Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tools for Revising - TypeIT ReadIT

Wait, don't leave!

You'll be sorry you passed up this info. I've been revising one of my earlier manuscripts, OTHR. I like to read what I've written aloud to hear the rhythm, listen for repetitions, and anything else that strikes me. I was chatting with another writer friend, RRSmythe, yesterday morning. SHe mentioned that she does the same thing using a program called Text Aloud, which saves your file to an mp3 so you can transfer it to your ipod or whatever. Text Aloud isn't cheap, if you add the AT&T voices that read with something more than zombie doldrums.

Since I've been going to the trouble of reading a section into my tape recorder, which saves it as mp3, and downloading to my computer, this sounded great to me. So I searched for a free program that might do the same thing with an acceptable voice. Other voices can be added American, UK or foreign languages. Other languages and foreign voices are also available.

I found TypeIt ReadIt which was designed for students with reading impairments.

It is so easy to use and the voices are decent. Just copy your text into it, click save as sound and you'll have a file within minutes to listen to or drop into your ipod or on CD. Versions for Mac and PC, with choice of file type in .wav for Windows Media Player, .aiff for Itunes or other audio format. I'm heading over to get Duncan, William and Diane.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Idol Fans Not Judging Talent

Once again, American Idol results prove the public picks a winner based on something besides talent. Last year, the obvious stars, Adam Lambert and Allison Ihrheta, came in second to Kris Allen, who seemed to say 'What the Hell were they thinking?' as he received the news. Yes, indeed. And this year I saw the same stunned look on Lee's face as the winner was announced. Surely, Crystal was the most polished and had the most potential to hit the ground running, seeming to be Alannis Morrisette's equal in their performance last night.

What WERE they thinking? Where did these votes come from? To vote off Michael and Casey who were clearly the better musicians...well, it makes me want to watch Dancing with the Stars next year. But it was worth it to see these talented new stars begin their careers.

My favorite performance - Michael and Casey singing, "Have you Really Ever Loved a Woman." Sigh.

Of course, you know you can download your favorite performances from Itunes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's my Process and I'll Cry if I want To

Did you miss me? I've been... 'defining my process' - don't want to have to burn the book. I've heard the term for years but only recently have I discovered how it applies to me. How did I suddenly wind up with so many manuscripts in need of revision? You know how you set wips aside to work on much later (or bury them in your neighbor's backyard) then you have some epiphany that causes you to start thinking of ways to resurrect it?

I just finished the first pass through TR, my paranormal/romance/ mystery/ psychological crime thriller. Just kidding! Though it does have all those elements. Last week I mentioned that I've been listening to some great workshops on re-writing, revising, replotting, by any name, you get the gist.

Having arrived at a certain point in my writing - a few finished manuscripts under my belt, a couple contests entered, some submissions, (and um, rjs) I was looking for the next step. How to make those stories stronger before resubmitting to another publisher or agent. With the Moonlight and Magnolias conference coming up in October, I want to make the best of my opportunities. Some process besides just reading it and re-reading, doing line-edits, hoping for some inspiration to hit.

Writers have different ideas about rewriting the rough draft or revising stale manuscripts. Some go right at the plot, tweaking the story, scene by scene, looking at Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Some think the gramatics (is that a word?) or the prose is the key. But no matter the genre - romantic suspense, fantasy, screenwriting, inspirational - or the writer, Anna DeStefano, Michael Hauge, Jim Butcher, Lisa Gardner, Linda Hall, or Bill Kirton, I found threads of wisdom running through each of their processes and advice.

Characterization makes the plot sing. My words but that's essentially it. Anna DeStefano calls the re-working of the rough draft re-CRAFTING. 'Planning the characters in advance allows the writer to know how the characters will live the plot'. She says the secret to re-crafting the rough draft lies in understanding the characters better. 'Re-craft the heroine.' She suggests going through the manuscript for one or two features at a time like POV of the Protagonist. Read just those scenes. Do you understand the entire story through the Protag's viewpoint? She should either be in a scene or reacting to another character's scene.

Bill Kirton said 'stories rely on credible characters'. Donald Maass' book The Fire in Fiction is a study of character motivation.
Hauge talks about the Desire of the character driving the story forward and the five stages of the plot. Lisa Gardner looks at turning points, making sure the story is progressing at each point. Linda Hall says 'the story boils down to one line - The Heroine (Protagonist) has a problem.' ( CREATE MORE OBSTACLES. Know your characters' internal conflict.)

This all reflects my own gut feeling about my manuscripts - I need to know my characters better. So I'm delving back into the character work via the little Snowflake program which has a great character questionaire. Then I'll re-readn to see what other paths they take with my new understanding of their desires and motives.

One of the most encouraging things Ms. DeStefano said was, "It's all part of the process. Even a cruddy first draft. Get used to it." She said if you don't love your baby, you won't want to spend the time with it required to make it great. Again, the re-writing should be creative and not a chore - you are still in the imagination phase of the project. I like that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Satellite Seriously Sucks!

It was no surprise that as I hit the bookmark to go to my dashboard to post this blog, I got that 'your computer isn't connected to the server' message. *&^($#*@&&&$#@! Satellite is a very very small step above dial-up. At least dial-up is cheap.

We're in the process of setting up a new yahoo group and blog. Here's what happens:

I click on Visit your group on the web. Thirty-five seconds later I arrive at the group page. For someone with as many focus problems as I, that's an eternity. But I sit here, patiently, okay I lied, not so patiently, waiting. Finally, it's up.

I click on the Database. ENGHH! (That game show buzzer sound should go off.) My first of many messages indicating that something has interrupted the satellite's view of the dish. I look outside, the sun is shining but there is a little white cloud over to the south. I glance at my modem. Sure enough the little download signal is missing. I click the back arrow and my browser reloads the previous page.

Again, I click on Database. This time, I'm rewarded with the link to the database. So I hit 'Our Bloggers'. ENGHH! (Grrrrrh!) By this time, I have Wild Blue internet rage. SO I go off to type an email about why I'm delayed. Then I think of the floor in the kitchen needing a mop, the wip I was re-reading, the other computer waiting to install QuickBooks and I'm off!

Ooops, ten minutes later I remember I was trying to correct something in the database so I return to the computer. I can't call tech support because the phone is being ported and isn't working. But I've been through this so many times before...

Tech Support: "How is the weather in your area?"

Me: "Sunny with a couple pesky white clouds."

Tech Support: "I show rain and lightning in your area."

Me: "Really. That would be good, things have been really dry here. But I haven't seen any chance of rain in the forecast?"

Tech Support: "You are in Duluth, correct?"

Me: "Duluth, Minnesota?! Er, no, I'm in central Louisiana. Have I got the right tech support?"

Tech Support: "The portal for your internet is in Duluth, so when they get weather, it can affect your reception."

So in addition to the cost of the friggin' equipment, short warranty, slow bandwidth, high monthly cost and limited usage allowances, I have to worry about weather 1500 miles away! And to top that off, the government is pushing for high speed internet country wide and they consider satellite 'high speed'. There's no hope unless I move.

The positive in all this - I'm learning patience, persistence, gaining fortitude (making plans to blow up the dish) no, not really.

Distractions be Gone - Writing software

While cruising the web in search of a program like Microsoft's One Note for PC (why they don't make it for Macs is a mystery), I found this marvelous little writing program called Ommwriter. PC users, eat your heart out - but not for long. They say they are going to develop a PC version. Take a look. It's sweet! This is strictly for writing, going with the flow, no elaborate formatting available as they theorize it shuts the muse down. Simply save and paste into your favorite word processor.

Ommwriter from herraizsoto&co on Vimeo.

Looks like it would make a beautiful space to write poetry as well.

My new process is taking me toward handwriting the first draft or using Ommwriter, to eliminate distractions and create a muse-friendly environment. For transferring recorded notes and inserting revisions into the text I'll use Dictate. Unfortunately that means I'm still stuck using two different operating systems as I'd like to make use of WriteItNow or One Note for the story bible/roster but my dictation and first draft will be done on the Macbook.

As long as it works.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Writers software - MacSpeech Dictate

A couple weeks ago I mentioned this software I'd purchased to dictate the end of my book into the computer - the 15000 words I'd handwritten the previous week. As I said, I've had a lot of trouble with my right arm. I've tried to use it less but there's no way I can type with one hand. And if I tried to case the mail with my left hand I'd be six hours getting out of the post office. I can't imagine what a left handed mail person does to deliver the mail because I sit on the right side of the truck, drive and steer from the controls on the left with all the mail sitting behind the steering wheel, and poke the mail in boxes out of the right side window. Hmm.

Linda Faulkner suggested last week that I try writing with my left hand. I did. Here's a sample. Ugh. I know I could get used to it and might even benefit from the right brain release of cool writing creatamones or whatever happens when you use your left hand, but that will take some time.

I finished the handwritten ending on Sunday. Received Dictate on Thursday evening. After only thirty minutes of training the microphone and program to my voice by reading a boring bit of text, I began reading my messy handwriting into the mic. Amazingly, Dictate was more accurate than I was. Even when I stumbled because I couldn't read my own writing, it understood my stumbles accurately. So by mid-afternoon Friday including some training on the fly, I was done. (Because the book is paranormal there were words that had to be fine tuned along with local slang words like my favorite Southern expression - fixin' to.)

In the past I've tried Via Voice, Dragon Naturally Speaking (several versions including DNS 9.0) and IListen. This is the first time I've seen this kind of accuracy. Dictate is based on the DNS engine but Dictate is for Macs only. If you're interested in this type of product for PC you'll want to pickup DNS version 10. One of the secrets to the success of this software is the USB microphone headset.

A bonus - I expect Dictate will be handy when it comes to inserting the notes and text into the document after I've read the hard copy and made my notes. Dictate has its own little notepad from which you can copy and paste but will also dictate straight into Word. I haven't figured out how to use it to dictate all my recorded notes yet but now is the time. My recorder is full of great story ideas and I'm ready to incorporate them into the first rewrite.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nashville Fundraisers

Where are we - Miami?

You'd think all the problems are over for the Tennessee-Kentucky flooded areas if you watch the news. Some folks have said 'all they talk about is the oil disaster in the gulf'. So many people in those states have lost everything due to the flooding. The receding water left a disaster in its wake. Some of our writer friends live in Tennessee, one had to undergo surgery during the aftermath of the flooding for removal of her gall bladder.

She posted this link for an auction to benefit those affected by the flooding. Some really cool items to be found with new items being added often. Take a look.
YA Auction

Even our RWA national conference which was supposed to be held in Nashville in July, had to be relocated to Orlando, Florida because the landmark Gaylord Hotel in Opryland was severely damaged.

Help if you can.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gulf Coast Volunteer links

A member of our Goals loop gave some links in case anyone is able to volunteer for the oil cleanup efforts on the coast. Residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast were commended for taking personal initiative to deal with the devastation from Katrina. The are doing the same in response to this oil spill with many taking it upon themselves to purchase booms, oil dispersant chemicals and organize volunteers. So far the worst has not happened though the first of the oil is expected to reach Florida's coastline today and possibly the Keys by the end of the week.

If you want to help or volunteer, Amber's blog is here.

A bizarre little known fact that is spurring salons to contribute - hair collected from customers, both humans and pets, and inserted into panty hose absorbs oil in the water completely. Collections are being made all over the country according to HLN.