Posts Tagged With: tools

Another Kind of Map (and Library updated)

I’ve written about how an outline can serve as a great tool, a sort of map, to guide you on your course as you write. Another kind of map, one closer to its namesake, is a sketch (or much more detailed drawing, if you need it) of the area in which your story takes place. Depending on how much your character(s) move(s) about in the town/castle/prison/whatever, a sketch of the layout will help considerably in keeping your story consistent.

Will the sun be in the character’s eyes when walking out the door? Where will the shadows be in this scene (will there be shadows)? Is the destination to the left or right (or north or south, etc)? Is the building visible to the character from here? If there is a chase scene, where can the character run to/through? A sketch also helps keep things consistent between books, if you’re writing a series (as I am).

Early in writing Dragonlinked, I realized that a sketch of Caer Baronel’s layout would be required. There were just too many locations in the Caer to keep straight in my head and the characters did a lot of walking around. That sketch has served me well all through the three books I’ve written so far. The sketch isn’t meant to be exact; it merely serves as a handy reference to where things are in relation to each other.

I’m adding the sketch to the Library (accessible from the menu at the top of the blog) along with a sketch of the dragon stable layout. The remains of erased pencil (which became much more visible when I increased the contrast to make the fainter lines visible) let you see where I changed the layout of the Caer and changed some of the buildings a bit. The Woodworking building used to be two separate buildings, part of one of which was the armory, and the Water Hall used to be called (only briefly) the Pump House, for instance. Also, vegetable gardens used to be nearby, before I decided that an entire farm would better serve a community as large as the Caer and moved all that off to Baronel Farm ten miles or so east. You also get to see the sheer awesomeness of my chicken-scratch handwriting! I thought some readers might get a kick out of seeing these.

Categories: Dragonlinked, Fan Extras, Lethera, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Blogging, Tips, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Another writing resource: Etymology

I wrote a piece a few months back about how Google can be used as a great little writing tool. While I was writing The Bond, sequel to Dragonlinked, I found I used Google a lot in another way: to find the etymology of several words and phrases.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way they have changed through history. Why is etymology important? Well, Dragonlinked Chronicles takes place on another world. I wanted the books to have some tie to the familiar, however, so I set Lethera at almost the same technology level that Earth was during the same time period, the late 1800s. In some ways Lethera is a little more advanced than Earth (medicine, and thus, hygiene—due to diagnostic, preventative, and curative magic), while it is behind in others (electricity, gunpowder—also due to magic being used instead). Therefore, since the books are pseudo-period pieces, I wanted to ensure that words and phrases I used made sense for the time and technology, etc. For example, in the Preface of The Bond, I initially referred to anaphylactic shock, but a quick check of the Online Etymology Dictionary (Google: anaphylaxis ety) revealed that the term anaphylactic shock wasn’t really in use until 1916, which is just beyond my 40 year allowance for medical terms (the book takes place in 1874), so, I decided against using it and conveyed the medical issue another way.

For period pieces, and even for pieces set on other worlds/societies, there are many instances where an etymology check can prove handy. For example, say you are thinking of having a character or the narrator say or think ‘Such and such took off like a rocket’ or ‘rocketed away’ (Clich鍏? Probably, but useful enough for this example). Well, do they USE rockets on that planet/society? Has the character/narrator seen or heard of one? Could they have? When did rockets (or that specific phrase) come into general use on Earth? Does it makes sense for that character (or the narrator) to use that phrase? a quick etymology check will answer many, if not all, of these questions.

Hand-in-glove with the discussion of etymology as a tool comes the idea that you should concern yourself with this aspect of writing as well. It ties into suspension of disbelief. As readers we are willing to let a lot go, but if some wildly out-of-place detail pulls us from the story, our suspension is broken and that is something, as writers, we want to avoid doing.

So, think about adding this nifty little tool to your kit, and keep at your craft!

Categories: Tips, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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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