“Helpful advice”…

…that doesn’t work for me.

I’ll begin with the sites/challenges that are suppose to kick-start you into writing and then keep you going until the novel or whatever is finished. NaNoWriMo is the most famous but someone urged me to try April Fools when I found it hard to get going again after a hospital experience.

I have to say that April Fools did the trick and having ‘publicly’ committed myself to a goal, I couldn’t face not attempting it. You set your own wordcount for this one and I set 15000 words for April, the minimum needed for a fanfic challenge I’d signed up to. I made the 15000 in eight days, though the story told me it wanted over 20000 words to tell itself properly, thank you. So in a very real way, I’m grateful, both to April Fools and to the friend who sent me there.

However, I think that once actually started, I would have reached my goal faster if I hadn’t got sidetracked into talking to other writers and navigating an almost impenetrable site. I spend quite enough time chatting online as it is and this was a downside of April Fools. Some of the chat was interesting but probably displacement activity. Some of it was inane to say the least and made me wonder whether the people concerned really were writers; I suspect they were teenagers trying to spread their wings for the first time. I imagine NaNoWriMo is similar – I have watched online friends talking about it and have not been tempted to join in. I definitely need the kick-start element but could do without the rest of the package.

I have been hearing about a site called Write or Die, which apparently starts deleting your words if you don’t work hard enough. Another gives you kittens (fluffy pics) if you reach your goals.

These are not what I need. Does anyone know anything different?

Then there are friends who have been raving about various programs designed specifically for writers, sometimes by writers. Scrivener is highly praised. So is yWriter. But when I looked at them I couldn’t think how to use them. After learning all about their multiple components the writer is encouraged to amass vast quantities of notes, and create storyboards, etc. and write all sorts of snippets that can eventually be sewn together into a patchwork quilt/whole work. It sounds to me as if the amount of time spent would be better spent writing.

I don’t work that way. I know writers who do and these programs would no doubt be wonderful for them. I write in a sequence that will eventually, with amendments, be the finished work. I think and write from A to Z and whilst scenes from the middle of a work might swirl in my brain I never commit them to keyboard, even in note form, before their proper time. I have a page of notes to which I add when research dictates, and to which I can refer. I use RoughDraft because I can have all my notes, chapters, etc. open as tabs for swift reference, there is a notepad for temporary needs down the  right hand side of each page, and the spell checker doesn’t try to be nannyish about grammar. I can’t see any reason to change but…

There is a drawback to RoughDraft. It produces documents in .rtf format and my betas seem to prefer Word. So I convert everything and then their comments and typo-finds come back in Word and I convert again. By the time we’ve finished there are glitches galore, caused by the constant re-formatting. Highlighting causes a particular problem but so to some extent does spacing.

Any suggestions?

I hate Word. I hate the way it tries to force writing into its own modes, shoves bullet points and suchlike down my throat, attempts to Americanise dates, and gets in a state about margins etc. I hate the way it’s snarky about grammar when it obviously hasn’t a clue that writers learn the rules and then know when they can ignore them. I’m perfectly aware when I use ‘fractions’ of sentences. I do it for effect. And the Word grammar checker is sometimes really, really wrong. However, Word does spot one of my biggest failings, extra spaces between words. But if they’re at the ends of lines, by the time all the conversions have happened, the spaces creep back.

I tried OpenOffice and prefer it to Word but very few people seem to have it or like it. My main use for it is to download things I want from the internet, such as fanfiction, then converting them to .pdf ready for conversion via Calibre, for my Kindle.

I’m clearly not the kind of writer envisaged by the wordcount challenges or the writing programs. I just don’t function the way they expect.
And yet I still need a helping hand from time to time… or a kick!

My fanfic challenge is now finished – or at least ready for beta – at 28,696 words written over 14 days. Now I need to get on with either some original fic rewrites or some more research into self publishing.

11 thoughts on ““Helpful advice”…

  1. When I got writer’s block I decided I’d force myself to write 100 words a day of a project I called Majorca Flats, no matter how difficult. And I started by counting the words — 77, 85, 99, 102! Yay! But within a week or two I was doing 500 plus a day and having to count them because each episode of Majorca Flats was getting too long!

    And I **hate** WORD. I much prefer Open Orifice, especially the very handy feature that remembers where you were in your novel, so you don’t have to scroll thru pages and pages and pages to get to where the manuscript ends. OO is also indispensable for uploads to Wilde Oats. WORD is filled with hidden characters which play havoc with web page layouts. So I take WORD manuscripts, copy them into OO, delete hidden characters, and *then* move them across into Kompozer for formatting and uploading.

    • That’s really interesting! I wonder why it is that so many publishers want Word documents. I didn’t know about the bookmarking system in OpenOffice but I tend to write each chapter as a separate document anyway then import them all into one at the end. That way, with RoughDraft, I can have previous chapters open in tabs for referring back to minor details – doesn’t *always* work but it can prevent some idiotic mistakes.

      I’m not sure I could have forced myself to write even 100 words without outside help. The story was quite clear in my head but I couldn’t motivate myself to touch the keyboard. It was a kind of lack of confidence caused (in retrospect) by health issues, but knowing I had to get a minimum of 15k words written ‘allowed’ me to write them even if they were going to turn out to be nonsense. And once I started, my ‘normal’ 2k per day plus the confidence soon came back. Fortunately, this was fanfic and will be posted at the appropriate time. If it was original fic I would be back at the ‘submission/publishing block’ stage.

  2. I would have reached my goal faster if I hadn’t got sidetracked into talking to other writers and navigating an almost impenetrable site
    Yeah, sounds familiar. Every time when I have something to start/finish, I let time run at reading some forum I’m not even registered on.

    a site called Write or Die, which apparently starts deleting your words if you don’t work hard enough
    Doesn’t deserve more intelligent comment…

    *cough* Well, after all years still I haven’t discovered that Word grammar checker which people complain about. *g* I suppose it’s turned off in every next copy I use, and I’m the last person to try and look for that, I’ve enough of irritation with the vocabulary checker. I don’t turn it off, cause it’s useful for typos, but I tend to use plenty of rarities and private neologisms, so I’m sort of used to my documents all red… But the worst devilish invention ever is the auto correct, the one that is so horribly helpful and changes your i to I, and so on, without asking, and even deleting them of the correct list or turning all the thing off often doesn’t help against that damned spy…

    As for Open Office, the only thing I like in it is the button for highlighting of the all document. And it has really hopeless embedding of pictures.

    • Yes. auto-correct is from hell. I seem to manage to turn it off – but just occasionally it creeps back on again. Tryng to write or even copy out some styles of poetry on Word is simply impossible! I could tell you how to find the grammar checker but I won’t inflict that on you… I like the ‘export as .pdf’ on OpenOffice but I know what you mean about the pictures. I still like RoughDraft best for writing and then I convert if people want me to afterwards.

      I checked Write or Die and it appears you can choose gentler reminders than having your work deleted, but I still don’t think I need it!

      I do spend a lot of time on social networking but I don’t regret that. It gets me friends and inspiration and advice and leads me to fascinating things to read or look at. And of course part of a writer’s ‘job’ is to read and talk. But that’s the kind of social networking with people like you and others who have commented on this blog. The kind I came across on the April Fools site didn’t seem to be leading to anything much – just wordcount competition and congratulations. So it was time consuming without any reward. If I found it hard to achieve a good wordcount I might find it helpful. So why did I join? Because I couldn’t get *started* – and it did that for me. So then I felt somehow obliged to join in… and yet I didn’t get to know anyone.

      • I use Word for .doc –> .pdf, there’s Acrobat plug-in for it. I vaguely remember that I needed to install it, but I’m absolutely sure it was free. However, when I’ve checked Acrobat site now, it seems there’s no free plug-ins anymore…? Or I just overlooked it in quick browsing.

        occasionally it creeps back on again
        This. It’s one of the most annoying things with comps and the Net in general: systems being so awfully helpful and thinking for an user. Dear Google, pretty please, get off with your stubborn choosing of safe & babies-allowed & memory-straining & not-English settings for me, I’m NOT obliged for that and never was. Disney’s official pages are even much worse, Google at least lets switch back, but Disney redirects forcibly, in spite of a million and one tricks tried against it. And what if I have a passing whim of getting info from the Arabic version? Just who’s in power of MY comp, and why it’s not me?

        What you say, seems similar to what I noticed about difference between sites which I feel as communities, and ones I feel not, even if I’m registered on them, and even if they’re intended as communities and work so for other people. LJ definitely feels like a community, but I’ve never truly come into blogospheres of other systems, even if I watch them. Also Polish version of Goodreads remains just a colorful plaything for me, not a social network, no matter how others feel it. Some things just spark for me, and others don’t.

      • Well, OpenOffice converts to .pdf as a default setting – it’s in the file menu.

        I hate Google being nannyish and I hate the way it asks if I meant this person instead of that – as if I didn’t know who I was writing to. I don’t know a Disney site – is that maybe just in your part of Europe?

        I tried Goodreads but wasn’t thrilled. I love the interaction of LJ and DW but I’m hoping WordPress gives me wider ‘exposure’ – especially when I get as far as publishing.

  3. I don’t know a Disney site – is that maybe just in your part of Europe?
    Hard to say, it’s just you can’t get the site of any movie from official sites like this…
    …without redirecting to the chosen language. Disney’s choice, of course. Phew… Quite annoying, when you try to reach things available only on one particular version, but not on others… I rarely need something from official Disney, but still it shouldn’t work so.

    • Oh I see! So if i was trying to research something when I’m in Portugal they’d insist on giving me a Portuguese version!!!!! That’s bizarre – don’t they know people do things like travelling? If I want movie info I always use IMDb – http://www.imdb.com/ – but of course that’s in English by default and I’m usually looking things up when I’m in England.

      • of course that’s in English by default
        It was. Now it has default language versions too (partially, just the titles are changed). And YT from time to time tries the trick “Hello! We’ve set the special version for your country, no need to thanks!”, or something like this. Fortunately, it can be undone too, at least as yet. In the first day Wikipedia stops me from choosing languages, I’ll howl to the moon…

  4. I can’t do NANOWRIMO or those other writing programs. I’ve tried. I failed. I work at my own pace, with my drafts my own affair thank you very much. I can’t help it.

    In other news, I am seriously considering trying to get into contact with some authors about guest posts/interviews on my blog. Thoughts? Would you find this helpful? What sort of writers/ideas would you be interested in?

    • I work at my own pace too. Just, this time, I wasn’t getting started even though the entire story was planned and all the research was done. Once the first word hit the keyboard I was up and running.

      i saw your call on DW and your later shock/horror that nobody had responded. The trouble is, there are so many writers out there. Personally I follow a lot of blogs and have quite a few websites bookmarked – my favourite authors are very good at telling us all about themselves and their writing and they are also very generous in their interactions with fans. ( I also count a few published fantasy authors among my online and real life friends.) If I got the chance to go and hear them/meet them live, then I would, but as guest bloggers I doubt I would get any more from them than I do already. Writers I know less well might be really interesting, and if you presented them I would read what they had to say, but I wouldn’t be requesting them or asking specific questions in advance. I wonder if my own attitude reflects the feelings of a number of your readers? In other words, go and invite people who interest you, because after all it’s your blog we’re talking about – they will probably interest the rest of us. And they will probably be delighted to be invited because guest blogging is wonderful advertising and also they will be flattered.

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