Sunday, September 13, 2015

Finding Time for Your Writing

It's like Christ's parable of the sower and the seeds.  Some of the seeds landed on good soil, some on rocky ground, and some on thorny ground, where weeds would spring up and strangle the crop.  I believe that His mention of the thorny ground was to remind us that the cares of this life can strangle the good things we are trying to accomplish, by stealing all our free time, and can even prevent us from becoming the people we were meant to be.  We hear truth and fail to dwell on it and act on it, thus robbing ourselves of the growth we might have known, if only we had more time for what is truly important.

For those of us who are trying to be writers, it can be so hard to find time to write.  I work full time; I have a long commute; I own a home that needs repair and improvement; and of course, there's always yard work.  I have family who need my attention.  And my friends like to hear from me now and then.  There's always something that seems to be more important than my writing.  But if I'm ever going to become a published author, I'm going to have to find time for my writing.  Somehow.

This summer has been difficult.  In addition to my usual yard work around the house, I've tackled some home improvements.  I had no idea how much of a distraction the home improvements would prove to be.  I hate the cold of winter, but I'm almost eager for this winter to come.  I should be done with the home improvements by then, and the only yard work I'll have to do is to occasionally shovel snow from the sidewalk.  When my yard rests under its blanket of snow, so do I, and then I have more time for my writing.

Meanwhile, I look for those few opportunities that I have to get some writing done.  I have a tiny little computer, an Asus EeePC netbook - which I won in raffle, believe it or not - that has proven to be a lifesaver for my writing.  What little writing I've gotten done lately has been due to the portability of this little PC.  I pop it in my backpack and write on the bus, so I can take advantage of that long commute that I mentioned earlier.  On my lunch hour, I wolf down my food, boot up my Asus, then try to spend thirty to forty minutes working on my latest short story.  Saturdays are for chores, but on Sundays, after church, I take my Asus to the coffee shop and try to spend a few hours writing.  It's my only day that I can truly carve out a block of time for writing.  All those stolen moments, robbed from the time-consuming weeds of duty and responsibility, that want to choke all the creativity out of my life, add up, and I do manage to get writing done during those times.

So for those of you who write, don't give up.  Just find a little time somewhere in your schedule.  It doesn't have to be a lot.  Consistent effort will pay off over time.  The important thing is to be consistent.  When it's your time to write - WRITE.  Don't think of all those chores that need to be done.  It's your writing time, so just write.  The world and all your responsibilities will still be there when your writing time has passed.  Devote your writing time to your writing, and let the world turn without you for a few minutes.  You'll be glad you did, later, when you look at your finished text.

The worst thing that could happen to us as aspiring authors is to reach the end of our lives and look back and think of all those stories we wanted to write, but didn't, because we didn't find the time.  Let that fear motivate you to find a few stolen moments for your writing.

And remember this:  your characters cannot tell their own stories.  They depend on you to bring them into the world.  If you don't find the time to write, they can never live.  They will only be known by you, and they will exist only in your imagination.  The world will never meet your characters, nor will it know their stories - unless you find the time to SIT DOWN AND WRITE.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Storybook - Free Software

Another great software offering of which every writer of fiction should at least be aware is Storybook.  It's a free, open source software program that lets you outline, organize, and reorganize your story's plot in an easy-to-see, visual way that will let you see all your story lines and elements at a glance and which can potentially enhance your story writing.  Here's a description of the software, as explained on Storybook's webpage.

"About Storybook

"Storybook is a free Open Source novel-writing software for creative writers, novelists and authors. Starting with the plot to the finished book — with Storybook you'll never lose the overview. Storybook helps you to keep an overview of multiple plot-lines while writing books, novels or other written works.

"Storybook assists you in writing your book

"Manage all your data such as characters, locations, scenes, items, tags and ideas in one place. A simple interface is provided to enable you to assign your defined objects to each scene and to keep an overview of your work with user-friendly chart tools. With the Memoria Tool each object can be followed in dependence on time."

And, the best thing of all is, Storybook is open source software - and it's free.

If this sounds like what you've been needing to enhance and organize your writing, here's the link to the download page.

http://www.novelist.ch/joomla/index.php/en/download

Enjoy!

Dropbox

I've begun using an absolutely wonderful file sharing software utility called Dropbox.  It's available as a free download online (https://www.dropbox.com/) and offers up to 2 Gigabytes of file storage - free - which has been more than enough for my purposes.  For those wanting more file storage, there is a small monthly fee, but a very affordable one.  This software tool is useful for a wide variety of file storage and backup purposes, but in my opinion, it's especially valuable for writers who want to store text files, back them up, and duplicate their files on multiple computers as I do.  This is one utility that every writer should know about, and use.

The file duplication feature is what I consider the best aspect of using Dropbox.  This features enables me to share my files between several computers, and the files are automatically updated on each of my computers, as soon as I boot the computer and go online.  I have several computers that I use for my writing and for other computer projects, and I never know which computer I may be using on a particular day.  It depends on where I'll be and what I'll be doing with my computer that day.  With Dropbox, I can start a new story on my desktop computer, grab my backpack, which houses my netbook computer, run to the library or the coffee shop, go online and let Dropbox update my files, then continue working on my story.  It's the best utility I've found for file sharing for the average computer user.

What really sold me on Dropbox was how smoothly and reliably the utility works.  Files are always updated, as soon as you go online, and very rarely with any copy flaws.  And what flaws I have encountered during file synchronization have been easily fixed, because Dropbox detects copy errors, keeps the original copy of the file, and renames the flawed copy, indicating that it is a conflicted version.  All you would have to do, in the unlikely event that you encounter this difficulty, is to delete the flawed file copy, open the original file, and go on working.  This is so much better than Microsoft's Live Sync, which I tried to use before I discovered Dropbox.  My files seldom synchronized properly with Live Sync, if they synchronized at all.  With Dropbox, synchronization is smooth, fast, and consistently reliable.

I should mention that I have dial-up Internet service at home.  I do most of my Internet activities at WiFi hotspots, such as Starbucks, Cafe Mela, or the library, but even at home, Dropbox quickly and easily updates my alterred text files.  Of course, text files are typically small files.  Picture files or videos, should you choose to store them in your Dropbox folder, would take longer to synchronize if you are plagued with the now antiquated dial-up technology, as I am, but for text files, Dropbox works great, even on dial-up.

I really can't say enough about Dropbox.  It has greatly simplified my file backup and file sharing efforts.  Sharing files on mulitple computers, using Dropbox, can replace tedious weekly manual file backups, because each computer on which you install Dropbox becomes a file backup storage device that will automatically synchronize any changes made to your files, regardless of on which computer the file was updated.  Occasional manual backups to an external hard drive, every month or so, is all I need to do now, in addition to using Dropbox, to ensure that I always have reasonably recent copies of all my writing files.  (And by the way, if you use your computer for writing and you are not doing regular backups, shame on you.  You're risking losing all your work.  Computers and hard drives die.  Don't trust them.  Make sure your files are backed up, in multiple places.)  For me, Dropbox is the easiest way to ensure that my files are backed up and the simplest way to synchronize my files on multiple computers.

Now take my advice and go to Dropbox.com and download and install Dropbox on your computer.  If you do, you'll thank me, when you see what a great utility Dropbox is for writers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Approach

I've decided to take a new approach to this blog.  I started it, intending to write about my writing.  I posted a few blogs in this vein, but found it difficult to maintain interest in blogging about my writing.  So I've decided to shift my emphasis.

A couple of years back I returned to school to study computer networking.  I didn't realize at the time how much studying computers would benefit my writing, but it has, not so much my writing but how I produce and backup my writing.  Most people write on a computer, nowadays, but I wonder how many writers understand their computers.  The ability to use a computer is essential to effective writing.  So I've decided to center this blog around the theme of writing with a computer.  My future blogs will reflect this new emphasis.

I've also give the blog a new look.  I hope you like it.

Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Screenwriting software

I've become interested in screenwriting, lately. I've always imagined the novel I'm writing as a movie and hoped it might become one, someday. But the dream of writing a screenplay was always a distant hope, something that, in my mind, was far off in the future. That was before.

Yesterday, a friend at work gave me an idea for a great movie script (and more importantly, permission to use the idea, since my friend is not a writer). I decided I can't put my dream of screenwriting off any longer. It's time to learn how. So, naturally, being a computer-oriented writer, the first thing I did was to order some screenwriting software.

It was a toss up between Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter (MMS). I did the prerequisite research, and went with MMS. Being fairly Internet savvy, I surfed the web for a great deal, and found one. The full retail price of MMS v.6 is about $250.00. I found it for half that. $130.00, including shipping. I bought the student version, which reportedly has all the same features. Now I can't wait to try it.

I know almost nothing about screenwriting, not even how to format the page. But that's why I bought the software. It should make the job of learning how to write screenplays far easier. I've read a couple of books on the subject, with titles like, How To Write and Sell Your Screenplay. But reading about writing - and writing - are very different skills. I've learned that in trying to write my novel.

I look forward to getting acquainted with the software. When I've had a chance to nose around in the program for a while, I'll write a review and post it here, in case anyone's interested in knowing more about MMS.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Computers - arrgh!

I wonder if I'll live long enough to see the day when computers can diagnose their own software troubles and fix themselves. It would save me an enormous amount of time if they could.

I love computers, and consider them indispensable to writers. But I swear I spend more time resolving problems and squashing computers bugs and backing-up files than I do on the thing for which I bought my computer - mainly, my writing.

In the course of learning about computers, and in an effort to become a proficient computer user with an eye toward using them effectively and securely for my writing, I've purchased and outgrown several computers. I've recently advanced to Windows Vista on my latest computer, a fast Dell Inspiron E1505 notebook computer, which is loaded with Norton's latest and best security software. And it's a great computer. With all its security features, the Dell has proven to be the perfect computer for my online activities, such as writing this blog. In fact, it's so nice that I don't like to take it with me to the coffee shops and libraries where I do much of my writing. I'd rather keep my Dell safely at home.

So for my regular writing chores, I find myself using my obsolete Hewlett-Packard Windows XP computer. I say it's obsolete because that's what HP's tech support person called it, recently, when I phoned for the upteenth time asking for help with yet another bug. This time, they wanted to sell me another HP computer to replace my "obsolete" model, rather than service the XP system yet again. But no way would I buy another HP after the trouble I've had with that obsolete model.

For the first year I had it, the HP was away to the manufacturer's repair center more than it was in my hands. This last last round of repairs, affected over the past few months, included the installation of a new motherboard and hard drive, because the old ones had died. I can't imagine that anyone has ever replaced more parts on a computer than I've replaced on that danged HP. But I've now replaced about everything that could possibly break down on it, so it's basically a new computer. And I've invested a fortune in the darned obsolete thing and believe that the only way I can ever get my money's worth out of it is to just use it until it wears out. I hope to get a few more years worth of service out of it, at least. By then I may not feel that I've wasted my money in buying it -- as I do now.

So the HP has become my knockaround computer. I take it on the bus, tucked away in my backpack, and to the library and to coffee shops. At this point, if I break it or if someone steals it while I'm in the bathroom, I think I'll be relieved to be rid of the thing, wasted money notwithstanding.

And in addition to the hardware problems, there are the usual Windows snafus and maintenance issues. I spent most of this weekend debugging software issues with the HP computer, backing up files on both computers, ordering more memory for my Dell (It seems Windows Vista needs 2 Gigabytes of memory, minimum.), and updating software, such as my antivirus program. -- I didn't get any writing done!!! When will I be able to work on my work, instead of working on my computers to get them to work the way I want them to so that I can do my work?

This is not why I bought a computer. I didn't want to become an computer expert, I just wanted to write. But unless you can afford to hire your own IT technician, it's necessary, these days, to learn to be an effective computer user if you want to write. Or at least, I believe so. It's unfortunate, but true.

That's why I'm eagerly awaiting the day when my computer will be able to either repair itself or tell me what it needs and which button I need to push to fix it -- preferably only one button, which I will press from a semi-reclined position, George Jetson style. Maybe then I'll be able to get some work done.

The only question is, will I (or you) live that long?

Monday, December 31, 2007

Life gets in the way.

Writing isn't living. It's not the center or the focus of a writer's, nor an aspiring writer's, life. Or at least, I feel it shouldn't be. Writing is an extension and the expression of a life lived. If the life is well lived, the writer will have something about which to write, hopefully a lot about which to write. But as surely as a writer's life provides the raw material, the clay from which he forms his or her art, life can also interfere with the writing process.

Take my life, for example. I'm not a published writer, nor am I independantly wealthy. I have a wife, and two daughters who are not yet completely on their own, so I work a full-time job. I have a long commute to my job, as well. Plus, I'm a homeowner. Because our family budget is limited, I do most of my own household repairs and yard work. I go to church and I sing in the choir. I do research, related to my writing. I like to read a lot, as every writer must do if he is to gain a sense of what makes writing great. And I watch a lot of movies, trying to develop a sense of what makes for a good plot, because I want to write screenplays one day, and because I love movies and must have some time to relax. So, excluding hours spent watching movies, I'm busy.

I have all the usual problems anyone would have, unexpected car repairs and expenses, job-related difficulties, family problems, that can throw off my day - or my week - preoccupy my mind, and make it difficult for me to concentrate on my fiction.

I have trouble finding a quiet place to write. I think a lot of writers have this problem. So I spend a lot of time - and money - at coffee shops. I used my Christmas vacation to restructure my workspace at home in an effort to make it a more efficient place to write and a more comfortable place to work - which, of course, took time away from my writing.

I'm also fighting cancer. This problem might seem insurmountable to some, but in my life, it's just one more hurdle in my quest to get a little writing done every day. These days, if caught early, cancer isn't so much a death sentence as it is a life sentence. Thus, trusting God to give me the time I need to finish at least my first story, I perservere in my writing.

Some days I make a little progress in my novel writing. Other days pass having seen no progress at all; far too many days pass like this.

But I am determined. I will continue to work on my novel until it is finished, if God indeed grants me the time I need to do so. I only wish I could stay home and work on it each day, rather than having to rush off to work in the morning five days a week. By the time I get home from work, relax for a while, have dinner, spend a little time with my wife, I find that it's late, often too late to begin work on my novel. Late in the evening is not when I have my ambition; usually, I feel most like writing in the morning.

So I've dedicated one day a week for my writing - Saturday. I don't work at my job on Saturdays. Sundays are for church and for household chores. But Saturdays are free. On Saturdays I work for myself. On Saturdays I am a writer.

When I have weekdays off from work, I try to use them for my writing. And sometimes, I actually succeed, when household chores don't call too loudly, when family responsibilities don't overshadow my need to write. No wonder Isaac Asimov wrote about the wonders of a sunny day - when family members and friends would go outside to enjoy the weather, and leave him alone with his characters.

Speaking of weekdays off from work, today is such a day. So I must bid you adieu, and turn to my writing. My characters need me. How shall they live if I don't give them life?