Thursday, May 16, 2019

Plotting 101: Google Docs Review

Let's start our review of writing tools with the affordable and easy to use Google Docs!

Google Docs

Google Docs is a cloud-based word processor owned by Google. It's free for anyone with a Google account to use. Since it's cloud-based, you can access it anywhere you have internet (and you can configure it to be available without Internet, provided you already have the document downloaded and available offline).

What It's Good At

Google Docs is perfect for the writer on the go. If you have Internet access through a laptop, tablet, phone, or anything, you can open your Google Doc and work on your writing. While you can work on your document offline, configuring this is tricky, and you will eventually need a good Internet connection to get all your changes synced with the online version of the document. 
Google Docs does keep a revision history, so you can go back and re-open a previous version of a document, or see what changed. 
It also comes pretty pared down. This makes it load fast, and eliminates some of the overpowered parts of Scrivener and Word that can feel confusing to use if you're not as familiar with word processors. There are add-ons you can get for free that let you customize Google Docs as you like. 
Probably my favorite part is how easy it is to share the document. If I want a beta-readers' eyes on it, I can just share the document with them. 

Where It Falls Short

What's interesting with Google Docs is how the things that are great about it are also the things that are...not so great about it. 
For example, the cloud-based part of it is great or awful depending on your situation. And while you can work on things offline, figuring that out can be difficult for someone who isn't as familiar with the product or the interface. And if there's an unplanned Internet outage (A storm takes out my power, but hey, since I can't vacuum now I'll open my laptop and write until my battery dies...or not) you may not be able to do your writing. And while there are ways around this, when considering how it fits into the flow, it's both great and awful. It's great because I can open my document and do a little writing just about anywhere. It's terrible because I have to have an Internet connection to do my writing unless I really plan ahead. 
The pared-down part is really frustrating for me, personally. I use Word a lot with work, so I know all the features it has. And while many of them aren't necessary for drafting a novel, finding an add-on to add the functionality I want to Google Docs is annoying. Granted, once I get my add-ons sorted, that annoyance goes away (sort of). But the way you use the add-on is often different and can feel clunky depending on how well the developer integrated it into Google Docs. Sometimes they're buggy, and sometimes they don't work like you think they will based on the description. I mean, it's free, so I guess you get what you pay for?
And finally, the ease of sharing also means it's a lot easier for someone you don't want to see the document to see it. And while you can take steps to mitigate this, it's still riskier than having a hard copy on your hard drive. 

Renee's Rating

Overall, I give Google Docs 3.5 stars out of 5. It's a decent solution, and it's definitely affordable. The integration with other apps makes it easier to meld Google Docs with some basic plotting tools, like Sheets or Excel. For someone who values availability and ease over functionality and security, it's the perfect solution. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Plotting 101: It's All About the Tools

Ok, not gonna lie...I feel a little like this guy:
Tim the tool man - With The Right Tools Anything Is Possible

Seriously though, I am a serious plotter...and a plotter is only as good as her tools! There are SO MANY out there that as part of this #WIP series I wanted to go over some available tools and review them.

What's In a Tool? 

For those of you who just sit at the computer and start writing: bless you. I just can't do that. Call it my high-functioning (self-diagnosed) anxiety, but I kinda have to have a plan to start writing. So when I evaluate a tool for writing, I'm looking at it through the lens of a plotter. I've found there is no perfect tool that works for everything, but that as I write I bring together the best tools I find into some sort of weird amalgamation. 
So that means when I judge a tool, I look at two things: how well it does its job compared to other tools, and how well using it fits into my flow of writing. 

What makes a tool "Good"?

A tool is good if it's useful. But by useful, I don't mean it can do a job. I mean it makes the job easy and effortless. I don't have to repeatedly configure things, I can easily access and add or edit my writing, I can customize the dictionary to not constantly tell me my made-up names are misspelled, I can easily share or post my work for review, an audit trail or version history is kept so I can see what's changed and restore older versions, I can use the tool at all levels of my plotting...and so on. I am making a small assumption that most writers who plot have similar needs to me. \

What is a tool "fitting into the flow of writing"?

I'm sure we've all experienced this. You're trucking along, getting those words when...what should I call this character? Is that how weird is spelled? Or is it wierd? I need to describe this...what does this place/culture/character look like again? 
And just like that, you've stopped writing and are doing "research" on the web, or scouring notes for a reminder for something you're pretty sure you decided months ago...but can't find. 
If a tool minimizes or eliminates the need to stop writing and search for something, it fits into the flow of writing. It's like having all the information you need accessible in seconds so you can find the note or picture you wanted, get the info you need, and move on with the scene. 

So with that in mind, I've made a list of tools I plan to review. Don't see your favorite on the list? Comment with your tool, and I'll add it to the review schedule! 

Remember, comments on any #WIP post earn you chances to win a free copy of the Druid book when it's published! This counts!

Word Processors

Google Docs
Microsoft Word

Plotting Tools

Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Character Creation: Lore and Established Characters

Working with Established Characters

Quick Update: I have to schedule these in advance (or they don't happen). So while you won't see this until May, I'm writing it early on (like, April 5th). Sorry to ruin that for you. But it means that I don't have a last name for Carrigan yet. 

I did want to look a little more at characterization, and I realized that I did talk about Morrigan, the patron goddess of our protagonist. And it got me to thinking:

What do we do when a character (or anything, for that matter) in our story comes from something in real life?

So this could include settings, pop culture references, or in my case, mythological figures. 
It's not easy, because these ideas can be very fixed and rigid in our culture or in our minds. There's only so much subverting of the idea we can do before it's no longer believable or accessible for our readers.
Luckily for me, Morrigan is not that well known--most Irish and Celtic mythology is eclipsed by the Norse, Greco-Roman, and Indian mythological figures. So I have a little bit of freedom to interpret her as I want. 

Things I looked at to establish her character:

I started with Myers-Briggs personality. What's great about this is how it lets me consider different aspects, and by thinking which one both makes sense for the myth as well as my interpretation, I can create an instant personality profile. You could use DISC theory, or (for my D&D fans) Good versus Evil and Lawful versus Chaotic. 
Or if you're a bit of an overachiever like me, you can use all of them. 
What's great is that they feed into each other--so no matter where you start, you can use great free resources to shape your character, working from the outside in or the inside out.
What's great about these resources is that they help explain things that already exist. So if you're working with a character in particular that already exists, you can make educated choices to pin said character down. 

Making Them Real

Just because your character already exists doesn't mean you can skimp on the prep work. Morrigan will have a tab in the character spreadsheet I shared last week, just as Carrigan will. 
You can, however, look through the lore that already exists, and keep what works for you (and dump the rest).

WIP Time

So I did promise you bits of worldbuilding: here it comes. I'll try to start giving these tidbits about once a month.
I usually start with worldbuilding. I gave you some character information first, because I think it helps you feel more invested in what I'm doing, whereas building a world is somewhat abstract. So if you remember the early post, where I wondered about druids in the world, and how to reimagine them in a modern setting, here's how I fleshed that out:

Idea 1: You are born a druid, not made one

So part of the premise here is that certain people are born-druids. It makes sense from a worldbuilding perspective if you consider a druid's abilities to be magical. Just as in many fantasies, magical abilities in my world are inherited. 
A druid would be someone with:
  • An eidetic memory (to memorize the oral lore and laws)
  • Innate connection to the world (to access the spiritual world at times other than Samhain,  inspire and lead people)
  • Healing touch (for when they give medical aid)
These are just a few, but I liked the idea that someone is born with an ability. It makes sense to me, and explains how one person can be so good at memorizing something, or singing, or learning languages, while other people aren't. 

Next Week

I'll have a fleshed out character sketch of Morrigan, with as many details as I can create. I'll also continue the worldbuilding ideas, and start to tie them together.

Comment to get a copy of this book for free!

As a reminder, frequently commenting on this series can earn you a free copy of this book once it's published. This week, tell me what parts of Irish mythology you want to know more about.