Writing

My Writing Toolbox

My writing toolbox holds a variety of things, all for different reasons. Some I use more often than others, some I use quite rarely, but I use them all and I find them all useful. (All prices are marked, and all logos belong to their respective companies.)

Scrivener*

Scrivener is $50, but it’s an extremely useful tool and you only have to pay once. And you’re allowed to use the same license on multiple computers which you own and are the primary user of, as well as the computers of family members who live with you.

I’ve found this very useful in that it keeps all of your documents (story, character profiles, setting descriptions, research, etc.) in one file so that you can easily access them all from the same interface.

Another aspect I’ve found super useful is that it allows you to see two documents side-by-side. This has been helpful for me in rewriting, because I can see the original as I’m writing the new one so I know what I want to keep and what I want to change as I’m writing.

There are also features like the distraction-free mode, you can easily export your book to a word document no matter how small the sections are that you wrote it in, and you can design templates so that – for instance – all of your character profiles look the same.

Fighter’s Block

This is a free online word sprinting app set up like an RPG game battle. You set a word goal, and that’s the monster’s HP (health points, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term). As you write, the monster’s HP decreases and yours replenishes. The monster attacks you whenever you’re not writing, and you can customize how quickly and how much he hurts you. It’s great for getting your writing speed up.

Microsoft Word

This is included in most Windows computers, I believe, and it’s just a really simple word processor. I like it for writing when I’m not using one of my other tools (Scrivener, Google Docs, 4thewords, etc.). I have copies of most of my stories in Word documents so that I can store them in my usual writing folders on my computer. I also use Word to format my stories for conversion to PDF when I’m preparing to publish them through CreateSpace.

4thewords*

This is another online program. This one is a paid thing, but it’s only $4/month, and you can buy up to 20 months at a time. (It gets cheaper the more you buy at a time. 20 months, for instance, is only $60 instead of $80 if you buy the largest pack.)

This is another RPG-based tool. It’s set up like a full RPG, with zones, quests, wardrobe items, weapons, etc., but most of them are earned by writing. You battle monsters with time limits and specified word counts that are their HP, and they give drops that count toward quests or serve as crafting materials, depending on the monster and quests. It’s a really cool tool, and I’ve been using it for about a year now.

It also records your daily streak, which keeps me, at least, motivated to write every day. The minimum to reach a streak for the day is 444 words.

Story Binder

How this will work exactly depends on the person making it, but my story binder has character profiles, world information, and the first 49-ish pages of The Last Assassin. I like it because it’s something I can reference while I’m writing without switching programs or minimizing my story or anything (something you can also do with Scrivener using their two-pane view option). Plus it also makes me feel like I have some artistic talent to decorate it with fancy fonts and washi tape and stuff like that.

Cost: Depends on the cost of the binder, paper, and whatever you use to decorate it.

See more of my story binder at the above link.

Bullet Journal

Which should maybe be called my goal journal, because that’s the thing I use it for most. I use it to set and keep track of monthly and daily goals, as well as whatever writing-related things I happen to need written down while it’s around. I.e. Several characters’ MBTI types, a list of authors I’d like to interview here on the blog, future blog post ideas, etc.

Cost: Depends on the cost of the journal and whatever you use to decorate it.

See more of my bullet journal at the above link.

Storyworld First by Jill Williamson

This is an amazing book and an amazing worldbuilding reference. It’s a fairly small book, but there are so many worldbuilding ideas in here! You could spend weeks working straight through this thing. It’s incredible.

Cost: $13

 

 

 

 

What’s in your writing toolbox? Do you use some of these, too?

The Gift

To: The first child you see.

From: A friend.

Marianna looked down at the package she held, reading the tag, and stepped inside the orphanage. She looked up and saw a group of kids run out of the library, no doubt playing hide-and-seek. Marianna smiled as they passed, and looked back down at the package in her arms. The first child you see. She was fairly sure she’d seen Terrence first.

“Terrence!”

The whole group halted and looked at Marianna.

“Yes?” Terrence said, brushing a mop of brown curls out of his face.

“This is for you.” She held out the large box and Terrence looked between it and her for a moment in confusion.

“For me?”

Marianna nodded.

Terrence reached out slowly and took it, setting it down on the floor and pulling off the masking tape that held it shut. The other children oohed and ahhed as he pulled out its contents. Two teddy bears, several candy canes, and a miniature Christmas tree. He looked up at Marianna, eyes wide. “I don’t need all this!”

“It was sent to you.”

“Then…” He looked down at the open box. “I’ll share it.” He looked at the kids behind him and smiled. “I don’t need all this, but I’m not the only kid here.” He handed candy canes to each of the kids, and it came out to perfectly the right number. The two teddy bears went to the twins Marcel and Maisley.

Someone else crept out of the library, leaning against the wall with her hands clasped behind her. Talia.

Terrence only took a moment to notice her and looked in the box for another candy cane, but there wasn’t one. Without a pause, he walked over and offered her his. “Here.”

She stared at the candy cane. “But it’s yours.”

“I want you to have it. I’ll be all right.”

She slowly unclasped her hands and reached out for it, her fingers resting on it gently for a moment, looking at Terrence as if for permission, before curling around the cane. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome.” Terrence smiled.

Marianna smiled as Terrence took out the Christmas tree, figuring out where to put it. “How about right here?” he said. “On the desk where everyone will see it every day.” He set it down and turned back, grinning at everyone. “Thank you, Marianna.”

“It’s not from me.” She picked up the box and took it out to the recycling bin. She spotted a little girl standing outside in a coat and mittens, her arms wrapped around her.

“Are you all right?” Marianna asked.

The girl nodded, looking over at her with earnest eyes. “Did they get my package?”

Marianna nodded, smiling. “They loved it.”

“May I… meet them?”

Marianna nodded again before looking around the parking lot. “Where’s your mother?”

“She’s in the car. I can go get her.” The little girl darted off, perfect black ringlets bouncing against her maroon coat. She came back holding her mother’s hand, and she made a beeline for the door.

Marianna held the door for the two of them and they stepped inside. When the little girl saw the tiny Christmas tree set up, she beamed. “It looks beautiful!” She turned her attention to the children, still smiling. “Hello. I’m Samantha.”

“I’m Terrence.” He held out a hand and she shook it.

“You got my package. I’m so glad. I wanted to give you something because I know you probably don’t get much for Christmas.” She looked over at Marcel and Maisley as they hugged their teddy bears. “Those two were my favorite. That one’s Lilac and that one’s George. I hope you like them as much as I do.”

The twins nodded, grinning.

“And candy canes are my favorite Christmas candy. I love peppermint. I hope you enjoy them.”

“Would you like to play hide-and-seek with us?” Terrence asked.

“Lilac and George can come along!” Marcel said.

Terrence beckoned for Talia to come along before the group rushed off to play.

Marianna smiled. This would be a Christmas to remember.

Character Interview: Orsa Lars

Orsa is the sweet old lady of The Last Assassin… And also a suspect for murder. I love keeping my audience on their toes with her, because I love her and I love the possibilities with her.

Orsa: *comes in and gracefully takes a seat* Hello.

Interviewer: Hello. How are you today?

Orsa: I’m doing well. How are you?

Interviewer: I’m fine. A bit tired. Shall we begin?

Orsa: *nods once* Of course.

Interviewer: What is your name?

Orsa: Orsa Anise Lars.

Interviewer: How old are you?

Orsa: Fifty-three.

Interviewer: Do you have any siblings?

Orsa: I had an older brother, Aren. He died a couple of years ago.

Interviewer: I’m so sorry. What happened?

Orsa: His heart failed.

Interviewer: I’m sorry to hear that.

Orsa: *nods, looking pained at the memory, but composed*

Interviewer: *waits a moment* Do you mind if we go on?

Orsa: Not at all. *smiles a bit*

Interviewer: *nods* What is your job?

Orsa: I’m the high steward of Kaloris.

Interviewer: And what does a high steward do, exactly?

Orsa: I’m the king’s most trusted advisor, and when he’s gone I’m in charge of things.

Interviewer: It sounds like a weighty job.

Orsa: It is, but I’ve been at it for quite a few years.

Interviewer: I’m sure you do an excellent job of it. Next question, are you an introvert or extrovert?

Orsa: I think I’m right on the line between the two.

Interviewer: Do you know which one you lean toward?

Orsa: Probably introvert. I tend to be rather reserved, observant, and analytical before I know someone.

Interviewer: What is your favorite food?

Orsa: Lamb.

Interviewer: Favorite color?

Orsa: Maroon.

Interviewer: What is your favorite book?

Orsa: The Adventures of Florencine Lily. It’s one I’ve enjoyed since I was a girl, and it’s what got me into herbs and spices.

Interviewer: So you enjoy those?

Orsa: *nods* I’m the leading specialist of herbs, spices, poisons, and remedies in the Kaloran court.

Interviewer: Interesting. What is your favorite animal?

Orsa: I don’t have one.

Interviewer: Is there a job you’d rather have than the one you have now?

Orsa: *shakes head* No. I’m happy where I am. If I were to get another job, though, it would be as a healer.

Interviewer: What are your hobbies, aside from herbal things?

Orsa: Singing, playing flute, and reading.

Interviewer: Which of these is most important to you: Kindness, intelligence, or bravery?

Orsa: Intelligence, with the bravery to use it well.

Interviewer: And honesty or selflessness.

Orsa: In a way you sometimes have to be selfless to be honest. Sometimes being honest would bring down someone’s opinion of you, and you have to lay aside your pride to be honest.

Interviewer: True. What is something you can never leave the house without?

Orsa: My herb bags. You never know when you might need them.

Interviewer: *nods* That was the last question. Thank you for your time.

Orsa: You’re very welcome. *leaves*

Music In Writing

Yep, we’re back to music. Because music is awesome, and it can actually be a really cool storytelling tool. Yes, this post is different than my “Music and Writing” post. That post was about listening to music while you write, while this one is about actually putting music in your writing and using it as a tool. It was also supposed to go up yesterday, but I got distracted by music while I was writing it and didn’t get it finished when I meant to and then forgot about it. Oops. But it’s here now, and only a day late, so I consider that something of a win, at least.

Music for character development

This one’s possibly the most obvious. I only have playlists for a couple of my characters (mostly because I have a jillion playlists anyway, so unless something strikes me as particularly perfect I don’t start a playlist), but the ones I do have were a lot of fun to put together and give a lot of insight into the characters behind them. And having them opens up your ears to other things to add. The two character playlists I have belong to Livi Brooklyn, a peppy character from my Memories & Photographs short story series, and the other belongs to Clissa Hiara, a seductress villain from my pending novel Dark Queen Rising. Total opposites, and both super fun characters to write and make playlists and Pinterest boards for.

Livi’s almost doesn’t count as a character playlist I suppose, since it’s more songs that she would listen to than songs that fit her as a character super well (though there are certainly some of those), but even that is a big eye-opener to character. When making a character, consider thinking about what music they might listen to. Livi likes Christian pop, pop, and alternative rock. Clissa likes classical music.

Something that could be a good window into background could be how broad their musical repertoire is. I, for instance, like just about any kind of music under the sun (and yet somehow I’m still super picky about my music? I’m weird.) I listen to classical, instrumental, a cappella, some pop and alternative rock, pretty much anything Christian (hymns, contemporary, rap, pop, rock, etc.), etc. I inherited the classical and pop from my dad; I inherited the Christian anything, instrumental, and a cappella from both parents. I inherited the alternative rock from friends. Oh, and there’s also some electronic stuff thrown in there thanks to Spotify’s stations. (Spotify is awesome, BTW. I highly recommend it.) Where did your characters get their taste in music from? Was it something they found on their own? Family members? Friends? Whatever’s popular?

In a new story I’ll be working on soon, the main character lives far in the future, but she listens to songs like “The Sound of Silence” and “American Pie.” (I have yet to figure out how she got to listening to those, but I’ll figure it out.)

Also, how does your character like to listen to their music? Livi loves vinyl and her MP3 player. She has, like, ten pairs of headphones/earbuds. The character mentioned above, Christine, listens on the radio. This can also tie into my next point about using music in the plot.

Music can be a huge key to character development.

Music for foreshadowing/plot

Music can be a great tool for foreshadowing or to support a plot. For instance, Christine is listening to a certain song which ends up foreshadowing the plot. I plan on having several similar songs played throughout the story, or mentioned, or something. I’m not 100% sure yet, I just know I’m going to be doing a lot with music in that story.

You can also use music as a main plot point, which I’m doing with the above story and which I did with my short story Charming. Your character might be a musician, a singer, or just a music-lover. Or maybe they don’t even like music, but they hear it a lot in the story in opportune places or something. Which is not a suggestion to use it as a crutch. If you use it that way, make it subtle.

You can also make playlists for your stories, to help you get a feel for the story and its characters. I was able to do this really effectively (with some help from my friend Ruby. Thank you. :) ) with my Wonderland playlist. I like the mix of pop with the classic Wonderland music because I think it blends the two worlds together, as does the story itself. And the whole thing is just fun to listen to. (Plus it’s 71 songs, so it’ll play for a while.)

Music for worldbuilding

This one is a bit harder than the others, because you can’t necessarily just grab existing music. Figure out what music there would be in your world. In some cases this doesn’t mean writing out lyrics or anything, it just means deciding what instruments are common and that sort of thing, but in other cases – like my short story Charming – you have to come up with lyrics and artist names and stuff like that. It depends a lot on your world. And depending on how much you want to get into this, it could be fun to write a song for each of your story worlds, even if you don’t necessarily put them into the story. It could help give you a feel for the world and what they value and stuff like that. Music tells a lot about values, which is why I’m so careful about it in most cases. I don’t want to be putting things into my head that will repeat themselves, and a lot of music is fun to listen to. It’s music, after all. Since I almost always have something playing through my head, I like it to be something wholesome and uplifting. But that was off-topic, and it’s something I cover more in another post, so I’ll stop now.

 

Music can be an incredibly powerful storytelling tool, and it’s fun in the process, so consider what you could do with it. :)

 

Weekly Writing Update – December 2-9, 2017

Getting back into the swing of things after my trip has been hard for me, so the following update isn’t going to be very pretty, but at least I’ve written some of what I needed to in the past week. Also, I have a blog schedule announcement: I’ll only be posting one short story this month, because I have to write 18 separate from the blog already and it’s just too much for me to take on. I promise they’ll be back in January!

December 2 – Word count unknown

I haven’t the foggiest idea what I wrote on the second, if anything. I’m fairly certain I didn’t write anything, since this would have still been on my trip and cousins would have been keeping me busy.

December 3 – 818

This was the day I started one of my Christmas-gift short stories, a satirical fairytale retelling that is now the beginning of a series of short stories, which I plan on publishing as an anthology in February. I also posted a survey for my readers, to help me improve my blogging and Facebook page schedules for 2018.

December 4 – Word count unknown

I’m fairly sure I didn’t write anything on Monday, but I could be mistaken.

December 5 – 2,098

I’m not entirely sure what I wrote on the fifth, but it was definitely one (or more) of my Christmas-gift short stories, and judging from what I have finished, likely the one I started on the third.

December 6 – 1,682

On Wednesday I looked at the results of the survey I posted and ranked the lists according to your votes. (You can still vote if you’d like, FYI.) I also finished one of my Christmas-gift short stories, Out of Water, and made a timeline for that fairytale retelling series, The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles.

December 7 – 4,445

I think that’s inaccurate. I think I failed to copy things over on a past day and it got attributed to Thursday. My estimate is more like… 3,500? Maybe? I worked on a short story called Epidemic, which is another Christmas-gift short story. This one is related to my novel The Half-Elves.

December 8 – 468

Well yesterday’s writing was pitiful. I had nine goals. How many did I complete? Two. I decided on a new blog tagline and reorganized my 2018 goals schedule. That’s it.

December 9 – Undetermined

Well, at the rate we’re going… I had a choir concert fairly early this morning, so I’m tired, and I’ve been wasting my time since on scrolling through Facebook and deleting irreplaceable audio recordings of my sister and I. (Accidentally. I’m furious with myself.) I’m hoping to finish Epidemic today, which should be easy to do since I’m almost done… if I can buckle down and do it. I should do that. My goals for the last five hours before I go to bed (wow, that sounds like a long time like that. O-O): Write and schedule several blog posts, finish Epidemic, write two additional short stories (both members of The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles), plan my Secret Santa short story. (I’ll try to return with an update in the comments at the end of the day.)

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