I was reading a post by Noelle Sterne on Writer’s Digest today where she describes “How to Prevent Predictable Plots.” She cites Georges Polti, who listed 36 classic plots which are constantly used and reused in literature and drama. (Sterne suggests that it’s inevitable you’ll use one of these basic plots, but that you can set yourself apart and introduce unpredictability through the details.)
As part of a course I’m taking through Carol Tice’s amazing website Make a Living Writing, I received the following homework assignment: put an avatar up on Gravatar to pop up whenever I comment on blogs, etc. Now, I could use a photo, but that would just be no fun, so I decided to create my own Gravatar.
I started off by googling “free avatar tools” and discovered a lot of nifty links to different programs to help you make your avatar. The best site I found was Digibody. The results of a picture created with their Avatar-Maker tools look much nicer and more professional than those created with other programs, I found.
However, that left me with a small problem. Or rather three:
- The pic was black and white. I thought color might be more eye-catching and engaging.
- I don’t leave my house without a hat or headscarf on my head. There was no way to put a hat or headscarf on the picture using Digibody’s tools.
- I don’t leave my bed without my glasses. (2 a.m. trips to the bathroom don’t count.) No one would recognize me without some glasses on my face.
Here’s what I did:
- I saved the image to as a jpeg onto my computer.
- Then I pulled it up in Microsoft Paint (how I wish I had Adobe InDesign or something fancier, but alas, no) and started sprucing up my avatar.
This is my DIY avatar. It’s recognizably me.
What do you think of the end product? I’d love some reviews in the comments.
We now—joyfully—have 2 1/2 literate kids in our household. (The 1/2 is only 5. Cut her some slack.) One of the interesting things in my life lately has been watching them become writers, as well. I think we adults can learn a thing or two from their learning curve.
1) Kids enjoy writing about what they like. However, one of the things that makes them better writers is writing about things outside their comfort zone. It’s a lot easier to get my 10 year old to write about cars or maps, but his writing skills have been built up greatly by writing all those friendly letters, book reports, essays, and so on that get assigned as homework or classwork. When was the last time you wrote something outside YOUR comfort zone? I know professional writers who only write personal essays, or those who have always exclusively written for kids. Try a little of everything. Mix it up. It’ll surprise you.
2) Kids try to copy what they like to read. They’ll borrow liberally from Captain Underpants, Tintin, and the like. They recognize excellence and strive to emulate it. Of course, we want writers to develop their own voice (and never, ever plagiarize), but there’s nothing wrong from learning from the greats. So do a little pastiche–you’ll get a childlike pleasure from it, and brush up your skills, too.
3) There might be obstacles in the way. The right tools can help. One of my kids has a graphomotor problem. Upon advice, we bought him pencils with fatter leads. What a difference. And now he usually types writing assignments. So much easier for him. Another of my kids is so young, she hasn’t learned to spell yet. Relying on invented spelling allows her to communicate on paper, and she’s so pleased with the result she does a little dance (really, she does). If your inner kid has problems with writing, break it down and see if there’s a solution. Don’t just give up. Continue reading
Picture credit: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/18900/18980/book_18980.htm
Okay, okay, so my title is a bit of an exaggeration. Here’s the story:
I get lots of questions from new writers about how to format manuscripts for submission. My first piece of advice is always to follow the specs articulated by the periodical or book publisher you are submitting to. However, if you don’t know where you’re sending it to, I’ve always preferred to use a sans-serif font like Arial or Helvetica for titles and author info, followed by a double-spaced body written in a simple serif font like Times New Roman or Courier. (Serif fonts have those little crowns and tails, sans-serif do not.) You can always reformat later, thanks to the magic of Microsoft Word. And don’t forget to insert a footer with a page number and your email address on every page.
In the past, that magic formula has always worked. But now that I’m working on something longer–in fact, an entire book– things have gotten complicated. It’s simply harder to be consistent across more than a hundred pages. I can’t remember how I numbered the chapters (with numerals or the numbers as words), if I put in an extra line after each chapter heading, or what size and font I used for each. Sometimes I paste in pieces from other documents and the font and size may differ. My document was turning into a mess. And don’t even ask me what happened when I went back and started to rewrite!
That’s where LuLu stepped in. You see, I was doing a lot of research last week and the week before regarding e-publishing (hence a couple blog posts wherein I mentioned it). If you publish an ebook through LuLu, you have to use a very specific format. Or, rather, you Style instead of Format.
Most of us look at the Style menu in Word and have no idea what to do with it. We write using the Format menus, sometimes just out of habit. Even if you don’t plan to use LuLu, your editor will still be much happier if you use Styles. Doing so can save you time, but it also will increase consistency throughout a document and prep it for conversion into other document formats like Adobe InDesign or ePub. In fact, if you use LuLu, you have to use Styles, because that’s what triggers page breaks for chapters and creates your table of contents.
Some people hate the way the Styles look, or object to the fonts and spacing used. That’s okay! With a little practice, you can create your own Style and apply it throughout your Word document. Want to learn how to do this? Here are some links that can help you:
I doubt I’ll go the LuLu route, but I owe the company a debt of gratitude. My reStyled document looks beautiful and is perfectly consistent and organized. Now if only I can finish my rewrite…