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Estonian speller

I made myself a gift today. Something I should have done nearly a year ago, but for some reason I didn’t. I got myself Estonian speller, thesaurus and divider for MS Word 2007.

It’s just I spent nearly half of the time when writing on going back and researching the words I made mistakes in. So now I should have faster typing speed. I searched other options and free options, but couldn’t find any. So… I ironglad my heart and bought it. It better be worth the money!

 Like that means I’ve reached to absolute writing world. Unfortunately I have not. I’m still bothered by the story so far and keep getting the red flag that I’m not really writing the story right or that the characters give the wrong impression and not the hiding-for-the-future, but not-what-I-want-at-all kind. It’s so irritating. Perhaps I’ve overdone with the idea and need to go back to the basics. Ugh! I need wallpaper roll! And then start the story over. Perhaps… hmm!

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Where book about tattoos meets Dalai Lama’s speach

When I think on where I receive my ideas, I often return to few sources – library, friends, family and media. This pretty much takes together my entire world, because that’s where one gets their ideas. But about my latest? Before I can talk about the latest, I ought to explain how it works for me.

The simplest of rule is: Write down everything that makes you think twice! I recall it from several books dealing with writing, but actually practicing is what makes it work for me. I always carry a notebook around for this purpose and this can result in pages filled with oddities that have caught my eyes, ears or mouth. Going through the material might not give me the full idea later on, but it’s the key to unlock the mystery again. Nor is it usable for anyone, who hasn’t thought the thought themselves.

Yesterday morning resulted then the following:

She didn’t know he had sleeve tattoos. Both arms. Now that she knew, it was hard to concentrate on the meeting – her mind was invaded by images of his patterned flesh under the clean cotton shirt. The smooth skin caressed by the rough fabric sent goose pumps all over her body and she nearly broke the pencil.

He had ran pass her yesterday, after the woman, who so carelessly had pulled her documents on the floor. The blond woman hadn’t stopped, ran straight to the waiting taxi and drove away. He had run right after her, but missed her. The rain soaked his shirt and vest, gluing the fabric on his skin and revealing the hidden secret under his always perfect cotton armor. The always-perfect boss had both his arms covered with tattoos! She knew better to hide behind the bush, getting herself all wet – but she had no wish to betray herself with the umbrella. He had bad temper and even worse when caught off guard. But fortunately he had passed with not a glance to her direction. She promised never again leave late again, especially when it was heavily raining – that proved especially harmful.

At least her brain had worked then, not like now, when she couldn’t even keep pencil on place. She tried concentrating to her notes.

He hadn’t seen her then, but she betrayed herself with her changed attitude and lack of concentrated and it puzzled him.

This was sparked by tattoo art book I saw in the library, sitting on the shelf, which I wasn’t suppose to touch. I was there to study after all. But the wonderful sleeve tattoo on front cover wouldn’t leave me be and after I saw this guy in perfect suit walk by, with “it must feel good to be so clean and smell like linen closet” echoing through my scull I reached my hand for pen and paper. Then I put it aside.

A woman is called aside by the airport security and said she can’t continue her journey before she undergoes few tests. There is a massive black obstacle at her side and they suspect she’s carrying something in there, drugs most likely. She is shocked, first on suggestion that she carries drugs, on which they continue, seeing how upset she gets, which they think comes from guilt and secondly by the unknown lump in her side.

When they finally get to the hospital, they find out she has a massive tumor in her side.

This came two hours later after I had listened Dalai Lama’s interview with the local news correspondent. How did his message relate to this? I think it was the mentioning of Chinese government being two-faced. Doesn’t connect with them in any way, but it just slipped on the paper from my empty mind.

By the evening I had two notes in front of me – one a situation, other a skeleton. I put it together and started writing out the questions that rose and anything that I could get.

What if the first scene had related from earlier that day, before she took her ticket from the secretary and went to catch the airplane?
What if on this moment she felt compelled to hide her sudden rush in heart, because she senses her boundaries?
Then this sudden surprise at the airport?
Would she go for the chance and start relationship?
She probably wouldn’t like many people to know about this. Such odd news often end up in newspaper, sometimes months after – how would she explain this at work?
How would she explain this to her boss?
What if during this time she discovers why he has the tattoos? Running, hiding, leading?
From here I can continue that the most probable timeline for the story to take place would be around 2 months before it all came out. Even if the tumor wasn’t fatal, it would still make her think twice on missing another chance for happiness and this can lead in recklessness. Which can nicely take her in trouble. From here on it will be logic and research, but the first idea will be written out like it came. The first look may be staggering, seemingly typical story, but here’s the magic of this all – after you’ve written it out, researched the topic for a day or two, recognized the typical ways the story has been dealt, you can twist it to a whole new idea. With every question you ask, you add opportunities and the crossroads always take you to a city or a town.

Yesterday at eight in the evening I ended up with perfectly good looking idea for the story. It may not be written today or the way I first thought about it, but it is a nice conflicted incident that just waits to be untangled. Other ideas come to me pretty much the same way. Sometimes the trigger is a simple woman’s shoe historians find from Roman legion resting place on History channel, other times it’s something my brother sais commenting the news, then again it can be a strange person, who catches my eye. Whatever the trigger,  I opt only for one thing then – paper and pen. We can always sort the ideas later on paper, but our head IS a trash can and searching through that for a small 6 word note would be as good as hiding a Blue Whale in Marian Trench.

***

Today’s post is my response to the prompt What books are your nightstand?, this month’s topic for the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Throughout the month, you can get to know twenty (or so) other writers from various genres and backgrounds and at various places in their careers. Next stop on the tour is Tiberius Clausewitz Drusus Nero Germanicus on August 21st, 2011.

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Interesting places in vast internet

I tried to do a document for FB for myself and others, who showed interest, but failed. Don’t know what I did wrong there, but instead I put it here. Might be useful to someone out there. I didn’t feel adequate to listmania it all on the side bar either.

 I’m planning to add here as I find new links that might prove useful over longer time period.

If anyone knows any good links on map making or character sheets, I’d be very grateful.

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I’m changing my name – Mentally Challenged

Lately I have this monstrous plan in my head to put all my modern story characters to live in one place so I wouldn’t have less work in the future. Background as such is a bit of abstract thing to me, meaning I describe it as I go, but mostly I do it so it could be anywhere. So why not have one place altogether where they could live happily ever after?

The plan itself isn’t so new. I think I was pondering over its usefulness already when building the city for one of my first longer stories. Back then I didn’t pay much attention to it as I needed to create the world for that particular story. Now I feel I’m a bit late with accomplishing it. In a quick peek on what went on and when and putting just the list together of characters, who do fit the profile is enormous. The quick statistic of my story ideas I have worked into possible beginnings I’d like to turn back to shows that I have around 600 characters for about 300 stories. Not included the snippets in my scrap files or stories that are placed in their specific era or background or reality.

On one side it warms my heart that I’m not without a reason thinking of myself as a writer, but on the other side I know it would be monstrous idea to put it all in one file to get statistics on them. Impossible at this point too as I don’t have such time on my hands right now.

What I could do is I can still develop the city itself and add the characters and their living places, etc on the map as I turn back to the stories.

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Card deck/ Idea for any occasion

Note for myself: had a dashing idea the other day. As most divination systems have similarities in their responses, I wondered what would happen if I’d mix them up. If I’d take the tarot as base and find similarities between the systems that use casting and having fixed results (in today’s sense), for example, the runes, witch runes (they are different), I ching, the usual playing cards, ogham etc. just for the fun and see the basics of how they go together and if they go together.

The truth is that I want (after trying it out over and over again) to have somewhat endless book of ideas (like ever get bored in that field!) to use for my writings and see the system behind the system. I still don’t feel 100 percent sure when using the cards I use for divination. It just don’t go well together, like playing with the cards and to me they are not meant for this.

What can I do then? I don’t want another deck to sit in my basket just because I wanted one just for that purpose. All I’ve bought for such purpose end up being my most beloved decks I’ve had. Neither have I found something that would be modern enough yet not related to some specific aspect of ourselves, easy to use for any aspect of the story. I don’t want some self-made cards either where the material is bad or the backside gives away what the card is. So… I searched for slightly different stuff and found blank deck in size of taro cards, with printed background. We’ll see how that works out J

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Krussis paberinutsu

…ehk kuidas mulle selgitati, millist lugu oleks hea lugeda.

“Sa võtad pika pabeririba, kirjutad selle servadesse kõik asjad, mis loost välja tulevad ja kortsutad kokku. Kui sa selle paberi uuesti lahti võtad, näed, kus jooksevad jooned ja kus asjad omavahel kattuvad. Nii lihtne see ongi – nagu krussis pabernutsu.”

Vägev!

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Using Excel in your writing process

All right!

 I tried to explain a friend of mine, a very dashing young writer, how I work. She was telling me of all the wonderful programs out there and what she could do with them and how it is keeping her back in her creativity that she isn’t able to buy the program. So I asked of her, what did she have?

“Nothing but Office,” she said.

I smiled and said that’s all I’ve ever worked with. And paper and pen, naturally.

“But Word doesn’t have the card system or the character sheets or…”

But you say you have an office, I reminded her. Office is adorable little thing, really. It also has Excel and Powerpoint, Publisher and Access (which, unfortunately was too complicated for me). On the other hand, Excel is not so hard to manage (take a booklet they are selling and it gives you all the basics you need) and Powerpoint is just as simple if you take few evening to toy around with it.

I only use Word and Excel.

“And how does it work then?”

As she already knows the basics, I’ll skip that, but here’s few ideas how to take most of what you’ve got. All pictures will pop up big if you click on them.

This is how my normal workbooks looks like. Lots of sheets, color coded (like character related – blue, places – green, background – yellow) and named. Too neat? If you are in the middle of the writing, you do not have time to search through everything. So, neatness first. Or more like little organized mess. I tend to put all the information in one work book per story. This way I can always go between information without messing it up with another.

Character sheet.  Two things to remember. 1. put the things you need the most first. I know it’s lovely to know all the eye colors and star signs, but unless it comes up in the story, leave it to the end of the list. There is more important information.

2. Color code your character groups. Here I have a group of people, who attend a regular meeting and another, which is two people, who make up a family. Don’t be shy to use colors. Just as long as you remember, what they are. The lists is reversable, too. Like if you have many characters, put them in the first line and all their fact list in the first row. Depends on your own need. I like to do it this way.

Dictionary! Especially if you write fantasy of any sort. You’ll have tons of races, animals, plants… you name it. Make one page purely for dictionary. It should have at least three things: name you use for it in you story, if it has exact synonym and how you describe that thing. Everything else is extra. But you’ll need it while editing – you can then check back if the person reading it would understand it the same way if you used your description.

Story itself. Only if you can work by an outline. I like using Excel for this especially, because mine tend to get down to 600-700 lines and in Excel it’s easier to organize it or to add lines in between your work. Number 1 here shows that I like crunching the rows together.  Number 2 is Date. You can add it in front without any problem and manage it while you write or after. No problems like “I changed one date and the whole story is smashed potatoes now with added cabbage”. And number 3 shows exactly how it works. The skeleton is simple. The first is the scene you write, the second is developing it further, the third is the ide you wish to give and the next notes you need to check out in order to bring the idea through or just a note you need to consider. I like writing there the questions that rise up. Like if he had a ring to toss at her or not.

Number 4 was already explained.

I would like to say though that this works well as notecards, too. Leave a line between each group and when you print it out (prepare to be amazed –  this can get very long), they are neatly grouped and easy to access. Plus you have room for extra notes (which you can type in later and print the clean work out). I like writing so that I have the outline on paper, but having it in this kind of file means I can access it easily at any computer thus it isn’t really so important to print it.

Dating your lovely story.

I know how hard can be finding the right calendar for your story and constantly reminding yourself, where it is. Why not create one for the whole time the story takes place? Is the timezone around 2 weeks? Make one for two weeks.
Number 1 here stands for the data information. 2. Color code weeks so they are easier to recognize. 3. Date of that day. 4. The red X shows what had been written in the story at that point of work. It works like a check list – this way you see, what you are still missing, too.

Same kind of table with variation. Sometimes your story takes place in longer time period or you just need to know what came before, during and after and what background is like. Researching newspapers about particular days, etc. It’s nice if you have a table formed for this, where you can write down the time and event taking place both in the story and in real time. Gives an interesting level to what you already have.

Who is related to who? Heaven knows! Oh, wait – you are that god.

This is what it looked like when I was writing about a small village with about 200 vacant. Relationships in a small village are cramped and hard to follow, so make yourself a map. Again, color code the families and customize your lines according to your needs. But it’s easy to make. It only took me an hour to make this one and the rest of the groups not shown here. If printed it’s actually about 6 pages.

The same thing works fantastically for building family trees. And looks pretty much the same. 

Again related to the issue of knowing what took place when. The same problem rises also with characters. This page is from a story, where is important the connections the people have throughout the years. I tried working the problem out with simple math and failed miserably, couldn’t be sure exactly if I was right. So I created something like this. A simple collection of characters and how old they were on which year table. I’m a visual note taker. The zero here shows the year of birth.

This table also gives you control over knowing how old your character was when they did one thing or another. Like if your character mentions that he was 6 when he saw the criminal, who was around 20s at that time, you can immediately check if the fact holds up. Or the man was lying and was actually 16 and the man he’s blaming was younger than he was during that particular year. You don’t think on these things during your writing, but it’s easier to edit if you already know it ahead.

 You need room’s plan? Crunch some rows together and you get the lovely paper you can draw on with simple function like Draw a line and Fill in the Color. I tend to write a room descriptions in my notebooks first and see how they sound. After that I make a simple plan for it. Nothing fancy.

Works also for house plans with separated apartments, landscapes, measuring stuff…

And the last, but not the least. Statistics. If you make yourself a plan that you need to write some exact number of words per day to finish in time (like during NaNoWriMo), then statistics are great. This here took some effort and errors though and is slightly higher knowledge, but nothing one can’t do if doesn’t put their mind on it.

Forgot to mention that charts are fantastic and definitely worth learning. I use them to check if the story seems balanced in age groups (if not, the one that isn’t pops right out) or if the hights are random enough (or they all look like 1.8 m models), etc.

Something like on this chart here. Odd world that consists only one 64 year old character and punch of youngsters.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what program you use as long as you take most of it. Excel is often overlooked by writers, because it’s really meant for works that deal with statistics, accounting, etc. I’ve found it to be just as useful as those special programs that have sprouted like mushrooms after rain. All you need is your imagination and need. If there’s need, there will be a way.

Thank you for reading and good writing!

This article did appear in my other blog before this one.

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