My Software Tools

I haven’t tried any new software for awhile. Mostly because I have what I need and playing around for a review is quite time consuming. Especially when I end up having to transfer the information back and forth. Instead of a software review, I’m going to offer a list of my tools as well as go through my creation process using those tools. 🙂

Once I’m ready to really break into a piece of work, I start with Character Writer (reviewed Part One April 14, 2010 and Part Two May 12, 2010). I absolutely love this program. By the time I finish running through the prompts, my characters have enough personality my husband gets angry when I invite them for dinner. Besides the character development feature, it also has a plotting tool. Oh how I heart the plotting feature. It’s not in-depth, but helps ensure I have a beginning, middle, and end plus plot points. I’m still searching for a program that’ll help me expand in detail. Power Structure (reviewed November 3, 2010) wasn’t too bad, but the mechanics of it didn’t quite fit my style.

So I have my characters and plot, what’s next? Writing of course. For that, I turn to StoryBox (reviewed June 16, 2010 and October 6, 2010). This software has come a long way since I reviewed it six months ago, and Mark Fassett is constantly adding new features. StoryBox is heavily influenced by Scrivener (previously only for Mac but now in beta for PC users). I took a look at Scrivener last month (didn’t toy around with it too much) and see a lot of similarities. Using StoryBox instead of MS Word has simplified my writing process. I’m able to flip through chapters, scenes, outlines, and storyboards quickly, making searches simple. Anyone who’s dealt with a 80k document in MS Word knows what a pain it is. Or worse, keeping each chapter/scene in a separate document and searching for the right file. Oh bother. I still venture outside StoryBox for grammar and spelling checks (spelling check is included but doesn’t quite work the way I want yet), but for the most part, my stories have found a comfortable home with this product.

Next stop, editing. This is really a me versus words kind of deal. But once I’m fairly satisfied with a scene, I run it through AutoCrit (reviewed March 31, 2010).The online tool has made me more aware of my problematic areas and helped me vary my writing a bit more. Love it, love it, love it! I do a little tweaking with the AutoCrit recommendations at my side then pull out my last tool. Text-to-speech.

There are a lot of programs available, but I’m a bit of a cheapskate financially conservative. Originally, I used a macro in MS Word. You can find one on the web and create your own. Just google “text to speech macro word.” Most recently, Mark Fassett added the text-to-speech feature to StoryBox. So once again, I find myself happily sitting in his software. So what’s the deal with text-to-speech? Editing one’s own work is difficult. We expect to see/read what we meant to write. With text-to-speech, the writer hears what he/she actually wrote. I find it invaluable for catching errors.

That’s pretty much my writing process with the tools I use. Besides those, I also have a few miscellaneous products I find useful. First up StoryBook (reviewed May 5, 2010). My ideas come in series. With StoryBook, I’m able to keep all my ideas in one document and make sure the plots and characters mesh correctly. No resurrecting dead folks because I forgot they kicked the bucket. And since I’m one to change character names midstream, having a reference point doesn’t hurt either.

Then there’s my newest toy, WordWeb (reviewed October 27, 2010). My precious. This tool eliminates the need to copy and paste to word or Visuwords (reviewed April 21, 2010) for a thesaurus. WordWeb runs in the background and pops up whenever I hit the designated shortcut keys. Doesn’t matter which application I’m using. WordWeb is always at my beck and call.

So that sums it up for me. For those who want to try out some of these tools, all of them offer a try-before-you-buy option.

What software tools do you use in your writing process? Anyone have a plotting software tool they swear by?

Hang on to Your Seats

My first and only COMPLETE novel, Shadow Cat I wrote by the seat of my pants. Sometimes it amazes me I managed to write it from start to finish. Honestly, I don’t know how I did it. I don’t even remember the process. I had an idea which led me to the start of the book. Next thing I know I’m at the climax and thinking it’s time to wrap this thing up.

Of course there were some plot issues with the book. I’ve tried fix them and hope I have. I started a few more books by the seat of my pants and made some decent progress since then. After reaching some points which ended in the question: What next? I decided to try a little plotting.

I love plotting! I’ve got a three act method set up which is just wicked awesome. I replotted some of the ones I started and plotted a few more ideas I’ve had in the meantime. Only thing, plotting doesn’t really motivate me actually write the story. So I have all these great stories (yes I’m subjective to my own ideas) ready to be written but no ghost writer to do the deed. What gives?

So here’s to finding the motivation to write the actual stories. <sigh>

So what about you? Pantseater or Plotter? Have any advice to writers as far as methods?

Head Popping

Before I start, let me say most of my short writing career is in romance. I’m not at all familiar with other genres, so I can’t so the idea of head popping applies to them. Although, I think they should at least in some part.

In my mind, romance is a highly emotional genre. A decent romance draws the reader into the story and creates an empathetic bond between reader and character. Part of achieving this affect is to use a deep point of view (POV). That means being deep into the head of the character—knowing what the character is feeling, his/her motivation, and experiences with the world.

Head popping interferes with this concept. So what is head popping? Head popping is changing the POV to the point it’s difficult to determine who exactly is doing the thinking. Other times it prevents the reader from really forming that connection with the character. Sometimes its subtle, sometime obvious. I feel like I’m rambling, so I’ll just give an example of head popping.

Bryan checked his watch. Two thirteen—just enough time to catch the next subway. He paid the toll and walked onto the platform. A woman rushed past. He jumped back, but not before she jostled him to the side, knocking him into the wall.

“Excuse me.” She glanced over her shoulder without missing a step. Her red cropped hair fanned in a semi-circle as she turned away.

“Watch it,” he called after her.

“You watch it.” Mandy pushed through the crowd. She knew that little street rat had to be here somewhere. The little punk had snatched her cell phone right out of her hand.

“Some people.” Bryan straightened his clothes and took his place amongst the throngs. The train approached, the low buzz growing louder as it screeched to a stop in the tunnel. He shuffled forward, just part of the crowd.

Okay. So, we start in Bryan’s POV. Then somehow the story pops into Mandy’s POV before switching back to Bryan’s again. That’s head popping. If we’re in Bryan’s POV, we should NEVER EVER know what Mandy is thinking unless she says it aloud. Furthermore, we shouldn’t even know Mandy’s name, since it wasn’t introduced to Bryan.

Let’s use the same example, but make the shift in POV a little more subtle. Just going to truncate it a bit.

“Watch it,” he called after her.

“You watch it.” The aggressive redheaded pushed through the crowd to make her way to the front.

“Some people.” Bryan straightened his clothes and took his place amongst the throngs.

The underlined phrase, just that little slip switched to Mandy’s POV. I see it all the time. Bryan does not know why she’s  pushing through the crowd, he’s just assuming. Substituting the underlined with “and made her way to the front” or just deleting it would fix that issue. While in deep POV, the MC doesn’t see the intent of others, he/she only sees the actions.

So that’s it for now. Later, I hope to talk about writing styles which distance the reader from the story—a trait a writer does not want to do. Stay tuned for my weekly Friday posts.

Working in First Person

Last week, I read Catch Me If You Can by LB Gregg, written in first person. You can read my review of it here.I spent the entire day reading instead of writing. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t even type a single word. But I have to admit, reading it was extremely productive.

One of the pieces of advice new writers receive is to read, read, read. It’s absolutely true. I’ve been working on a novel in first person narrative lately, and honestly it’s fallen kind of flat. The storyline, I love. The direction it’s going is wonderful. But honestly, the reading isn’t as lively as I’d like. I even have parts in it that I know I need to cut (entire scenes). It just wasn’t doing it for me.

Then I picked up Catch Me If You Can and another novel Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon, both written in first person. I immediately knew what my narrative missed…internal dialogue. Now I’m not an expert, so take this for what it is. I think internal dialogue is one of the benefits of writing in first person.

With third person it’s show, show, show. If your character feels a certain way, show it–let the dialogue and actions speak for themselves. With first person, I think it’s okay to tell a little. Now when I say tell, I don’t mean tell the whole story, I meant tell what your character is thinking, but in a showy type of way. I’d been so stuck on just showing, I missed the internal dialogue…how does my character feel about the situation regardless of the emotions she’s trying to portray.

To me, third person is transparent, or it should be. The characters wear their thoughts and emotions on their sleeves, even if the hints are just hints. First person is more personal. Sure you see the transparency of the minor characters, but you also get an internal perspective of the main character. I need to concentrate on writing again. But before I edit the novel, I’m certain to read another first person novel as a reminder.