Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Story View 2.0 - outlining software on steriods

I've owned my Story View software for years, but never felt comfortable outlining on the computer. Well, along with my cell phone and Kindle, I recently decided to give it a try. It blew me away! I love how I can add scenes into the time line with just a click. Everything simply moves over in an organized manner and is perfect.  There's no more brain strain trying to rearrange events, no more time wasted moving everything around and making sure it fits right.There are no more cumbersome index cards to deal with. Not in my life. I'm hooked. I recommend it to anyone who likes to outline.

Click here for the lowdown and some screen views.

There's also a newer, fancier version available called Outline 4D. Check it out here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Critiquing - do unto others...

Learning the art of critiquing, in my opinion, is an important part of the writing process. Examining another writer's story with an eye for what's working, what isn't and why can help you understand the craft on a deeper level. It does take time to read and critique, but it's time well spent. especially if you're receiving a return critique.

It can be difficult, however, when you read something you really don't like. For me, this is the hardest part. I know what it's like to pour your time and soul into a project. I don't want to hear at the end that it amounts to a pile of rotten beans. Regardless, if it's the truth, it's the kindest critique partners that will come out and say it. It would be much worse to let those smelly legumes out into the world with your name written all over them for everyone to see. A harsh critique is often a blessing. I've come to love people's opinions about my work, both good and bad. It's all helpful. When your main objective is to grow as a writer, you learn to set your ego aside and focus on craft.

When giving a critique, I like to start by telling the author what I liked about their story/writing. Then when I get to the harsh stuff, the stuff that didn't sit well with me, it's not as painful. Hopefully. Also, I always keep in mind my opinions are just that. Opinions. Mine. My way isn't the only way, and just because I don't like something doesn't mean it's wrong.

A critique is always an opinion. Get several people to read the same story, and you'll most likely get several contrasting views. If you get a bunch of people saying the same thing, that's when you know you need to make some changes, or if they all love it, leave it alone. It's usually not so clear, unfortunately. I've had one person tell me they hated something about my writing, and someone else say they love that very thing and that's what makes them like my work. You can't please all the people all the time. Best not to even try. When you get contrasting critiques, take them all into consideration, then decide whether or not you think the advise is worth applying.

One of the best articles I've ever read on giving a diplomatic critique was written by Andrew Burt
for Critters Writers Workshop. I'll add a link to the article here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Staying warm and healthy this winter

I've decided to set my writerly thoughts aside for this post and focus on staying warm. It's not easy this time of year. Not where I live. Here, winter lasts about half the year. The snow is beautiful, it's fun and magical. But it's cold. So I've compiled a list of simple things to help keep circulation moving and warmth generating.

Firstly, eating the right foods is key to both staying warm and healthy during this time of year when Old Man Winter brings cold and disease to our doorsteps. Some wonderful, warming, healing foods are:

mustard greens or seeds

This is by no means a complete list, but plenty to keep warm by. As a general rule, foods that produce heat in the body are pungent and spicy. Winter foods should be cooked for further warmth.

I add turmeric to just about everything I eat right now. It goes on rice, beans, potatoes, in soups... It's delicious in just about everything. And it makes my food a pretty orange color. I've started to steam radishes or put them in soups. Cooking them takes some of the bite away. Also, I use short-grain rice in the colder months because it is denser and supposed to have more heat.  

Exercise can't be ignored here, either. Whether aerobic or  yogic, it moves the blood and lymphatic fluids, important for overall vitality as well as warmth.

Also worth mentioning is Dry Brushing. You can read about the technique here.

I hope all you cold climate dwellers stay healthy and warm this winter.

I'm off to plot!!!