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Archive for the ‘Writing Rambles’ Category

The one thing I like about writing, is that I learn all sorts of cool things. Usually this is done by research. But, sometimes it’s something like how do you put snow in a picture that has none.

This came up when I was creating my annual Christmas story. The first time I did tried to add snow to an image, I pasted individual snowflakes into the picture. Needless to say this took a while and I didn’t want to repeat this procedure. Surely there had to be a better way. And there is. I won’t get into much detail, you can view a video on YouTube if you’re interested. I just want to share my excitement at solving a peculiar problem.

After getting directions from the Internet, I went through them and it didn’t work. My result was a hot mess. I must have missed a step and I had because it worked the next time. It was so cool. No more pasting snowflakes and making them smaller or larger as the case may be. This way it takes a lot less time.

This isn’t the first time I got to expand my expertise on Adobe Photoshop elements because of the my picture books. It won’t be the last either. I use MS Paint as well, but I’ll have to become more proficient in another drawing program because Paint is going away. At least I’ll become proficient in something else. Always learning. That’s a good thing.

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Chapters

When I first write a draft, unless I have an outline, which is seldom, I don’t have chapters. And, even if I do have established chapters, I may add or subtract one down the line.

I don’t know why I started this. Maybe because I just wrote and went wherever the story did. I figured it’ll go around in the end and it usually does. It comes out quite nicely in fact. I amaze myself when I find the chapters are around the same length.

In the story I wrote about Charleston, that has no real chapters unless one counts each day as a chapter. I’ve it organized by date and sometimes by time of day. In another story I’m working on, I have definite chapters, but I’m thinking of cutting those short because they seem too long. A pity almost because I’ve when I wrote the outline I made up humorous chapter titles. I’ll either have to make up additional ones or not use them at all. We’ll see how that goes.

I don’t think I’ll change how I write and I’ll continue dividing the stories after I’ve written them. When I chop them up to put up for critiquing I usually count so many pages, then find a good place to end the chapter. This works pretty well for me even if it means adding a few lines to create a hook to lead readers onto the next chapter. It makes the chapters pretty much an even length, not that it really matters to me. What I don’t like thought is very short chapters, like one or two pages long. So far, I haven’t had that.

Will I change my habit? Probably not. It works and that’s all that matters.

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An internal rant began after watching the new Star Trek: Discovery. I was trying to figure out why the main character didn’t appeal to me. (There are more reasons why I don’t like the show, but I could devote an entire encyclopedia on the subject, so I won’t go there.) Why did I not like this Michael person? Why was I so ‘meh’ on the captain who was also female? Was it because I thought it a cheap jab that Michael was Spock’s adopted sister? Because I found no chemistry between her or any other character?

Or was it because the film and television industry have embraced that a strong female character in an action flick has to be able to kill five people in five seconds, march along with their foreheads furrowed, bent on destruction, and/or have total alpha personalities?

This musing brought on a internal discussion of which action female I did like. As I don’t watch a lot of TV or see a lot of movies, this took a bit. I liked Captain Janeway. She wasn’t my favorite Star Trek captain, but I did like her. Emma Peel (The Avengers, 60’s TV series) I liked as well. All the female leads in NCIS are good except maybe the new one who psychoanalyzes everyone. And that was after telling myself I won’t like that person because they replaced so-and-so. Agent Carter in Agent Carter. Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Okay, she could kill five people in five seconds, but she wasn’t the aggressive, stomping around type.

I suppose where I’m heading at is that I like people who are more like those I meet in real life. Those I have admired over the years. And those are strong females. Confident at what they do. Able to see what has to be done, and does it, and if they can’t, they’ll ask for help. They’re regal even. Someone you can trust and go to if you have a problem. They can be someone older. They can be someone young, with like a ton of common sense. They are those who see a problem and work on it. They have goals and they achieve them. That is a strong woman. And that’s the kind I’d rather have in my stories.

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Since I’ve been doing illustrations for my Christmas stories, I’ve been working on my drawing skills, which are lacking. If I ever, make that, when I sell a picture book to a publisher, I’ll be handing over the illustrations part to them. Which is something they want anyway.

I’ve always been rather perturbed that publishers assign an illustrator to a book and sometimes the illustrator will not talk to the author. I’m sure the person who thought up the story has some definite ideas on how some of the illustrations should look. I know I fear that they won’t draw my cats correctly. What if they make Talbot more Persian like? Or they don’t put a freckle on Mietze’s nose? Or draw her white patches incorrectly. That would very much bother me. And that’s why I draw the kitties myself.

With that in mind, and with me not really liking all the drawings I did for the last book (that I never published on blurb), I thought I’d start honing my drawing skills. I decided to start with hands. Of course, cats don’t have hands, they have paws. I have a book on animation and began drawing the hands in it. Over and over again. If they didn’t look right, I traced the hand, trying to figure out where I was going wrong.

I found another place of drawings of hands, most the four fingered cartoon kind, and began drawing them. Over and over again, and yes, it got a bit boring, but after a while I could draw my own hand positions without having a model for it.

On to the next step. I now am attaching those hands to arms. What good for me to be able to draw a hand if it won’t fit to an arm? I can’t go around drawing the hands first and then drawing the rest of the body. I mean, I could, but it doesn’t make sense to me to do it like that.

I’m going to be doing this for months, just keep on practicing. I’m going to improve my drawings.

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I’d hoped to be finished with this by now, but every time I read it, I find another fact I must verify. Historical novels are not easy, not if you want to do it right. There has to be a right amount of facts. Too much and you can bore your reader, too little and it can be at anytime anywhere U.S. of A. And you don’t want to be looked at as an idiot if you’ve screwed up the facts.

For example. In my very first draft, I maintained it was easy for former slaves to find family members. Wrong. I was so, so wrong. Serendipitously I spotted the book Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery by Heather Andrea Williams. That sure set me straight. Most people never saw their relatives ever again if they’d gotten separated. And they looked, placing countless ads in church newspapers.

While I was lucky finding that book, there are other bits of factoids I’m searching for to make sure my book doesn’t go amiss. This in regards to a funeral. I’ve checked the library. I’ve checked the Internet. I can’t find anything on the specific questions I have. How long did it take to embalm a body during that time? If they didn’t embalm the body, how long would it last in the heat? I checked the local history section in a library and this one lady told me in good authority exactly what would happen, but she only knew about now and not in a historical context. It kind of irked me.

I’ll just have to keep trying. I’ve got another avenue to go down for the answer to this one.

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I see my mom do this quite a bit, flipping to the back of a novel to see how it comes out. I admit I’ve done it myself, but only because a) I don’t like the story and want to see if it’s worth reading to the end. It never is. Either the story is just as muddled in the last chapter as the first few ones, or everyone dies and what’s the point then in going further? b) I need to make sure a character, usually an animal, doesn’t die. If the animal, usually a pet, dies, I’m not reading the book. End of discussion.

I’m not quite sure why my mother reads the last chapter. She’ll have a quarter of the book down and then flip to the back. She’s given several answers why, but I don’t remember them all. Sometimes she continues reading, sometimes not.

I’ve heard other people do this as well and they seem quite happy with the arrangement. They like knowing where they’re going. I prefer to let the story take me there. There are times where I really, really, want to know how it ends. Will the main character make it (not die, reach his destination, etc), or be successful (solve the mystery, save someone or something, etc), but no. I am firm. I march on, page after page, relishing in the fact that I. Do. Not. Know. I want to be surprised. This is especially true when I haven’t a clue what’s going to happen, where all the foreshadowing doesn’t enlighten me or the author creates a huge puzzle.

And that’s how it should. The journey of reading a fiction book is one page at a time, sequentially.

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When I started this blog, it was for my writing. I don’t quite feel I’ve been doing that these last couple of years and I want to go back to that. I also want more Pawnee Kitty and Angus adventures. That’s another aspect of my writing, so that fits in too. Book Reviews. I’ll still do those.

I feel that I swayed from my path too much with more posts in the Whatever file. I will not go forego those because interesting things happen.

Starting next year, 2018, in January, I’ll be writing more on writing. It won’t be every post, but at least once a month there’ll be one for the Writing Rambles category. Stay tuned.

And Happy Holidays.

 

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