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For Anyone Who Wears Glasses/Contacts And Uses A Computer

So, I recently started using glasses while at the computer. I’d been stubbornly refusing to use glasses even though my eyesight has gone to crap over the last few years. Well, a bunch of my family were here at my house recently, and we played a game called Smart Ass (a trivia-based game that was pretty fun). As part of the gameplay, one must read clues from cards. When it came my team’s turn to do so, I could not read the card. My brother slid his reading glasses across the table to me, and laughingly told me to use them. I put the things on, and let me tell you, I was shocked at how clear the card became. And not just the cards, my phone, too! The icons looked amazing and I mentioned as much. Everyone laughed at me, I blushed in embarrassment, and he told me to keep the readers. He apparently buys them by the dozen somewhere? I never even knew that was a thing.

Aaaanyway. I’ve been using them since when I need to read anything, and the first time I put them on at the computer, I was shocked once again at how nice things looked and how clear everything was—except for rendered text. I noticed it mostly in OpenOffice (the suite I use to write because it is so much cheaper than Office and has just about the same functionality), but text in everything was not quite right. Finally it got annoying enough that today I spent some time searching online for clues as to why text looked fuzzy. I wondered if perhaps OpenOffice wasn’t using ClearType, which Windows uses to make screen text more readable. After quite some time searching, a thought occurred to me. When I reinstalled Windows recently, I went through the ClearType setup routine. Maybe I should do it again while wearing the glasses?

I typed cleartype in the Cortana/search bar and launched the setup app. I had to change most of the previous choices I made, which boded well. When I was done, oohhh man, text looked spectacular in OpenOffice! The text in the document, on the menu, in the settings dialogs—text everywhere in Writer looked great. And here in Chrome as I type in this post, text looks so much better, so much more legible. Everywhere text is rendered on my screen looks a thousand times better, now.

Long story short: If you use Windows (not sure about other operating systems, they may have technology like ClearType) and have recently started wearing glasses/contacts or have changed your prescription, I would highly recommend running the ClearType setup again with your glasses/contacts. You may see a WORLD of difference like I did. I’m betting the eyestrain/headaches I would occasionally feel will be lessened or even eliminated.

Welp, back to writing.

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Another Crucial Tool for Your Writer’s Utilitybelt

I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with my brain. On the one hand, it’s my brain. It is what makes me, well, me. But on the other hand, do I really have to think about three-quadrillion different things at three in the morning? Really? I’m trying to get to sleep here!

Still. Sometimes, one or more of those three-quadrillion things I think of while staring at the ceiling and listening to all the strange sounds that my house makes at night (I fully expect The Doctor to come racing through the room one night, screaming at me to look out for the what’s-it chasing after him) are actually good ideas. They could be completely new ways to go with a sub-plot, or better ways to proceed with a scene, or perhaps an ‘ah-ha!’ moment of seeing how a few things already in-place can be tied together in sheer awesomeness. Sure, most of the things that occur at that hour of the night (morning?) are horrible. But some are little nuggets of gold caught in the panning dish of your late-night brain. Whether you are writing music, short stories, poetry, novels, or blogs, do not lose those ideas!

Yes, yes, yes. You already keep a notebook by your bed for just that reason. Well, at least for me, the dim light that seeps in the bedroom window doesn’t provide enough illumination for me to write anything in a notebook. And even if I flipped on the lamp on the nightstand, it would blind me, wasting precious time where the idea could wash away, leaving the pan empty. No, I say, and again I say, no. Instead, use something you probably already have. Most smartphones (don’t panic if you don’t have one, see a bit later) have a voice memo app or some kind of recorder app. Yes. That’s right. Like Lewis in the USA show Suits, you, sir or madam, are going to make recordings of your brilliant ideas. You don’t have a smartphone? No problem. A quick Google search (Google-smack it!) shows that you can get an electronic voice recorder for as little as 18 dollars. In the gloom of night, it is MUCH easier to launch an app from a glowing screen, or press a record button, than it is to try to scribble down an idea in the dark.

Voice memos have saved my bacon many a time (What does that even mean? Saving it from falling into a camp fire? Did bacon used to be cooked on sticks or something?). The next day, it can be difficult to recall that little nugget that occurred to you in the wee hours of night. I have forgotten a few potentially great ideas in the days before I started recording everything that seemed like a good idea. Yep, I said seemed. Because not everything that sounds fantastic at four in the morning will sound so amazing the next day. But at least you won’t forget anything.

Just recently, I had FOUR great ideas occur to me in one night. Four! And even the next day, those ideas were still great. I would have likely forgotten two of them, maybe all of them, if I hadn’t made a quick voice memo. So do yourself and your readers a favor and use a voice memo app—the under-appreciated little tool that can keep your pork product out of the fire.

 

P.S. I have put the tag ‘tools’ on the various posts I’ve made in which I have talked about different, well, tools. At this time there are three posts tagged this way, but in the future? Who can say.

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Tension and Immediacy. Don’t Make This Mistake.

I’ve said before that a writing group is a great thing. And though last week I posted a link to another blogger’s tip about avoiding writing groups gone bad, good writing groups can help immensely.

Case in point. I have been struggling with a scene in my mini-story for nearly a month. I’d gotten a few notes that the scene didn’t have the punch that it could, the reader wasn’t feeling the drama, that kind of thing. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I read the scene over and over and over, even tweaked it a few times. But it didn’t quite grab like I wanted it to. It was close, but still not there. This past week, however, one of the men in the group phrased his thinking of what was wrong in a way that finally clicked for me. And once I heard it, it was the most obvious thing in the world. But I hadn’t realized it until then. I’ll use a television or movie metaphor for what was wrong with my scene.

In a show or movie, when the action heats up between two characters, the camera tends to zoom in on them. This gives you a better view of their expressions, gives more punch to their words (they’re clearer, and you can hear a hissed whisper) and allows you to see all the details and the subtle interplay between them. This gets the viewer more involved in what’s going on. Writers use the same technique. This part I knew. It’s related, in a way, to deep point of view. The kicker is there is a corollary to this. Don’t  zoom out from the close-up too many times during the tense exchanges. It’s distracting and keeps the viewer from getting into the action.

In my scene I had been cutting between close-ups and wide shots, back and forth, instead of staying close-up longer. That was a big part of why the scene wasn’t as dramatic as it could be. It’s fine to occasionally pull out to a wide shot to give some detail of surroundings, but not in the middle of a dramatic moment or as you are trying to build up the tension. Wait until a lull between exciting parts or maybe slip it in before the action gets going. After looking over the scene with this in mind, I made some adjustments. I was more careful of where the narrator intruded and watched where (and how) I described surroundings. I think it worked. The scene seems snappier and more tense.

So, if you are having trouble getting a scene to ‘pop,’ check if you are making too many switches between close-ups and wide shots. Stay with the close-up longer!

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Passing Along a Tip from a Pro

Kristen Lamb has another great post on her blog. Check it out here. Definitely something to look out for as you work to improve yourself and get your work out there, no matter what it is. Thanks to Marilyn Tucker for posting Kristen’s article on the writer’s guild page on Facebook!

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Google as Toolkit

There are many resources I have access to as I write, whether a novel, a short-story or a post on this blog. Novels and stories I’ve read, experiences, friends, family, bits of information like maps, castle layouts, etc, that I’ve collected over the years, books I’ve bought on the subject, and more. But the one I seem to get the most use out of is Google. That’s right, the search engine of the simple interface. It’s amazing the things you can do with the supposedly simple page.

Need to know how long it takes a horse to travel 183 miles? Google-smack it.

Need to know what 183 divided by 20 is? Type 183 divided by 20 into Google and hit enter (it’s 9.15, by the way).

Do you need a snappier word that means the same thing as tired? Type tired syn and click the first link. You will find exhausted, weary, haggard and more.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Google-smack it! Type principle def and note the definition that pops up before you even hit enter. Did you mean principal?

Thinking of writing a novel or starting a blog? Be sure to refer to books you own for mechanics. Also, Google-smack it! Search speech tags, thought tags, most common grammar errors, comma usage, en dash, em dash, hyphen, point of view, passive voice and how to avoid it, show don’t tell, clichés in writing and avoiding them. All are important to know about. Also, there are many books available on writing. Google books on writing and read reviews to find the ones best suited to you.

From word usage to punctuation to pronunciation to almost anything you can imagine, Google will show you links for it. However, for complicated things, you should verify information from various sources (links). Not everything on the internet is true, and some of it is unverified. Also, for synonyms, be sure to check the definitions of those listed. Each has a subtle difference that may not fit the use you intend.

Google: the swiss army knife in the writer’s toolkit. Just make sure it isn’t the only tool in your utility-belt, Batman!

Categories: Blogging, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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