#YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen

When I began writing this post I was nearing the end of my first project. Key word: was. Then I tried writing the next book in the series and nothing was working; until I had a late night conversation with one of my beta readers (aren’t betas awesome?). What began life as a novella turned into a full, fledged novel. Worthy to be fully included in my debut series.

But now I just wanted to put up a different kind of post than I normally do on my blog. Something lighthearted and fun. Something to take my mind, even for a moment or two, off timelines, maps and inconsistencies in historical data.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “amwriting” and “amediting” tags. I participate in a few of them for the writing community but I’m a simple person when it comes to all that. I streamline my interests and minimize the tags I use. This helps me (somewhat) curb the amount of time I find myself online. There’s one I really enjoy doing, the “YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen” tag. So below I’ve listed the ABCs of Writing, all with that tag front and center!

  1. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you anticipated the time you’ll spend writing your story, and miscalculated it at the same time.
  2. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you birthed the idea from a bubble bath/extra long shower or a dream in the middle of the night.
  3. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you created a protagonist you know everyone will love, or love to hate.
  4. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you decided to give that protagonist their own story.
  5. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you edited the crap out of your manuscript, or crap into it.
  6. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you figured out the climax only after staring at your screen like a drunken llama for five sleepless days straight.
  7. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you greeted each character you create with open arms, even your antagonists and characters only there to annoy the protagonist.
  8. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you hurt your fingers dropping your laptop on them.
  9. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you imagined 20 spectacular locations, realizing halfway into it that you can only logically include five of them.
  10. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you justified killing your favorite character. Or two. Then you realize you have to justify the choice to your readers.
  11. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you killed the character. Because a story where absolutely nobody dies is illogical.
  12. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you love writing in poetic justice as well as justice that isn’t poetic at all.
  13. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you moved around an adverb 100 times until you realized you really shouldn’t use it anyway.
  14. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you n
  15. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you outlined your entire series when you swore you’d never use the method.
  16. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you put your jar of peanut butter in the fridge instead of the pantry because you’re mentally plotting the climax of your series.
  17. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you quit using a pen and paper, for the sake of the trees, only to remember you have five unused notebooks on your office shelf waiting and ready to go.
  18. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you realize that writing a 280 character Tweet does not count towards your daily word count goal
  19. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhenYou s
  20. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you tell people not to call you after a certain time because SHHHHH, you’re writing for goodness sake! They might incur the wrath of a Gollum-like creature holding their manuscript whispering, “My precioussssss” over and over again.
  21. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you understand the characters in your head more than flesh and blood people.
  22. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you view book reviews and “how to” guides on YouTube to help yourself step up your writing game.
  23. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you w
  24. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you x
  25. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you y
  26. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you zip home from work so you don’t forget that new funny bit you really want to include in your story.

Now it’s your turn! I couldn’t think of any for “n,” “s,” “w,” “x,” or “y.” In the comments below or even on Twitter, @ my handle, “barefoot4life85,” feel free to add your additions to the list! I figured, since many of us are in the writing/querying/researching etc. stages, that it was time to have to have a little bit of writing fun.


Research It | Covered Bridges

Pennsylvania. The land of bridges. If you read my last post about the different kinds of maps, then you’ll know about topographical maps. If not, then the briefest definition of topography is the “detailed description or representation on a map of the natural and artificial features of an area” and is used mostly in the study of geography. But if you’re familiar with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania at all, you’ll know that it’s a vast region of varied land formations from the Poconos of mid state to the low levels near Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh, located in South Western PA, is known as the City of Bridges. While they’re mostly of steel construction (another nickname of the city being the Steel City…more on that at another time), most of the covered bridges were in rural areas, used for trains or normal walking paths and roads. These days, not many of them survive but there are many covered bridge festivals throughout the year, most of them taking place in our gorgeous fall season.

Can you tell that I am a Pennsylvanian?

Washington County. Green County. Columbia County. Montour County. These are just a few of the places in the Commonwealth that celebrate this important structure.

**These condensed histories brought to you by “Images of America: Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges” by Fred J. Mollalong with other online sources that will be cited.**


The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania
#allthebridges

A Condensed History
The first covered bridge in the New World was built in 1805 over the Schuylkill River along one of the main routes out of the city of Philadelphia. Many of them were built over such rivers and needed to be tall enough for barges and other water traffic to travel under. Larger covered bridges even required the traveler to pay a toll to cross it for general maintenance or to offset the cost of building the bridge. Often there would be a general store or post office built next to it.

brandywine.jpgSadly, this isn’t the Brandywine on the way to Hobbiton in “The Lord of the Rings.” Pennsylvania isn’t that special! To Brandywine: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJUryaDzt9c

The earliest covered bridges were built in Philadelphia with the trend continuing westward, encouraging travel between rural communities and cities. Some were constructed out of stone and could support heavy loads of material goods. However, most were smaller, wooden structures used mostly for foot and vehicular traffic. Because of this aspect, many bridges also had advertisements from shops and companies showcasing services or products, and many were commissioned by companies or other entrepreneurs.

Sadly, not many survive today but those that have are celebrated for their contributions to the communities they serviced. These days, a bridge is seen as a common, basic thing. In America’s earliest centuries, if there wasn’t a bridge, you just didn’t go that way until one was built or you built it yourself.

1806 – King’s Covered Bridge, Middlecreek, Lancaster County
1812 – Colossus Covered Bridge in Philadelphia, PA
1872 – Risser’s Mill Covered Bridge in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County

Covered Bridges in Modern PA…so to speak
As time moved forward covered bridge construction soon became a thing of the past, morphing into the more modern, steel trussed bridges we see today. Iron and steel were Pittsburgh’s main export for many years, so it was easy for engineers to use the materials throughout Pennsylvania for bridges of all sorts, railroads, ships, and tunnels through mountains. That doesn’t mean that by the 19th century, covered bridges fell into complete obscurity. In fact, their charm and usefulness encouraged many living near them to invest in their upkeep and future use.

Covered bridges were still being used well into the 1930s, such as the Wertz’s Mill Covered Bridge off Route 222 North of Reading, PA. The Davis Covered Bridge, built in 1875, has modern paving inside, as well as the Hollingshead Mill Covered Bridge near Catawissa in Columbia County and the Stillwater Covered Bridge, also in Columbia County. Many of the surviving bridges have either been modernized to accommodate 21st century vehicles or restored using similar materials that would’ve been used at the time of construction for historical preservation.

Train and Trolley Use
Unfortunately, none of these types of covered bridges survived the passage of time in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, as a child of a family fascinated by trains and trolleys, we would’ve most definitely have made a journey to visit at least one of them by now. My grandfather, Louis J. Redman of Pittsburgh, PA, played a role in starting the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in 1949. He was also a founding member of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) a few years later in 1954. Being born in 1916, he most definitely would’ve seen and used these bridges.

There really isn’t much change between the history of these bridges versus what’s already been discussed, but of course they had to be constructed a bit differently to support the weight of steam engines, its cargo, and house the necessary wires for trolley traffic. On September 30th, 1896, the Columbia-Wrightsville Covered Bridge was destroyed by a category 1 hurricane. I mention this one because it was, uniquely, a rail and road traffic covered bridge. The Pennsylvania Railroad took the width of the river and bay into consideration when they constructed it, but it was later replaced, as many were, by an iron bridge.


Well, that wasn’t the most colorful of histories and maybe not the most interesting, but without bridges in general, we may not have seen as much engineering growth that the Industrial Revolution was built upon. Many working parts had to happen, and advancement in travel only pushed that Revolution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to another level.

Because, let’s face it. Covered bridges are not only practical, but magical.


Research It | The Map

In my first post of this series I discussed the history of the pen. Exciting stuff, I know. Before there were computers, the pen in all its many forms was the only way to go. Well, there’s the pencil, but that’s a post for another day. Oooh…pencils…. Today’s post is going to be all about Item 2 in this Research It series, maps. (That Dora the Explorer map song is stuck in my head. Let’s turn on some soundtracks to get rid of that).

When I was in China during the Summer of 2008 (we left two weeks before the Beijing Olympic Games), I helped TESOL students with their students and it was a might bit disorienting seeing them have China at the center of the world maps in their classrooms. As an American, typically the US is in that position, so it would make sense that each country would take some liberty with their mapping.

People who create map are called cartographers, and this post is all about their contributions to the traveling world.

Item 2: The Map. #allthemaps
I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the MAP~~!
Goodness, get out of my head Dora!

fictionalmaps.jpg

Maps have been used for centuries. Whether they’re drawn in the dirt with an index finger, scrawled on a cave wall or meticulously plotted and updated as new lands were discovered. Maps are popular additions to novels, placed in the first few pages of the story to help the reader find their way, and maps have aided the world’s generals in plotting routes their troops are ordered to take. And star charts (essentially a map) played a huge role in the Dominion Wars with Deep Space Nine as the center of the universe. Okay, that last item is a Star Trek reference. I’m a complete dork, what can I say?

If I’d gone the route of archaeology I imagine myself having rolls of maps in my pack, some haphazardly folded and others neatly rolled and slightly poking out the top of the bag. I suppose that’s the romantic way of looking at them, but it raises questions (in my mind at least). How did maps come to be? Who started making topographical maps? Nautical maps? Gigantic wall maps? (Insert Beckett’s gigantic world map to egotistically display the “accomplishments” of the East India Trading Company in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise)Beckett_World_Map

Well then, that’s enough for the introduction. Let’s get into 3 Different Types of Maps and what they’re used for. Okay, so there are literally dozens of types of maps that can all be read about here, so I’m just going to touch upon ones that have more practical applications.

  1. Aeronautical.
    My dad was a pilot in the USAF for 34 1/2 years (he’ll typically make a point of adding that half year in there so I had to as well). While he flies the plane and looked at aeronautical maps beforehand, it was the job of the navigator in flight to make sure he got them where they needed to go. At one time I thought of going into the Air Force, but I get majorly air sick, whether I’m the one flying the craft or not. He suggested that I become a navigator. “But Dad, you know I’m directionally challenged on the ground, right?” He admitted that I was correct. Being an aeronautical engineer was not the career for me.These maps are important combinations of air, sea and land travel, utilizing longitude and latitude coordinates.bay-area-detail.ngsversion.1522276711646.adapt.1900.1Um, what?! I have enough trouble with your typical road map. What even is this?! That was dramatic…. I understand the land, and there’s the sea. The circles are almost like sonar blips on those blue and black screens you see in a movie like The Meg. But stop on by National Geographic’s website to have a read on how to interpret this very specific type of map. Visit the ESRI website for a brief history on this type of map.
  2. Global. 
    Arguably the most recognizable of all the maps, globes have been used in classrooms seemingly since the beginning of time. I exaggerate, but what was once a staple learning tool has been converted into those giant pull down maps that cover blackboards (maybe this is where those Flat Earth theorists got the idea from? Now I know I’m not the only one who could spend hours spinning a globe, stopping it with a finger and looking up the place it landed on. You can’t really stick a map pin into a globe though, unless it is one of those blow up balls. But then you’d have a different problem on your hands – a flat globe.And now, directly from Wikipedia itself, “A globe is a spherical model of Earth, of some other celestial body, or of the celestial sphere. Globes serve similar purposes to maps, but unlike maps, do not distort the surface that they portray except to scale it down. A globe of Earth is called a terrestrial globe. A globe of the celestial sphere is called a celestial globe.” I honestly think that I may have to start calling every glob I see terrestrial. That is the technical term after all! I suppose the other plants could also be turned into their own spherical models, but, as many are just giant balls of gas, they wouldn’t really be that helpful.The term “globe” was first dubbed by the Greeks c. 150 B.C. While the use of the word remained constant, the history of using physical globes isn’t. As with anything not well documented, there are long periods where globes aren’t really used in conjunction with the globe we’re familiar with today. The first known record of that comes from 1492 by a German mapmaker named Martin Behaim. No one country is emphasized over another so that the viewer can have a non-biased view of the world as a whole, very useful to those trekking on land and sailing the high seas.
  3. Topographical.
    When I first started researching The Firedamp Chronicles I would catch myself staring at maps far longer than what was necessary. Maps fascinate me, what can I say? Particularly maps of my own state of Pennsylvania. While the majority of the population is settled at either border, one only has to take a look at the topography of PA to figure out why. Topography played a huge role in that. With Pittsburgh in the South Western corner and Philadelphia closer to the Eastern seaboard, they are divided not only by the sheer size of the state but by mountains, plains and countless rivers.Of course there’s rich, farm-able land and early settlers knew this would be a great selling point to bring workers and families over from disease, disaster ridden Europe in the 17th century. In fact, many Germans are here because this land was similar to their own homeland. Penn’s Colony, named by the man himself, would become a hub of activity and development for the American Industrial Revolution. Let’s take a look at what a typical topographical map looks like:
    pennsylvania-topo-map
    See that legend in the bottom right hand corner? That tells you how tall an area is or how low. That swoop in the middle of the state are mountains, and directly below them are huge coal deposits, squished together when the land was formed. 0-100 is closer to sea level, the dark green, while 1350 – 1750 indicate the Appalachian Mountain Range.Topological maps are more commonly used by those studying geology or cartography, but I do remember my dad having a really cool one of the Pittsburgh area. I think that’s why I like them so much. There isn’t really a history on this type of map other than it being associated with topology, or the study of, geometry, apparently. “Topology developed as a field of study out of geometry and set theory, through analysis of concepts such as space, dimension, and transformation.” (As defined here). But really, the only thing that really matters, and makes more sense to me anyway, is that it’s a representation of the geology of the land itself.Now I could go into underwater topographical maps, ones for other countries, etc., but that would make an already-long post unnecessarily long. I think you get the point of topographical maps by this point.

Well folks, there you have it. Maps. Unless you love maps like I do, I doubt you’re going to start staring at them, figuring out routes your characters are going to take. Maybe you do, if you’re a writer like I am. Then we’d have a lot to talk about! But maps are not only useful for real life application but for fantastical application as well. Maps open doors for us, allow us to dream of places we want to go. It may seem like a small distance on a piece of paper or on a globe and not everyone has the opportunity to travel. But, if you’re one of those who really can’t, at least you can travel there in your mind, through the power of the Internet and by the power of the book.

Honorable Map Mentions
The Marauder’s Map
Middle Earth
Land of Oz
Narnia


3 Pros for Outlining

There are many things within the authoring world that confuse me, but there’s even more that just makes sense. What might be a necessity for one writer might not even be on the radar for another and vice versa.

I didn’t even know about outlining until a year into my research process. I don’t remember whose Twitter account it was that eventually led me to KM Weiland’s but I came to appreciate her tips and guides and blogs. THEN I discovered that she was a published writer herself with several self-help books on the process – she isn’t just fiction. She’s non-fiction as well.

The more I went through her blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, the more I realized that I really was lacking direction. All I had was the idea, but no idea on how to get from point a to b to c and so on without just abandoning my story all together. From past experience I knew that was my biggest downfall and this time around I want to be published more than ever.

Some, more experienced writers are able to function without the outline structure. They’re the more free-spirited type of writer. The more artsy who has notes and post-its and every inch of their wall or notebook covered from top to bottom with random ideas. Then there’s me. I can’t do that. I need to have a clean work space, I need to be organized, and I need to know exactly where I’m going.

That’s why the outline concept appealed to me from the very beginning, so down below I will be pointing out more pros than cons on the method. I’m sure it’s been discussed on countless other blogs before, but these are just based on my own observations as I’m slowly working through my series.

  1. Some publishers request a copy of your outline.
    It wasn’t until I started looking through that Writer’s Guide book to publishers did I realize that some of those folks actually want a full copy of the outline for your work. I think I saw it pop up more for fiction publishers than non-fiction, but if you already have an outline started and your interested in submitting to a specific place, you don’t have to go back to the beginning of your novel and convert it into outline form. It’s already done and saves you several hours’ (or days, depending on how long your story is) of work. All you may need to do is format it if the publisher requests it and you’re all set!
  2. Even though you may deviate from your outline during the writing process you can always have multiple drafts of the outline.
    While I mentioned I don’t like having multiple notes and post-its earlier in this blog, I don’t shy away from writing in the margins of my physical copies. You should see the first two pages of the first draft of my overall outline – it’s a hot mess of reminders, tips and updates. I’m already working on adding things to my outline that I didn’t have in there before, like certain things a character does or an important subtle hint on what’s coming. I’ll just have to remind myself to print out a new copy once all is said and done and save that version as THE version so I don’t accidentally send a publisher the disjointed original.
  3. Gives you a guide from beginning to end.
    There really isn’t much that needs to be expanded upon with that statement. It says it all right there. An outline’s main purpose is to help guide you all the way through your story from, well, beginning to end [or lack thereof if you’re having a procrastination day!] I felt nearly completely lost without mine. Some days I still feel a bit lost because, let’s face it, I’m creating my own world for someone else to enjoy and that’s a lot of pressure!

Whether you outline or not, whether you fully read this blog post or not, I suspect that we’re all heading towards the same goal of becoming a published author for the first time or you already are and you’re just preparing for your next release. Regardless of your methodology, you need to find what works best for your pacing. Having an outline has helped give me a sense of direction and some sense completion. If you are a new writer I strongly suggest having a read of KM Weiland’s helpful series available on Amazon. (She has no idea I’m plugging this so I swear this isn’t an #ad or anything like that. I just think they’re incredibly useful!)

So don’t worry if you have a day of complete distraction and procrastination. Even seasoned authors have them! Just keep pressing on!


The Infamous Editing Loop

I have a problem. I have more than one problem but that’s not what we’re here to focus on today! That will take far too long (ha!).

I remember reading a quote somewhere, and I have to dig it up again, which states that when you’re writing your first draft that you are writing the story for you and no one else. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t need beta readers or critiques or write groups right off the bat. The first draft is a chance for you to get the story out of your head and onto paper. Or in the form of pixels.

Edit: I’ve found the quote. “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” -Terry Pratchett

So why do I keep going back and constantly edit the first few pages of the first story I’m ever considering submitting for publication?

Perfection.

That’s the motivation. Perfection.

The first draft isn’t meant to be perfect and yet I can’t let certain sentences go until I stare at them for an hour each to try and figure out how to best word it. I’m no editor and still I try to be. Do I use a semicolon here instead of a comma? Is this sentence an individual thought or is it part of the next or previous paragraph? Is that the right word I need or do I pull out my thesaurus again?

I think that some tuning is naturally part of the writing process but I know I start running into trouble when I start over analyzing things that really should be left alone for the editing stage.

Perfection can come at a later time, if it ever comes at all. For now, the story just needs to come out.


When Your Family Reads Your Writing

I knew this day would eventually come – I would have to start getting opinions from readers and using that feedback to better enhance my writing. Awaiting the results of those opinions, in my opinion anyway, is worse than waiting for a prognosis from a doctor about a medical condition.

Why?

Because when people read your work they’re reading a bit of your soul, your time, your effort. A doctor assess what is wrong with your physical body. Readers can maybe, sometimes see what is wrong with your mental…body?

Knowing I was going to have my family (of all people) read just the first page of my novella I’d spent all day at work nervously staring at the clock for the hand to hit 6:00 pm. When it finally did I scooped up the two copies I’d printed out, crossed out the last line because I already knew I hated it and joined the rush hour traffic as we all made our way home.

Family dinner nights have been a tradition since my parents started watching my niece as a baby over five years ago, when my sister went back to work after her maternity leave. And again after my nephew was born. My Dad’s a baby-man. Kids love him and he knows how to handle them. Watching him with my niece and nephew has given me a peek into how he was when my sister and I were that age. But I digress.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day. Breezes flew around the Pittsburgh valley, across the waters of the Three Rivers and into our neighborhood. We had a light dinner of sandwiches and salad and decided the conditions outside were fantastic for a quick ramble around the neighborhood. Of course, for that entire three-hour time frame, my eyes kept searching for one of them to pick up a copy of the first page. I wanted them to read it yet not at the same time. Quite the conundrum, right? Finally they did and I realized that I had to learn not to be so defensive about my work.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President

Mom: “You used too many adjectives.”
Sister: “I thought they were brothers. What do you mean they’re not?”
Dad: “Do you want my notes now or later?”
Brother-in-law: “I’ll read it later.” (In his defense he’s on council for a local government and a lot was happening last night. I let him slide!)

Sigh.

While knew that the first page had already undergone several edits – I started out by just taking down the original ideas, recognized that I started too many sentences the same way and changed them, etc – there was no way my family could have known that so I had to expect that they wouldn’t sugar coat their opinions.

I think that’s what many folks of modern American expect – sugar-coated opinions and nothing but praise. If all you receive is praise and approval with everything you do how can you expect to grow or change something about yourself without the critique of others?

It’s not completely back to the drawing board with my novella. I’m rather glad twelve hours later that I decided to ask for someone to read it this early in the writing process than much much further in without seeing my faults.

Write some, edit some.
Write some, edit some.
Study sentence structure.
Make it better.
Repeat.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell