Nanowrimo Spotlight #9: J. Rose Allister-Fiction With a Passion

October 31, 2012

Hello there! It’s the night before Nano, and all through the house – well, among other things, I’m pleased to share this spotlight with you. With no further ado – J. Rose Allister!

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
The most unusual part is probably that I accidentally programmed my subconscious so that I can write while working or even sleeping.

One of the mental “show vs tell” exercises I learned in the early days of studying craft was to describe everyday objects without mentioning their name, shape, or color. A bouquet of flowers became “a brilliant burst of floral fireworks,” for instance. I was so passionate about writing that I started doing this everywhere I went–“showing” salt shakers in a restaurant, stoplights on the way to work, etc. Somewhere along the way, my brain took this over automatically in the background, whether I wanted it to or not. Soon, it began whispering more complex ideas, characters, and even scenes. Without knowing it, I had launched the committee meeting of voices a writer hears when pounding away at a story, but this meeting stays in session no matter what I’m doing. With a little tweaking, I found the sessions will continue while I sleep, working out plot points and such so I’m often “programmed” with the next scene when I wake up. I used to joke that if I could just give up sleeping, I could get my writing done. As it turns out, that wasn’t too far from wrong!

Where are your backup files?
I have found out the painful, highly aggravating way that backups are a must! I have my WIPs backed up to two locations, a flash drive and on Google Drive (formerly Docs). I do two because I have also found out the hard way that a backup drive can fail. I also used to switch between writing on my primary laptop and a much smaller netbook, so some backups found their way there as well. (Although my writer husband seems to have planted his flag on the netbook lately–it’s so darned handy to take poolside or wherever, maybe not as light as a tablet, but I like the keyboard much better.)

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Nano season is kicking off…

October 30, 2012

In my time zone it’s less than 27 hours until NaNoWriMo begins, and the excitement is definitely building. I had a great time at the Hamilton Kick-off party Sunday afternoon, and everybody seems to think I did well with my first official function as a Nano ML. The Hamilton Nano chat room has been registered, and I have three write-ins to go to in the next few days – Thursday evening, Friday late afternoon, and Sunday early afternoon. 🙂

My novel idea is coming together a bit more – it’s not the most planning I’ve ever done, but then, I think I do better and have more fun with Nano when I edge towards the pantsing side instead of plotting. I think I know where I’m going to start on Thursday morning, and that’s the important thing.

And my to-do list for October is nearly finished. It looks like one thing will end up partially unfinished; the novel critique I signed up for with  I finished reading the book, but I’ve still got over a hundred notes I took on my Kindle that I want to review and add as notes in MS word, and that just takes more free time than I think I’ve got. I want to give the author a chapter-by-chapter critique, though, and let her know that I’ll work on the line notes when I can, Nano permitting. I still need to work on that this evening.

And I’ve got a lot done in October, from ML preparation to a new short story, with plenty of ‘Goal, Motivation, Conflict’ and Holly Lisle revision in there too. I even tried a little sketching – more about that possibly much later. See you in NaNoLand!

Nanowrimo Spotlight #8: Elizabeth Twist

October 29, 2012

Well, it’s my great pleasure this evening to spotlight a good friend of mine, and a fellow Hamilton Wrimo, Elizabeth Twist. Take it away, Twisty Liz!

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
I do all my first drafts with a fountain pen, which isn’t unique but is a less popular choice than drafting on a computer. Hiking out in nature is also an essential part of my process. I do all my best plotting while mobile and surrounded by trees.

Where are your backup files?
I have a massive second hard drive in my computer. Once a month, I make a complete copy of my documents files on it. Whenever I change a story, I email a copy to myself and file it under a “story drafts” label in my email archive. That capacious gmail account really comes in handy. Originals, i.e., first drafts, I keep in a binder, or in a pile on my desk until I’m ready to work with them.

What advice would you give to all your fellow Wrimos?
Do as much planning as you need to get yourself really stoked for November. Once November comes, write like hell, and give yourself permission to enjoy it! Really do immerse yourself in the writing experience, and really do let other stuff go. Every writer deserves to have that experience, of putting writing before all other priorities. It’s not a state that you can stay in forever: those dishes will need attending to eventually. It is something you can afford to do for a month. November is an excellent time because you’ll have tons of support through the website, through the forums, and your local region if yours is active.

Sneaky Ninja Question! Who’s the best character you’ve ever written and why?
Tricky. I’m going to define “best” by “most enjoyable to work on.” I’ve written characters that I’ve been really proud of in terms of nuance and subtle layering of traits and all that stuff, but that’s, like, hard work, you know? My favourite character, who was just a blast, was a guy called Johnny Brittle, a creepy punkish fellow who was granted immortality by a goddess in some obscure wheat field in Mesopotamia. I’ve seriously considered going back to the broken manuscript he appeared in solely because he was fun.

Elizabeth Twist writes speculative fiction and lives in Hamilton Ontario. She blogs at

Six Sentence Sunday: The Witches of Arion 7

October 28, 2012

Welcome back to Six Sentence Sunday! We’re still at Fox’s Fair, but things are getting dicey between Nashua’s arrogant mother and the witch known as Moon White, so Auntie pleads on Mom’s behalf…

First week Second week Third week Fourth week Fifth week Sixth week

“My sister was harsh and rude to you – but I apologize on her behalf. If you demand recompense or blood for her insult, then take it from me.”

Moon White stared at Lima for a moment, then snapped her fingers, and Mother sprang back from the fire, landing in a dusty heap, while some of the other fair-goers crowded near the pits laughed at her.

“I would not have let her hurt herself,” Moon White intoned. “I thank you for your apology, sister, and commend the courage of your offer. If I may do you a favor before I leave your town, come to me and ask – but for now, I must get back to my fortunes.”

Thanks to all who have given feedback, and I look forward to your comments! 🙂

Nanowrimo Spotlight #7: Quiet Laughter

October 27, 2012

Good morning, everybody! It’s the last weekend before Nanowrimo, so here’s a spotlight interview with Guilie from Quiet Laughter.

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
Define “unusual”. Unusual to whom? To me it all looks perfectly normal, but then again, I’ve been known to consider wine before noon normal, or wasting a perfectly good Saturday traipsing along backroads chasing a stray and mangy dog to bring him to the vet. So maybe my “normal” isn’t quite up to par. I’m a pantster, meaning “plot” or even “plan” are words that confuse me. How can anyone plan anything to do with fiction? Characters have lives of their own, and as wonderful an idea as I may have for a story, the characters rule. (Yes, my fiction is character-heavy.) So I sit in front of the blank page, and imagine the character. Who is he/she? What do they want at that moment? What are they feeling? What makes them who they are? What are they doing? Who do they see, talk to? Why? And so a story is born.

HUGE drawback of being a pantster? The editing. I finished my first novel in August 2011, and have been editing it non-stop since then. Ran it through a couple of beta readers, then past my ever-trusty critique group (the Internet Writing Workshop,), hired a professional editor, next week will be her second pass after a six-month round of revisions. I do empathize with Picasso, going back to the museums to “fix” his paintings. It’s never finished, not ever. All I can hope for is to tell the story as well as I’m able before sending it out into the world. And yeah, I’m going the traditional agent-publisher route. Subject for another discussion, perhaps.

Where are your backup files?
Uh, backup? No, just kidding. I’ve never lost a WIP to the vagaries of cyberspace or cybertech, but I’ve heard enough stories to scare me into multiple backups. SERIOUSLY. DO IT. My Writing folder (which contains novels, short stories, notes on future opus magna, etc.) is not saved on my computer at all but on Dropbox. Additionally, I save a copy of it (yep, the whole folder) once or twice a week to an external drive. AND I have multiple copies on CD, too.

On a NaNo group in Facebook, there was recently a discussion about Scrivener and other writing software. Yes, I use Scrivener, will never go back to Word (not for the actual writing, although I do use it for final formatting), you cannot convince me there’s anything better than Scrivener, so don’t even try. And yeah, this is related to backing up. See, Scrivener allows you to take “snapshots” of your work. Say you finish a chapter, or scene, whatever. You take a snapshot, record it for posterity. Then you come back to edit (not during NaNo, eh?), and you go, “what the *#$% was I thinking?” and you start deleting like there’s no tomorrow: snipping whole sections out, copy-pasting paragraphs from the end to the beginning and vice versa, changing dialogue around, changing tags to action beats or beats to tags, whatever. And after an hour of merry snipping you realize you’ve totally–absolutely, beyond belief–ruined the chapter / scene. Ooops. Ha! But Scrivener, see, has saved that previous version in that snapshot you took. It’s right there for you to read, side-by-side with the new disaster. You can copy-paste from the previous version, or you can just hit “restore” and the disaster disappears. Oh, wait, you’re not sure the disaster is such a disaster after all? No worries–take a snapshot of it, and it’s saved. You need never again lose any bit of your writing.

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My Dana Alphasmart software is now in open Beta!

October 26, 2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about my Dana programs other than that vague notion of ‘Gee, I said I was going to do an open release on those before Nano started this year, huh?’ Well, this morning I’m finally doing something about it.

I’ve written two programs for the Alphasmart Dana portable word processor, that have been very helpful to me, especially during Nano or similar challenges, so I’ve done my best to pretty them up, write some useful manuals and basic freeware licences for them. If you have a Dana device and are interested in trying them out, please feel free to download, redistribute to other Dana people, (but please keep the packaged files together!) and let me know if you’re having problems or can think of more improvements.

Multicounter: This is my on-the-go word count tool for Dana. It works in conjunction with Alphaword or any other word processor program that will give you an overall word count for a file – most PalmOS programs running on a Dana device don’t support word count for selected text, because it’s hard to select long ranges of text anyway. So Multicounter lets you type in the starting and ending word count for a writing session and does the math to tell you how much you wrote – it’ll also total up multiple writing sessions on a single scratchpad, (along with the date, chapter, and comment for each session,) supports daily quota targets, (50,000 words in 30 days, anybody?), 8 different scratchpads, and export to .CSV format on SD cards. If you’re doing Nanowrimo with a Dana, I really believe that this is the tool you need to keep track of your word count progress. Click here to download Multicounter.

Alphafiles: This program might not fit everybody’s writing process on a Dana; I started writing it because I wanted to move my Alphaword files back and forth on SD flash cards, and found that neither the Alphaword ‘open from card/save to card’ or the various generic file managers were convenient for letting me do this quickly. Alphafiles uses a ‘back and forth listboxes’ interface to show the Alphaword files on your Dana and the .pdb files in a single SD card folder, to easily copy or move them around. You can switch to a different card or different folder, rename, copy, or delete your files. It works really great in conjunction with the WSCONV utility on your laptop or desktop computer, so that you can quickly transfer your writing from the Dana to Windows without needing to hotsync or send – or transfer a file the other way without hotsync. Click here to download Alphafiles.

On a sadder note, my own Alphasmart Dana is having battery problems. I haven’t used it in a while, and I think that I’ll probably have to be careful to plug it in every night if I want to be using it the next day for Nano, as opposed to letting it run for weeks between charges. Maybe I should look into replacing the rechargeable battery pack or switching it out for alkalines soon. But I don’t think I’m going to futz with that before November.

Nanowrimo Spotlight #6: Rhianna

October 25, 2012

Well, let’s see. It’s seven days from November the first, my local Kick-off details have been finalized at last, and I’ve got a new Nano spotlight interview to share with y’all. Say hello to Rhianna

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?
That I’ve never done anything like this before!  I am completely new at the idea of writing a novel.

Where are your backup files?
I hadn’t thought of that…I guess I should start saving a hard copy somewhere safe just in case.

What advice would you give to all your fellow Wrimos?
Give us complete noobs some love!  Writing may not be our passion, career, or hobby; but we’ve been bitten by the inspiration bug whether it is because of the challenge, prestige of being able to call yourself a novelist, wanting to try something new, or what-have-you!  Sometimes it can feel like an exclusive club where non-serious writers aren’t accepted and that can be sad.  So, open up your arms and send a supportive hug towards a newbie this year!

Sneaky Ninja Question! How much schooling have you gone through?
I have a bachelor degree in animation (focus on hand-drawn) with a minor in graphic design. I went back to school two years ago and got my master’s degree in instructional design with a focus on eLearning design and implementation – which, although a lot to say, means that I make corporate training materials like new hire training, how to use software, and pretty much almost anything else you can think of that you’d have to learn for/at your job!  Often training can get a bad rap for being dry in content and pretty ugly to look at; I have made it my goal to use my arts background to give you something to draw your eye so you want to look at it and has the content jazzy enough to match!

About Me: Howdy! I’m Rhianna! I am in my 30’s and rockin’ out in Colorado.  I have a wonderful husband that keeps me well loved and crazy at the same time.  I am a first time mom to a beautiful girl who also keeps me well loved and insane at the same time.  I like a lot of different geek genres, but I don’t consider myself a die-hard fan of any of them…more a lover of most.  I adore almost everything Disney (especially the Disney theme parks) and read a lot of paranormal romance. I like to follow Doctor Who, The Venture Bros., Project Runway, Top Shot, Hell’s Kitchen, Dexter, and I cried when Firefly went off the air. If you must know, I prefer Star Trek (TNG!) over Star Wars. My favorite movies include Jurassic Park, Aliens, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Jesus Christ Superstar. I feel that there is a time and a place for every type of music, but I mostly listen to classic rock. I am a self-taught sewer/quilter, beginner photographer, expert couch potato, and a seasoned marksman. Basically, I’m all over the place – but I think that makes me more interesting. I also reserve the right to change my mind.

Thanks for volunteering, and best of luck in your first of many Nanos! You can do it. Oh – and keep an eye on Rhianna’s blog in December – I’m going to be doing a Post-nano wrap-up interview for her.

Frustrated and anxious about ML business

October 24, 2012

So – it’s just over a week until Nanowrimo starts…

As I’ve mentioned, I signed up to be an ML for Hamilton this year. My Co-ML and I met to start discussing plans back in September, but – well, I haven’t been hugely ‘on the ball’ and proactive about getting all the little details organized, and as a result we’re both scrambling a bit to get the Kick-Off party organized in time.

I was supposed to meet Co-ML yesterday evening, actually, for a pre-write-in, but the location got switched several times at the last minute and the agreed-on coffee shop turned out to not be open past 6 on Tuesdays – whoops! And each of us tried alternate venues in a different order missed each other, and went home.

But we connected over the phone, and settled on a time for the Kick-off, an ideal venue, and a back-up venue. I called the #1 pick venue yesterday evening; the same local coffee shop where we held our MLs planning meeting. They have a gallery room that can be reserved for parties, which sounds really good. The woman who answered the phone took down my details and assured me that her manager would call back today to confirm.

But the phone, it hasn’t rung all day. 😦 I tried calling them again at quarter after four – a machine picked up, and I left my information again. Tried one more time just a few minutes ago. Same machine, I hung up on it this time.

I’m trying not to get too anxious. This coffee shop should work out, I’ve made every reasonable effort, and if not, the backup venue, (a restaurant that’s very popular with the Wrimos in our region,) should be happy to take a reservation for us on Sunday afternoon on relatively short notice. 🙂

I’m excited about being a Nanowrimo ML for the first time. Shouldn’t let the pressure get to me.

Nanowrimo Spotlight #5: Martha Bechtel

October 22, 2012

Are you asking, who could I possibly spotlight next? No? Well, anyway, the answer is, Martha from…

What’s the most unusual part of your writing process?

I dunno, the silly hats I wear to write-ins or maybe the MuseFic I write when I’m stuck?

I used to think my addiction to index cards and colored markers for plotting was unusual, but the more I get out into the NaNo universe the more I realize that ‘normal’ has a new definition. I’ve been reading a lot more this year than in prior years (books, blogs, etc.) and everything I always assumed was odd turns out to be a technique someone else uses as well.

Except for the silly hats (and possibly the MuseFic).

Where are your backup files?
I post everything to my blog, so it exists on the netbook, the USB stick, the blog, and my desktop. I also have the database setup to email me weekly backups, but that WordPress plugin seems to be on the fritz now. *pokes plug-in*

I used Google Docs for a while one year, but I had problems with the formatting changes since I use Word for most of my writing. I’ve also poked around at other online storage options, but my blog seems to be the easiest solution.

What advice would you give to all your fellow Wrimos?
Don’t be afraid to fail! 😀

If an idea isn’t working, backup to where it was working and start over again (but keep the wordcount). Retcon’ing is a valid writing technique. *solemn nod*

Or try your hand at some MuseFic and see if you can’t sort out why things aren’t going well– maybe you just need a change of POV to get things rolling again.

And if all else fails, pull a ‘it was all a dream the MC had right before he woke up and the real story started’ or even a And then there was Thor! 😉

Sneaky Ninja Question! When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Thanks to my Dad and his drive to finally clean out our accumulated horde I can say with 100% certainty that I was well into my storytelling habit by the time I could hold a pencil (but not spell, apparently). Prior to that I drew a lot of silent movies…

There are horse stories (LOTS of horse stories) and serials about anthropomorphic Gumballs and Pumpkins. Heck a little later on I did a whole series on Mr. Electron where I taught the basics of electricity to third graders.

Mind you, all of these were typed out, illustrated, and staple-bound into actual books because, lo, I get art in my peanut butter– err, writing all the time! 😉

Someday I need to start scanning those in– I’d say for posterity’s sake, but mostly just my own amusement.

Lots of people will tell you that NaNo is not for being perfect, that you need to keep writing, even if it is crap– but that’s a lot harder when you’re actually shoveling the stuff.

So try this if you’re feeling like giving up: write fan fiction of your novel.

Take a minor character or an off-scene event and pause for a moment to spin some flash fiction about them/it. Sometimes the best stories are the ones hiding in the cracks of the larger ones. 🙂

Thanks for coming to visit, Martha! Oh, and I think that everybody should make a point of checking out Martha’s Saturday Story Prompts.

Six Sentence Sunday: The Witches of Arion 6

October 21, 2012

Welcome back to Six Sentence Sunday.

Thanks to all who have read my sixes and/or given feedback. (Hopefully you haven’t given feedback without reading!) I’m going to skip ahead a little, to Nashua and her family meeting the witch from Fox’s Fair…

First week Second week Third week Fourth week Fifth week

“You should be more careful what you say around a witch – Lady Evelyn Berra Tirec.” Mother stiffened as the witch intoned her name. “Especially in a place like this – where there’s so many ways to hurt yourself.”

Mother got up stiffly from the table and walked around to the roasting pits. Nashua drew in a sharp breath when Mother bent down near to the largest fire.

“I beg you, Moon White – spare her,” Aunt Lima said, and the witch turned to look at her, as Mother stayed crouched down.

Thank you in advance for any comments!

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