Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Writer: A Web-based DFW Application

If you're using Google Chrome, I most certainly have the perfect extension for you. It is simply called "writer", and is a distraction free web application in which I believe I'll be composing all of my blog posts.

I've already done a post about the perks of distraction-free writing, but this on is a little different as it regards an online distraction-free writer. It's perfect for typing up a blog post, because you easily copy and paste the post straight to your blog right from the application.

You can find it by opening up a new tab in Google Chrome (an amazing web browser, by the way), going to the Applications page by clicking on it at the very bottom of the New Tab window, and then clicking on the icon that says Chrome Web Store. Once you're there, just search for, "Writer". Don't worry; it's free.

Once again, if you haven't discovered the joys of distraction-free writing, whether you're writing blog posts or full-fledged novels, I definitely recommend trying it out.

I just can't wait to write a sci-fi thriller with this black background green text thing that Writer has going on. I'm going to try and look up some other online Distraction Free Writing services and see how they compare. I smell a future list article.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Please Don't Kill Me, Stephen

Last night I was working on my novel when I naturally began picturing my life as if it was a narrative. I do that often. I know, it's not normal.

I began thinking about the sort of protagonist I would be: a very young, stuggling writer dicking around in junior college while she struggles with figuring out if she's going to major in journalism or anthropology and managing to live a fairly healthy lifestyle with absolutely no money.

And, you know, there's the obsessive compulsive disorder that needs to be put under control before she can get a car and, as a result, a job that isn't freelance writing.

Then I started thinking about how many of Stephen King's protagonists are odd and/or struggling writers, and that made me paranoid that my entire life was really nothing but a Stephen King book.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 07: Stephen K...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

God, I hope he lets me die with dignity.

Or at least naked.

This is worse than the time when I watched Silence of the Lambs and became inexplicably frightened that Anthony Hopkins could read my mind.

I've been paranoid about a lot of people reading my minds ever since I was ten and watched a TV show about it. This is actually the one thing I haven't told my psychiatrist; I'm terrified that I'll keep revealing crazier and crazier things until I'm eventually committed.

Or worse, they tell my mom what I'm telling them. She can't handle what she knows already. I know they're not supposed to unless it sounds like I'm going to hurt someone, and I know I'm not doing that, so I should be good. Too bad being scared of things coming to pass that can't possibly happen is sort of the dealbreaker, here.

Whelp, I just heard something trying to get in through my window. I think I'm going to get off of here for the time being and figure out just what the Hell one does when one is the protagonist in a Stephen King book. 

The Elements of Style

The Elements of StyleImage by roverdo via FlickrFor Christmas I received a special edition copy of E.B. White and William Strunk's The Elements of Style, a tiny little book that is both a necessity and a marvel to every writer alive. The volume is, in my opinion, the most perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to rip their sheet of paper in half because they just weren't sure, "which word was best."

If you don't already have a copy of The Elements of Style sitting on your desk, I implore you to get one. I believe that I may have actually gotten a project finished if I had gotten mine a long time ago. It was always just one of those things that every writer needs that I always told myself I would eventually get around to buying.

This brings me to my New Year's resolution. I'm going to tell you guys the honest-to-God truth here and say that I have never in my life made a New Year's resolution. No one even thinks about them after February, so I always thought that I would become a better person whenever the mood struck me at any random time during the year. For some inexplicable reason I actually gave a crap this year, and have decided to make sure I get at least an hour of writing in every day. I used to do much, much more, but I'm starting out small and working my way up to the insane level of obsession with my writing that I once had before final exams knocked me off my horse.

Reading through The Elements of Style has given me a level of confidence in my writing that I  never thought I would have. Mind you, that's still not much. It's something, though, and definitely enough to make me feel like picking up the pen for more than a few sentences a day again. Professor Strunk reminds me so much of my own Professor that I feel as if I never left English 111 for winter break. I wouldn't be surprised if I found he kept a copy of the volume taped under his desk.

I was also overjoyed to find that Professor Strunk shared my opinion that an apostrophe should be used in names even if the name ends in an s. Most of my English teachers throughout high school have told me that such was a matter of preference, and therefore let me have my way. My Latin teacher, however, claimed that it was written down in stone tablets that "Chris's box" should be written as "Chris' box." Anyone who did not do so knew nothing about English punctuation.

That particular usage of the apostrophe has always been the punctuation equivalent of nails on a chalkboard to me. I have always preferred "Chris's box" to "Chris' box", even though I'm pretty sure both of them are correct.

Good luck with all of your writing related resolutions!

And, you know...the other ones, too.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Overcoming the Dreaded Mirror Scene

The MirrorImage via Wikipedia
Don't lie. I don't care if you've won eight Pulitzer prizes; you've done it. We all have.

You're typing out your first chapter/scene, and you find yourself in dire need of some subtle physical description of your main character. Enter the Mirror Scene.

Jane is getting ready to leave the house to start her day. She is deeply contemplating all of the things that make her amazing and "Jane"-like, when she passes by the hall mirror on her way out the door. She turns to the side for a better view and pays an insane amount of attention to each and every one of her features, from her brown eyes speckled with green to the wavy locks of black hair framing her china-doll face. Because, you know, every time I look in the mirror I feel a need to describe myself inside my head in case someone just so happens to be listening to my thoughts but unable to physically see me.

I can't say that I considered the mirror scene to be unproffesional or even  unoriginal until another writer mentioned that it caused her to roll her eyes every time it popped up in a narrative--especially when the writer had a solid reputation. Once I got to thinking about character descriptions, I began to detest the mirror scene as well. Character descriptions that reveal more than necessary have always been my pet peeve. The more that is left to the reader's imagination, the better. I hate the three page long descriptions of how the main character is wearing her curly brown hair and brand specific eyelet tank top that show up in books these days. Character descriptions are best left shorter than a couple of sentences. Anything other physical description that is necessary to the story will come out later as the character interacts with other characters and begins to gain a life of her own.

So what if you find yourself abusing the mirror scene? What on Earth do you do? When I began my first novel idea---a project that I didn't seriously want to finish, but only intended to use for practicing novel writing---I swear that I used a mirror scene to introduce every single character that wasn't seen through someone else's eyes. I kid you not. If it wasn't a mirror hanging on the wall, it was a pool of reflective water. I was only about eleven or twelve, so I didn't really know much about, well...anything. I'm surprised at myself for not noticing that this was way, way too much mirror.

I overcame the overuse of mirrors in character description by asking myself what the reader needed to know right then and there in the story about the protagonist. The readers may never know that she has a mole on her left hip, or that her skin has yellow undertones. There are all sorts of aspects of characters, some of them major backstory elements, that the writer never really reveals to the reader in their entirety. It's always better to have more character development than you're willing to reveal in the story than the other way around. Have Jane run her fingers through her hair while waiting for the bus if she's the nervous type. Let them get caught on snags in her locks if she has wild curls. Let the protagonist's personality reveal what little you must about her appearance. When it comes to writing, less is generally more, especially when it comes to character descriptions.

Of course, if I had just a dime for every existing exception, I'd be able to move out of my cardboard box and into a fancy gilded trailer.