Character worksheets and Google.

December 30, 2011

I’ve been doing some character worksheets as part of the ‘Magic Manuscript’ story outline – I started with this worksheet template at Jody Hedlund’s blog, which Rinelle posted a link to over at Stringing Words, and picked the items that seemed to interest me about my characters at this point.

One thing I noticed was that nearly every item seemed to send me off on a google search to do further research. Height, weight, and body type? Over to “BMI calculators.” I quickly learned that to pick character scents, I wanted the Wikipedia article on the Fragrance Wheel. There’s a great list of eye color synonyms over at the Obsidian Bookshelf. And so on and so forth.

I think that this is cool, and it probably says something about my thinking and my creative style that I like to choose from lists instead of coming up with these details entirely by myself. And this kind of research can turn up unexpected facts that send my storyline down new paths. I’d gotten the idea by myself that Mandy was from an Italian-American immigrant family, but orphaned in her teens, so moved to Ontario to be taken in by her closest relatives, an aunt and uncle. Looking at the Wikipedia page on causes of death I was surprised to see that HIV and AIDS accounts for as many deaths as lung cancer and car accidents put together. (If the statistics were for North America and not global that might not be true.) So I decided to have Mandy’s mother die of AIDS when she was 16. Her father died when she was younger, getting into a car crash shortly after moving out of their home. It all smacks a little of trailer trash tragedy, but I think that works for the character so far.

What’s the most unusual Google search you can remember doing for writing research?

UPDATE: Since so many people seemed to find value in the few links I shared, I decided that I’d continue reviewing my history and share some more!

A writer’s community Holiday giveaway

December 13, 2011

Happy holiday season, everybody!

I’ve decided to start a holiday giveaway contest as part of my recruitment drive for the Stringing Words writer’s community. YOU could win a twenty dollar email gift card. Want to enter? It’s simple.

  1. Go to Stringing Words
  2. Register for the forum, if you don’t already have a membership.
  3. Wait for me to activate your membership and email you that it’s active.
  4. Find the ‘Holiday Giveaway thread’, which I will make sure is always in the ‘Latest Active Forum Threads’ on the Stringing Words home page.
  5. Post a reply to the thread, saying that you want to enter the contest.
  6. Also, optionally mention up to ten interesting things about you.

I’ll announce the winner in the Holiday Giveaway thread on Jan 1st, 2012. Hope to see you all there!

Stringing Words Day 2: Word Game threads

December 9, 2011

Sometimes you just need to relax and have a little bit of fun before going back to writing. That’s what word games are for.

There are two long-running word games on the Stringing Words forum. One is fairly simple, a word association game where you type in the first word that comes to your mind in response to the previous word:

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Stringing Words Day 1: Monthly project threads

December 3, 2011

One minor announcement first – I’m going to be posting a special interview with somebody who’s a part of the Office of Letters and Light and afiliated with Nanowrimo. Look for it in the week leading up to Christmas! And I’m taking suggestions for question ideas. Is there anything that you’d like to know about the people who make Nano and Script Frenzy happen? Leave them in the comments or email to chrisken zero at gmail dot com. If I use any of your questions, I’ll send you a digital cookie, and my heartfelt thanks.

And now, some more great stuff about the Stringing Words community! I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get to twelve days of Stringing Words in December, but I may give it a try!

Today, I’ll focus on the monthly project threads. It’s a simple idea, but I’ve found it a powerful way to motivate myself. At the start of the month, you list some goals that you want to reach, and then, through the month, you cross off whatever you’ve finished, mark incremental progress for something that you’ve done halfway, make changes if your priorities have altered, and chat with other people in the thread, talking about what’s been easy, what’s proving tougher than you thought, and cheer each other on. Overall, it’s a lot of fun, and I’ve probably got a lot done over the past few years just because I put it on my monthly to-do list.

So – is there anything on your December to-do list? Or are you just relaxing and recovering from November?

Stringing Words recruiting drive

October 15, 2011

I’m happy to announce that I’m starting a recruiting drive for Stringing Words, the writer’s forum and community that I started to admin two months ago. SW is never going to be a big place or a well-known destination, but I wanted to get the word out about what a cool site it can be and possibly attract a few new regulars, and right now, in the middle of the third Platform-building campaign, sounded like a great time to do this.

Stringing Words was originally started by three incredible writers who met each other in the on-line writing events that sprouted up as ‘spin-offs’ from National Novel Writing Month: like JanNoWriMo, NaNoEdMo, and April Fools Novelling. Along with a few other regulars, they decided to set up a year-round community to stay in touch.

One of those founding admins was Gale, a friend of mine from the Hamilton NaNoWriMo group, and now one of the Hamilton ML’s. She’s the one who got me to sign up at Stringing Words – I don’t remember exactly when, because the original version of the community got hacked and lost, before it was on its own domain.

SW has meant a lot to me over the past three years or so, and helped me to push past my old limits, both as a writer and as a person. One by one each of the founders have moved on to focus on new opportunities, most recently Misa, who
announced the publication of her novel ‘Ironhaven’ this summer. That was when I decided to take on more of a leadership role myself.

There are many things that I love about Stringing Words. It’s a community of supportive writers, it’s a great place for declaring goals that you want to accomplish and having other people hold you accountable to them, and if you need it to be, it can be a good place to commiserate about how hard it can be sometimes to write, or to procrastinate.

So, if you think that you might be a good fit, or just want to come see what the fuss is all about, I’ll give you that link again: Stringing Words.

We now return you to your regular blog programming. Six Sentence Sunday should be up in – I dunno, twelve hours or something.

Pushing yourself for word count

October 7, 2011

As we race headlong towards the start of National Novel Writing Month 2011, I’ve been thinking a bit about writing for quantity. Trying to get yourself to write more can certainly be a worthy goal, though it isn’t the only worthy writing goal, and Nanowrimo certainly helped to show me what I could accomplish in terms of my raw writing output. But what about after November has come and gone?

Some people look for a different ‘50,000 words in a month’ challenge every month, or set goals for an entire year’s worth of writing – I’ve participated in Nanowriye several times, but I’m not sure that it’s the best way of going. Being able to choose your own goal and decide when you can take it easy and when you’re going to swing for the fences is key, as well as having a timeframe that doesn’t seem so distant or keep you from recalibrating your performance frequently.

I’ve thought about trying to count my word count on a week by week basis, but never actually gave that a try. A month is a good timeframe – I love the idea of Ninja Novel Writing Month, which is every month. And for a truly supportive monthly word count tracker whenever I feel like writing – yes, the Stringing Words forum has got that too.

Monthly word counts on Stringing Words are pretty simple affairs, no flashy gimmicks, but they work. You pick your target at the start of the month, or whenever you get around to it. You write, you track your count, and you cheer each other on. That’s about all there is to it.

CRC update – Can I give myself a mulligan?

September 30, 2011

About a month and a half ago, I posted about how I was starting ‘Consistent Reader’s Club’ over at Stringing Words. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot read, and I’ve come across a few references to similar things, including The Seinfeld Chain.

But unfortunately, I slipped this week. I was juggling a lot of things, including catching up on over a hundred blog subscription emails that had gathered in my gmail, finishing a story rewrite, and Campaigner business, and I completely forgot to set aside 15 minutes to read from a novel I hadn’t read before on Wednesday.

So my ‘chain’ goes up to 44 days, and I’m struggling with the notion of allowing myself the possibility of missing just one day a month without breaking the chain.

Con: It’s breaking the rules that I set for myself in August.

Pro: The point is to motivate myself to read more, and if I make this little allowance for occasionally forgetting or just being way too busy, then I’ll be more motivated overall.

I went right back to reading “The Gripping Hand” yesterday and tonight, but I haven’t quite decided if this is continuing the old chain with a mulligan, or starting a brand new streak. What do you think I should do?

The Consistent Reader’s Club

August 16, 2011

One of the features over at the Stringing Words community that I’ve never participated in is the Consistent Reader’s Club – until today. I’ve been telling myself ever since I got to the Kansas Workshop that I need to make more time to read, and it hasn’t added up to much, so I figured that an ego challenge might help. 😉

There are a few Consistency Clubs over at SW, and I’ve joined in most of the others from time to time. (There’s Consistent Writers, Consistent Editors, and Consistent Bloggers; I think that’s it.) Aside from Bloggers, which plays around to give participants the chance to choose their own schedule, the rules are pretty much the same.

You set a minimum goal that you want to accomplish every day – writing 500 words, reading for a half hour, or editing a page, maybe. You keep track of your progress, count up how many days of a streak you can make it up to, and post that count on the thread as often as you like. If you fall short of your pledge for one day – only writing 350 words, say, you can choose to lower your pledge for the entire streak if you like. But if you go a day with nothing to show for it, then you have to end your streak and start a new one.

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Time to break out of the word count slump.

December 17, 2010

I haven’t written many new words since Nanowrimo ended. For a while there, I didn’t feel like I really could – writing seventy thousand words in thirty days is a bit draining on that creative faculty, so I needed time to recharge, and I’ve been working on other facets of my writing like critiquing other people’s stuff and proofreading.

But I put down 16,000 words as my December total on Stringing Words, and my grand total so far is fifteen hundred and fifteen – from the two Star Patrol blogisodes I’ve already posted. Nine and a half percent of my target, with fifty three percent of the month gone. Time to get moving a bit.

Hopefully, it shouldn’t be that hard to get the words to start flowing. 14.5k in two weeks isn’t that much for a Nano-er, after all. I picked the word count goal based on how much I’d figure to do four blogisodes, and write chapter updates for two of my Roswell crossovers.

So time to stop blogging and actually WRITE, if you know what I mean!

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