A to Z Challenge 2012

I did it. I signed up for the 2012 A to Z Challenge. If you're not aware of it, each year bloggers are invited to post (almost) every day during the month of April.

To unify the theme, each day's post follows one of the letters of the alphabet in consecutive order, beginning on Sunday, April 1 with "A". The rest of the Sundays, you can have off.

It's fun to visit blogs and see how bloggers tackled each day's letter theme.

Last year I did posts on Enneagram types and subtypes, which were very popular, and can still be read. (See page bar above with that title.)

This year I've decided to highlight where I live, the Palouse of southeastern Washington / northern Idaho.

I like doing the challenge because it's an opportunity to get acquainted with many, many new bloggers. Last Sunday when I signed up, I was already #1182. Today, just under 1300 have signed up for the challenge.

What does that mean for the month of April? One huge, exciting blog fest. It's a great opportunity to follow new blogs and also to get new followers.  

Arlee Bird started it in 2010, but it's now so big that he has the help of about a dozen co-sponsors. Go HERE to sign up.

It's not too late to join the blogging frenzy that will be happening in just ... five days!


Novel Content-Management Software: yWriter5

A writer friend recently told me about yWriter5, which is software that helps you organize your novel.

I was dubious at first. The "Cadillac" for this type of software is Scrivener, made for Mac users, which left me out. Then Liquid Story Binder was created for windows users, which I bought.

I was never happy with Liquid Story Binder. You can do untold numbers of things with it, including storyboarding and mind mapping and so on, but the software is not intuitive. Even when you've learned how to use it, the resulting products (storyboards, mindmaps) are terribly klunky looking, and moving information around is not easy.

I stopped using it and fell back on my own rather frustrating methods. I've always created my own storyboards in Microsoft Publisher, but that is time-consuming. You can move things around, but in a less-than-ideal way.

So when my friend got excited about yWriter5, I was not at all sure I wanted to spend time learning yet another piece of software that might have a steep learning curve and, in the end, be unsatisfying.

It took me three weeks to finally download yWriter5. I was learning four other pieces of software during those three weeks, one of which is mind-blowingly incredible and has a steep but totally worthwhile learning curve, and is for another post. Once I had finished playing with the other new pieces of software, I downloaded yWriter5 and discovered ...

It is totally intuitive, with almost no learning curve, and is everything I could hope for in content-management software. It was developed by Simon Haynes who has twenty-five years computer programming experience, and is also a multi-published author. His website is full of useful information about the craft of writing, and worth taking a look at. (I've included a link to his website at the bottom of this post.) 

Some of the things I love about yWriter5:

  • It keeps track of word count of individual scenes, chapters and overall project. 
  • There is a place for scene notes and notes about locations and the characters. If you're in chapter 10 and you can't remember the color of a particular character's eyes--just pull up that character's notes. 
  • It will save all versions of your scenes in a neat little package that you can grab whenever you want to look at it. One of my big problems is that I may have re-written a scene 10 times, adding and removing information each time. Then I get to the 11th revision and I realize I need some information that was in one of the earlier versions. It still exists; I never destroy my drafts, but which draft was it? It would take me countless hours to sift back through hundreds of files to find the information. 
  • There is a screen where you can keep track of the scene conflict in a few words. Or if what you wrote was a scene-sequel, it allows you to note the character's decision that will create the next scene's goal.
  • You can set it up to keep track of a daily word quota and project deadline. It will show you how  well you are keeping up with your daily output in order to finish on time. 
  • The notes field can be used, if you wish, to summarize the scene in a sentence or two. If used in this way, yWriter5 will then generate a synopsis based on the scene summaries. (How cool is that.)
  • The storyboard works very well. It looks nice and the scene cards are easily movable. 
  • You can also, very easily, re-order scenes within chapters and chapters within the entire project. 

Even more good news? It's free, however once you've tried it, you will probably like it so much that you will want to give Simon Haynes a donation for creating such a lovely piece of content-management software.


Cheryl Klein 2012 Revision Workshop: Spokane, WA SCBWI

Four of us from the Moscow, Idaho area drove to Spokane yesterday for a day-long workshop on revision with Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein, sponsored by SCBWI.

The workshop did not disappoint. If Cheryl ever comes to your area, don't hesitate to attend this workshop.

However, in the event that that is not a possibility for you, you can glean 80% of what she had to say from her book, Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. This is mostly a compilation of blog posts she had written over several years when she was known in the blogosphere as Brooklyn Arden. She drew heavily from it in her presentation.

I would have to say that if you've been studying the craft and techniques of writing for a while, not much of what she had to say will be new to you, however, a refresher is always good.

If you are new to studying the craft of writing, you will probably come away with your head spinning from information overload.

I especially liked her explanations for the numerous uses of BOOKMAPS. She is extremely left-brained, extremely analytical, as you might expect an editor to be.

There was one new piece of information, one missing piece from my "Understanding the Craft of Writing Puzzle" that she did answer for me. I have always wondered where, exactly, a manuscript should begin. She gave the example (which is typical of my own book) of a young adult who is in the process of moving to a new town. Where should the story open? When the young person gets the news that the family will be moving? As the family is on the road, moving to their new home? Driving into the driveway of the new home? The first day of school? A week later?

Her response was a simple, slap yourself upside your cheek and wonder why you never had that figured out before: You begin it where the protagonist comes in contact with whatever your overarching story is about.

If your overarching story involves conflict between two people, your first scene is where those two people meet and conflict. If it's about a mystery, it's where the person who is to solve the mystery comes on scene and gets the first clue or bit of necessary information. If it's a love story, it's when the hero and heroine meet.

The first scene ends where the protagonist is faced with a choice that determines the next action step in the story.