Short Story: You Choose.

This was originally part of my daily challenge initiative, however I really enjoyed writing it, and didn’t want to try and cut it down to just a thousand words. So bonus day today, two fics. Though I’ve not written the replacement Daily Flash Fic, so I need to get on that right away.

You Choose, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 19th December 2012

Word count: 1,563

Theme: decision, god, alien, travel, choice, saviour, apocalypse, the one

The story:

You choose.

“Excuse me?” Roman was wondering where that thought came from.

You choose. It was a voice in his head, almost like that internal voice that tempered or tempted him daily, but it was somehow different.

“Choose what?” Roman figured there was no harm in letting it play out. Maybe his brain needed to tell him something.

You choose.

Roman gave up, and went back to sleep. He woke up late the next morning, panicked momentarily about the time until he realised it was Sunday.

You choose.

He shook his head in the vain attempt at dislodging the unwelcome thought that kept repeating. He went to get the newspaper from the door. Did hits usual, sorted himself toast and jam, and a pot of tea.

He sat there reading the paper doing his best to ignore that voice in his head, that repeated every time he read a bad news story. It went silent for the football results, and then he came to an article about a particular vicious incident at a game. A player had headbutted a member of the opposing team, but the referee never saw it, so it was on report.

You choose.

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Tools for NaNoWriMo 2011 (Writing)

This post is a little delayed, but that’s a good thing as my NaNoWriMo project this year nearly got caught in the Technology Trap™.

The Technology Trap™ is where seemingly productivity enhancing tools aren’t actually productive at all. This can be through misunderstanding of the purpose of a piece of technology, inappropriate training or education for a piece of technology, or through design flaws and errors in technology.

My problems were the latter, I wanted to be able to write on my phone and on my PC. Surely there must be an app for that right?

Congratulations there was, a nice simple little app called My Writing Spot on Android. It had word counts in the file list of the app, and in the Web application on the PC (the latter being better as it gave you word count per file and for the whole project). The website is My Writing Nook. It’s very good in theory, you write in a series of text files (which means no complications from unnecessary functionality at this stage of writing and if you’re worried about spell checking, most browsers handle this natively, and auto-correct on your phone when it’s not in a DAYC mood will take care of spelling there), when you click save the file is stored on a protected area of your Google account and is ready for your other device to pick up when it syncs. Now syncing is the best way – but it’s also where My Writing Spot falls down in its current version – the syncing is imperfect and at points you could be syncing over and over until the file moves from your phone to appear on your computer screen and vice versa. You nervously delete it from one, and hope that works, you make umpteen copies just in case.

All this lost time, and concentration becomes a distraction from writing. I finally gave up on it when one night I ended spending a several hours trying to sort it.

Since then, I’ve switched back to good old trusty Microsoft Word when on my laptop on my mobile where I still want to write I’ve gone with QuickOffice which allows me to work on the same file and I could easily view and add to my Excel tracker for NaNoWriMo.

That’s fine with me, except I don’t want to be emailing files several times a day, it’s too inconvenient. So I signed up to Box, they are already integrated into QuickOffice, but they also have a plug in for Office so I can in effect open from and save to my account fairly fast, and then do the same from my mobile.

Even there though was a Technology Trap™, early on with QuickOffice, it crashed while saving to my Box while the signal was a bit intermittent. Lost a few hundred words (I should say this for My Writing Spot, I never lost any actual words just time). Since then I open the file save it down locally and when I’m ready for the PC I save it back to my Box. Haven’t had a problem since of that kind and it doesn’t really take much time more..

QuickOffice isn’t perfect, it doesn’t handle Swype well, but I’ve changed Android keyboards since which I’ll come on to shortly.

So to summarise the majority of my writing is done in Microsoft Word with stuff during commute and breaks at work is handled on QuickOffice – it’s worked for me for the last half of NaNoWriMo.

Another thing that’s made a big difference to writing on my phone has been Swype, it was a lot faster than typing – though it could get annoying at times not recognising what I was trying to say. When I was using My Writing Spot this wasn’t too bad, as I could press the Swype button and it would offer alternatives. The button doesn’t work like that in QuickOffice which was annoying, (it does do this automatically when it’s not sure first time – the issue is when it thinks it got it right and didn’t).

I have since changed keyboards to one called SwiftKey which uses Natural Language Processing to predict based on your historical typing what words come next, a bit like T9 and its derivatives but predicts further ahead. It means you can say more with fewer key presses. It’s taken me some time to get used to typing rather than swiping my way across the screen but it’s actually pretty good at what it does, (however since the most recent update of QuickOffice it annoyingly doesn’t work as well, with several faults in interaction between the two).

I’ll see how it does at writing fiction later, but it is doing okay with blog posts and text messages. Though, as I mentioned, there are a couple of issues with QuickOffice since the most recent update of the software.

Other tools I’ve found invaluable are covered below split between mobile, PC, and real world tools. Some of these may have been mentioned in the planning post, but I list them here as they are also vital to my writing process this NaNoWriMo.

Mobile apps (on my Samsung Galaxy SII with Android 2.3):

  • Thinking Space – mind mapping software for Android with a rough around the edges file syncing system. Most of my planning was stored in Mind Maps, meant it was easy to find and reference the information I stored there, navigate my plot plan and get my story roughly back to it. Thinking Space is the only Mind Mapping software I’ve tried for Android, but it does the job very well. It’s a lot easier to use than PC versions I’ve tried.
  • Fake Name Generator – based on criteria you select it generates a random name and identity information. It generates a lot of points of information such a national conforming phone number, email address, date of birth (gives you age as well if you’re not interested in DOB), occupation, fake credit details, fake website, and vital statistics like height weight and blood type. I have spreadsheets with thousands of fake details like this but it’s handy having an app that generates and does so by gender, ethnicity, and language. I tried two or three from the market this one worked best for me. It does require an internet connection to generate but you can save the identities you generate to access later without a connection.
  • Task – a generic app that came already installed on my, however I used it to craft an initial timeline based on my Excel forecasting as to when I would get to particular sections, and notes to remind me to do things when I did. However, after the first few chapters I gave up trying to divide my work as I went, and decided to do chapters in editing. However this was no fault of the app, and I will use it again because it has a relatively simply to use interface. I’ve looked on market, it’s not there, but there are alternatives.
  • Dolphin Browser HD – There are a lot of options for a browser, but if you’re writing in the wild, it’s handy to have internet references in the wild, and I find I get less distracted by the inconsequential when on mobile phone than when I’m at the PC. However there quite a few options for non-stock browsers on Android, I choose Dolphin Browser HD not because it’s the fastest, or because it does the most, but because it’s a good all rounder and handles complex sites fairly well. I also appreciate the interface most of the time, the sliding menu and favourites bar for instance are handy most of the time, unless they accidentally pop out at random.
  • QuickOffice – Which I’ve already mentioned, it does everything I need, except work consistently with custom keyboard technologies. However even those problems aren’t insurmountable.

PC applications and websites (on my Dell Inspiron Duo with Windows 8 Developer Preview):

  • Microsoft Office 2010
    • Microsoft Word – I’m a long time Microsoft Word user, I remember going way back into the days of DOS. I’ve grown up with it, I was educated on it, and have educated others in it. So out of all the free versions out there, I’ll still opt for this every time. I say this to admit my bias when I say this is the best Word Processor available bar none. Everyone however is entitled to their own view of this, but I like the things Microsoft does well, and better than the competition, and I like the idiosyncratic things they don’t. However to summarise it in an unbiased way, it accepts words in a variety of languages, has custom dictionaries, can do macros if you like for to automate common functions (I like having a short cut for adding page breaks), the newer versions have the ribbon, which I hated initially but have grown to enjoy for the most part, especially with a touch screen.
    • Microsoft Excel – For all your spreadsheeting needs, there’s nothing better. I am however a power user, and fill spreadsheets with macros, and charts many of them created or customised by me.
    • Microsoft OneNote – I use OneNote to store all my more detailed notes, web page clippings, random notes, and samples
  • FreeMind – is a free Mind Mapping software for the PC, which works with files from Thinking Space on the android phone. I mostly use it for reviewing on a larger screen what I’ve done on the mobile.

 

So there you have it, a brief over view of the tools I’ve used for NaNoWriMo 2011. I’m going to try out a different set of tools, and some different methods for going about my writing, to give me something to compare to. Also, while I acknowledge my favourites here, I am open to something better being out there, as long as its a tool that works with the whole process with minimum fuss.

I’ll do another post in the new year to let you know what I’ve chosen to try, and how it has gone. In the meantime, suggestions wouldn’t be unwelcome.

 

Where’s the Inspiration?

A man walks onto the scene, he strolls with forced assuredness, yet you can read in his body language he’s not as confident as he’d like to be, he eyes the megaphone in his hand cautiously, before coming to a step. He lifts the megaphone up, taps the small end, then raises it to his mouth, before clearing his throat, “Ahem!”, then he queries, “Is this thing on?”, his words boom out of the megaphone’s big end. He laughs nervously in response to the annoyed stairs he receives.

The man stands there a few moments before finally seeming to get the confidence to raise the microphone to his mouth again, as he megaphone reaches position this time his cheeks take on a bit of velour, and his eyes seem ablaze, he takes a deep meaningful breath, and speaks into the megaphone,

“Right, listen up,” now all eyes are on him, only they’re attentive rather than annoyed, “I demand to know where my inspiration is! I think it’s wholly unfair that you’ve abandoned me right now. I need you, I can’t write without you. Without you these pages are blank, and what words come are empty.
“Inspiration I’ve never needed you so bad, I’ve got all these things to do, and you’ve abandoned me, given up the fight, and now I stand alone against the tide of battle.
“I beg you return to me your charm, your talent. Words are meaningless without you!”

The audience looks rapt, his words have moved them, they feel his desperation, and they ponder borrowing the megaphone.

The man looks down upon his audience, upon their swept up faces, he watches the emotions play across their faces. Then a thought dawns in his mind, a realisation, maybe even epiphany.

What the man realised was this – inspiration is hard to achieve, but it can hit at the strangest moments, and all you can do is find the nearest waiting apparatus and take advantage.

Everyone has different things that inspires them to write, and inspires what to write. For myself these are most often two different events, for others they might be most often the same.

There is also another possibility one without the other, which can either be liberating or frustrating, for example:

  • I may have a brilliant idea what to write, but no inspiration (will) to write it – so it all plays out in my head because try as I might I can’t convert it into words. Obviously a form of writers block.
  • Something may give me inspiration (the will) to write, but without any inspiration. Here my mind, and the paper is ab empty canvas, and I can just let my thoughts flow freely. Probably doesn’t make for great reading, but it’s fun and liberating for me.

Everybody is different when it comes to inspiration, I know all too well what holds true for me, is complete gibberish to another. In broad strokes, I have probably captured the general forms of inspiration.

In terms of what inspires me to write (gives me the will), it falls down to three categories: the outdoors (nature, weather, scenery, architecture, etc…), other people’s creativity (a book, a film, a piece of music, also biographical information about a creative person, or someone who’s faced adversity in their life), and challenges (nothing gets my creative juices better than a bit of competition).

Sadly these things aren’t guaranteed to get me writing, but most often once I start writing it’s because I was inspired to by one of the above.

In terms of my inspiration what to write, it’s usually something close to hand, something I’ve imagined happening, my emotional state (yes, I can be a bit emo in my poetry), or a need to impress others so I can belong, and validate myself.

I’ve written about many things, from religion to coke cans, from fantasyic tales to mundane moments of life, and from historical events to nature.

Sometimes my indpirations puts me on the path to something specific, sometimes it’s just the starting point, or catalyst for a cascade of ideas.

I will say this, whatever the idea, I do love it when it happens, it’s a veritable joy to let poetry over take me, a joy and love that only falls short of sex.

As I’m getting older, inspiration is getting harder – dry spells last longer, but when the floodgates open, I feel sure the joy is deeper, as I come to appreciate it more.

Still I would live in those moments more if I were able to, giving myself over to the wild abandon of inspiration.

So I feel abandoned when inspiration doesn’t come, and call to it from my megaphone, hoping to attract it back. For me my megaphone is going to beautiful places, reading and listening to music, and entering challenges – hoping beyond hope, inspiration heads my call and answers.

That’s what inspiration is to me.

Evolution of a Writer

Charmander - beause everyone should be a Pokémon - or something like that

Charmander - beause everyone should be a Pokémon - or something like that

So Charmander gets in a fight, it’s against a more powerful Pokémon, though his trainer is sure his Pokémon can handle it.

The battle rages, and indeed in a last ditch effort, Charmander gets the win. The crowds go wild, it’s the little pocket monster that could.

Wait, but what’s happening now? Why Charmander is glowing, what’s going on? Suddenly the glowing shape of a small odd looking lizard is replaced with a larger odd looking glowing lizard, and as the glow fades, Charizard is stood there looking thoroughly chuffed with himself. He’s evolved, become a better Pokémon, bigger, stronger, and smarter. Everyone is shocked into a stunned silence. His trainer starts clapping, and soon the auditorium goes nuts.

What’s this got to with anything? Well after a fashion I think writers evolution is similar. Certainly my own is, I get stronger very gradually, but every so often I tackle something big – and win. The gradual improvement, the many small lessons learnt, and the sudden influx of effort and challenges pushes me to a new level.

I’ll admit, it may be a confidence thing – I’m not a biased judge of my own ability, in the absence of Mr Horobin and Mr Barrand (my English teachers in high school), I can only presume to rate myself.

Every piece I write I get a little better, every review and edit nets me a few more lessons to avoid problems in the future, but every major trial tests everything I’ve learned, and gives me so many new lessons.

In terms of talent and experience, I evolve into a whole new monster, with new lessons to learn and embrace. I find the end of a piece of work, or project, the most exciting time, and I need to focus on that when the challenge seems too daunting, or I lose the inspiration (will), I have reasons to carry on.

It’s true of most things in my life, I’m a far better analyst now than I was four years ago, there are periods of gradual improvement, and those moments where I’ve jumped to a whole new level.

Now I’ve turned myself into a fictional firey Japanese lizard, I think the job is done for this post.

P.S. I don’t know Pokémon that well, if I’ve got the evolution wrong, aplogies to the diehard Pokemon fans out there.

My Poetry Writing Process

The fabled writing process, everyone has one, or one they prefer at least.

My own process keeps me sane, keeps me trying, and ultimately makes my work better. That’s what I’m going to explore in this entry.

I’ve found, that in the past spending a few moments considering what my process is has made for better poetry. It prevents me trying to force myself to fit molds that aren’t mine, which so far when I’ve tried has led me down paths of frustration. Having the desire to write a poem, and then destroying the will to write is a terrible thing.

Preface: Before I start exploring, it isn’t fair to say I have one writing process, I have several – the aim of this post is explore my writing process for poetry, I will do another blog entry in regards to writing literature.

So what is my poetry writing process?

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