Too Busy to Write Blog for RMFW

By Terri Benson

Terri BensonYou’re too busy to write? Wrong.

I know, we’re all busy. Life gets in the way of letting us become the truly great writers we know we are. Kids are sick, the boss needs you to work overtime, you’re tired, the sun is shining and you need to get out and exercise. The number of reasons you’re too busy is infinite – or are they excuses?

To be a writer, you must write. A lot. And not just when you have all the time in the world. This is advice for me, as much as for anyone else. It’s so easy to tell myself that I need a long open period to write. That I can’t just pick up where I left off and go. But if I have to, I can. And so can you.

It will take some effort, no doubt. We’ll have to set the alarm clock a little earlier. Write instead of soaking in the tub with the newest best seller. Let the kids watch that video they really want to instead of playing a game with them. Take the teens to the library and let them do research or homework for an hour or two while you write. Ignore the piles of laundry as long as everyone has a clean change of underwear and socks. Record the game and watch it later (refuse to answer the phone until you have a chance to watch so no one spoils it for you) – you’ll enjoy it just as much. Plan a date night with yourself – go somewhere besides home and write, with or without other writers. Let the family order pizza and spend the time you would have been cooking, writing.

Benson_An Unsinkable LoveCarve out those precious moments to write in, no matter how small. Make the most of the time by being ready to write. Know where you’re going to write. Have your laptop or tablet charged, or paper and pens handy. Don’t get sidetracked by research, or try to edit as you go. Just write. Word after word. Page after page.

If you’re not in the process of writing a full manuscript, work on a short story, an essay, an article, a poem. You can get published and paid for those, too, you know. If you are working on a book, set goals for yourself – number of words/pages/chapters you can realistically write, how many hours a day/week/month you can set aside – and stick to them. Give yourself a reward when you reach them – and maybe the family, too (see next paragraph).

Talk with the family and make sure they understand how important it is that you have this time for yourself. Set rules for interruptions (i.e. amount of blood spilled that qualifies as an emergency, or specify that lost keys or shoes do not qualify as an emergency). Don’t give in to little issues that erode these rules – this is important and they need to understand that. Remind them that Stephen King and Nora Roberts make a lot of money writing, and you might, too, if they’ll just leave you the heck alone.

The next time you find yourself thinking “I’m too busy to write,” say, OUTLOUD, “No, I’ll make time, because this is important to me.” And do it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As a life-long writer, Terri Benson has one published novel (An Unsinkable Love/Lyrical Press), award winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award winning - in local and regional magazines and on-line e-zines. She has been a member of RMFW for the last few years, and her employer provides the location for the Western Slope events. She is currently on the RMFW Publicity Committee, promoting Western Slope events and assisting with articles for the newsletter and blog as needed.

For more information about Terri and her novel, visit her website.

Scriptnotes…Do You Think in Movies?

By Mark Stevens

Do you think in movies?

Can you see your work in progress scene by scene, playing out on the screen?

I do.

I’d be surprised if you don’t.

I’d be surprised if you don’t cast your story. Yes, I happen to think Hilary Swank would make a great Allison Coil. Or Amy Adams.

Go ahead, shoot me for dreaming.

As long as the actress knows her way around a horse, I’d be fine.

I’m interested in story-making, no matter the medium. Novels are my thing. I could never write a play or screenplay. Or epic poem, for that matter.

And this brings me to Scriptnotes, the best podcast you might be missing.

Why?

Because John August and Craig Mazin understand what makes a story work. Each week, for free, they talk about specific issues. Sometimes they spend time on mildly interesting inside-Hollywood industry stuff, but the meat of Scriptnotes is the nitty-gritty of screenplay writing itself. I give you the recent extended conversation over “Frozen” (not just another animated feature!) or the brilliant deconstruction (Episode 73) of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But every week has something good.

August and Mazin have serious screenplay credentials. For August, it’s “Go,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Frankenweenie,” to name a few. He also writes musicals and develops apps. He’s a cool geek and tends to take things a bit more seriously than Mazin. But if I’m not mistaken, Scriptnotes was August’s idea and the pairing with Mazin was a great choice.

Mazin—“Identity Thief,” “The Hangover Part II” and many others—brings the attitude, maybe a touch of venom every now and then, and a strong point of view. Dig it. From what I can tell, he takes nothing seriously. He might be the loud one at the dinner party, but you’ll probably die laughing. Okay with me.

Here’s what I like: these two care deeply about what makes stories work and that passion comes through.

My favorite segments involve the “Three Page Challenge.”

Bold podcast listeners and would-be screenwriters submit the first three pages of their screenplay-in-progress and August and Mazin have at it (the three pages are posted online so you can read along, too).

When the pages work (which happens), August and Mazin dole out praise and encouragement and we learn what works—and why. When the pages don’t work (the majority of the time), it’s like attending a forensic exam of a corpse with Temperance Brennan as your guide.

Remember that great workshop (“The Agent Reads the Slush Pile”) at the last Colorado Gold conference where two agents, Kristin Nelson and Sally Harding, dissected the openings of novels in progress? Insightful—and brutal. “The Three Page Challenge” is along those same lines. Character, pacing, action, plot, setting—what is tripping up your story?

I’m always picking up something from August and Mazin. I listen while walking the dog or working out and I can’t begin to tell you how many times an idea has surfaced while listening to them chat about movies and screenplays.

The last 20 episodes are available for free but for a whole whopping $1.99 you can get access to the entire back catalog.

I highly recommend Scriptnotes. A different point of view, perhaps. But it’s all about storytelling and, you know, it’s all good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark StevensMark Stevens is the monthly programs coordinator for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan. Book three in the series, Trapline, will be published by Midnight Ink in November 2014.

RMFW Spotlight — Bonnie Ramthun PAL Liaison

The RMFW Spotlight feature will introduce a few of our RMFW officers and volunteers. We started out with the board of directors, sat them in the hot seat, shined the bright light on them, and channeling our best inner Oprah, plugged them with a few questions. This month, we’ve interrogated our PAL Liaison, Bonnie Ramthun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1. Bonnie, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I'm the PAL for RMFW, which means the Published Author Liaison. I volunteered for this position because I wanted to give back to the RMFW community. When I started attending the Colorado Gold conference I was already a published author but I knew nothing about... well, let's just stop there. I knew nothing! RMFW has taught me so much. The amazing workshops, the excellent publishing advice, and the support of what Mario Acevedo calls "the writing tribe" means the world to me. I found my terrific agent, Becca Stumpf of Prospect Agency, at the conference. I found new publishing contracts. I've discovered amazing authors whose novels take me away for hours of happy reading.

What can I possibly do to give back to such a wonderful organization? I do what I can. I volunteer at every conference, and as the PAL I manage the Friday Night Networking Tables. Each January I form a committee to select the Writer of the Year, and I present new RMFW authors with a PEN award and showcase them at the First Sale Panel at the conference. I make a poster every year of the WOTY winners and present the WOTY with a special pin commemorating their award. This past year I formed the committee to create the new Independent Published Author group, the IPAL, and I put our conference director, Suzie Brooks, in contact with Smashword's Mark Croker to see if he would come to Colorado Gold and talk about independent publishing. (He will!) I try to think of new ways to improve our organization all the time because that means greater success for all of us.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I have an eclectic set of stories and novels available for readers on Amazon. If you like romance, there's a sweet short story called Love out of Time, with a cover design by RMFW's own Karen Duvall. My horror story The Little Hitchhiker was selected for Horror Novel Review's anthology and RMFW author Yvonne Montgomery called it "a deftly written, fast-paced tale that veers into nightmare territory." (Thanks, Yvonne!) If mystery is more your style, try the Detective Eileen Reed trilogy of Ground Zero, Earthquake Games, and The Thirteenth Skull. And finally I have a historical-supernatural-thriller-romance that didn't find a niche in traditional publishing (wonder why?) called The Night Queen. Finally, if you have a youngster in your family who doesn't like to read, I have it on good authority that The White Gates will help them change their mind!

If you'd care to write a few words in review on any of my works that you enjoyed I would really appreciate it. Reviews really help a novel and I try to write reviews of every book I read, particularly those of our terrific RMFW authors. Here are a few of my favorite covers:

Ramthun_Thirteenth SkullFrame with Christmas tree branches and vintage decorationsRamthun_night queen

3. We've all heard of bucket lists-- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

When you ask someone what they would do if they won the Powerball, and they say: "I wouldn't do anything differently," you know you've met a happy person. I love being a mom and a wife and a writer. I wouldn't turn down millions of dollars, of course, but that wouldn't change my life. Okay, except travel. I would travel more. I'd go to Ireland and Nepal and India and Australia and I'd attend every writer's conference I could find, and I'd buy books every day, piles of them. Maybe I will buy that Powerball ticket after all.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

I have a terrible case of writus-interruptus. If I'm in the zone and typing away and the phone rings or the dog starts barking, I'm not only thrown out of my story but I can't get back into it for hours. I know I have this Achilles heel so when it's writing time I cocoon myself in my room, turn the phone off, and put earplugs in my ears. Whatever works, right?

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

Writing is hard work for me. I love to write the same way I love to work in my garden: I know the backbreaking labor will bear fruit. One of the true joys of writing is receiving notes from readers who loved my books. One mom wrote to me that her son who didn't read at all liked my book The White Gates so much that she found him under the covers with a flashlight. Another reader told me that when she finished The Thirteenth Skull she was so swept away by the adventure that she felt like she'd been on vacation. Those notes make me smile for days, and give me the strength to get back to the keyboard and keep writing.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

I would recommend (and I do recommend, all the time) for beginning writers to join an organization like RMFW, and to scrape together all their spare cash to attend a writer's conference like The Colorado Gold. I learn every year about my craft and about the industry, and beginning writers who have those tools are ahead of the pack and are bound to be more successful. I wish I'd known about RMFW back when I was a newbie writer.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

Here's a photo of my desk, and a picture of my inspiration stones. I collect them and I like looking at them and holding them in my hands. I bought my IMac with the advance money from The White Gates, and my computer is my window to the world, my research companion, and my writing platform. My sister calls this color scheme: Cowboy archeologist librarian. Works for me!

Ramthun_desktopRamthun_inspiration

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I just finished reading Innocence, by Dean Koontz. I'm a big fan and this latest novel chilled me to the bone. Maybe because the ultimate plot twist was so plausible? Koontz is truly a wonderful writer. Next up is Missing, by Christine Jorgensen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks so much for answering our questions, Bonnie. We all appreciate your hard work with PAL and with RMFW.

Awesome Events Ahead from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Attend a Class

Online Class
Editing and Revision
for Fiction Writers
Presented by Cindi Myers
3 Week Course

Start Date: Monday, February 3
End Date: Sunday, February 23

$35 Members – $40 Non-Member

Register

E.B. White said “The best writing is rewriting.” No matter how much care you put into your first draft, only when you’re done and you’re able to see the book as a whole will you be able to give the work the polish it needs. If you’re a rough draft writer like Cindi Myers, the editing and revision process is where the real magic of creating a book happens. Cindi will share her process and techniques for taking a story from a messy rough draft to a polished gem ready for submission. Exercises and class interaction will help you address your particular editing and revision problems and learn techniques for making the daunting task of editing a complete manuscript more manageable.

In Person Class
RMFW Screenwriting 101 with Trai Cartwright
Tuesdays, 6:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M.
Start Date: March 4
End Date: April 22
2369 Trenton Way, Suite M
Denver, CO 80231

$225 Members – $250 Non-Member

Register
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Submissions for 2014 Conference Workshop
Submit Workshop Proposal
RMFW is now accepting workshop proposals for Colorado Gold through March 31, 2014.

If you have any questions, email Susan Brooks at conference@rmfw.org.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RMFW Anthology 2014 Submission Guidelines
Download PDF of Theme and Guidelines
Anthology Theme: Crossing Colfax
Submissions are due by March 14, 2014.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Attend the 2nd Annual RMFW Writers Retreat

With Special Guest, Agent Kate Schafer Testerman
Organized by Angie Hodapp
March 16-21, 2014
Table Mountain Inn,
Golden, CO
REGISTRATION CLOSES FEBRUARY 15TH

The 2013 writers retreat was a smashing success! It’s back in March of 2014 and will become an annual spring event. How much does it cost to attend the retreat? We are pleased to introduce flexible registration options. Attend for two days (minimum), three days, or all four days, and pay only for the days you attend. How do I register? Go to the RETREAT EVENT PAGE for more information and the link to register.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
New events and other announcements are available on the Home Page of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers website.

Finding Inspiration and Suspense in Nature

By Kim McMahill

Kim McMahillAuthors garner inspiration for their stories from a plethora of sources. Some observe, watching life unfold around them, absorbing the possibilities and twisting reality into dramatic fiction; some feed off emotions; others rely solely on active imaginations; and many embrace adventure through the endless bounty of nature. I accept inspiration whenever and wherever it presents itself, but the natural world is my greatest muse. I often find the sensational backdrops for my novels in nature, along with those forces humans try to manipulate, but generally fail to control, which add an additional layer of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heightening suspense.

Those who follow my work may have noticed that I’ve set multiple stories in Mexico. Though I haven’t been to Mexico in a few years, I have explored its Mayan ruins, enjoyed its beaches, and I’ve done some volunteer work in the rural interior. While listening to a guide discuss the practice of human sacrifice at the Sacred Well at the edge of Chichén Itzá, my eyes darted around the perimeter, searching for any hint of danger, and my imagination ran amok (Marked in Mexico). I found it impossible to wander Cobá on a morning devoid of visitors, cautiously peering behind a mysterious ruin abutting dense jungle and listening to the insects, without needing to take the adventure much further (Deadly Ruins). And, Big Bend National Park—anyone who has been there has surely stood on the banks of the Rio Grande, looking across its muddy waters into Mexico, wondering about life on the other side, and if anything could make an American risk everything to swim for another life south of the border (Deadly Exodus-Desperate Dreams).

McMahill_bighornBut, you don’t have to travel to a foreign country to find inspiration in nature. Big Horn Storm is set in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. It encompasses over one million acres of remote country, and its abundant wildlife, evergreen forests, mountain meadows, rugged peaks, deep canyons, and cascading waterfalls make the area breathtakingly beautiful, and the perfect setting for an action packed adventure. Whether experiencing the area in the winter on snowmobile or in the summer on horseback, it is a place to be respected. The weather is unpredictable, with snow possible every month of the year; predators live in the shadows, avoiding humans when possible, reacting when cornered; and help can be hours or even days away. So, where better to set a contemporary western adventure combining a too-close-to-home military crisis, harrowing horseback escapes, and an attempt to reconcile past releationships?

Nearly all writers admit to being avid people-watchers, which is essential for realistic character development, but don’t forget about nature and the experiences we encounter within its broad embrace. Not only can we find inspiration in its varied landscapes and the creatures which inhabit its diverse and unique environments, but we can also visualize additional challenges for our characters to overcome, and discover that extra element of danger to heighten a story’s level of suspense.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming, which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. Since leaving Wyoming she has enjoyed many opportunities to see the world and has lived amid some of America’s most stunning landscapes. Kim started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happy endings soon drew her into a world of adventure and romantic suspense. Learn more at her website, or follow Kim at her blog, Embrace Adventure. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

If a Blog Falls in the Forest….

By Sunny Frazier

Sunny FrazierJulie Luek asked me over here to discuss blog interaction. First, let me say, I'm honored. I entered the Colorado Gold contest early in my career and the changes suggested definitely got me a contract. This is a terrific group.

I do my homework. I've scrolled through some recent blogs on your site. Good stuff. So, where are the comments? One here, two there. And, the same responders showing up. What gives?

Then I found Aaron Michel Ritchey's “Why I Have Failed To Write a Word In 2014.” I don't know this guy, why should I care? But, the title has grabbed me. His first line: “I am the problem.” No writer admits to that. They blame writers block or a full-time job.

I have to keep reading. His clipped style and use of the word “suck” amuses me. I have no idea what “Lama sabachthani” means. I don't care. He's hooked me with the first sentence. Isn't that what we're told to do in our novels?

His piece got 21 comments. I read all of those as well. I want to find out more about this man and, if his books are as good as this post, I want to buy them. I'll even become the stalker he craves.

Aaron started with a headline that stood out. I'm from the school of journalism; it all starts with the headline. Next, he made it personal. He's not lecturing me, he's opening up. With loose language and a bit of irreverence, I know I'm in for a good time with this guy.

Frazier_FoolsI use the same tactics as Aaron, but I go a bit further. I created a Posse, a group of aspiring writers. I send them interesting posts and train them to reply. It's a chance for them to expand their contacts in the writing world, to find out who's who. It also allows them to give an opinion and perhaps mention their own WIP. They're trained to announce posts they've written. Blogging doesn't do a bit of good if nobody is aware of its existence. .

Everyone should have a Posse. It starts with friends and contacts in your circle. All that networking you've been taught to do? This is where it comes in handy. Get out the business cards you've collected and include them in your group. Don't be shy, but don't SPAM everyone you know. Figure out who will enjoy the experience you are about to give them.

Please don't waste their time. If you're only blogging to fill up space or fulfill a commitment, remember all of us are busy people. Every time I write a blog, I ask myself “Would I stop and read this?” Be sure the reader comes away a bit more aware or given a different slant on the topic.

Frazier_Angels FearDon't make a blog all about selling. It's promotion, yes, but readers are trained to smell the hard-sell from a mile away. You have to be slicker than that. Let your word usage do the selling for you. A blog should be an audition for your novel. If readers love the way you write, they expect more of the same in a book.

To pull people to your blog don't say, “I wrote a nice blog. Please stop by and read it if you have a moment.” Here's the announcement I posted today titled “Yes, I Dipped My Toes In Those Muddy Waters.” My email said “Literary fiction vs genre--sounds boring, right? Do we REALLY need to hash out this one again? Those of you who know me know I'm going to have the last word, and you can count on it being irreverent.”

My followers know I'm again thumbing my nose at the status quo and we're cyber-nudging each other, snickering to see if I can get away with it. Toes will be stepped on but I get invited back because I do something all site owners are looking for: I attract readers. The numbers go up. People are plugging into their websites and will hopefully sign on for more.

Finally, my last tip to create fans: I personally contact people who reply to my posts to thank them. Not just in the reply space. Nope, I'm going to Google you to see who you are, what you've written and let you know I appreciate the time you took to read my words. I will even Facebook you with a request for friendship. And, I will notify you the next time you want to have some fun with me over at another blog. You're important. You make this all work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunny Frazier trained as a journalist and wrote for a city newspaper, military and law enforcement publications. After working 17 years with the Fresno Sheriff's Department, 11 spent as Girl Friday with an undercover narcotics team, it dawned on her that mystery writing was her real calling. Both Fools Rush In and Where Angels Fear are based on real cases as well as astrology, a habit Frazier has developed over the past 42 years. To see her in her WAVE uniform and learn more, go to her website.

The Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly: All Manuscripts Are Not Created Equal

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

Listen closely, for I am about to tell you a publishing secret no one else wants you to know.

Are you ready?

Here goes.

Not everything a writer writes is good.

Shocking, right?  J.K. Rowlings didn’t sit down one day and pound out a thousand pages of Harry Potter the first time her fingers hit the keyboard. Learning craft takes a lifetime. Some writers get lucky and the first manuscript they write is snatched up by an agent and sold to a big house for a huge advance. But they still have to sit back down at the keyboard and write book 2.

Trust me; the second book won’t be nearly as easy to write. Or as pretty.

Manuscripts are a lot like children.  Some are born cute, while others have to grow on you.

*No emails, please. Your offspring are just adorable, I swear.

But there is a beauty in the crap writing too. A freedom. Maybe it’s a freedom from inside the box thinking or story ideas. Sometimes it’s freedom from your own voice, a means to explore beyond what you know. Often, for me, my crap words are the same ones that push me for better ones. After all, how many times can my heroine roll her eyes?

The answer is 27 time, in two chapters.

Had I submitted that bit of crap to my editor, he might’ve suffered from an eye-rolling sprain.

Not pretty, I know.

Now what can you do if you find yourself with an ugly baby?

A few things:

1)      Dress it up. Add a new, exciting character with a better story line. Then cut the old characters and story line. Basically, write a new book.

2)      Rip it up. Sometimes it’s best to just let a story idea and sometimes a whole manuscript go. Too often we get stuck on a manuscript, on an idea, trying to turn an ugly baby cute when even ten million hours of scalpel-sharp revision wouldn’t make it better.

3)      Let it rip. The ugly baby might all be in our heads. This is when honest feedback from a critique group can save your precious baby. But you have to be able to trust what the critiques say. People don’t like to tell you your baby is ugly, so they nod and smile when asked. That won’t be helpful if your baby really is ugly.

4)      Embrace it. Show the world your ugly baby, and let the world decide what happens next. This is a mindset I see a lot in indie publishing. Sometimes the world loves an ugly baby, a baby that then turns out to be a swan in diapers.

5)      Toss it in a dumpster. Or better yet, that drawer in your desk where all bad manuscripts go to die. Then, in a few years, after 20 more craft classes on revision, 10 on editing, 3 on the hero’s journey, take that baby out and play with it. If it’s still ugly, put it back in the drawer before anyone sees it.

Because I love my RMFW blog readers, I’m going to share a piece of an ugly baby of mine with you:

She struggled, but not too much. Her water soaked hair turned stringy like seaweed, making it almost impossible to see the terror in her eyes, as he held her head under the icy water. He was careful not to mare her snow-white skin. A bubble burst from the water’s surface, filled with the last remnants of oxygen in her lungs. The sound it made as it broke the surface was anticlimactic, a muted death rattle and then silence.

Guess that baby needs a few more years in a drawer before unleashed onto unsuspecting, polite society. Did I actually use the words, snow-white skin? I feel sick…

Since we’re all friends here, give me a bit of your best ugly baby, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, as much as you’d like to share.  Best ugly baby will win a prize.

---------------------------------

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming book, The Assassin’s Heart. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator. For more about Julie, visit her website and blog.

Connect with Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

.

Gadgets and Spreadsheets and Apps, Oh, My!

By Katriena Knights

Like most of us writers, I’m always looking for a way to increase efficiency and up my wordcount. All this while trying not to aggravate my carpal tunnels and managing to spend a couple minutes here and there with the kids. My latest quest for the perfect productivity combo has led me to what I’m finding to be a neat combination of apps on my relatively new iPad and my favorite writing program, Scrivener.

Some history on some of these items first. My best friend introduced me to Scrivener a few years ago, and when I first fiddled with the demo it was like a revelation. I switched from PC to Mac for Scrivener, which I think is a little like converting to a new religion so you can marry that hot guy who's not the same religion as you. That move alone made writing faster and easier, but it still tethered me to the computer. The next move, when my carpal tunnel started acting up, was to write by hand, then dictate into Scrivener with Dragon Dictate. Which helped my wrists but slowed me down.

I’d resisted getting an iPad for a long time, even though I really really wanted one. I mean I wanted one with the kind of intense lust I usually reserve for broken-nosed, big-shouldered, hockey-playing men. But I couldn’t justify the expense. Finally, my daughter got a hand-me-down iPad for Christmas one year, and after fiddling with it for a while, I decided I could get some use out of it aside from playing Bejeweled for hours. So I bought myself one for Mother’s Day last year.

Well, boy-howdy was that ever a good investment. I started writing ALL THE TIME. I could pop that sucker into my purse and get set up at Starbucks in a quarter of the time it took me to set up with my MacBook Pro. I even liked the touch keyboard for the most part. But using the touchpad plus Notes or Google Docs wasn’t quite cutting it, either.

Enter my BFF yet again, who ran across an app called Werdsmith. I installed the free version, fiddled with it a bit, then decided I didn’t like it and deleted it. I started working in Notes so I didn’t have to have an Internet connection to write. After I wrote a section, I emailed it to myself and dropped it into Scrivener. But that wasn’t covering my bases well enough, either. I wanted to know how many words I was writing in a session, and Notes doesn’t have a wordcount feature (if it does, I never found it, so don’t mock me or anything in the comments if it has one…). Out of curiosity, I downloaded Werdsmith again. For some reason, it made complete sense to me this time. You start with an Idea, then you add a wordcount goal to it and it becomes a Project. Werdsmith tracks your wordcount as you go. Now all I needed was a spreadsheet app. I also got a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard to reduce my weird autocorrect errors and so I could type faster.

I poked around the app store and tried out a few spreadsheet apps until I settled on iSpreadsheet (there’s a predictable app name). I’m still using the free version. I just make a new spreadsheet for each project, or, with longer projects, for each week of work. When I’m done, I export it, email it to myself as a .csv, convert it in Excel, then file it in my folder with the rest of the story files. Here’s an example, converted to a .jpg for your viewing pleasure.

Spreadsheet from iSpreadsheet

iSpreadsheet isn’t all that dynamic, but it does what I need it to do, and it’s free. Also I can put pretty colors on it, and it does a limited number of formulas. I’m not sure what the upgraded version adds other than the ability to create a larger number of individual spreadsheets and no more ads, but for now I’m doing fine with the free one.

So now my wordcount has increased to the point where I can knock out over 1,000 words in a half-hour session, as you can see on the spreadsheet. The Logitech keyboard is for some reason easier on my wrists than my laptop keyboard—maybe because I don’t bang on it as hard when I type. And with the spreadsheet and Werdsmith to keep track of my wordcount, all my tracking and goalsetting needs are in one place. I email my Werdsmith files to myself, drop them into Scrivener, then when the first draft is done, I chop the file into scenes while I’m doing my first edit. When I’m done editing, I export to Word and shoot the file off to my editor. It’s a great system for me so far, and I intend to keep using it until I find another fun gadget or app to add to the workflow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Katriena Knights wrote her first poem with she was three years old and had to dictate it to her mother under the bathroom door (her timing has never been very good). Now she’s the author of several paranormal and contemporary romances. She grew up in a miniscule town in Illinois, and now lives in a miniscule town in Colorado with her two children and a variety of pets. For more about Katriena, visit her website and blog

 

The Winner of Aaron Michael Ritchey’s advance review copy is….

Aaron was kind enough to offer an ARC of his new novel, Long Live the Suicide King, to one lucky U.S. commenter on his January 21st blog post. Using random.org, we selected a winner.

Congratulation, MB Partlow!

MB blogs at Partlow's Pool

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. This kind of encouragement for our regular contributors and guest bloggers is greatly appreciated.

 

RMFW Spotlight on Nikki Baird, Anthology Chair

Our second spotlight of the month features Nikki Baird who is serving as anthology chair. Nikki was happy to join in the fun because she wants to see a large number of RMFW members at her workshop tomorrow and is hoping for lots of great member story submissions for Crossing Colfax, the first RMFW anthology since 2009.

The workshop is called Short Story Breakdown: Prepping for Anthology 2014
Saturday, January 25
1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.
Bel Mar Public Library
555 S. Allison Parkway
Lakewood, CO 80226
Members Only

The deadline for submitting to the anthology is March 14th. For more information and the submission form, go to the anthology page on the RMFW website.

nikkibaird1. Nikki, tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the anthology chair, which means that I shepherd the production of RMFW's short story anthology. The organization has produced 3 collections so far, and this will be our fourth - and my first in this role. But it will also be the first anthology produced in this wild west of self-publishing, which is very exciting.

It's been awhile since RMFW has produced an anthology, and I've increasingly realized the importance of short stories both in advancing a writing career as well as advancing craft. So I became passionate enough (or just plain crazy enough) to decide that a) this is something that RMFW should do again and b) I will volunteer to lead it. So here I am!

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I'm actually in the process of putting out my own short story collection, as a way to dip my toes in the water of self-publishing. The collection is called Uncanny, and I hesitate to give a publication date because every time I do that, life gets in the way big time. But I'm in the process of designing covers right now, so it should be available "very soon."

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

To go to St. Petersburg, Russia and experience a white Russian night. I was a dual-major in college, and Russian was the second major (which is a really long story all on its own), but I never got to spend a semester there because that happened to be right as the Soviet Union fell apart and it became very inadvisable to travel there. Would've definitely helped my language skills. But St. Petersburg is a city with a fascinating history, built by one of the most enigmatic leaders of Russia, and it is absolutely on my list of things to see in my lifetime.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

Saying the same thing twice. Granted, I say it differently each time, and I usually like both ways - which is why I end up leaving it in on the first pass. I've had to learn to give myself some time to let the love fade, and then I can go back and ruthlessly delete all my over-writing. Either that, or my wonderful critique partners will not hesitate to point out the repeats.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

When my story surprises me. I think I will never know if the connections that suddenly emerge out of nowhere were actually planned long ago deep in my sub-conscious, or if I really did only just see the opportunity, but I love that little jolt of "Of course that's what should happen next! How did I not see that before?"

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Get over the whole grammar over-reaction (you know, the mind-numbing high school lectures on sentence structure followed by the verbal beatings and grades when it was clear I absorbed nothing). The vocabulary of grammar can be confusing and challenging, but every craftsperson should know the tools of their trade, and grammar is the tool of the writing trade. I resisting learning the language of my chosen profession for too long, and I would say it prevented me from quickly learning the "why" behind a lot of the rules out there. It, to be repetitive, slowed me down.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

You really want to see this? Just remember, you asked!

The first thing you should know is that, yes, I have a treadmill desk. I just found out that I walked 1,722 miles in 2013, which also wasn't a full year of walking because I didn't set it up until February. I will confess that most of my heavy writing is not done on the treadmill - it's hard to walk, think, and type all at once and I'm always worried I'll mess at least one of them up if I try all three. So the treadmill is only running a couple hours a day, not all day, and usually when I'm thinking or checking email, not when I'm writing.

Baird Desk1.jpgThe very colorful picture leaning against the wall is a wax art piece created by my son, and the larger black & white drawing is one my husband made in high school.

Baird_Desk 2A.jpgThe second thing to know is that the image above is missing its usual occupant, which is the family cat, Katara (named after the Water Tribe girl from the Avatar cartoon series). Next to her is the one thing I always have on my desk, which is a picture of my husband sticking his tongue out at the camera (in the heart frame). It is a reminder not to take myself too seriously.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I am reading The Atlantis Gene, by A.G. Riddle. I've recently bought or downloaded a bunch of different fantasy/scifi/horror e-books on Amazon at different price points to see what the quality of each price point is. This one is pretty good - I will definitely finish it.