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Rough Draft: a Tacoma Writers Meet-up Message Board › Tips, Tricks, & Tools

Tips, Tricks, & Tools

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ResNovae
Tacoma, WA
Post #: 12
Starting a thread for writing "tips and tricks." We've got some great ones posted to the "Ideas" section already... but since that's supposed to be a space for *Meet-Up* ideas, I think we need to start migrating those over here to the "Discussion" forum.
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ResNovae
Tacoma, WA
Post #: 13
These days, most of us take access to things like personal computers, email, etc. for granted.

What we can't take for granted is that everyone will be able to read what we write- especially when writers use proprietary or unusual file formats for shared drafts.

As we transition to user-uploading of work submitted for critique, I want to suggest everyone make an effort to submit their work in .pdf (portable document format) or .rtf (rich text file) document formats. Most computers, including those in workplaces and in libraries, will be able to open these kinds of files- even if they don't own a copy of Microsoft Word.

However, if you come across a file you can't open and you have the option to download software to fix this situation, Open Office is a great program for Windows and Linux, that will open almost everything.

There are three things that make OpenOffice a great program to have on your computer. First, it's free. Second, it's stable. And third, it's versatile- it allows you to open and create files in almost any common format (including Microsoft Excel .xls files, Powerpoint .ppt files, Word 2003 .doc files, Word 2007 .docx files, Adobe Acrobat .pdf files, etc.).

It's also a darned good word processing program in it's own right, complete with spelling and grammar check features, word count, reading-level estimators, and so on.

If you aren't interested in downloading an entire office productivity suite (Open Office also comes with open-source programmed equivalents for presentations, spreadsheets, etc.), you can often download a free viewer from the software designer that created the proprietary format. For example, Microsoft has a free viewer called "Microsoft Office Viewer 2003" (once it's set up, also download and install the MS Office 2010 compatibility pack so it will open .docx as well as .doc files).

One last peice of advice: You can download these programs from lots of places, but I like CNET.com- most major software writers and manufacturers post their freeware and demoware to this site, and I trust that files posted to CNET will be carefully screened, and virus-free. They are also incredibly easy to search, by type/operating system/cost, etc. and the site has a terrific pool of reliable users and editors who review just about everything tech-related
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ResNovae
Tacoma, WA
Post #: 14
This one's for finding period-appropriate character names:

http://www.babynamewi...­

Without getting too far into the bizzarro economics of babynaming (read/watch Freakonomics, it's fascinating), this is an easy way to find some of the most and least popular names for babies born in any of the past 130 years.

For example, you might be shocked to hear that "Gertrude" was a pretty common name in the 1880's and 1890's... where it peaked as the 24th most popular name for newborn baby girls (more than 4,000 "Gertrude"s for every 1 million baby girls born). It then crashed and burned, falling to 124th by the 1930's, and 939th in 1960's, where it proceeded to slide out of the top 1000 and off the chart entirely by 1965 (which probably means it's about to make a huge come-back...

After all, Madison wasn't a very popular boy's name in the late 1800's. It fizzled out in the 40's before it appeared out of nowhere in the 70's as an alternative name for baby girls. By the 90's, it was the 29th most-popular name for newborn girls in the country, and it was the #3 name for all babies born in 2003- about 5,000 newborn girls for every 1 million born was named "Madison" that year (a tiny fraction more were boys. Who will probably spend their life beign angry at their parents for giving them a "girl's" name.
A former member
Post #: 1
Having dialog issues?
For some of us dialog is the hardest part of writing. I've found that using AIM and AOL or any combinastion of messaging sytems helps! Just create Screen names for the charactures and chat. In my case I had my hubby to help, but you can talk to yourself... I've done it a few times. Especially if you have the dialog running through your head but nothing else. At least this way you have the dialog saved.
Robert M.
user 57352932
Tacoma, WA
Post #: 4
You've been working hard on The Great American Novel for hours.

When you know exactly how you want to finish that sentence or paragraph..... stop!

Voila! Instant writing prompt to kick-start your next writing session. biggrin

Best of all, if you're the typical writer, you'll be eager to start writing, instead of dreading looking at a blank page or screen.

A former member
Post #: 1
You've been working hard on The Great American Novel for hours.

When you know exactly how you want to finish that sentence or paragraph..... stop!

Voila! Instant writing prompt to kick-start your next writing session. biggrin

Best of all, if you're the typical writer, you'll be eager to start writing, instead of dreading looking at a blank page or screen.

When you know exactly how you want to finish a sentence or paragraph, you may well be wrong. Is it cliché? Does it conclude the scene or invite the reader to turn the next page to see how it concludes?

To avoid writer's block, stop in mid-paragraph or mid-sentence. You'll start right up again. To keep the reader turning the pages, stop in mid-action--and start up with another scene. Watch prime-time TV soaps (which most are these days) and notice how they end each scene on a note of suspense, then shift to another scene--which also ends on a note of suspense. Craft your story similarly.

Read Joyce Carol Oates for skillful examples of this storyteller's technique. Read Patricia Highsmith's book on writing suspense. No matter what your genre, this single technique will keep the reader turning the pages.
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