Tools for Organizing Your Story

Are you a plotter or a pantser when you write?

If you’re unfamiliar with those terms, allow me to explain. A “plotter” is a writer who plans and outlines their story ahead of time. Conversely, a pantser writes “by the seat of their pants”, with no strict plan to begin with. They simply go where the story takes them.

It seems to me that most authors are somewhere in the middle, which is certainly true for me. When I was writing Grigory’s Gadget, I would say I was pretty much 50% plotter and 50% pantser. I’d set out a plan, run with it until I hit a road block, then step back and plan some more. It seemed to work pretty well for me…for book 1. Book 2 has become another story (well, both literally and figuratively!).

Due to the fact that I made the (frustrating) decision to set Book 2 at the same time as Book 1 (just following different characters), I have much less freedom. There are certain events, and even some characters, which cross over and therefore need to line up correctly with Book 1. That limits just how much pantsing I can get away with. It’s also forced me to become a lot more gung-ho about organizing my story.

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, organization is necessary! It just might come in later for a pantser, when you go in to revise and edit.

Organizational Tools for Plotters

Plotters love organization, so some of these tips and tools might be no-brainers. As plotters, we typically begin a story by outlining it. This can be hand-written in a notebook or on note cards, or created in word processing software. I personally tend to begin with a bulleted list of the plot points, beginning with the most important and vivid and then connecting those dots.

There are two other pieces of software that I’m a huge fan of as well: Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Scrivener is like a word processor but with many more capabilities. For the purposes of outlining and planning, Scrivener has an Outline view and a Cork Board view where you can set up your story beats and scenes. These beats can then be made into scenes or chapters (or however else you want to organize your story; for Grigory’s Gadget and Serafima’s Stone, I created a folder for each day to help me keep track of the passage of time) which are organized as individual documents or folders. Documents can be placed inside folders, and everything can be moved around as you will it. (Did you write scenes X, Y, and Z, then decided that scene Z needs to come first? No problem, just drag and drop it!) You can also create documents and folders that are not a part of your manuscript, where you can save research, character summaries, etc. Scrivener’s software typically costs $40; however, if you participate or win National Novel Writing Month, Scrivener is often a sponsor offering discounts on their software.

Aeon Timeline is a visual timeline software. It allows you to essentially create Gantt charts of your story (or your writing time frame!). You can create dots and lines indicating plot points, which can be color-coded and given meta data such as the characters involved, the setting, and more. You can also connect events visually to indicate the one event is directly linked to the next. This software is especially handy if you have multiple characters who are not all in the same place at the same time, or who are traveling for an extended period. Aeon Timeline typically costs $50, but like Scrivener is often a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month, offering discounts to participants and winners. It also can sync with Scrivener!

Organizational Tools for Pantsers

A lot of the tips and tools mentioned above for plotters also apply to pantsers. The main difference is that pantsers normally use these tools after the first draft is complete. Organizing your first draft will help you find inconsistencies, plot holes, and plot seeds you totally forgot your planted (this happens to me all the time!).

This is the stage when I start using more of Scrivener’s capabilities. The first tool that comes in handy is Annotations. Annotations allow you to write notes in your text, the way you’d mark up a physical draft with a red pen. The other tool I use a lot is the ability to add meta data to a document. Specifically, I add keywords to my scenes to indicate which characters are involved, and any other handy keywords that may be useful to me. This is a big help to check the consistency and completeness of different characters’ storylines. I can simply do a keyword search and pull up every seen a specific character is in.

Those are my biggest tips for organizing your story. What tips and tools have worked for you in your writing?

And Now For Something Completely Different…My First Wantable Box!

“And now for something completely different…” – John Cleese, Monty Python

This series of blog posts is for posts that don’t really match the rest of my blog (i.e. they aren’t related to writing, reading, steampunk, etc) but that I wanted to post anyway. In this edition, I’ll be reviewing my first Wantable Style Edit box.

Wantable Style Edit is a fashion subscription box, very similar to Stitch Fix. You can read my review of Stitch Fix here! In each box, which comes once a month, you get 7 articles of clothing or accessories (compared to Stitch Fix’s 5 items) that have been picked out just for you by a stylist. When you sign up, you fill out a style quiz that asks for things like your measurements, general style preferences, occasions you’ll be dressing for (casual, work, special event, etc), what types of items you want, etc. Your quiz can be updated any time your preferences might change. Unlike Stitch Fix, Wantable does not provide an option where you can link a Pinterest board or other social media.

For each shipment, you’re charged a $20 Styling Fee.  This fee will be applied toward the item(s) you decide to keep in that box (e.g. if you decide to keep a $40 shirt, you’ve effectively already paid for half of it, and only owe an additional $20). When you receive your box, you have 5 days (compared to Stitch Fix’s 3 days) to decide what you want to keep, and what you want to return. A pre-paid USPS bag is included with your shipment, which makes returns very easy. You only pay for what you decide to keep!

As I noted above, Wantable gives you 2 additional items per box compared to Stitch Fix, and 2 additional days to decide what you want to keep. Another big advantage of Wantable is your “Closet” and “Stream”. Your Closet shows you every item you’ve ever received from Wantable, which is very handy to have for your records. You can also request to receive items again, as long as they’re still in stock! Your Stream shows you items that other subscribers have received that match your style profile. You can get a good idea of how those items look and fit, and if you like an item, you can request it for your next box.

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Item number one is the V Neck Pleat Detail Cami in a mint green. This top was very light and flowy – perfect for summer! At $59 it was a little pricey, but I decided to keep it because I loved how it looked on.

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Next up was this sweater and necklace. I loved the sweater – it was a nice fabric and very cozy. The cost was a very reasonable $48. However, I can’t bring myself to buy a sweater in June! At $39, I wound up not keeping the necklace either.

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I fell in love with this blazer immediately. After regretting not keeping the blue blazer from my Stitch Fix box, I thought Yes, I’ll keep this one! Then I looked at the price: $118. It’s a nice blazer and I like, but I don’t like it THAT much!

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Next was this floral top. I like the pattern, and the fabric was comfortable and breathable – another perfect summer top! It cost $39, and I kept it.

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I also kept this pair of shorts, which cost $69. I thought they were a little pricey, but I literally owned 0 pairs of shorts before I received these. They fit well, and I like the length.

The last item I received was a really pretty black lace scalloped skirt, which was $58. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to zip up the skirt over my hips.

Overall, I really loved my Wantable Style Edit box. I think the fashion styles were better suited for me compared to Stitch Fix (a surprise to me, since Wantable doesn’t look at Pinterest boards). One disadvantage I have found with Wantable is that they don’t seem to have an option to swap an item for a different size, which Stitch Fix does allow you to do. The prices also ranged more widely. That means that while some things were too expensive (like the blazer), other items were cheaper than anything I got in Stitch Fix (like the floral top). So, for me, Wantable Style Edit wins out!

If you’d like to sign up for Wantable, I would really appreciate if you’d use my referral link: https://www.wantable.com/?invite_token=jwID1c3vuy4

My Favorite Great American Authors

With the US Independence Day coming up, I thought I would share with you my favorite authors which hail from the USA! This list includes authors of the classic Great American Novels that I love.

Ernest Hemingway

You can’t make a list of great American authors without including Hemingway. The only thing as interesting as his life is his fiction (seriously, the man went through a lot!). Many of his works are considered classics. My personal favorites include The Old Man and the Sea, “Hills Like White Elephants”, and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”.

Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens, using the pseudonym Mark Twain, is another iconic American author. He’s well-known for his wit and his ability to weave distinctly American themes into his work. Coincidentally enough, Ernest Hemingway, in The Green Hills of Africa, said of Mark Twain, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’m a bit torn on including F. Scott Fitzgerald on this list, through no fault of his own. Like many American students, I read The Great Gatsby in high school. I initially loved the book and found it very captivating. However (again, through no fault of the author or the novel) my English teacher hit us over the head with this book (metaphorically speaking), so now I’m a bit tired of it. That being said, if you happen to have never read it, I would highly recommend it!

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorite authors. His stories are both ridiculous and insightful. If you like your societal satire with a healthy dose of whimsy and dark comedy, check out his books. I would specifically recommend The Sirens of Titan, Player Piano, Breakfast of Champions, and Slapstick.

Edgar Allan Poe

Rather than dark comedy, Edgar Allan Poe is known for his dark romanticism. Many are familiar with his poem “The Raven”. Other notable works include “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and “The Masque of the Red Death”.

The Gaslight Frontier Wiki

Lately I’ve decided to get back to work filling up the wiki I created a while back for the Gaslight Frontier. What is a wiki, you ask? A wiki is a website on which users collaboratively add and modify content and structure directly from the web browser. The most well-known example is the website Wikipedia.

Pertaining to my wiki for the Gaslight Frontier, it’s a website where you can find information on the characters, places, objects, etc in the Gaslight Frontier world. If you join the wiki as a member, you can also add and modify content! (If you’ve already read Grigory’s Gadget, please feel free to add details as you see fit!)

I’m still working on adding all of the pages to cover everything that happened in Grigory’s Gadget. Currently, you can find pages for the main characters and some secondary characters, the main places and ships, and a few notable objects. Beware of spoilers if you haven’t read the book yet!

I would really love any feedback you have for my wiki, in terms of both design and content. I’m still learning the ins-and-outs of the Wikia platform, and would also love suggestions as to what details you want fleshed-out next!

And Now For Something Completely Different…My First Stitch Fix!

“And now for something completely different…” – John Cleese, Monty Python

This series of blog posts is for posts that don’t really match the rest of my blog (i.e. they aren’t related to writing, reading, steampunk, etc) but that I wanted to post anyway. In this edition, I’ll be reviewing my first Stitch Fix box.

Stitch Fix is a fashion subscription box. In each box (which can come every 2 weeks, monthly, or every-other-month, your choice) you get 5 articles of clothing or accessories that have been picked out just for you by a stylist. When you sign up, you fill out a style quiz that asks for things like your measurements, general style preferences, occasions you’ll be dressing for (casual, work, date night, special event, etc), what types of items you want, etc. Your quiz can be updated any time your preferences might change.

In addition to answer the style quiz, you can also give your stylist links to your social media pages. Pinterest is the most useful here, as you can make a style board which your stylist can refer to in order to better understand your tastes.

For each shipment, you’re charged a $20 Styling Fee.  This fee will be applied toward the item(s) you decide to keep in that Fix (e.g. if you decide to keep a $40 shirt, you’ve effectively already paid for half of it, and only owe an additional $20). When you receive your Fix, you have 3 days to decide what you want to keep, and what you want to return. A pre-paid USPS bag is included with your shipment, which makes returns very easy. You only pay for what you decide to keep!

I was excited to try Stitch Fix after my mom tried it and liked every item she received. My box arrived June 1st and I was pretty impressed.

As I post this, I’ve realized a glaring criticism I have of Stitch Fix: there is no way for me to see what items I received online. I received a card with the items, brands, and prices in my Stitch Fix box, but no digital version of that card exists. So, unfortunately (since I recycled that card with the box) I don’t have the prices for any of the items except the ones I kept (which I do have a receipt for).

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Item number 1 was a pair of dark skinny jeans, which unfortunately didn’t fit. They did feel like good quality jeans, though. They were also the priciest item in the box (I think $88)(On this note, you can choose price ranges as part of your Style Quiz). For those reasons, I decided not to keep the jeans. (Another note, you do have the option to exchange items if they aren’t the right size. I just chose not to for these jeans)

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Item number 2 was this really cute dark blue blazer. I went back and forth on this, because it is so cute! However, it didn’t make sense for me to buy a (somewhat pricey – $70-something if I remember) blazer when summer is about to kick off. If I received it in, say, September or October, I probably would have kept it. But it didn’t seem worth it to spend that money on something that would sit idly in the closet for months.

The next item is a bit hard to see in these photos. It’s a silver layered necklace. At $34, it was a bit more than I’d usually spend on jewelry. But, I’m pretty cheap when it comes to jewelry! I liked it a lot, so I did decide to keep it.

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Item number 4 was a lovely floral blouse. Now *this* felt appropriate for late spring! It fits nicely and is lined, so I don’t need to worry about wearing a cami underneath it (this is important for people like me, who fall behind on laundry!). I decided to keep this as well. It cost $58, which is about on-par with what I typically spend on nice blouses.

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The final piece was a bit of a disappointment. I love the idea of maxi dresses. They make you look glamorous with about 0 effort. Unfortunately, this was not the maxi dress for me. There was too much excess fabric on the top, which did funky things to my body shape. If it was more fitted on top, I would have loved it! Oh well. I believe this was also around $70ish.

Once you decide what you want to keep or return, you fill out a form on the Stitch Fix site where you indicate what you’re keeping or return, as well as what you liked or disliked about each item. That way, your stylist can more accurately curate your box next time!

Overall, I was satisfied with my Stitch Fix box, and look forward to my next one in July.

If you’re interested in using Stitch Fix, I would really appreciate it if you used my referral link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/12357829?sod=w&som=c&str=13803

And Now for Something Completely Different…My Updated Workout Routine

*DISCLAIMER* I am not a professional trainer or athlete or anything of the sort. I’m just a regular person trying to be healthy. If you read anything in the post that is inaccurate/misleading/etc, PLEASE let me know and I will correct it ASAP!

“And now for something completely different…” – John Cleese, Monty Python

This series of blog posts is for posts that don’t really match the rest of my blog (i.e. they aren’t related to writing, reading, steampunk, etc) but that I wanted to post anyway. In this edition, I’ll be discussing my updated workout routine. If you’re interested, you can read about my previous workout routine here.

 

A while back, I joined a gym and developed an effective-yet-time-efficient workout routine. However, as the seasons changed and being outside actually became pleasant, I decided I didn’t want to work out in a dank and smelly gym. I wanted to be outside!

Fortunately, I recently moved into a more quiet suburb, with lots of trees and sidewalks that are in good shape. So, I started to jog outside instead of on the treadmill. I currently walk/jog about a 1 mile loop in the neighborhood. I’m measuring my progress, and once I get comfortable with that loop I’ll start to extend it to a longer one.

After I’m done with my jog, I do a workout at home. I’ve found a useful app called Home Workouts which has a database of exercises that only require your own body weight or hand weights. You can search by muscle groups and build your own routine. With the help of this app, I’m able to work on building muscles at home, too!

Then, as I did in my old workout routine, I stretch. The total workout time is about the same as my gym routine was (about 45 minutes).

Do you see something in my gym routine that could be improved? I’m open to suggestions! I would love to hear your gym (or other workout) routines, and any tips and tricks you have to offer!

Writing Desk Makeover: Part 2

Last week was so busy, I forgot to post my progress on my blog! Whoops! Well, the desk has since been completed! So, without further ado, here is the second part of the Writing Desk Makeover.

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The finished green pieces (that includes the pieces shown above, and also part of the main desk, which is pictured further down)! I decided to leave those at one coat. I like the look of the brush strokes. I sealed the paint with some spray-on polycrylic.

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After the priming was done! Then it was paint-paint-paint! (And reassemble at the end, of course)

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The back piece of the desk was painted green, and I started to paint the white parts! For the white parts, I used a latex enamel, rather than a regular paint, since enamel is much more durable. That way, the main surface that I’m working on won’t get scuffed up as easily. However, enamel is THICK. Like, really annoyingly thick. I took the above photo at a flattering angle that was obscured by some glare, but in person the brush strokes are VERY obvious. They aren’t cute and distressed-looking like on the green parts.

Much to my relief, we had a tiny paint roller lying around. That made the enamel application MUCH easier! I didn’t get the distressed look on the white parts as a result, but that’s a sacrifice I was willing to make in the name of saving myself time and frustration!

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Once I finished the base of the desk, I moved it into its new home in the basement.

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And now…the finished product! With flash:

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Without flash:

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Quite the transformation!

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And here it is, all set-up!

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Now about that “writing” thing…