Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Friday Links on Tuesday: Software for Writers

Just about every day I see a post from someone somewhere lauding the latest app or software or online tool that has revolutionized their writing, their workflow, their love life or all of the above. I usually take a look at them. Most of them I don't try for various reasons. But a few things I've integrated into my work day have really made a huge difference for me. Today's links are about those few tools that I've found Incredibly Useful.

Evernote. I was late on the bandwagon with this one. I swear I tried it a year or so ago and wasn't able to get it to download, or couldn't figure out how it worked, or something. Then, a few months ago, I tried again, and I haven't looked back. It's an excellent tool to organize research notes, random articles that look like they might evolve into story ideas, or just piddly things I need to remember. This article from Open Forum tells more about ways you can utilize it in all its wondermousness.

And another note on Evernote--yesterday I did a "library day," where I headed down the hill to a big library where I can sit in a study carrel and write uninterrupted. I brought my Kindle and my phone. On my Kindle, I had several books I was using for research for the story I was working on. On the phone, I had just installed Evernote as well as an Evernote widget to make access to all my research easy cheesy. Between the Kindle and the phone, I had everything I needed without lugging my MacBook Pro with me. It was convenient and easy and kind of awesome. Except now it's got me thinking an iPad would be EVEN COOLER!! (KK wants ALL THE GADGETS!)

Scrivener. I don't even know how I wrote anything without Scrivener. It's like the Avengers of writing software. Seriously. With Joss Whedon thrown in on the side. I write better, stronger, faster--and I didn't even have to crash a test plane to do it. (Oops, sorry, switched superhero types there...) The combo of Evernote and Scrivener is like Thor's Hammer, Captain America's Shield, Hawkeye's cool bow thingie and Black Widow's general basassedness all in one. But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's an article from The Creative Penn with more.

Kanban. This isn't so much software as a tool for managing workflow. However, I use the online tool mentioned on the site. I've only been using this for a couple of weeks but it's already kicked me into a higher gear as far as getting things done efficiently and increasing my productivity. If you love writing things on sticky notes and moving them around, chances are good you'll like this. The link above explains the process, and the online tool can be found at kanbanflow.com.

And here's a bonus link for those who like their iPhones/iPads--I don't have either, so I haven't tested any of these, but the article looks like it has some neat ideas:

The Book Designer--10 Ways Free iPhone Apps Supercharge Writers.

Any tools, software or doohickies you can't do without? Share in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Friday Links on Tuesday: Worldbuilding

It's, like, a world. Get it?
I've addressed worldbuilding before (very briefly--it's in Item 3 on the linked post) over on Notes on Vellum, but here I'd like to talk about some more specific ways to use worldbuilding to build your backlist as well as to add depth to your current projects. The links below offer some hints and suggestions about using the world of your story to build more stories, draw readers in, find your way into series books, and, of course, profit...

David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants: Your Setting as a Petri Dish. This is a neat article talking about how you can use one setting to kick off a bajillion stories and ideas. I'm in the middle of something like this right now--three separate series ideas (or is it four? I forget) all set in the same universe. It's fun and crazy and kind of overwhelming. I was glad to discover I'm not the only person who comes up with this kind of nuttiness.

Another from Dave Farland: How Real do you want Your World to Be? This is fiction, right? So why does it have to be real? Farland talks about grounding fantasy settings in reality to increase reader engagement and how to balance all your story elements to support your decisions about how far you want to go with the fantasticalness.

Nathan Bransford: Expanding the World of your Novel. This could be seen as a companion piece to the Petri Dish article above. Bransford talks about adding companion pieces to expand the universe, including novellas focused on a single character and book trailers to bring the world to life. This is a bit about marketing and a bit about just having fun with your created world.

Writer's Digest: Writing a Stand-alone Book (With Series Potential). If you're writing genre, Standalone with Series Potential is the magic word. This article gives some practical tips on how to think of your story as a series pilot and lay in numerous elements that can help jumpstart further books in the series. (Do people actually have trouble thinking of forty zillion sequels to a book? Or is my brain just insane? Don't answer that.)

Jane Friedman: It’s OK to Leave Stuff Out. In Fact, It’s Better. Tips on building your world without turning your book into the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Also? Superdog is AWESOME.

Worldbuilding is a complex subject. It's also hard, and hella fun. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have about your own worldbuilding processes, how you add to your created universe, or different ideas you've had for nourishing that Petri dish. (No pictures of yucky mold, please.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Links: Deepening Your Writing

Starting next week, I'm going to switch my links posts to Tuesday and just post once a week for a while. Instead of just posting a list of links, though, I'm going to have them all focused on a theme, and I'll try to add some additional thoughts regarding that theme (appearance of additional thoughts dependent upon amount of caffeine consumed that day and number of afternoon naps indulged in).

Today's links are focused on pushing your writing that extra step--adding layers, making it more real, and taking advantage of all the senses you can put into play to draw your readers in.

Jody Hedlund: 7 Setting Basics That Can Bring a Story to Life. Adding detail and meaning to your story's setting.

Wordplay: How to Create Distinctive Character Voices. Ways to make your characters stand out from each other.

Writers in the Storm, guest post by Janice Hardy: 5 Ways to Bring Your Descriptions to Life. Looking at how descriptions will be written differently depending upon the POV.

Glimmertrain: Prompts to Deepen Character Development. Get to know your characters without having to buy them dinner.

Writania: 3 Steps to Writing a Novel With Unforgettable Characters. Making your characters balanced and real.

On your next pass through your WIP, take a look at some of these ideas and you'll add depth to your story that wasn't there before. These are also great steps to look at while you're doing revisions on a completed manuscript. Any personal tricks or tips you use when you're working on adding layers and depth? Please share in the comments below. I can use all the help I can get. :-)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Not quite as many links today, but they're all FOCUSED n stuff. These links are about using social media to help spread the word about yourself and your work. Enjoy, and try at least one tip to get your name out there where people can find you.

Social Media Examiner: 5 Tips to Build and Grow Your LinkedIn Network. If your still perplexed about LinkedIn (I know I am), this article will help you sort out some of the details.

Arielle Ford: Why Authors and Social Media are Meant for Each Other. Some general suggestions about social media, several examples using Facebook.

Justine Musk: Pinterest--creating a vision board for your creative project. Ways to use Pinterest to kickstart your muse.

SheWrites: Top 10 Don't-Miss Sites for Marketing Your Writing (Without Breaking the Bank). Advice on using several sites for promotion.

My Name Is Not Bob: April Platform Challenge. 30 days of tasks that will expand your platform and bring more readers right to your social media door. You can still do these even if it's not April.

That should keep you busy for a while. I hope you find something helpful here that helps you find your audience.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Excerpt--The Haunting of Rory Campbell

After last week's spate of new stories, this time we head for another blast from the past with a snippet from The Haunting of Rory Campbell, another novel from ImaJinn Books. Rory Campbell is a professional ghost whisperer, I suppose you could say, although I wrote this book before that term came into vogue. While investigating a haunted historical site in North Carolina, she encounters Lachlan MacGregor, a Scottish immigrant who died in the 18th century. Ghostly hijinks ensue.


            A few hours later, suitcases unloaded, cameras and tape recorders strewn all over the living room, Rory sat at the kitchen table writing out a game plan.  Tomorrow she’d set up tape recorders in places most likely to yield results.  Based on the background information, she’d already ruled out the pink bedroom, but the kitchen and the library seemed promising.  Tonight she’d collate her notes on previous sightings, which would make a good first chapter to her book.
            Finally she stopped, eyes aching from looking at the computer terminal.  Time to wind down for bed.  But she had nothing whatsoever to do with herself.  The place had electricity, yes, but there was no TV, no radio, and she was tired of looking at the computer, even for entertainment’s sake.
            She’d almost decided just to go to bed and read when she remembered the big, deep, claw-footed porcelain tub in the upstairs bathroom.  The thought of a nice, warm bath made her realize just how long a day she’d had, and how much she needed the relaxation.
            The water sputtered a bit when she turned on the tap, blowing a nice spray of rust with it, so she let it run until the water was clear before she stuck her hand in to test the temperature.  She wondered how old the pipes were, and if they might have lead in them.  She’d have the water tested as soon as possible.
            The bathroom filled with steam as the tub filled with hot water.  Rory went back to the pink room to retrieve the paperback horror novel she’d picked up at the grocery store.  She found horror novels vastly entertaining.  Devoting her professional life to the paranormal had given her a perspective somewhat different from the average reading public’s, and she often laughed her way through the most gruesome tales of preternatural mayhem.  Stephen King could still scare the hell out of her on occasion, though. 
            Book chosen, tub full and steaming, Rory peeled off her clothes and settled down into the nearly too-hot water.  It would cool quickly enough, but right now it was warm enough to turn her pale, freckled skin an interesting lobsterish color.  She wished she had bubble bath, but unfortunately she hadn’t thought about it when she’d been at the store.
            She read for a while as the water cooled to comfortably warm.  The heat and the stress of the day combined to fill her body with lassitude.  As the mayhem in the book began in earnest, she found her eyes drifting shut.  Finally, after nearly dropping the book into the water, she laid it aside and closed her eyes.
            Warm steam caressed her face, and the warm water lapped softly against her thighs and breasts.  With her eyes closed, the dampness felt like a hand against her face, each bead of sweat seeming to pop as it rose on her upper lip.  She felt as if she were floating, though her body rested securely on the floor of the tub.  Giving herself up to the floaty sensation, she let it carry her away.
            She didn’t fall asleep.  Not quite.  She hung suspended between consciousness and slumber, thinking of nothing, only feeling.  Sensation filled her, until it seemed nothing existed outside the layers of her own skin.           
            The heat, which had lain soft and damp against her skin, shifted as her breathing deepened.  It was like the caress of hands, moving up and down her body, the imagined touch adding to the deep, pervasive lassitude which had completely filled her.  She smiled a little, sank deeper into the water, but her conscious self was unaware of the action.
            And heat grew within her.  Liquid still, like the heat of the water, but pooling within her body, sinking to lie between her thighs, until that place ached with heaviness.  Sticky and hot, she moved, her hips pulsing softly.  She didn’t know she did it.  She thought she dreamed.
            But the dream was all of heat and water, growing and moving as it passed over her body, molded firm around her breasts, slipped soft down her belly, feathered against the insides of her thighs . . .
            Rory woke with a start and sat gasping, still feeling the heat, her body teetering on the edge of completion.
            What the hell was that?
            It had to have been a dream.  Certainly the heat hadn’t been real--the bath water had turned almost icy around her.  She stood, shivering as she snagged the towel from the sink.  Her legs wobbled.  She scrubbed herself dry and shivered her way into her pajamas.
            She stared at the water as it swirled and glugged down the drain.  She’d had strangely intense emotional experiences at haunted sights before, but never anything like this.  It had to have been a dream, the result of fatigue and her understandable preoccupation with the possible haunting of the house.
            At least, she hoped that was all it was.  Anything else didn’t really bear thinking about.