Reading

I read quite a lot. All sorts of books and stories and many of them inspire me to write. I’ve always been a reader although my parents never read to me as a child. It was just my way of escape. Escape from bullies; from having to get up; from having to go to bed; from life in general.

I had a ‘normal’ working-class upbringing by ‘normal’ working-class parents who worked hard to provide me and my siblings with food, heat and a decent roof over our heads. Nothing unusual happened and every day was much like the last one. I think that’s why I read, why I wanted to escape. To slip off into much more exciting worlds than my own. They are all out there, just step into a library and see all those worlds.

I was always being remonstrated for reading under the bed covers via torchlight. My mother insisted that I would go blind as she was an advocate of having as much bright light as possible. I’m no longer a young man and my mother has long since passed away but if she were still here I would have to remind her that I didn’t go blind. Well not so far anyway, but I did so enjoy those adventures with pirates, smugglers and spies. Writers such as John Buchan, Daniel Defoe and Alexander Dumas we’re the stuff of my late night reading. Just another page I would tell myself but that quickly became another chapter until finally I succumbed to sleep until woken at some early hour to get up, wash, dress and grab a piece of toast before off to school to endure education.

I have always been convinced that I learned far more from those wonderful books than I ever did sitting in a classroom, bored by a teacher telling me that my life would be irreparably damaged if I didn’t learn the Periodic Table or sines, cosines and tangents. I have never had to use a slide rule in over fifty one years of full time work or much of what was forced to learn.

So I’ll continue to read fifty plus books a years and write whenever I can. I still love to slip off into those worlds which are far more interesting than mine. I will continue to learn and educate myself by reading. It should be compulsory for everyone.

NaNoWriMo Approaches

It’s that time of year again. The time when I decide whether or not to take up the November writing challenge. I did it last year, won and have spent ever since trying to make my effort into something readable. I’m still working on it and its grown to over 90,000 words as I try to get it to a suitable ending.

In the past, I’ve always struggled to start or got bogged down in the middle somewhere. Lost focus or lost interest or just found that time had overtaken me and then it was difficult to get started again. I’ve been lucky to be able to use Scrivener to break it up into manageable chunks and lately I’ve started using Ulysses, which does the same but in a different way. In fact, I’m writing this in Ulysses as it allows me to post straight into WordPress and onto my blog. Easy.

I need to make up my mind shortly though as that will give me time to research and plan during October. Although I’m pretty sure that things will be busy for me in that month so as you can see. I’m a long way from deciding as we head towards the end of September. Have to wait and see I suppose.

If I abandon my 90,000+ word project for a couple of months whilst I indulge myself on NaNoWriMo will I ever start it again? On the other hand, if I do that and then come back to it will reading it again guide me to a suitable ending? Dilemma – I’ll let you know.

Grammarly et al

I’ve fallen in love with Grammarly, an app extension of Google Chrome but also available in Windows. It seems to work really well and monitors your use of grammar and spelling, even on those websites which don’t normally spell check for you. (Something I have found to be essential in recent years). On initial set-up, you advise it to use either UK English or the USA English dictionary, alleviating a source of irritation that most spell checkers present to UK writers.

The added bonus is that it checks the grammar too, so the occasional incorrect word use is highlighted immediately. In effect, it’s doing a form of first line proofreading for you.

It’s available to use in its free version but enhanced features are added if you subscribe  to the Premium, where it monitors many more areas of your text including sentence structure and writing style issues.

Have a look at the website https://app.grammarly.com/

I think you may like it too (No I’m not on commission)

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

Reading Habits

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Stephen King

I was reading a book the other day and it suddenly occurred to me that my reading habits were probably not the same as others, but quite why, I don’t know. I tend to read crime thrillers, perhaps a bit of Si-Fi, a touch of horror and the odd biography or autobiography. The time of day I read varies with my mood, as does the amount of time spent reading. I have to read to the end of a scene or chapter before I can put it down,  and I become annoyed with books which go on for page after page with no break. I think that is something the author should think about when writing. I am a voracious reader at times and then at others I may only read a page but I always have a book on the go and usually I have the next one lined up. Although that can change when I finish. I also always read the first 100 pages as I think it takes that long to get used to the writers style. If I haven’t settled into the book by then I know it’s not going to happen for me. I read physical books, books on the Kindle app on my tablet and occasionally the Kindle app on my smartphone. When I used to commute by train into work, each day,  that was the ideal time to read and amazingly so many others do the same.

I tried an audio book once  but I’m still unconvinced, even though I do like to hear stories read out on radio. Maybe it’s the length of the audio book which is the problem. Whilst listening, I find, my mind wanders in a way it doesn’t when I read words on a page.  I’m sure there are millions of audio book fans out there and for visually impaired people they must be a god send.

I can never envisage a life without books although I do know people who haven’t read a book since they were at school. Maybe they get their pleasures elsewhere; maybe TV or radio. I remember the quote from Groucho Marx when he said.

 “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

I do watch TV but given the choice between that and a good book there is no contest

Finished

‘Read a lot, write a lot, always’

 Stephen King

Today I hit the 50,000 words plus barrier at NaNoWriMo. In fact, I finished today on 52,105 words with nine days to spare. Big sighs of relief all round. This year, however, I intend to continue with my novel as I feel it needs completing. The characters  are still growing and telling me the story so I’ve settled on trying to pound out an achievable 2,000 words a day, as there is so much still to be said.

In previous years I’ve stopped once I’d finished writing in November, thinking that was my achievement done for the year. What I actually discovered was that walking away from the story allowed it to die, as I went on to other projects. Flitting about like a butterfly. I then found it impossible to get back into the story and into the heads of the protagonists and my muse left me, staring at a jumble of words. So this time I plan to keep going and to keep the characters alive. At 52,000 words I don’t feel  I am even half way towards my novel’s first draft and I have set my goal at completing that.

I don’t know what will happen but I am resolved to write something every day, and continue to build it into a completed first draft. It’s a good feeling to complete the November challenge but this year I shall keep it going.

Good luck to all others out there, still writing and heading to 50,000. I’m  with you and will continue updating my word count until the end. Keep it up you’re doing great.

Rocking NaNoWriMo with Scrivener

I read this recently and thought it might be useful for other scrivener users

Are you planning to tackle 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month in November? Here are some of my favorite Scrivener features for staying on track. Annotations/Comments When you get stuck i…

Source: Rocking NaNoWriMo with Scrivener

A Map as Your Muse – Writing 101 – Day 18

atozleedsThe steady rhythm of the windscreen wipers trying to dissipate the water was deafening in the angry silence that followed their row. Danny drove on and Sarah glared at the crumpled page of the A to Zed in her hand, trying to decipher exactly where they were. The streets were deserted in the heavy rain and the yellow glow of the street lamps was shrouded in mist, making it impossible to read the names of the roads they were travelling along.

If you would’ve let me buy that Sat-Nav’, like I wanted to, we wouldn’t be in this mess” he said, his temper abating somewhat. Sarah ignored him and stared through the murk.

Everyone has them. Nobody bothers with stupid maps any more. We live in an electronic age now. It’s a paperless society”.

Shaking her head slowly, she glared at her husband as he searched for some clue to their whereabouts.

Goodwin Street” he shouted. “We’re on Goodwin Street; see if you can find it”?

She scanned the fine print of the index. “G-a, g-e, g-i, g-o” she went through her alphabet aloud. He found it annoying but stayed silent. Goodwin Street fell behind them as he crawled past the next junction with another unnamed road.

After several minutes a white van sped past them and narrowly missed the front of their car as the driver cut in too quickly.

Idiot” Danny shouted to the fast disappearing van. Sarah continued looking for Goodwin Street, without success.

Marshall Terrace” he called out excitedly and she, once again, began the process of following the index with her finger and calling out the letters of the alphabet as she passed them. The rainfall continued, turning the road into a river. They approached a small supermarket, it’s lights bright in the gloom and he stopped the car outside. Danny went inside and approached the counter where a disinterested young girl was sat looking at her phone. She ignored him.

Excuse me” said Danny but the girl still refused to lift her head from the phone. Just then the bell chimed as another customer entered the shop. The girl looked over and smiled at the boy who came in. He walked up to the counter and stepped in front of Danny.

Hey, I was first” said Danny but both youngsters totally ignored his protestations. The girl passed the youth twenty cigarettes which he pocketed and winked at her. He turned and headed for the door.

Be careful, it’s the anniversary of the crash.” She called. “The one with that couple, who drove into the river and drowned”.

He turned and laughed “Yes I remember, she was found holding an A to Zed. It wouldn’t happen today. Not with Sat-Nav’s everywhere.

Mine Your Own Material – Writing 101 – Day 17

Holidays Are Us!

Searching through the draft blog posts in my dashboard I found the beginnings of a post from October 2014.

One of the great things about working for a living is the breaks and holidays we can have. I’ve always loved working but I also enjoy my time away from work and especially spending that time on holiday.

Of course, now, since I retired from work last May, I still enjoy holidays but the separation between work, home and holiday are not quite as tightly defined. I find have lots to do, in fact, as many have said before me; how did I fit in time to work?

I really enjoyed working, loved it. All fifty one years of it. I did worry about actually giving it up and if I would successfully cope without the day to day interaction with my colleagues. I needn’t have worried about it at all as now, I have gained that amazing freedom I only dreamed about when I was working. Now my days (and nights) are mine to do with what I want. I can have holidays at any time, I don’t have to apply to anyone for specific leave dates. I don’t have to fit into a schedule or plan. I no longer suffer from post holiday blues, catching up with work that wasn’t done whilst I was away.

So things have changed since I jotted down this idea and left it, moulding, in my dashboard drafts. My life has changed and probably I have changed. For the better I hope.

 

Writing Software I use

I know, we all have our favourite writing tools but I thought I would talk about my current preference. I understand a lot of writers use Microsoft Word, and why not, we’ve all used it over the years. I don’t at the moment as I run Linux Mint instead of Windows as my operating system and Word won’t run on Linux. So my go-to software for basic writing is Libre Office, currently version five, which is fully compatible with documents written in Word. Big bonus here is that there is a Windows version and all versions are FREE. So if you can’t find the money to buy the latest Microsoft offering try it out here.

win-showcase-scrivener_header

The software I use for longer projects is Scrivener. I went through a phase of trying out specific writers software and I tried lots of them. I narrowed it down to YWriter and Scrivener, partly because both are designed by writers, not just code compilers. I like the way that any manuscript is broken down into individual parts which can simply be moved into any order you might want and I don’t have to scroll through pages and pages of text. I merely click on the part that I want to change or add to. It’s also available on Windows, Mac OS and Linux and one small fee guarantees life long updates. You can download it from their website  and use it, full featured for a month. Added to that there is currently an offer for those entering NaNoWriMo of 20% discount. (I’m not on commission, bye the way. I just like it)

For quick notes and memo’s I use Google Keep as it works cross platform and sync’s instantly across my laptop, phone and tablet. Again, it’s free and very quick and easy to use. I used to use Evernote and I still do use the Web Clipper part but Keep its much simpler

I recently added Journey, which again is semi-cross platform as currently it only seems to work with Google Chrome but apps for Android/IOS are available. It’s a diary/journal which is available in a free version but I paid the small fee for the full application. It automatically adds, weather, time, date and location to any entry you make.

I think they aid, without taking over the writing process. Give them a look