Archives

It’s That Time Again!

nanowrimo

Autumn is upon us, and most serious writers know what that means: It’s time for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.

If you haven’t heard of it, it begins in November every year. The goal is to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in a single month. But don’t wait until November: sign up now to start getting tips, hints, and ideas before then.

It’s ironic that it’s called National Novel Writing Month, since it’s open to people all over the world.

This is my third year for NaNoWriMo, and this time I’m determined to complete a novel—something I’ve yet to do.

That’s the thing about the program: it encourages you to write, but doesn’t nag you about it. And if you don’t complete your book in the time allotted for it, nobody’s going to call you out on it. Some people—like me—take longer to write their stories. But even if you can’t complete it, at least you’ve made a start, and you can continue long after the challenge is over.

If you do finish your novel—either during the month or after—you’ll have the satisfaction that you’ve written a book!  It might not be the next Great American Novel, but at least you wrote it.

And that’s more than most people do.

Is This The Ultimate Writing App for iOS?

Ulysses. Ancient Greek adventurer and explorer. Legendary traveler. And now, a writing app for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I discovered Ulysses whilst searching for a new blogging and writing tool. I had several requirements that any system or app had to satisfy:

  1. It had to be reasonably priced
  2. It had to have a clean interface
  3. It had to have a free trial period
  4. It had to be compatible with the apps already in my existing Writer’s toolbox
  5. It had to allow me to sync between my iPad and iPhone.
  6. If possible, I would like it to sync with my windows laptop.

Price

At $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually, it definitely is reasonably priced. That took care of the first requirement. It also comes with a free 14-day trial period, thus fulfilling number 3.

So far, I’ve not found any conflict with my existing tools. That was number 4 on my list.

Syncing

As far as syncing between my iPhone and iPad, I originally installed and configured it on my iPad. When I installed it on the iPhone and launched it for the first time, it was already synced with the iPad. Since my documents were set to store in iCloud, what I had written on the iPad was already available on the iPhone.

And syncing was almost instantaneous: I started this document on the iPad, edited it on the iPhone, and when I moved back to the iPad, all of the new changes were there!

As far as syncing to my laptop, I haven’t tried it yet. But since I can export documents in MS Word docx format, I don’t foresee any problems.

The Interface

Finally, the interface. It doesn’t get much cleaner than this:

One of the reasons for the clean interface is the fact that Ulysses uses markdown language for all of its formatting. There are only 25 commands to memorize, but if you’re lazy like me, there’s also a pop-up menu to give you access to all of them.

Of course, as I use the program, I’ll become used to and will learn the language.

Exporting

When I’m ready to publish, Ulysses will export my WordPress posts directly to WordPress. It’s an easy enough setup, and you can configure the program for multiple blogs.

My New Default Editor

Ulysses has replaced Scrivener as my default text editor. I still use Scrivener to archive my writings, but Ulysses is much easier to use.

Find it here. You get a free two-week evaluation period before you have to buy it.

Why I Write at Medium, and Why You Should, Too

Are you writer? Do you spend hours alone in your room, staring at the walls until 3 a.m. when you finally are exhausted enough to sit down and let the words come without you getting in the way? Do you look at what few friends you have and think, “She’d make a great character for my book”?

I'm writing a novel

Is this you?

Becoming a Better Writer

One way to improve your writing is by joining a local writers’ group or workshop. But what if you’re a shut-in, or (like me) don’t have reliable transportation to get you there?

Another way is by reading a lot. At least, that’s what most of the successful big-name authors say—and who am I to argue with them? But getting to the library, for example, can be hampered by the two instances I listed above.

Another drawback to reading a lot can be money, or, more specifically, the lack thereof.

Enter Medium

Medium “is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is owned by A Medium Corporation.[3] The platform is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host.” (Wikipedia)

In Plain English, Please

Think of Medium as a Facebook for writers—minus the trolls, divisiveness, and advertisements. But even that doesn’t to begin to cover what makes Medium such a great platform. Remember what I said about joining a local writers’ group? Medium is that very group on steroids: it’s an international writers’ group.

You can connect with other writers by interests, topics, location—either publicly or privately (which I still have to figure out).

For me, Medium is first and foremost a source of different writings (Medium calls them stories). They’re fresh, topical, and can include everything rom the latest abstruse scholarly article to fiction to poetry to you name it. But best of all—at least to me—is that I can post a story and know that people will respond on it politely and with thought.

Plus I get some great fiction, too!

Medium

If you don’t have it and consider yourself a writer, go get it! Right now!!!

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Medium.com

Or, Yet Another Story Telling You How to Write Stories

There. I’ve gone and admitted it: I’m a curmudgeon.

Definition of curmudgeon

1: a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man

2 archaic : miser

— curmudgeonliness play \(ˌ)kər-ˈmə-jən-lē-nəs\ noun

— curmudgeonly play \(ˌ)kər-ˈmə-jən-lē\ adjective

Merriam-Webster.com

But here’s the thing: I’m 68 years old and so burnt out by modern life that I am proud to be, indeed, deserve to be crusty and ill-tempered.

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway

I was like you once. I’d read article after article in books and magazines and on the internet all pretending to teach me how to become a gazillionaire best-selling author overnight.

Eventually, I saw the irony: none of those articles were actually written by best-selling authors.

They reminded me of the Creative Writing class I took my first year at uni. “I’m going to need your help,” said the professor. “The thing is, I’ve never taught creative writing before, and I don’t know just how the hell I’m supposed to put an academic grade on a creative effort.”

This, from an Oxford-educated Ph.D.

Nevertheless, I persisted. ( See what I did there? That’s called a trope, or for you younger whippersnappers, a meme.) I read and studied and studied and read for years, all the while filling copious notebooks with my writing. Notebooks I would routinely burn,not yet having learned the value of the history of my development as a writer.

My Epiphany

But no matter how many real authors I read–Hemingway, Stein, Corso, Ferlinghetti–I never achieved enlightenment, satori, or whatever you want to call it, until I had my epiphany whilst watching “Throw Momma From the Train.” The blinding revelation came when the Billy Crystal character uttered these profound words: “A writer writes.”

And reads. Now I can honestly claim that all those hours I spent in the library at Brooks Air Field in San Antonio during my high school years were preparing me to be a writer…although my inner curmudgeon insists on honesty, and so I have to admit that wasn’t why I was doing it.

I was avoiding my depression. That’s what 50 years of hindsight—which is always 20/20—shows me. It was something I had been struggling with since birth. I just didn’t understand what was going on until I was in my mid-30’s, when I started on my first antidepressant medication. Later, through years of therapy, I was finally able to see what I had really been going through whilst hiding in the library.

Still, one of the benefits of being me is that I have always been blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with an excellent memory. How excellent? I still remember things that happened to me when I couldn’t have been much more than 2 years old. And while everyone of my generation can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot, I can recall the same details about standing in the street in front of my grandparents house on Kingsland Avenue in the Bronx, where we all gathered to watch Sputnik fly overhead.

And while I recall all of the adults being terrified, had I had the vocabulary at the time, I would have said, “Most excellent! Far fucking out!”

It was one of those days in the library when I first devoured Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, which would one day become the basis for television’s Six Million Dollar Man. It was also when I discovered the collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and in them, Sherlock Holmes.

My Emergence as a Writer

I never consciously thought of myself as an author; that title seemed too exalted for my scribblings. But here I am, 50 years later, and I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly what I am, for good or for bad.

So when other people ask me for My Secrets to Becoming an Author™, I can come up with no better suggestion than what Billy Crystal said: “A writer writes.”

Even when you have no idea what to write. Again, quoting Hemingway, “Write one true sentence.” It will all flow from there. Write.

And read: you can’t become a great (or even a mediocre) writer unless you read a lot of books. I don’t care what the subject is: just read. Study the author’s technique and language. It sounds easy, but for me, reading as an author is one of the hardest things I ever do.

Harder, because while I’m reading for enjoyment, maybe even trying to figure out whodunit, I’m also trying to see how it is written, how the author is using her command of language and technique to tell her story.

Ultimately, then, writing is a skill or an art. And like any other skill or art, it takes practice.

So stop reading what this curmudgeon has to say, and go write something!

Productivity

For me, one of life’s greatest pleasures is the first sip of the first cup of tea of the day. I’ll even go so far as to admit that some days, just the anticipation of that rare and precious moment is itself the motivation I need to get out of bed.

I’m a writer. At least that’s what I tell myself when I can’t think of anything to write. When I do write, it’s frequently over a cup of tea. Kalami Assam is my current favorite. I buy it at my local Indian foods store in a one-pound box. Whole leaf, of course. I brew it strong, in memory of my grandmother, Nana, who claimed that a proper cup of tea should be strong enough “that a wee little mousie might trot across the top.”

And I brew it strongly enough that on those days when I add a dash of tea Masala spice blend, the tea is still the predominant flavor.

I will confess that were I a religious woman, tea would be my sacrament, my eucharist, if you will. The blood of the camilla sinensis plant.

Tea is my inspiration. My half-full cup sits next to me cooling as I write this. I had nothing to write until I began drinking this morning’s cup. That was the impetus behind this post. Without that oh-so-precious first taste, I would have had nothing to say. But one sip was all it took to get the words flowing.

Yes, I’m a writer, but not without my tea!