Learning a New Language

A new dawn and a new experience
A new dawn and a new experience

I admit that I am not great at learning languages. I have added it up and it seems I have taken eight years of Spanish. However, the only Spanish I remember is what I learned from Sesame Street when I was three. Since then I have given up. If I ever travel to countries that don’t speak English I’ll go with an interpreter. I don’t see the point in trying to learn something that I will never figure out. My father had a sign in his office that read, “Never teach a pig to sing, It will just frustrate you and annoy the pig.” Exactly.

But hope springs eternal so I am learning a new language. There is something different about this language though, which is why I think I might succeed this time. This language is not spoken or heard, it is only written in logical and distinct patterns. I’m pretty good at writing and I can understand logic and patterns so I am giving it a try. What is this language I am learning? Html and css. The language of the internet.

There are actually lots of computer languages but I am starting at the beginning. I found a website called codecademy.com. It is a free program that walks you through learning html. There are exercises to reinforce what you learn and badges to reward your efforts. I have actually learned quite a bit in the three days I have been taking lessons. It looks promising.

Why do I want to learn html and css? Because I have ideas for my websites and I can’t seem to figure out how to create them. I want more than what the template provides. By learning html and css I can improve what I send out on the internet and perhaps even help other people do the same. There are lots of web designers out there but I don’t know any so maybe I could help my circle of friends. If nothing else I will be one step closer to using a 3d printer (a huge dream of mine.)

Whenever I take a class I feel like my brain is going to explode. It feels good to expand my knowledge, especially in an area I feel totally clueless about. So stay tuned. Perhaps I’ll become the next Bill Gates. No, probably not.

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary numerals, and those who don’t.”  ― Ian Stewart, Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities    

Camp Nanowrimo is Half Over

Wally 2It used to be that National Novel Writing Month was a once a year event. It happened in November and everyone involved wrote 50,000 words. Now there are three events. Nanowrimo is still in November and is still 50,000 words. It is like the king of writing events. But now you can participate in two more low-key events known as Camp Nanowrimo. These events take place in April, and either July or August. Yes, Camp Nanowrimo is happening right now. Hooray!

I like Camp Nanowrimo because I get to pick my goal. I can choose to write a certain number of words or to edit something already written. I always choose to write something new because I like the satisfaction of reaching my word goal every day. So what is my goal for this Camp Nanowrimo?

I am working on the sequel to the book I wrote last November for Nanowrimo. This is book two in a trilogy. I will write book three at summer Camp Nanowrimo. Since I am going to be away from a computer for more than a week in April I decided to set my goal for 30,000 words. The book will be longer than that and I am hoping to finish this book before the end of the month, but I felt 30,000 words was a reasonable goal.

Book 2 takes place three years after book 1. My heroes are now 13 years old and are about to explore other outposts in my parallel universe. I am really excited to write this book because they are going to Tibet and are meeting an older Kim. Hooray! Kim from Kipling’s book will be in my book. He is always hopping into books that are not his. If you want to read a fantastic book featuring a search for Kim read The Game by Laurie R. King. And don’t stop there. Read every book she’s ever written. Her stories are amazing.

“No need to listen for the fall. This is the world’s end.”      Rudyard Kipling, Kim    

The title of book 2 is Listening for the Fall. I took it from a quote by Kim. Since the book takes place in Tibet and has to do with gravity decreasing I felt there were lots of ways to use the word “fall.”

The next Camp Nanowrimo is in July or August depending on when you want to sign up. Why not tie up your internal editor and unleash your inner storyteller and write the story you’ve been wanting to tell. Start with 10,000 words for the month. I bet you’ll never stop.

 “This is a brief life, but in its brevity it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.” Rudyard Kipling, Kim

How to Outline Without Outlining

We all have our own style
We all have our own style

I do not outline. I have tried to outline my stories. I have taken classes on outlining my stories. I have read books on outlining my stories, but the fact is I am not an outliner. If I have an entire idea in my head I write and write until I have it out on the page. If I only have a partial idea I write it down and then see where it takes me. I may know how the story will end but I usually have no idea how I am going to get there.

There are lots of opinions on outlining. Some people say it is absolutely necessary. Others say it can be optional. I believe that even though I am incapable of outlining before the story is done it is handy to have an outline after I know what happens in my story.

One way to make an outline for revising purposes is to read the story after it is done and write down the major plot points. I used to do it that way but it felt a lot like the homework I avoided in Jr. High. (For some reason I had teachers who thought outlining the chapter I was reading was a good idea. I disagreed.)

I have now found a way to outline as I write the story which kills two birds with one stone (look, a cliché!) I use the table of contents feature in MS Word and once I am done with the story I have a neat outline that not only gives me notes about the plot but also how many pages each chapter has so I can tell where I need to expand and where I need to cut.

I was going to explain how to set up an table of contents in MS Word but any Dummies Guide can do it better. I will explain that when I start a new chapter I type the chapter number in a Heading 1 style and a short description of the chapter on the next line in Heading 2 style. If I have notes I want to add to the table of contents I type them in the Heading 3 style. As long as I do these three things I am guaranteed to have a complete outline when I am done.

There are lots of writing programs that will outline your story for you. I have considered trying some of them but the truth is MS Word does everything I need so I have decided to save my money and work with what I am familiar with. This applies to all aspects of my writing. I could outline because everyone says to, but I prefer to stick with what works for me. I hope you follow the same rules for your writing. The only rules you should be following are the ones that work for you.

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. ”   E.L. Doctorow

To Write or to Research…

Research can be a never-ending path through a beautiful meadow.
Research can be a never-ending path through a beautiful meadow.

I love to do research on just about any topic, but it doesn’t feel like writing. I know it is part of the publishing process, but when my goal is to put 500 words or more into the computer each day research takes away from that.

Most of my research is done on the internet and the internet is like a bag of Ruffles potato chips with a side of French onion dip. I only plan on eating a few and then next thing I know the bag is empty and I feel awful. With the internet I only plan to look up one thing and then three hours has flown by and I feel guilty. I had a lot of fun, but it didn’t improve my writing.

I am now at a point in one project where I have to do research. A lot of research. As I said I like to do research but right now I’d rather be writing. So I have posted a list next to my laptop to keep me from getting lost in the research. I get lost often and need all the help I can get.

My research plan:

1) Set a timer. I use timers for lots of projects. It stops me from wandering forever.

2) Use the 3-click rule. I didn’t make this up but it works when I remember to use it. Essentially I only click on three links for any one search. If I can’t find my answer after three clicks I probably need to refine my search.

3) Be aware of what you are researching. I made a list of what I need to know so I don’t click on something just because it looks interesting. If I want to look at it later I bookmark it but don’t read it right then.

4) Keep the character in mind. I might find something interesting to me but is it important to my character? If the answer is no then I move on.

5) Do you need more than a tidbit? It may be interesting to learn about the history of the Roman Empire but maybe all I need is the name of one emperor. I try to pick out the one fact and resist the pull of the whole story.

6) Copy and paste. Researching is like picking apples off of trees. I might glance at the apple as I grab it to make sure it’s not rotten but I wouldn’t decide which are pie apples and which are cider apples. I just pick the apples and put them in the basket. During my research I try to not examine any information too carefully. I just bookmark the site or copy and paste the information into a Word document. I can then comb through it later and figure out where the information goes in my story.

With this list I should be able to finish my research in a timely manner and get back to increasing my word count. It would be nice to find a balance because all research does not make Jennifer a published author.

“Research is creating new knowledge.” – Neil Armstrong