Writing, Offline

It’s hard to believe how long I have been missing in action from a blog that I love as much as this one. The fact is, not only was this the best blog I’ve ever had (number four!) but I had the best subject matter (seriously – it’s hard to name anything I like writing about more than, well, writing) and obviously, I had the best readers ever, namely, you guys!

Thank you for everything. Though I have not even visited this blog in more than two years, it has been in my mind and heart.

The last two years have been insane. I moved four times, once over 4000 miles away, once 1500 miles, the other two barely worth mentioning by comparison. (If you’re moving, call me. I’ll help you pack. I’m an expert.) Just prior to all this, my fiancé left me. More recently, I lost one of my closest friends, a truly wonderful though troubled soul who gave me the gift of introducing me to a number of fantastic people.

Happily, and most importantly, I HAVE BEEN WRITING! Fiction has taken a back seat, because when you’re living this much drama, who needs to write it? I had no internet access most of the time which limited me to writing offline.

I have changed. My writing has changed. Hell, name me one thing that hasn’t changed in the past two years.. but regardless. I still write, every day. I am blogging again. I still help others, and I still believe we can support and encourage each other so we can all be successful writers. I hope you’ll stick with me, because I know the best is yet to come.

I’ve discovered a new obsession – photography. I would like to invite you to visit my new website, Salmon Apple Pie – as a matter of fact, I would be very grateful if you would take a look! I plan for Salmon Apple Pie to become the new, updated, and expanded version of From the Desk of KH. I would like to support my fellow photographers as well as writers.

By the way, KH no longer exists. I have divorced my pseudonym. I have decided that anyone who doesn’t like what I’m writing -or photographing- can fuck off. I am me, and I AM A WRITER AND A PHOTOGRAPHER.

Some day, I hope I will even have my quirky and spastic blogging style back.

As always, thank you for reading my blog.



Product Review: Scrivener

I have recently purchased Scrivener. I think it’s a big upgrade from Word. I use a PC, running Windows 7 with MS Office Pro 2010. This is why I back up my work excessively (on an external hard drive, a DVD-RW and 2 USB thumb drives), and how I became very, very skilled at removing rootkits and other nasties from my hard drive.

Why I bought Scrivener

I liked the idea of having an all-in-one program to use for my writing. That way I don’t have to toggle between Word  (self-explanatory), Excel (I use spreadsheets  a lot. Blame those accounting courses), Visio (I also like to make flow charts and diagrams. I’m just weird that way), and OneNote (for all the stuff I want to save but don’t want to waste the paper to actually print. Like that tutorial on kusudama – which is a Japanese paper folding technique similar to origami. I’m sure I’ll need this information some day). Scrivener can also save photos and web pages. It’s a computer version of my beloved 3-ring binders.

The Details

I purchased my copy of Scrivener from literatureandlatte.com with the NaNoWriMo discount, so the price was right. Even at regular price ($40 for PC. For another $12 they’ll send you Scrivener on a CD), it’s pretty affordable. I won’t get into how much I paid for MS Office Pro 2010 when I purchased that a couple years ago.

Cool Features

When you write in Scrivener in the full screen mode, it offers what it calls “typewriter scrolling” which means you type in the MIDDLE of the screen instead of always at the bottom unless you scroll down over and over and over. This means your neck will likely hurt less after a session at the keyboard.

If you delete something from your current project, it stays in the trash bin until you choose to empty the trash. I’ve been doing this for years with Word, only there it involves multiple steps. Highlight what I want to remove, copy and paste to another document, name new document “trash” and save it in the folder with my WIP. Scrivener makes electronic dumpster diving much easier when you need to retrieve that line of dialogue that needs to stay in your story.

Scrivener comes with a handy tutorial, so if you’re like me and suffer from brain corrosion from too many years of using too many Microsoft products, you can flatten the learning curve considerably by taking the time to go through this. It took me less than an hour. Scrivener is pretty easy to use, and I probably could have managed without the tutorial. But I knew I was going to write this review, and wanted to include the tutorial as well.

Index cards and a corkboard are part of Scrivener. I would love to have a wall where I could pin up bits and pieces of my story, but I have too many annoying relatives who appear at my door without notice. Fortunately, these relatives are computer illiterate, so I can have my corkboard in Scrivener. I love index cards, so what’s not to love about index cards inside a computer program?

The Bottom Line

I recommend Scrivener for large projects. I will continue to use Word for my freelance work, and possibly for short stories as well. These are the projects that don’t require all the bells and whistles of Scrivener.

Right now, I am working with Scrivener to outline an idea for a new novel. I don’t have any intention of starting another novel so soon after NaNoWriMo. I started planning because I had the idea on the day I downloaded Scrivener and wanted to play a little.

Be prepared to take your time learning your way around Scrivener. It’s definitely worth the initial time investment. I suggest waiting until you’re between projects to make the switch (or at least finished with your current draft).

Writing Mantras

From Buddhist teachings, mantra means any sacred word or syllable used to focus concentration and symbolize spiritual power. Dictionary.com offers the definition “an often repeated word, formula, or phrase.”

I like mantras when I meditate (usually “peace” or “harmony”), and I also like mantras when I write. There are three writing mantras of particular relevance to me. They are:

Make something happen. Maybe pages of happy people in happy places doing happy things appeal to some readers. I am not one of those. If nothing is happening in a book I’m reading, I put it down and find something else to do. In my writing, if my characters are locked into a lengthy argument or conversation or are just doing nothing, it’s time for a pie to hit someone’s face (literally or figuratively).

Make things worse. Going back to those happy people in happy places doing happy things…well, who cares? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see how they get their happiness back after being miserable in a lousy place where bad shit happens? I like to see my characters struggle. Maybe it’s a bit evil of me, because I keep making their lot in life worse until rock bottom is reached. (This is also why I have occasional nightmares about my characters coming to life – because if they do, chances are, they are coming to administer a beat down because I make their fictional lives hell.)

What would Hiaasen do? Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite writers because his characters are completely whacked and yet totally plausible. Take Yancy from Bad Monkey – the pot-smoking disgraced detective who assaulted his lover’s husband with a shop vac. Hey, this could happen, right? Anyway, my goal in life is to create Hiaasen-like characters. That’s why I have a sticky note on the desk right above the monitor that says “what would Hiaasen do?”

Do you have a writing mantra? Please share in the comments.

NaNoWriMo Review

Before starting National Novel Writing Month I believed I would learn a lot about my writing process from 30 days of speed writing. I was right. I did learn quite a bit. Whether you buy into the concept of writing an entire novel in a month or not, the volume of writing is good practice. I do want to remind everyone that this process will result in a rough draft, not a FINISHED novel. At the end of NaNoWriMo, you still have plenty of work to do. So please, edit that thing before making it available on Kindle.

NaNoWriMo teaches writers:

How to focus on a topic – For the month of November, it’s all about your novel.

How to meet deadlines – In this case, 50,000 words in 30 days. No excuses accepted and no extensions given.

How to procrastinate – There are many categories in the discussion threads just for this purpose

How to support other writers – Those discussion threads again! They have a number of topics for you to shout out things like reaching a word count milestone or when you’re stuck. It’s nice to be able to connect with other writers to receive a pat on the back or a kick in the butt as needed.

There are plenty of things I don’t like about NaNoWriMo as well. Among those:

It encourages people to wait for November to start writing. We all know the rules. Writers write. All the time. We don’t start writing like we start a diet – after the holidays. We start whenever we damn well want to.

It causes an obsession with word counts, which leads to flabby, bloated drafts that need extensive editing because of the temptation to add extra words to pad your word count. Chris Baty actually gives instructions on how to do this in his book, No Plot? No Problem. Stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do when the goal is quality writing. (Just like using the word “stupid” three times was a stupid way to illustrate my point.)

Many people drop out because of the one-size-fits-all goal of 50,000 words. I believe it’s more important to write, preferably daily, whether it’s 100 words or 10,000 per day. Writers are all different. The goals that work for me may not work for you. I think some people get behind and figure they won’t be able to reach the goal, so why bother to continue?

I hated the pep talks. Most were rambling and unfocused and the worst of those were a way for the writer to brag about having such and such book published. I actually stopped reading the pep talks in the second week.

Two things I am not going to do in the future relating to NaNoWriMo:

I’m not going to spend hours of my valuable writing time persuading others that it’s absolutely necessary to participate.

And I’m not going to spend hours of my valuable writing time persuading others that NaNoWriMo is wrong and should be avoided at all costs.

Will I participate again? Right now I say probably not, though I may change my mind between now and next year. It was fun, I finished the novel I started, and I made a couple of good writer friends. I just have to wait and see how I feel about it next fall.

Giving Thanks

I’m avoiding the insanity of shopping today. Sure, I might miss out on a “good deal” or two, but who cares?

What I will do today is spend some time thinking of all the things I am thankful for this year. And most of all, I am thankful for writing. I’m thankful that I have the ability and the time to spend putting words on paper (or the computer screen). I’m very thankful that with all the options available, my readers choose to read my blog. And I’m thankful to all my fellow writers who write interesting and thoughtful blog entries and books and emails that inspire me every day.

Writing has changed from a pastime for me to a full-time occupation. It would be stretching the truth to say I’m grateful that I hurt my back even if it did put me out of work and give me the time to spend on my writing. But I am grateful for the opportunity to really focus on what I love to do. The past few months have made me realize there are many ways to write that I had never even considered before.

Today, I’m focusing on my gratitude for all of the above in a way I had no time for yesterday, what with cooking a turkey and all.

Thank you to all my readers and followers here on my blog and on Twitter or Google +. I appreciate you every day.

Bad Writing Days

First, a big apology – this should have posted yesterday, but I somehow managed to schedule the post for a completely different date. I blame NaNoWriMo – and by the way, my NaNo Novel is at 51,600 words as of yesterday!

Bad Writing Days. These are the ones where you find yourself in front of the computer at 3PM in food-stained pajamas with a bottle of scotch and no glass. Your characters flatly refuse to do what you tell them to, which is totally not fair because if it weren’t for you, those characters would still be dancing around in the dark cobwebbed recesses of your brain and not taking on the strange reality of being a character in a novel.

Just thinking about Bad Writing Days gives me chills. Or maybe that’s just the draft from the window by my desk.

Sometimes on Bad Writing Days, you write a lot, but it all sucks so much that you delete it later. I’m not a big fan of this approach. I prefer to believe you can always edit and revise shitty writing, but you can’t fix a blank page. So maybe you save one word out of ten, and that word was “the” but it’s still one more word added to your work in process and your complete body of work.

Bad Writing Days are hard to fix, with you mopping your tears with toilet paper (because you ran out of Kleenex two days ago) and all. But it can be done. First, put away the bottle of scotch. Second, shut off your computer.

Take a walk or a nap. If you’re having a Really Bad Writing Day, do both.

Find a book that you detest because it’s poorly written. My personal pet peeve is a “floating” point of view where you’re never quite sure who is thinking the thoughts the author put on the page. Open it at random and read a bit. Pissed off yet? Good.

Rewrite the scene that you just read until you believe from the bottom of your heart it’s better than what was written by the bestselling author of the original version.

Now, take the sense of satisfaction you gained because you now believe you’re a better writer than (insert bestselling author’s name here) and go back to your writing.

Feel better?

Good Writing Days

Every writer loves Good Writing Days. You get up early and knock out 1500 words on one cup of coffee, but instead of getting up for more coffee, you just keep writing. Nothing distracts you, for on a Good Writing Day you are a creative writing animal (thanks to Athena Shultz for the “creative writing animal” phrase). Nothing distracts you, you’re in the zone, ideas fly at you so fast you actually have trouble keeping up with them. The words flow effortlessly and when you read your work later, you marvel because it’s pretty damn good!

I wish I had more of those days. If I did, I would have NaNoWriMo in the bag already, and it’s only the 22nd.

On Good Writing Days, you proudly declare yourself A Writer, and announce that you will be a writer forever.

You feel so good on Good Writing Days that you fearlessly send your work off to competitions and agents and editors, because why would they NOT want to reward/work with an awesome writer such as yourself? Your inner editor is suspiciously absent, and you can actually get on with work without his idiotic input about your writing process as well as the material you are producing.

On a Good Writing Day, I wrote an entire business plan for my writing (fiction and freelance) and actually started to follow it.

Good Writing Days are good for revisions, too. You look at the rough draft you are about to attack with a machete and flame-thrower and realize, hey, this has some merit. I think I’m going to…and then you’re back at the keyboard, making life worse for your characters.

If I could create a pill that would cause an instant Good Writing Day, I would do it.

On the other hand, if I had too many Good Writing Days, my characters might stop being weirdly psychotic and become bland, generic, and interchangeable, like those of a certain bestselling author whose name I will not mention. I love Good Writing Days, and I would like to have more of them.

Next step? In Monday’s post I’ll take a look at Bad Writing Days and share a few tips on how to make those days better.