March 14, 2008

OpenOffice Vs. Moleskin: Deathmatch

Posted in Writing tagged , , , , , at 6:13 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

As I said in my last entry, I’ve started to use a moleskin notebook to write during my lunch break at work. Why Moleskin? Because they’re just the right size and aren’t likely to get damaged by being tossed into a backpack every day (I’ve gone through countless different notebooks that eventually ended up getting destroyed in one way or another).

Pros of notebook usage: Lets me write anyway, keeps me in the habit of writing by hand, I’m less likely to try to edit ‘on the fly’, and I can jot down ideas as they come to me. Plus, I tend to write more easily when I’m using a notebook – probably because I don’t have the internet to distract me.

Cons of notebook usage: I can’t read my own handwriting (which makes my second point above somewhat ironic), I tend to simply type out what I wrote earlier in the day from memory, rather than actually referring to my handwritten stuff, and I write far more slowly than I type.

Overall, I think I’ll be sticking with OpenOffice. It’s just easier.

This has gotten me thinking about notebooks in general, though. Almost any list of advice for fledgling writers will include something about keeping a notebook close at hand at all times, to the point where it’s become something of a cliche (for me at least; I’ve heard it dozens and dozens of times).  On the bus yesterday I was listening to an episode of this podcast, in which one of the writers mentioned how important keeping a notebook is.

I have never understood what people mean when they say things like this. I’ve tried to keep a notebook and fill it with ideas, snippets of dialogue and character traits, but none of this has ever translated into something useful. If I come up with a good idea, I’ll generally remember it. Even If I write it down the moment it pops into my head just in case, I’ll probably never look at the notebook I write it into again anyway. It’s just not something I see as very useful.

Am I really the only one who thinks like this? Or are there plenty of other writers out there who just don’t ‘get’ the notebook advice?

The last few days have been incredibly busy, and I’ve spent the morning and afternoon just relaxing. In an hour I’m going to start writing – and I probably won’t be referring to my notebook at all!


March 13, 2008

I Need A Laptop

Posted in Writing tagged , , , at 11:16 am by lifelessonsfromwriting

As the title of this post suggests, I need a laptop.

Since I started working in Zavvi, the time I have to write has diminished significantly. I’ve been doing a lot of writing during my lunch break on a small notebook, which has its pros and cons (I’ll go into that more tomorrow, when I have a day off). Unfortunately, pen-and-paper writing doesn’t come with a word count feature, so that makes updating my count here a bit difficult. A laptop (preferably a small, light one) would make everything a whole lot easier.

In other news, the spacebar on my keyboard has started to squeak loudly whenever I press it. You can probably imagine how infuriating that is, so I guess I’ll be getting a new keyboard as well. Any suggestions? I tend to like ones with fairly low-profile keys (like the ones on a laptop).

That’s all for today!

March 9, 2008

Word Count, Then Sleep

Posted in Writing tagged , , at 10:34 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

Here’s the word count:

Current word count for [untitled]: 27, 520

And the sleep will be putting in an appearance as soon as I get to bed!

March 7, 2008


Posted in Writing tagged , , , , at 11:31 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

So, I’ve got myself a full time job at Zavvi, a videogame/movie/music retail place. Whoo.

Of course, this means that I won’t have nearly as much time to write, but I knew that would happen eventually. I’ve made good progress so far, and I’ll be happy if I can keep up some of that momentum. We’ll see how things go; I’ll start doing word count targets again once I get settled into the new job and know how much time I’ll have.

As for the book itself, I’ve started to become more aware of the pacing in the story. For the first 22,000 words or so things were moving along pretty rapidly, but I want the story to slow down a bit more in the middle before gaining speed again for the climax. World building is something I’ve always enjoyed, but this is the first time I’ve really tested myself to see how good I am at it. While I doubt many readers would be confused as to what’s going on at this point, there are a lot of details I could probably expand on. Right now I’m planning on doing that further along the middle part of the book (around 30-40k words), but I could well find that I need to do more of it in the earlier stages too. The second draft is certainly going to be a challenge, but right now I need to focus on getting the first one done!

And I still don’t have a damn title. Really, I have absolutely no idea what name to give it. The first chapter is called ‘The Prince Is Dead’, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

Current word count for [untitled]: 25,877

Forgot to update this! Last night’s grand total was 26,810.

Writing Bonanza

Posted in Writing tagged , at 1:34 am by lifelessonsfromwriting

Well, I figure I’ve made up for not writing while in England. Take a look:

Current word count for [untitled]: 25, 645

I feel pretty good about that.

March 5, 2008

England-land, pt. 2

Posted in Writing tagged , at 11:24 am by lifelessonsfromwriting

So, England turned out to be incredibly unproductive. After the first day I barely got any writing done at all, then returned home to find that my internet connection was broken (again). It’s back up now, thankfully, but it’s been a bit sporadic lately.

Nothing else to report, really, except to say that I’ll be getting right back to work this evening.

March 1, 2008

System Failure

Posted in Writing tagged , , at 10:52 am by lifelessonsfromwriting

So, I haven’t been writing much since coming to England for a few reasons. One is that my aunt’s house was extremely crowded and noisy up until yesterday (she has a five year old son), and the other was that I ended up with painful stomach cramps from something I ate over here.

My aunt is gone now (I’m minding the house for her over the weekend), which means that I should get a lot more writing done. I won’t be setting word count challenges for myself, though, beyond ‘500 words a day, at least’. It will be interesting to compare how I do now with how I did when I was setting daily targets for myself.

In other news, I have a second blog now. You can find it here.

February 28, 2008

My Magazine Habits

Posted in Reading, Skepticism tagged , , , , , , , at 11:03 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

I think magazines (all magazines) have gotten an unfair reputation for being ‘low-brow’ or not worth the time of more intellectually minded people. I love magazines, and buy quite a few of them. Like many people, I think, I don’t like to scramble around looking for news or information from a lot of disparate sources. I like having everything in one place, in a format that I can carry around with me for a while.

 Earlier today I bought a copy of Micro Mart, a magazine about computer hardware, and New Scientist, a magazine about…well, you can probably guess. I get both of these fairly regularly.

I was particularly drawn to this week’s New Scientist because the cover story was about transitional fossils, a topic that’s capable of generating (to be charitable) ‘some friction’ in internet debates. That article, and the debates I’ve been engaged in recently, have convinced me to try combatting some of the total bullshit that’s floating around about evolution in a more serious way. Given the way science education is in most countries, people aren’t going to learn this stuff in school, and I applaud the efforts of magazines like New Scientist in attempting to fight back against religious whackjobs.

But they’re pretty much preaching to the choir. Few if any creationists (and I include IDers in that group) are going to read it. The more vocal voices there are on the internet, where people do actively search for information on this stuff, the better.

To that end, I’ll be starting a  new blog solely about religion, science, and why we need a lot less of the former and a lot less of the latter. This blog will only be about writing, which is what it was originally made to be about.


Posted in Writing tagged , , , , , at 10:11 am by lifelessonsfromwriting

So, yesterday I missed a word count target for the first time so far. As you can see by looking at that annoying bolded section I put on the bottom of every post, I was off by a whopping 1,200 words (or there about). There were two reasons for this. Firstly, I realised that I had to be up early this morning to go to England, and that I still hadn’t packed. This was at 2am, and I had no intention of getting out of bed to go and stuff a small suitcase. Then Eircom, in one of their characteristic blunders, made it impossible for anyone in my area to connect to the internet. This was especially annoying since I was in the middle of an interesting discussion on another blog (more on that later today).

Since my drug of choice is sleep (I wish I was doing it right now), I just turned off my laptop and decided to get a hit. That’s when I had a dream about giant, striped spiders and people shooting themselves in my bedroom. It kind of took the ‘buzz’ off (I believe ‘buzz’ is the word used by hip Irish junkie teenagers these days).

Current word count for [untilted]: 20,852

Target word count by the end of the day: 22,000

February 27, 2008

Atheism: More Antagonistic Than Homosexuality and Evolution Combined!

Posted in Skepticism, Writing tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:25 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

At least, that’s the way it can seem. As someone who keeps tabs on all three topics, I’m always stunned at how much people can get riled up by an atheist (even one who isn’t particularly argumentative or offensive!). I’m also bemused at how an otherwise friendly, rational-seeming Christian can end a conversation with ‘Oh and by the way, you might not want to go to heaven, but I sure do. So you’d better repent quickly!’ – or something to that effect. What? Threats? I thought only God was allowed to do that!

Anyway, I thought this cartoon was priceless. I’ve also noticed that no Creationists took a shot at the challenge in one of my previous posts, so to reiterate: I was being entirely serious with it. Come on, you guys love to take shots at evolution, right? Surely you can put that much effort into building a case for your own theory hypothesis quackery.

I’ve been re-reading ‘The Subtle Knife’ because the parts at the beginning of the book, where Will finds himself in Citagazze, are quite similar to a lot of stuff in my own book (in terms of mood, not content). It always amazes me when I re-read an author who I last checked out before I started to write seriously. I think that if you write enough, and particularly if you read a lot of what other amateur writers put on the internet, you inevitably become a critic. I had always thought that there was something unusual about Pullman’s style, but it’s only now that I appreciate what.

Basically, he writes with an extraordinary richness that has nothing to do with the words he’s using. He tends to use short, even simple sentences, and is quite direct. The depth comes from the story itself, and he conjures detail and life out of a few ordinary words. I’ve always much preferred this approach than using a lot of eloquent adjectives and long-windedness (I’m looking at you, Tolkien), and it’s what I’d like to get with my own writing. Not now, obviously, but at some point in the future.

I have a very odd phobia that I’d like to write about here. If you don’t like self-indulgence, just skip on past to whatevr it is I ramble about next (I’m using this as a ‘warm-up’ for my writing for the day, which is why it’s probably only half-coherent). You know those nature shows about sharks and fish and whales? I can’t watch those. In fact, I wanted to get a picture of a basking shark here to illustrate what I maean (because of their size they tend to be photographed with a lot of empty blue ocean in the background, which is really what freaks me out), but I literally couldn’t look at the picture long enough to get the URL.

Now, this isn’t too much of a problem unless someone ever puts a gun to my head and tells me to go scuba diving in the pacific, except that it’s not just ocean pictures that do it. I was reading about the Cassini space probe yesterday, and decided to take a look at some of the Jupiter photos. And wouldn’t you know it, but there tends to be a lot of black space in the background? This picture was even worse. It’s a picture of Eta Carinae, a massive double star, surrounded by the Homunculus Nebula. Fascinating. Beautiful. So terrifying that it had me hyperventillating when I accidentally opened the large version.

This irrational fear has gotten progressively worse in recent years, to the point where I start to get nervous if I’m reading something with a possibility of a picture that will freak me out. If I get a National Geographic, I read the contents page meticulously to make sure there are no stories about ocean wildlife, lest I accidentally find myself on a double-spread photo of a shark floating in the blue void.

Rest-assured, though, that I’m not crazy in any other ways, unless you count trying to write a novel as a mental illness.

Current word count for [untilted]: 20,010

Target word count for the end of the day: 22,000

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