Writing Tools: Handwriting

Being a writer could mean anything. It’s a quite large umbrella term, just like artist or scientist. Like any other label, what we use as writers, or artists, or scientists defines us. Writer could mean anything from articles to webblogging and anything inbetween. There are many tools that we as writers use, whether it be programs, or specific devices or inks. Anything that helps us get those words down on the page, or whatever mediym we decide to use, makes us writers.

Our choices in the tools we use says a lot about us, a lot about our circumstances, and a lot about our preferences. We can consistently stick with one medium, or we can use several at a time. The choices are endless, and I suspect they will be forever changing.

When I started writing, I used a pencil and a spiral bound notebook. It worked at the time, especially since I had just started eighth grade and still felt more comfortable with a pencil than a pen, since I had been using only pencils since I learned how to write. It worked for a while, but then I began to notice that the pencil rubbed off and made the pages ashy and unreadable in certain areas. Not only that, but the metal spirals would get crunched and never remain quite viable enough to prevent the ripping of pages. If I wanted to preserve my writing, so I could continue to read it, and work with it, something had to change.

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So I switched to ballpoint pens, and I went through several brands before I found one I actually enjoyed writing with every time. It took a few rounds of trial and error to find which pen didn’t leak through to the other side of the page, or bleed at just the slightest humidity, making the page look messy, or which pens would scratch through the pages with just the slightest change in pressure or ink. It took several rounds of pen buying, and pen tossing before I found the best fit for me.

A little background on my handwriting “posture”. I am left-handed (which means I pretty much always smudge), and I balance the pen on my ring finger rather than my middle finger. Using my ring finger as a balance gives me more support from my thumb, fore finger and middle finger, but that also means I can write pretty heavy on the page at times.

The pens that work best for me, and that I love are the R.S.V.P. by Pentel. They have a grip to support my fingers and prevent me from gripping too hard and writting too heavy, they have great ink flow and last a pretty long time (depending on how much I write), they have a clear plastic, so I can actually watch the ink and not be too surprised when I run out, and they come apart easy so I can replace the cartridge when needed. Not only that, but the ink stays where I want it on the page, with no bleeding or fading and it looks amazing. They come in several different ink colors, and sizes, which makes the choices practically endless, and you can even “build your own” as I like to call it. Currently, I have a purple grip and an electric blue topper, and I just replace the ink cartridge when it runs out.

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As for notebooks, I used spiralbound for several years, just dealing with the crunched metal spirals and the hazzards that came with it. I was used to ripped pages, small jabs, notebooks stuck together, and many other hazzards that presented themselves. After all, the writing inside was still readable, and spiral bound were the cheapest and easiest. And then I found the non-spiral bound. The notebooks with the smooth edge and the pages that had no change to get ripped when turned on the warped spirals. So I bought a few, and tried them out. I liked them, but the only problem was in my area therer were few of them sold. Finally, after years and years of not seeing them, and still using spiral bound, or loose leaf paper in a binder (with lots of those reinforcement stickers, and staples), I came across composition notebooks.

I started using composition notebooks for all of my writing toward the end of 2010 and I absolutely loved them. No spirals to get warped or catch my hand on, no risk of pages falling out, hard cardboard cover, basically no problems, Not to mention super cheap almost year round. They also come in fun festive patterns and are easy to decorate with sharpies.

So my current tools are a composition notebook (at least 3 for each book, one for each section) and an R.S.V.P. by Pentel with several refills.

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What are your handwriting tools? Why do you like them best?

Writer Life Lesson #6: Try Something New

As humans, we feel the urge to learn. We feel the urge to expand and learn new things, attempt new things. There are several quotes about knowledge and ignorance, and progress. As writers, we cannot stay in the same place forever, we must advance and grow and learn.

Last week, the lesson was write what you know. This week is a continuation in a way. This week’s lesson is: Try Something New

Yesterday, I did something I have never done before. I got on an airplane and I wrote on that airplane. That was a new, amazing, experience and I’m glad I was able to do it. It was a pretty short plane ride, but it was perfect for a new experience. It was a little taste of something I hadn’t done before.

So what happens when you try something new, either in life or in writing? You gain experiences and stories, both to tell and to write. You can share those experiences with others, and the knowledge that comes from those experiences.

I’m not saying you have to do something big, like get on a plane, or spend your whole life savings on a new house or car. Start with something small that you’ve wanted to try for a while. Try waking up at a new time, or trying a new food. It can be something small. Remember, small steps can lead to big changes.

There are a lot of new experiences to be found in writing too. Try learning something new or researching something you’re interested in. It can be a small step toward a huge change. Try handwriting if you usually type, or typing if you usually handwrite. Try writing a new perspective or even a new character. There are so many options out there, and so many new things to try as a writer.

I’ve tried a lot of new things in the past few years, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be as great of a writer as I am now. If I hadn’t tried such new things as NaNoWriMo and rewriting and editing, I would not have those experiences and that information to share with all of you. I wouldn’t be as knowledgeable or comfortable with writing, or even sharing all of this.

Learning new things, and trying new things can be frightening. Certain things can be scary, like getting on a plane, or writing a new perspective, or even changing something as small as your morning cereal. Fear is in our lives to help us know what could be dangerous and what could be life-threatening, but a lot of the time, we fear too much. Sometimes, in the face of change, we need to confront our fears head on, and continue on despite them.

So face your fears and try something new. It could actually be fun!

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Try something new and give people something to say, whether they doubt you or not.

What is something new you’ve tried recently?

What I’m Writing: Camp NaNoWriMo

This year, in both April and July, hundreds of thousands of people will be writing a novel in a month. Each one of those hundreds of thousands of people will write their own novel, whether it be five pages or five hundred. Fingers will be flying, pens will be scribbling and writers will be writing.

I will be one of those writers, and I finally have my plan for this April. This will actually be my first serious attempt at Camp NaNoWriMo that is not a rewrite, or that doesn’t coincide with finals, or resesrch papers. Plainly, this is the first April where I will have time to write what I want, and give it the attention it needs.

So what am I writing this April?

The Thirteenth Step

Details are still a bit sketchy, like names and details. The basic premise is a med student who falls down the spiral of addiction after turning to selling drugs to pay tuition.

Stay tuned for updates!

Are you going to try Camp NaNoWriMo this April? What are you writing?

Writer Life Lesson #5: Write What You Know

Whether you are new to writing, or have been writing for decades, you have some knowledge. You know what you do, who you are, and what you write. Just as no two people can write the exact same novel, there are no two people that have the same exact knowledge base. Why not use that to your advantage as a writer?

This week’s lesson is: Write What You Know

Write something you know about, so you don’t have to do as much research in the first draft. Write something you can be knowledgeable about, so you don’t accidentally write you into a corner, and start over again. You don’t even have to know everything about the topic, but it interests you and you have what I like to call “TV Knowledge”.

TV Knowledge is the most basic grasp of something. It’s the Law and Order version of Law, the CSI version of crime scenes, the House M.D. of medicine. It’s just enough knowledge to make a somewhat intelligent plot that could be plausible. It’s just enough information so the viewer, or in your case the reader, doesn’t get bored. It’s the knowledge dumbed down enough so readers don’t feel like they’re reading a textbook.

TV Knowledge is great to start with, for first drafts, to get your words on the page so you can fix them later. But it’s not the best for a final draft. I’m not saying you have to research every little thing, but you have to keep it believable for your genre. You have to do enough research after the first draft to make it seem believable.

There is nothing more difficult than trying to write about disseminated intravascular coagulation if you can’t even pronounce it or if you don’t even know what it is. If you know something about what you are writing, then the words can come at least a little bit easier. If you don’t have to research every other sentence, you can write easier. Sure, there will be some things that you have to research, but that’s only after the first draft is done.

First drafts are for writing. Subsequent drafts are for researching. To start out, write what you know.

As a writer for several years, I have several examples of writing what I know. One of my first novels in college, which is currently on hiatus, but is connected to my current series, was about a CNA, which is what I was at that time. I knew quite a bit about that, so I started with that, which led to a journey that started with a kiss. It was cheesy, a bit immature, and needed a lot of work, but I wrote what I knew at that time. I put my experiences and my feelings onto those pages. I made it mine. No one else could have written it the exact same way that I did, because they didn’t know all that I did. All that I do.

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There are nine types of knowledge. Every one of them can aid in writing.

So what do you know about? How does that make it’s way into your writing?

Writing Out of Order

Rarely ever do writers write like actors portraying writers in movies. In movies, there is just one draft, no hardship, no long nights editing and crying because you can’t remember how to spell an easy word, no agonizing wait times. Just shiny finished product. Movies make writing seem like the easiest thing in the world, they makes great sentences seem effortless. Actual writers know that is not the case.

Every writer is different. How they write, where they write, how many pages they write a day. The list really goes on and on. There are some writers that start at chapter one (or the prologue) and write through the whole book. There are writers that never write anything in a coherent order and shuffle the scenes around at will. I used to write straight through, chapter one until the end, but more recently, I’ve been able to jump around a bit.

I’ve been writing a series for about four years now. I started with book one, wrote a very little bit of book two, and even less of books three and four. The series is going to be a long one (I hope) of between seven and nine books. This gives me a lot of material to work with and a lot of chapters to write. The only novel I’ve completely finished (besides major edits of the latest draft) is book one. I’ve actually rewritten it 3 separate times, tweaking a different aspect each draft.

Let me tell you, three time writing the same basic plot can be BOOOOORING! So in the latest draft, I wrote out of order for the first time ever. I had my outline, and the plot and characters that I knew so well, and I would like to say it worked. I’m too close to it right now, so it’s waiting to be viewed by a few others before I do anything else.

Since I am writing a series, I can jump around and write other parts while I wait for book one to be readable again. As I said, I’ve worked on a few other parts of the series, writing parts that I felt I couldn’t keep inside anymore, or parts that related to book one.

There are several reasons to jump around, whether you’re writing a long series or just one stand-alone book. Sometimes, scenes toward the middle or end of the plot are more interesting; maybe there’s just one scene that is the epitome of your idea and you have to write it down before it’s gone forever. While there are several reasons to jump around, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Keep an Open Mind about the Scene
The scene could come out just as you see it in your head, or there could be a word or a phrase that sets you off in a different direction, or maybe even ten different directions. Just write notes about your ideas as you write and even scenes it could connect to later. It’s also good practice to keep in mind that the scene could move around, or even be cut entirely based on the finished product. It could even be edited to something that barely resembles the original. There are a million and one possibilities.

Think About Your Outline
Or your idea if you don’t have an outline. Think about where it will go in your novel or whatever you are writing, think about the scene that comes directly before or after, where your characters need to be, what they know, or what they don’t know. This can always be added later, but it is good to think about before you jump in blind.

Write Like You Know Everything
When you write out of order, you might not know all of the small detail throughout your project. You can know the big picture, big scenes and plots, but subplots and transitional scenes might not be as solid. Even if you don’t know it all, write like anything is possible. Write like every detail is already in place and that you know exactly what happens next. Remember, you can always edit it later. Nothing is set in stone.

When you jump around in your piece, whether it’s a novel, script, or anything else, you can learn more about what comes before and after that scene. Whether it’s the same book or not. When I finished book one, there was almost a whole section that seemed off to me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. As soon as I started writing the same section for book two, it became clear what was wrong. In book one, I wasn’t sure what to expect, what needed to be there, and exactly what I was getting myself into. In book two, the character perspective was more advanced and the character knew more about the world around him. I knew his goals better, they were more solid and that made it easier to write book two, and even rewrite the part of book one.

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The outlines and notes for the whole series. It's always good to write down your ideas, even if they seem stupid or weird at the time.

I have a little assignment for all of you. If you’re thinking about writing, or even have something started, but not finished, finish the scene you’re on, and then write the ending. Yes, you read that right. Write the ending. Just try it out, see how it feels, especially if you’re stuck in your current project.

If you attempted my little assignment: How did it work for you? Did you like it, or was it the worst thing in the world?

How do you write your projects? In order, or do you jump all around?

Five Reasons You Should do Camp NaNoWrimo This April

Every year, writers, both old and new, get together to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo. Camp NaNoWriMo takes place several months out of the year and allows anyone to write a novel. April used to be for Scriptfrenzy, but now it’s all about the camp life, cabins, writing buddies, and writing a novel in 30 short days.

Here are some reasons why you should try Camp NaNoWriMo this April:

1. It’s a great start for a new project
If you are a writer, or even if you’re not, you could become one this April. Ever have that nagging idea that wants to be written, but you just never find the right time or place? Camp NaNo will give you that time, and the place could be anywhere. Even if it’s not a new project and just a rewrite, you can still have that rush of trying to make word count and the accountability of writing your novel. Either way, you get words on a page.

2. You can pick your own goal
Unlike NaNoWrimo (which is in November) where the word count is always 50,000 to win, in Camp NaNoWriMo, you can choose your own goal. Want to stay on par with NaNo and write 50,000 words? Go for it! Want to smash 50K and go for the big 100K? You can do that too! Scared of the 50 and want to go for something a bit less daunting? Go for 25K or 15K. You can put any number in that box. You can choose whatever you want. AND you can change it throughout the month, no matter what your progress so far.

3. Less busy time than November
Ahh, November, the time of writing a novel, getting together with family, and FINALS IN A WEEK?! If that sounds familiar, whether you are a student, or you have other events coming up in December that induce the same fear as finals, then Camp NaNoWriMo may be a better fit than its parent event. Since April is earlier in the year, and not so close to holidays and more stressful times of the year, it’s a bit less stressful to sit down and write. There aren’t as many tasks that need to be completed before the end of the year, and not as many family members around all up in your space. This makes noveling way less stressful.

4. Less holidays in April
Depending on the year, few major holidays are in April. Sometimes Easter falls in April, but that’s better than Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday, and the rest of your family in your daily life for a week or more. In addition to less holidays and distractions, the weather is starting to get nice and inspiration is blooming outside, along with our moods.

5. More Choices
In addition to getting to choose your own word count, you can also choose your cabin mates. There are several ways you can choose them, or you can randomize it and meet all new people. The choice is yours, you can even choose to not have a cabin at all.

There are a lot more choices associated with Camp NaNoWriMo, so it would be a great introduction to NaNoWriMo and what it and the Office of Letters and Light are all about. You could win, or not, but you will definitely end the month with more words than you started with.

So why not try?

Camp NaNoWriMo: Here

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Handwrite or type, just get some words down for Camp NaNoWriMo

What do you think about Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you going to participate?

The Writing Space

Writing can be done anywhere. On a plane, train or automobile, in your room, or outside. The places are endless as long as you have the supplies you need. Writing is easy, if you have the right surroundings.

So what makes a great writing space?

A writing space should be:

Comfortable: It should be a place where you not only feel comfortable physically, but emotionally as well. You should have a comfortable chair, or a place to sit such as a beanbag or couch, or even your bed. It should also be a place where you feel safe and where you can be free of distractions, and people asking questions. I enjoy lots of pillows and blankets, and plushy items to help me feel comfortable.

Inspiring: Your space should be clean, or at least organized. You should have things that you can look at and pull ideas from, things that make you feel happy, things that you can hold in your hands. Personal things like photos and drawings and art are all great things to inspire. I have images from old calendars, pictures of family and artwork that friends have drawn for me, along with a few ceramics projects and an artists mannequin.

Functional: Your space should be stocked with whatever you need to write. Paper and pens, or laptop, or even typewriter or tablet. There should be space for at least a water bottle or some hydrating fluids, and even some snacks. Sometimes even a timer or clock helps. Whatever you need to function and write should be in your space. I like to have whiteboards to write ideas down and notebooks and paper to write.

So what does a writing space look like?

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These are the walls around my desk. I love the artwork from old calendars.

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I keep a few creative things around my bed. Whiteboards are great for late night ideas.

My writing space is actually my whole room. It inspires me and it’s where I feel most comfortable so I make it work for me. I love to look at my pictures, or my whiteboards and take in the creativity to help me write.

What does your writing space look like?