Monday, March 31, 2014

Back into Scrivener

So late last week I decided to attend a free online webinar (as described here) on the topic of how to use Scrivener. I've had the writing software for some time, but I have only ever used it sporadically.

Despite some technical difficulties, I found the webinar helpful. There wasn't tons covered, mostly the basics, since there was a big chunk of time devoted to the hard sell of further courses to become actually proficient in the software. However, I am pretty good at being resourceful enough to figure out all those other features.

What the course was really good for was giving me that push I needed to start actually properly using Scrivener. So I've devoted much of today in organizing all of my writings in the program. And I've uncovered a lot more writing than I thought I had completed. Three short stories, five novels in various stages of completion. Now I know what I can work on during those daily bouts of writing 1,000 words of new material!

The other great thing about the webinar was that it was the first "hashtag" event that I've ever attended. So while I listened in and followed along with the slides, I split my screen with twitter and could use the hashtag to contribute to a conversation. It was pretty cool! :)

Anyways, I would recommend Scrivener. You don't need it to be a proficient writer for sure -- but it does help to gather everything together so that you don't have to spend so much time digging through a messy hard drive, google drive, et cetera. Which was what I used to do a lot of!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Way Off Topic

Like I whined about last week, I really am scraping the bottom of the barrel here when it comes to writing-related topics lately. So I'll digress and talk about my adventure today.

(Warning: do not proceed unless you are interested in blatant displays of rampant consumerism or are not depressed by the human urge to buy all of the things!)

Anyways, tomorrow morning is the grand opening of another Marshalls here in Winnipeg. And so, about a week ago, I got an email announcing that fact and stating, since I carry the TJX loyalty card (free, as all my loyalty cards are) that I could come to the new location today from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and have first crack at buying shiny new things in their shiny new store. But only the first 200 folks would be let in.

Let me just say, I've never done anything like this. And Winnipeg being what it is, I had no idea what to expect. Back when I lived in downtown Toronto, and they'd be a similar happening, i.e. H&M designer collection release, let's say, I'd avoid it. The lines would stretch around the block the night before, with folks camped out on the sidewalk to snap up Versace's budget collection and promptly sell those pieces, tags on, for inflated prices on eBay (like a friend of mine once said, live in Toronto -- get used to hustling).

Of course, this is not Toronto. But I went at 10 a.m. anyways just to see what was up. Nothing. Got my lunch, sat in my car in front of the store to eat it at noon. And then was quickly joined in car-sitting by at least 50 other people. So I waited, thinking that if no one had lined up outside by 12:45, I'd be the first. No need. At 12:40 a couple of people went to line up and the flood gates opened. All of a sudden everyone got out of their cars and braved the (actually not so cold for here at 1 degree Celsius) to line up. I was probably fifth in line. Thanks, natural wellspring of nervous energy!

 It was an interesting experience.


1. Clean, clean, clean. Spotless newness. Hope it lasts.
2. First crack at new merchandise, and lots of it. Lovely displays -- nauseatingly making me want to spend oodles of monies.
3. Much smaller crowd then there will be tomorrow, on the actual opening day.
4. Staff peppy, energized, helpful. Since you know, the time they have to spend dealing with annoying customers like me is only two hours.


1. Ummmm....amount of merchandise? Okay, this is nit picky and kind of my own fault. I hit the shoe section first. Bad mistake since once I got to the clothes, I almost immediately discovered a Juicy couture 100% silk dress -- fit and flare -- the style that flatters my body most -- blue (favourite color) florals -- in only size 2 and 0 left (I need a 4). Tried the 2 nevertheless. Hopeful, bit couldn't get the zipper up all the way. Shame. :(

2. "Mystery Gift Cards". All right. I suppose it's fair that I got a $10 one, they are mysteries. But honestly, I totally thought it would go to today's purchase. It doesn't. That's a bit stingy. I have your loyalty card for crap's sake!!! :P

Now, onto what I bought. I'm not going to include prices, because this is Canada and that's depressing.

Weeeeee! Gratuitous consumption!

Cute little sandals, since I don't currently own any casual, flat sandals. Love the colors. :)

Neon pink and beige cutout flats. I had to have these as soon as I saw them. Good thing they fit and are comfy!

Black and white polka dot top with a bit of a mild peplum. Peplum is my favorite, flattering, I wish it would never go out of style. And this is a beautiful top on me. As soon as I put it on, I knew. Which is the only way I really buy anything.

Black and white blazer. I have a thing for blazers, and I was proud of myself that I keep it to one. On trend, and close to another Pink Tartan one I left at the store, at a fraction of the cost.

Flowy, breezy emerald top with amazing lace. Casual summer.

Bling shorts. I tried on a lot of shorts while I was there. But I am picky about shorts. Having a pear shape with Shapely thighs means that most shorts that look just fine on stick legs look on me like I'm trying to flash you. So these bermuda-length ones are appropriate.

And the jewel of the trip: a Pink Tartan midi-length skirt. I usually am not a fan of the below the knee skirt, but this makes me look like a cute 50s housewife. It was a little pricey for me, but a lot less than the $295 originally asked for. I went on a tear through my spring and summer clothes to see if I had anything to wear with it, to justify the expense. A few outfits emerged. Actually it's really great with any tucked-in t-shirt.

I left a lot of things behind. I was ruthless, picking these from probably the 30 things (including shoes) that I tried on. I also skipped the Hello Kitty beauty bits, nail polishes and manicure sets, lingerie and bags that I could have bought, had I no budget. Ah well -- perhaps some other time. :P

Yay! Now I am finished my clothing shopping for the season and excited for spring (which will come...oh, maybe by the time I get back to Ontario?)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Little Update

Not much to report today. I know now when I am moving: early (-ish) June. Yay!

That's all I got, really. Except for it's still minus 20 degrees Celsius here and I wish it were SPRING already!

That much.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crowd-sourced Creativity

So I never actually got into Scribophile. It seemed like a great concept, it really did. And believe me, I had every intention of participating. But perhaps because I was forced to review other folks' writing before I even had a chance to post any of mine, I just let it slide.
Wattpad, however, has proven to be a very different experience for me. I find that since I am able to post my own work whenever I like, and as much of it as I like, I get to have other users comment on my work before I have commented on anyone else's work. And I have received a surprising amount of uninvited commentary on RoboNomics since first posting Chapter 1 back on January 6. (And 99.9% of it has been extremely helpful!)
But today I want to write about a strange side effect that I've had from all of this commentary.
What will the advent and then the success of crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter, crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding have been hot topics for about the last year or so. And it's been an intriguing subject to me: in this age (on this continent, at any rate) of capitalism's soul being scraped bare by corporate monopolies, it's amazing to see its true nature re-emerge: market forces at their best, grass roots demands for certain creative projects that folks actually want to succeed. People voting with their dollars, rather than being forced to choose between a crappy product and a crappier product.
So why can't this be applied to creativity?
Crowd-Sourced Creativity
Recently, I read an article in which the author was writing from a staunchly "traditional publishing" side of the current publishing debate. In it, he interviewed several mid-tier writers who were signed on with traditional publishers. They were bemoaning the fact that, although they'd won writing awards, in these days of massive competition from folks who self-publish, they would have to give up that lease on a downtown office and instead write at home. Oh, and in a home office that can be afford to be built by a contractor in an owned home.
(Sidebar: holy shit I have no sympathy here. Are you kidding me? I write from (our rented) home in an office that is also our dining room, and sometimes serves as a guest bedroom. And I consider myself lucky to have this space. If I didn't have this space, there are always public libraries, coffee shops, or hell -- some authors did fine with their beds as that same columnist knows. Don't you whine at me. Deal. With. Your. Life).
At any rate, the article did make me think about two major points:
1. Yes, I can see that you're an artist and you've crafted your art over the years, and you shouldn't have to bend to market forces, thereby rendering your art less pure, less arty, less of a comment on the universal truths of human existence and more of a series of shitty zombie erotica novels. Or something equally stupid.
2. Couldn't you just break with your publisher and self-publish? Even if you sold the same amount of copies, you'd make more money. Okay, fine, legalese and contracts and all that, but you could try it out at some point, couldn't you? Unless there's some sort of lifetime writer-publisher contract that I have yet to hear about?
So far, on Wattpad, I've had some very insightful commentary. I've been working on RoboNomics in one form or another since April 2011. Three damn years. It's safe to say that I am so close to the work, sometimes it's difficult for me to step back and see how all the elements come together. Other times, all I see are the broad strokes and I forget to look at the little details. And working with Wattpad so far has almost been like having access to a massive amount of beta readers. And some of them have made some really awesome, helpful points.
I can see the danger here. I can see that if I were to listen to every passing comment and incorporate changes to the work in accordance, the novel would eventually turn into an incomprehensible pile of shit. If I were out to capture a literary market, I could disperse with the book about robots and just write that piece of crappy zombie erotica I mentioned.
But I'd like to think that I can trust my instincts enough to know when to listen to what the people want, and when to let suggestions pass unheeded. And one of the ways to know when to listen is when I've already had the inkling that I've left something out, or added too much extra in. When I've already got extra material that I was thinking of adding in anyway, or when certain passages bore even me.
And so, I'm going to try it out. I'm going to try and follow some of the suggestions that are cropping up. I'm going to go with the crowd and change my novel where I think warranted. Because I actually do believe that this strategy will not only result in a novel that more people will thoroughly enjoy, but will also result in a stronger piece of art. I am not opposed to market forces. I believe that it's no use if I wrote the most compelling piece of literature if I've made it completely inaccessible to everyone except the most snobby of the literati.
What do you think? Would you ever change a piece of art based on crowd commentary? Or are market forces to be completely ignored in creating art?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Niche or not

So I totally started out today not knowing what I would write this Monday's blog post about. I could go way off topic, I guess, and write about the kind of things that I used to: thrift shop finds, the battles my skin has with the dry air in Winnipeg and how I fight them. But that wouldn't really be about writing or my daily adventures, would it?

The received wisdom about blogs -- especially ones that, like this one, have a tacitly promotional goal -- is that they have to be 'niche'. Further, that same received wisdom states that since my main 'products' that I am trying to promote are fictional stories, then my blog should stick to adjacent topics: how to write fiction, et cetera.

But isn't it the exception that creates the rule in the first place?

Frankly, I have a difficult time writing non-fiction. I find that I am frequently short on ideas. When it comes to fiction, I am never without an idea. When I tackle my daily 1,000 words each day, they get filled up and fly by quickly. Whether or not what I am producing is of any worth is a matter to be resolved in the revision stage.

But the point here is that non-fiction is difficult for me. So rather than just focusing on one single topic, I'd really like to be able to share more of my life with you than just the same old writing advice that you can read on thousands of other blogs.

I like, more the idea of sharing my writing journey with you. But even then, there might be days when I'd like to write about something else.

There's An App for That

Okay, well not exactly an app. More of a widget. Lately, I've heard of this functionality that can be added to blogs, allowing readers to vote for entries. I'm thinking I might use this widget. That way, you can let me know pretty easily which kinds of stuff you want to read about. You'd also be able to see which entries are most popular.

So, what do you think about that functionality? Now I actually have to find how to add it! Yay! Learning internets as I go! :P

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Phone!

Not much to say today -- it's a work day filled with day job and editing upcoming Chapter 10 of RoboNomics. But!

I got a new phone!

And not only that, but it's my first smartphone. I know, I know. I was in the dark ages. So how, I wonder, is this new toy going to change my work

habits? Of course top of mind is always my writings.

Change of habits
Well, for one thing I'm writing part of this on the phone! I've also noticed that spending time on Twitter feels more comfortable, real and productive. But what I'm really excited about is being able to comment on my life as it happens to me rather than having to wait until I can get to a wireless hotspot.

And of course, I've already taken advantage of my toy to add to the massive amount of cat photos on the internet!

Monday, March 10, 2014

1,000 words a day

So I've been struggling with one of my New Year's Resolutions. Specifically, writing 1,000 words of new material each day.

But lately I've been doing better. Thanks to a pro habit I've picked up, I've gone from 0 words most days to over 1000 words every week day. So that's a start.

It seems like such an easy habit, but it's powerful. As in the picture, I record my progress on a physical, paper calendar. The one I have is a magnetized version that I found at the dollar store with blank squares, so it's flexible enough to be used for any year, any month, any purpose. But you can basically use any paper calendar.

The requirements for this habit to work, however, are that the calendar can hang where you can see it, and that you use any Sharpie or marker you have or can easily (read: cheaply) obtain. I think this is key because I find seeing my numbers in big, bold letters helps to keep me accountable.

Also, I realize that my original New Year's resolution was to write at least 1000 words of new material each day. However, I am now up to every week day. Maybe that's the thing about New Year's Resolutions that makes them not fail: to think of them as progress, rather than an absolute that must be sustained. I am proud of myself that I have made progress on this particular resolution. And it sure feels good to produce more fiction! :)

(Now to get to work on today's 1000 words!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New Marketing Tool

Flaws and Foibles of Pinterest

I've been on Pinterest for quite some time. I remember when I first heard about the new social networking site, it was still in beta phase. In fact, I had to do a lot of fancy footwork to get an invite to participate (the site was still invite-only). This was before anyone had determined that mostly women used the site, and before it had become a user-made glossy magazine extolling the virtues of traditional ideals of femininity. Seriously. Shit could make you crazy.

But I was first drawn to Pinterest because of the nature of my imagination. When I am imagining a character, setting, and especially a plot point, I am very visual about it. I have often, pre-Pinterest, wished that I could draw. But I am shitty at drawing. I have also thought about clipping pictures out of magazines that come close to my imaginings, but that doesn't often work and if it did it would eat up too much time.

So the idea of an online visual bulletin board did appeal to me. And I keep on hearing, even now when much of Pinterest has devolved into a patrolling the border of presented femininity and making sure everyone is in line, that many authors use it for compiling and presenting research, visualizing character and setting, and book promotion. I'm just not sure how they are using Pinterest effectively.

The Love Affair is Over?

But this past week I've had an idea about how to use Pinterest. Oh, sure, I do have a RoboNomics Board. But that's just a big mishmash of random ideas and research that I've compiled that has no rhyme or reason. I decided to start a board that starts with my picking out the instances of tech and robots that I've written about in RoboNomics the novel and matching them up with some of the real-life cutting edge tech that directly or indirectly inspired the fictional tech. And so I give you my new Pinterest board:

Follow Stephanie Wilson's board Tech Featured in RoboNomics on Pinterest.

It's still in the nascent stages, as you see. But I think this will help me a lot in terms of book promotion. I think I am going to go something similar for my other book on Wattpad, The Tales of Omorbia. I already have a lot of visual material for that. See:

Follow Stephanie Wilson's board On the Back Burner on Pinterest.

I plan to expand and separate that material so that I have a single board for each parallel storyline or character. We'll see how the chips fall.

So, what do you think? Do you think Pinterest is over? Or are you, like me, ready to rekindle your love affair with it?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Haters Gonna Hate. Where does that leave me?

I've had a pretty positive experience so far with Wattpad. With each chapter I post, my readership grows and grows. It's rather exciting, to know that I was brave enough to put my work out there, and it has more than zero views!

Then there are the comments I've received. I have had some light criticism, but this has been constructive and helpful and delivered with a dollop of glowing praise and support. I spent so long being reluctant about interacting with others on the internet and in real life over my work, but on Wattpad I am comfortable enough to let my voice be heard.

Revenge of the Troll

They're back and now they live on the internet!
However, this past weekend I had my first purely negative comment. It said my serial near-future novel on Wattpad, RoboNomics, is boring. The troll, as they will now be known, declared that they will no longer be reading it.

Now, for anyone reading this who is a writer, you'll already know that our kind does not need trolls. We already have our own demons to deal with: self-doubt and the dreaded censor that mucks with our work. Not to mention the countless rejections from actual reputable journals. So my first emotional, knee-jerk reaction to reading this comment was to fall down that hole and abandon writing in the process.

But then I took a moment. I took a deep breath and decided that I'd rather be angry than self-pitying. Angry gets a bad rap, but it can be a productive emotion. And that's what I needed. I needed anger.

So I went with my second reaction. To evaluate the comment and the person who made it. From what I could determine, the criticism was not constructive. It added nothing to my work, but was aimed to play on my weaknesses, my perceived flaws. I then found out that the troll in question did not have a user picture but rather a default picture, and that they had published one thing on Wattpad which they then unpublished. Also, what's the damn point of stating in a comment that you're about to stop reading a book? There is none. If you don't want to read it, don't read it.

So I decided the best thing to do with such an uncalled-for and pointless attack on my work was to get it out of my life. I deleted it and 'ignored' the user (the Wattpad equivalent of block). I tweeted about my experience to release my negative emotion about the whole thing and reminded myself that my book has over 1,000 unique reads, and that some peeps are just plain jealous.

There may be more trolls in my future (although it'd be nice if there weren't), and I might have to deal with such useless negativity again. But now, at least, I have a strategy to follow to diffuse the emotional trauma and to banish the troll.