty kind of writing Word is so good for.
So I Googled it and found out it’s only available for Mac (boo!) but there’s a beta edition available for Windows (yay!) and I downloaded that for free and my eyes have been opened!
So far I really, really like Scrivener. This is why…
There’s this on-going debate out there about what kind of a writer you are. Are you a planner or a pantser? (Maybe we should have a post on this in the future). I am somewhere in between in that I know in broad strokes what my story is about and I always have a few crucial scenes in mind when I set out to write but I also like to let my brain roam, let freeform stuff happen, write some things that will never make it in but are probably still important, etc. etc.
All the while I’m doing this I keep reassuring my (normally uber-organized, ultra-rational) brain that it’s OK, we have lots of time to go before the end, all will be resolved and so on. However, then comes the moment when I know I’m nearly done. Almost finished. There are no more scenes screaming to be put on paper and then it’s time to edit, finish and organize. Duh-duh-duh as the soundtrack would say.
During this phase I have an frantic panicky feeling in me. What if I never get organized? What if I can’t whip things into shape? How am I going to handle 60,000 words that all run on and on and on in one long document? I need to print it out! I need to see it! I need to hold it and spread it out on the floor and move it! But using paper hurts trees, and ink – lord, ink prices make gas prices look reasonable – and, also, any changes I make on paper aren’t made in the document and that is so stressful. What if I can’t capture them all?
Which is where Scrivener comes in. Because Scrivener lets you write in chunks. And you can move those chunks just by dragging and dropping. And you can even (oh, this part is good) see the chunks represented on little electronic index cards on an electronic but very real looking corkboard. And then you can move the index cards on the corkboard!!! I love it. Touching and moving the story without killing trees or my bank account. Fantastic.
And, what’s also great, is you have to name each little chunk (chapter, scene, whatever you want to call it). Which is when you really see if that chunk is any good because if you’re writing “Hero comes up against nemesis” then that is clearly something pivotal that moves your story forward but if you are writing “General description of field full of flowers” well, unless you’re writing a certain kind of story, that may – just possibly – not be moving your story forward. Or at least not at a great pace. And maybe, just maybe, it should be shortened or (pained gasp) removed.
I think I still have a lot to discover about Scrivener but, for now, it’s calming the panic in the back of my brain. It makes me believe I can wrestle my story into shape and it will be at least somewhat logical. It makes me think Scrivener must have been created by a writer (which, if you read the about page you’ll see yes, indeed, it was).Filed under From Tudor, Organizing our Writing Lives, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized | Comment (0)
While the”Hoarders” producers aren’t likely to come knocking at my door, I also can’t claim to be very good at throwing things out.
So when my son was cleaning out his closet a few months back and tossed aside his belt hanger – a large metal ring on a hanger hook, onto which belts can be threaded – I couldn’t bear to see him ditch it. I knew it would come in handy for … well, something.
For once, I was right. Frustrated by the knowledge that all my earmarked poems and favourite quotations and much-loved prayers were widely scattered in various books and journals, I thought of a way to make them more accessible.
I copied and glued each favourite poem onto a coloured index card, or postcard, or the back of an old photo. Then they were hole-punched and threaded onto to the belt hanger. Now my ‘wheel of wisdom’ hangs beside my bed, where I can grab it and flip through the words that most warm my heart or stir my mind.
It includes poetry by Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver, quotes on the writing life from Annie Dillard, essay excerpts from Thomas Lynch, and the spiritual musings of Richard Rohr. And, of course, my very favourite… Let Evening Come, by Jane Kenyon.
I’d like to make memorizing poetry part of my practice, but for now, it’s nice to have these wonderful words close to hand. So, if you’re looking for a way to celebrate Poetry Month, you might want to consider creating your own “Wheel of Wisdom”!Filed under From Peggy, Inspiration, Poetry, Quotations, Tips and Tricks | Comment (0)
“How can you make your readers cry?”
That was the question from one of the teens in my Young Writers’ Club. I sent an email back with a quick response, but it made me ponder the issue, and later led to great discussions in both my adult and youth writing workshops.
Of course, we don’t just want our readers to cry. We want them to laugh, to feel joy, to root for our heroes, and to fret, in all the right places. So how do we evoke strong emotions in our readers?
We began by brainstorming the books and movies that had touched us the most; the scenes that had us wiping away surreptitious tears or pumping our fist in the air along with the other theatre-goers. The specific examples boiled down to various universal situations that are sure to tap our emotions – themes such as triumph over adversity, an injustice righted, or an underdog coming out on top. Then we talked about some character types that tend to impact us emotionally, too.
Finally, we discussed the importance of avoiding melodrama and stereotypes and creating believable characters and situations through the use of specific sensory details – the ‘show, don’t tell’ adage.
After we’d finished I asked the kids to pick one of the situations we’d brainstormed, and to spend 15 minutes writing a scene that focussed on the emotion underlying the storyline.
What resulted – even though it was still in rough draft, after only a few moments of writing – was some of the best writing I’d heard from them all year. It was a reminder to me, and an eye-opener for them, that the cleverest, most intricate plot line will fail to grab readers if the humanity of both the characters and the readers is given short shrift.
So next time you feel yourself flagging when you’re in the midst of writing a scene, why don’t you spend a few minutes contemplating the emotional landscape underlying the characters’ actions and dialogue? Are your words resting on a solid emotional foundation? If you’re not sure, it may mean you need to identify for yourself what your characters are feeling inside, what they’re portraying on the outside, and what they are striving for, whether or not they are acknowledging it to themselves or others.
Once you’ve figured this out, and have let your readers glimpse the truth as well (remember, understatement gets you a lot farther than purple prose!) you’ll almost certainly find a new energy coursing through your work and carrying you through to the finish line.Filed under From Peggy, Tips and Tricks, Writing Exercises | Comment (0)
I’m one of those people who can’t quite bring herself to shell out big bucks, or even medium bucks, for an e-book. While there may be some titles that I don’t mind owning in digital form, I still want the vast majority of my books to be tangible, caress-able, and lend-able.
So I’m using my new iPad (thank you, family!) to catch up on public domain classics that I’ve always meant to read or re-read. Right now I’m enjoying Great Expectations and constantly marvelling at the freshness of Dickens’ imagery and humour and human understanding.
A few days ago I came across one of my favourite pieces of writing advice, nestled in a conversation between Pip and his kind brother-in-law Joe. In response to a statement made by Joe, narrator Pip says “Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled hard at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.”
Years ago, I first read this sentiment in Stein on Writing, in which William Stein insists that “one plus one equals a half.” He’s right. Sometimes we don’t trust ourselves to adequately convey a nuance in our story, or we don’t trust our readers to ‘get it.’ So we hammer the point home with a further explanation or expansion… and suddenly, what was once a tantalizing or delicate or artful reference becomes plodding and tedious. The power of your original statement or allusion deflates like a tired balloon.
You can catch these overstatements with a careful re-read, or, even better, through reading aloud to yourself or a trusted listener. If you feel a paragraph start to bog or sag, check it for unnecessary repetitions. If you’ve already said “Mo looked like he’d dressed himself in whatever clothes might have been poking their limbs out of his laundry hamper that morning,” leave it at that and don’t follow up with “He didn’t care much for his appearance.” We get it!
Thanks, Pip, for the reminder. We may not be able to ‘pull hard at our pipe’ to keep from repeating ourselves, but we’ll do our best anyway!Filed under From Peggy, Language & Usage, On Books, Tips and Tricks, Tips on technique | Comments (2)
An e-mail conversation I had with Lynn sparked this post so, sorry for you Lynn, nothing new this week…you’ve heard it all before!
In horseback riding, there’s this little (by which I actually mean hugely important) thing called suppleness. It’s a large and complicated topic, challenging to comprehend and harder to execute and, for anyone wanting to understand it better, there’s (much) more about it here.
I’ve been riding, on and off, for 30 years and suppleness is something I have to work on every minute of every hour I’m on a horse. It’s delicate, ephemeral and you’re probably wondering what it has to do with writing.
Good question. Well, if you have the patience to read the information at the link above, you’ll see lots about muscle groups and longitudinal vs. lateral suppleness, etc. etc.
Which is fine. Important. Very good information.
However, I have a new riding coach and she is expanding my mind in many ways and one of those ways is her thinking on suppleness. You see, Pia extends the idea of being supple beyond muscles, beyond the body and to the head.
The main benefit of having a horse who is supple in body is that he is moving well and can do the things you want him to do. So suppleness = responsiveness.
Pia takes that idea to the brain and I saw her illustrate it this way. She held one of the barn cats in her lap and asked if the cat was supple. Well, duh, yes; it’s hard to think of a more supple animal than a cat. She patted the cat and stroked the cat and then she moved her hand away from the cat. The cat followed. She moved her hand back and then forwards again, side to side. She changed position and direction rapidly and that cat followed with his head bobbing and weaving to keep up with her hand. “This cat,” she said. “Is supple in his mind.”
And so, now to what this has to do with writing. To me, generating good ideas, building on them, coming up with twists and links - in other words creating a story – is only really possible when your mind is supple. When you’re ready to receive new ideas and let them grow and follow them around a bit when they twist and turn.
The Winter 24-hour Shory Story Contest is coming up next weekend at writersweekly.com and Lynn was asking me about how I come up with my story idea and how I integrate the theme and so on and so forth and I told her I think it all boils down to suppleness. If your brain is supple it will work away on a different level than the conscious brain which, of course, is busy making decisions about what to have for dinner, which movie to rent on Friday night, etc.
OK, so great information but how to supple one’s mind? Well, in many ways. Mostly just by writing. But within that you can do writing exercises, you can create stories intended for submission to a certain publication, you can enter contests (like the one mentioned above). You can write anything and everything just to be writing – so thank you notes, work correspondence, an e-mail to a friend, a blog post. If you do this your brain will get used to jumping and thinking and creating and it will be – that’s right – supple…Filed under Contests, Markets & Events, From Tudor, Inspiration, On Life, The Writer's Path, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized | Comments (3)
OK, so you’ve described your weather to a familiar and a foreign reader. How did that go? What changes did you notice? Was one easier than the other?
The thing that came to my mind when thinking of this exercise was the idea of the shorthand we use to communicate in everyday conversation with those close to us. Much as each family has its own special words not used by other families, we also have this way of talking with those who share our culture (try saying “get me a double-double” or “can I pay in Canadian Tire money?” to an American), those who are part of our generation (my grandmother doesn’t know how to “Google” anyone and my sons will probably wonder why phones have ringtones since most of them don’t even ring) and, yes, those who share our weather.
So, here in Ottawa, we all know what it means if the freezing rain gets as bad as THE ice storm. In Ontario most everyone’s familiar with the January thaw and, throughout Canada we have multiple references to winter, snow and ice in our vocabulary.
However, I’m not sure you Vancouverites experience a thaw each January and I’m thinking somebody living in Tanzania might not have much of a visual image of what a landscape “thaw” even looks like.
Which is a very long way of saying if my audience knows what I’m talking about (say I’m writing a story for the Ottawa Citizen), two simple words, ”January thaw” serve as a great weather description, conjuring up all sorts of images and feelings. For more global readers, however, I may need to flesh out my description.
Enough about last week’s task. This week I’d like you to describe the same weather (a day, a weather event, whatever) in different levels of detail. If you want a word count for this, I’ll say one description should be no more than 50 words while the other is no less than 150. Really, though, the important thing is that one is brief while the other is lengthier.
Go with that and let’s see what comes from it.Filed under From Tudor, Language & Usage, Tips and Tricks, Writing Exercises | Comment (0)
Happy New Year!
I recently told Peggy I’m not into resolutions but I do believe strongly in refocusing. I’m thinking a great source of focus will be to have a writing “workshop” we work on together with a new theme for each month.
I’m not pretending I know exactly how this is going to work out but I think interesting things can come from trying this. First, as I’ve said before, creativity begets creativity, writing begets more writing and you never know what will turn out to be the basis for a new writing project.
Also, I want to try to address topics that come up quite a bit in writing. So, as you can see above, January is going to be about weather. I think it’s fair to say weather is going to come up in a fairly large percentage of writing projects we all might tackle. That’s why it’s probably useful to flex our muscles a bit and think about effective ways to include, describe and just generally handle weather in our writing (especially as Canadians).
One thing to keep in mind during this whole exercise is that originality is great and it’s lovely to find a nice, new way of describing something (like the weather) that’s been done to death. Clearly “it was a dark and stormy night” isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. So, yes, be original.
However, please don’t be too original. Don’t be different just for different’s sake. Don’t invent some new and twisted way of describing the weather that, in the end, only you can understand. A simple way of saying this is DON’T BE TOO CLEVER (Mary Kole has a great post touching on too-clever writing on her Kidlit blog). Sometimes the weather is just the weather. Just part of the background. Sometimes it’s OK to describe it simply and clearly.
OK, so on to this week’s assignment. What’s it like outside where you are right now? Briefly (one or two paragraphs) describe the weather to somebody who will totally get it. Somebody who lives or has lived where you do – a familiar reader. Now, describe the same weather to an “alien” reader. It’s winter here in Canada so imagine describing what you see outside your window to somebody who has always lived in a tropical climate.
I’m interested to see how these two descriptions of the same weather turn out. If you participate, and you feel comfortable doing so, please go ahead and post your paragraphs as a comment. If that’s too public, please feel free to e-mail them to me at email@example.com.
Here’s my weather photograph taken earlier today in Gatineau Park, QC:
Filed under From Tudor, Inspiration, Language & Usage, Tips and Tricks, Tips on technique, Writing Exercises | Comment (0)