Tag Archives: writing

Setting Quiet Pages Free

Last night that line from the song Ravens in the Library by S.J. Tucker was stuck in my head.  Endless, relentless cycling on four words.  Occasionally a few other would sneak in, but always back to those four words.

Setting quiet pages free.

The full chorus is:

My friend bids me come and see
the ravens in the library
setting quiet pages free.

I want to set my pages free.  I’m afraid they are gone, fluttered out of my insides into nowhere.  Where are my ravens plucking at my insides, ripping out my pages and spitting them out onto the canvas of life before me?

Do I even have ravens?  Gah, no ravens, no pages, nothing to set free, just an empty wasteland stretching wide and pointless inside me.

Not that I’m prone to whining and self-pity.  Oh wait, that’s just what I’ve done.  But it is how I feel.  Empty but for jumbled half-form nothings that clutter and confuse my insides.

Dear Ravens, you are cordially invited to enter in, find my pages and set them free upon the world.  Or at least the screen.

Ravens?  Hello?  Am I getting through?  <thump thump>  Hello?

No answer.  Shit.

Just me and my non-existent pages.  This is going to make my nano words very hard to come by tonight.

I wish I had more to express.  But I am quiet.

And my ravens are napping.

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Just keep writing

WIP:  Goth Girl and the Queen Cobra
Words:  ~1000

Many, many long (and frequently unpleasant) moons ago, I made a promise that I would blog each day that I write up until my trip to Mexico.  Well, then I entered the period of my incarceration (the not moving due to herniated disc in back).  And while I did not blog each day that I wrote, I also didn’t write much.  (Sitting and computers for any length of time were not an option).

And my trip to Mexico got delayed for a year since I couldn’t sit on an airplane and the thought of lying around all day was horrific (that was all I was capable of doing for the first three months of this year, and I crawled my way out of that situation very gradually, yuck).

But now I’m working on getting back in the habit.  Getting the writing juices flowing.  Insert any type of familiar metaphor you like into this spot.

It’s not my first day back writing.  But it’s my first really owning up to it.  It’s like getting back on that bicycle.  You may never fully forget how to do it, but boy is it uncomfortable if it’s been a long time.

I feel uncertain and clumsy.  But better that than staring blankly at a screen.

It probably doesn’t help that this new project is in a new style for me.  It’s a fun, dark romp though. And with that, it’s time to close up shop for the night

Happy writing, joyful reading!

~Samantha

Time Accountability

Thanks to my recentish iPhone purchase, I’ve discovered that these days it is much easier to be accountable to myself than ever in the past.

Because there are apps.  There are apps that make it ridiculously easy to track your food intake (more on that in a later post), to track your money, and to track your time.

Now I recently took a RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) course through their Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal online group on Writing as a Business.  And much of that course boiled down to:  act professional, look professional and keep track of your stuff as a professional.

One of the specifics then from this was the recommendation to keep track of your time.  Should the nightmare happen and you get audited, you have a stronger case if you can show how much time you actually spend on this second job (with it’s typically horrible hourly wage of next to niente).

Well, keeping a log is effort.  And not fun.  And those two things combined typically kill something for me.

But with my recent iPhone acquisition and success in taking control of other aspects of my life by using the tools it offers, I had to know, was there another tool out there waiting for me?

Why yes, yes there was.  Hours Tracker is its name.  Tracking jobs is its game.  So I entered in all of the different stories I’m working on and the typical other work associated with writing, such as blogging and email management (gods, how I loathe email, but that’s neither here not there for this post).

And when I start working on something I tell the pretty little app that I’ve started and on what.  When I’m done, I turn it off.  And it keeps track for me.  Tallied by project and possibly by month (but I haven’t been using it long enough to tell).  And it’s exportable.  So at the end of the month I just export the data, print out the report and file it as my physical backup.

So easy.  So lazy.  So fun.

So suddenly noticeable as to how much time I’m actually spending writing.  Okay, sure, I can still use the ‘recovering from back injury’ excuse.  And it is true, but the reason is disappearing in direct proportion to my physical improvement.  And I’m left staring at the number, or lack thereof, of hours spent actually working on specific stories.

That leaves me only one question.  Am I going to change my behaviour and get writing more?  Or not?

Sh*t or get off the pot, as they say.

So when I…you know, this analogy is starting to disturb me.  So let’s go with, when I start logging hours on writing that isn’t blogging, I get this happy, positive reinforcement from seeing the hours start to add up on the app.

Accountability and reinforcement.  For me they are wonderful tools for getting me off–no, wait, that would be on my ass and writing.

It’s amazing what a little awareness will do for our behaviour, don’t you think?  And being accountable, even if only to yourself, of how your time is spent.  Well, it got me in my chair tonight typing rather than on the couch watching Hot Fuzz.

Anything that helps me with writing is a win in my book.  Okay, I couldn’t resist the pun which is a clear sign it is time to get some sleep!  So I will stop now but would welcome hearing what self management techniques have working for you!

Writers, may your words flow onto the page; readers, may the stories delight you.

May we all dream in technicolor,

~Samantha

SnT: Body Expressions via V for Vendetta

Yes, this is another Showing Not Telling post.

Today’s focus is on the body, not the face.  How do we, as people, express ourselves by our body’s movements?  It’s so easy to concentrate on the eyes, the mouth, the chin and forehead.  We’re drawn to faces, after all, it’s the first thing we want to look at.  (Just did a google search on “study attention first face” and boy, are there a bunch of psychological studies involving faces on the internet, but as most of those are pdf’s, I’m afraid you’ll need to do your own search rather than click on links from me as I don’t like to download other’s work.)

It’s also an easy thing for us to focus on as writers.  Raised eyebrows and pursed lips are familiar tools.  How do we show emotions in someone’s body?  It is not necessarily as easy to do.

So let’s use an example where we can focus on that particular skill:  V for Vendetta.

I’ll be using some youtube clips to illustrate points but if you have not seen this movie yet, I strongly recommend watching it in its entirety as the clips will be spoilers. Even reading this post further will include spoilers!

The reason I recommend this film to study the expression of emotion strictly through the body is that the main character, V, (played by Hugo Weaving who does a stunning job, imo), is wearing a mask, wig, and rather stiff clothing that covers his whole body.  There are no facial expressions whatsoever, and even the other bodily hints such as straining tendons in the throat, are not visible at all.

Everything he expresses is through tone of voice and physical movement.  And he conveys it so well, that he is captivating.

Yes, Natalie Portman does a great job as well, she’s jut not the focus of this post.  🙂

Because there are no other indicators of emotion, we are forced to focus in different arenas for those emotional clues.  As writers, this is a great exercise.  Especially if you turn off the sound (mind you, with sound you can concentrate on how he is using his voice to substitute for those subliminal facial cues we’re so used to).

To start off with a bang, there is this “god is in the rain” scene.  This one is even subtitled, so turn off your volume and watch what happens.  Natalie Portman’s character, Evey, has just gone through a massive psychological death.  Watch her body, not her face!, as she enters the room.  What does it convey?  How does her movements, position of her body, her arms, her hands, make you feel?

Watch V react to her, does he move slow or quick?  Turned to her or away?  Head up?  Head down?  Placement of shoulders?  How is he holding his torso?  What does he do with his hands?  How do you react to all of these components?

When you feel an emotional response, what has just happened?  What have they done that elicited that response?  That, my dear friends, is the motion you want to capture in your storytelling.

In this dance scene there is at least one moment where I’m convinced V loves Evey and is expressing it in just the way he’s holding her.  Do you feel it too?  What is it about how he moves that makes me so certain?

For fun, here is the V speech which just for the sheer use of ‘v’ words, is a veritable, well, wonder.  I’m not as good with my thesaurus, clearly.  ;D  Here V is rather light and playful, attempting not to frighten while still maintaining an aura of gentle menace (is that even possible?  perhaps I’m just deluded and overcome by that pile of v words, you be the judge…).  Everything he is conveying is through tone of voice and movement.  How much of it is in the voice?  How much in movement?

Hugo Weaving also manages to do an evocative death scene, in mask, barely moving.  The emotion is in his breathing, the tilt of his head, particularly in how he orients to Evey.  “But surely the emotion is in his voice?  His words and how he says them?” you say?  Watch it again, without sound.

Any movie can be watched for how the actor conveys emotion, intent, purpose via movement, but it can be tricky to dissociate the body from the face (our natural inclination is to watch it primarily for cues to what people are feeling).  This movie provides eliminates our ability to cheat.

Hat’s off to Hugo for a great job of acting.

~~~

Addendum:  was just checking the links and as I watched snippets of them again I realized there was one other comment I wanted to make.

Despite the fact that the character is so limited in how he can express himself, he doesn’t overact the movements.  They’re not exaggerated or serving as a substitution for the face in the sense of compensation.

Or at least, so goes my opinion.  ymmv.  🙂

Short Story in Print!

I am very pleased to announce that my first short story to see print has come out today!

Issue Eight of the magazine Title Goes Here from Misanthrope Press is out and my story “Djinn in a Bottle” is right there, inside of it.  Published.  😀

I’m a little speechless.  In that happy glow kind of way.

It’s a dark story as befits Title Goes Here.  Anything else you want to know about it, well, you’ll need to read the magazine.

Calloo callay 😉

P-pl-pl-plot-plotting?

WIP:  Agent of Fate

Today’s writing accomplishment lies in overcoming my fear of plotting.  I sat down with my whiteboard and the memories of my NaNoWriMo project and I plotted.

I had already laid out the basics (I usually sum up a scene with 1-4 descriptive words) so today was actually working with that information.  Where did it need work, where could I twist things more, what didn’t make sense and so on and so forth.  Had to use all four colours of my whiteboard markers, too.

Part of me still feels like I should do more.  The rest of me feels like I’ve got a good stepping stone to sorting out this WIP so I can get back to writing.

Guess I’ll find out when I start back into the writing.  But if nothing else, I’m a big step closer to figuring out how I plot.  And that, my dear friends, is the important part.

Okay, that and getting back on the writing train.  😉

Whiteboards rock!

In my work place (I work at a University), whiteboards are so ubiquitous that my office came standard with one, but I had to specially request a corkboard.

Now I’m addicted to them.

I’ve acquired 3 for home.  A small one for planning my week and keeping track of immediate tasks and planning.  Two for story planning.

It would have been one, but then I would have had to erase it to work on my plotting issues on the other WIP (work in progress).  To which I said hell no!  Besides they stack very neatly against each other, so there’s no problem with multiples.

So yes, I use them for plotting, story planning, world building.  Really, any kind of idea generation works so well on that smooth expanse of white.  Even post-its don’t work as well for me as scribbling notes that I know I can just erase, re-scribble and keep going with.  Maybe paper’s just too much commitment for me and my commitment phobia is resurfacing in a strange and peculiar way.  Or I just love being able to scribble where I want.  Either way, I find whiteboards the perfect way to work through all these story areas, particularly plotting problems (my personal bane).

It’s easy to switch colours for different concerns, straight lines for those scenes I’m certain of, dashes for those that may need to get reviewed, changed or moved.  Red notes on the places that I have questions.  Odd random notes in the corners for things I need to remember.  Different colour for the sections I haven’t written yet but have the basic, broadest strokes defined in my head.

Or in other words, whiteboards rock.  So much flexibility. And with digital cameras, it’s no cost and no effort to record whatever you’ve written down before wiping it away and starting all over.

So if you, too, are staring at blank post-its and wondering what to do, consider the power of whiteboards.  Just saying.  😉